Yes, you guessed it – this is another long birth story post. Jonathan turned eight on the 18th, and in searching through my archives I found that I have never recorded his birth story. So, for posterity’s sake – and the few of you who enjoy reading this kind of post – here goes.
Jonathan was due on September 18th, and I went in the day before for one of those once-a-week check-ups that you have at the end of a pregnancy. My blood pressure was sky high, so they took urine and blood and sent me to the hospital for a non-stress test. I had pre-eclampsia when I was pregnant with Natalie, so that was always a concern with fmy other pregnancies.
While I was at the hospital, we determined that the baby was fine, head down, ready to be born. We were expecting a boy, but keeping an open mind because ultrasound isn’t foolproof. The doctor called the hospital and said that my blood and urine were full of the stuff they look for in pre-eclampsia, and told the OB nurse not to let me leave.
We were living with my parents at the time, but my mom was on a missions trip to Israel. Thinking back, I have no idea who was watching Natalie and Noah. It could’ve been my Dad or it could’ve been my youngest sister, Marni, who still lived at home; I’m not sure. Someone was with them, so I didn’t need to worry, and someone also brought me my bag and some reading material. I called Kevin at work and told him I wasn’t coming home and that he needed to take the next day off, since the doctor wanted to start me on Pitocin in the morning to induce labor.
The nurse inserted something into my cervix to help it efface and dilate. Okay, this is the part that is going to be hard to write without getting really, really mad. I had a different doctor then. Now, I have a wonderful doctor. The kids love him, I love him, and I trust him. He comes into the story again later, but the doctor that I had seen all through my pregnancy was, well, I’ll call her Dr. B. No, that won’t work, cause my current doctor is also Dr. B. I’ll call her Dr. X.
The stuff they put into my cervix caused me to start having contractions, so they put my on a monitor to watch the baby’s heart rate. With each and every contraction – and these were extremely mild contractions – his heart rate dipped. The nurses contacted Dr. X, and she said to remove the insert, and she’d see me in the morning. I then attempted to sleep, even though I continued to have mild contractions off and on all night. And, to be honest, who can sleep in the hospital unless you’re on some really good pain meds?
In the morning, they hooked me up to Pitocin. It didn’t take long for my contractions to start in pretty strong. Kevin came in as soon as the Pitocin took effect, and was with me for the rest of it. Again, with every contraction, Jonathan’s heart rate dropped significantly. Dr. X expressed some concern, but then brushed it off as “probably normal.” As labor intensified and his heart rate continuted to dip, Kevin asked her if maybe we should be considering a c-section if the baby couldn’t handle labor. She basically ignored his suggestion and said everything was fine.
When I was dialated far enough to get my epidural, Dr. X tried to talk me into having an intrathecal instead. I had one of those during my labor with Noah. Like an epidural, it takes away the pain of the contractions, but it doesn’t numb you so that you can feel to push. Kevin asked if an intrathecal would be the right kind of anesthesia if we ended up needing a cesarean. She said, “No, but that won’t be an issue.” At that point, Kevin was mad and insisted that I get an epidural, because then if I did need a c-section, they could just turn it up or give me another dose.
The epidural took effect and I had a short amount of time when I was feeling no pain, and then I was dilated to a 10. Dr. X said it was time to push with the next contraction. The contraction came, I pushed, and Jonathan’s heart stopped. Completely stopped – no reading at all, not even on the internal monitor.
At that point, Dr. X yelled, “We need a c-section team – NOW!” and gave me an injection to stop my labor. Since we were at a small, rural hospital, the doctor who was on-call for c-sections was not actually at the hospital, and had to be called in. I turned on my side, and Jonathan’s heart started beating, but it was only beating about 75 beats per minute, which is lower than normal.
Kevin wasn’t allowed in the operating room since it was an emergency and there wasn’t time to get him scrubbed and gowned. He was so worried, but the hospital chaplain, a wonderful man named Bruce, came and sat with him through the whole thing.
Twenty-five minutes from when Dr. X called for a c-section team, Jonathan was born. A nurse later told me this was the fastest time they had ever clocked for a c-section. The surgery itself was a blur – lots of pulling and tuggin and me crying and praying and praying and crying. Remember Dr. B? He was the doctor who came in to perform the surgery and deliver Jonathan. He told me Jonathan was born, and that the cord had been wrapped around his neck. I didn’t hear anything else. It was a minute or two until Jonathan finally pinked up and started crying. A minute doesn’t seem like a very long time, unless it’s a minute in which you are wondering if your baby is going to live.
As soon as Jonathan started crying, I started sobbing, and continued while they sewed me up. I was in shock: exhausted because I had labored all day, and when the epidural wore off, I hurt. A lot.
