Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Birth Story

Birth Story (n): The tale of how a pregnant woman gets a baby out from under her ribs into the waiting hands of a doctor who has gotten way too familiar with her insides without even buying her dinner first.

Once you give birth, other mothers ask you for your birth story.  They want to know what happened, how fast it happened and how much crying and screaming was involved from both you and your husband.  So now I have a birth story which I am willing to share with the many mamas who have asked.  Warning- this tale involves birthing a child.  If this doesn't interest you, do not proceed.  Parental guidance is suggested.

Wednesday January 5th started out like any other day, I went to work, made plans for the weekend, which involved eating meals with various friends.  I even changed Peanut's nickname to Prize Winning Watermelon- ironic now considering he was only 5 lbs 14 oz.  That size watermelon would clearly not win any prizes.  It may even get mistaken for a cantaloupe which I realize now would have been the more appropriate melon.

And then the contractions started.  How to explain contractions.  Imagine someone is taking your insides and wringing them out like a wet towel but the towel keeps getting wet, like for starters, every 15 minutes or so.  And you just keep thinking, "GOOD GOD ISN'T THAT TOWEL DRY YET?"

Wednesday evening, Trevor and I were treated to a lovely dinner with our good friend Lily and her parents.  We were at Martini's for about 2 hours and I had about 6 contractions in that time.  Thank God for the healing powers of meatballs.  I remember thinking to myself "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, mmmmm meatballs, ow, ow, ow, ow....oooh cannoli!"  On the way home, I was feeling uncomfortable and thought maybe I should start timing these contractions, you know, just for practice.

My amazing modern day husband had the fantastic thought to check his Smart Phone for a Contraction Timer app.  Guess what?  There's an app for that!  It measures the length and frequency of your contractions.  That phone stayed in bed with me all night as I timed out my still very irregular contractions.  Thursday morning came and I was feeling pretty exhausted from spooning my husband's phone all night timing contractions.  I texted my amazing sympathetic boss letting her know I'd be working from home that day due to my insides feeling like pulled pork.  I continued to monitor the contractions using the sassy new app we found and they were steady but nothing too close together.

Friday January 7th.  Wow.  Texted my boss again saying I might be a little late and she just wrote back recommending I stay home.  I am very glad she did.  When I woke up that day, I had no idea it was to be my son's birthday.  When I say that most of that day feels like a blur it's only because Jack was completely determined to be born that day no matter what.

Around 10:00 that morning I made a bowl of oatmeal.  The contractions weren't letting up although they were still anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes apart.  I finally decided to call the OB/GYN who recommended I come in for an exam just to see how things were progressing.  After a super quick shower Trevor and I were headed to Bronson, bags packed in the car...you know, just in case.

Around 12:30 I got my exam.  I was 3 cm dilated and 100% effaced.  When the doctor pronounced me 100% effaced I felt like I should get a trophy.  She seemed so proud of me like me and my little body had accomplished a major feat.  She said that she wouldn't be surprised if he came by the end of the weekend.  Oh good I thought, a couple days to make sure everything is ready!  After strapping me to a fetal heart rate monitor to check the contractions and the baby's heartbeat she sent me to the Labor and Delivery building because the monitor in her office wasn't giving accurate readings.  Around 2pm, strapped to yet another monitor in the L&D triage, Trevor and I made small talk.  We talked about cool days for our baby to be born.  We decided to look up famous people born that weekend.  January 8th boasted some impressive folks- Stephen Hawking, David Bowie, Sarah Polley, cool quirky brilliant people.  We looked up January 7th just for fun.  And who did we find?  Nicolas Cage and Dustin "Screech" Diamond.  Ha!  (Insert irony here) Well good thing our kid probably wasn't coming that day.  (Clearly God was trying to find a way to redeem 1/7 and chose our son to do it)  Trevor and I talked about what we'd have for dinner that night, joked and laughed and just tried to pass the time.  I went down for an ultrasound to check fluid levels.  The tech had to stop 3 times to wait for my contractions to subside.  Hmm, they were feeling more intense...

