Thursday, June 2, 2011

The (Mostly) Unexaggerated Birth Story

Many birth stories fit into one of two categories - ultra-earthy-natural-feel-good OR bordering on horror.  Mine is neither.  It's just my story.

From the beginning of this pregnancy, I had very firmly in my mind the image of my perfect birth - I would spontaneously go into labor (either 2 weeks early or a few days late so I could attend Maggie's wedding), that I would not be hooked up to any monitors or IVs, that I would move around during labor in whatever ways my body told me to, that Blake would be able to calm me and encourage me easily, that I would wear my own clothing the entire time and not be catheterized, that I would let myself slip into an internal space that would help me to get through the pain without medication, and that our baby would be born safe and sound and without any interventions whatsoever.  All in 6 hours or less. 

I of course also knew from the beginning that my dream birth experience may not play out.  While I kept reality in the back of my mind, my prenatal yoga class reinforced my desire to have the most natural birth possible.  Our childbirth class gave me confidence and tools to make it a reality.  I took steps (thousands, around the neighborhood) to increase the chances that it would. 

Alas, on Monday, May 9th, reality began to set in.  I was a day overdue, no more dilated or effaced than the week before, and my doctor suggested that, should the baby not come on her own by the following weekend, induction would be the healthiest option as the risks of meconium in the fluid, placental failure, etc. increased.  I've trusted my doctors all along, and Blake and I decided that there was no reason to stop now.   I went to work all week, actually hoping and praying that maybe my water would break as I rode the elevator to my office on the 25th floor.  It didn't.  So, we dropped Toby off at MiMoo and Poppy's with 4 days worth of food and checked into the Women's Hospital the evening of Sunday, May 15th certain we would have our baby girl in our arms before dinnertime on Monday.

That evening, they inserted essentially a tampon of a drug called Cervidil into my lady parts to help soften the cervix.  I was hooked up to a fetal monitor but could unplug every now and then to move around.  I was still wearing my own pjs and underwear.  MiMoo and Poppy brought pizza and Blake and I killed them in two games of euchre. Spirits were high and I was just so excited.

Monday morning revealed that the Cervidil had not done much - I was 2 centimeters dilated and maybe a little more thinned out... but not enough to start the Pitocin yet.  I showered, put on a little makeup and changed my pjs - I was ready for things to start already!  I was given some other drug (Blake remembers what it was called) that came in a pill and we walked the halls periodically.  Pitocin was finally started around 1pm and contractions began not much longer after that.  They got pretty intense pretty fast and were generally about 2 minutes apart.  I sat on an exercise ball, tried to read The BFG, played cards with Blake, stood and rocked with my arms around Blake's neck, knelt on the bed, and played with the bed's configurations.   They started giving me doses of penicillin every 4 hours to cut the risk of a Strep B infection in the baby - the burning sensation in my vein was almost the worst part. 

When my doctor checked me a couple of hours later, I was only a whopping 2.5 centimeters.  She suggested breaking my water, which I agreed to, thinking that it would help get things moving.  There was meconium in the fluid, which could be bad for the baby.  Breaking my water did not help get things moving - they continued to up the pitocin dose every 30 minutes, but I stayed at 2.5 centimeters.  By early evening, I was in serious pain, like tears in my eyes pain, and really tired from all the contractions.  I was frustrated because as strong as they seemed to me, the contractions didn't seem to be having any effect on moving the baby down or helping to dilate my cervix.  Several people have told me since that contractions on pitocin can be more intense and more frequent.  I believe them.

Blake massaged my hands and back and I did deep breathing exercises and made whatever noise I could think of to take my mind off the pain.  Cards, reading, and TV were not an option.  I ate ice chips and various colored popsicles.  I focused on my goals of wearing my own clothes and not being catheterized.  It all did help some, but there was no time in between the contractions to get any rest and I started to worry that if I ever managed to get to 10 centimeters, I would have no energy left to push the baby out.  I asked for an IV pain medication, Nubain, hoping that it would give me an hour or two to relax.  It did but wore off quickly and I was in serious pain again soon. I was nauseous and threw up several times.  I had another dose of Nubain later in the evening, again hoping to get enough rest to have energy for pushing. It again wore off quickly and by around 1am I started to seriously consider something I had convinced myself previously I would not need... an epidural.  I sadly traded my nightgown for a hospital gown with easier access to my back.

The anesthesiologist was odd but efficient and the procedure was a lot more comfortable than the contractions.  I got over my fear of being cathed and told myself that it would be great to not have to get up and pee every 4 minutes.  I was finally able to rest.  Kind of.  The automated blood pressure cuff tightened around my right bicep and then made this let-down beeping noise every five minutes.  The nurse was upping the pitocin every half hour and taking my temperature.  The resident checked me sometime in the middle of the night - still 2.5 centimeters - and commented that the baby's heart rate was decelerating periodically.  I began to feel short of breath and was getting ready to push the call button when the nurse came in and gave me an oxygen mask.  Blake was still sleeping in the corner when the resident told me that she was calling my doctor to confirm her instinct - the baby was not tolerating the contractions anymore and probably couldn't take another 7.5 centimeters worth.   The resident woke Blake up and I cried.  They stopped the pitocin and got me ready for the operating room.  Blake called our family members to have them come to the hospital, put on a gown, and before I knew it, I was being wheeled down the hall.

I was awake, but the C-section is kind of a blur.  The room was much brighter than operating rooms on TV. And much colder.  I was moved from the bed to a table, draped, given more drugs through the epidural drip thing, and cut open.  I could feel tugging and pushing, but no pain.  I felt sick to my stomach, but then I could hear our baby crying, "it's a girl!" and the comments of the nurses about her long hair and eyelashes.  Blake called her Audrey and an eternity later brought her over for me to see.  In that moment, any feelings of failure I'd had disappeared.  My regrets at having been induced, asking for the Nubain, or giving in to the the epidural floated away.  My tears of frustration changed to tears of happiness. 

Blake shared the news with our family in the waiting room and snuggled with our daughter while I was cleaned up and moved back to the bed.  I was wheeled back to my room with our little girl in my arms, a new person. 

Maybe little girls do steal their mother's beauty...

Sure, my childbirth experience was the polar opposite of what I'd hoped for.  But, the outcome was exactly what we wanted - a healthy, beautiful, bright-eyed little girl.  And, it is true what they say, as soon as you see your child, all the pain and whatever else of the childbirth experience becomes a distant memory.  I'd do it all - 16 hours of active labor, catheter, itchy hospital gown - over again in a second, even if the outcome weren't as perfect as Audrey.

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