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Eva’s Birth – Part 3

Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

It was approximately 6 p.m. I’d been laboring about five hours, but it didn’t feel like it. Time didn’t exist. I was aware that it had gotten dark outside, but it didn’t matter. I labored on my knees on the bed. I labored on the yoga ball. I labored while slow dancing across the delivery room in Mike’s arms, moving to the sound of my own groans, gushing blood-tinged amniotic fluid all over the floor. I thought I should care about the mess I was making but I didn’t. I wanted to push. I felt like a wild animal. With each contraction I took a deep cleansing breath and groaned, growled, screeched, sometimes I laughed maniacally, uncontrollably. The contractions tickled some foreign part of my brain. I thought it was hilarious. I was in a trance, this was labor-land.

“Release your shoulders, breathe, relax into the contraction.”

“I can’t relax!”

“Yes you can. Breath. Release your shoulders.”

I noticed that when I listened to Mike and Brenda and released my shoulders, flowed with the contraction instead of against it, it was manageable, tolerable, and over fast. Only when I fought against it did it become unbearable. In between I could hear Brenda’s voice, “How do you feel right now?”

“Good, I feel good.”

“You’re always going to come back here. Remember that. You’ll always come back to this place where you feel good and you can rest, okay?”

“I’m having another contraction…”

“Deep breath, relax your shoulders, breathe…”

Bethany was back. The nurse from the night before. I was glad. Catherine was great, but Bethany was a soul sister. She stayed beside us, comforting, helping. I heard her voice, “You’re breathing so well, Trish. You’re doing great.” And Mike, telling me how strong I was, how proud he was of me. “Each contraction brings us closer to our baby girl. You’re almost there. You’re so strong.” And Brenda, constantly reassuring and reminding me, soothing me.

Brenda asked if she could call my parents, let them know how I was doing. I nodded. She brushed my hair, Mike rubbed my back, I labored on. I heard her telling someone (my parents, over the phone) that my contractions were right on top of each other, but it didn’t make sense. There was so much space between them. I could rest, sleep a little. She told me later that there was maybe a minute between, maybe less. But in the moment those forty to sixty seconds felt like room to breathe, to recuperate. I labored on.

Soon I was feeling the contractions in my vagina, not in my belly. I guess they’d slowly been moving down for hours, but I hadn’t really noticed. I wanted to push. Was begging to push. Brenda took me by the shoulders, snapped her fingers in front of my face and told me to get out of the trance, come back to Earth, she needed me to come back. She said later that she was concerned that the Cytotec was making me feel like I was further along than I was and she wanted to buy me some time. She heated up the shower and told Mike to get in with me. I’d packed him swim trunks in case we labored in the shower, but he didn’t bother with them. I loved that.

Mike and I climbed in together, naked, and I thought I shouldn’t get my hair wet, I’d just had it cut and blown out the day before, but then I didn’t care. Like so many other things, it slipped away. I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my head fall back into the stream of hot water, let it pour over my face and my hair, run down my back. The contractions were bringing me to my knees now, literally. I was a tiger in her den, yowling, shrieking, growling.

We stayed like that until I was so pruney I couldn’t stand it. Mike helped me out of the shower, helped my dry off, put my bra back on, I collapsed to the floor in a contraction, he helped me through it, got himself dressed while I made my way back to the labor-bed.

“I want to push!” I was belching like crazy, I felt completely out of control. Each contraction felt like something else taking over my body. I was an exhausted passenger. I could hear Brenda telling Bethany that she thought I was in transition, that we ought to have the midwife come in and check me. But the midwife, Pat, was busy delivering another baby so we’d have to wait. I labored on.

Finally, I don’t know how much later, Pat came in. She had to wait to check me, I wouldn’t let her touch me while I was contracting. “This is so much harder than I thought it would be,” I groaned between contractions.

Brenda answered, “No, it isn’t. You’re doing amazing work. Keep breathing.”

