Saturday, February 02, 2008

How Little Bird was hatched

I'm reminded more and more that this space, though shared with many, is still first and foremost a personal journal. So as I begin this journey through motherhood, I'll most likely drone on and on. Don't feel badly to skip some posts, come back later, or even just skim. I'm going to just record it all for the record.

For the record, for my record, the very long birth story about about a very long birth.

Thursday morning, January 24, I got out of bed after a really terrible night’s sleep. Guy was already up. We ended up fighting, I was completely irrational, and I felt so badly that I cancelled my lessons for that afternoon. I took two hot baths that day, trying to make myself feel somewhat better. It didn’t occur to me that I was in labor.

That evening, Guy and I were resting on the bed. I was talking to my sister-in-law on the phone. We were discussing whether or not the menstrual type cramps I had been having were coming in regular intervals and could be contractions. As soon as we decided that I should think about timing them, I felt a pop and a little dampness. I told Sil that I thought my water just broke, and as I stood up, there was a gush.

We decided that I had in fact, been having contractions. Even though I had posted on my blog earlier that day that I was not in labor.

I called the doula to let her know, but we told her that we would be fine for awhile. We were hungry, and I had a ton to do because I had lay around all day and wasn’t ready to go to the hospital.

We went to our favorite Mexican restaurant and had some dinner. My contractions were much more distinct now, and as soon as we got home, we started timing them. They started coming about five minutes apart, but only in groups of four or five. Then, they would stop for about 15 minutes. After trying to sleep for a couple of hours, I needed to get up, breathe, and sway through the contractions. When I had almost an hour of regular contractions lasting a minute, I called the doula.

After I hung up the phone with her, I stopped having contractions. It was about 6:30 AM and my water had been broken for 12 hours.

When the doula arrived, she got me up and walking. We walked the dogs, I walked the stairs, I sat on the birthing ball, bouncing and rocking. Still nothing.

Guy said, “Let’s get your bag. We are going to the hospital.” I didn’t argue. Laboring at home had come to an end. A literal stand still. And the birth preferences we had carefully crafted and planned for Little Bird had to be put aside in order to get him here safely.

I was admitted to the hospital after stopping at my OB’s office and discovering that I was still only a fingertip dilated and 50% effaced. It was as if labor had never started the night before. The OB said that this was a worst case scenario with first time moms. I was disappointed that the pitocin domino had fallen, but I accepted it. Around 10:00 AM Friday morning, I was getting my IV and they were starting me on Pitocin by 10:30.

At first, the contractions were most bearable in the bed. I was able to continue talking through them until about 1:00 PM. At that point, the Pitocin had been turned up, and I needed to be up and moving through them. The doula set up the birthing ball by the bed for me and we worked on the ball to help me focus through each contraction.

The contractions that had a natural climb, peak, and decent were manageable. We vocalized and controlled my breathing through them. The Pitocin type contractions that started at the peak and just declined, giving me no ascent through which to focus really threw me for a loop and were much harder to endure.

Around 3:00, the Pitocin had been turned up some more, and something went wrong. My doula said that she counted seven contractions that all never ended before the next began. Yet we knew that it was too early for me to be in transition. I had just been checked, and I was hardly dilated to 2 centimeters.

Unable to focus and unable to tolerate the pain that had built for about 20 minutes, we had the nurse turn the pitocin back down and allow me to recuperate. We hoped that my own body would kick in and continue the labor process. Instead, it stopped once again. My water had been broken for 22 hours at this point.

At 4:00, we started the Pitocin over again. I labored on the birthing ball and standing up. Our nurse was going off duty at 7:00, and I really wanted to have made it to transition by then. She had been completely supportive of our decision to keep the labor and delivery as natural as possible. The monitoring was continuous, but she made it so that I could still move freely, and she didn’t panic when there was a drop in the baby’s heartbeat due to me swaying on the ball and moving the monitor.

Turns out, I wasn’t in transition by 7:00. I was about 3 centimeters dilated. My lovely day nurse was replaced by a nurse who very much wanted for me to go ahead and have a baby already. The night nurse did not like the records that she was left with for me. The monitoring, although continuous, was not completely accurate as it slid around my belly during my swaying and rocking. The night nurse was on a mission to get this baby out as soon as possible because my water had broken over 24 hours ago by then. Upon reflection, I can’t say that I blame her one bit.

