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!
....to be continued...