A rough start, a beautiful beginning.

First baby. Gestational hypertension, preeclampsia. Spontaneous labor, full-term. OB/GYN, doula. Magnesium sulfate, epidural, pitocin, episiotomy. Vaginal. Hospital. NICU. Posted with permission.


My story starts at about 36 weeks when my body decided that it wanted to amp up my blood pressure a bit. Starting then, we began experiencing gestational hypertension, which combined with other symptoms like swelling and excessive proteins to become preeclampsia. On Friday, May 15, I ended up in the hospital for observation since my blood pressure was around 170/100. The following Friday, May 22, it happened again because couldn’t get it below 150/100. Dr. S talked with me about possibly staying overnight that night and inducing the next morning, but we were able to get the pressure down and I was sent home on complete bedrest to try and make it one more week (to 39). 

On Saturday, May 23, my husband and I were at home and he was trying to keep me from doing anything (hence “bedrest”) and of course, I had a hard time complying. Being nine months pregnant and not being comfortable in the least, I had to keep changing positions and noticed around 1:00 that if I was sitting up, I would contract every now and then. I didn’t really think anything of it, but was starting to feel under the weather (I was getting a cold as well) and went to lay down in bed and read a book at 2:30. By 3pm I realized that the contractions were pretty frequent and I asked my husband to write down the time on a Post-It when I would tell him to. We realized very quickly that the times were about every 5-6 minutes. My husband stopped what he was doing and began working on a spreadsheet to keep track of the contractions, working out a formula to determine the length of time between contractions and the duration of each. All you had to do was enter the time! Is my husband funny or what?! 

At 3:45, I called a friend (this friend is Doula Joyce!) who had gone into labor on her own with her son, to ask some questions to make sure this was “the real thing.” She encouraged me to call the doc because it sounded like it was time to go to the hospital! I called Dr. S and she told me that it sounded positive but to give it another hour to see if they subsided or intensified and to give her a call then. I called my doula, after that and asked her if she had her hospital bag packed. She wasn’t quite ready either! I had my husband running around the house packing our hospital bag while my doula headed to our house. At 5pm, my water broke and my doula arrived shortly after that. We called Dr. S and told her that we were headed to the hospital. On the way there, my contractions amped up to every 2-3 minutes and I called down our list of people to call when I went into labor just to distract myself. I would be in the middle of a conversation and say “One second please!” put down the phone and grab onto the seat headrest in front of me and breathe through it. Then I’d pick the phone back up and say, “Ok, now where were we?” my husband and my doula thought it was hilarious. I called my boss and went over a few quick little things to tell the person who would be covering my position during my maternity leave and then we were at the Bryan LGH hospital. 

