Lindsay is an old high school field hockey buddy of mine. We have kept in touch over the years, and now that we're moms it seems we're talking even more. Isn't that how it goes with moms? Somehow you have everything in common again! Lindsay is an awesome mom and someone I really admire. She is confident (though you'll read she doesn't always feel that way). She is funny (totally hilarious, you'll be laughing out loud!). She is REAL. That's what I love most about her, her total honesty. Enjoy her birth story!
After a few months of being pregnant and doing lots of research I decided on my plan of attack. Our midwife joked with us that developing a birth plan is bad luck, “everything goes out the window in that moment.” So, I had three basic goals: no drugs, vaginal birth, and breastfeed. During my pregnancy, I went through a sort of catharsis. I wanted everything in my life natural, organic. We decided to use cloth diapers, I ridded my closets of harmful cleaning products and opted for vinegar and water. This of course didn’t stop me from eating anything that was unnaturally colored, especially Cheetos. I have my limits. But I wanted to “clean up my act” a little bit and have a safe place for our baby. I thought I knew what I wanted when I went in to labor.
I had plans of working right up until the last minute, a few hours shy of intense labor. However, I was growing tired and my feet were taking a beating, so I called it quits on April 1, my due date being the 12. Slacker. Whatevs.
Everyone tells you different things that happened to them when they went into labor. It still amazes me the variety of birth stories. It was April 10 around 10:30pm. The week earlier I had found some energy, I suppose one could call it nesting. The Hubs was in bed and I had attempted to go to bed about three times since 9:30. I kept needing things... water, pee, check the dog... you know. And then I went to the bathroom again and what I thought was urine wouldn’t stop. It was a slow trickle. I was expecting the scene from Baby Mama with Amy Poehler... nope. I got back in to bed, and more fluid. I said to the Hubs, “um, hmmmm.... This isn’t right...my water may have broken, I’m not sure, go back to bed.” (For those of you reading this that haven’t gone through pregnancy, things leak. There was a time about a month or two prior to this event that I thought I was leaking fluid when in fact my thighs had simply gotten more acquainted with another. Couple that with the typical week 34 sweating; you can see where I’m going with this.)
So, I get up and call my doctor. Still a trickle. I’m surprised I even convinced him enough to have us go to the hospital since I was so unsure. Our hospital’s policy is if your water breaks, you will have your baby within 24 hours. Yikes! Alas, as we were getting our stuff together (I had been packed for 2 weeks prior...) there it was, the closest thing to Amy Poehler’s gush. It wouldn’t stop. I was walking around the house with a bath towel between my legs. Class act, right?
It was 11:00ish by the time we left the house. Before leaving, Hubs brought the dog to our neighbor. He was very excited for us and wished us his best. I felt great! No pressure, no stress, no worries, no pain! I was excited! There wasn’t any traffic on our way in, being it was so late in Maine. It was a rather enjoyable ride in. We roll in, register and get settled into our assigned delivery room. And then they gave me Pitocin. That’s right about when I entered Purgatory. I was barely 2cm when they admitted me and I wasn’t effaced at all.
Then they Bedazzled my vagina. All those monitoring things they told me about in birth class was becoming a reality. I thought they only did that in special situations? What the heck? They put in a scalp monitor on the baby, and two or three other wires. Combine that cluster with the belt monitor and the IV you have yourself what looks like the back of my TV.
After about an hour of Pit I caved and asked for some pain medicine. It was some stuff that began with an “F” sound and lasted about 30 minutes a dose. Yeah, I asked for
more... as much as they would give me. (I can see the enticement of recreational narcotic use. There goes goal number 1. In my defense, a Pit labor is one of the worst. I don’t consider myself a ninny. I knew I had a long road ahead of me. After several doses of “F” stuff, they offered me an epidural. They offered about 3 or 5 times when I said “NOW, YES NOW.” I was incredibly slow to dilate.
