Let me start by saying this is a long story, and is full of detail and photos, of course. Parts of it were hard to write and it took me days to get to without losing my shit. When I was pregnant I enjoyed reading other women’s birth stories and always wondered how mine would pan out. Well, this is how it all happened:
This is the story of how Maxwell Curtis Campbell made his way into the world.
Monday March 28th, 5 days after my due date, I went into actual real labor. Around 5:30 I went to the bathroom and had what is known as the bloody show, which signals that labor is coming. No more than an hour after that the contractions I had been feeling became more regular and more intense. Nothing too painful, but definitely different than anything I had felt before. I had downloaded a contraction counting app on my iPod and used that to time them. Rob had gone to a meeting and was on call in case things went quickly. He got home around 9 and the contractions were still regular, not too painful but getting there. Around 10:00 we called labor and delivery to see when exactly to go in. I fit the old 511 rule of thumb, contractions every 5 minutes lasting a minute for an hour, but wasn’t sure if I should go in. The nurse said to come in and get checked. We packed our things into the car, because after all this could be it. We said goodbye to the dogs, I cried. The ride there was pretty quick and we were both feeling anxious and excited. When we got there they checked my cervix and did a speculum pelvic exam because I thought maybe my bag a water was possibly leaking. I was still only 1cm dilated, the same as last week’s appointment, and my water had not broken. They performed a non stress test and the baby looked good. They sent me home to labor some more.
When we got home it was about 1:00 am and since we knew we were in for a long night we decided to eat something. After eating we decided to head to bed. By this time the contractions were becoming more painful, not unbearable, but making it nearly impossible to sleep. Rob suggested I take a bath, and it helped. Who knew our tiny crappy tub would provide such relief? After the bath we decided to stay downstairs knowing it would become harder for me to go up and down them. I “slept” on the couch and Rob took the chair. Now I know for sure that this is it. It was kind of amazing what my body was doing. After all the reading and research I had done, and the class we took, it was kind of cool watching my body do this. I really didn’t have to do anything but try to ease the pain. Contractions are painful, and now have a great deal of back pain accompanying them. I am moaning deep and low through each one, and believe it or not it helps. Throughout the night with each contraction Rob applied counter pressure to my back. It helped a lot and made them a bit easier to get through them. We also tried different positions for me to be in during them. The best were the side lying position and on my knees while I leaned on the couch, both were learned in our Bradley class. I took another bath, which was a little less successful this time around because of the back pain. In the morning, sometime after the sun rose, Rob had me walking laps in the house. During contractions I would lean on his chest as he applied counter pressure to my lower back. At this point I can no longer talk during them. I started thinking that I’ve got to be pretty close. The pain is immense and I’m using everything I learned to get through them.
At around 10:00 Rob called labor and delivery to see if we should go in again and he told them the timing we were doing. At this time they were coming anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. The labor and delivery nurse suggested that I drink more water to see if they would become anymore regular. I did, and they did. We decided to go in around 1:15. When we arrived the nurse and midwife were watching us come down the hall on the security camera, and they later told us they thought I was going through transition by my body language, and the back to back contractions I was having and the amount of pain I was in. They got me in the triage room and did another cervical check. I was still only 1cm dilated, but could be stretched to 2. I was devastated. Here we were a few hours shy of being 24 hours into this and I wasn’t even 2 cm dilated. The midwife and nurse took pity on me and said that they would fill the tub for me and let me soak for an hour before admitting me to see if I could make any progress. The tub was pretty great. But while in it, things got more and more intense. The back pain got even worse. I got out and they checked me, and low and behold I was at 2cm. They admitted me immediately and got me in my room, it was around 4:15. I was pretty exhausted, not having slept since the night before, and in a great deal of pain with a long road ahead of me. We started talking pain relief. I said I didn’t want an epidural, and that we were shooting for a a med free vaginal birth. The midwife suggested fentanyl, a temporary pain relief drug. It would last an hour and give me that time to rest. I said yes. I got the fentanyl around 5:00. I was able to rest while still feeling contractions, just not as painful. In that time my mom and brother, who were in the waiting room the whole time, came in. My mom told Cameron to leave cause it was going to be a while. She stayed and I’m glad she did. Things got crazy.
