Friday, June 20, 2008

THE Story. Not for the faint of heart.

Today, my sweet baby boy is officially six months old. I thought I’d want to gush about him all day, but since I do that EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE, I decided I’d finally write up my entire birth story. I think I’ve got enough distance from the event to actually do it justice without just screaming, “OH MY GOD!” a bunch of times.

Before I get into this, I should tell you that I swore I would never be one of those women who accost unsuspecting pregnant woman and terrify them with my birth story. And so in all fairness I will tell you this briefly: My labor was horrible. Yes, I got out of it healthy and safe and so did my kid. But taking that as an assumption, pretty much every hope I’d had for my labor was completely dashed.

So, if you are going to have a baby at any point in your life, or are squeamish, go ahead and stop reading and join us again next week. Seriously.
But, if you are morbidly obsessed with hearing the gory details of everything, like I am, continue reading.

A few things I’m going to note before we get into the actual narrative. My doctor’s changed my due date a few times over the course of the pregnancy. And not just a little. Like, the first due date was November 27. Then December 14, then December 3, and back to December 13. Based on my own opinion, when we found out I was pregnant, when the kid was ACTUALLY born and how big he was, I’m leaning more toward December 3 he was a full term, 40 week kid. But, my doctor disagreed in spite of numerous sonograms and measurements consistently showing me two weeks ahead of her December 13 determination.
Also, I had a few procedures done on my cervix about 10 years ago. Precancerous cells, yadda, yadda, yadda, all fine now, but my cervix took a beating. One midwife I saw towards the end of the pregnancy asked me about the procedures during an exam. I told her, and asked if it would be a problem. She said there was some pretty intense scar tissue, but it shouldn’t be a problem.
Also, we’d discovered during exams that my little Mocha cub was head down, but facing sideways. The doctor knew it, and mentioned that he’d probably get into position when it was time. He was also not dropping at all. Still at plus 2 or so. Fun.
And finally, it was really important to me to have the most natural labor I could have. I didn’t want the drugs, I was prepared with every coping mechanism I could think of and I fully expected this to be the most painful thing I’d ever go through.

It all began Tuesday, December 18, 2007. I had a final doctor’s appointment before they heavily recommended scheduling an induction. I had been having some pretty intense contractions for about a week. During the exam my doctor checked my cervix, only to find less that one-centimeter’s dilation. This kid was not giving up to comfy womb anytime soon. My doctor did a membrane sweep (they use fingers to kind of push the amniotic sac off the cervix in hopes it will get things moving), it’s pretty uncomfortable, but so is being overdue. During the sweep, my cervix opened up to a full centimeter’s dilation. So, hurray. My doctor commented on my cervical scarring, and I explained the decade’s old procedure and asked again if it would cause any complications, to which she responded, nope.
I spent the remainder of Tuesday lying on the couch whiny about the uncomfortable contractions having my membranes swept caused. That and the bleeding. Oh joy.
My older sister was flying in for Xmas in the wee hours of Thursday, and my entire family was descending Thursday afternoon. So, since Xtian had Wednesday off work, I realized that this would be our very last day alone until….forever. So, we made a day of it, had lunch, went to see a movie and just kind of enjoyed each other’s company.

Up to Wednesday, I was doing everything in my control to get labor going. I spent a full hour at the gym every morning, working out as hard as I could, cramping and contracting the whole time. I was forcing Xtian to have sex with me every single day, much to his supreme displeasure (he’s not one of those guys who finds pregnant ladies attractive. Awesome), everything short of castor oil since diarrhea didn’t sound like fun for me.

So, like I said, we went to see a movie. I Am Legend, with the supremely hot Will Smith. In the middle of the movie I started having more contractions. (And for those people who swear up and down that you’ll KNOW the really contractions when they start, I say, “You’re a fucking idiot” because those were the same contractions I’d been having for almost 3 weeks). My back was killing me, and I couldn’t really get comfortable, but that’s also what being pregnant is. 9-10 months of never being comfortable.