The doctor on call for my delivery was the one doctor in the practice that Guy and I didn’t like. He was on call all weekend long, so there was no chance of seeing anyone else. The thing is though, I think he really did his best to let us continue to try for the natural birth that we wanted to have even though he would have rather us just fit into his typical day. He actually did let me
labor with only the pitocin and the intermittent monitoring until I hit that 24 hour mark past where my water broke. We knew that he didn’t agree with all of our decisions and couldn’t appreciate why I just wouldn’t get the epidural, let them turn up the pitocin and move on with things. While he didn’t agree, he did show us respect in our decision. That surprised me, and I appreciated it.

I don’t remember much from about 7:00 forward. My focus had to be 100% getting through the pain. Breathing, relaxing, preparing for the next contraction. Getting back in the bed was the worst. I asked the doctor to do my cervix check while I was on the birthing ball, but he told me he would probably hurt his back which I thought was funny since I seemed to be the one in agonizing pain. So into the bed I went. I had one contraction in the bed, and realized that I couldn’t take another. He did a quick check and reported that I was still about 3 centimeters.

Needless to say, we were becoming increasingly discouraged. What I didn’t realize at the time was that everyone else was becoming increasingly concerned. The doctor turned up the pitocin again and we persevered back on the ball.

For some reason, I had picked 10:00 for my goal time. That if I could make it to 10:00, then I could make it all the way through. When 10:00 came and went, I let myself start coming to grips with how incredibly tired I was. Another cervix check was coming up and I was dreading having to get back in the bed for it.

Once there, the contractions were coming faster, and after two of them, I knew I was done. I couldn’t lay still, sit still, or breathe at all through them. Our doula was doing her best to reach any sliver of me that she could. She later described it as though I was a cat who had been thrown into a pool of water. And I was.

I stared at Guy in between contractions hoping that he would say the word so that I didn’t have to. He did. I heard him ask how long it would take to get me an epidural. Twenty minutes. He told them to do it. It had become not just about pain relief, but about getting me out of the way so that the pitocin could be turned up and allow my body to do what it needed to do. Besides, I was scared of each oncoming contraction and had lost any ability to focus and relax. I knew this wasn’t good for the baby. And I knew that we had to help him get here soon.

By about 11:30 PM, I had my epidural. I had progressed to almost 5 centimeters. And then I slept. I remember telling some strange stories to the doula and the nurse. But mostly, I slept. Before I knew it, they were waking me up, telling me that I needed to be alert enough to push. I heard Guy tell the doula that she could go home if she wanted to, and thankfully, she declined. He didn’t know that she would also coach me through pushing. But she and I both noted that the experience was eerily turning into the strange dream I had the week before.

I remember struggling to wake up and feel like myself. I wanted to be completely present for the birth. I wanted to remember every moment of it. Experience it. That was the most frustrating part of the day. Whether it was the drugs or the exhaustion, I just couldn’t be as present as I wanted to be.

At 1:30 AM (now the 26th, the day past his due date), I began pushing. My doula was right by my side ready to coach me, when all of the sudden, the nurse broke in with a “pushpushpushpushpushpushpushpushpush.” Looking back, it was by far the funniest moment of the day. All three of us just looked at her as though she had lost her mind. I asked the doula to coach me, the nurse got the hint, and we were all square.

I requested the mirror. If I couldn’t really feel anything, I at least wanted to be able to see it. Aside from the view of my butt, it was incredibly cool. I could see his little head crowning. I could see it all up until the point when the OB joined us again. He came in, told me I was pushing all wrong (because I was inhaling and then exhaling in a measured way throughout the push and he wanted me to hold my breath through the push), and then rolled his eyes and shook his head when I didn’t change my method. I swear if I could have felt my legs I would have kicked him upside his head.

He told me he was going to do a “small episiotomy” and I asked him not to. I had seen how close we were. Christopher was almost there, and I just wanted to finish up and take the chance to tear a little. He put down the scalpel.

I didn’t look at the clock the whole time I was pushing. I just pushed and visualized everything opening up and letting him through. The doula continued to coach me, and Guy watched with a scientific fascination, walking back and forth to shmoop my head and tell me I was doing a good job and then check out what was going on down there.

At 3:56 AM, after 2 ½ hours of pushing, 33 ½ hours of labor, 4 ½ hours after my epidural, and at least 8 years of yearning, Christopher was born. He was a little wiggly purple dude who screamed his way into the world, but as soon as he landed on my chest, he was quiet. He struggled to open his eyes, and when he did, my eyes were the first thing he saw.

The goal was a healthy baby. That’s what we got. I couldn’t be happier.