And this was our for reals birth plan.
From then on I was having incredible back labor with the back pain not stopping in between contractions. Back labor happens when the baby is in a posterior position in the birth canal. Meaning he was coming out face up instead of face down. I was hysterical. I can’t even begin to describe the pain. It would start in my lower back and during the contractions would crawl up to the middle of my back. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t focus on trying to stay calm. All I could do was cry. Both my mom and Rob were applying counter pressure and trying to get me to calm down and take deep breaths. I don’t know how long this lasted. All I remember is telling them that I couldn’t do this anymore and asking them to make it stop and to end it. I was asking for the drugs. I had no more energy and as far as I knew I was still only 2cm dilated. But, with all this pain could I be going through transition? Transition is the stage of labor you go through before pushing, and is considered to be the most painful. After I don’t know how long of this, the midwife (who was really great) came in and Rob and my mom explained to her that I was wanting pain meds. She suggested that she check me again and then we could discuss. She checked me and I was only at 3cm. I still had 7cm to go and I was already in this much pain. Again, I was devastated. How the hell was I going to be able to do this med free? If it’s taken over 24 hours to get to 3cm how much longer would I have to labor to get to 10cm? I had to make a decision. Was I going to continue to go through this for who knows how long? Or, was I going to get some relief and some rest and throw my med free birth out the window? I took option 2. The anesthesiologist came in and gave me the run down on the epidural. All the horrible things that could possibly happen from receiving it, how they put it in and what it does. I signed the paper and minutes later I was getting it done. My mom would tell me the next day she knew I wasn’t making a rash decision out of hysteria because when the anesthesiologist came in I was calm and not hysterical. At 7:45 I got the epidural. Getting the epidural wasn’t bad. The worst part was getting the numbing shot before the actual epidural catheter was placed. It just stung a little. It took to my right side faster than my left, so I felt a couple of contractions only on my left side which was bizarre. It was on a constant drip into my spine and I had a button to push anytime I needed a little extra. About 15 minutes after receiving it I was feeling like a different person. The midwife came in and told me not to be disappointed, and that I had labored longer than most women do and that I had made a good decision. She and the nurses were incredibly supportive the whole time.
About an hour after getting some relief the midwife came in and suggested the use of pitocin to help move things along. I was reluctant at first, knowing what it does. But Rob reminded me that we aren’t trying to start labor with it, we’re trying to move it along. I agreed to it and it was hooked up. Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin which your body produces naturally. Pitocin makes contractions come faster and stronger. Since I had the epidural, I didn’t feel it.
We knew we had a long way to go, so we went to sleep. Throughout the night I was awakened by the nurses checking my vitals and changing my position in the bed to help move the baby down. They would check my blood pressure, temperature and pulse oxygen level, and empty my catheter bag. At one point in the night I was woken up by the sound of my water breaking. Yup, I heard it. And the pop made me jump out of my sleep. I called the nurse in and she confirmed that that’s what had happened and also confirmed that there was meconium in the fluid. Meconium is the the baby’s bowel movement. It’s fairly common especially if you’re over due. She explained that when the baby is born there would be a pediatric team there to get the meconium out of his system so he doesn’t get an infection. So I wouldn’t have immediate skin to skin contact like I had wanted, but that was ok as long as the baby was alright. Throughout the rest of the night I would leak fluid. and the nurse would have to clean my bed more times than I can count. After my water broke, during vital checks I had a fever. This could mean I have an infection, which could mean the baby would have an infection. Thankfully, each time my temperature was high the next time it would be normal.
