Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Graham & the birth story

I had a son, and it turns out he's the most perfect creature. I couldn't have imagined him better than he is. All I can guess is he's my reward for time served in the infertility game, plus all the fun crud during pregnancy, not to mention the birth.

We named him Graham Joseph. He's very alert and so far (fingers crossed, knock on all the wood everywhere) he only cries when his diaper change is taking too long or I haven't whipped out my boob fast enough and he's hungry. Even when he cries, I think it's the cutest damned thing I've ever seen. He makes the most adorable puppy dog noises in his sleep and smiles by accident. Once or twice he has slept for four-hour stretches, giving me hope that there is a future during which I will once again be allowed to sleep for, perhaps, six hours at a stretch. Right now that sounds better than a trip to Disneyland.

My favorite thing to do with Graham is let him sleep on my chest. I think it's actually his favorite thing, too. We share body heat and I get to stare at his adorable little face and just marvel that somehow, miraculously, I grew this beautiful kid in my body. I didn't screw it up! (I am going to cry as I write this entire thing, I just know it. I'm still in the thick of the postpartum hormone fiesta, so every day I'm in a puddle about something.)

Ok, so let's talk about the birth. You'll recall that at 39 weeks, I found out the placenta previa was no longer an issue, so I opted to go into labor naturally and have a vaginal birth. I felt utterly unprepared for it, but thought with my friend Katie's help (she's a doula), and an epidural some time around the 5 centimeters, I'd be able to pull it off.

This is when all my friends who warned me not to have any expectations about the birth get to laugh, laugh, laugh.

My water broke at home, the day after my due date. Which is funny because they say this rarely happens; supposedly it's only in something like 10% of births. But this has happened to practically every woman I know, so I'm not sure what the deal is. I can't speak for other women as to their experiences with their water breaking, but for me it was like you see on television. If I'd been wearing a dress, there'd easily have been more than a gallon of fluid on the floor. And it kept gushing out over the next several hours, in massive amounts (this post may not be for the faint of heart).

The on-call doctor told me to go to the hospital in six hours, so I labored with light contractions at home for a short while. I wish I could have stayed home until I was really ready, though, because when I got to the hospital I was only dilated 1 centimeter. That's when you know you're in for a long wait, right? The nurse wanted to start me on cervadil, but I really wanted to get things moving naturally. As soon as I told her that, it was like I'd made an instant enemy, and every nurse I would come into contact with in the next 40 hours would be armed against me with this information. "Why do you want to do that?" she asked me. Well, because I wanted it to start naturally. I just did. And I'd heard mixed things about cervadil, which is medication they place against your cervix to help you efface/dilate.

I was allowed to try to get things moving on my own for three hours, so I walked hallways and the stairs and tried nipple stimulation (such fun), and as you're probably guessing, it didn't work worth shit. So I tried the cervadil, which slipped out after a few hours because my water had already broken and fluid was still flowing out. So I took another round of cervadil and that got me mostly effaced, and to two centimeters. This was frustrating to me, as it was now noon the following day, and I'd technically been in labor for 24 hours. Contractions weren't mind-bending or anything, but I couldn't sleep through them.


So yes, it was time for pitocin, since they don't let women in my situation just hang out and wait for things to happen on their own. Pitocin is no goddamned joke, you guys. They bumped up the dosage every half hour, and by the third hour, I was in tears. Katie probably described it best when she said I had a look of panic on my face. That sort of inescapable pain is simply not for me, so I ordered the epidural, pronto, and the anesthesiologist arrived quickly and took care of business. After this I was, of course, confined to the bed, with an IV, a catheter, baby monitor, blood pressure monitor, and at times oxygen to keep the baby active. It was not how I'd envisioned spending the remaining 12 hours of my labor, but there was no choice, of course. I managed to doze a bit, and by midnight, I was FINALLY fully dilated and ready to push.


