Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Detailed Birthing Story Part II: Ah, Labor...

Below is Part II of my detailed birthing story. You can check out a shorter version here, and Part I of the detailed story here.

Birthing Story Part II: Ah, Labor

April 15, 2009, 4am-11am

When we step through the elevator doors, we are greeted by an empty waiting room, followed by an empty front desk. We recall during our tour of the Labor and Delivery floor, the nurse informing us that at night, there may be no one sitting at the desk, and to be sure to call out for someone, so we do this. A woman comes to the desk and we give her my name. “Oh, yes, Dr. T. has called you in already and you have pre-registered, so you’re all set. Lucy will show you to your room.”

Lucy, our night nurse, opens a door and tells me to follow her. She asks some questions about my water breaking and I inform her I am 100% positive it has broken. Since this happened two hours earlier, I still am very uncomfortable and relieved to find my way into my room quickly.

My labor and delivery room is very large, and every room is private. There is a bed in one area, a baby warmer in another, several chairs, many wooden cabinets, hard wood floors, large windows, and a bathroom. Immediately, I am given a gown and told to change in the bathroom, where Lucy confirms yes, my “membranes” have definitely “ruptured.” She helps me to the bed, attempts to make me comfortable, asks some medical questions, draws some blood, and places a fetal monitor around my belly, and a blood pressure band around my arm.

By now, our doula, Laura, has joined us in our room. It feels nice to have another person in the room to support us. It is around 4:30am at this point, and I am thirsty. I foolishly did not drink before I entered the hospital. I ask the nurse if I can have some water and she looks at me with a mocking smile. “Honey, has anyone told you how things work in the hospital?”

I am annoyed she responds like this, but through my contractions, I tell her, I am aware I cannot eat, but I am just asking for water. Noticing my doula sitting with her birthing ball, she asks if I have a birthing plan. I tell her, yes, I have “birthing preferences.”

“What I tell women who bring in birthing plans is to right away, toss them out the window.”

I remain soft-spoken and kind. “My birthing preferences are not very extreme. My doctor’s seen them and said they’re very reasonable. It’s less than one page.”

She goes on to inform me how I cannot drink, I cannot eat, I must stay on the fetal monitor and if I need to go to the bathroom, I must inform her, so she can unhook the monitor (she is not happy later when Mike or Laura unhooks something to allow me to get up). I am not happy at how my experience is beginning, but I do accept the ice chips they allow, which conveniently melt into, God forbid, water, and I have a few bites of a sherbet-like treat which they also allow.

Lucy confirms I am in labor, having real contractions very frequently, from less than 1 minute to approximately 3 minutes apart, but inconsistently. A resident doctor comes in soon after and informs me I am 2 cm dilated. I am disappointed I am not further along than this. She asks me on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being regular menstrual cramping pain, and 10 being excruciating pain, where my pain level is. I tell her perhaps at a level 2 at this point. I want to leave plenty of room for things to get worse!

Lucy tells me to relax and wait. It may be a while.

As Mike is unpacking a few of our belongings, I see the cord blood banking kit. I mention to the nurse how we are banking the cord blood and she says, “You should have told me that sooner. I have to draw your maternal blood for it and I could have done that when I drew your blood when you first came in. But I’ll do it again now.”

“Well, it was listed on my birthing preferences sheet, so see—there was a point to having it!”

She nods good naturedly, “That’s true. Okay, let me see your birthing plan.”

I tell her I call it simply “birthing preferences” not a plan, and she says she likes this terminology and will use it herself. She looks at my preferences, agrees they are reasonable, and says she will make a copy and put it in my chart. She seems much less uptight now, and even tells me, “If your water hadn’t broken and you’d labored at home for the early stages, then you could have drunk and eaten as much as you’d liked. I’m sorry that you had to come in this early…I could tell you that I would never know if you ate or drank when I’m not in the room, but…”

I take this as a sign that she is more sympathetic than she originally portrayed.