When we got home from the movie, I was still really hurting, but I had to call my brother. You might recall that during all this, the whole family figured out that my brother was a full blown drug addict and was getting worse by the minute. My dad called me a week earlier to tell me that Chris was planning on coming down for the birth with everyone else. My dad wanted to know how I felt about that, and mentioned that he wasn’t comfortable with it, but wanted to leave it up to me. So, I had thought about it, and felt like shit about making the decision. The whole thing came to a head on Wednesday night, and I had to call and tell my brother I didn’t want him in my home. That was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had, and I still can’t think about it without sobbing.

Xtian had left to get dinner for us, and when he came home I was a shrieking, hysterical mess. I was miserable, and heartbroken to have to make that decision, and was hurting so badly it was hard to breath. Meanwhile I’m still having contractions about every 6 minutes or so, but I’m disinclined to call it “Labor” since I’d been faked out every other night for weeks. I just assumed like every other episode, I’d go to bed, and wake up still pregnant.

Xtian had to work on Thursday, so we went to bed about 8 pm. As per usual, I made Xtian sleep with me, even though I was hurting. I was not about to miss an opportunity to get labor going (not realizing it was COMPLETELY ALREADY GOING!) Xtian fell asleep in a matter of minutes, and I just couldn’t. I was hurting so badly I couldn’t lie still. After 4 hours of that, and finally bothering to keep track of how often the contractions were coming (regularly at 5 minutes) I allowed myself to realize I was probably in labor. I hesitated to wake Xtian in case they stopped and he’d have to go to work anyway.

A little before 1:00 am(Thursday December 20th), I finally woke Xtian because I was tired of laboring by myself. As soon as he got up, we timed a few more contractions, realized they were holding steady at 5 minutes apart, and decided to send out the alert. As had been decided upon, we sent text messages to the fam reading, “In labor. Call when you get this.” About two minutes later my folks called, got the scoop and started packing up to come on down. My sister had arrived in SF about midnight, and had just gone to bed when she got my message. She jumped in the rental car, and drove across the bridge (after getting lost a few times, thanks to two sleep deprived people attempting to give and receive driving directions). When she arrived, Xtian was helping me make brownies.
Because when your name is Coley, and you realize you’ve been in labor for the last… 13 hours or so, you bake brownies.

We finished the brownies, and decided we’d all try to rest until my parents arrived. Xtian and Jenn passed out, while I tried to breath and keep track of contractions while watching Planet Earth (subtitled: the moral of the story is, babies die!). My parents arrived at about 4:00 am.

By this time I’d figured out that not only was I having back labor, but my contractions were coming regularly at 3 minutes apart. So, I called the hospital, they asked some questions and told me to come on down.

By this time (5:15 am), I was doing ok, I was hurting, and even between contractions the pain never stopped, but I was dealing with it. When we got to the hospital, the triage people needed to examine me. I was really hoping for at least 4 centimeters dilation, since labor really started at about 2 pm the day before.

So, I was totally discouraged when they pronounced: ONE CENTIMETER. Yeah, 15 hours of pretty intense contractions, and I’d made NO progress at all. Again, after the exam, I’m asked about my cervical scarring, I respond with the basic story and tell them my doctor said it wouldn’t be a problem. To which, she scoffs and says, duh. Of course it’s a problem. The scar tissue is keeping the cervix from dilating.
And, the fetal monitor showed Mocha Cub’s heart rate doing weird things with the contractions, so they opted to admit me, and just do the induction they’d been planning for Friday, now.

Already I know things aren’t going to go how I’d hoped, since they’ve decided they need to constantly monitor Mocha Cub’s heart. And I know, when this happens, you’re far more likely to have other interventions. But, nothing to be done.

