A Birth Story, Part One: 1 Lazy Cervix, 4 Epidurals and a Spinal Headache

A Birth Story, Part One: 1 Lazy Cervix, 4 Epidurals and a Spinal Headache

I hate caffeine. I hate soda. And most of all, I hate coffee.

This may come as a shock to many of you as I often tweet about and speak of coffee as the liquid of life that surrounds my mornings and fuels most of my afternoons.

I was planning on giving up coffee in 2012, and after reading an inspiring post about ditching the coffee consumption habit by one of my favorite bloggers, Jana Llewellyn, I knew I was up to the task. I just had to give birth to a baby, get through the rough stage of newbornhood and then I would quit.

Oh, how the universe had other plans for my caffeine detox.

Two weeks ago, I was completely strung out on caffeine –
Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Oolong Tea, and Caribou Coffee’s Daybreak Morning Blend ravenously coarsed through my veins. I was even taking a little white pain killer laced with caffeine.


Well, after I received my epidural during child birth, I gave birth to something else.

A spinal headache.

I had a heartwarming birth story ready to post in my imagination. Once again, I was smacked in the face bearing my cocky this-is-my-third-child-so-I-am-a-pro attitude and physically knocked to the floor.

I will spare you a long drawn out story of the delivery, as no one really needs to hear or relive the uncomfortable details of childbirth. I will exclaim with love and pride that I gave birth to a 7 pound 4 ounce baby girl and named her Gertrude. What transpired after the birth is the fascinating part which completely caught me and my husband off guard…

Sunday, January 8 – 4:30 PM
“I want drugs, please.”

I was not feeling very well on Sunday. My lower back pain and sick stomach prompted a call to the obstetrician on-call, who in turn, suggested I come in to the hospital.

I checked in and changed into the ever-fashionable hospital dressing gown and walked laps around the labor and delivery unit, attempting to motivate my lazy cervix to start contracting.

Peter and I spoke of our excitement and laughed at the thought of what our other 2 children were doing to their grandmother back at our house.

After a quick sneaky peak at the progression of my labor, the doctor reasoned since I was scheduled to induce the next day, I might as well just be induced that night.

Kick starting my contractions with a Pitocin cocktail, I readied myself mentally for what was to happen. I was adamant about having an epidural and wanted as much pain taken from my body during the delivery.

As soon as the contractions became unbearable and I could no longer play Words with Friends with my husband on our fancy new iPhones, I politely requested drugs.

Peter got a questionable sandwich from the vending machine as the epidural was administered, and I, once again, waived off any insecurities and fear. I had 2 epidurals before – no problem!

The anesthesiologist inserted his ungodly needle in to my lower back and I prepared for the soothing effects of numbness.

“Hmm..let’s try this again,” I heard from behind me.

“That doesn’t sound good,” I replied.

The doctor then explained to me that the space in between my spine was too small and blah, blah, blah he had to attempt another spot in my back.

Please do not think me flippant about medical care or childbirth, but I was having intense, mind numbing contractions which allowed me only to comprehend three word sentences. No more.

I tucked my head to my chest as instructed for what seemed like an eternity and felt my neck getting sore and heavy.

After the epidural, the anesthesiologist informed us that a small percentage of people had a spinal headache from the leaking of spinal fluid out of the injection site, which could be easily fixed by something called a blood patch.

“Okay, great,” I thought. “I have a baby to deliver!”

10:30 ish
“We paged your doctor. She will be here in 8 minutes…”

If you have given birth, you know there is an exact moment when you utter the words, “I have to push!”

And when your labor and delivery nurse tells you they have paged the doctor who scooted home and will be back in 8 minutes, you might get a little nervous. Searching frantically around for my husband, I grabbed his hand and we locked eyes.

With pressure in my toosh mounting, I fought back the urge to tell Peter I was having second thoughts. Did we really need three children?

Sensing the fear in my eyes, my nurse reminded me to breathe.