For the next few hours, I labor in the room. Mike and Laura are supportive as I use my yogic experience to breathe through each contraction. We gossip about the nurse, they fill my ice chip cup with water as I request, we talk about the surreal quality of what is happening, and watch as the sun rises above the city.

Around 6:30am, my OB stops by. He has a surgery this morning so I am lucky enough to be able to see him several times. When he enters the room, I feel so much joy to see a familiar face. He is kind, he is knowledgeable, and he is not only my doctor, but I feel he is my advocate. He examines me and says I am still at 2cm, even though my contractions now feel much more painful. “But you’re still smiling!” he observes as I rest between contractions.

“I wasn’t a minute ago!”

He tells Lucy that I do not need to be on the fetal monitor constantly, and that I should be able to walk around if I feel like it (which is written on my birthing preferences). I ask him if I can drink water and he quickly gives me a canned explanation of why hospitals do not allow laboring women to drink or eat—a higher risk of asphyxiation if one throws up etc. but then he tells me I may drink water if I’d like. “Just take small sips. Don’t guzzle it.”

After he leaves, I feel more empowered and more comfortable in the hospital. I am so grateful that he has spoken up for my wishes and the nurses will not question him. They are small wishes, but at the moment, they feel enormous, and I feel grateful.

At 7am, there is a change of nurses; Lucy leaves and Mary is now my nurse. Mary is a kind Irish woman who goes out of her way to make me comfortable. She brings with her a young blonde student nurse, and she asks me if I am comfortable with her assisting. I say I am fine with her participating.

As my pain is increasing quite rapidly, I decide I’ll take a shower as my first main coping technique. Laura asks our nurse if there is a stool or chair I can have in the shower, and Mary brings a short stool. She also finds an extra towel to place on top of it, which I appreciate and would not have thought of myself.

For the next 45 minutes or so, I labor in the shower. I try sitting on the stool, standing up straight, standing with my hands against the side of the shower. I sit on my knees and put my arms across the stool. I stand over the stool with my hands on it. I try as many positions as I can, and I am in extreme pain.

I breathe deeply through each contraction, close my eyes, and tune out everything else. Mike stands next to the shower and offers me help in any way I want it. He relays messages for me, he prays for me, he changes the temperature of the water to warmer, colder, warmer, colder. I squeeze his hand. I do not want any distractions—something I thought that I would want. I have even brought along dvds of Arrested Development and 30 Rock, thinking watching comedy will help distract the pain of labor. But I do not want to be distracted. I want to focus on nothing but breathing through each contraction and finishing it.

I dread the feeling of the beginning of a contraction because I know it is going to get much worse before it gets better. At the end of each contraction, I feel weak, faint, feverish, sweaty. I feel like I am going to throw up, and I feel like I just have thrown up. I whine to Mike that I am not getting much break between contractions since often one begins just as another is ending. I tell him I am not enjoying this at all and I think I am going to ask for an epidural. He says okay, and asks if I really want one. I say I think I do, but I worry I am not far enough dilated.

After several more contractions, I tell him, yes, I definitely want an epidural. He stands by me through a few more contractions and then he goes out to tell our doula. I feel bad that she will not witness an unmedicated birth, but I know she will support me in whatever decision I make.

Mike returns and helps me out of the shower. I tell him and Laura that I want to make sure I am far enough dilated before getting an epidural, but to find our nurse to get the process started. Mary returns to us, and tells me she will find the resident to check my dilation.

It is approximately 9am when the resident informs me I am almost 5 cm dilated! We are all thrilled that I have dilated this much since the last exam. I feel relieved to have made it to active labor before getting an epidural, as I do not want it to slow down my labor.

The anesthesiologist arrives within 15 minutes, and I follow her instructions implicitly so as to make the procedure move as smoothly and quickly as possible. Mike and Laura are encouraging as I sit still through the uncomfortable process. When it is complete, I start losing the sensation in my feet, then legs, then butt, and soon I feel my uterus harden, but I do not feel pain. “I’m having a contraction now, aren’t I?” I ask, smiling. “I can’t feel the pain!” It is amazing to have this reprieve!

