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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Birthing Story

I have wanted to document my experience with childbirth, before all those pesky hormones took over that make you forget everything. In my case, I'm not sure how accurate it will be, but here it is, as I remember it, with sparse sleep over the past two weeks.

At my doctor's office, 1 day past my due date, I was told that women past their due dates are treated like "fragile eggs." This metaphor made me laugh out loud, in her face. There was nothing fragile about me anymore, I was massive in proportions and the past couple weeks had made me uncomfortable to boot. I moved with the grace of a thousand drunk hippos. I had a pretty easy pregnancy, I can't complain much, but the bloat was starting to get old. I had taken to cursing flat-bellied women running past me effortlessly at Memorial Park. Not a pleasant person really. Plus, it seemed to me that it was unbearably hot for May. All this is to say that in addition to the crescendoing anticipation of meeting the little person inside of me, I was ready. I never thought I'd get there, but I was. I knew it would be harder with her on the outside, rather than on the inside, but I wanted to deal with it, the tough stuff and the fun stuff, instead of harboring all the anxiety I was having about whether or not we were actually going to be able to handle it. I was ready, so what was the deal with her being so fashionably late?

The Monday after my due date, 6 days late, I went to another scheduled appointment with my doctor, Kasia in tow (she had been coming down each weekend hoping I would have the baby while she was here, and since I was due to be induced on Tuesday this time, she stayed longer) before getting all the routine nonstress tests they give you when you're late. I had been having weird stuff going on all weekend, stuff that made me think I was peeing on myself uncontrollably, a weekend I wistfully knew would be my last as a twosome with Andrew, and told my doctor about it as she went in for my exam. She did a litmus test on me, and wouldn't you know it, it came out basic. Which as far as I've been told, this means there was a possibility my water was leaking. So the doc tells us that its time to go to the hospital, she was ordering my pitocin drip and I was not going to be going to my scheduled ultrasound and tests. I was confused. Am I supposed to call my husband? Yes, it's time, we're doing this now, he needs to bring your bags. She walks out of the room, Kasia is beaming at me, I jump off the table half naked and do a little dance right there in the doctor's office.

Around 10am, walking over to the hospital (it was right next door), I dial Andrew, who had gone into work for the morning, thinking he would be meeting me to check into the hospital that evening for my Tuesday induction, and say "It's Go Time." To which he says, "Right now?" Umm YES. I can hear his adrenaline kick in, and he gets in his Andrew-Hold-Your-Shit-Together mode. I go to labor and delivery and get checked in to my L&D room, where I proceed to fill out more paper work, sign for more scary things than I can comprehend (you might get AIDS from this, are you ok with that?) and Kasia is in her Mommy-Mode, trying everything to make me comfortable, but really we're both so excited there is no way for me to know how to stay calm. So as usual, it's hurry up and wait. We're sitting there. I get hooked up to an IV of sugar-water for hydration, and eventually pitocin around 11:30am. Andrew and Kasia are there, fielding calls from both sets of parents, no there's no need to come up right now, the waiting room is standing-room-only and nothing is happening anyways. I am happily texting and facebooking.

At 11:45am, I urge Kasia and Andrew to go get lunch, since they can eat, they might as well, and I'm sucking on a popsicle anyways. I've been on pitocin for a while, I'm having contractions, but they're completely manageable and I can talk through them. While they are in the cafeteria, for a mere 45 minutes, the contractions go into hyper-drive and become so fast and strong that I can't recover between them. I am alone with the L&D nurse, and she is urging me to breathe slower, and I am starting to freak out a bit because I'm only 1 cm dilated, and God Help Me I won't be able to handle this for the next 9 cm (read: at an average of 1 cm dilation per hour, it would mean 9 more hours of labor before I started actually pushing). I feel like such a pansy.
That is the only way to put it. I pictured myself getting to at least 5 cm before I asked for drugs, and here, I couldn't even hack it for an hour. After about 15 minutes of staring at the ceiling tiles, trying not to crawl up the wall with every contraction, I squeak out "I think I want the epidural now." The nurse looks at me, smiles and says "thank you." I suppose it makes their lives a bit easier when you are comfortable as well. The only way I can describe contractions is as it was described to me: it is the worst menstrual cramps you have ever experienced, only in my case, it wasn't in my back, it was lower, and inside, and made me want to throw things.

Kasia and Andrew come back form lunch, and one look from me and they know things have changed while they were gone. I tell them I already ordered the epidural, and in a few minutes, the anesthesiologist is in the room, prepping me. I can not properly convey how happy I was to see that man. He was talking to me while they prepped me, something about birthdays, and how I was his second patient with a July 10th birthday that day, and his own birthday was July 11th, so it was quite a coincidence, blah blah blah... I didn't even care about the babbling, he was the man about to give me a spinal tap, I was going to be nice to him. It was over faster than I had anticipated, and maybe 3 contractions later, I experienced sweet relief. It was like the tingling you feel when you start to get a little buzz, or when your legs fall asleep, but haven't gotten to the painful waking up stage yet. I could still move my toes, but all pain was gone. I was laughing and talking excitedly now, completely oblivious to my growing contractions. Why do people do this without drugs? I shouldn't judge, but do they know how much easier it is? Hats off to them, they are better people with more patience and tolerance than me.

The next several hours consist of me being checked every couple hours, grape and cherry popsicles, and feverish texting of all three of us. We kept wonder, would she be born today or tomorrow? What was the exact date going to be? And what was taking her so long anyways? The problem was with each exam, I was getting progressively more dilated (albeit very slowly), however, she wasn't moving down (in terms of stations, I was stuck at a -1 station). So my contractions were doing what they were supposed to be doing, making me dilate, but around 9pm, I had stalled out at 7 cm. I felt deflated. She still wasn't moving down, it seemed her head was positioned in my pelvis a little bit askew, and she wasn't fitting down in. This is something I had never though of. How could a baby not FIT into my enormous hips? Hips I had complained about since I was 12 years old? I know hips and pelvis aren't the same thing, but this was inconceivable to me.

