Friday was my first day back at work on L&D. I was a little bit nervous about it. Not that I have forgotten anything or lost my skills over maternity leave, but only that my life had slowed down to match my baby’s pace, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up (knowing what our L&D unit is like, and how crazy it can get) when I got back. Well, I was reminded again that if you’re ever nervous about something, just dive in; nothing beats jumping into the deep end!
I caught three babies on Friday. The first woman was already 6 cm dilated when I got onto the floor. She had just arrived, and had already been brought into a birthing room, knowing that it was her third baby and that things were moving fast. She was groaning and sweating when I entered the room. She was by herself; her husband was at work and her sister was at home watching her other two children. My heart instantly buckled at the thought of being alone during birth. There is NO WAY I could have made it through my own birth alone. I sat on the edge of her bed and didn’t want to leave her side (and thankfully, things were progressing fast enough that there was no time for me to be pulled in any other directions). The sights and sounds of labor instantly took me back to my own very recent birth. It was almost visceral. I could almost feel it in my body like a phantom pain. She looked at me with the slightly panicky eyes of transition, and I could instantly remember my own transition, vomiting over the edge of the birth tub, sweating and shivering at the same time. For a moment I wasn’t sure how to even help her; I felt like any comforting words are so inadequate compared to that pain. But she wanted me to do something, so we talked briefly about what her options were. Pain medicine, or just getting the labor over as quickly as possible. She just wanted to be done with it, so I broke her water. We barely had enough time to get the birth kit open before the baby’s head was visible on her perineum. Three good pushes and the baby was out at 8:38 am, a 7 lb healthy little girl with a strong cry and a head full of hair. The mother hadn’t known the sex of the baby in advance, and she wanted the father to help her pick out the name. She cradled her baby but unfortunately couldn’t breastfeed her immediately because we didn’t know her HIV status (somehow this test had been missed during her prenatal care!) and per hospital policy she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed until the results came back. I left the two of them bonding and stepped back out onto the craziness of the floor.
The second delivery happened at 3:48 pm. This mother was a thirteen year old girl who looked as if she were 21. Her half-sister and mother were in the room with her, and had been with her for nearly 24 hours. She had come in the day before with sky-rocketing blood pressures, and was currently being induced for preeclampsia. She was on magnesium, and had been making very slow progress. When I first examined her in the morning (shortly after delivering the first baby), she felt to be about 5 cm dilated, which was exactly like her last exam four hours ago. This wasn’t the kind of situation where we could tolerate a slow and meandering induction; the cure to preeclampsia is birth, and we needed her to deliver sooner rather than later because her blood pressure was a bit scary: 160s over 110s (so high that we actually administered 5 mg of hydralazine at the start of the shift to try to stabilize her somewhat). The attending suggested that we break her water to try to get her labor going, but I thought pitocin might be a better option. Yes, a midwife pushing pitocin! However, with a slow, drawn-out induction, I felt like breaking her water at only 5 cm was an invitation for an infection, and that there were other ways to encourage her progress without taking that route. In my limited experience to date, I feel like breaking the water in a multiparous woman who’s clearly progressing quickly is a sure-fire way to speed things up, but in an adolescent primip, there was no guarantee that breaking her water would do anything. I argued my case and the attending agreed. We began pitocin and left her water intact. She didn’t want an epidural, but she took some stadol twice to help her cope with the pain, and around 1:00 pm when I reexamined her she was 7-8 cm dilated, and the baby’s head had moved down considerably. I broke her water at that point, and she began to feel like she needed to push around 2 pm. I checked her again, and hallelujah, she was anterior lip. We tried some different position changes to try to encourage the lip to recede (including hands and knees–the beauty of no epidural!), and around 3:00 she felt like she had to go to the bathroom (music to a midwife’s ears) and wasn’t able to stop herself from pushing. She began to push, and almost immediately you could see the baby’s head. We pushed for about 40 min, and she truly was a superstar, giving birth to a healthy 7 lb 4 oz baby boy! I kept forgetting that she was only 13 years old, such was her maturity and resilience.