Around 9:30, my OB returns, smiles and says, “So you decided to get the epidural!”

“Yes, I did!” I smile back.

He examines me and informs me I am now 6 cm dilated, so things are progressing quickly. He returns to his office, and will join me later. Then, about 20 minutes after having received the epidural, very soon after my OB has left, I observe that I now can feel my feet.

“That’s normal,” Mary tells me.

Not long after this, I begin to feel my legs, then my butt, and before I know it, I am feeling my contractions again, and they are more intense than before the epidural. “That is not normal,” Mary tells me. I am breathing through each contraction as I was before, closing my eyes, focusing, tuning out my surroundings. Laura tells me to think of the relaxing beach. I visualize the ocean from Mike’s and my babymoon to Antigua and I focus on the waves. I keep telling Mike and Laura that I feel sick and each time, they offer me a pink plastic pan to throw up in, as I am certain I will vomit; I have been certain of this since before even entering labor, as my stomach has always been my weak point, but thankfully, I never end up using it.

I also feel a cold liquid down my back, which is not the mental effect of the drug, but rather an actual liquid leaking. The anesthesiologist returns, apologizes, and fixes whatever the culprit is. However, nothing changes with the pain of my contractions. They are even more intense than before.

Around 10:30, Mary tells me, “I’m going to call the resident to check you out again. You may be dilating so quickly that it’s not working. But you should not be feeling your contractions like this.”

The resident returns and examines me. He is very fast and says, “Well, she’s fully dilated!”

I look at him quizzically. “As in, I’m 10 cm dilated?”

“Yup! You’re ready to go!”

Mary, Laura, Mike and I almost laugh in disbelief. An hour ago, I was 6cm dilated and now I am “ready to go!” My OB was correct in his guess from the previous week that when I do go into active labor, I will most likely dilate very quickly. The resident tells me he will contact Dr. T. who will be here shortly (his office is a few minutes away).

As we wait for my OB to arrive, Mary explains my fast dilation is why the epidural has not worked. I still do not understand this reasoning entirely, but I ask if there is anything they can do to now make it work.

“You don’t want to get anything more at this point, because you want to be able to feel your contractions a little bit when you’re pushing,” Mary tells me.

“Don’t worry—I will definitely feel my contractions!”

“Sometimes, they can ‘top off’ the epidural before you start pushing, but I’m not sure your doctor will have you do that.”

As I wait for my OB to arrive, I begin feeling more excited as I know our son is not far away, more pain from the intense contractions, and more anxiety over the part of labor I have feared the most—pushing.

When Dr. T. arrives, he examines me, then confirms, “Yes, you’re 10 cm dilated!”

He can clearly see that the epidural is not working and he asks if I’d like them to “top it off.” I give him a hearty “yes”, and the nurse calls the anesthesiologist back who administers another small dose.

“Do you feel any relief?” Dr. T. asks me.

“Not really,” I tell him. “Maybe my contractions are shorter?” I am desperate to find something it is helping with. “I don’t know though.”

“Hm,” he says. At this point, I realize there is nothing more anyone is going to be able to do for my pain. I am going to have this baby with no help from medication. Later, one of my friends will joke with me that I failed at having a natural childbirth, and I failed at having a medicated birth! Or conversely, I can view the experience as having a forced-success at the type of birth I’d originally wanted!

My OB walks toward the door and speaks to Mary on his way out. “You can have her start pushing,” he says. “It’s probably going to be a while.” Then he leaves.

Mary comes to my bedside and tells me, “Okay! You’re ready to start pushing!”

“What?” I say. “Can’t I wait a little while?”

“Why would you want to wait, honey?”

“If I wait longer until the baby is more ready, then maybe I won’t have to push for as long?”