They get me settled in a room, and have to start an IV, throw in some fluids and start the pitocin. And the contractions get a little stronger, but I’m managing. I’m standing and positioning and walking and doing all those things I’m supposed to do. And it’s pretty awful, it’s back labor, which means even between contractions, pain does not let up. I’ve got my entire family, except my brother, in the labor room with me, so I’ve got lots of support and plenty of people who are working to distract me from pain. Around this time, I lose all concept of day, night, hours etc. So, forgive me for being sketchy on the details.

About every third contraction, the fetal monitor starts screaming at me, and the nurses and midwife runs in to reposition the monitor. (I have a theory that it wasn’t so much that MC was in distress as their monitors suck, and need to be held perfectly still to work. And holding still while in labor is IMPOSSIBLE.) So, they tell me I can’t stand up anymore, I have to lie down. On my back. Which is like death.

After a couple of hours or so of trying to use the external monitor, they opt for the horrible internal fetal monitor. Which is a little wire thing they INSERT INTO MY BABY’S HEAD. Again, I’m pissed about this, because I know that I’m not going to be able to do anything but lie there, on my back, while in back labor, and avoid moving so I don’t rip the monitor from my baby’s scalp. My back is killing me, and I’m realizing that I can’t do this without some help. So, I ask for a kind of newish thing they do where they insert four syringes of warm saline solution into your back. It’s supposed to relieve the pressure on back labor, is not medication and can be repeated as often as necessary.

When I tell the nurse I’d like to try that, her eyes get huge and she says, “Are you kidding me? Are you sure?” I ask if it hurts, and she tells me it’s like torture. I think, “What could be worse than a back labor wherein you have to lie on your back? “

That’s when I found out what’s worse. The doctor talked to me about it a little bit and told me I can yell all I want while they insert the saline, but if I say “Stop” they legally have to stop. So, I sit up, and lean forward while Xtian’s holding me still. AND THEN FOUR TUBES OF FIRE were inserted into my back. I screamed so loudly I scared the shit out of everyone in the room. But after 30 seconds the pain stopped and the back pain went way down. Ahh, a few minutes of relief.

A while after this, they check my dilation. At this point, I’m hoping for a six. (I think this is late morning, maybe noon at the latest). After more than five hours on the pitocin, I’m MAYBE three centimeters. Damnit. The midwife says that breaking the water might help speed things along, so I say: BRING IT ON.

What they neglected to tell me is that whilst breaking the water, which feels like you just peed everything you’ve ever drunk, they’re also going to crank my pitocin dose from a level One to a level Six. I only found out about this after the labor, when my older sister told me. Thanks for the warning that my pain was about to increase exponentially! All during this time, contractions are spiking every 90 seconds, and lasting about 50 seconds each. So, I have less than a minute in between.

I’m starting to hurt really badly, and all I can do is scream and moan. Xtian’s doing everything he can to be there with me, and my family is looking terrified. But, I can’t describe the pain. It honestly felt like I was being ripped in half using nothing but dull fingernails. This was how I was going to die. I screamed through it as much as I could, and breathed and did all the things I’d prepared to do to help. But since I couldn’t move, or even curl up into a fetal position without the nurses making me stop (stupid fetal monitor), there wasn’t much I could do.
About 2 pm, I told Xtian I just could not do it anymore. I wouldn’t have made it, and I certainly would never be able to push if it didn’t stop soon. So, Xtian asked them to check me, to see where we were.
I knew if we were seven or more centimeters dilated that the worst was over, I was in transition and there was an end in sight.

I was at four centimeters. FOUR. 24 hours of labor, including 8 hours on pitocin, and I was four centimeters. I demanded an epidural. I was sobbing, it was all I could do. I felt so sick, I couldn’t imagine living for even 20 more minutes and surviving the pain.

Of course the anesthesiologist took over an hour to get to me. They tried to give me some narcotics to take the edge off, and they didn’t do shit. So I screamed and sobbed and prayed for death. That's not an exaggeration. But eventually the guy came and I had to sign a release so they could give it to me, I can’t imagine I did anything more than scribble somewhere on the piece of paper since I couldn’t have told you my own name at that point.

