Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chloë's birth story, part three

In honor of Chloë's upcoming first birthday, I thought I'd *cough* actually finish the birth story. Recap: I ate a cracker, my water broke, we drove to the hospital at our leisure, the nurses laughed at me, we napped, we walked for miles, things hurt, we moved around, things hurt more, I tried the Jacuzzi, I got to 8-9 cm at around noon...

...Time rolled on. Things hurt. I kept looking at the clock opposite my bed, thinking, this has to be over by nine or they're going to cart me off to surgery. "You're still not quite fully dilated," Amy said some time later, checking me again. "I can still see the cervical lip. Let me see--maybe we can push it out of the way--" She did things with her fingers. It hurt, but so did everything during a contraction--though between contractions I felt fine, other than exhausted. I didn't hear whether it worked. She walked in and out. So did Shannon occasionally. "Trust me, this baby won't flop out on the floor," Amy said, and I was disappointed.

You won't necessarily get a C-section if we go past twenty-four hours," Shannon said, when I said something about my deadline. "It's just that the risk of infection is greater, so we'll have to do a sepsis check on the baby." That didn't sound great, but I was glad to hear that I wasn't necessarily headed for the operating room if I never got to pushing stage, which is how it was starting to feel.
They kept taking my temperature and the baby's heartbeat every half hour. Eventually, around two or three, the pain started to change to a different sensation. "I'm starting to feel the urge to push," I said, and Amy, who had just walked in, said, "Hallelujah!"

It's hard to describe how it felt, and it still hurt, a lot, which I had understood wasn't supposed to happen. "Where are you feeling the pain?" Amy asked me again. "In the front or the back?"

"In the front," I said. I was trying to push, but the need to do so wasn't strong enough yet, and she said, "Don't push if you don't feel you need to." That made sense, but I was so tired, and everything hurt, and I just wanted to be done.
The need-to-push sensation grew, but the pain didn't abate. I continued to scream during contractions and rest between times. I felt absolutely no pain when I wasn't actively in a contraction, and I started to doze during those times.

Eventually Amy and Shannon were there together again and Amy said, "You're turning the energy of your contractions mostly to screaming, not to pushing." Shannon said to me, "Okay, Jenny. You're not allowed to scream anymore." I felt indignant. So they thought I was goofing off? Did they think I liked screaming? "When the next contraction comes, I want you to hold your breath and push until I say."

The next one came, and she said, "Take a breath!" I did, and bore down. "Let it out! Take a breath! And breathe."

This was now what we did every contraction. They had me try a birthing bar for my legs, which I hated, and then for my arms, which was okay for a short while. Every time I got the sensation that another contraction was starting, Shannon coached me: "Take a breath. Let it out. Take a breath. Breathe."

It really did help, and I worried less about the other mothers on the floor, but it tired me out even more. I had given up trying different positions and was now lying on my back, with Eric/Shannon/Amy/Martha holding my legs up during contractions. I felt vaguely guilty about making them do it, and about being on my back, which my books said is actually a lousy labor position, but I was so tired. So tired. I was still dozing between contractions, and closing my eyes during them, and starting to think that maybe surgery wasn't going to be so bad after all.

Then, during a contraction, I fell asleep.

It was only for a fraction of a second. Then I woke up, disoriented, and didn't understand where I was or why I was in pain or why people were shouting at me and holding me. I cried out, and kicked away the hands holding my legs, and the contraction petered to a halt, and Eric said frantically, "What? What?" By then I was remembering where I was, and I tried to say "I was dreaming," meaning I had fallen asleep, but I was still so disoriented it didn't come out straight.

"She's hallucinating," he groaned. He moved to my side and said, "What's your name?"


"Where are we?"

"At the hospital." I said it brightly, realizing that he was trying to check my lucidity and wanting to tell him that I was okay now, but figured it was easier just to answer him. Probably I just sounded insane.

"Why are we here?"

"To have our baby."

"Okay," he said, and stumbled backward.

"Hey!" I said, and Martha moved to steady him.

"I'm okay," he said. "Not enough food or drink..."