“No, your baby is ready. Dr. T. said it’s time for you to start pushing.”

“But I don’t know how to push. I’m really not ready…”

“You’re ready. You can do it,” she encourages me.

Mike and Laura are equally as encouraging. I can sense the utter excitement emanating from my husband—he knows it will be a matter of minutes, or a matter of hours, before we will be holding our baby now. He knows that I am scared, that I am in pain, but he knows that I will get through it—I have to get through it. And I will be healthy and I will be okay. So he is excited. I know these things, as well. And so, I have no choice but to start pushing. Because once I have gotten through the delivery, my pushing and my pain will all be a memory. And the pain and fear a memory holds will not be as bad as the moment.

And so I start pushing. And the next phase begins!

Monday, May 11, 2009

My detailed Birthing Story: Part I – From Home to Hospital

So I will post my detailed birthing story in a few parts. If you would like to read a shorter version, check this post out instead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009:

Today, I diligently work at my “to do” list and finally feel that I have completed the majority of “necessary” tasks. I then meet with my friend for lunch at Cosi. We have been trying to get together for a while, but have been unable to make our schedules work. We decide we must get together soon, as I only have one week before my due date! Mike also calls me from work to tell me his coworkers have thrown him a surprise Baby Shower! We are both touched by this, and think it good timing, although cutting it close a week before my due date (we don't know how close we really come...).

When Mike comes home from work Tuesday night, he takes my 39 week belly shots (and I finally take one of him!). Then we meet with our agent from H & R Block to finalize our taxes (it has been a saga with them, as we’ve visited their office 2 other times prior to this). When we arrive home, it is almost 10pm. There is one piece we must put out in the mail, but everything else has been filed electronically. I am so relieved to have completed our taxes, albeit last minute.

Mike also informs me that he no longer feels sick. On Easter Sunday evening (my birthday this year), Mike starts feeling like he is coming down with a cold. He and I are both very upset about this, as we don’t know when I’ll go into labor and do not want him to be sick when we have our newborn. On Monday, he definitely has a cold. He takes airborne and we pray hard. So we are both ecstatic when he says he feels his cold is gone already Tuesday evening. We thank God and feel another sense of relief!

The rest of my week is fairly planned out. I have a hair appointment on Wednesday morning, and a lunch date with a friend in the afternoon. On Thursday, I am meeting with two more friends, then have an informal photo-shoot with an artist friend on Friday (photos of me pregnant, but also of Mike and me, which we don’t have yet). Then comes our weekend. We have no plans for the first time in as long as I can remember, so we will spend quality time together, as it may be the last weekend we have as a family of two. Even though my doctor has told me he doesn’t think I will make my next appointment with him on Monday, I feel I will at least wait until Sunday to go into labor.

However, I also know that if I were to go into labor tonight, Mike and I are about as ready as we will be. At long last, there is nothing else left that we have to do, only things that we want to do. We are both healthy, our taxes are done, the baby room is ready, shelves are fairly organized, carseat bases are in, we just got the cosleeper set up…We could have this baby now…

Which is good to know, because something unusual is going on with this baby now…

All evening, the baby has been kicking and moving like never before. It feels as though he is hurling himself against the sides of my uterus. He is banging with full force, and not just a leg or a shoulder, but his whole body seems to be shifting and moving. I also am experiencing a lot of cervical pain as he bangs around. I still have what I think are Braxton Hicks contractions, but they are more intense now. It is hard to walk around when I am having them, and before I go to bed, I notice another medical clue that my labor may be coming. Something is definitely up…

Then at 12:30am, I head to bed. Around 1:15am, I get up to go to the bathroom. I go back to bed. Then around 2am, I wake up again, feeling as though I need to go to the bathroom. It is dark and I step out of bed and…

My water breaks…!

