Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Birth Story

You think, when it happens, that there's no way you're going to forget any of this, ever. Then you come home and life takes over and little details start to melt away. It's already been a month, so I better write this before I forget who I gave birth to.

Lest you forget, I was a week and a few days overdue.Simon's mom was here, helping us out and hoping to meet the baby. A c-section had been scheduled for two days after her flight back home. I had been eating eggplant, drinking raspberry leaf tea and I don't know what all in the hopes that the kiddo would get here before her grandmother left.

I had been having the odd cramp now and then. Strings of them, even. Then the magic day came when they didn't stop. Of course, everyone is always asking "Anything?" and it's awkward to say "Well, yes, but they probably don't mean anything and they'll go away in a minute." This was what I said all day, from the time I got up until about one in the afternoon, at which point I conceded that maybe this was the real thing. Simon said it must be, because he had begun to bake bread, and he assured me that this meant we would leave at the most awkward point possible in the proceedings.

I tried to take a nap (ha!). We both took showers. I tried to pull together every single thing that the Peanut could possibly need while we were gone. In the meantime the contractions were getting closer together. I was supposed to leave when they were 6 or 7 minutes apart, to allow time for us to get to the hospital. By the time we got it together they were 3 minutes apart.

And it snowed. We hadn't had any snow yet, but durned if it snowed and sleeted on the way in. Simon and I were slightly nervous we wouldn't make it. I was uncomfortable every three minutes. We held hands when we could.

Thankfully, we made it to the hospital in plenty of time. I got into the bed in the triage room, where they informed me I was in early labor and would be permitted to hang out and have a baby. While I was in triage I switched from early to the real thing, which was when I began to wish I had done some practicing of the lamaze.

Because I hadn't. Practiced, that is, and I began to worry that I was in some trouble. I quickly discovered that laboring in bed = BADBADBAD. Laboring over a chair with Simon pushing on my back was doable. Moaning helped, but I could not get into that state I had been in when I labored for Boy. This time I was totally relying on Simon. If he wasn't there for a contraction I was in for it. That time I had focused on relaxing with every contraction. This time I just couldn't get there. I finally gave up and asked for an epidural. I figured I couldn't do it. I was tired already and I just knew they'd check me and say I was at 3. They suggested they do a check, because they had to do one before an epidural anyway, and if I was farther along than I thought, then maybe we could do something else. I was a 6.

You have no idea what a relief that was. This labor was going to be textbook. I went ahead and said yes to some fun juice though, because I was pooped, and it was hard. They gave me something non-narcotic that was supposed to go through the system very quickly. It helped. After a bit I asked to get into the jacuzzi tub, and Simon and I walked across the hall where I discovered what a difference a little water makes.

The water supported the belly. It relaxed all the muscles I'd forgotten how to relax myself. It felt damn good. I didn't take to the bubbles, but the bath itself felt great. It felt so great that I eased into transition without any hullabaloo at all. And just about the time things started getting painful again, I started to shake, and I realized what was happening. I told Simon I thought I was in transition, and very shortly thereafter my water broke.

Our labor nurse had been doing this for 20 years. She came in, heard me have a contraction, and told us I was probably ready to push. I couldn't believe it. We hadn't been there seven hours yet. It took more than a day to get to that point with Boy- this seemed so quick. I really wasn't sure she was right. Once they insisted I get out of the tub and walk across the hall it became apparent to me that they were very right, and that I might have to be worried about making the fifteen feet to the bed. I think they carried me. I don't really know. I do know I could feel her head pushing my bones apart.

Somehow we made it. The midwife was insisting I squat at the end of the bed so gravity would help things. I insisted that I couldn't do this, this wasn't happening, and we needed another plan because the baby was not coming out the way it went in. I insisted this loudly at the top of my lungs. She told be to insist at the bottom of my lungs, and it would help things along. She said I could do it. She must get so tired of telling hysterical women they can, indeed, push a baby out their vagina. I feel very unoriginal. I was yelling the same things I would hear four other women yell later. Exactly the very same words. Exactly. We would all be completely certain that we were tearing in half. That the opposite was true, and the baby would never make it out because we incapable of opening. That there was nothing right or natural about what was happening and that we couldn't do it. And then a baby would make it past the hardest point and suddenly it would be clear that we could do it, we had done it, and everything was fine.

I don't mean to scare anyone by saying this. If you're a premigravida, what you should take away from this is that if you reach the pushing stage and you think these thoughts, the truth is that you really can do it. Really. You can totally do it. I did it when I quit being scared of the pain and pushed into it. It was over so quick- less than a half hour. I think if I had held back I could have dragged it out for a while, so I suppose the key is to stay calm(er) and push hard.

That whole thing surprised me, because with Boy the pushing was great. Of course, with him I'd had an epidural, but they had turned it off and I could feel my legs and the urge to push. It was a relief. It was powerful and exciting and not that bad. The labor had been much worse than the delivery. For this baby the opposite was true.

Of course, when you have a nine pound baby it does some damage to the portal. I have this tendency to make large, round headed babies, then push them out in such a fashion that they have still have lovely round heads instead of the cone heads they're supposed to come out with. Cone heads mean your bones don't have to gape as much as mine did afterwards. I didn't need many stitches, but that doesn't mean I escaped unchanged. The midwife asked if I cared about looks. I said "No, just use the least number of stitches", cause that shit hurts. The correct answer was "Yes, I care very much. I don't want to look like a freakshow, use as many stitches as it takes to restore her to her former state". Ah well, you do the best you can with what you know at the time.

And with that, I got to hold our little girl. They put goop in her eyes, but we wouldn't let them take her away. Not for shots, or the PKU test, or even for a bath. She didn't get a bath till she'd been home for days- we just wiped her dry with a receiving blanket and called her good.

Simon laid down in a chair to sleep, and I snuggled in with the girl to get a nap.
As I laid there I started getting hot, then cold, then queasy, then I'd realize the girl was in my lap and I'd "fallen asleep". Then I'd do it all again. I didn't push the call button because I thought I was just tired. I was starting to think about waking Simon up when the nurse came in and asked how I was. I said I didn't feel good. I asked her to take the baby. I couldn't believe I was asking her that, but I was beginning to get worried. She took her, and it was about then that I said (I'm so ashamed to admit it) "Help me" in a tiny little voice. There was checking under sheets, and checking of blood pressure, and the appearance of many nurses (where do they all come from?) and brief excitement generally. Turns out I had been bleeding rather more than is usual. Things went in the iv and there was a round of tubes passed all around and then I felt much better, thank you very much.

We spent the remainder of our stay there trying to leave. I was so worried about Peanut, and there's just no sleep to be had in a hospital, so we were out of there in about a day. Simon says it wasn't a moment too soon. They had problems with the heat- first it was too cold, then it was so hot it made me ill. I'm not sure the shower had hot water- the sink surely didn't. I hadn't packed a toothbrush. We were very done.

So we came home. We had been through a textbook labor and were leaving with a baby who behaved in a textbook manner. I still can't believe we pulled it off. I really had thought we'd end up with another c-section, or at least an epidural, but we managed to do without either.

Pretty damn proud of Simon and myself,