It is now Wednesday morning and I’ve been in labor for roughly 36 hours. I was happy though because I knew my favorite midwife was working labor and delivery that day. I had a cervical check at 6:00 am and was at 8cm. Finally! Making progress! We were all pretty stoked and saw the end in sight. At 8:30 I was checked again and I was at 10cm. Completely dilated. The only problems were that I wasn’t feeling the urge to push, and the baby was in the posterior position still. While I was numb from the epidural I could still feel some pressure from contractions, and would be able to tell when it was time to push. I didn’t want to start pushing without feeling that. So we decided to wait. The midwife put me in positions that might help the baby corkscrew down and possibly turn over. At 11:45 my midwife had me do some practice pushing, even though I still wasn’t feeling like I need to. With my first practice push she could feel the baby’s head come down. So we got ready. I pushed in a few different positions and with each push his head could be seen. After two hours of pushing, yes two hours, my midwife noticed that he wasn’t moving past a certain point, and that he was still posterior. They put me on oxygen to get more to the baby. The part of his head that could be seen was starting to swell.
I wrote up to this point in one sitting a few days ago. It ‘s taken me a few days to come back to it because this is where things got scary. So, here it goes.
My midwife and nurse were inspecting his head, trying to figure out what part was coming down first. They couldn’t tell exactly what side, but it certainly wasn’t the crown that was supposed to be coming. My midwife put one of those antenna things in his head to keep better stats on him. At this point they were discussing wether I should continue pushing or rest for a few minutes to see if the baby would turn. Also, the epidural is wearing off and the back labor is kicking back in. They called the anesthesiologist in to up my dosage while the midwife talked to the OB on call. A few minutes later my midwife came back in and told us our options. Option 1) Keep pushing and see if the baby moves (not recommended) 2) Use the vacuum extractor (it’s kind of like a plunger that they put on the baby’s head and use suction to get them out) 3) C-Section. I try to hold it together, but I can’t. The OB on duty comes in and talks to us about each option and gave us a few minutes to discuss what we’d like to do. Everyone left the room, except for my nurse I think, and Rob and I made our decision. I cried for many reasons. I was scared for my baby. I was scared for myself, I’ve never had surgery of any kind. I was sad that I had worked so hard to have, what I thought was going to be, the perfect birth experience and now that was completely out of the question. When my midwife returned we told her that we chose to go with the c-section. The vacuum seemed too risky, and if it didn’t work the baby could end up more distressed and we could end up with a c-section anyway. My midwife said some nice things and told me she was sorry things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to. And the the frenzy began.
The OB came in and had me sign the paper saying I consented to have a c-section. Then what seemed like a million other people came in and started doing things. I was so upset, and terrified. There was a woman there with a razor to shave me. The anesthesiologist started dosing me. They gave Rob scrubs to put on. They told my mom and brother they had to pack their things and leave the room. I couldn’t help but cry. And I still can’t help but cry. Everything was happening so fast, I had no time to mentally prepare myself for what was about to happen. I knew I was so close to meeting my boy but this was not the way it was supposed to happen. Just as fast as they all came into my room, they whisked me out and down the hall into the OR. It was extremely bright in there, and there were tons of people. They got me settled on the operating table and started setting up. They put the blue curtain up in front of me, which ended up being way to close to my face, almost touching my nose. They put the blue stuff all over my belly, not sure what it’s for. They wrapped my belly in the adhesive stuff that they cut through to get to my skin. All the while the anesthesiologist is poking me in places to make sure I can’t feel anything. I was so fucking scared. I can’t say it any other way. I was there alone, Rob wasn’t there yet. My mom and brother weren’t there. I had no time to even try to process what the hell was about to happen to me. Terrified doesn’t even begin to explain it.
It wasn’t too long after they prepped me that the procedure began. I forget what time they said the incision was made, but they announce it. They cut through me and got to the baby. I could tell by the way they were talking that they were about to get him out. Rob still wasn’t there. I asked the anesthesiologist where my husband was and he asked a nurse and she went running. They forgot to get Rob. Apparently at the same time I was being wheeled in for surgery, so was another woman so Rob was overlooked. They got him in there just in time. He sat down next to me and held my hand as they extracted our son from my abdomen at 2:47 p.m. on Wednesday March 30th after 45 hours of labor, and 2 hours of pushing. He gave a little cry at first and then nothing for a good minute or two. They cleaned out his airway, there was no meconium in his lungs, thankfully, and got him crying. I cried a little bit when I heard him. I always imagined being a sobbing mess when my child was born, but I think the situation at hand killed that. It was so hard not to be able to be there with him in his first moments of life. It felt so unfair. We had wanted so badly to have Rob catch him as he comes out, and have him placed on my chest. But we could have none of it. Everything we had planned for was completely out of the question now.
