And now, for something completely different: He's here! The baby has arrived and the labor is behind us (sort of) and updates will now ensue, in handy timeline format, for those who like to skim....or something. This entry will cover Labor and Delivery and the next entry will cover what happened next.
Sunday, January 13
2:30am--I awaken to what feels like really bad menstrual cramps. I am sleepy and so don't right away realize that, umm, I should not be having menstrual cramps at present.
3:30am--cramps become longer and stronger and more pronounced and suddenly it occurs to me that these might be significant. And not menstrual. And I vaguely remember one of my long-ago-pregnant friends telling that she was miffed that no one told her it would be like having your period...but a whole lot worse.
4:30am--not sleeping at all now and trying to decide how long I let these go before doing...something else.
5:30am--the husband's alarm goes off, accidentally set to get him up in time for his last shift. Taking advantage of the alarm, I ask him to go get the stop watch and come time what may or may not be contractions. He does, very sleepily, and the verdict is...mixed. "Contractions" lasting from 45 seconds up to 2 minutes, coming every 3 or 5 or 7 minutes. Hmmm, this does not fit any of the profiles outlined in the baby books or in childbirth class. What to do, what to do? Sensibly, the husband says we should go to the hospital and so we do.
6:isham--arrive at the hospital where they tell us I am indeed contracting and am now 2 cms dilated and 80% effaced and contracting fairly regularly (so we were right)...but that's not enough. (What??) So here is here is the hospital's plan: go walk around for 2 hours. If I am more dilated when we return, then they will admit us. If not, the contractions will probably go away. So, off we go to walk around "the horseshoe," a drop-off loop outside the hospital, after eating some fruit at the cafeteria. Progress is slow: I am stopping frequently to huff and puff my way through a contraction and walking very gingerly in between. Luckily, the weather is great, warm enough for me to be out in sweatpants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and flip flops (the only shoes that still fit, by the way).
8:30am--After an hour and a half, the contractions are getting so bad I am crying my way around the laps and the husband suggests we return to labor and delivery, but I am irrationally afraid they will turn us away since it hasn't been exactly two hours. More sensible heads prevailed and we returned, to find I was now 3 cms dilated and 100% effaced. Hurrah: admission! (The husband did some quick "math" and decided that with the velocity of changes in dilation, the baby would arrive at 6:00pm.)
8:45am--the nurse wondered if I wanted an epidural already. What? Is that even possible? (yes.) Are there huge side effects on the baby? (no.) Effects on labor? (no.) Seriously?? (yes.) Sign me up! We were quickly admitted and the epidural was administered shortly thereafter. Now, getting the epidural was no picnic, particularly since at the moment when I was supposed to be ABSOLUTELY still or risk, you know, paralysis, I had my biggest and most painful contraction yet. The husband was watching the monitor when it happened and it was off the chart, the first one he had seen like that. So, in other words, perfect timing.
6:00pm--The epidural is WONDERFUL! I am talking through massive contractions and not even noticing them. We call our families and check in; we chat; we meet doctors, nurses, med students, and all sorts of people; we bond with our nurse, Simone; I have my vital signs taken; my contractions get a tad less regular, I get pitocin, and then they become uber-regular once again. In short, things are groovy. My epidural is quirky, in that my right leg goes completely and totally numb, so I feel like I am crippled and the husband has to move it for me, and one spot (the accursed area, as it will hence be known) at the base of my back on the left side still has feeling but not total feeling, at least not now, so it's manageable. Politics aside, I am a huge fan of the drugs that I got, because I could not have handled much more than I was already feeling and that was still pretty early on. My acupuncturist will be disappointed, but I seriously doubt I would have made it otherwise.
6:15pm--There is some debate over what happened here, but I will give my perspective and then intersperse the husband and the doctors' opinions. All of the sudden, I felt like the epidural stopped working. The feeling came back in both of my legs and in my back and it HURT! I mean, really really really hurt. Simone announced it was time to push. And I discovered that I couldn't. Yep, no pushing for me, because I couldn't feel anything between my waist and my thighs. And wouldn't you know, it's sort of hard to "bear down" when you can't feel "down." This was a problem.