Now, a few weeks ago, at the advice of one friend, I put a small waterproof mattress pad under the sheets on my side of the bed. And after I receive my “I don’t think you’ll make it to your appointment next week” news from my OB, Monday and this night, I also put a towel on top of my sheets—again at the advice of a friend whose water broke in the middle of the night.

So when I stand up and realize my water has broken, I grab the towel and head to the bathroom. I turn on the light, turn off the background noise fan, and call to Mike.

“Mike. Mike—get up. I think my water broke,” I say in weary voice.

He gets up and appears at the bathroom door. “Really? Are you sure?” It is dark in the apartment, cool.

“I think so.”

I can tell Mike is getting that giddy-middle-of-the-night excitement. I have a controlled adrenaline pumping through my tired veins also.

I get into the shower and tell him to call the doctor’s office to leave a message for him to call us back. “When he calls back, let me know and I’ll talk to him.”

I stand in the shower and hear Mike on the phone. “She thinks her water just broke…39 weeks…Our number is 914…”

While I am standing in the shower, my mind is pacing. It is not racing. It is slow; it is alert, but it is tired. I tell Mike this is not how I wanted it to happen. I did not want to have my water break so early on. I wanted to labor at home for a while first (my OB said to go to the hospital if my water broke and they would evaluate me then). I did not want to go into labor in the middle of the night on less than 90 minutes sleep. I did not want to go into labor a week early. I wanted to savor one more week of being pregnant…one final quiet weekend with my husband…

But our baby knows what he is doing, and this is the time. So whether it fits my plan or not, this is the night.

My OB calls back quickly, and I tell him I think my water broke.

“You think your water broke?”

“Yeah. I think so...”

“What is it like? Is it a gush or a trickle?”

“Um…I guess both…” I give him some details.

He sounds sleepy and tells me I need to go to the hospital.

“Okay,” I say disappointed, but knowing this is what he will say. We’ve been over this before.

I hang up and tell Mike what the OB says. Earlier on Tuesday, I had called Mike at work on his cell phone and he did not pick up. He called me back a bit later, and I reminded him, “You know, you really should pick up your cell phone if I call you. The doctor said I could go into labor any time, and I’m only a week until my due date.”

“You’re right!” he had said. “I was in a meeting before, but I should pick up anyway. Everyone understands. I’ll definitely pick up if you call no matter what I’m doing.”

But he will never need to receive this call from me! I tell him to get his things together for the hospital. He has not packed anything yet, so he quickly gathers a change of clothes, his toothbrush. I only have one or two things to pack last minute from my list, so after doing that, I turn on my laptop. I email my friends to cancel plans for this week, as well as my family to cancel my hair appointment for me (they don’t have an answering machine at the salon). I grab the envelope for our taxes and put way too many stamps on the outside (I am not sure how many the thick envelope will need), so we can safely drop it in the mailbox on our way. I tell Mike to give our bird extra food and water in additional dishes. I update this blog and my facebook status with a sentence or two, and take another shower and get dressed.

I am feeling more of what, again, I think must be Braxton Hicks contractions. They are mildly painful, but not enough for me to think I might actually be in labor already.

It is now 3:30am, and we are ready to leave. We walk out of our apartment and lock the door. It is dark outside. And raining. The street is quiet and peaceful. It reminds me of when we must catch a 5am flight to go on a vacation. The world is sleeping, and while we are sleepy ourselves, we are excited. The excitement of knowing something very very big and unfamiliar is about to occur.

On the way to the hospital, I call my mother and tell her the news. I am uncertain of when I should call her, as just that night, around 10pm, she sends me this email after I ask her when I should call if I go into labor:

So call our home phone and leave a message. Don't leave a message, but you can call our cell if we don't answer at home. We would get that as a missed call with your number so we'd call you when we found it or when we got home and got the message. Call during the nite if it's that fast, but I'd think it'd be a daytime call first that you are in labor or an early morning one that you're in labor and then sometime that you are going to or are at the hospital. And of course the news! whenever!

