Thursday, July 8, 2010

our birth story: part two

Just before Sadie came I was chatting with Donovan and a nurse about who knows what and I was sitting on a chair trying to get a new position. The nurse was saying something very wise and I was nodding and listening as a good therapist accidently does even when their not on the job and then... what was that?! Um I'm sorry to interrupt, but, I think I just peed my pants! She replied that it was okay, that it was my water breaking and that more would come. (At that point about 8 oz of amniotic fluid had come out.) In confusion and embarrassment I stood up thinking I could make it to the bathroom from there. WHOOPS. It all rushed from my body.... maybe a gallon?! It felt like it at least. I laughed. I didn't know what else to do! Donovan stood and watched from about 4 inches away, as the nurse did as well. I laughed and the fluid went shoooosh, shooooosh, shooosh! I was early enough along in my contracting that I had the awareness to be embarrassed. I think just after that was when I crossed the threshold (I have to be honest, I've never quite returned to my former level of modesty since then). Something about being in a room with 10 physicians, your husband, and your doula begging God for the pain to end with every body part showing and everyone staring at your most intimate places and putting in instruments and asking others to look makes you a different kind of person. Perhaps it's like walking the PCT in that way :)
Sadie did arrive. Thank God. She said peaceful, soothing things to me and told me the most encouraging words. Somehow in that animal like place, where you think you might die, somehow a woman who has survived childbirth is like an angel. She can tell you that it will be over soon and you believe her. She can tell you that you are taking the contractions fabulously and you know it's true. She can tell you that you're managing the pain more peacefully and meditatively than she did... than anyone she's ever seen... and you believe her. Now, I'm not sure whether or not these things are true, but she said them. And as much as I am faithful to my husband and love him so very deeply, this was somehow something that he could not do. Like I said, thank God Sadie arrived.
Sadie said that I was at 5cm when she got there. Several times after the birth when we talked she said I went from 5cm to 10cm "like that (SNAP)!" This was also very foggy because my images of pushing are so burned into my brain that the prior hours melted away. I think this is medically proven; some chemical is released when you're in childbirth or shortly after that inhibits your brain from putting short term events into long term memory. Don't quote me on that one though. I think it's a great device if it's true though. God knows I would only have one child otherwise.
One small memory I have of that time is demanding that I have a shower. It only lasted a minute or two but I wanted them to pluck me from the shower when it was time to go. I was enjoying the warm feeling of the water and it made the contractions so much more bearable. There was a small older asian woman helping me at that time and telling me crazy things about how to push and I didn't hear anything she said but I do remember saying something to the extent of that's not helpful, please stop talking.
The reason why the shower was so short was because the baby's heart was not doing well as I was contracting. They had all the monitors on me still (going on 24 hours at this point!) and they were still slip sliding/itching/plugged into the wall/making me crazy! When a woman is in labor and has to pee the last thing someone wants in the 45 short seconds between contractions is the nuisance of unplugging monitors and carrying cords around.

I remember such a feeling of relief when they measured me and found I was near 10 cm. I had asked them a couple times to check and you could tell by their faces that they would do it as a favor to me but they knew I wasn't anywhere close. Before I knew what was happening I felt something well up in me and for the first time I let out a big loud noise, UGGGGH! I was pushing, and there was no one telling me anything different! Now I remember some books saying to imagine yourself sitting on the front of a train going very very fast (to be able to acknowledge the power of the pushing and contractions without having a fear of them). Of course I forgot all of that in that crazy moment.

Dr Anika checked my dilation and said I was at 10 but there was a lip still and I couldn't push yet. Mid sentence another one came and out came the animal sounds and on I went pushing. STOP she said, but I couldn't. I wasn't trying to be disobedient but my body was doing it, my mind was gone or on a different planet, I wasn't sure. I definitely wasn't listening though. They physically manipulated the last lip of the cervix to full dilation (not sure how that all works) and said okay to pushing. What a relief! I only lasted one contraction where I actually held it in like they told me and it felt like, I don't know, a monster was trying to escape from under my skin! Now, on to the good stuff, pushing this baby out!

Some snippets from my "pushing time": Lisa the nurse sitting with her back to us, faithfully putting information into the computer all the while not having the time to really do any client care. Poor thing. Donovan was on my right side, Sadie on my left, each holding a foot. Each saying amazing things like, you are strong, use this next contraction, you're doing so well!, keep going! Later and sort of embarrassed Donovan told me that I defecated during this time, but added that it didn't matter as much as he thought it would because there were more important things going on.

