Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Alright, the nitty-gritty

I told you that I had my baby, Brock, last week on July 13. He was born at 12:02 a.m., on his due date. I was trying so hard to push him out on July 12, but I missed by a few minutes. I'm not sure why I cared. Maybe it gave me a goal for the whole thing to be over with!

I thought I'd share my story while I have a spare 5 minutes. I know some of you are pregnant, and I don't intend to make this any kind of horror story, so don't fear. I am just sharing my experience, and want to whisper this in your ears: take the epidural!!

So, on Sunday, July 11, I started feeling some contractions. But they were really minor and easy to deal with. I went about my day feeling giddy and thinking, "this isn't so bad." I had been having painless Braxton-Hicks contractions and menstrual-like cramps for weeks, but not painful contractions I could actually time. Sometime that afternoon, it all just petered out. I was disappointed and hoped it still meant that it would happen soon and I wouldn't go late and be induced. I figured it was a good sign.

The next day, I got up about 7:30 to feed my cats, who were annoying me. I went back to bed and started feeling contractions again. This time they were darn painful. But they were spaced out. A few hours later, I decided to get up and eat. Each contraction had me pausing, doubled over and breathing through them. I had expected them to start more slowly and gently, for some reason, and then work their way up. Incidentally (grossness alert), I never saw any sign of mucous plug or bloody show.

I decided to shower while they were still far enough apart that I could handle it OK. I'm sure glad I did. I then got back into bed and started recording/timing contractions. They hurt terribly. I couldn't talk through them or listen to someone else. I stayed there for hours, fearing I'd have to wait a really long time like that before they were close enough together to go to the hospital. Thankfully, they were about 2 minutes long. So all I needed was for them to get a bit closer together.

Here's another TMI moment: I went to pee a few times and there was a gush of fresh blood. Not like a tiny bit on the TP, but a lot. So I sort of freaked out and called the doctor's office. The nurse didn't sound particularly reassuring about the blood and after asking me about the contractions decided I was close enough and told me she'd let them know I was on my way.

Mark loaded up the car frantically, somehow forgetting all of the stuff I packed for the baby and some other things I had deemed important. In the end, most of it was unnecessary. (I will say that I'm glad I took some [dark-colored] nursing pajamas and a nursing sleep bra. I would have hated to wear the hospital gown the whole time, even though I was not in the hospital long.) The ride to the hospital seemed endless. I could not walk well at this point, so I was wheeled up to labor and delivery and placed in triage. I was upset because I kept feeling blood coming out, but they left me there for quite awhile like I was not in the midst of the scariest and most painful event of my life.

At this point, the only word in my vocabulary was the F-word. Over and over and over again. I fear it may be Brock's first word. It was kind of funny that that was all I could say. The contractions seemed to never end, and they really did hurt more than I expected. Finally, they got me into a labor room and apologized for taking so long.

They offered me some sort of narcotic through my IV, which was probably one of those things I'd read other people criticizing on the pregnancy forums, but at that point I did not care what they gave me, as long as it took the edge off. The drug started with a Ph or an F sound, though I don't recall what it was. It made me feel goooood. I was sort of dizzy and in la-la land for a while.

Eventually, maybe around 4 or so, the anesthesiologist came and gave me my epidural. He said that it went in better than any he'd given before. Maybe he says that to everyone. But I did still feel contractions on the left side, and I had tremendous pain up in my rib cage on the left, where the baby seemed to have shoved himself.

A nurse came and "topped" off my epidural and I got sweet relief at last! I actually went 100% numb from the rib cage down. You could have stabbed my legs and I wouldn't have felt it at all. I could not wiggle my toes anymore. It was disconcerting, but I figured it was better than many more hours of what I had been feeling. I kept asking the nurse if she was sure I'd ever be able to use my legs again.

Eventually, around 7 the doctor on call came in as her shift was ending and broke my bag of waters and checked the dilation. It was pretty good, I think 8 cm. Eventually, I was found to be fully dilated, but I still had zero feeling. They wanted me to be able to at least feel the pressure so I could push, but I was not regaining feeling and they decided to proceed. My labor nurse was wonderful. If you don't have a great labor nurse, I'm not sure how you'd get through that!

My nurse set up a bar on the end of the bed and tied a bed sheet to it for me to hold onto. She held one leg and Mark held the other and then when the machine showed I was having a contraction, she'd tell me to push. I couldn't feel a thing, so I'd just push blindly and she'd tell me by watching if I was pushing in the right area. Very weird.

When the doctor on call got there, we did this a little longer and out came Brock! Mark worked so hard on my labor. He certainly wasn't just holding my hand. He was sore for days from holding the dead weight of my leg (maybe I gained a bit too much weight?) and helping me push. It would have taken ages longer to deliver if not for him.

