Sunday, May 12, 2002

Postpartum Postscript

I wrote that birth story soon after Ni's birth, and it is the one he will see while he is young, if he even asks about it.

The jarring discongruity of how smoothly this birth actually would have happened, with how much of an emergency the nurses treated it sent me into a sort of shock. I felt as if something had been forcibly stolen from me. Those 15 minutes were so traumatic that I allowed them to take N from me after just a few minutes, and I didn't ask for him again for two hours. Pushing as hard as I could, not to deliver my son but to get them OFF me, resulted in jagged tear down my episiotomy scar that took months to heal. They kept me pumped full of electrolytes I didn't need, and this resulted in an alarming swelling, clearly visible to anyone who knew me, but which did not seem to bother the nursing staff. My baby was also shocked, and craved only to be held by his mother. He didn't want to nurse, just to rest in the crook of my neck, and he would cry for me whenever they tried to take him. Thankfully, my mother bear kicked back in and I reclaimed full rights to my baby (No you may not take him, without asking, to the nursery because the pediatrician might get here within the hour) within 24 hours.

I went into a seven-month, undiagnosed postpartum depression that impacted our entire family, and I swore never to return to the hospital setting for a routine birth. The disconnect I felt from him would be defeated when I thought of him as a "poor baby who needs a mother." I didn't feel like I was his mother, but I knew he needed one and I would do. PPD is very strange.

Before delivering N, I had researched unassisted births as a matter of course. My obstetrician knew that this baby would be fast, and had advised me not to worry about it, just be ready in case I didn't make it to the hospital in time. N was very nearly a homebirth by choice, and our last minute decision to go to the hospital is one I regret to this day. When you know better, you do better; in this case I knew what they were doing to me was wrong, but they didn't stop when I said no.

Our lives would have been very different had we delivered that sweet baby in the safety and privacy of our home. I am happy with my bubbly, funny son. His sweet cherubic face with those bright blue eyes lights my life. I only wish his welcome had been the peaceful one he deserved.

N's Birth Story

I woke just before 5 am with a contraction that was a little strong, which wasn’t unusual for me this late in the pregnancy. I got up to use the bathroom, as normally a full, sleepy bladder triggered those early morning wakeups for me and I knew peeing would relieve my bladder and the contractions. While in the bathroom, I had some diarrhea but thought nothing of it. I cleaned up and went back to sleep. A few minutes later another contraction woke me. I rolled over, thinking that it was annoying but also that it would be cool to have a baby on mother’s day, just not likely for me! I did check the time, 5.07, and went back to sleep. When the next one woke me, I asked P-Daddy to tell me the time. It was 5.27. That settled it for me; they were too far apart, no matter how intense. Now I was wide-awake and a little perturbed because I knew I was too agitated now to go back to sleep. I went to use the bathroom again and spent a while on the toilet with even more diarrhea and what I thought was the BIGGEST hiccup my baby had ever had; my whole abdomen went “boing.” Now keep in mind N had been at zero station for weeks and I was squatting—I had no idea that it was my water breaking, as he blocked the way and no water seeped out. I did have a little, slight bleeding and that’s what clued me in.

Soon I realized these were THE contrax. When I got a break from the incessant poopie contrax, I went to the bedroom where P-Daddy and G were both sleeping. It was 5.55 and I flipped the light on and off so as not to wake G. P-Daddy stirred, and I said only “Yup!” before returning to my friend, the modern birthing stool, the toilet. P-Daddy began the labor phone tree and called our friend and tenant, Lindsey to come watch G. He called S, my best friend, who was supposed to be in the labor room with us. When Lindsey arrived I was in the bathroom, Breathing and leaning against the sink. She asked what she could do, and I wanted her to make P-Daddy coffee. I knew I needed an alert husband. At this point, I took a shower. After an hour of diarrhea, I knew I was going to want a shower before displaying my bottom to anyone. As I was getting in, P-Daddy asked what to tell the OB, whom he just paged. “How far apart are the contrax?” I told him to say, “We’re coming in. Period.” The contraction that hit me at this point was intense enough that I could only stand in the too-hot shower while waiting for it to pass. I couldn’t move to adjust the temperature. What struck me about labor was that as intense as the contrax themselves were, when they faded I could move and speak. I really enjoyed my mobility, our advance planning and the “freedom” between contractions. It was like racing against the clock to “get things done,” which unknowingly, I was.

After my shower, I pulled on a shift dress and my clogs. The bags had been in the car for weeks so all we had to do was GO. However at this point, two things happened—another set of poopie contrax and my daughter waking up. She was very upset to see us dressed for going bye bye while she had been sleeping. She didn’t want to see Lindsey and instead, while I am on the toilet, climbed onto my nine-months pregnant lap with her cup her binky and tried her best to fall asleep instantly. I looked at Lindsey, who had followed her into the bathroom and said, “This is dignity!” So at this point I still had a semblance of a sense of humor.