The third delivery happened at 7:31 pm. This was a woman whom I had been taking care of all day, but I wasn’t sure I would be the one to deliver her. Her water had broken the night before, and she was contracting on her own when I first arrived onto the floor in the morning. I only checked her twice during the day. Once around 10:00 am (she was 3-4 cm dilated at that point) and again at around 4:00 pm when she decided she wanted an epidural (she was 5-6 cm at that point). Shortly after the epidural, while I was up to my neck in triage, her nurse called me because she was having an excruciating headache. I couldn’t figure out what could be causing such sudden and extreme head pain aside from the very recent epidural (and I did call the anesthesiologist to have him come evaluate her, since a spinal headache is a known complication with epidurals). She had asked her family to darken the room, and when I walked in she had a washcloth over her eyes. Her blood pressures were also rising, so I asked her nurse to draw some preeclamptic lab-work on her just to make sure it wasn’t that (photosensitivity and headaches are some of the toxic symptoms of preeclampsia). While we were waiting for the anesthesiologist to show up to assess the headache, she began to feel like she needed to push. I didn’t want to examine her again (with prolonged rupture of membranes, the fewer exams the better), but it was pretty obvious that something had changed and the labor was going much more quickly all of a sudden. She felt like she needed to vomit, so we quickly got a bucket under her; her family fed her ice chips and fanned her face. This was getting on towards the end of the shift, and by that point our triage room was overflowing, with pregnant women pacing the hallways and filling chairs in the waiting room. I left her to return to triage, only to be called back by her nurse again about 10 minutes later. When I walked into the room, the nurse was hastily opening up the birth kit, and the head was visible on the perineum (so much for checking her again….clearly she was fully dilated!). It was one of those deliveries where I barely had enough time to get my gloves on before another healthy little boy joined us earthside, all 9 lbs and 7 ounces of him!
The rest of this woman’s delivery proceeded normally; the placenta came out without any fuss, and I repaired the tiny 1st degree laceration that she had. Amazingly, her terrible headache also seemed to miraculously disappear as soon as the baby was out, which was a big relief, since spinal headaches are miserable (and preeclampsia isn’t much fun, either; we sent her bloodwork anyway, just to be on the safe side). However, there was a thin but steady trickle of uterine blood which wasn’t stopping, despite the usual postpartum pitocin in the IV bag. We emptied her bladder with a straight catheter (sadly, when there is an epidural on board, most women have a really hard time urinating on their own), and by compressing her fundus, I was able to extract another 300 cc of clots. I thought this would do the trick, but the slow trickle of blood would not let up. This was around 8 pm (shift-change time). I was exhausted, my own breasts were sore and in desperate need of being pumped (I had only had a chance to pump once, at 10 am, such was the business of my first day back!), and I hadn’t had a bite to eat or drink since noon. We gave her 1000 mcg of cytotec to try to stem the bleeding, and while her fundus firmed up nicely with this medication, it was still very high in her abdomen (well above her belly-button) which made me suspect that there were still lots of clots inside which needed to be removed before her uterus could contract down like normal and stop trickling. At this point I called the attending, and thankfully one of the fresh night-shift midwives stepped into the room to help out. I gave report to the oncoming midwife, who gowned up and put on a pair of sterile gloves, and thankfully took over. I *hate* to leave a delivery unfinished like this, but it was already 8:30 pm, I felt like my breasts were about to explode, and with my husband away for the weekend, there was no one to relieve our son’s babysitter except for me, so I had to get home asap (as it was, I was an hour late). When I stepped out of the room, the attending and new midwife were beginning to explore their options in terms of stopping the trickle. Later that night I received a text from the midwife who had taken over, and in the end, it did indeed turn out to be a bunch of clots which needed extracting. Apparently, everything had turned out well once those pesky clots were out of the way.
I came home sore, exhausted, exhilarated and desperate to see my little baby boy (who was sound asleep by the time I got home)! I had never been apart from him for longer than 4 hours since he was born. Being away from him for a solid 14 hours was a real shock to the system!!! In a way, I am very grateful that it had been such a busy, crazy day, because it didn’t give me much time to dwell on how much I was missing him, and our babysitter thankfully sent me text pictures and updates throughout the day, which eased the pain of separation somewhat. I crept downstairs into our bedroom and spent at least 10 minutes staring at him in silence while he slept, just soaking up his sweet, peaceful face. Then I tip-toed back upstairs to pump. I nearly fell asleep while pumping. It’s been awhile since I had had such a hectic day. Overall, though, it felt really good to be back to work again, and I felt so honored to be attending births once more. This will definitely take some getting used to, though–a new routine, as both a midwife and a mother.