I remember how painful everything was. I remember staying surprisingly calm only raising my voice once to the Hubs when he let go of my hand. I remember feeling guilty about the “F” stuff and the epidural. I remember the nurse telling me that I need to take shorter breaths. I remember them asking me to move around to help my body dilate, to help the baby put pressure on the right areas. I tried the birth ball, I tried walking, I tried lying on my side. Not much was happening. It was painful. I hated to move because it hurt. I hated to breathe slower because it hurt. I hated to let go of my Hubs hand because it hurt. No ice chips, no sipping water (only upon demand of the Hubs), no music, no chanting. Just breathing.
At one point, I recall a conversation I had with a friend about what labor feels like. She described the pain as menstrual, but more intense. In my opinion, this doesn’t really come close to describing what it felt like. It sucks. It’s painful. I didn’t feel empowered, I didn’t feel liberated, and I wouldn’t consider it an out of body experience.
It was difficult and I give serious props to women who can handle it.
After quite a few hours (like, 18) it was around 7:00 pm the following day. Our midwife, Lois, had left for the evening and Dr. Smith came on duty and would be taking care of us for the night. I had never met Dr. Smith prior to this point.
He checked my cervix, realizing how slow things have progressed and that the situation very well might have come to a standstill. I was only 8cm and it took a lot to get there. He gave us two options: we could continue to try for another hour or so, or we could do a Cesarean section. The baby’s heart rate was strong and there was no reason to worry.
I was resistant to Cesarean because I’ve heard of stories about women not being able to breastfeed, and I didn’t want to consider the situation like I wussed out. I went over my concerns with Dr. Smith and he was very kind, gentle and honest... he put my mind at ease. He allowed us to have a private conversation about this. I was tired. I wasn’t allowed any more epidural. I wasn’t dilating and it had been a long day and night. They say that first time mom’s are in a long labor if they go for 12 or so hours. My Hubs pointed this out to me and helped me see that I gave it an honest effort for a very long time. He’s a good doobie.
They prepped me for surgery and gave the Hubs scrubs to wear so he could be in the operating room with us. There goes goal number 2. It took what felt like minutes. It was a 30-minute procedure. They gave me a spinal tap anesthesia. I could feel lots of pressure and was aware of what they were doing, but it didn’t’ hurt. People talk about feeling things while anesthetized, and this is true. I felt everything they did, no pain. I could picture them making the incision and separating my abdominal muscle wall.
When they pushed hard on my upper abdomen, I felt pulling. I knew that she would be born in seconds. I heard her cry and I knew it was all going to be OK. Hubs was so excited. I didn’t get to see her the first couple seconds. Hubs cut her cord and helped clean her up. He brought you over to me so I could see. I was shaking because of the anesthesia. I kissed her cheek and didn’t really cry.
They brought me to recovery and June to get cleaned up, weighed and measured. During that time, I was anxiously waiting for her, hoping that time hadn’t passed too much and that she would be awake to nurse. I was worried that my reaction when I first saw her wasn’t “good enough” or “emotional enough” or “mom enough.”
They wheeled her in and set up to nurse. She latched. It was a huge relief. I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I thought to myself, “OK, I can do this.” Goal number 3, achieved. That’s all I needed. June was born at 8:15pm on April 11. She weighed 7lbs 14 oz and were 20.5 inches long. She had one heck of a head of hair and her dad’s feet.
It was hospital procedure for us to stay in the hospital for four days. After going through all of this and some time has passed, I can say we had a fantastic hospital experience. The nurses were fantastic. However, I’m doing some research into a birth center near by. I’ve learned that each hospital has different policies (i.e. a friend of mine that just had a baby was sent home after she went to the hospital because her water broke, only giving birth 36 hours later.) For a while after June was born, I was concerned that I wasn’t able to try for a vaginal birth. Why did they suggest a c-section (just prior to birth, I got into Rikki Lake’s The Business of Being Born)? Now, I have learned that since this is rural Maine, the doctors up here aren’t trying to meet a quota, they aren’t trying to boost statistics, they aren’t trying to get home for dinner. It was a legitimate suggestion by Dr. Smith. Overall, I’m simply happy that we have a happy and healthy baby.