As I inhaled and remembered my breathing, thoughts of the doctor stopping for a quick coffee on her way back to the hospital or getting pulled over for speeding crossed my mind…

11:45 pm
“It’s a GIRL!”

“Short, breaths, Elizabeth. Like blowing out a candle.”

“A candle? What is a candle?” I thought, reaching deep into the recesses of my mind for my last childbirth class – 6 years ago.

The doctor magically appeared and I started to push. Twenty “easy breezy” minutes later my precious 7 pound 4 ounce Gertrude entered the world. I held her on my chest and gazed at her screaming face. While Peter and I spoke softly to our new baby, her eyes peeked open momentarily and I instantly fell in love with my daughter.

After time with Gertrude, the nurse temporarily whisked her away to asses her vitals and snuggle her tiny body up in a blanket. I held little Gert in my arms and closed my eyes, relieved to have childbirth behind me. As Peter took pictures, I noticed a throbbing begin behind my eyes and across my forehead.

Monday 1:30 am
“I have an excruciating headache, Peter. Can you hold Gertrude?”

Shortly after birth, I felt my brain being squeezed like a sponge. Hands proceeded to twist my neck muscles into knots. Nausea hit me hard as I reclined the bed and closed my eyes.

“What is going on?” I thought to myself. “A migraine?”

Cracking my eyes open, I asked my nurse if I could have something for my headache.

“You look awful,” Peter informed me in the most loving way someone could at that particular moment.

I will spare you the next few hours of headache hell and tell you the good parts…

The part where I stagger to the bathroom half in and out of consciousness, collapsing into the arms of my 5 foot nurse. Second by second, my neck feeling so constricted and heavy that I literally feared my head was going to tip over and detach from my neck.

The part where I front (and back) side moon my nurses losing any modesty I once had, not caring as I practically hurl on their blue scrubs.

Nearly passing out from another trip to the bathroom, my mind drifted to my new child. Where was my precious Gertrude?

In her daddy’s arms.

Thank goodness she was our third child and Peter was confident in every care-taking decision. Thank goodness I had decided not to breast feed, as if I had, there was no way I could have physically or mentally swung that daunting task.

As I lay on my back,  I thought about Gertrude.

-Does she wonder where I am?
-I know she is in perfect hands with Peter, but will she forget me if I am not holding her during this time?
-Is she scarred because I am not immediately bonding with her?

I began to cry and told Peter my fears of being a bad mother. He placed Gertrude next to me on the bed. I could barely open my eyes, but I could smell her and hear her breathing. I touched her cheek and pressed her up against the side of my body as moving my head was impossible.

This debilitating scene went on throughout the early hours of the morning until the anesthesiologist returned to asses my situation around 8:00 AM.

Monday 8 AM
“You are going to need a blood patch.”

It turned out I did have a spinal headache as a result to the first failed attempt at the epidural. Spinal fluid had leaked out of my spine and the hole needed to be patched. The procedure involved readministering the epidural and injecting my own blood into the site to clot and seal the hole.

So we did.

And (snap!) the headache was magically gone! Just like that!

I was instructed to take it easy (with 2 kids and an infant, I don’t really know what that means…) and no heavy lifting. To aid in the healing process I was to consume large amounts of caffeine and water. I love coffee, so this would be no problem.

Peter and I spent the rest of the day in the hospital taking pictures of Miss Gertrude and visiting with relatives.

Tuesday morning – 6 ish

“I can’t wait to get home!”

I woke up feeling great. My release instructions were to drink water and a lot caffeine, take it easy and enjoy my new baby. With a new found pep in my step and finally cradling my lovely Gertrude in my arms, we left to hospital.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Hanging with the kids, changing diapers…

Wednesday morning 8:15 AM

“The blood patch dislodged.”

I posted a picture of Gert on Facebook as we shared our morning coffee together. I sent Peter off to the store with a list of supplies to purchase, and with him our 5-year-old, Raymond, who would be dropped off at school.