I was on my back, against all my natural birthing books advised me. At that point we were doing whatever it took to keep the baby's heart monitor beeping. And on my back was the only good position. Several times they asked me to flip on my right side. NO! Too slow of a heart beat, FLIP OVER FAST! TO YOUR LEFT SIDE! TO YOUR HANDS AND KNEES. And I would flip. Or flop. It was pretty ugly. I was so tired. And again the whole medical team would freak out because the heartbeat would go quiet. They put a screw in Eva's head to monitor her heart and took off the external monitors, thank goodness! But the internal monitor kind of scared me and Sadie had a look on her face that told me it was kind of scary what they were doing. I guess in my fog I could only say yes. At some point the nurses changed shifts. The next nurse did not realize what we had been through to determine that the normal positions (that they try when a labor isn't progressing) wouldn't work. So we did the whole flipping routine again. At one point they asked and I said, I can't. But I will, if someone picks me up and flips me for me. I think everyone laughed and said I would have to do it and I was so tired, so sad. I flipped on my left side like they asked and then again to my hands and knees (on the bed) which felt so nice when I got there but they said no and asked me to lie on my back again.

This is my favorite part. We were back to Sadie holding one foot and Donovan holding the other and me pushing with all my might. I remembered something: I am an athlete! And I pushed with all my might like I would at the end of a hard race or game. During one of these last-minute-of-the-Iron-Man pushes, Dr Anika said, wow, I saw the head on that one. There was commotion in the room and she asked if Donovan wanted to see. He was unsure. Then he was curious. Then I pushed and she pointed to the head. And he said there? And she said Yes! Lots of black hair! And I was curious and excited and invigorated. And Donovan was confused looking and kind of grossed out looking, but I think he was excited too. The first day Eva was alive I kept thinking, maybe she's not ours if she has all that black hair! The pushing went on for what felt like an hour. It was 4.5 hours. Somewhere during this time Dr Anika said my pushes were strong and I was looking good. Then we had "a talk."

The doctor explained that the baby wasn't coming down. They weren't quite sure why because they said my pushes were very strong. Something must be wrong: her position or something but they weren't sure. She was at 0, which meant pelvic bone level, and in order to come out she had to come down to +4 (4 cm further down the canal). In order for them to do an assisted vaginal birth (vacuum, forceps, etc) she would have to be at +2. I pushed a few more times, nothing. At that point Anika said, let's do a C section, what do you think of that? And I said I don't know. I don't want to, what are the options. And things like "pressure on the baby" were said but I can't remember any sentence formation by that point. I felt like it was the option between both me and the baby dying right there on the table or a cesarean section. I felt resigned to this new way of meeting our baby. I felt a little renewed energy. We get to meet OUR BABY!

The big doctor lady came in to see what exactly was going on. She was very nice. She asked politely if she could see me do a contraction before we resigned to surgery. I said, no, thank you. Give me the pain medication for the surgery and let's get this over with. They asked me several times if I was sure I wanted to do the c section. I said, yes, as long as you can get me there fast. These contractions that were doing nothing were killing me! At that point I felt like it was communicated to me very clearly: your contractions aren't worth crap. They aren't going to push out this baby no matter what. So as each one came my clock ticked and ticked. Now I was looking at that clock by gosh! We signed loads of paperwork (the baby could be cut, okay? sign here. you could lose bowel control for life, okay? sign here. you may have nerve damage and can't sue us, okay? sign here! all on the labor table! my signature was crazy looking and I was only barely with it enough to realize that but not be able to fix it.) They said it would take 30 minutes to prep the surgery room, they all disappeared and started washing their hands and using new gloves and running about. I think it was 4:30am Sunday by then. It took 45 minutes, and you better believe I was counting it. I just remember looking at the clock and thinking, what on earth could they be doing?! For a lady totally against pain meds I was pretty funny in that moment. Well, if a c section is imminent and pain meds are on their way then why don't they start pumping them into me? NOW!

In time I was wheeled to the surgery room. Donovan waited for me in the labor room with Sadie. She said her goodbye, as she had been there over 12 hours, as long as her contract allowed. She said she would see me later that day after she had napped. I was very serious. The room was SO BRIGHT, there were a million florescent lights. They picked me up as a team and put me on a different table. It was skinny and long, about 10 inches wide. They asked, could I sit cross legged? NO! Are you sure? YES! At that point all I could think was, are you crazy to ask a woman in labor something like that? So we compromised at me sitting with my legs dangling on either side. They explained how it would feel to get the pain meds and what they would do to me. There was a short bee sting, then they laid me down. And slowly I returned to the human race.

