I guess this is going to be my labor story. I hadn’t planned on it being that, but now that I’ve started writing it down, that’s what it’s going to be. I didn’t write anything down with Eli. I probably should have because my memory is spotty even after only three years. I’m not sure that I’ll ever forget the experience of Liza’s birth simply because it was filled with so many highs and lows, but again, sleep deprivation does something to the memory….
A note to my pregnant friends: don’t read this until you’ve had your own baby. I’m not kidding. Don’t read it. Ashley, Jamie, Jessica, Terry: if I find out you’ve read it I’m gonna kick your butts. After you’ve had the babies, of course. Later addition: Wendy too isn’t allowed to read. Sorry, I have Mommy Brain.
Last Thursday morning, I woke up to go to the bathroom for about the fifth time and experienced an odd sensation. I knew instantly that my water had broken. I got Stephen out of bed and woke my mom to tell her we were leaving. On the way to the hospital I kept expecting my contractions to get stronger, closer together. That didn’t happen until after we got to the hospital.
I have to say that the experience of leaking amniotic fluid is icky. That is the best word I can use to describe it. Icky. Because it doesn’t stop and then you get a hospital gown and its icky for everyone all over.
We met Jeanne, my doula, at the door and her first comment was, “I love your Mary Jane Crocks! Where did you get them?” She was wide awake and ready to help me bring my baby into the world. She was calm and caring and I would have never made it without drugs for as long as I did without her.
We got to the hospital room by about 2 A.M. and my active labor started in earnest about 3 A.M. I walked and sat on a paper drape on a birthing ball (extra large exercise ball) and generally moved around to stave off the pain, which frankly wasn’t that bad. Both the night labor nurse and Jeanne seemed impressed with my tolerance for the pain. I’m not sure that I have a high tolerance or if my contractions just weren’t that bad. I suspect it’s some combination of the two.
Around 7 A.M. I started transition labor, which is supposed to be the very worst part, worse even than the actual pushing because of the contractions’ intensity. Jeanne and Stephen and my labor nurse, Rebecka, were great during this time. All three were around me and very encouraging. Rebecka didn’t have any other patients so she stayed with me and gave me updates on where my doctor was. I was worried that my doctor wouldn’t get there in time to actually deliver Liza.
Around 9 or 10 A.M. I had progressed to 8.5 cm and 100% effacement, but didn’t seem to be going anywhere very quickly. I decided that I needed some IV drugs to help with the pain that had gone from bearable to remarkably unbearable. When later I still hadn’t progressed, we decided to do the epidural/pitocin route, so the pitocin could do its job and I would finish dilating. I don’t remember much after this. The IV drug that I was given hadn’t really worn off and the epidural definitely canceled out the contractions, but I still didn’t make any progress.
By 12:30 P.M. my doctor came in to check. By this time, Rebecka had set me up with internal monitors and taken me off the external ones. My doctor didn’t like Liza’s heart rate. She ripped the plugs out of the monitor, unlocked the wheels on my bed, and leaned over and said to me, “I’m sorry. I know this is fast but we have to go right now. I don’t like what I’m seeing of the baby’s heart rate.” She started wheeling me out of the room. She bumped into a desk, ran over a nurse’s toe (she cussed in my ear, it was lovely!) and all but did an up-on-two-wheels turn screaming into the OR. She promised me that the baby would be ok and that she was good now and we were going to keep her that way and then she ran out to scrub.
The anesthesiologist, who had hooked up my epidural, was there and he talked to me as something like 20 people were whirling around me to get ready. He moved me to the OR table and stuck a wedge under my right side and was holding my belly with his left hand while trying to get some IV thing set up over my head with his right hand. The whole time he was telling me that it was going to be ok and that the baby was going to be safe. His was the voice of sanity that no longer lived in my head. I heard someone drop what sounded like 15 or 20 metal instruments. There was much discussion of putting me under as opposed to using the epidural that I already had. Someone was talking about getting me prepped. What was I doing during all this?
Between the meds and the hormones, I was a complete and total basket case. It was the worst feeling of my whole entire life. I’m not exaggerating. Worse than when I found out my parents were divorcing. Worse than when I found out anyone I knew had died. I don’t ever remember the intensity or the sheer depth of terror that I was trying desperately to deal with. And all without the comfort of any loved ones around me. While I know that the bulk of it was hormones and meds, it still makes me cry when I think about it. Maybe it always will. I honestly thought that Liza or I could die.
By this time I had an oxygen mask on and the anesthesiologist kept reminding me to breathe because I’m sure that I wasn’t doing a very good job of that just then. Maybe the oxygen finally kicked in because I started to pray that my baby would be ok. I could deal with anything else as long as my baby was ok.