When I read the email Tuesday night, I am tired and rushing through it and don’t entirely understand what she is saying. So I decide I will call at 3:45am and tell her regardless. She sounds alert and excited on the phone. At this point, I am having real contractions, but they are erratic—happening every three minutes, then every minute, then barely subsiding before merging into another one, then five minutes of break…

We arrive at the maternity building of the hospital, park, and walk in the rain to the front door. It opens and the security officer asks no questions as he usually does, but simply says, “Second floor,” and pushes the elevator button for us.

We step in and take the ride to the Labor & Delivery Floor, where we will remain for the next ten hours or so, where I will experience pain and exhaustion and elation and incredulity, where the real adventure begins...where our lives really will change forever...

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Birthing Story: The Shorter Version

So after a few weeks of settling into my new role as a mother, I finally am writing up my birthing story. I will have a more detailed story in parts coming soon, but here is my short—or I should really say—shorter version.

On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, after finishing up our taxes, my 39 week belly shots, and a few other miscellaneous “to do” items, I go to bed around midnight. Two hours later, I wake up to go to the bathroom, and my water breaks! I am having contractions, but very erratic, so I am not even sure if they are “real” or just Braxton hicks. In any case, Mike and I head to the hospital at 3:30am, and en route, my contractions start getting much more intense, and I know I am in true labor.

We arrive at Stamford Hospital a little before 4am. It is dark, rainy, and still a very surreal experience. From 4am-10am, my contractions grow much more intense and I dilate from 2cm when I arrive to almost 5cm around 10am. A bit before 10am, after staying in the shower for an hour, breathing through each contraction, feeling intense pain and “sick,” I decide I will get an epidural.

Around 10am, the anesthesiologist administers the epidural and I find relief from my contractions for about 10 or 15 minutes. I am surprised because I can feel my uterus hardening, but I feel no pain! Then, after this initial period of relief, I start to feel my feet again. “This is normal,” the nurse tells me. Then I start feeling my legs, my butt, and most of all, feeling my contractions. They are more painful than they were before the epidural. “This is not normal,” the nurse tells me. She calls for the Resident, who checks me and informs me that in less than an hour, I have dilated to 10cm!

My doctor arrives (I have seen him several times this morning), tells me to start pushing, and from 11am to 12:56pm, I push through every single contraction, taking no breaks (I find it is less painful to be pushing than sitting through contractions anyway). The epidural is not working at all at this point. The nurse tells me this is because I have dilated so quickly (perhaps it also has to do with the fact that some liquid was coming down my back and the anesthesiologist has to come back to “fix” it). In any case, after a bit of figuring out what I’m doing, I feel very in control of my pushing and go with the rise and fall of each contraction. Mike, our doula, several nurses, my OB, the resident doctor, and a student nurse all become my cheering squad, giving great support and creating a fun, energetic vibe to the room.

Finally, the doctor tells me, “You’re going to be a mother with this next push!” And soon our little baby boy is born! He is plopped on my belly and he is healthy, very strong, and expressive. I still cannot grasp that this baby is really ours--but Mike and I are instantly in love with our son.

It is an amazing experience—from start to finish, and while not everything turned out as I’d planned (I went into labor a week early when I was still loving being pregnant and looking forward to a weekend of no plans; my water broke first so I had to go to the hospital sooner; I got less than 2 hours of sleep; the epidural didn’t work), in the end, I would not have wanted anything to have gone differently. I am glad I went into labor a week early, as it gave me a chance to recover before my allergies became too serious (sneezing incessantly after giving birth would not be comfortable). It was incredible to feel a non-medicated birth, which was something I was interested in originally anyway. And Mike and I did accomplish all the items we needed to, albeit only hours before going into labor, before the baby was born. Our baby was ready and I thank God that everything went as smoothly as it did.

Stay tuned for more lengthy details (Is that possible? Yes, it is! This is the fast typist writer here, remember!)! Once again, thanks to all for your love and support through this amazing pregnancy, labor and delivery!