Monday, March 13, 2006

The birth story

This is what I've been able to remember about Mouse's birth.

I went in for my 38 week checkup after work on Tuesday. I had been feeling crummy and I just knew we were going to induce. I was right - I had a raging kidney infection, was spilling large amounts of blood and protein and white blood cells, and the baby's heart rate was all over the place... very out of character for her. My kidney was doing what it had threatened to do the entire pregnancy and just quit working altogether. The OB and the midwife both agreed that it was best to induce so that I could hurry up the kidney surgery - the baby was cooked enough to be done. My appointment was at three, and at that point they asked if I could show up in L&D by 4:30.

Holy crap! So not ready - no bag packed, had to notify my sub, no time to clean off my desk, still needed to go sign the tax returns... Somehow I was able to get all of that done, even after spending half an hour with the office ladies at work. My mom was in town already and was able to watch the Bear, and we made it to the hospital by five. I checked in, settled, got my IV started (massive doses of antibiotics for the kidney infection), had some dinner (Taco Bell, if you really must know). The midwife and I chatted about the plan for this induction (just like the first one, but with a dose of Cervidil first). The plan: first, a dose of Cervidil. Wait 12 hours, check progress. If progress is made, insert Cytotec. (Wow, is that a controversial thing in some circles. It works quickly and effectively for me, so I can't really complain.) Once a regular pattern of contractions is started, break the water to set things off. So, with all that in mind, my midwife inserted the Cervidil and hooked me up to a monitor, and I tuned in to the figure skating on the Olympics.

My night was spent not sleeping at all. It was a very narrow bed, and I was supremely uncomfortable in it. The baby's heartbeat was whooshing in the background, and the nurse came in every few hours to run more antibiotics and check us out. It's impossible to get comfy with the fetal monitors strapped on your belly, and I was just plain anxious to get going. I knew that the midwife would be back first thing in the morning to check on us, and I was just killing time until then, tossing and turning, getting up to go to the bathroom, listening to the baby's heartbeat and watching the contractions on the monitor. They were pretty regular, every three minutes or so, but they just didn't hurt.

In the morning (about 7) the midwife came back to check me. My cervix was "total mush," which is what we were hoping for, but still very high. She had to really reach to be able to check it, and dear god did it hurt. The internals are always the worst part. At that point we decided to go ahead with the Cytotec. give it four hours or so to get the contractions going, and then break my water to start labor.

Those four hours from 7-11 on Wednesday morning were spent alternating time on the fetal monitors and time walking the halls. I spent about 20 minutes on and 45 minutes off each time. The contractions were very obliging. They immediately started coming very regularly and fairly intensely. When I was unhooked, I walked every hallway in that whole place at least five times. I climbed the stairs to the basement more times than I could count. I told my midwife what I was doing, and she jokingly asked if I had been taking them two at a time. So, next time I went walking, up the stairs two at a time was the way to go. It certainly increased the intensity of my contractions! They were strong enough that I had to stop climbing every time one hit, but they still didn't hurt. I was ready for the pain by that time - I just wanted to get the baby out and meet her.

I had part of a hamburger, some tater tots and a drink during this period, too. Husband didn't want to share with me - he was convinced he'd have to see it all in reverse in a few hours. But I was a bit peckish, and my midwife reminded me that nobody ever ran a marathon on an empty stomach, so I won that argument and ate half his burger. My father had come up to the hospital to bring him a snack and hang out while I was on the monitors.

At 11 it was time to check my progress. We kicked Dad out and finished lunch. A quick (but brutal) check determined that I was at 3 cm, about 80% effaced, and my midwife went ahead and broke my water. I told her that it would immediately send me into active labor, just like it did last time, and I was right. Within three minutes I was back to the evenly spaced contractions, but now, the discomfort was there. They were coming about two minutes apart and were very strong. Yay! I don't think I've ever been so pleased to feel pain in my whole life. We agreed that I could hang out, walk, sit on the birthing ball, get in the tub, the rocker, whatever I felt like until I felt the urge to push.

I was a bit tired from my night of no sleep and my impromptu stairmaster routine, so I decided to hang out on the bed, sitting cross-legged in the middle. Husband sat by, chatting, making phone calls, holding my hand as needed. I needed to breathe through the contractions by this point, but I was doing well. I could control the pain with my breathing, and I focused on relaxing my face, my neck, and my shoulders - the places where I traditionally hold my tension. I was able to sit cross-legged and relax my entire body during contractions, breathing slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth. Husband sat there and complimented me, held my hand (I didn't squeeze - just let him hold it), and was generally very supportive in an unobtrusive way. He let me do what I needed during contractions, and in between we were chatting, watching TV, and just hanging out.

I could feel the contractions getting more and more intense fairly quickly. By 12:30 (ish) I was in enough discomfort that I wanted to get in the tub - I just knew that all that water would take the pressure off my back and belly and help me relax. So I hopped (waddled, whatever) into the giant jacuzzi tub in my birthing suite, and the midwife turned on the jets to point at my lower back. I was able to lean forward to have Husband put some pressure on my lower back during the contractions, which were coming about a minute apart (maybe 80 seconds) at this point, and lasting longer. The intensity was really increasing quickly, and I needed to hum when I exhaled during the contractions - it seemed to make me feel better, although I don't know why.

After only about half an hour in the tub, I started feeling lots of pressure during each contraction, although the pressure would lessen in between. I got back out of the tub, and decided I was feeling enough pressure that I wanted to discuss it with the midwife. She checked, and I was at 8 cm. I decided she was ridiculous, and that I was feeling the urge to push. We agreed that I was probably just being irrational because I was in transition, and I kept breathing and moaning through the contractions, which were coming almost nonstop now. At this point, I started to lose control of my breathing a little bit, because I felt like I was holding back, trying not to push. I started to pant, which of course ended up in my hyperventilating. And then my hand cramped up.

