Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Birth

written February 16, 2006

I took out the birthing earrings my husband had given me early in the pregnancy. No jewelry in the operating room. After 31 hours of labor, I was headed for a c-section.

The day before, I had sat on the couch watching a rerun of Sasha Cohen's appearance on Project Runway. Tom snuck up, leaned over me, looked at his watch, and said, "So how many hours warning did you want before the induction? Two and a half?"

With quivering legs, I jumped into the shower. I blow-dried and even curled my hair. I wanted to look my best welcoming our baby into the world.

The Induction

At the hospital, Dr. E. inserted a saline foley catheter into my cervix. The idea was that it balloon over the next four to eight hours, falling out when I reached three to five centimeters.

My contractions began immediately. The first hour, they were like menstrual cramps. "Was that one?" I'd ask. Soon, though, there was no questioning. About every five minutes, a belt would pull tightly across my abdomen, growing tighter and tighter as the night wore on. Sleep was out of the question.

It wasn't a bad night, though. The hospital brought me food and drink, and I didn't have to have an IV... yet. Even once those contractions required my full concentration, I gloried in it. It meant I was making progress.

So I thought. Eight hours later, that catheter still hadn't fallen out. I could see on my doctor's face that that wasn't a good sign.

We waited awhile longer, then I started pitocin. This meant having an IV (the first of six, since I blew one out every few hours) and continuous fetal monitoring. As my contractions grew more intense and closer together, I wanted to rip from me all these lines, drips, and monitors.

Still, I managed to remain mobile. I changed positions in the bed and stood beside the bed. I rocked on all fours. Tom massaged every part of my body.

My frustration began when, after several hours on the pit, I was only four centimeters dilated. My doctor wanted to break my bag of waters. While I had originally planned to postpone this step, knowing it would place a time limit on my labor, I agreed. By this time, I wanted a time limit. Plus, the doctor said we could quit the pitocin if my contractions got strong enough, and I figured breaking my water might do the trick.

I had somehow forgotten that the force of contractions greatly increases after the waters are broken. Oh, the pain! I added visualization to my coping strategy, but when I pictured "riding the ocean's waves," all I could picture were tidal waves.

The contractions came every two minutes. I spent a couple of hours like this with no progress. After a total of 20 hours laboring on my own, I asked for an epidural.


Unfortunately, my luck with epidurals wasn't much better than with IVs. It took two tries to get one to work, and it quit working on one side after several hours. Still, it provided much-needed relief. For a time.

As the time drew near to push, though, I remembered all the reasons I didn't want an epidural. I dreaded the thought of pushing that baby out on my back.

Furthermore, I didn't feel capable of pushing. By then, I hadn't slept in over forty hours, 31 of which had been spent in labor. My stamina was gone. I cried to Tom, cried to the nurses (Brandi and Candy!), telling them I couldn't do it.

So when the doctor checked me again and found that after 4 hours in transition, I still had not reached 10 centimeters, and apologetically suggested a c-section, I could have hugged his neck.

The C-Section

Efforts to up my epidural proved fruitless. As the anesthesiologist gave me a spinal block, I blew the fifth of my IVs and received the sixth.

I shook uncontrollably. I began to feel delirious, like I couldn't catch my breath. Tom held both sides of my face to keep my shaking jaw from ramming into my head over and over.

Then came the most beautiful sound I'll ever know. I wasn't even sure the c-section had begun when I suddenly heard a loud, strong baby wail. Tears streamed down my face.

I heard the medical attendants saying "wow" and "whoa" and "I want to know the weight on that one." Then the doctor whipped the baby around the curtain and showed me my screaming babe.

"I can't see what it is!" I cried, and Dr. G. moved the umbilical cord. "A boy! It's a boy! I knew it!"

I continued to cry. So did the baby. All 9 pounds, 11 ounces of him! My husband was able to hold him, and I kissed his head.

Our First 24 Hours

After I was sewn up, I took a while to recover. The hospital offered to bring him to me to nurse, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't try, I mean. I still feel guilty about this, but all I could think about was how tired I was. I wasn't myself. I was jacked up on morphine and still in extreme pain from the surgery.

It wasn't until 4:00 a.m., almost four hours after his birth, that I was ready to see him. My memory of this is vague, since I was still on morphine and had been unable to sleep (whether from pain or excitement, I don't know). I had an IV in the crook of my arm, which made holding a baby difficult. A nurse and my husband held Peter to my breast to eat.

I remember feeling overwhelmed, a feeling that hasn't left me. I am overwhelmed with the responsibility. I am overwhelmed with joy. I am overwhelmed by the new side I see to my husband, now a father. I am overwhelmed with worry. I am overwhelmed by my own emotions.

Most of all, when my son meets my eye, I am overwhelmed with love.

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