The pain meds set in and there was nothing to do but wait until they were fully done anesthetizing me. So we talked about moving and Don's new job. About Portland and the weather and my family and how we didn't know what sex the baby was. We talked about my days in college and how I dissected a cadaver and how Donovan was a theology major turned software developer and yes he was very squeamish. So don't make him look. I was funny and I felt so good and I made some jokes, but now that I think about it, that might be the pain meds talking.

Donovan arrived and I greeted him so cheerfully. My head was next to him and a big blue sheet was up so we couldn't see anything past my chest. Several doctors worked on the other side of the sheet. One doctor (the pain med doctor) stood with Donovan and me on the other side and explained how things were going. Do you feel anything? Nope! And away they went. Donovan and I chattered nervously. It was hard to imagine we would be parents soon! I think we said this a few times. We must have been so delirious by then! They asked how we would like to do things. We decided they could show us the baby and announce the sex when we saw it, but not before! The several doctors in the room were all women and they were all so excited! What would the baby be?! They shouted a few times so all could hear, no ruining the surprise! We are all going to be quiet and wait!

At one point someone said something and I realized the baby was out! There was a freakish quiet in the room and I was so scared. Was the baby alive?! Seconds passed and still no noise. Then a squeal! Yippee! Such a petite little sound. And then nurse arrived on our side. I saw a little gray alien and a big umbilical cord clamp (which I thought was a penis at first) and they said IT'S A GIRL! And I looked and thought, no way! And they said it again, and I was so overwhelmed with love and joy, I was so glad to see our beautiful little girl!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

birth story

A friend of mine started writing her birth story and asked me to blog about mine too. It feels very raw still and difficult to do, but those are the best stories! So I will make my slow attempt, but it might take a few entries.

As many of you know, I went to the hospital two weeks before Eva was born and was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. They kept me in triage for 7 hours and sent me to a recovery room overnight to keep an eye on me. How annoying! Only now I can see how childish it was of me to stress so much about such a small thing. In comparison to our birthing journey, this seems so uneventful. Something helpful that came out of that time was hearing the many women come through triage and some of them being sent unexpectedly to Labor and Delivery. Only two weeks later I would be one of those ladies.

I walked from our apartment to my OB appointment, this was around 1pm. It was the Friday before Memorial Day. Donovan was working from home and we ate a sandwich at home together for lunch around noon. Then I headed out, waddling through our steep (downhill) streets, saying hello to the friendly golden retriever, and walking into the dreaded Kaiser building. I poke fun at Kaiser and sometimes I feel bad about it. But the layout is so dreadful and I often was sent to 3-4 different offices on their campus in one visit (non stress testing.. in the basement, OB office, OB check in on a different floor, L&D.. across the street, or the lab). Did anyone ever think, oh, maybe new moms and very pregnant women, with high blood pressure to boot!, shouldn't be doing all of this stressing out and walking around? And then did anyone ever think, hmmm, maybe taking their blood pressure right when they walk in the door is a bad idea? Just sayin. I only later realized how unique it is that Eva and I can say I walked to the hospital on the day of our birth. It almost sounds like one of those fake stories (I walked uphill in the snow for two days!).

My OB appointment lasted about 5 minutes. I took my time and asked the lady to delay my BP test because I had just arrived. My doctor did a quick exam and noticed I was not dilated at all and my cervix was too high to feel the baby's head. We did a quick ultrasound (which wasn't covered by insurance and cost $290!) and found out the baby's head was down. I'm not sure why this was necessary, as I had been feeling insane kicking in my ribs for the last several weeks including that day. My OB sent me off to non stress testing and then to the lab just to do some "precautionary" blood testing. I went to the lab and got the tests done. Waddle waddle down the hall, down the elevator, out the door, across the street and down the stairs. Then to non stress testing (laying down and being monitored for an hour)... waddle waddle back to the same building, finding the mystery elevator, down to the basement. No cell reception there. I got a call on the landline as soon as I laid down and got comfy. "We need you in L&D right now!" Okay, this is getting silly. Waddle waddle, back to the lab building, into another secret elevator, up to the 4th floor. That's when things went from silly to serious.