8:00pm--Lots of laboring, where I got a little better at pushing as the anesthesia wore off (my take) or the baby started affecting new sets of nerves (the husband and the doctors' explanation. Whatever!) All the contractions were coming fast and furiously, and I could feel every blasted one. My little extra pain medication clicker was borderline useless (it may have been totally useless, but it provided with some sense of control that I wasn't going to give up even when it was clear that all the clicking was really only helping in my head.) However, I didn't get better at pushing fast enough and just started wearing out really quickly. The husband was a great coach, so good every doctor who came by to help/watch complimented him on his technique and asked if he had done this before. A helpful med student who came by and then stayed on to help was also very encouraging and between him on my right and the husband on my left, I had great cheerleaders. But nothing much was happening very quickly in the way of progress. Poor Simone, with us from the start had to leave at 7 and even stayed to see if perhaps the baby might come just after but eventually she had to go and still there was no baby. And the new nurse was not my favorite, so that was disappointing. I was bereft a lot of this time, threatening to give up, crying and whining pathetically, and generally thinking I would never make it. Fun times.
8:15pm--the new nurse has a brainstorm: tug-of-war! Yes, indeed, tug-of-war. The husband held one end of a sheet at the foot of the bed while I held the other. The nurse and the med student on each side held my legs, and, when I pushed, I also pulled on the sheet, trying to pull it away from the husband. Apparently, this maneuver was hugely successful in making progress where little had been made for quite some time. (On one push, the husband told me to "dig deep," which really ticked me off for some reason, so when we were done with that push, I gasped "no sports stufff!" hoping he would figure out what I meant because that was all I could come up with. Amazingly, he got it immediately and the jargon disappeared at once!) All at once, I realized there were 10 people in the room, mostly men, staring at...you know. And that was the last coherent thought I had for a while, while the final pushing ensued. They asked if I wanted to watch. Umm, no. Thanks, but no thanks. I do not need a visual of this. They asked if I wanted to feel his head. Again, no. I know that can be motivating to some, but I do not want to know exactly how big this thing is that I have to do, thanks very much. They asked if I wanted an episiotomy, and I said no, vehemently, not realizing that I was already tearing and could have made that easier on myself but, as I said, not many coherent thoughts going on. I do remember thinking that I wanted them all to shut up at one point, since they were having this insanely inane conversation about collecting some material for a study but I didn't have the energy to yell.
9:00pm--my energy is fading once again but we launch into another tug-of-war session anyway.
9:05pm--and then, all of the sudden, they tell me not to push (okay! now we're talking!), and then there is this curious sliding sensation and there he is, a HUGE baby, who barely cries. Which is convenient given that the husband is hysterically crying and I am just sitting there, thinking, "are we done?" Sadly, no, there was the placenta to deliver, which was painful as well and took many minutes. BUT, in the meantime, we discovered that our new baby weighed 8 pounds, 10 ounces (or, as everyone kept saying "he's so BIG!) and was 21 inches long (part of which was his pronounced cone head, the result of sitting in the birth canal for so long before the tugging happened. sorry baby!) They put him on my chest and he continued not to cry but to look around at us confusedly. He has lots of blonde hair and big dark grey eyes and a nose we can't place and sometimes he roots around with his head in a way that reminds me of a turtle. He looks like neither of us yet, and his cheeks (the combination of our that we were so sure would overwhelm his face) are normal-sized.
They say you forget all about labor, like it's some magical fairy dust that makes you forget forever what happened. They are on crack, as usual. I think what happens is that you suffer from some form of PTSD in combination with (in my case) drug-induced amnesia and hormonal euphoria. I remember everything except some of the worst pushing when I was literally out of my head. Afterwards, I was in shock. I didn't cry, just sat there, totally exhausted, slumped forward on the bed, looking glassy-eyed. I didn't care to see or not see the baby at that point and was glad the husband stepped in and bonded with him right away like a good parent. I do have a visual of seeing myself in the mirror in that state and noticing that I hardly recognized the laconic, wan, weak woman in front of me and could not put her together with this "mom" everyone kept addressing (which was me, see).
I think what happens is you lack the words to properly express what you've felt, and, as we all know, without the narrative, there is no experience. This, part one, is an attempt to counteract that tendency and make the flesh word. Next time, the first night with the new baby and the ensuing complications and rewards.