So because there was no baby pushing down on my cervix, to dilate it further, I was stalling out. My doctor, who wasn't on call that night, but had come back anyways in order to deliver me that night, broke it gently to me. We could try for a couple more hours, keep turning me over in different positions, hoping to maneuver the baby in correctly, but the chances were that we would have the same outcome: I would have to have a C-section. I would be lying if I said I wasn't enormously disappointed. I can't really explain why that is. There was something about wanting to experience the whole pushing and "natural" childbirth, and the fact that I hadn't even considered that I would ever even need a C-section. I felt like this meant I would never get to experience childbirth, and some how I was cheating the way it was supposed to be. I cried, and my mom, my sister, and Andrew all comforted me while I got it out of my system. It was time to go, for real this time, and soon I'd get to meet the little one. That was something to be excited about!

They wheeled me in the OR quickly, and starting prepping me, the room, and putting more things in my IV's. I don't even remember the cocktails I was given, but whatever they were, they made me loopy. Andrew was in another room putting on scrubs, and the doctors and nurses are explaining to me what they're doing as they do it, but I'm only half listening, if that. Most of my brain power is focusing on trying to make my body stop shaking so violently. I think it's the combination of drugs, anxiety, adrenaline and anticipation, but I have never had my body react so quickly. I couldn't stop shaking, and because of this, the nurse couldn't get a blood pressure reading on me. I am concentrating so hard on relaxing, that I think it is making the shaking worse. Andrew comes in the room, I am apparently already cut open, and I feel better. Just seeing him made it better. The nurse above me, closest to me head is annoying me, she keeps telling Andrew to start taking pictures, and I wish she would just stop talking. Seconds later, they are showing me the bloody tail-end of what looks like a baby, there is loud baby cries, and the doctors are laughing at something and Andrew is smiling, and I'm feel very nauseous all of a sudden. I tell the annoying nurse this and she puts a bowl next to my face. I never throw up, the nurse tells me she's going to give me something to "relax" and I am so overcome with fatigue that I can't possibly keep my eyes open so I go to sleep. Some indeterminable period of time later, I am awake, looking over at Andrew, who is holding our daughter, wrapped up like an enchilada, still in the OR, me still being operated on, and I smile. They put her on my chest so I can hold her, and I am trying to piece it all together in my head. Did she come out of me? How? What? I didn't get it. Why was there laughing? Andrew takes her back, and I go back to sleep.

I wake up hours later in the recovery room, which is pretty dark, and Andrew is sitting next to me. I ask him the same sets of questions over and over, not remembering I had asked already, or that he had answered. Where is the baby? Where is our family? How long do we have to be here? A recovery nurse is telling me about the drugs she is giving me, and I am not really comprehending or caring at that moment. I can't leave the recovery room until I can move both big toes. My right toe is cooperating, my left toe is not. I am biting my top lip, concentrating on moving my left toe. A while later, I get it to move, and we get wheeled into our postpartum room. Our family is there, and they are all smiling and telling me about the baby, who they watched in the transition nursery where she was taken with Andrew while I was being finished up. Kasia shows me photos on her phone, and I feel like I missed out on all the fun. I suddenly really really want to see the baby, to hold her, but she is getting all her screenings done, and they don't bring her to our room until after 3:00am.

By then, the family has left to give us some time to rest, and it is really quiet in the hospital. I couldn't believe it when I saw her. She was beautiful. I couldn't believe (and still have trouble believing) that she came out of me, and that she fit in my stomach for all that time. I don't know if that is a byproduct of having a C-section, not actually seeing and feeling them physically pull her from my body, but I was in shock. It was time to feed her, and as most first time mothers do, I bumbled through nursing her as a nurse tried to tell me what to do. It's not the world's easiest and most natural task, that is for sure. But I was holding her, and smelling her, and studying every last inch of her. I made Andrew tell me what he saw in the delivery room, and why everyone was laughing. On the way out of my stomach, Lilliana grabbed the plastic wrap that covers my body for the operation, and pulled it up with her. Apparently, the doctors had never seen a baby do that. She came out flailing, sprawled out and yelling at the top of her lungs. She was a ham from the start.

Andrew, who thought he would be squeamish in the OR, seeing the blood and cutting, etc, was a total champ in there. I actually have photos of her head being pulled out of my stomach, and Andrew's brilliant comment of "I could even see your fat cells!" is enough ammunition to last me at least the next 5 years of our marriage. I have never been so proud of him, and seeing him with Lilliana, makes all the anxiety worth every second.

Neither of us has slept much in the last two weeks. We have had a lot of help from a lot of people, which I can not properly express our appreciation for here. I didn't know how I would feel about having a child, if I would fall in love immediately, or if I would slowly start to love her. The truth is, it doesn't really matter, and I'm not really sure which it is anyways. All I know is, that when I leave her, for even an hour, I am so overcome with the feeling of missing something, that it is like falling in love all over again when I return to her. She is My Little Lilly Monster.


Tabatha said...

Hi. This is me crying.

Congrats on your new little one....she's a beauty!!

SleeplessInSeattle said...

I'm with Tabatha...I think I cried like 5 times reading this! Ahhh...less than 2 weeks till I meet her. I'm still so happy for your all. Love you!!

BryNate said...

Oh incredible!!!! And you make the epidural sound painless when he's giving it to you! Lilliana is absolutely beautiful, just like her momma!