I was on my back, writhing against a contraction when Pat declared I was at 10 centimeters. The relief that flooded me must have been palpable. I’d been thinking, as she checked me, that if I wasn’t fully dilated I was DONE. I was over this. Completely. I needed a hamburger, rare, and a good night’s sleep. But I’d been given the green light, I was almost at the finish line. I was so happy I wanted to cry. Instead I started telling anyone who would listen that I was STARVING and I couldn’t WAIT TO EAT. I was suddenly so hungry I thought I’d die.

Brenda talked to me about how I was going to push, we were going to be slow and careful. The room had come alive with women rushing around, getting things ready. I asked what the carts with all the instruments were for and Bethany assured me they were getting ready for anything, taking precautions, I had nothing to worry about. I pushed on all fours, it felt incredible, I was finally participating in this crazy thing that my body was doing, but the baby didn’t move down. I wanted to move to a squat, so Bethany set up the squat bar and I pushed like that, pushing the baby down, down, down. In between contractions I’d try to sit back on the edge of the bed, but it was like sitting on a softball – her head was right there. Bethany called Pat back in to see my progress, the baby would be here any minute. I wanted to cry when Pat said, “No, she’s not ready yet. I’m leaving.”

Bethany stopped her: “Watch her labia when she pushes. She’s ready, don’t go anywhere.”

Pat told me to get on my back and fold my knees up to my sides, hold my ankles. I wanted to stay off my back so I felt defeated. Put my head in my hands and tried to collect myself. Mike and Brenda whispered reassuring things to me, encouraged me, reminded me we were almost done. I lay back and grabbed my ankles, pushed, pushed, pushed.

“I can see her head! Reach down, Trish, feel her head!”

Oh hell no, I thought. And then, I did it. I reached down and felt the top of my daughter’s head as it came from my body, soft and warm. I kept pushing.

“Push! Push! What you’re feeling is the ring of fire – you’re stretching to make room for the baby, you’re almost there!”

This was the part I’d been afraid of, the only part that scared me. But I didn’t feel anything except relief to be pushing and an incredible craving for a rare hamburger, still. God I was so hungry. Make that a bacon cheeseburger.

“I see her forehead! Keep pushing!”

“There are her eyes! I see a nose! Keep pushing! There’s her mouth! Her head is out!”

I fell back, exhausted, trying to catch my breath. The cord was wrapped loosely around her neck, Pat unwound it and then yelled at me, “PUSH!” As I pushed she pulled and suddenly she was out. In that second I was slammed back into reality, could practically hear the brakes squealing as my dream-like state came to a crashing close.

“Look! Look! Look!”

“I can’t see anything without my glasses!”

Someone handed me my glasses and there she was, wet and squalling, slimy and pink.

It felt like forever (Mike said later it was less than a minute), but they finally put our daughter on my chest. It was the most surreal moment of my life. There she was, hot, sticky, covered in blood and vernix, and then she pooped on my belly and we were both covered in so much goo it was remarkable. She cried and cried while I tried to catch my breath, comfort her. I rubbed her back, tried to get a good look at her face. I could hear Bethany directing Pat, “Don’t clamp the cord until it stops pulsing! She said no cord traction, no Pitocin…” Bless her.

Pat showed us the cord, which had stopped pulsing. It was tied in three knots. Three knots. “Your baby is a miracle. We only see this in still births.” I held the tiny squirming child closer to my chest. My miracle.  Pat clamped the cord and Mike cut it.

They told me to push again and I birthed the placenta. It felt good. Everyone admired it but I didn’t see it. I didn’t care about anything but the child on my chest. I had a one degree tear which Pat stitched up in no time while Mike and I marveled at the creature who had already found my nipple and was having her first meal outside my body. A nurse washed me and brought me a tuna fish sandwich, which Mike fed me in bites. It was no bacon cheeseburger, but it was delicious.

No one bothered us again for about two hours. Brenda kissed us goodbye. Michelle snuck in to take photos but only stayed a moment. The labor room was dim and quiet, warm and lovely. It was just the three of us, a new family, our eyes wet with happy tears, our hearts brimming with love.

