Monday, January 25, 2010

Blueberry's* Birth Story

At around 5:40 in the morning of Friday, January 15th, a couple of minutes after I woke up, I felt a sound. Yes, I know, impossible, but I felt it. A popping sound a few inches above my belly button but below my rib cage. It kind of alarmed me because that’s where Blueberry was, so the first thing I thought was, did Blueberry break her arm? I lay there groggily pondering how that could be possible. I shifted positions slightly and felt liquid, which made me think, great, now I can add incontinence to the many symptoms I have experienced this pregnancy. So then I lay there pondering (I do my best pondering just after I wake up) how I would deal with being incontinent. Then my pondering kicked into high gear as I pondered the possibility that my water may have broken. I shared this hypothesis, along with my doubts about it, with Stanley, as he had begun to stir by this time.

I called the maternity care center around 8:00 to get confirmation that my water had broken and they contacted my doctor, who suggested I come in if contractions were 5 minutes apart for two hours, or call at 2:00 pm and possibly go in then. I had felt mild cramping, as I had for the last several weeks off and on, and once I realized that I had felt them more than once that morning, I started timing them at 8:50 a.m. I made a spreadsheet with a graph so I could visualize them getting closer together. They started out 7-12 min apart and slowly became more regular so that by 2:00 they averaged out to be 5 min 20 sec apart over 2 hours, and they weren’t getting closer together very fast. But since they were maintaining at over 5 min apart, I hesitated to call the hospital. Stanley talked me in to it. They invited me to come in if I wanted to. It was all so laissez-faire. At this point the contractions were mildly uncomfortable but totally manageable if I just breathed deeply. It was like menstrual cramps that make it hard to get work done because you can’t focus. Or like your average headache.

We arrived at the hospital and Stanley unpacked and got the peaceful music going, while I focused on breathing and relaxing during and between contractions, drinking water, and snacking on nuts, dried fruit, and a thoroughly disgusting overly tart berry-flavored power bar. Stanley urged me to order dinner, which I did, and it was also disgusting. Normally I like most food offered to me, even hospital and airline food, but my appetite was just not on.

We met the nurse on duty, and the charge nurse, both of who ended up annoying me, perhaps due to their personalities, but perhaps due to my being in labor. Every other nurse we met during our 3-night stay was terrific, put us at ease, was great to talk to, and taught us so much valuable information. I think it was fate that I was so annoyed with the first two, because this influenced some of my decisions, I think for the better. Stanley might disagree. The nurse (or someone else, I’m not sure) made an attempt to check my dilation, which would verify the labor stage, but the baby’s head position made that difficult. Or it could have been her short fingers. But since she couldn’t tell, it was likely that I was not very dilated. She also said that my doctor (whom they had called) recommended that since my birth plan specified that I didn’t want unnecessary interventions such as monitoring the fetal heart rate every 15 minutes (it’s been shown that this does more harm than good as it is more likely to end in C-section, but doesn’t improve overall outcomes), and since they were legally required to monitor me that way as long as I was there, that I should go home. I liked this idea. I wanted to be able to walk around in my own home and have nobody bother me so I could focus. I didn’t want an increased chance of C-section. And I didn’t want to have to follow orders if they had no basis in reason. So I talked Stanley into taking me back home and away from those nurses. Stanley was understandably reluctant to pack up everything and go home after we had settled in.

We asked when we should return, and the nurse told us to return to the hospital if:

1. I “absolutely could not talk during contractions”.
2. I was “reaching out” for Stanley to help me.

Spoiler alert: Neither of these things ever occurred.

So around 7:00 pm we packed up and went home, and I dealt with contractions as best I could: sitting on an exercise ball, leaning against the bed, sitting on the toilet, standing in the shower. Different things seemed to feel good at different times, but there was no magic bullet. It was really tiring and I just wanted to sleep but just as I would doze off, another contraction would come on. Around 11:30 the feeling of the contractions changed such that they caused me to push. It wasn’t really an “urge to push”, which I had heard about; I just felt myself pushing involuntarily. I pondered whether this might mean I would give birth kind of soon. I’m not sure of the order of events at this point, but I told Stanley about the pushing feeling, and he asked if I could talk during the contractions, and I could. There were a lot of cursewords, along with the phrase “Yes I can talk.” Other things I was saying around this time were “OH GOD” and “OH F***”. That’s right, I had gained the ability to pronounce asterisks. Between contractions, I said that I couldn’t take much more and if it was going to go on much longer I would need something to make it feel better. In hindsight, I think I was transitioning from active labor to Stage 3 (Birth), which often is characterized by the woman saying that she can’t take it any more. It’s some kind of hormone rush to prepare you for the birth. Throughout all of this, I tried to breathe in slowly for at least a quick count of 20, then out for the same amount of time, as was taught in my Hypnobirthing book. I can’t say for sure that this made things better, but I would hesitate to try it without the breathing next time, even if it would make for a more scientific study.

