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In the early evening, I started feeling very itchy, and I was told that was a common side effect of epidurals, which was something I had never heard. It got to be somewhat unbearable. I also started feeling a little out of it due to a narcotic that was included in the epidural. I also hadn't known that it was common to include a narcotic in epidurals, and I was really disappointed to be feeling so out of it. I had wanted to be as aware and alert as possible—the main reason I had wanted an epidural in the first place. The anesthesiology resident offered me what was essentially an antidote to the narcotic portion of the epidural, which I jumped on.
At that point, it was time for the OBs to change shifts. Out went Dr. L, who had been with us all day and had been relaxed and cheerful. In came Dr. G, who came in just as the anesthesiology resident was giving me the narcotic antidote. Dr. G immediately started to argue with the resident, telling her that it would remove the pain relief effect, and for someone with "severe preeclampsia" it could even be dangerous. The mood completely shifted. I got really upset when I heard her diagnose me with severe preeclampsia, because until then I had only been told I had gestational hypertension, and that my pressures weren't quite high enough to be considered preeclampsia.
I was also upset about the mood change. Everything had been peaceful up until that point, and when Dr. G and the resident started to argue, the whole room got tense. And in my somewhat altered state, I got really upset and started to feel panicky. We expressed our feelings to Dr. G and she apologized. Things relaxed a little.
The night continued. The antidote didn't really do anything, and I continued to be itchy. But labor was progressing nicely. I felt the contractions but wasn't in too much pain. I started feeling excited again, and it was turning out to be a really good experience after that one little blip.
It was almost midnight when I started throwing up. We suspected this might be transition and asked for me to be checked. I was fully dilated! Dr. G wasn't the most optimistic that things were going to happen, though. The baby had been sunny side up through most of my labor, for one thing, and even though I was fully dilated, he was at a pretty high station. She said that it was probably going to take 4 or more hours of pushing.
I really wasn't thrilled with her at that point, and I'm not sure if she said that to try to challenge me to prove her wrong or if she really thought that, but I vowed to make it work. Even though I had spent the whole pregnancy feeling like the birth was just a means to an end, and that no matter how it happened I wouldn't be disappointed, once I was in the moment I desperately wanted to have a vaginal birth and knew I'd do everything I could to do so. Also, although I hadn't been too excited about contractions, I had been very excited about the pushing phase and, of course, the actual birth.
We realized that the baby had flipped and was no longer sunny side up, so I started to push. The nurse and Dr. G tried to explain to me how to do it, but it didn't really seem like something you could explain. After my first contraction, Dr. G shook her head and said, "Are you serious with that?!" I told her that one had been a practice push. When the next contraction came I gave it everything I had, and continued to do so with each subsequent contraction. I was making progress!
Everyone (the nurse, Dr. G, my husband, and a sweet, shy med student) was really supportive, and it was a really good team. I felt like they were all right there with me, and the energy was really positive. My feelings about Dr. G had done a 180, and at that point I was glad she was the one there for the deliverybecause she was a great coach.
Pushing was really painful, and I started topping off my epidural because I had kept it at the lowest level throughout labor. At one point they said they could see his head coming down, and they rolled in a giant mirror. I'll never forget what that was like. The baby's hair was blonde and shiny! It was so light, I immediately felt a little surprised because I had been picturing a very dark-haired baby the whole time, given how dark both my husband and I are. Who was this blonde baby? We had done IVF (in vitro fertilization), and for a second the thought occurred to me that they had mixed up the embryos. But I kept pushing, and he was slowly, slowly coming down.
Between contractions, the birthing team would be talking casually and joking around, but I remember concentrating so intently waiting for a contraction that I couldn't have said what they were talking about. Each time a contraction came, they all got serious and into their places to help me through it. I felt really supported.
Finally Dr. G told me the baby was stuck under my pubic bone, and I jokingly asked if she could just lube him up and pull him down. She whipped out some lube and did just that, which I didn't expect. I had read several birthing books and had gone to a childbirth class, but this was one of several things that surprised me during my own labor.
When it was apparent that the baby was about to be born, Dr. G turned on some very bright overhead lights, which completely changed the mood of the room. Everyone started moving around, busily getting the room ready, and a baby nurse came in.
At the moment my baby was finally born, I felt kind of shocked and completely overwhelmed. I think I stared for a little while and then maybe started laughing and crying at the same time. He started crying almost immediately, which was an amazing sound. They put him up on my belly but couldn't put him higher because his cord was too short. Dr. G asked my husband if he wanted to cut the cord, and said it feels "just like cutting calamari." And it did.
Up Next: After Labor: The Hospital Stay
Read more about preeclampsia duing pregnancy.