Hubs and I made the decision well before all this that we wanted just us in the room and no visitors for the first 24 hours. We are happy with our decision, parents and friends waited (ever so patiently) to come meet June. My cup runneth over.
I suppose this next part has to fit in June’s birth story. This is what made the next weeks at home with a newborn hell. A spinal headache. The day after I had June I had a headache. I thought it was from sleeping funny. It was just a headache, I thought.
In the afternoon, this headache was not going away. It wasn’t like a migraine, just a very strong headache that came and gone in coordination with my siting position – gone when lying down, there when I sat up. This made it incredibly difficult and uncomfortable to feed June, so there were lots of side-feeds. The doctors told me “it feels like the worst headache of your life.” Yep. That’s about right.
I was offered a blood patch, where they take blood from one part of my body and insert it into the spinal space to help block what’s causing the pain. Having to sit up for this procedure in another part of the hospital was painful. Being kept in a far off distant land for 30 minutes longer than necessary because they couldn’t get someone to wheel me back to the 7th floor, keeping me from feeding my baby was excruciating. It makes me cry just thinking about it. I remember lying there, waiting for someone to wheel me back up. I remember tears rolling down my neck, hoping someone would walk by me so I could express to them my concern and desperation. Screw the blood patch, screw the headache, I was ready to walk out.
Finally, two ladies that I believe were physicians (and we all understand the American hierarchy of medicine...) saw my despair and brought me back to my baby. As soon as they opened the elevator doors to the 7th floor I could hear her screaming. I knew my
baby’s cry and I knew what she wanted. The 50 steps from the elevator to the room took an eternity. Hubs was holding her, she was purple faced and crying. Frustrated and starving. My father was pacing the hallway, waiting for me to come back. He even understood the desperation. I ripped off my gown, careless of who was there and took my baby back. This was the most intense attachment and emotion I had felt towards my baby since having her.
It was that moment, when I finally got back to my baby, that I knew that this not-not- planned pregnancy brought me something that I never could nor would turn my back on. As cliché and corny as it sounds, having a child is an intense, unconditional and boundless love. I didn’t think I was cut out for motherhood. I thought that my maternal instinct was as good as a compass you got from a Cracker Jack box. In that moment I had hope, I had hope that maybe I could be a good mother. I still have thoughts and feelings of inadequateness. I still have to Google nursery rhymes and the words to “This Little Piggy.” I still think back on the person that I was and wonder whatever happened to me? Who am I? How did I get here and should I stay? But then I look at my daughter... and she’s chewing on a milk marble. And she has some crusty cruds on her cheek, and her neck smells like Gorgonzola. I think, “good golly I love this thing.” It’s an impossible love. (No, not real marbles, it’s a term we dubbed for thick spit-up; yes, I keep my child clean but sometimes you just can’t keep up with boogies and stinky necks.)
The blood patch (I believe) came loose during my linen changing and the CNA had me standing for about 20 minutes while she talked about her kids’ school district (worst part of the experience. Best: “room service” involving pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and milk shakes.) I endured the headache for its full course of 10 days, staying horizontal at home, desperate for relief. One day it went away. I still feel guilty for not holding her more during those first few days, but a spinal headache really knocks you down.
As for the hospital bag and our stay-
I’m a packer. I love to pack. I’m one of those people that pack two weeks in advance. So, that’s what I did. I packed a coming home outfit for me and baby, a robe, socks, toiletries (including soap and shampoo), and a book. That’s it. Qu’el surprise when I went to put on my coming home out fit it didn’t fit. I hand-to-god thought I would be able to fit into a button down that I wore around 5 months, but grew out of around 7 months. No one told me the belly didn’t go away when the baby arrives!! I wish I brought my pillow. I wish I had a full size bath towel. I feel better when I look better, I wish I had packed pajamas... normalcy helps me heal. Pack what makes you happy. I read too many of those “10 Things You Must Have In Your Hospital Bag” write- ups. I know now what I want to pack for next time. Yes, there will be a next time and it took me about 13 weeks postpartum to be able to say this.