After another exam and a 5 hour stay in triage, I was still at 3 cm, but feeling weird.  The nurse gave me an Ambien to help me sleep.  That Ambien is still sitting on our dresser in its wrapper and no it's not for sale and no I won't give it to you because that's wrong and illegal and the internet knows everything.  On our way out, I stumbled a bit in the midst of a contraction.  The nurse, who, in voice alone reminded me VERY much of Edie McClurg told me in her folksy "hiya" kind of way that she wouldn't be surprised to see me later that night again.  Trevor helped me back to the car.  Now here's where the story gets magical.  Apparently there is a leprechaun that lives in a pothole on Portage Road.  He is able to dilate pregnant women.  This is my only explanation, I am not a doctor.

We got back home around 5:30 and I was starting to feel sick.  I stood up, I laid down, nothing could ease the pain.  Finally, I put on some blue sweatpants of Trevor's and the Hello Kitty sweatshirt my mom got me in 9th grade.  When I opened that sweatshirt at age 15 I never thought it would be the outfit I'd travel to the hospital with to give birth.  Apropos I suppose since at that moment I felt like a little blubbery girl.  I got into a fetal position on my bed cradling a body pillow while my devoted, wonderful husband coached me through my breathing, gave me water and, trusty phone in hand, timed my extremely intense contractions.  For an hour and a half I laid there as the contractions got more intense and closer together.  Finally after one that seemed to last 8 years, I told Trevor in a shaky voice, "I think it's time to call the doctor."  He told the doctor that my contractions were now 3-4 minutes apart lasting 1-2 minutes.  He told me to come right in.

*Note- if you choose to use an OB/GYN practice with many doctors, be sure you make every attempt to meet them all and get to know them.  You won't know who's on call when you deliver.  If you don't you'll end up like me and meet the man who would deliver my son on the night he delivered my son.  But more on Dr. Lomax later...**

Trevor dropped me off at the door, I could barely stand but sitting didn't feel so hot either.  We slowly made our way to the elevator until I collapsed against a column in the lobby and a kindly Bronson staff member who I will call Mr. Awesome asked if we needed a wheelchair.  I mumbled something incoherently and Trevor said, "Umm yeah, we better."  Mr. Awesome wheeled one right over to us.  Trevor zipped me through the lobby as I writhed around in the chair.  Some lady who I will call Mrs. OHMYGODSHUTUPLADY chuckled and said, "Oh I know where you're going!  I did it many times myself."  If at that moment I could speak I would have yelled, "WANNA DO IT AGAIN FOR ME????  IF NOT SHUT UP AND GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

We made it upstairs, checked in.  They asked me to pee in a cup.  Do not ask me why.  Was it for a pregnancy test?  Is there anything at that moment that could be gleaned from my pee aside from the fact that a head was about to poke out of me?  Nurse Edie McClurg saw me go past in my wheelchair and said in her plucky Wisconsin-esque accent, "I knew I'd see you again tonight!"  "Oh really??" I wanted to yell.  Then why did you give me an Ambien thinking I could possibly sleep though this medieval torture currently happening in my uterus??"  So yes, I was that pregnant women who wanted to rip faces off of people, but only well meaning strangers.  Trevor made it through the entire process unscathed, I promise!

They got me a bed and had me change into a gown.  Bye bye Hello Kitty sweatshirt, thank you for your sweet face to take my mind off of the pain.  2 weeks earlier I found out I had tested positive for Group B strep, a bacteria that many women carry that poses no harmful side effects, but could be harmful for babies which meant that I'd need to get an IV of penicillin right away.  After a quick exam the nurse said, "You're at 7cm!!"  She was amazed.  I had gone from 3 to 7 cm in 2 hours.  Like I said, thank you Portage Road Dilating Leprechaun, you saved the day!

Things started moving quickly as I headed into transition labor.  They had to get the penicillin started.  Then the big question- "Do you know if you want an epidural?"  I think Trevor saw the look of pure panic and fear in my face.  He very calmly said, "She doesn't want one, but might be keeping her options open."  They told me if I wanted one it would have to be right away.  He turned to me, looked me right in the eyes and said, "I support you no matter what you decide, but I really think you can do it without one."  I just nodded.  My hero.