 

 

 

Eva’s Birth – Part 2

Read Part 1 here

My contractions kicked in again, almost immediately after the enema, within an hour of the first dose of Cytotec. Pat, the midwife, had given us two hours before I needed to get back on the baby monitor, so we were going to make the most of it. Up, up, up, up, up five flights of stairs. Down, down, down, down, down. Again. Again. Again. I was contracting every second or third flight and I needed to stop, hang off the stair railing in a squat, breathe, Mike putting counter-pressure on my lower back where the contractions reached around and took hold. We took a detour outside for some fresh air, but it was too warm for me. I found a dead bird and declared it a good sign, borrowed Brenda’s iPhone so I could take photographs of the sweet little thing, ants crawling all over it, making it their afternoon meal. Back inside and up, up, up, contraction, squat, breathe, up, up. Down, contraction, squat, breathe, down, down, down, contraction, squat, breathe. After every contraction either Brenda or Mike offered me water, working to keep me hydrated to avoid an IV later on. I must have swallowed fifteen liters of water that day.

“This is great!” I grinned. “I love this! I could do this all day. I want the contractions to get stronger! Let’s get this party started!” I patted my belly and encouraged Niblet to move down, get out, eviction notice has been posted! Up, up, contract, squat, breathe, up, up, contract, squat, breathe, up, down, down, and so it went. The three of us laughing and joking and visiting, contraction, squat, breathe. I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore but they were good and strong and I loved them. “I really could do this all day! This is awesome! I want them to get stronger! Come on Niblet! Get a move on!”

“I’m going to remind you later that you said that,” Brenda said, grinning back at me.

Two hours passed like nothing and it was time to get back on the baby monitor. I was ready to stop climbing stairs and try something different – the yoga ball sounded awesome. The day nurse, Catherine, got me all hooked up while I sat on the yoga ball, opening my hips, contracting, breathing. She needed me to stay on the monitor for at least twenty minutes so she could get a solid read on the baby. I couldn’t do it. I needed to poop. RIGHT NOW. I made Mike come with me into the bathroom because my contractions were strong enough that I needed his support through them. This was the moment when all modesty and vanity flew out the window. Before this, I’d been trying to maintain some modicum of decency, keeping my lady-parts covered, the bathroom door closed while I pottied, that sort of thing. Suddenly I didn’t care, not one little bit.

Mike kneeled on the floor in front of me while I contracted and pooped for the next half hour. My arms wrapped around his shoulders, I breathed deeply into his neck through each contraction, shitting my guts out, gushing amniotic fluid.

“I’m just going to reach behind you to flush the toilet –”

“Nooooooo! I’m having a contraction!”

“Ok, I know, breathe, deep breaths, I’m not going anywhere, you’re doing great, I’m just going to reach right here and flush –”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

“Ok love. Deep breaths. You’re so strong. Now I’m just going to give it one little flush –”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I’M CONTRACTING!!!!!!!!”

Poor Mike. I couldn’t verbalize it, but I didn’t want toilet water splashing back up on my behind.  He just wanted a courtesy flush. I won.

This is where my memory starts to get fuzzy and the whole experience takes on a dream-like quality. My memories are fragmented, but Brenda and Mike have helped me fill in the blanks.

The nurse, Catherine, was hovering. She was concerned because she wasn’t getting a read on the baby and worried that I was trying to push on the toilet. I wasn’t, I was just pooping. A lot. Mike asked if I thought I was done in the bathroom and I wasn’t sure, but I was willing to get back on the monitor just to make her leave us alone for awhile. At some point I’d ditched my skirt, annoyed at the lengths of fabric tangling between my legs. I remember pulling off my shirt because I was sweating. Mike spread one of the big square hospital pads, the ones they put on the bed to protect it from fluids, over the yoga ball so I could sit on it bare-bottom. Brenda raised the bed so I could labor on the ball, leaning forward on the bed with the baby monitor around my belly.