Stanley convinced me to return to the hospital around 12:00 a.m. As we merged onto Snelling Ave., I asked him if he had turned off the space heater, and he hadn’t. That’s not like him. Something must have been distracting him. His screaming wife, perhaps? So we went back to turn it off, then got on the road again. When we arrived at the hospital, I asked the valet for a wheelchair. I saw Stanley’s glasses fall onto the floor of the passenger side as he got out, and I made a mental note to tell him this sometime. I got that opportunity on the same day that Blueberry temporarily lost the ability to say “I wasn’t born yesterday.”

As they wheeled me back into our room, I told the nurse that even though my birth plan said I didn’t want pain meds, I had had all I could take and I wanted just a little something. I don’t remember what she said in reply. Then Stanley and me were briefly alone in the room, and I was trying to sit on the bed, with Stanley’s help, but before I sat down, I had a contraction and said something like “It feels like it’s coming out!” So, ever the gentleman, Stanley put his hands down below in case he needed to catch her. I asked him about this later, thinking we could have a good laugh, and he had no recollection of it. So, I guess I’m the only one who gets to remember that laugh-riot of a moment. Please note that I talked during that contraction.

The nurses came back. Someone checked and found that I was dilated to 10 cm and her head was at +2 station, so she wasn’t far from being born. I was so relieved to hear this. It gave me a boost of energy and I didn’t feel the need for pain meds anymore. I was the only one who was relieved. Stanley asked if this meant I couldn’t have a water birth, and they said it did; I’m guessing that’s because there wasn’t time to fill up the tub. Stanley was disappointed about this, because it was in my birth plan. I didn’t care. Stanley and the nurses were generally freaked out because no one had called my doctor yet; she was still at home. I think I heard some kind of call on the PA system; code whatever, maternity. Soon arrived a young ER doctor who also seemed kind of freaked out. I was fine with all of it. Well, I was yelling in pain, but emotionally, I was fine. My doctor seemed to arrive soon after. Someone asked if I felt like I needed to push, or maybe they asked this before they checked me; I don’t remember. Then we got started with the pushing. I had different ideas of how to do this than how the doctor instructed me, but I was in no state to discuss this with her, so I followed her instructions, and it worked out fine. Sometimes I hung onto a bar over the bed and squatted to push, and at other times I leaned back and put my legs on the bar. It took a lot of energy, especially the squatting, as I don’t squat on a regular basis. I used every muscle I had, and in hindsight, I should have only used the muscles necessary for pushing, and relaxed all the other ones. Some practice would have been a good idea. I was really sore for the next few days, and my throat was irritated and coughy, which I realized was because of the screaming.

So, back to the birth. I pushed with each contraction for what turned out to be an hour and a half, but it didn’t feel like that long to me. Stanley supported me very well, and everyone encouraged me and told me I was doing a great job. I am a sucker for praise. In the back of my mind I wondered if I was really doing as well as they said I was. I asked something to the effect of “Is this going okay? Is she going to be born soon?” I got positive responses. So I continued. They told me that they could see her head and it felt to me that I was able to push it a bit further out with each contraction. Then suddenly, during a push, I had pushed enough, and I felt her head pop out (it didn’t hurt), and then they told me to push one more time to help her body come out (which also didn’t hurt). It was 3:12 a.m. They placed her on my chest and I changed forever in an instant. She was so beautiful. She didn’t cry, she just kind of fussed as if to say “Is all of this really necessary?” She looked toward Stanley and me and listened to our voices. Then she sneezed in my face, which did not bother me in the slightest.

*Names changed.


Amacrine said...

This is an awesome post. I commend you for no meds. My contractions were 2 minutes apart and I could not take it ANYMORE. My baby did not come out breathing, so I didn't get the chest laying experience, but it sounds wonderful. haltedi

Louise said...

Thanks for posting this! What a wonderful story! I'm so so happy that you got to have the natural, positive experience that you wanted. Congratulations!

Tanya Cothran said...

What a beautiful story! I laughed, got teary-eyed, and feel more informed about the birthing process. Your sciency humor is priceless! Along with Stanley, I'm also disappointed the water birth didn't turn out but it sounds like you were in God's hands throughout. Thanks for sharing. Love, Tanya

Stanley said...

I seriously thought I was the only sane person in the hospital. "So her water broke 14hrs ago, her contractions are less than 5min apart and you want to send us home? Really?" I was not a happy camper when we came back and she was +2, our doctor hadn't been called yet, and it looked like some green-horn first year rotation doctor was going to do the delivery. But in the end everything worked out and Hazel got exactly the experience she wanted so that's all that matters.