Rob went over to be with him and took a bunch of pictures as they cleaned him up. They announced he weighed 9 lbs. 8 oz. and was 23 inches long. A big boy.
At this point I’ve got two things going through my head: I want to be with my baby, and I want this surgery to be over. I was glad Rob could be with him, but this was a time we were supposed to share and be able to experience together. I felt so robbed of what my dream birth would be.
I wanted the surgery to be done with so badly. I couldn’t feel them poking me or anything, but I could feel the pressure of them digging around in my guts. It was awful. I started to panic a bit and I kept telling the anesthesiologist I could feel what they were doing. He gave me morphine on top of my epidural. I kept asking him how much longer? It seemed like it was taking forever. At one point Rob came and sat down next to me to show me pictures. I couldn’t look at them because I was feeling sick and could barely keep my eyes open. I could feel the surgeons tugging on my skin and pressing my organs back into place. What a horrible fucking feeling. Once they were done Rob went to the recovery room with the baby. They pulled down the blue sheet and wiped my belly clean. Then the surgeon looks at me and says “This is going to be really uncomfortable but I have to do it”. I’m thinking, what the hell more could he do to me? He bends my legs at the knee and places a pad underneath me. He then places his hands on my abdomen right where he’s just cut me open and pushes on my three times as if he was doing CPR. And with that came a giant gush of blood and fluid from me. Holy shit that was awful. That was just the icing on the cake right there. But I was done. It was over and I had given birth to my baby boy.
I was wheeled into the recovery room where Rob was with the baby while they were running tests on him. Turns out he had a fever of 102 at birth, which could indicate some sort of infection. They were able to bring him over to me for a short time so I could meet him. I was drugged up I could barely keep my eyes open, let alone hold him. The nurse held him to my breast and he latched on immediately. That made me feel pretty good. They filled me in on all the details of his health, which kind of went in one ear and out the other because I couldn’t focus. He had, and still does, a pocket of fluid on his head from being stuck in my pelvis, a hematoma on the other side of his head, bruising on his right cheek and on his head, his right ear was smashed against his head and took a while to look normal. One of the nurses commented to Rob that she thought that maybe his right fist was pushed against his right cheek because of the bruising there and on his hand. It certainly would explain why he was stuck.
Our time together was short though. They took him off to the special care nursery for antibiotics because of his fever. Rob went and made phone calls to family. My midwife came in and visited me. She told me our son was beautiful, and she was proud of me for making that decision. She was also surprised at how big he was. She really thought he’d be 7 or 8 lbs. My nurse Peggy saved my placenta so I could see it. There was a lot more meconium in there than they thought. The inside of the placenta was covered in green poop. It was pretty cool to see where the boy had spent the last 10 months. I spent two hours in the recovery room before being brought to my postpartum room.
Once in my postpartum room, Rob got all of our stuff settled in place, my nurse, Sharon, came in and introduce herself and got me started on my pain meds. I was so out of it. I remember being so happy when she brought me a giant bottle of ice water. All I wanted for the last 24+ hours was ice water, but couldn’t have it until now. My mom and brother showed up at some point, I don’t remember when. We watched the end of the Blazer game. I think they played New Orleans and lost. Rob took mom and Cameron to the nursery to feed the baby. At this point I’m maxed out on drugs and falling asleep. I wouldn’t see the photos from this feeding session until days later, and then realize what I missed out on. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning my nurse came in and got me up and walking to the bathroom. That was a lot harder than I thought it would be.