Catherine said she needed to put the hep-lock in now and I complained. I was worried it would drive me crazy, that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything but this thing sticking out of my arm. Mike stroked my hair and told me she had to do it, it was better than an IV, I wouldn’t even notice it after a while. Brenda coached me in my breathing, the contractions were coming harder and faster now. I wanted off the ball, I wasn’t comfortable at all anymore.

“I’m afraid I’m gonna shit myself!” I cried. “No, I’m gonna throw up, I think I’m gonna throw up…” Brenda and Mike were an excellent team, coaching me, comforting me, feeding me water, brushing my hair, rubbing my back. I remember moving from the ball to the bed, which had it’s back up so it was more like a big chair than a bed. I was on my knees with my arms draped over the head of the bed, Catherine trying to get the hep-lock in my arm while I cried, suddenly overwhelmed with happiness and love.

“Mike, I love you so much. I don’t know why I’m so emotional! I’m just so happy, so so happy right now. I can’t wait to meet our little girl. I’m so in love with you!” I was in active labor now, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know anything but the love and happiness that engulfed me. And the contractions, intense and all-consuming.

I remember laboring on the bed like that for a little while, Brenda brushing my hair, Mike putting counter-pressure on my back. I started making noises, high-pitched groans. Brenda suggested lower, deeper tones and they felt better, so much better. With each new contraction I took a deep, cleansing breath and then groaned, deep in my throat, a low, rumbling ohhhhhhhhhh sound.

At some point Catherine came in and said we were moving from triage to the delivery room, just across the hall. Somewhere in my head I remembered that this meant I was really in labor, things were really happening, the hospital staff was finally taking this seriously. I remember worrying, barely, about all of our things spread all over the triage room, but knowing I had to let it go and trust Brenda and Mike to collect everything. Someone, I think it was Mike, helped me walk across the hall, past the nurses station, to the delivery room. The lights were low and in the back of my mind I remembered this was the exact delivery room I saw on the labor & delivery tour I had taken so long ago. I was glad – it was familiar. I asked Mike and Brenda to do an idiot-check in the triage room, to be sure they’d gotten everything. I got up on the bed to labor on my knees, my arms draped over the back of the bed. There was a blanket over me because I was sweating and freezing at the same time. I still thought I might vomit or shit myself and I was vaguely aware that with every contraction there was a rush of amniotic fluid pouring out of me.

This was right about the time my dad and one of my brothers wandered into the delivery room. I was ass-up on the bed, naked except for a nursing bra and a blanket.

“Hi! How are you!”

“Oh my god you guys….” I whined.

“We miss you! How is it going?” My brother sounded worried.

“PLEASE LEAVE. I DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE MY VAGINA.”

My father burst into tears. Brenda ushered them out, explaining that I was in active labor, that I was doing great, but that this was not a good time to visit. She promised to call them soon and let them know what was happening. I found out later that my brother texted my other brother, who was en route to the hospital, “DON’T GO TO THE HOSPITAL.” Good call, bro.

To be continued…

Eva’s Birth – Part 1

Disclaimer: This is a birth story. There will be talk of fluids and mucous plugs and poop and vaginas. You have been warned. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014, approx. 8:30 p.m. 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant. 

We finished an episode of “Justified” and I struggled to keep my eyes open despite how much I love the show. So tired. Always so tired. It was almost 10:30 p.m. I’ve got to stop staying up so late, I thought to myself. Gotta conserve my energy because this baby could come any day now (but she probably won’t come for at least three more weeks) and I need to have energy for her birth. Can’t be so tired. Tomorrow night we’ll go to bed early. I swear.

“Bed?” Mike asked.

“Bed. Will you fill the humidifier?”

“If you walk the dogs.”

“Ugh. Okay.” I got up, slipped some shoes on, led the dogs onto the landing to leash them up and promptly pissed myself. I was awfully confused because I had not pissed myself once in my entire pregnancy, and don’t pregnant ladies usually only pee themselves if they laugh or cough or sneeze? And I’d done none of those things. I stood on the landing, the wet spot on my favorite cozy pajama pants spreading, the dogs pulling at their leashes. Could it be my water breaking? It couldn’t be. Only 12% of women break their water before labor starts. But there were butterflies in my tummy. I left the dogs on the landing and went back inside. Sat on the potty to see if I just needed to pee when another gush of fluid came.

