*Aster*

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My very long birth story, part 1

I was 12 days past my due date and I was over it. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. with cramps. I sat in bed thinking about a work issue and after a while went downstairs and called a co-worker’s voice mail to leave her a message about the work issue because I’d decided that baby or no, I wasn’t going in that day. After a while I came back upstairs and woke Ken up and was talking to him. I told him that I had cramps and was uncomfortable. After a while he pointed out to me that I had these cramps and then I would be ok for a while and then I would have more cramps – maybe I was in labor. It hadn’t occurred to me that the cramps could be contractions. I thought it was, at most, a precursor to labor.

After we decided that I was indeed in early labor he called work and told them that neither one of us would be in. I got into the bathtub for an extended bath. Ken put on one of our hypnobabies CDs for me to listen to. I just found it to be irritating. I only wanted to talk to him. My friend from work, Ann, called about the work issue I’d left her a voicemail about. I spoke to her for a little while from the bathtub but ended up handing the phone off to Ken when I had a contraction. I really didn’t want to talk to anyone but him. I got out of the tub and went downstairs to sit on the couch. Ken made breakfast for me: scrambled eggs and an English muffin. It was delicious and the last thing I’d end up eating for 24 hours despite my plan to eat and drink lightly all day as I labored. I turned on a movie that we’d watched the night before and watched all of the extra scenes. It was the only thing I did all day that I enjoyed. Ken brought me water and Gatorade and tried to get me to listen to the hypnobabies CDs. All day I clutched a pillow to my stomach. It made me feel a little better. Ken later dubbed it the Linus pillow because I carried it around like Linus did his blanket.

Around 3:00 p.m. Ken called the midwives and they said we should come in so that they could check me. As we drove over there, I told Ken that I thought we should just go to the hospital so that I could have an epidural (which I had been hoping to avoid). I had my pillow with me and asked him as we pulled up if it made me look too weird to carry it inside. He assured me that it wasn’t too weird. Sheila (one of the midwives) checked me and said that I was about 4 cm dilated. I had been 3 cm the previous day, so it didn’t seem like much progress. She recommended that we go back home and that I get into the bathtub. She said that it would be the thing I’d been looking for all day that would make labor more tolerable. I asked her if I had entirely changed my mind and wanted an epidural if it was too early to have it. She said that it was not too early but that I should try the tub. Katie, the receptionist, said encouragingly that I could do it. I was pretty certain that I had no desire to.

At home got into bed while Ken filled up the bathtub and put on another hypnobabies CD. I got in even though I did not think it was going to be helpful. I stayed in the tub just a couple of minutes before I told him that I wanted to get out and go to the hospital. Ken called our doula from downstairs and told her that she needed to come over and help him that I was asking for an epidural (exactly what I had wanted him to do in this case). I got dressed and ready to leave and sat in the recliner downstairs. Dana, the doula arrived and started stroking my arm and telling me to relax. It actually did help a little, but I still was adamant about going to the hospital. Dana said ok, let’s go. Ken was running around trying to get last minute stuff together. I went out to the car to wait. Dana stayed with me trying to help me relax.

Contractions were approximately 5 minutes apart, but I would have a big one and then a slightly smaller one about one minute later. This made me feel like everything was out of control. If my contractions were still 5 minutes apart, why the hell was I having another one after only 1 minute? After I was on the monitor, it made more sense. A big contraction followed by a smaller (but still painful) one, a tiny rest, and then another big contraction. It meant I didn’t have much down time between contractions to recover and get ready for the next one.