He got trail mix and some of my water. The next contraction started, and I kept my eyes open. Knowing Eric was worried about me--and being worried about him--helped me focus, and I stayed awake.

An hour or so passed, and I was still pushing. "You're doing okay," Amy said, during a sort of team meeting between contractions. "But the baby's heartbeat isn't doing as well as it was. If you can't get this done soon, I'm going to have to call [the obstetrician associated with the midwife group], and we don't want that." I took it as sort of an insult and sort of a threat--"You're doing lousy and you better shape up or we'll shape you up"--but it did renew my energy, a little.

"You're making progress," Shannon said encouragingly, during some contraction. "Look, you can reach in and feel where she is." I declined, because I was afraid if it was too far, I'd get discouraged. Shannon seemed disappointed. Sometime later she was checking me visually and said, "Your daughter has a lot of hair."

I said, "Oh," faintly, and "Okay." Meaning, "Okay, maybe I really am making progress."

More pushing, more holding my breath. Once I tried pushing when the urge had passed, because I was crazy with impatience to get this over with, but Amy just said, "Huh," in a bemused sort of tone and it didn't seem to help.

I couldn't feel myself making any sort of progress (just getting thirstier--I kept asking Eric to feed me ice). But finally, finally, Amy said, "Get the cart," and I knew this meant the end was near. "Wait until you really, really have to push," Amy said before the next contraction. I did, expecting to be done, but the contraction ended like all the others.

"She's taking it nice and slow," Amy said, which I wasn't, at least not intentionally. But a couple more contractions later, I could actually feel something happening; I pushed frantically, and felt more pressure (though not more pain) between my legs, and felt something tear; and Shannon said, "Look, Jenny, look! Your daughter's being born!"

I picked up my head and looked as Amy said, "Stop, I need to get the cord from around her neck." There was a funny purplish-looking blob half-hanging out from between my legs, her face indiscernible, the umbilical cord being unwound from her neck. That's her, I told myself. That's my baby. I actually got her out. And then Shannon said, "Well, push her out!" and I did, and she came out in a bumpy awkward rush, and was born.

It was 5:31 PM. I don't remember whether she was crying, though she probably was or I would have worried. I remember thinking she looked like a bag of purple eels. I remember turning very cold, very quickly. (I still had no hospital gown on.) Shannon did Chloë's vitals and wiped her off and wrapped her up and put a little cap on her. She placed her on my chest, tummy-down, and told me, "This is home."

In the meantime Amy was working on the last stage of labor, the placenta. "Give me a little push," she told me. I did, and it must have been enough because I don't remember her asking me again. She ordered some Pitocin put into my IV because I was bleeding more than she liked. My temperature was also elevated, so I was put on antibiotics. Chloë was perfectly healthy and they had no concerns about her.

My feet were put up on stirrups and Amy started stitching up my tear. "No wonder it took so long," she said to Shannon as she worked. "The baby came out face-up." I'd read about this: it's called occiput posterior, and means that the widest part of the head goes through the birth canal instead of the narrowest. Chloë was born with a little bruise on her forehead, like a unicorn with the horn removed. "I can't believe she had no back labor."

In the meantime I had complained of cold, and someone had piled five warmed-up hospital blankets on me. I asked to see the placenta, and Amy showed me the amniotic sac as well, which was very cool (says the biology major), a huge translucent sac with a big tear in it. Eric went to tell his family the news. Chloë lay on my chest, her face toward the window, her little eyes squinched shut because it was evening and the window faced west, growing pinker as she became hours instead of minutes old.

Then suddenly nobody was in the room except Shannon, and she was telling me things that I could hardly stay awake to listen to. Chloë was still on my chest, and she stayed there when Shannon mercifully stopped talking. "Is it okay if I sleep with her like this?" I said, because I was about to do so involuntarily. I hadn't slept, except for that forty-minute nap, in about thirty-six hours.

"Well," she said, and said something hedging about how back was best and she might roll off. "But you'll feel it if she moves, and you'll wake up."

She left me, and then Chloë and I slept together, a new baby and a new mother sleeping together in the setting sun, home.

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