I could feel the contractions coming on, and when people say it feels like you have to take a big poo, they aren't joking. I totally pooped on the table, as predicted, and nobody cared. Well, people probably cared, but I don't care. I had a wonderful nurse named Sarah at that point -- she was a former midwife and actually expressed gladness at having a doula in the room. She and the other members of my "birthing team" -- ha! My mom, my husband, and Katie -- held my legs, helped me count while pushing, encouraged me, helped me try different positions ....

for three hours.

At this point I couldn't believe it had been three hours. I knew I was utterly exhausted. It was early Tuesday morning and I hadn't really slept or eaten since Sunday. There was only one point during the pushing that I really felt the baby's head moving into the birth canal. Sarah said she could see his head and hair, so I knew he was coming, and I just needed to keep going.

Except my doctor came in, groggy with sleep, to tell me my pubic bone was blocking the baby's path. She didn't want to use forceps or the vacuum (nor did I), and she thought the safest choice at that moment was a c-section.

At this point I was so tired and disappointed, I just agreed to it and had a good cry. I was made to drink a disgusting anti-reflux concoction, then met the anesthesiologist. My husband donned scrubs, and I was whisked into surgery, past my doctor, who was gulping a mug of coffee (it was now 4 a.m.). They hoisted me onto a narrow table and spread my arms onto boards. A sheet was raised between me and the doctors so I couldn't witness what was about to happen, although at that point, I was so tired and gloomy I allowed myself to drift in and out of sleep. Medicine poured like ice water into my spine and the anesthesiologist asked me to tell him when I could no longer feel my stomach being poked with something sharp. It took a few minutes to get the medicine at the appropriate level. My husband was led in and held my right hand as the surgery began.


So, right off the bat, there was something wrong. I was being tugged this way and that and there was a lot of talk of my bladder being distended and in the way, in addition to being full of blood. Thank you, nurse who jacked up my catheter. A different doctor had to be brought in to fix this issue, and then finally they could get down to brass tacks. I don't remember what was said -- "Here he is," or "congratulations," or "It's a boy," but his little blue body was passed to a waiting nurse and whisked into an adjoining room. I asked my husband to follow him, so he did. Which is about when the surgery began to feel painful.

It started as tingling and then quickly progressed to burning and stinging, the sensation growing stronger and stronger. "I can feel it," I told the anesthesiologist. "Like pressure?" he asked. "No, like pain." He injected more of that cold juice into my spine, but it didn't help, and I felt each remaining sickening step of the procedure, each staple as it shut me up. Tears were running out of my eyes and my doctor was reassuring me, "hang in there, we're almost done." And then my husband brought the baby to me, and Graham? He was the most stunning thing I'd ever seen, so then I was crying for multiple reasons. He was so much more beautiful than I could have imagined, and his eyes were wide open, staring at me. I know babies don't really smile, but he smiled. And I swear to God, for that moment, I would relive the entire nightmarish pregnancy and birth countless times.

The surgery ended, and my mouth was horribly dry. If you could die of having a dry mouth, I was nearly there. And I began to shake uncontrollably. They wheeled me into recovery and my same trusty nurse, Sarah, was there, reassuring me that she was armed with All The Drugs and would have me feeling no pain in a jiffy. Which she did. The shaking abated and I was brought water and ice chips, which I unwisely guzzled. Graham was brought to me and he immediately latched to a boob and fed. I was euphoric and in love, in spite of it all. Of course, then I started vomiting and didn't stop for several hours (a true pleasure with a c-section incision), but I was still in complete awe.




We stayed in the hospital for two more days. Women with c-sections can stay for four, but we were exhausted -- the nurses come in at all hours for god knows what reason -- and we wanted to be home on Thanksgiving, which is the day we were finally discharged.

I didn't feel quite right, but I knew staying at the hospital wasn't going to help anything. It was a good call, since I was able to get slightly more rest at home.

 8 lbs, 6 oz, 21 inches. He's 2 weeks old today.


 Meeting Simon. So far the cats are unimpressed.



I know it took me a while to get this up, and I didn't write it all in one shot because: baby. Yeah. Turns out they need stuff all the time. But, I'll do my best to keep the blog updated as I embark on this adventure in parenting.