For the epidural, they insert needles directly into your spinal column. Obviously tricky work, and you have to hold completely still, hunched over squishing your belly into your thights for about two minutes while it’s performed. Not an easy task when one is having contractions every minute.
But they did the epidural, and within about 10 minutes the pain was almost gone.

Once it took effect, I tried to sleep, but people kept showing up to say hi (Oh my god, who goes to visit someone while they’re in labor?!?), so while my family slept, and Xtian got a nap, I was up entertaining guests. Bizarre. All throughout this point, I keep pointing to the monitor and saying, "HA! You know what I can't feel? THAT!" I thought I was hilarious.

Finally about 7 pm, they check me again, and I’m at 10 centimeters Hurray! The nursing shift changes, so I wait for the new staff to come in so I can push. I’m giddy with the thought of being done.

I get my family all crowded around me, and forbid any pictures below the waist, and demand no one even looks below my waist. Strangely and surreally enough, all I could think about was "Oh man, I really hope I don't completely shit myself." So, whilst pushing, I'm trying to tell a funny story, but keep getting interrupted by stupid contractions. After one contraction, with my mom holding one leg, my big sister holding the other and Xtian helping me lift my upper body off the table, I realize my little sister was looking a little peaked. So, I turn and ask if she's doing alright. This, everyone else in the room found hilarious.

Two hours of pushing with every contraction and I’d succeeded in getting Mocha Cub’s head firmly stuck in my pelvis. His size and awkward sideways position made it an impossibility to get him through my pelvic bones. After some hurried nursing/midwife conferencing they told me, he’s not going anywhere, they’ll have to do a C-Section. And I just sob with exhaustion, frustration and feeling a total failure as a woman and mother. But it’s getting scary for the baby, and it’s time to move.

So, I get all prepped for surgery, and Xtian’s there, and all I can think about is hearing a woman tell me that when she had a C-Section, the lights above her were metal and reflective and she could see the entire thing. I looked up, relieved to find that absolutely nothing was reflective.

The doctor’s get to work, slicing me open while the anesthesiologist is up with me letting me know what was happening. The messed up part, is you feel everything, it just doesn’t hurt. So, I felt the scalpel, I felt them moving my organs to the side, and I felt them trying to YANK the baby loose. Even more awkward, while they yank, my whole body is bouncing on the table. I was being thrown like a rag doll while god only knows what the poor kid was experiencing. I heard someone call for another pair of hands. Afterward I found out they had three people pulling from the incision, and called in a fourth person TO PUSH from the other side. Yeah, up to their elbows in my vagina. Awesome.

Finally after yanking me all over the place, Xtian tells me it’s a boy and it’s all moving so fast I barely get to see him and Xtian’s gone and I’m left while they put me back together. As they sewed me up, I started dry heaving. Which is not the most pleasant thing while doctors have sharp instruments all up in your business. After about 20 minutes that feeling subsided and they got back to work.
In the recovery room I couldn’t stop shaking. Xtian walked in, tears streaming down his face carrying our teensy little, 9 lb 1.8 oz son. With a 14 inch head. Xtian hands me the kid, who I’m afraid to hold because I can’t stop the tremors (can anyone say “shock?”), and my whole family comes in to see the little biscuit.

All told more than 33 hours of labor, followed by a superbly traumatic C-Section. My sister asked me, joking, whether I’d be doing this again. I smiled and told her, truthfully, “As soon as we can.”

1 comment:

Jennifer Lucita said...

This made me smile, laugh, cringe a little & get teary. I'm amazed you did it again. I have not decided if I want kids or not yet. I'm leaning more toward NOT, and this may have helped a little. Although, it some ways it has me leaning toward doing it as well. Wonderfully written. I feel as if I was right there with you the whole time.