They wheeled me away to Delivery Room #9.  I remembered because it's Trevor's lucky number.  That must be a good sign.  By now it was around 7:30.  Me and my shadow AKA my IV tried standing through the contractions, then I got into a warm bath which helped a bit.  The nurse who was absolutely amazing remained calm and along with Trevor coached me and helped me.  Trevor stayed by my side the entire time reminding me to breathe.  She had me sit on the toilet to try a couple of practice pushes.  Don't worry, Jack wasn't delivered in the toilet.

I finally made it back to the bed for show time.  Dr. Lomax entered the room, a smooth talking Southern gentleman who was all business.  My kind of doctor.  I said, "Nice to meet you, I was supposed to be seeing you on Tuesday for a regular checkup."  Oh well, nothing like getting to know a guy by having him look up your lady parts.  I looked up at my nurse the way I imagine a wounded soldier looked up at Florence Nightingale and in a faint voice asked, "how much longer?"  The nurse assured me that I was moving at lightning speed.  Before I knew it, I was at 10cm and the pushing began.  So many women have told me that pushing was so great, that it felt good.  Let me be the first to call shenanigans on that one.  Pushing HURTS.  It's a different kind of pain than contractions, but make no mistake, it's not a walk in the park.  And it's not like in the movies.  I didn't sweat and scream and threaten to murder my husband.  Dr. Lomax praised my pushing.  I have always been an overachiever and certainly didn't leave it at the delivery room door.  I pushed like my life depended on it.  I pushed like crazy, I pushed and pushed so anxious and eager to meet my son, knowing full well that in a matter of minutes I would be sharing him with the world.  He was no longer my little secret nestled inside of me.  As I felt his body move slowly down and out from me, I was determined to not let those emotions prevent me from getting him swiftly and safely into this world.  After about 40 minutes of pushing, I felt a huge release and then heard the crying.  First from Jack and then from me.

I will say this about a drug free birth, and make no mistake, having gone through it, I do understand why women choose pain relief.  I went into this entirely open to any possibility but would I have another drug free birth?  Absolutely.  The intense wave of euphoria, the sheer rush of adrenaline, the overwhelming endorphin rush was something unlike anything I have ever experienced.  I couldn't have done it without Trevor.  When I heard Jack cry for the first time, I wept.  I blubbered.  Tears streamed down my cheeks.  I looked over at Trevor who was also crying.  I couldn't see my boy yet, I looked down and saw tiny fingers and toes waving in the air as the doctor unwrapped his umbilical cord which hung loosely around his neck.  I looked over at Trevor who cut the cord and within a few minutes they placed my baby boy, my son on my chest.  Tears fell from my cheeks onto his arms, his first bath.  I hugged him and stared into his face for the first time.  "Happy Birthday baby!"

5 lbs, 14 oz, 19 1/4" long.  No prize watermelon to be sure, but all mine.  My mom came in shortly after followed by Uncle Cris.  We hugged for the first time as equals, both fully aware of the change in our relationship.  We're both moms now.  We both understand on the deepest level possible what it feels like to love a little stranger unconditionally.

My new little family was wheeled to the recovery room.  My mom ran down to get us some dinner.  That 10am oatmeal was the last thing I had eaten.  She got me a turkey sandwich, it was the best meal of my life.

My life changed on January 7, 2011 at 11:21pm.  Not many milestones come that precise. So here we are, 10 days into the world, a brand new family.  I don't get much sleep but the sleep I do get is heavenly.  Jack is the best baby with the sweetest disposition, the loveliest smile and the brightest eyes.  In the wee small hours of the morning as I breastfeed him I talk to him and tell him about life.  I call him my little bird.  I am keenly aware of how fleeting these moments are and I try to treasure them.  When I look over bleary eyed and see Trevor changing his diaper at 4am talking sweetly to him I fall in love with him all over again.

I know how unbelievably, extraordinarily blessed I am, there's no other way to put it.  That's my birth story.  The story of the birth of our family and how with a lot of pain, the warmth and compassion of my husband and my trusty Hello Kitty sweatshirt, I became a mom.