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From stomach flu to baby in 24 hours

by Karen on December 6, 2010

I promise this blog will someday be a personal finance blog again. At the moment, though, eight pounds of adorable have sort of eclipsed everything else in my life, so he might as well monopolize the blog.

And now a birth story! I promise to leave out the gory parts. Mostly.

I should start by saying that even though I’d been hoping to go into labor the entire week of Thanksgiving, I completely changed my mind on Friday. Labor was the LAST thing I wanted, because Friday morning I woke up with the worst case of stomach flu I’ve experienced in a decade.

I was determined to get our apartment decorated for Christmas on the off chance that I’d go into labor that weekend. So I woke up and I started hauling boxes of Christmas decorations out into the living room. I barely got the boxes open when I started feeling the kind of profound nausea that I haven’t experienced since the first trimester.

For the next 20 hours, I was sick every other hour. And every time I was sick I thought to myself, “Oh please, don’t let me go into labor until I’m over this. I cannot do it right now.”

I was up most of the night feeling closer to death than I ever have in my life. I was wide awake at 5:30 in the morning when I felt a bizarre pop in my belly. I knew my water had broken. My first thought? “Oh, crap.”

Throughout my pregnancy, I was reassured many times that Hollywood’s portrayal of labor is completely unrealistic. The dramatic moment when the water breaks and everyone rushes to the hospital because the baby is coming NOW? It does not happen. In fact, only 10% of labors begin with broken water. And even then it’s usually more like a trickle than a waterfall.

Well, my water did not trickle. It broke. In the middle of my living room. Just like in the movies. WHOOSH. And then it broke several more times ALL OVER THE HOUSE. I have no idea how I was carrying around so much amniotic fluid, but I lost at least two gallons. It was every bit as inconvenient as you would imagine.

I had fallen asleep on the couch in an attempt to keep my stomach flu germs away from Tony. So I went into our bedroom and woke him up with a very sincere, “My water just broke. Oh my God, I cannot have a baby today.”

I was exhausted. I hadn’t eaten in a full 24 hours. I knew I was likely incredibly dehydrated. But once your water breaks, you’ve got about 24 hours to get the baby out. So I tried to put on my game face.

I called to let my midwife know that my water broke, and she told me I’d likely have some time since my contractions hadn’t really started yet. She told me to hang out at home, try to get some rest, and drink lots of fluids. I figured I’d have a couple hours before I needed to go to the hospital.

I scurried around doing some last minute things and getting my bags together. Tony took a shower. About 45 minutes later, my contractions suddenly went from zero to every three minutes and INTENSE. I knew then that I would not have several hours. Just like in the movies, we needed to leave NOW.

Tony is generally a pretty cautious driver, but we had a 30-minute drive to the hospital, and we made it there in about 15 minutes. Tony said later, “I was so hoping we’d get pulled over so I could dramatically tell the officer that my wife was in labor.”

We arrived at the hospital around 6:30 a.m. Just as I suspected, I was severely dehydrated, so I was given IV fluids. I was also having a remarkably fast labor. I dilated from 4 cm to 7 cm in under an hour. Because of the speed of my labor and the extreme fatigue and dehydration from the stomach flu, I was not managing my pain well. I was shaking pretty violently — I’m not sure if it was because of the pain or because of the fatigue and dehydration.

Despite my hopes for an unmedicated birth, I asked for an epidural. Tony and my midwife remained confident that I could do this without it. I knew that I couldn’t. I was just too weak from the illness, the dehydration, and the fact that I hadn’t eaten in over a day.

There are many things that contributed to my decision to go ahead with the epidural, but the biggest reason was the speed of my labor. I’d already reached 7 cm before I requested the medication, and my labor was moving along like a freight train. One of my biggest fears about the epidural was that it would stall labor, which would require labor augmentation drugs, which could lead to fetal distress, which could lead to a C-section. Since I was already at 7 cm and moving so fast, I knew I was pretty unlikely to need further intervention beyond the epidural. So I went for it.

I received a very low dose epidural. I was still able to feel my contractions, but the pain subsided enough that I could focus. I finally stopped shaking. The IV fluids began to reverse my dehydration, and that gave me a little strength.

Honestly, though? The biggest source of my strength during labor despite my weakened, ill state was an incredible desire to get this baby OUT. I was so done being pregnant and so ready to meet my baby. I knew the ordeal of pregnancy was almost over, and I was willing to do anything it took to get to the finish line as quickly as possible.

We had called my mom when we first headed to the hospital. She lives an hour and a half away, but she figured she had some time to get up and moving. Three hours later, I was 10 cm, and she hadn’t arrived.

When my midwife told me it was time to start pushing, I asked how long we had. She told me, “First time moms can push up to 2 hours. Your mom has some time.”

Fifteen minutes later, my midwife leaned over to Tony and said, “Just how important is it that her mom get here? Because this baby is coming fast.”

Thankfully, my mom arrived a few minutes after that. Just thirty minutes later, I was holding my little boy. Two hours of pushing? Pfft. No thanks. I got him out in 45 minutes.

From the start of my contractions to Judah’s birth, my labor lasted under four hours. Yikes! Thankfully, I required absolutely no intervention beyond the epidural. However, I do not recommend fast labor. It is incredibly intense. If I had a choice, I would have added another four hours or so to space the contractions out a little and give me some time to prepare myself.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. But typing with a baby in my lap isn’t so easy, so I suppose now is a good time to take a break. More on Judah’s exciting first days later!

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Judah’s first days
December 8, 2010 at 3:11 pm
2010 in review
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