“Um, Mike? I either pissed myself or my water broke.”

“Does it smell like pee?”

I sniffed my pajama pants. “I can’t tell! I think it’s probably just pee. It has to be just pee.”

My water was not going to break. I was going to labor at home, peacefully, with no doctors or nurses bothering me, listening to my lovely labor & delivery playlist, while I shampooed the carpets and cleaned the baseboards. I was NOT going to spend my entire labor at L&D with a broken water sac.

“You should probably text Brenda.”*

Over the next half hour I texted back and forth with Brenda about whether or not I’d lost control of my bladder or broken my bag of water. I walked the dogs, fluid dripping between my legs. She suggested a maxi pad to catch the flow. Good call. The fourth or fifth time I gushed, there were two tiny drops of blood. Adrenaline rushed through me. This was not pee. Shit was about to get real.

“Oh. Yeah. This is definitely my water breaking. I guess I should pack my hospital bag?” I’d been meaning to pack it, but was sure I had plenty of time…

I called Brenda and she said she’d come right over. I wasn’t tired at all anymore, but wide awake, adrenaline coursing through my body. I’m having this baby tonight, I thought. And then, but I haven’t washed the dishes! Or shampooed the carpet! Or vacuumed! And the dogs need baths! And  I NEED A PEDICURE.

I texted my girlfriend Michelle, “Water broke. I need a pedicure! Come over and paint my toes before we go to the hospital!” That was at 11:30 p.m., but she wouldn’t get the text until after 2 a.m. the next morning. No pre-hospital pedicure for me.

Brenda arrived, and Mike cleaned the kitchen (bless him) while I packed our hospital bag. I changed into the comfy skirt, top, and bra I’d planned to wear during labor. I looked in the mirror and felt truly beautiful for the first time since the Bell’s Palsy came on. Mike loaded our car with the laptop, a giant suitcase full of things we’d never touch during our hospital stay, and a yoga ball I’d borrowed from my parents. The car seat, installed just the day before, was ready with soft blankets to tuck around our girl on the ride home. We hopped in the car and I called and left messages to cancel my acupuncture appointment and pedicure (ugh!) for the next day. We checked into the hospital a few minutes after midnight, January 17, giddy with excitement.

“So… I think my water broke….”

“The theme of the evening. You and every other woman in here. It’s a full moon. Going to be a busy night. Are you having contractions?”

“Mild ones…”

The nurse who checked us in led us to triage room 3 – the same room Mike and I had spent 12 hours in just 10 days earlier, when I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, which I suddenly couldn’t care less about. I was glad they put us in the same room. It was familiar. We’d be comfortable.

“Go ahead and undress, put this gown on –”

“I was told I could labor in my own clothes.”

“Oh. Well. As long as you don’t mind if we have to cut them off you in an emergency.”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine. Go ahead and give us a urine sample. Then sit bare-bottom on this pad so we can make sure you’re leaking amniotic fluid and not urine.”

I lost my mucous plug in the urine sample. Only I didn’t know what was happening.

“Ummmm…. whoa…. lots of mucous… whoa…. so…. much…. my word! What the…”

“Wahoo! That’s your mucous plug! Good sign!” cheered Brenda.

Once I was situated bare-bottomed on the pad on the bed in the triage room, we met the nurse who would be taking care of us until the morning shift change. Her name was Bethany and she was lovely. She went over our birth preferences and wrote them on the white board in the room. She hooked me up to the baby monitor and chatted with us about what my ideal birth would be like. My contractions were steady every 7-10 minutes, mild enough that I could talk and laugh through them. I leaked all over the pad on the bed so she let me get up and put my skirt back on, gave me some awesome mesh panties and a maxi pad the size of a canoe to soak up new leaks.

