Long Story Short

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The Birth Story

Shockingly, I actually did end up giving birth. It finally happened on June 11th at 1:56 p.m., in a hospital, on a Saturday, after 27 hours of labor.

It’s been so long now that I should probably have written this sooner so the details would be fresh, but it was also so recent that anytime I have a flash of those moments, those earthy, real, intense moments, my eyes well up. Giving birth is apparently a pretty big deal, who knew?

The wonderful part of the experience, besides my daughter, was that I got what I wanted in some small ways: I went into labor naturally and I had a vaginal birth. Those were my two main goals toward the end and I felt successful for having achieved them, regardless of whether or not I really had much control over what happened.

And so, four months later, the birth story:

My original due date was May 30th and a week into June, as evidenced by my last entry in here, I was still very much pregnant. I was getting questions about induction but Dan and I felt very strongly that we wanted to wait until the baby was ready. At my 40w1d appointment my OB/GYN agreed to give us until 41 weeks to schedule the induction, but she explained that the hospital has a strict policy that after 42 weeks they have to induce. We agreed to the policy because we trusted that they knew what they were doing, and we had high hopes that the induction wouldn’t be necessary.

At my 41 week doctor’s appointment we agreed to schedule the induction – a two day process, apparently – and since my doctor would absolutely NOT let me go past 42 weeks we had to pick the last possible day: June 13th. Also known around these parts as my older brother’s birthday. I felt terrible but crossed my fingers that the baby would come before then.

Because I was past my due date I had to go in for non-stress tests and blood pressure checks a few times each week, and I was fine with all the checking because it kept me from having an induction. Of course I also appreciated knowing that the baby was okay, was doing well, and was just taking her time. My last scheduled testing prior to the induction was on Friday, June 10th. I was having an ultrasound to determine how much amniotic fluid was left in there, so we knew that baby girl would be okay until Monday.

The morning of June 10th I arrived at the doctor’s office for my 10:30 a.m. appointment, won the Pregnantest Woman in the Waiting Room award again, and then had the ultrasound. The technician told me that the baby looked good after several minutes of running the wand over my distended, sore belly. When it was all over she told me I was all set to go so I stood up, adjusted my clothing, and felt a gush of warm liquid come from somewhere Down There. I stood there, startled, realizing OMG OMG OMG THIS COULD BE IT, but I calmly said “thank you” and walked out of the room. I stopped at the first bathroom I passed to check things out and found that a small amount of clear liquid had indeed fallen out of me. In fact I seemed to have sprung a small, casual leak. My water had broken. I was triumphant.

I considered telling someone at the doctor’s office (which I should point out now is inside the hospital where I would ultimately give birth) but realized that there wasn’t any reason to tell them – I had planned to labor at home as long as possible and didn’t want to be admitted. And so instead I calmly walked to the parking garage, got in the car, paid for parking, got on the highway, and called Dan. He was at work and when he picked up I said, “I think my water just broke”. This was a call we had been anticipating for weeks and yet it still felt surreal. He wanted to leave work but I told to wait a bit, that I wasn’t sure how things were going to go but I wanted to wait and see.

The contractions started coming almost immediately, hard and tight, faster than I expected. The drive only takes about 20 minutes to get from the hospital to my house and by the time I made it home I was uncomfortable, and quickly realizing that this was, in fact, IT. I was almost 2 weeks past my due date and it still seemed surprising that I was going to actually, finally, give birth.

Once I was home I texted my officemate that my water had broken so that she could pass along the word that I wouldn’t be going to work that day. I also texted several of my friends, including my sister-in-law, to tell them what was going on. I called my parents to make a plan since my father was planning to take Bailey while we were in the hospital, and my mother was planning to be in the delivery room. I let them know that while I was having contractions, I assumed things would take forever and that I’d just keep them in the loop. I called the hospital to let them know that my water had broken and they said I could come on in, but I said I’d call back later when things had moved along further.

I sat on my giant birthing ball and proceeded to rock and gently bounce, being a good little Birthing Class student and knowing that I needed to keep my body moving in order to speed up my labor. I felt great - proud of my body and excited to realize that I would get to meet my daughter soon. The contractions were coming fast, not horribly painful but frequent, and eventually I realized that I really didn’t want to be alone during this and called Dan, who headed home.