I tried walking up to Labor & Delivery, but just made it past the information desk before I had to stop with another contraction. The woman at the desk jumped up and grabbed me a wheelchair and up we went to the 4th floor. After checking in, I got settled in my room to find that I was only three centimeters dilated and they hooked me up to the blood pressure monitor to find that I was around 200/120 and put it very simply to me, “R, do you want to have an epidural or a seizure?” I asked to speak to my husband for a bit, but agreed to start the magnesium sulfate drug that would make me feel “icky” but would bring down my blood pressure. My husband and I agreed that doing a natural med-free birth would put both Baby T and I at more risk than we were comfortable with and decided to go with an epidural. This was completely not what I pictured for my “perfect birth” and I felt like I was letting my doula down, but I couldn’t really help what my body was encountering at this point. So I was given magnesium sulfate (mag) to start and then waited for my anesthesiologist to arrive to administer the epidural. Mag is a nasty drug that brought my blood pressure down into a decent range, but made me really really loopy and I couldn’t tell if I was awake or asleep most of the time. When they came in to start the epidural, I was really nervous. I had this horrendous expectation of extreme pain and a terrifying needle, but compared to the contractions, it wasn’t as bad as expected. The main scare was when the needle went in, and that was one of the very few times I got mad at my husband during labor. I looked to him for conversational distraction when they inserted the needle and he clammed up. Now, my doula jokes that she will provide a conversational topics card to future daddys-to-be so they are ready for that crucial moment whenever it may come. I was surprised to find that the epidural did not completely deaden the lower half of my body. I didn’t feel most of the active labor contractions anymore, but the main sensation was just that someone had wrapped my pelvis and legs in a snug layer of cotton balls. That definitely helped me with “my failure” of getting the epidural because especially during the transition later and during pushing, I felt everything, just without the “edge” that would’ve sent my blood pressure through the roof. I sent my husband and my doula to get something to eat because I finally convinced them that I would feel more comfortable if they were taken care of just like I was and reluctantly, they ran to Arby’s for drive-thru. I took that time to get a nap in and when they returned, my husband took over the foldout couch, my doula curled up in the recliner and I zonked out as well. There were periodic checks all night that I barely remember, but at 6am they told me that I was at 9 cm and I began to rouse a bit more because I thought I would meet my son soon. WRONG. At 7, Dr. S instructed them to start me on Pitocin, which was another violation of my birth plan (though that was mostly because I didn’t want the intense contractions because I hadn’t planned on an epidural, so it went kind of backwards and I didn’t fight it because it was so weird). I thought that it was so weird! I mean, weren’t we almost done?! I thought that Pitocin was for inducing, why would I need it now? I was irked about it and then 5 hours later when I was STILL at 9 cm and they were maxing out the dosage to try and get me to 10, I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m glad I shut my mouth. Dr. S knew what she was doing…I could’ve been at 9 all day and Baby T could’ve been hurt.” Around 11:30, I was worried and the nurses seemed worried. We also realized that Baby T was head-down, but was turned out instead of in and that would make the delivery more traumatic. My doula had me turn to my side to try to get gravity to turn him and it worked! I was approaching 18 hours since my water had broken and they told me that I had until 24 hours. So I told myself, alright…I have until 5 to have this baby. Fortunately, I started feeling pressure like I should push and I asked the nurse if it was ok to try. She seemed surprised and excited and checked again to find 9 ½. I pushed once and the nurse helped to push away that last ½ and things started moving very very fast. I wanted to keep pushing! The room filled with lots of people and I heard “call the doctor, she’s ready!” Dr. S arrived not long after that and I started really pushing sometime around 12. Everyone was very supportive and my husband counted to 10 for my pushes. It was nice to hear his voice counting for me. After a while, it seemed like things were stalled out. I found out later that they had gotten the vacuum out and prepared to use it if I hadn’t delivered within the next couple pushes. A nurse whispered to me that I need to focus and push hard so that we didn’t have to do an emergency cesarean. I pushed with everything I had, he was coming and Dr. S snipped a little episiotomy and then everyone went quiet. Baby T had joined us and my doctor was saying “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” and I heard a lot of snipping of scissors. Evidently Baby T had come out with the cord twisted around his neck 3 times in such a way that to pull on it would’ve knotted it and another time wrapped around his armpit and shoulder. What a little ninja! I knew he was really active in there, but wow… They whisked him over to the warmer and had nurses working on him. He wasn’t crying. I kept asking, “Why isn’t he crying??” over and over. My husband squeezed my hand and I looked at him and said, “T isn’t with me, you need to be with him.” So he left me and went to the warmer to see what was being done and my doula took my hand and talked to me quietly to calm me down. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I heard a weak cry and I started crying. They brought him to me and told me that he was going to go to NICU to stabilize. I had just about 10 seconds with him before he left and I said, “Hi Baby T, I love you.” After that, I just remember trying to memorize his face before he left. My husband followed them and then they were gone. My doula stayed with me and Dr. S finished up my stitches and the rest and the nurses started their work on me. Then the next hour or so was hazy and I was in and out of sleep. 

My dad came after about 3 hours and talked to me and my husband took him down to NICU to see Baby T. While he was gone, the nurses got me ready to change rooms because they needed to clean up the birth suite and because of my blood pressure, they had to keep me in labor and delivery for another 24 hours on the magnesium sulfate. Being overambitious, I told the nurses that I could stand and that ended up not going too well. I passed out for about 30 seconds, but managed to not fall. They transported me by wheelchair to the room next door and around 4:30, they brought a beautiful, healthy little baby to my room and I could be with my son finally. My husband told me that his APGAR scores were 2/7/7 and that when he was 1 minute old, he wasn’t breathing, was limp and blue, but he had a strong heartbeat.

Our little miracle was born at 12:32pm on our 6th Wedding Anniversary. He is an active, squirmy little bundle of energy and we are the proudest mommy and daddy in the world (according to us, of course).

Joyce Dykema