Three-year-old Anne and I fed little Gertrude and talked about babies and being a big sister. About 10 minutes had passed since Peter left and as I burped Gertrude, I could feel my brain starting to squeeze.

Panic surged through my body as my neck and shoulders began to constrict. I quickly sped to the kitchen to retrieve my phone and decided to hold Gert in my arms instead of placing her in the Pack n’ Play bed. Since I knew I would be immobile in minutes I decided to hold Gertrude. Fearful of the pain which was now building behind my eyes, I said to Anne:

“Anne, pick out a DVD and come sit next to me on the couch. Mama is tired and needs to lay down with baby Gert.”

Gloriously, Anne set herself up with a movie and cuddled next to me as I called Peter.

Tears streamed down my face at the sound of his voice.

“Come home now,” I whispered into the phone, fighting back the tears. “The headache is back.”

Thursday – all day

“I’m a bad mother.”

With a second blood patch administered at the hospital on Wednesday, I spent most of Thursday in bed “resting” with an ice pack on my head and shoulders. I consumed glass after glass of soda and switched to coffee when my teeth started to hurt.

I listened to my husband feed Gertrude next to me and held her tiny hand, still fearing she had no idea who her mother was…

Raymond and Anne brought their toys to play with in my bed and read books, questioning why mama could not sit up and make them peanut butter sandwiches. In my post-pregnancy hormonal state, I wept under the ice pack on my eyes and wanted to fall asleep. Alas, I could not, as I was hopped up on caffeine.


“I don’t care about anything. I only care about you guys.”

With the spinal headache dissipating, my body began to remind me that I had just delivered a baby. I welcomed the usual aches and pains of recovery as I could finally enjoy Gertrude, spend time with my family, and get back to normal.

As family and friends graciously visited, cooked us meals and drove my children to school, I felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness.

Yes, I may have been really hormonal, but when you are physically knocked to the ground and cannot care for yourself, you realize the only thing that matters are the people in your life.

My husband, my children, my new baby. Family and friends.

To hell with the house cleaning! Who cares if my son will not eat his vegetables and only eats peanut butter sandwiches? I look disheveled today and I am wearing mismatched socks – OH WELL.

I am so thankful that I feel well today. I can take care of my children and make dinner, which is a pretty great accomplishment after those few horrendous days.

Still over-caffeinated, I am working on weaning myself off the coffee I used to deeply love, yet still cannot bring myself to go completely cold turkey. I have drastically slowed down and feel content in knowing I will accomplish everything on my to do list…eventually. In the mean time, I pause to enjoy my family or sit and do nothing.

And I kind of like it!

Were you thrown a curve ball during or after your delivery?

How do I begin to detox from this caffeine high?



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  • You are a warrior!

  • A sobbing warrior, maybe. :)

  • With my last child, I had a scheduled c-section and general anesthesia. The last minute, they wanted to do a spinal. I said no and had a big fight with the anesthesiologist right there in the operating room! The doc came in and confirmed I could have my general. Everything went according to plan. You are entitled to be a sobbing warrior, my friend!

  • In reply to siblingless:

    It's always best to ask questions and stand your ground! I have no shame in admitting I cried into the bosom of my labor and delivery nurse. She was so kind....

  • That sounds awful! I have a headache from reading your story. I'm so sorry you had to undergo such pain.

    As for the caffeine, smoothies have helped me cut back coffee a lot. Try maca powder for energy.

  • In reply to Yoga Mom:

    Beth, it was crazy! I am so glad it is over and I can take care of my kids. I'm checking out the maca powder right now. Thank you!

  • Wow, that sounds horrendous. I've heard that one of the rare effects of an epidural is a spinal headache. If you had to go through labor without an epidural or deal with the spinal headache, which would you choose?

  • In reply to Jana:

    Honestly, I would do the epidural all over again b/c the risk is so low. During my second delivery, the epidural kicked in after the baby was born, so I felt everything and I never want to feel that kind of pain again...

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