We live just a few minutes from the hospital. I called the midwife as we were pulling into the hospital parking lot. As we were walking into the hospital someone in a wheelchair offered me the wheelchair, as they were about to get out of it. I wouldn’t take it and kept going, clutching the Linus pillow. We went up to the 3rd floor to L&D. They weighed me (145 lbs) and took me straight into a room. We had wanted a room with a tub, but this one didn’t have one. I decided that I didn’t care and the room would do, mainly because it was close and didn’t require much walking. I went into the bathroom and changed into the gown that they gave me. Sheila showed up and brought the TENS unit for me to use until they could get everything done that had to be done before I could have an epidural. They asked me a million questions, none of which I felt like answering. Ken answered as much as he could and I answered when I had to. The TENS unit helped some, but I kept wanting it turned up. It took about 1-½ hours to get the epidural and almost all that I said during that time was “Turn it up, turn it up. I don’t think it’s even on…” The TENS unit went from 0 to 100 in increments of 10. They started at the lowest setting and would turn it up from 0 to 10 when I had a contraction and back down to 0 when I was between contractions. As things progressed, they turned it up higher and higher until they were at 100 and I was saying that I didn’t think it was even on. At that point, Dana opened the unit up and flipped a switch that turned the thing up an order of magnitude. Now it went from 0 to 1000. By the end we were at 1000 and I was saying that I didn’t think it was on.

Finally Wendy the anesthiologist showed up with the epidural. It didn’t take long to get it started. I adamantly stuck to my guns about only having the epidural, not the interstacial. It was the only thing I stuck to all day. They said it would take 20 minutes for the epidural to take effect. As contractions were 2 minutes apart, I took that to mean that I would only have to get through 10 more of them and I started counting. It actually took about 10 contractions before they even had the epidural in and then another 10. The good news was that everything started hurting less and less so that I had significant relief well before the 20 minutes were up. Proof positive, in my book, that the interstacial was utterly unnecessary.

When we arrived, they hooked me up to the external monitor. From the very beginning, the baby’s heart rate had started dipping. The nurse and Sheila were watching the monitor from the nurse’s station and would come in and ask me to lay first on my left side, then my right side, then back on my back, etc. We just couldn’t seem to find the position that worked best for the baby. Sheila came in and asked if they could place an internal monitor that would poke into the baby’s head just a little bit. She described it as feeling like when you were a kid and you stuck needles into the skin on the surface of your fingers. I said ok. After she left to get the supplies she needed, Dana pointed out to me that placing an internal monitor would mean that they would have to break my water. I hadn’t wanted my water broken, so it made me think maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all. When Sheila came back I asked her about it. She assured me that this was what I wanted to do. I think it was more like it was what she wanted to do, because it was looking a little scary for the baby and they wanted to get a better read on her condition.

I felt nothing when she broke my water thanks to the epidural. She said that there was meconium in the water. I later found out that there was very heavy meconium. The next day the midwife, Dian, said that Sheila had described it to her and that she had only seen meconium that heavy once before in her 30 year career. The baby’s heart rate decelerations continued. They decided that maybe draining all of the fluid wasn’t the greatest idea and inserted an internal contraction monitor that allowed them to also add some saline fluid back in. I think this also helped to flush out the meconium. The thought was that the baby was having cord compressions and they fluid would cushion the cord again. The decelerations continued.

I was finally at 10 cm at about 9:00 p.m. and started pushing. I had been worried that pushing would be very hard work. I did a few pushes and they assured me that I was pushing hard and doing well and that the baby would be out soon. I thought that it seemed too easy and wanted to know if I was doing it correctly. They assured me that I was. After a while they gave me a towel to pull on as I was pushing. For one contraction, Ken held the other side of the towel. He later told me that he was amazed at how hard I pulled. I remember thinking that a friend of mine had gotten this far and then ended up with a c-section. I was sure that would not happen to me. (Insert ominous music here.)

After about an hour of pushing Sheila came in and told us that most people deliver sometime in the second hour of pushing. I though I was getting off easy. Pushing didn’t seem like nearly as hard of work as everyone makes it out to be. Sheila and the nurse put on their gowns and hats and removed the end of the bed. Ken went down to the end of the bed to look and see the baby. The baby wasn’t crowning, but he could see her and I could reach around and feel her with my hand.

Coming soon...the REST of the story...

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