And then I went to sleep.
When I woke up, I thought I was coming from the ER (later I found out that I was coming from X-Ray because they like to check and see that nothing is left behind from surgery). Rebecka was asking me to rate my pain. I thought she was joking because I was pretty sure that someone was still cutting on me. She told me they were hooking up my pain pump and that I could have some of the lovely morphine in just a couple of minutes.
While I was waiting on the good drugs in a haze of hormones and pain and trying to come to grips with what had changed so drastically for me in the past few hours, I heard a male voice say he was bored. As with the unreasoning fear I had felt in the OR, this caused unreasoning anger. I called for Rebecka and told her that the man who just said he was bored needed to be sent out. Actually I’m pretty sure that I ordered her to send him out because I didn’t want him there. I felt as if my whole life where falling apart and some jerk was joking around about how the life-and-death ordeal of trying to birth my child was boring him. I wanted to do him bodily harm. I was thinking that the knife I’d just felt was a good place to start. He’s probably a nice man; he apparently was an anesthesiologist from another floor who just happened to be visiting Labor and Delivery because his regular job isn’t very exciting. I’m sorry for him about that, but I’m still pretty sure that I’ll hate him forever.
Not too long after that (It didn’t seem long to me but maybe it was a while, who knows? I had morphine), they let Stephen come in. I think the first thing I said was that I loved him. It had been the only thing I could think about for the time I’d laid there: That I loved him and hadn’t had a chance to say it before I went to the OR. He had brought the camera and he wanted to show me pictures of Liza but I couldn’t wake up enough to focus my eyes. Instead I just asked questions.
Was Liza ok?
Was my mom here?
Was Liza ok?
Was Eli here?
Had my dad made it yet?
Was Liza ok?
Where my mom and dad playing nice with each other?
Was Liza ok?
We were both crying and I’m sure that he’ll probably always have scars on his hand from where I was gripping it, but for the first time in what I later learned was several long hours that I thought everything just might be ok. Really.
The rest gets better. I got to see Liza later in the afternoon on Thursday. Shortly after this photo, I sat up for the first breastfeeding session (ouch!). My first completely embedded memory of my girl child will be of her wide-open mouth ready to latch on. It was a beautiful sight and brought on a few tears of relief and made me laugh at the same time. She knew immediately what to do and proceeded to do it with a gusto that hasn’t diminished during this week. I was pretty fuzzy the rest of the day and was warned they’d remove all my hookups the next morning.
On Friday at 5 A.M., the nurse came to unhook my catheter and make me walk to the bathroom. Ugh! She promised me that was the worst trip that I’d make. She was right. The rest of Friday was a whirlwind of baby photo taking, Social Security card registration, doctor debriefings, vital sign checks, baby feedings, visiting with my mom and dad and Eli and finally, finally! a shower around 1 pm. I hadn’t had one since Wednesday morning so it was a lovely experience. Saturday was better still with a long stretch in the afternoon of Stephen and me hanging out in the room with Liza watching Matrix Reloaded on TV. Sunday brought the flurry of activity associated with getting released and then we were home for lunch.
Was it the experience I wanted? Yes and no. I got to experience the bulk of labor naturally. I guess you could say I got two labor and delivery experiences for the price of one. Overall I accomplished the goal of Liza getting as few drugs as possible. Yes, I had IV drugs and an epidural but those were so late in the program, she didn’t have time to get nearly as much as Eli certainly absorbed over the 10 hour period I had an epidural, pitocin, and anti-nausea medication while I was in labor with him. I never dreamed that I’d have a C-section. I had successfully delivered on child vaginally; I didn’t think C-section was anywhere near a probability for me, but on looking back and seeing the number of false labors that I had and the slow progression I made, I don’t think that I’d ever have progressed to 10 cm with Liza. 50 years ago I could have died; 100 years ago I certainly would have. Of course, I probably would have never lived to be as old as I am now anyway 100 years ago, my eyes are too bad. So I guess it wouldn’t have mattered 100 years ago.
I’m glad she’s here. I’m already enjoying her babyhood in a way that I never could with Eli because I was too nervous about what I could be doing wrong. I’m glad that she is healthy and I bore the brunt of the pain and angst. I guess that’s the best case scenario after all.
Again, I thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and love and care you’ve sent our way over the past week. It has meant more to me than I can ever say. I am thankful that I have all of you here to share my life with and that you give your time to read what I write here. When we started this site, I thought only a few people would read it, mostly grandparents. I’m glad it’s given me a way to connect with so many people. This experience has taught me that once again, these kinds of connections are the things that matter.