The next morning our baby was brought into our room around 10:00 I think. He was ours and he could be with us from now on. I got to hold my son for the first time. I was still so out of it, and in shock and hopped up on percocet that the enormity of the situation never hit me. I never felt that magical spark you always expect to feel when meeting your baby for the first time. Not to say that I didn’t love him, or didn’t want him, it just felt differently then I thought it would.
First family photo.
The nursery nurse still had to test his bilirubin levels so she did that and he was jaundiced. They brought in the bili lights that we had to tuck into his blanket. He looked like a little glow worm. Rob’s parents came and visited, our friends Tony and Jenny came and visited and Mikey and Joy came visited all within the roughly 8-9 hours he was in our room with us. They took him back to the nursery at 6:00 for some more testing. A while later a doctor came in and said his bilirubin levels had gone up and he suggested that put him under the full tanning bed of bili lights in the nursery for the remainder of our stay. We would now go to the nursery every 3 hours to feed him. When we got to the nursery we saw that they moved his i.v. from his hand to his forehead. They couldn’t get his vein in his arm anymore, but apparently he had a nice big one in his forehead. He looked like a unicorn.
Friday was the day we named him. Everyone kept asking us if he had a name yet. He was just Baby Boy Brown in the nursery. We had our list of 5 names that we liked and we started going through them. The names were Wesley, Ace, Archer, Maxwell, and Milo. We vetoed Wesley and Milo pretty quickly, they didn’t suit him. Archer was up in the air. It was really between Ace and Maxwell. Rob got up and wrote on the white board next to the word Welcome, Max. He was a Max. It was nice to see him and talk to him and call him by his name. His middle name, Curtis, was my dad’s name. When we found out we were having a boy we decided we wanted his middle name to be my dad’s name. I just wish my dad were here to meet his grandson. I know he’d be proud.
We were in the hospital until Saturday afternoon. While I’ve never stayed in the hospital for any reason, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with the level of care we got while we were there. All the doctors and nurses and midwives were attentive and pleasant to be with, and incredibly helpful. Especially in the nursery. They were so pro-breast feeding and were incredibly helpful with getting us breast feeding successfully. Part of me misses being in the hospital at times. We were so well taken care of and I was getting the rest I needed to recover from surgery. But when we were told on Saturday morning that both the baby and I would be able to go home, we were thrilled. Rob packed up the room and put it all in the car while I waited to be discharged. We had to go to the nursery to get our guy, but had to feed him first. After feeding him we dressed him in his coming home outfit I bought for him, and the sock monkey hat my mom got him. We were finally a family and going home to be one.
Our journey at the hospital was ending and our journey as a new family was just beginning (deep, right?). For all that didn’t go as planned, we know everything happened as it was supposed to. Max is here, and healthy, I’m here and healthy and that’s what really matters.
The first few days at home are a blur to me. My mom stayed with us to help out. She cooked great food and took care of us. I still can’t thank her enough for all she’s done. Thank you mom:)
It was about a week after Max was born when I was hit with the tidal wave of hormones. Crying, crying, crying, feeling hopeless, depressed, anxious. It was postpartum depression at it’s best. Since last Wednesday I’ve been seeing my therapist, my midwife, Sarah Baden at Acupuncture for Wellness, and getting support from friends and family. I’m feeling a little bit better each day thankfully. I know the hormones just take time to subside, but I think I’ve got a little post traumatic stress regarding the whole labor and delivery experience. Now, as I try to heal from major surgery, take care of my newborn son, and wait for these hormones to subside I’m dealing with the grief of the way Max came into this world. Rob and I had a plan. A pretty clear idea of what we would’ve liked to have happened during the birth of our son. We knew that things could change at a moments notice and we would have to roll with the punches, but I don’t think either of us ever thought we would’ve ended up with a birth like this. It was nothing the midwives, nurses, or doctors did or didn’t do. It was strictly the way Max was trying to come out, and it wasn’t going to work. I don’t blame him or myself. This was the way it was supposed to happen.
We’re getting to know each other more and more each day. And each day I fall more and more in love with this guy. He’s amazing and I can’t wait to see what our life together will bring.