Thursday, May 6, 2010

Finn's Birth Story


On Saturday the 16th, I was continuing to have random contractions here and there, but I was frankly a little depressed about the lack of "real labor" contractions. You can witness my dour mood if you read my post on that day. I was sick of being disappointed that I hadn't had the baby yet.

Bee texted to ask about progress and I replied that I had nothing to report and was getting annoyed. She suggested eggplant consumption, so I added it to my list of "bring it on" strategies for the evening. Dave and I took Will over to "Nan's" (my parents') house, where I walked two miles on the treadmill; then the two of us headed out to an Italian restaurant for some eggplant parm.

I was contracting a teensy bit more in the evening but brushed it off, not wanting to get excited for nothing. At 10:30 p.m., the contractions got much sharper, but they were only lasting 30 or 45 seconds and weren't coming more than eight minutes apart. We timed them for a while and then got bored. I tried to go to sleep.

Well. Sleep wasn't happening. We turned on the TV (OK, you caught me, it was the Jersey Shore marathon) and Dave rubbed my back in between contractions. By one a.m., it should have been clear that no sleep would be had, but I was in denial. In fact, I actually turned to Dave at one point and said, "My uterus feels really irritated. Maybe I have a urinary tract infection?"

To which Dave replied, "I think you're just in labor." Yeah.

At two a.m., the contractions went from 6 or 8 minutes apart to WHAAAAAAM!--maybe 30 seconds in between? And the relief of those 30 seconds was tainted by a gentle ache that never went away. So I was having half a minute of sharp, escalating, seizing pain through my lower abdomen, then a dull ache throughout my torso, and then another contraction.

I was still in denial--I'd never entertained the thought that my contractions would just suddenly be coming back-to-back. So I called my sister in the middle of the night and wisely told her about my urinary tract infection theory.

"J. I think you're just in labor. This is what it feels like. You need to go to the hospital."

We summoned my mom for her slumber party with Will, gathered our bags, and waited for Nan to arrive. To survive the contractions, I was rocking in circles on my feet, concentrating on my grandfather's paintings of jagged building exteriors. When a contraction hit, I'd breathe slowly and let my eyes move up the angles of the painting until the pain reached its peak. I had thought that when I reached active labor, I'd have to tune out the world to get through it, but the opposite turned out to be true--I felt hyperaware, not only of the pain but of everything going on around me.

My mother arrived at 3:15 a.m., and Dave and I headed downstairs. I remember waiting for a contraction to subside before hurrying down the stairs to our garage, trying to avoid stopping between point A and point B. When we reached the car, I asked aloud "How am I going to do this?" Being confined to a car and a seatbelt at this point was incomprehensible, but there was no other choice. I tried to rock while seated as wave after wave of pain coursed over me. Twice Dave read my face and pulled over, but it seemed better to just get there as fast as possible.

We arrived at the hospital at 3:30 and slowly walked our way over to the elevators and Labor & Delivery. One nurse (who turned out to be our totally wonderful nurse, Jackie) brought us to an exam room to check me out, but after ten minutes of trying to catch me "between contractions," she decided to just admit us, saying "You're clearly in very active labor."

We were led to the same room where Will was born sixteen months earlier--that was cool--and Jackie finally checked me. I was six centimeters dilated, and I honestly have never been more proud in my life. There had been one primary goal for me in this labor process: To go as far as was bearable without pain medication, and as a corollary, to make decisions based on as much rational thought as I could muster but NOT based on fear. When I discovered that I had made it to six centimeters mostly at home, using my own techniques to keep fear at bay, I felt incredibly satisfied at the preparation I had done and the promises I had made (to myself) to change my opinion of pain, or at least this type of pain.

At this point, it was four o'clock and Jackie wanted to know if there was a chance I'd want an epidural--she'd need to start me on the IV so I'd get to the second bag of fluids before she called the anesthesiologist. I said there was a chance, but I continued to labor through with Dave as my "coach."

Dave was AWESOME. As most of you know, he's by nature a pretty mellow person, and he certainly out-mellows me by a couple football fields. I'd put my hands on his for balance, and he'd lock eyes with me and say things like, "This is normal. You're doing great." He knew that assuaging my fear was just as important as helping me through the pain, and he did both admirably.

Jackie, our nurse, was also phenomenal--she stepped in here to remind me to take a deep breath after a contraction passed, and she repeated a lot of encouraging words as well. She did have to hook me up to antibiotics since I was positive for Group B Strep, but my vein felt like it was on fire and she had to stop and then adjust the dosage.

At one point, both my coaches were telling me to sit down if I needed to. The rocking chair in that room looked so inviting, but the second I sat down a contraction would hit and I'd be stuck between a rock (remaining seated throughout a contraction, horrifying) and a hard place (trying to stand up during a contraction--equally horrifying?). You can see my predicament. But of course, I was in the sort of pain that forces you and your decisions to Be. Here. Now. What can I say? Pain makes me go all Zen. So I kept deciding to sit down, then regretting it and trying to lurch back up out of the rocking chair. The helpful part was that I was making decisions, so it still felt like I had some control even though the pain was unrelenting.