A little while later the doctor on call came in. I walked across the room and shook his hand, I think it put him off a little. He wanted to examine me to check my progress, but I said no. I wanted as few vaginal exams as possible. The prednisone for the Bell’s Palsy was screwing with my immune system and I didn’t want to risk infection. He confirmed I was gushing amniotic fluid and not just pissing myself. He confirmed that the baby was doing fabulously and that my contractions were regular, but that I still had a long way to go.

Brenda suggested we walk the halls to see if my labor would kick up a notch, so we did. We walked and we walked and we walked in circles all over the L&D floor, outside, around, back again. The night air was cool and lovely, the full moon shone bright. Mike or Brenda, I can’t remember who, challenged me to start walking the stairs, and I took that idea and ran with it. Over the next twelve hours we’d hike up and down five flights of stairs dozens of times. Up, up, up, up, up. Down, down, down, down, down. Again. Again. Again. Every 45 minutes we headed back to the triage room so Bethany could monitor Niblet’s heart rate and my contractions, but I refused to get into bed. I’d sit on the yoga ball, opening my hips, telling the baby to move down! Patting my belly and saying, “Listen kid. You started this. I was happy to let you stay put for a few more weeks, but you broke the water sac, so now you need to get out. Let’s get this party started.” The night turned to dawn, to early morning. We tried to nap but no one slept. We walked some more. My contractions grew further apart, not closer together. They got weaker, not stronger. Brenda and I walked to the cafe outside the hospital so Mike could get some sleep and she could get some coffee. We went for breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. The hospital staff changed shifts, the night doc introduced the day staff and I was delighted that there was a midwife on call who I knew and liked. She wanted to check my progress and again I declined.

We kept walking, left the hospital grounds and walked down Burbank Boulevard in the hot morning sun. I sent Mike home to get my running shoes so I could walk harder and faster, and because my flip flops were giving me blisters. I took a shower, tried twiddling my nips because nipple stimulation can kick up contractions. Michelle came by, brought coffees and gave me a pedicure while I kept my hands up my shirt, futzing with my now very sore nipples, praying my contractions would get stronger. Mike came back with my running shoes and with my toes painted and dry, I tied them on and we hit the stairs again. An hour had passed since my last contraction. I was starting to worry.

Around noon the midwife, Pat, came in to see us. Talked me into an exam. It had been more than twelve hours since my water broke and she needed to see what kind of progress I’d made. I was certain that I was dilating, so I was crushed to find out I hadn’t dilated at all. Not even one centimeter. I was 40% effaced, but that’s it. And my contractions had stopped all together.

“What are my options?”

“We aren’t going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. You can hang out as long as you’d like. Your baby is doing great, you’re welcome to keep walking the halls and going up and down stairs as long as you want to. But in all honesty, if labor was going to kick in on its own, it would have by now. So I don’t think it’s going to. I recommend a drug called Cytotec. It’s an oral medication that causes contractions. You might only need one dose, you might need four, we’ll have to see. But the nice thing is you won’t need an IV, you’ll be able to keep walking the halls, you can stay out of bed, it’s nothing like Pitocin. Your other option is, of course, Pitocin, but I don’t think you want that.”

“Can you give us a minute to talk together, in private?”

“Of course.”

Mike and Brenda started googling “Cytotec” on their phones. We learned it’s an ulcer medication which (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) causes pregnant women to go into labor.

“Pat’s right,” Brenda told me. “You’ve done everything you can do to try to start labor naturally. The Cytotec is a great option.” Mike and I agreed. Pat came back in.

“I’ll take the Cytotec.”

“Excellent! How do you feel about an enema? An enema irritates the bowels which can also bring on contractions.”

“Um… I don’t want an enema, but I’ll try it. I’ll try anything.”

They brought the Cytotec with my meal tray. My mother came to visit and brought Mike and Brenda lunch. We filled her in on my progress, or lack thereof. I ate lunch and afterwards, enjoyed (HA) a lovely enema dessert. Then I sat on the potty and shit my brains out. And then we hit the stairs again.

*Brenda is a dear friend I’ve known for 17 years, who is also my doula.

To be continued…