I held Jonathan, and then they took him into the nursery to monitor him for a while. I was moved into my room, and given an IV of Demoral, which I could administer to myself by the push of a button. What we didn’t know, though, was that Demoral doesn’t work for me a bit. I kept telling the nurse I didn’t think I was getting any medicine, and she looked and said, “Yes, you are, it should be working.” But it wasn’t. A different nurse came on shift, and she came in to massage my uterus and change my sheets, and when she touched me I burst into tears and started moaning from the pain. At that point, they believed me that the the Demoral wasn’t working, and they switched me to morphine. Ah, bliss.
The woman in the room next door was being induced, and she progressed so fast they didn’t have time to move her to a delivery room. She screamed and screamed as her baby was born, and since I was on morphine it was kind of like a bad hallucination. Very surreal.
On day two, I switched to oral pain meds – I think it was hydrocodone. It was at that point that I realized I had a horrible headache. When I was laying flat, I was fine. When I stood up, it was excruciating. I know now that this is the main symptom of an epidural headache, which occurs when the anesthesiologist goofs and makes a small tear in your spinal sac, causing a leak of spinal fluid. So instead of your brain floating nicely above your spine, it settles down onto your spine, and causes the worst headache you can possibly imagine.
Dr. X did not diagnose it as an epidural headache and prescribe complete bed rest and a blood patch to fix the tear. No, she said it was probably just hormones, and had me stay over one more night, then sent me home. It wasn’t until months later that we realized how badly she had goofed, that if she had kept me there and treated me right away, the chances of treatment working were much greater.
This began three months of complete agony. I would literally crawl to the bathroom, cause standing up hurt too badly. Finally, Kevin took me to the ER, where he told them he had been doing some online research and that he thought I had an epidural headache. The doctor at the ER attempted a blood patch, which is a very fun procedure where they take a vial of blood from your arm and then inject it into the epidural site, in the hope that it will clot over the tear and seal it up. Because your back doesn’t like things being injected into your spinal sac, it siezes up with cramping that feels like back labor. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist didn’t have much experience with this procedure, and so sent me home right afterward instead of having me lay flat for a couple hours. He also said that the procedure doesn’t always work, and if it didn’t, that it would eventually heal on its own, and lots of caffeine is the best treatment for the pain.
The blood patch didn’t work, so I started drinking tons of coffee and Pepsi, and taking Excedrin with caffeine. Which made it real fun trying to sleep when my newborn was sleeping. Oh, I almost forgot – Noah was only 15 months old at the time Jonathan was born. Natalie was not quite three. So I had a 2 1/2 year old, a 1 1/2 year old, and a newborn – and I thought I was dying. It was not a good time.
Kevin was wonderful. He would come home from work, eat dinner, and then go to bed. I would put the kids to bed and give Jonathan his 10 or 11 o’clock feeding, then go to bed. If any of the kids got up in the middle of the night – which of course Jonathan did, around 2 a.m., and often stayed awake for a couple hours – he would get up. I was very glad I had decided not to nurse because of the c-section recovery.
After two and a half months, my doctor sent me down to Spokane to have another blood patch done by an anesthesiologist who was experienced with the procedure. I’m not sure if this one worked, or if my spinal sac started to heal itself, but a few weeks later, the headache was gone.
You want to know the really sad part? I liked Dr. X. She may have been incompetent, but she was a really nice person, and I was so emotionally addicted to people’s approval at the time, that I was too afraid to hurt her feelings. I kept seeing her.
It took her misdiagnosing tension headaches as a sinus infection and putting me on unnecessary antibiotics for three months for me to realize that Kevin was right and I needed to switch doctors. When I started seeing Dr. B as my primary care physician, I told him about the dips in Jonathan’s heart rate during labor and asked what he would have done. He said he didn’t like to second-guess other doctors, but he would not have let labor progress that far with the baby obviously not tolerating it.
Because of the epidural headache, I feel like I missed out on Jonathan’s newborn days. It all seems like a haze in my memory. I do remember switching to Playtex nursers instead of regular bottles because he was so gassy. And after that he was a really happy baby. And a roly poly one! He weighed 20 pounds by 6 months – he had three rolls on each thigh!
And now he is 8. It is so hard to believe. Jonathan Nathanael. Kevin picked his name while I was still pregnant. Both names mean “gift from God.” And after he was born, we truly understood how true that was. He could have died during birth. If the c-section team hadn’t gotten there in record time, who knows? But they did, and he lived. And I thank God for the gift that he is.
Jonathan is all boy. He loves fishing and camping and shooting his BB gun. He likes to wrestle and tell boy jokes. He is a great reader, but hates writing. He likes to get his hands on things and take them apart and put them back together. He’s got a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye, and the girls are already noticing him. Lord have mercy!
I love you, Jonathan! I am so happy that God gave us the gift of you.