Thursday, May 13, 2010

A mother of a birth story - The first cut

After the miraculous conception of my first child, which is a whole fantastic story as well, I enjoyed a fabulous pregnancy. Yes, I am that woman. No morning sickness, just the right weight gain, no problems. Besides, I LOVED being pregnant. I loved the smiles of passing strangers, the belly rubs, my changing body, everything. I could have done without the horror birth stories but I didn't pay them any mind. I was going to have a natural birth. And those nightmares of my child dying in childbirth from my fear? I was quick to suppress those thoughts whenever that came to mind.

My husband and I went to Bradley classes. This should have been a red flag at some point but I was extremely anxious about his overall interest, or lack thereof I should say. He honestly couldn't figure out what I was worried about. His mother had 8 children, himself a vaginal footling breech delivery. "What's the big deal"? Umph. Wish I had shared that sentiment back then too.

I was so...stupid. I knew nothing about birth. I loved my OB who'd been my reproductive endocrinologist as well. He was and is a very compassionate and caring man. What I didn't know is that he believes that babies should be born at 36 weeks, ideally. (cringe) The hospital I was to deliver at had an alternative birthing center which was actually a room down the hall from the labor ward with a queen size bed and a dorm-room refrigerator. When I went for the tour, I asked the nurse about the space. "Oh you won't want to go THERE. You are going to want an epidural". I chuckled at her simplistic view and said jokingly, "well you won't MAKE me have one will you"? Ha! ha! ha...

Fast forward to week 38, my OB suggested I get induced by week 40 if the baby hadn't come yet. I at least knew enough at that point that I was not willing to even talk about induction. I went into labor at 41 weeks, 3 days while shopping at Costco. Contractions were about 15 minutes apart and pretty intense but I kept shopping. My mom was coming that afternoon and I just HAD to everything ready. (shrug) I went home to my husband who was busy re-building our back porch. If you've ever seen Chicago city porches, you know this is a massive project akin to removing the entire back half of your home and rebuilding. We had to have electrical service discontinued for him to do the work and he was in a panic to get it all done before "baby" came.
I took a shower and called my doctor who told me to call when the contractions were 2 minutes a part. I called back a minute later because they were 1 minute apart and painful! On the way to the hospital my husband stopped at Wendy's and asked if I wanted "anything" as I writhed in pain on the passenger side of the car. If you've ever seen that episode of "Family Guy" where something similar happens, that was us. It really makes me laugh to remember it. "I figured this could take awhile and I'm hungry", he said. Really, he had a point.

I got to the hospital and was put into Hell. They called it "Triage". Put in a tiny cubicle, strapped up to a bunch of wires and told constantly, a laboring women with nonstop contractions, to "settle down" on the stupid cot and guess what happened? I lost it. There weren't any labor rooms available and I was only 1cm. That freaked me out. Based on my Bradley class, these contractions had to mean I was in f'ing transition!!! Of course 2 hours later, in Hell, I find out that the labor rooms weren't available not because they were in use, no, there weren't any CLEAN ones available. "I'll clean the damn room myself"! I shouted. In the meantime I let them give me a HALF dose of Stadol. That was horrible. Now I felt all of the misery but was looped out so that I couldn't bother anyone with my complaints. Finally they got me into a room but now I felt dizzy and nauseous and just wanted to go sit on the toilet. Oh no! I was dizzy and therefore "un-safe" to walk 4 feet to the bathroom with my nice husband at my side. (I am completely skipping the part where my wonderful husband was texting and ignoring me as I reached out for his help while in Triage. "You were only 1cm, I figured it was going to take awhile", thanks.)

Just for the record, I want everyone to know that it is anatomically impossible to pee on a bedpan while on your back and having serious contractions. I had to sneak to the bathroom when the nurse left the room. My good friend, Ann-Marie in the meantime had gone to pick up my mom from the airport and they arrived at about that time. Their empathetic, frightened faces were a great comfort. Really! Husband, exit stage right. ??? I don't remember seeing him again until we were in the OR.

Of course I'd begged for the epidural by this point but first we had to wait for the room, then we had to wait another 4 hours for an anesthesiologist. ??? Mean nurse and doc kicked my family out of the room to torture my into an impossible position and yelled at me to sit still. I'm sorry but constant contractions make sitting still kind of difficult. Finally the epidural was in and I was SO relieved. My OB came by right after that and told me that my cervix had swelled and that I was still at 5cm and regressing. I would "need" a cesarean. At that point I would have agreed to anything. My friend left and I was prepped for surgery. My poor mother was threatened with expulsion if she did not agree to stay off the unit as it was past visiting hours and she was not "allowed" near the surgical suite.

As we prepped for the surgery, I was calm and ready to see my baby. That changed when my OB literally sat on my chest to pull my son's head out of the birth canal. He'd wedged himself in there with one hand over his head. (For almost the whole last half of the pregnancy I kept saying I could feel his hand tickling my cervix). That scared the hell out of me and I thought for sure that he was going to die. Finally I heard him cry and instantly I knew he was okay. I didn't get to see him right away but he was somewhere close by with my husband as they closed me up.

In the recovery room I held him and tried to nurse. He wasn't interested at all and suddenly a big, anciently old nurse wisked him away to "bathe" him. I asked her to at least do it near me so I could see him. Poor little guy, what a traumatic event when you are less than an hour old!! I was so powerless to ask for anything that was important to me. I had shunned the idea of a birth plan because I figured everything would be just fine.

My son was born at 11:50pm and by the time I got into a room, it was really late. My husband took my mom home for the night. I've never felt so lonely in my whole life! Swollen from the surgery, in pain and barely able to do anything for my baby. At first he was placed in a bassinet at the foot of my bed. How was I supposed to get him from down there? Hello? I just had major surgery?! Finally I got the nurse to hand him to me and I didn't let him go the rest of the time. Nursing was really hard at first, frustrating for us both as he had a hard time latching for the first 36 hours. I pumped my colostrum and fed him with a spoon when we were both crying and exhausted; eventually we got the hang of it. The one bright spot was that the maternity ward nursing staff was very supportive of breastfeeding although one nurse the first night wanted to check his blood sugar, "just to make sure" he was okay with the few drops we'd managed.

Physically I recovered well. Honestly the surgery barely slowed me down. Coming home to a heat wave and no electricity for a week was a real bummer but we got through that and I just figured if we were lucky enough to ever have another baby, that I'd have a natural birth the next time.

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