Now, about Mark: He's way squeamish. I don't blame him; I'm the same way. Earlier, when I'd asked about him cutting the umbilical cord, he was horrified that someone would even ask him that. During the labor, when the nurse would recline me flat, my blood pressure would drop and I'd get really nauseated. At one point, between pushes, I started vomiting. Mark tried to hold a bucket there, but vomiting while flat on your back with your legs in the air is not easy. Needless to say, it kind of got everywhere. I started panicking and crying when I couldn't breathe. I'm pretty sure I inhaled quite a bit of it because I was coughing a nasty cough for a few days.

After that, Mark felt emboldened. He figured, he took the barf, he could take the rest of it. He wasn't freaked out to look at the baby as he crowned or watch the doctor stitch me up (level 2 tear, wasn't too bothersome). He even took interest in the placenta, which is actually very interesting. Mark decided it just looked like liver or something you could eat. And, actually, some people do.

At this point, as you can imagine, I was in heaven. It was finally over, and I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy. After nine months of worrying about your baby, seeing him in the flesh and knowing he's OK is such an amazing feeling.

Unfortunately, my legs didn't work for hours more. I had to be taken to my regular room on a gurney instead of using a wheelchair. But I can walk now just fine, so no worries.

I think of friends who had no pain meds, and I'm pretty amazed. Either I'm wimpy or they are incredibly strong. Or they had some totally different contractions. But I'm really glad that I personally went the medicated route. I think it made my birthing experience a million times better. I know some people want to feel the whole thing because they feel they get more out of it that way, but it wasn't for me.

As for the aftermath, I really didn't have much discomfort, ahem, "down there." I did for a few days, but it went away quickly. I never needed pain meds that were offered to me, and the numbing spray was unnecessary. I had planned to do sitz baths, but I honestly never had time once I got home. I healed up quickly and it never bothered me much.

I was a little surprised by the pooch that was left after the birth, but it's going down pretty quickly. I also haven't looked in the mirror much (I've only gotten dressed and left the house twice since), but then saw that I had actually lost most of the fat I gained. I'd look pretty much normal if not for the stretched out belly, which isn't fat anyway, and the ginormous boobs that came with breast-feeding.

A few more things I want to share:
If you hang out on pregnancy forums, you'll see a lot of judgmental moms out there. People who have decided to oppose everything from vaccines to epidurals. And if you don't know what you're doing, you feel like you need to make a fuss about things, too, or you're a bad mom for just going with the flow.

I found that flexibility is key. I took the meds offered to me because I needed them. And I wasn't going to feel bad. I don't believe they'd really give me that narcotic if it was a danger to my baby.

I was made to feel it's a terrible thing to allow your baby to be taken from your room at any time. They automatically weigh and measure the baby in your presence, after some bonding time. But I refused to send him to the nursery when I was falling apart and hadn't slept in ages. Mark couldn't understand it, but I'd allowed these "forum" people to make me feel terrible about that. At one point I thought I'd drop him from exhaustion at 3 a.m. but he was screaming nonstop. I was crying, too, and called the nurse to help me figure out what to do. She came and said that she has newborn testing to do, anyway, and that she could do it now and give me a little break. I didn't want to, and she said, "You're not a bad mom for letting him go to the nursery. 10 other moms have called in the last hour looking for a little chance to sleep." I still cried because I sent my newborn son away because he was crying and I wanted to sleep. I felt so selfish, but now I wish I'd taken advantage a bit more because I'm still so exhausted!

Well, I've used up my luxury time here, so I'm going to wrap it up for today. I will write more soon about the first week and what it was like for me.


Emily said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story! Labor always sounds so easy when someone else had to do it! I liked your tips at the end; thanks for the info!!

Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE said...

Congrats on the new addition! Sounds like you had exactly the birth you wanted. Congrats on navigating the maze!

Amy said...

I'm so proud of you and Mark, Robyn! It is an amazing feat, pushing a new person out of your body. I loved reading every single word of this, and I'm probably going to go back and read it again right now!

For some reason we have two pictures of my placenta. Those are always fun to show at family picnics and stuff.

Marissa said...

The moment Mark 'Manned Up' to the barf, he became a Dad. Such a great story, such a great little happy ending! I'm very, very proud of you for remaining flexible (and informed) through your delivery, I truly believe that is they key. To all of life, really!
I'm ready for another picture, when you get a moment!!

Isabelle said...

Congratulations on the birth of your baby boy !
Thank you for sharing your experience. I love reading about other mothers' stories. It is such a wonderful event in life! My boys are 5 and 2 and their births - though very different - were both amazing moments for me.
Plein de bisous à Brock !