When I got there I recognized the sweet triage nurse, Emma. She didn't settle me in as she did two weeks ago. I pulled out my book and heard whispers "so, do you want me to tell her, or you?" Ut oh. Then I see a familiar face, Anika! She tells me the shocking news, "we got your results back from the lab... high numbers across the board... you're having a baby today!... call your husband" What?! I protested for a while but she didn't care. I wondered if there was any way we could hold off. I wondered if my cervix being rock hard made me disqualified, it didn't. I wondered if bed rest would help, it wouldn't. Shoot. I'm totally stuck now and all my hopes of having a beautiful natural birth at Walnut Creek hospital were slipping away. It took a great deal of acceptance to walk out of triage and into a L&D room, call my husband and say, "we're having a baby." (Actually I was so shocked and sad at first that I texted him, then called and said I wasn't kidding.)

Just one day before we had been at Kaiser Walnut Creek looking at the birthing tub (not in Oakland), dreaming of our natural birth, and imagining arriving at the hospital after I had spent a good deal at time at home dilating. We even had a cute little thing for our car that said Stork Parking! and allowed us to park in places that were special so that we could get into their delivery rooms faster. Now I was in Oakland being asked 100 questions by an intern named Will, lying in L&D, waiting for my doula and husband to arrive, in a hospital gown, at 0cm! This is not how I imagined it. Over the next two days I had to have a lot of acceptance of that, of things not being how I imagined. My doula says that I took the dramatic change of events very gracefully. I like that. I like that she sees something beautiful in those moments. Inside I was feeling crazy. And the crazy would only get worse after they put me on my first medication, magnesium.

Magnesium is to assist people with HELP syndrome (which I had, which basically means I had a whole bunch of scary and escalating pregnancy symptoms that could only be cured by having the baby... high BP, protein in my urine, etc, etc). Dr Anika told me magnesium is nothing to be scared of, and is "natural", it's on the table of elements! It was mandatory (as far as what I could tell) so that I didn't have a seizure during labor. Whew! Like I said, things were getting more and more serious. This is what it really is: a depressant of your nervous system that makes everything slower, including lowering my tone of voice and just generally making me feel like all the gross parts of being drunk but none of the happy-peaceful-drug induced feelings. Also, it meant that I could not eat or drink anything. Only later during a serious contraction did someone mention that this would not be for days (all of the labor and then 24 hours afterwards). I think the medical community seriously needs to revisit the use of anything during labor that doesn't allow food to be consumed with it. That's like asking a marathoner to fast a week before the run. What... why?! Somehow when you're in labor you can think all sorts of crazy things like this, and I did, but none come out. I was determined to be in a zen like state. I'm sure my eyes bugged out of my head on that one though!

The doctors really really wanted to hook me up to that magnesium right away but I said I need my husband and doula here to help me before I make any decisions like that. So Donovan arrived about a year later. Or maybe it was an hour later, but it felt like a year. I was so relieved when he got there. I think it was about 4pm at this time. It took my doula a little longer but eventually she came and I got hooked up and I could tell by her face that this wasn't ideal and she knew I knew it wasn't ideal but we had to roll with it. I took two little oral pills to get the dilating happening, not sure what they were even, and off we were, on a slooooow labor journey.

Between 4pm and later that night lots of staff came in and introduced themselves even though it was a three day weekend and they would be off soon. Then the next round of staff came by. The head of L&D, the anesthesiologist, the nurses. "Do you have any questions? Any questions?" Really, I just wanted to sit with Donovan and Sadie and get really peaceful. There was little time for this until the middle of the night.

What I do remember about that first phase is that Donovan was relieved and went to get a burrito for Sadie (doula), me and himself. When he came back with my burrito it sat there for hours and got cold, the nurse said I could have it 5 hours after the beginning of my magnesium. So at 9:45pm sharp I whipped out that burrito like I was going to eat it alive but the mag made me so sick that I ate half of it and then set it down. It was there for hours before Don and I had the heart to throw it out, knowing it was my only food for the weekend. In the meantime I was having contractions and not realizing it. Then having contractions and realizing it a bit. Then having crazy contractions and being irritable. Irritable about the burrito, about the lights, about the hospital policies and "pain management scales", about the silly blond haired anesthesiologist, about the ten things I was plugged into that made going pee so hard, about the mag and saline drip that made me have to go pee so bad and often, about my tiny room, about my tub that was gone. Sadie had to go home then. She would sleep and get rested for the day tomorrow. We were to call her in the morning and update her. She could work for 12 hours of active labor before she had to call in her sub. She left and optimistically said "I am hoping the contractions start coming quickly and the baby comes tomorrow evening!" By then and only then did I realize it could take more than just the next day to get through this. I was so sad when Sadie left. It must have been 10:30pm Friday or so.