We finally left our home at 6.38am. Blessings here—an early Sunday morning drive to a hospital WAY on the other side of town. We encountered no traffic and only a few stoplights and had complete privacy. The contrax in the car were Serious Contrax. I felt each contraction wave from my lungs to my rectum, down and through my body. They would have been more painful, but in the smooth, quiet Windstar with only my husband and the sense of motion, I was in total control. I asked him to remind me to Breathe, as it would have been easy at this point to shudder and pant right out of control. So every so often during the drive he would say “Breathe,” and so my husband and I labored together in comfort, en route! I did end up chewing on the shoulder belt but I can’t say I was in excruciating agony. I remember thinking two things—first, the contrax were three minutes apart and hard—wasn’t that transition? And second, I could wait until I got the hospital and got my epidural. I could hold out until then. Breaking down before then would just be a waste of energy. I am not a touchy feely laboring woman; I want him THERE but not touching me at all. P-Daddy has to be doing something at all times, not just sitting there being supportive. So having him have something imperative to do was the BEST solution, again unknown to us at the time, for us both.

When we arrived at the hospital, I could barely walk. I sat in the bathroom of the ER lobby (again the modern birthing stool) while we waited for the wheelchair from Labor and Delivery. It didn’t take long, but I couldn’t pee or poop. I knew from my prior labor that since I really believed I needed to, that N’ head was well in the birth canal. I just squatted there until I saw the wheel chair then kind of wide-leg wobbled into a squat on it. Again, I wasn’t crying or anything, just REAL focused and quiet. P-Daddy moved the van while the nurse wheeled me upstairs. We chatted briefly (can you believe it) between contractions. She wheeled me straight into the delivery room closest to the nurses’ station. It was shift change so we passed incoming nurses as we went. This is when it got weird for me. It was 7.15 AM.

The nurse who was “orienting” me wanted me to pee in a cup and put on the hospital gown. I told her I couldn’t pee anymore, but she said “Try, it’s ok if you don’t get any. If you can’t just put on the robe.” She put me in the bathroom and starting telling P-Daddy he had to register us as he hadn’t downstairs. I told them, yelling from the bathroom that we had already pre-registered. While the nurse ignored me and P-Daddy showed her the paperwork, the contrax kept coming and I kept yelling about registration. No way in HELL was I going to let them take P-Daddy from me right then. I finally collapsed to all fours in the bathroom, sobbing “I want my Honey!” The nurse saw me, half in the gown half not, and said “Oh no she’s crying.” I guess she finally felt for me and helped P-Daddy get me to the bed. I could not walk on my own at all then. She told P-Daddy he had to sign for the epidural, and he said fine. Then she checked me and her face turned GREY. ‘You’re complete!” “I know.” “No epidural for you, honey.” “I knoooowww.”

At that point she bolted from the room and started barking orders to the other nurses. Turns out she was the charge nurse, and all the other labor nurses had been assigned to the laboring women already on the floor. With the shift change and the confusion, we ended up with eight or nine nurses in the room, each taking one task to get it done before the baby arrived. I can scoff at the bedlam now, but at the time it stressed me out and made me completely lose control. The urge to push was THERE and I was on a bed, strapped to a fetal tone monitor and a blood pressure cuff. One nurse was trying to sink an IV and the other kept pressing on my abdomen asking me if I was having contractions. She hurt me—I couldn't even feel the one doing the IV. The IV nurse was trying to get me to “heee heee heee” breathe to not push through the contrax, but I just couldn’t hear her. I knew what was going on, and it wasn’t ME making the fluid gush with every contraction. N was coming out whether I pushed or not, and with every contraction I hollered like a banshie. It sure made me feel better at least.

When the OB arrived, she turned out to be someone I knew from my OB’s practice, and was the same OB who was there for me the night I had my gall bladder attack. Between my husband and the OB, I got through fine. Dr. Joseph remembered me and just kept smiling and laughing. She told me later she just couldn’t believe I was back for her shift, and that it was a fun Mother’s Day delivery for her. She didn’t try to override P-daddy’s coaching because she knew the baby was coming on his own too. With two pushing contractions, N C was born at 7.30 AM on May 12th. He weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 21.5 inches long. Shelley did arrive—I saw her just as they moved N from my belly to the warmer for newborn procedures.

Incidentally, it was the first birth on Mother’s Day for the hospital and N and I were interviewed for the 11.00 news. Wouldn’t you know that of the entire discussion, they had to include the “I didn’t get my epidural” sound byte. I had people calling from my old neighborhood, and the nurses who came in every shift after that said “Hey! I saw you on the news!”