Now, this has happened to me once before, when I had my kidney surgery. I'm not sure what causes it - blood pressure or oxygen levels or what - but my hands will cramp up in what I call "the claw" and I can't move them at all. Before, it went away fairly quickly. This time, it moved up my arms to above the elbows. They were totally paralyzed - I couldn't move them at all, and I couldn't feel them except for the tightness and tingling in them. And so, I did what any sane woman in transition would do. I panicked.

About ten minutes after the midwife pronounced me at 8 cm, I was feeling huge amounts of pressure. She checked me again, and lo and behold, I was at 10 cm with just a tiny bit of a lip on one side. I dilated the last 2 cm in about 10 minutes - no wonder I was feeling a little out of control. With the next contraction, I tried an experimental push to see what would happen, and she reached in to try and stretch the lip out. And that's when I really lost it.

Up to this point, I had been doing fairly well - I was managing the pain during contractions by breathing and moaning, and in between I was still able to crack jokes with the nurses and chat with Husband. It was very intense, but I was handling it, and I was proud of how well I was doing. But when the time came to push, I panicked. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't remember how to push. I didn't want to go any further. And, I'll admit it - I was afraid of the pain I knew was coming. When I had the Bear, I didn't know what to expect, so I just plunged right in and pushed - for an hour and a half! But this time, I knew that it was going to be hard, and painful, and I just panicked. I lost it. For about five minutes I would start each contraction with a half-hearted push, then wimp out and stop. I asked for an epidural (hahaha!). I asked for a c-section. I whined. I cursed. I hyperventilated. I waved my claws at people. (Have you ever tried to pull back on your legs when you can't feel your hands or arms? Or move them at all?) I was an absolute mess. And I was ashamed of myself. In between contractions I was apologizing to everyone for being a wimp. I felt like in losing my control, I was somehow less of a "real" woman. That I was failing myself, and my daughter.

And then, suddenly, I took a deep breath and said, "I can do this." Then I took another breath. "I've done this before." Another breath. "I *have* to do this. There is no alternative at this point." Once I reminded myself that my body could handle the pain, that it had done so before and could do it again, that there was no going back from this place, I was fine. I took another deep breath and pushed. Really pushed. None of this half-ass, cop out pushing. I pushed right into the pain, knowing that I had to make it worse in order to make it through this. I pushed and felt the head crowning, like a bowling ball, or a brick. Two more pushes and her head was out.

At this point, my midwife had me stop pushing. Mouse had the cord wrapped around her neck pretty tightly, and she was working it over her head gently. Then another push - the shoulders came, with the cord looped over her left shoulder and pulling it back. Her shoulders were broad, and I remember they felt almost as big as her head, and the pain picked back up at that point. I remember the midwife telling me to push s*l*o*w*l*y, that this baby had some difficult shoulders and was wound up in her cord. I gave one last, long, gentle push and I felt the rest of her body slither out. There are no words to describe the incredible sensation of lightness and relief that comes in the instant after your child leaves your body - where once there was only pain, and heavy pressure, there was now that amazing but strange feeling of emptiness. It was such a relief - such a high.

They laid her on my chest, and I could see that she was breathing. Her chest was moving up and down, but she wasn't crying. I worried that she was sick, that something was wrong because she wasn't crying, but we rubbed her with the blankets and that got her going. They took her to wipe her off and weigh and measure her, and I suddenly had to push again. The placenta had torn and there was blood everywhere - pooling on the bed, running onto the floor. My legs and feet were in it, and it was hot and wet and sticky. The midwife said it needed to get out right away then, and one of the nurses massaged my abdomen (by which I mean she practically drove her elbow into my gut) while I pushed and the midwife gently pulled. I seem to remember that she had her whole hand up inside me to get it all out and make sure no pieces were left behind. Finally, it came sliding out, the same sensation as the baby emerging, but much less intense. Still, I got that same wave of relief and elation when I knew I was, for lack of a better word, empty. I felt hollow - somehow the absence of pain can be even more intense than the pain itself.

A cleaned and bundled Mouse was returned to me. The stats - 8 pounds, 9 ounces, 20 inches long, 14 inch head. Born at 2:06, just three hours after my water had broken. Because she was so big for being two weeks early, they checked her blood sugar, which was low. The nurse said I should let her nurse for as long as she wanted to in order to bring it back up. She latched right on and nursed for an hour - about half an hour on each side. That brought her blood sugar up to a stable level, and it stayed there. I, meanwhile, got a bag of Pitocin and four more Cytotec to encourage my uterus to contract and lessen the bleeding. When she finished eating and I had had another delightful massage of my uterus, I got up and gave Mouse to my husband so I could take a shower and move to my room.

Wow - that's a lot for a single entry. Next time - the first few weeks at home!


Ninotchka said...

I really enjoyed reading this. "...waving my claws at people" made me literally LOL.

Julie said...

You are an amazing writer. I think I stopped breathing the whole time it took me to read the "panicky" section of the story!

Rebekah said...

I'm so glad I checked in over here today! Congratulations!! I'm sorry that Mouse's birth was hard on the both of you. I have to say that even though you were scared at the end, I was blown away by your strength and serenity and POWER throughout your labor. You are a strong woman. Don't let yourself believe anything else. Take care of yourself, and enjoy all the "firsts" you're experiencing with Mouse.

Jane said...

Thanks, ladies. This was my first attempt at a birth story. I never wrote the Bear's story, although it sounds a lot like this one, without the massive freakout.

We're all deathly ill, but updates are coming soon.