Fortunately we had an awesome nurse, Jen. She helped me onto the birth ball and talked to me like a human. She let me take off all my cords and pee for a few minutes. Later I had to hook it all back together again... two attachments to the contraction monitor, one giant belt to hold everything on my belly, a whole bunch of slippery goo on my belly, two monitors slipping around on that belly, and finally a plug for the IV. Peeing with the IV in the bathroom kinda made me laugh. I thought of my dad and the many days he spent in the hospital for cancer and how tolerant he must have been to make it through all of those silly hoops, the lists of "do's" and "don'ts." And for such a sadder reason than we had to be in the hospital! That made me realize things are really not so bad. Sometime in the middle of the night Jen left. We didn't realize that Jen was leaving before our baby came (of course, how could one nurse stay on forever?) and we were sad to say bye. Nurse Lisa came to our room and introduced herself.

Sadie had set up a focal point for me with a picture of a baby and candles. There were pictures of Donovan and me and a tiny little onesie. I remember looking at that onesie and thinking about how a little baby would be in it soon! It seems so theoretical. Now she's napping in the bedroom and when I peek in on her she is doing all of her classic behaviors... looking a little pouty face and grouchy, sleeping with her arms above her head, slouched down in her bouncy. I love her. I absolutely could not believe this at that time. I think I conceptualized birth as the end of pregnancy, a painful crescendo to the swelling-sleepless-unflattering-sushi fasting-period of my life, a torture simply for torture. Things get really primal in labor. I think you could tell a laboring woman that this is not true but somehow rationalization doesn't exist in that place. I remember Donovan putting the onesie on the back of the labor bed when they had me on my hands and knees and I was so delusional. I could barely even keep my eyes focused and my head straight.

Those next several hours were contracting and resting, contracting and resting. We listened to music... then we listened to silence because I got irritated. We turned the lights down. Donovan helped me pee. I peed alone. The clock didn't exist. Really, once I had fully dialated that was so eventful that this period of dilation and early active labor are somewhat of a cloud to me. Nurses kept promising that they would move me out of the tiny room we had been placed in. At some point we were moved and we were on another floor.

Around 5pm Saturday I recall having a crazy conversation with Donovan. "Tell Sadie to come!" "Are you sure?!" "Yes! Tell her to come now!" "Now, are you sure?" "YES, NOW!" I was irritated to waste my precious breath on convincing him and because Sadie couldn't arrive instantaneously. The pain became so intense! Maybe it wouldn't feel so bad if she was here! be continued...

Friday, July 2, 2010


I love her little nose. Sometimes it flares, those teeny tiny nostrils getting as big as they can and I call her my hippopotamus.
She has these lovely little coos. Everytime she does it my heart melts. "ooooh!"
Her little eyebrows have such character. They twist in wonder and curiosity, just like adults!
I love looking in her big eyes and seeing the reflections in them. There is plenty of time for this when we're breastfeeding or burping.
She loves gazing at the trees and the bright sky. She loves being in her stroller and going for walks.
I love stroking her soft baby hair.
I love looking at every inch of her... seeing every part of her skin and just observing her.

When I am holding her and feeding her I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to hurt a child. It makes me shiver just to think of crimes against children. I can never imagine what a parent would feel if something bad happened to their child.

I love showing her things and realizing they are brand new to her. A human being who has never seen grass! Never heard a certain word... "car"! Never smelled a flower, never listened to jazz, never watched someone cook, never seen someone brush their teeth. I love realizing this is her first time doing something. Her first time eating, her first poop, her first time outside, her first time in a car. Her first walk, night at home, month of life, time at the beach. My time flies quickly!

I love this little girl!

I worry with Donovan about the future. Will she learn compassion and empathy? Will she have a beautiful nose? Will she be something smart and great? Will she love us or reject us? Will she know and love God? I guess it's a parent's work to wonder about a child and pray for their protection and to at times feel lost in the smallness of our parenting and the largeness of the unknown.