Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chloë's birth story, part 1

Seeing as it's been, um, eight weeks, I thought I'd start working on keeping my promise and put up Chloë's birth story. It will be in several parts, because I love useless detail, but there will be no quiz, so feel free to tune out if you don't want to hear about how crackers, wet shorts, a bean bag, a Jacuzzi, and what Eric keeps calling hallucinations lead up to our overlord's birth. (There will be some graphic content, as well, so be warned.)


The evening of July 22nd, 2009, I was lying on the couch, reading. I had finally gotten the last answers I needed on my paperwork for my maternity leave that day and planned to turn it in the next day. I also planned to buy a R.I.N.D.S. rig the next day since I knew time was running low, though I still firmly believed that, having had the world's most boring pregnancy so far, I would continue to be solidly normal by being a few days late.

I wanted a snack, so I retrieved the box of Wheat Thins Fiber Selects Garden Vegetable (they taste better than they're titled). I lay down again, bit into a cracker, and felt an odd sensation between my legs. Sort of a sudden spurt of liquid sensation. Not exactly like peeing my pants (which Jackie warned us was what most "I think my water broke" situations turned out to be), but I could see how it could be confused with that. So I put down the box of what I will forever call my water-breaking crackers and went upstairs.

"What do you think?" I said to Eric, once I'd confirmed that my underwear was quite a bit bloodier than a simple pants-wetting incident would have called for.

"Huh," he said. We looked at each other.

Another spurt of fluid exited me, also tinged with pink. "Huh," I said. "I should probably call the midwives."

The number the midwives had given me was for an answering service; the lady who answered promised that someone would call right back. I went and laid on the bed with Eric and waited.

"Hello," I said when the midwife on call, Sandy, called me, and then, idiotically, "How are you?"

"You had me paged," she reminded me.

"I think my water broke," I said.

"How far along are you?" she said.

"Thirty-nine weeks."

"Well, it may be nothing; or sometimes the baby kicks just right and a little comes out," she said. ("She wet her pants," I could hear her thinking.)

"Tell her there was blood," Eric said, and I did so.

"Oh," she said, her tone changing. "Well, let's have you come to the hospital and be examined. When do you think you'll be here?"

"Maybe half an hour?" I guessed.

I hung up and Eric went into action: going straight for the mostly-packed bag, retrieving the list of what was left and packing them. I was getting more spurts of liquid, so I sat on the toilet. "We may not be staying," I said, though I didn't really believe it.

"It's better to have it and not need it," Eric said as he continued to shovel things into the suitcase.

We weren't ready to leave until nearly an hour had passed; I'd called at nine, and it was almost ten. Eric brought the suitcase down to the car; I dashed upstairs to change my pad again just when I was putting on my shoes, and then we were off.

This may be the last time we ride in this car as a childless couple, I thought in car on the way to the hospital (still not wanting to commit to the idea that I was going to the hospital to stay). I'm really glad the mothers gave us these waterproof pads, I thought (shifting around on the one I'd put down on my seat).

"Ugh," I said when we arrived at the hospital, looking down at my shorts, which were now soaked. But there was nothing to be done, so we entered. Another pregnant woman was ahead of us, being registered. While we waited, I noticed a couple of people in the waiting area notice my shorts. I watched a few droplets run down my leg to my sock.

When the lady at the registration desk noticed me, she gave me the appropriate form without even asking why I was here and shanghaied a nurse to take me upstairs. (The other pregnant woman got a wheelchair. I wasn't offered one, which was fine since I was in no pain and didn't really want to sit down in my wet shorts anyway. I wonder if the woman at registration had similar thoughts.)

That nurse, who turned out to be the supervisor just about to go home for the evening, took us to one of the triage rooms. "We'll examine you in here," she said, pulling a hospital gown from a cupboard. She started to hand me the gown, then really looked at me. "Oh!" she said. "We don't need to examine you. Let's get you a room."

She led us further down the hall, toward the nurses' station. They saw me and started to laugh. "I was going to put her in triage until I noticed her clothes," our nurse confessed. "It's kind of obvious, isn't it?" said one of the ones at the desk. I was kind of annoyed that while I had avoided being laughed at for coming for a false alarm, I hadn't gotten away with not being laughed at.

The room had a pull-out couch, a DVD player, a small fridge, an uncomfortable (the nurse said) bed, and a bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. I changed into the hospital gown and was helped onto the bed (which wasn't really that bad) over a waterproof pad. Our nurse introduced us to the current nurse on duty, who was sick and was quickly replaced with our first real nurse, Stephanie.

"First we need to get you hooked up to the monitors," she said. I wasn't excited about the monitors to start with, having read that electronic fetal monitoring has made absolutely no difference to birthing outcomes except for potentially contributing to the C-section rate, but I knew that the hospital required some initial monitoring and the midwives had told me it wouldn't need to be done continuously after that.

So I spread the gown and moved my hips so that Stephanie could get the two belts on me. "You have such a cute belly!" she said. "Do you even have any stretch marks?"

"I don't know," I said vaguely, though I did.

"Let me look." She did, and (mothers of the world, do not hate me) pronounced, "You don't have a single one!"

The two belts (one to monitor contractions, one to monitor fetal heartbeat) did their thing. The baby looked perfect and I was actually having occasional contractions, though I couldn't feel them. Sandy came in and said to me, "I'm really sorry your water broke so early. You're the last person I wanted this to happen to." She explained that I was under a twenty-four-hour deadline, and that if my contractions didn't start progressing very soon, she was going to have to start Pitocin on me. I was completely unenthusiastic about this, and she said she could give me a couple of hours, including a little bit of sleep. So Eric curled up on the couch, and me in the bed, and we did our best to sleep.

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