At five o'clock, Jackie told me she could call the anesthesiologist if I wanted an epidural. I asked her if she was going to check my progress first, and she said "I can if you want. If you're at a 9 already, we won't even make it through the epidural before it's time to push, but if you're at a 7 we'll probably have time." I asked her to check me, and I was at a 7. So, epidural it was--and I was surprised at how relieved I felt by having that option. Something about having been up all night in labor and THEN the idea of pushing my son out without any drugs...I was worried that it would be so earth-shakingly exhausting that I'd have to agree to a more invasive intervention at that point.

Up came the anesthesiologist, the same who had given me my epidural (at three centimeters) during Will's birth. Let's call her Lucy. We chatted about having met her before, how she had talked to us about the TV show Criminal Minds while administering the last epidural. I started to nervously ask Lucy and Jackie how I was possibly going to stay still for the needle when my innards seemed to be engaged in one constant contraction; they told me it would be easier than I thought, and it was.

At 5:30 a.m., I hunched over towards Dave (Lucy allows husbands to stay in the room and help) and Jackie stood by my side, telling me to look into her eyes, encouraging me through the one contraction that reared its painful head (no pun intended) during the procedure. I lay back down and spent a few minutes continuing to feel the pain--Lucy said that when you get an epidural so late in labor, it's often quite different than an early-labor dose. Then the pain subsided, although I was left with a very strong feeling of pressure. I had thought I could really feel Will's head as he made his way down during THAT labor, but that was peanuts compared to this!

Around 6 o'clock, I asked Dave to run and get Jackie because the pressure was getting intense. He did, she checked me, I was at 9 1/2. Maybe ten minutes later I made him summon her again, and I was fully dilated with a "little cervical lip." At this point, Jackie warned us that if I had the baby within four hours of receiving antibiotics (which meant anytime before 8 a.m.), Finn might need to take them after the birth. I looked at her incredulously and said, "There's no way we're making it 'til 8. I think he's coming now."

Sure enough, at 6:20 I insisted that I had to push, so Jackie grabbed the attending. At 6:25 I started to push. Four contractions later--although I have to say that I felt like pushing the entire time, and not just during contractions--they told me to look down and I saw Finn's shockingly dark and dense head of hair as I pushed him out. It was 6:33 in the morning.

It was so, so different from last time. The room was dim; the only people in there were me, Dave, Jackie and the doctor, a very nice woman who I didn't see much of before or since. The pushing was calm and went quickly. There was no vacuum, no intervention at all. I was both mentally and physically "present" in a way that I had been, for lack of a better word, anesthetized for during my previous labor.

I laid Finn's body on my chest and we looked at each other for a while; he nursed for an hour after that. His Apgar scores at 1 and 5 minutes after birth (both measured while he lay on me) were 9s. He weighed 8 lbs, 7 oz. and measured 21 inches long. Because we chose not to circumcise, Dave and I have been with him...well, ever since.

The moral of this story is a very personal one. I had thought I was going into William's birth with a stockpile of informed opinions, and I was--but there was SO MUCH more to know. My labor and delivery with Fintan was many steps closer to what I'd love to experience someday, which is--brace yourselves--a home birth. (Man, cloth diapering is the beginning of a slippery slope, right?) It's not the home birth per se that I need to have, though--it's the process of preparing for it, the fact of choosing it even while I know that it may not happen for me in the end. I mean, I started taking vitamins for these boys while they still lived in utero, and now I parent them as a full-time job...why is there a blip on the radar screen where I just accepted I had to hand the reins over to lots of other people while they made decisions--albeit informed ones--about my children? It's so weird to me in hindsight.

Anyway, I'm off my hippie soapbox now. To finish the story, we did have to stay in the recovery room for one night because Finn hadn't received the full dose of antibiotics (and of course he was FINE without them and if I could do it again I'd say "no thanks" *HIPPIE ALERT HIPPIE ALERT* and go straight home to Will). I was fine physically, just as I was after Will, although while my right leg de-numbed instantly, my left took a little longer until it was useful again. Mainly I was annoyed at being in that cold, impersonal room again, not being able to co-sleep and not being able to see my toddler, whom I missed so much. I know some people just adore the recovery room, but I feel like those people are a different species--that's how much I hate being there.

In the end, though, I was lucky enough to have a second "perfect" birth--perfect because my baby came out with mega-decibel lungs and was in every other way thriving. Perfect because I got what I wanted, and who can ask for more than that? Until next time, that is...*

*No. Still not pregnant.

1 comment:

Bee said...

I have been waiting for this post! I am so impressed by your strength and am looking forward to your home birth story one day! Finn is just precious and I still cannot wait to meet him!!