Birthing story intrathecal

It blows my mind to think I grew an actual human being in my belly and gave birth to it. What a miracle! With my first born, the experience was new and exciting… and terrifying! I had Jackson on 10-11-12 with no complications. Fortunately, he was healthy and I recovered quickly. My second pregnancy was very similar to the first. I listened to my friends and family, heard their stories and was ready for the second to come a bit quicker and perhaps a few days early. Boy, did it!

With Waipuna, I started having what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions at 7 p.m. I could “move through them” but they seemed fairly regular, so I had my husband clock them for me just in case. After an hour, our cell phone app did some calculations and informed me that I was having one minute contractions every 5 – 7 minutes. Uh oh… this might actually be the real thing! I wasn’t due for another 9 days! Shortly thereafter, the mucus plug released and we called our doctor. She answered right away and asked, “Did your water break yet?” No lie. My water broke at that EXACT moment – as if on cue. “I’ll meet you at the hospital,” she said. My parents had flown in from the Big Island just hours before and were in shock when I told them, “It’s time, I’ll be back soon!”

We arrived at Maui Memorial Hospital a few minutes later. I was already 7 centimeters dilated! At this point in my labor with Jackson, I had been a complete basket case and in so much pain. I threw up until my vomit was black. The experience with Waipuna was nothing like that. The contractions were uncomfortable, but other than that, I felt pretty good. I had gotten an epidural to help me through Jackson’s birth, and now it was time to make the decision – yay or nay with Waipuna? My platelet count was right at the cusp of what is acceptable to get an epidural. The anesthesiologist asked if I wanted it – and I hesitated. Hindsight is 20/20 – my gut was telling me to proceed without it. You can do it – all natural this time!

My fear took over however. I couldn’t help but wonder… how much worse will this get? What level of pain can I really handle? Am I strong enough? My fear overwhelmed me and I said, “Do it!” – the epidural, that is. In fact, I was insisting… “Go, go, go, go!” I was 9 centimeters dilated and time was of the essence.

Once the needle went in, I immediately lost all feeling from my hips down. This was new for me. With Jackson and the epidural I still had feeling all the way through my labor and delivery. This time, I felt like I was paralyzed. I asked if it was “normal” and was assured, YES. In fact, I actually had not received an epidural. I was so close to being “complete” (10 cm), they chose to do an intrathecal instead. From what I understand, this is a smaller needle, the pain relief is more immediate and doesn’t last as long. To be honest, I was on cloud 9! Though the temporary paralysis was totally freaking me out, the fact that I couldn’t feel A THING made the delivery pure joy! In fact, while I was numbed up, I made the decision I wanted my mother in the room for delivery. So we waited for mom to arrive. It’s crazy to think if I had started pushing right then, baby would have been delivered around 9 p.m. So fast! As it stood, we waited about 45 minutes for my mom to arrive. Then, because my legs were dead weight we had to readjust the birthing chair so that the stirrups could hold my legs up. That took another 15 minutes.

Finally, it was go time. I looked at the clock – it was a couple minutes after 10 p.m. We did one “practice” round of pushing. My husband, Kaimi, had his gloves on and was ready to pull baby out. Baby popped out like a champagne cork (as my mother describes it). I was literally laughing when she was delivered. No pain. At. All. He placed baby Waipuna on my chest and she latched on right away. It was divine. And, so fast! Our little angel was born at 10:08 p.m. at 8 lbs. 3 oz. and 21 inches long.

I had an amazing 12-18 hours postpartum! But, shortly after I started to feel stiffness in my neck and back. I mentioned this to my night nurse and she went to check my chart. She said the anesthesiologist had poked me twice before getting the needle in the right spot on the third try. She thought this may have led to a spinal headache, which she described as the worst migraine you’ve ever experienced in your life, and she recommended I get the blood patch right away. What?!!! Holy cow. I was beside myself… my husband and I started doing research on “spinal headaches” and “blood patches” to see what exactly I might have gotten myself into. That night, the anesthesiologist on-call came to my room to discuss my symptoms. The problem was, my symptoms were not as severe and acute as with those that get a spinal headache. Was it a spinal headache, or not? The stiffness in my neck and back was so intense it had me in tears. When upright, I had a dull headache similar to the beginnings of a migraine. When I laid down, the headache would go away. I was nauseous when upright, but not when lying down. These were hallmark signs of a spinal headache… BUT, the symptoms weren’t as severe as with most patients… so we weren’t sure. We were in a state of limbo. We couldn’t confirm it was a spinal headache, but if it was, my symptoms were quite rare. So, we stayed at the hospital. The nursing staff, my OB and the maternity wing at Maui Memorial were attentive, kind and took really great care of us during this time of uncertainty.

On the third day I asked an anesthesiologist what he would do if it were his wife in my position… he said, “We would probably go home.” So, we did. The extreme pain started to subside about a week after, but the uncomfortable feeling in my back took much longer. I started taking classes at Pure Barre Maui to strengthen my core and slowly but surely I’ve regained my strength and the pain has subsided. So, all is well that ends well, but man that was quite the journey!

Image Credit: Malika Dudley

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Malika Dudley is a University of Hawai’i at Manoa graduate where she was a Regent Scholar, two-time Emmy-nominee recipient for journalism, former Miss Hawai’i, and most recently the weather anchor and Maui county correspondent for KITV4 Island News. She enjoys donating her time hosting community events, singing the National Anthem, organizing donation drives for the Maui Food Bank, and teaching free CPR classes whenever she can. Malika lives in Pukalani, Maui with her husband and their two children. To learn more about her podcast please go to


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