Dan came home, found me calmly sitting on the deck eating a sandwich, and immediately turned into a cyclone – he was running around, packing things to take to the hospital, cleaning, and generally being chaotic. I kept telling him to calm down, calm down, this is going to take forever, but his method of coping was to Get Things DONE.

Once everything was packed and the car seat was in the car (which we had put in weeks ago and then taken out again in a fit of ridiculousness, did we think the baby WASN’T COMING because she was late?) we just sat there and looked at each other. I suggested that we go for a walk and off we went, walking around the block and stopping every few minutes for me to have a contraction.

This is how we spent the afternoon: walking, charting contractions, staring blankly at the TV, responding to texts, and walking some more. Periodically my parents would call: “how are things going?” “Fine, we’re fine” “When are you going to the hospital?” “I don’t know, later, not now”. All day, from 11:00 a.m. on, I experienced back to back to back contractions that gradually began to increase in intensity over time – Dan was kind enough to take pictures to commemorate my “ow” face. We also took some final belly shots since we had all the time in the world.

My father eventually just came over to get Bailey since we realized we had no idea when we’d be leaving for the hospital. I had several contractions while my father was at our house and he kept asking if we shouldn’t go the hospital? And Dan replied “I know, I’ve been saying that, she doesn’t want to go yet”. My father touched my giant belly reverently and we took a picture together – our last with me still on the other side of parenthood. Bailey left, her last day as an only baby, and it was just Dan and I.

From then on Dan kept suggesting that we go to the hospital; I think my level of calm was freaking him out. The birthing coach told us to go when we reached 5:1:1 – contractions consistently 5 minutes apart, contractions lasting one minute long, and that cycle going on for at least 1 hour. I had been having contractions 2 and 3 minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds to over a minute, for HOURS. He was starting to sweat – the BIRTHING COACH SAID WE SHOULD GO. But I just knew that I wasn’t close and I didn’t want to spend more time than necessary in the hospital.

I did finally agree to go to the hospital around 7 pm since it was getting dark, I was pretty uncomfortable, and the Bruins game was starting at 8. It’s sort of ridiculous to me that the Bruins game is part of my birth story, but they were a determining factor. They were in the finals for the Stanley Cup, which I could not have given less of a crap about, but Dan is a big hockey fan and I didn’t want him to miss the game or have it interrupted by my pesky labor. See how considerate I am?

We left for the hospital and the drive pretty much sucked. Dan wanted to stop at CVS to get snacks on the way so we did, although I waited in the car clutching my giant belly and thinking Big Dramatic Thoughts. We had called ahead to the hospital so we knew that labor and delivery would be expecting us, which was a relief. Dan asked if he could park in the parking garage and I said yes, so we had to walk through the hospital to get to the right floor, and I felt very dramatic stopping along the way to have contractions. People stared and I felt weirdly proud to be having the movie labor moment. Look at me, I’m in labor!

We got to the correct floor, were told to come around to register, and I had a very big contraction right before I made it around the corner and had to stop and wait it out. A woman in the lobby looked at me and said, “Is this it?” and I said, “I hope so”.

We were admitted and brought to a special waiting room where a nurse checked me and confirmed that my water had indeed ruptured, and that I was about 3 centimeters dilated. After 9 hours of labor, I was only 3 centimeters. I had been at 1 cm for the two weeks prior to my labor, so this was not much progress and I was disappointed, although not really surprised. Once all that was confirmed we were brought to our room, the room where I would deliver the baby, and I put on the hospital gown and started getting hooked me up to umpteen monitors. They decided to give me pitocin to move things along which I agreed to since not only had I expected it, but I was also realizing that I wanted things moving along.

Once we were in our room and had the Bruins game on I suddenly realized, okay, this sucks. I was hooked up to so many machines – the pitocin, the IV, the two monitors - that I couldn’t move at all. At home I had been rocking, bouncing, walking and moving. Now all I could do was lay there feeling the contractions build, listening to the loud thumping of my daughter’s rapid heartbeat. It was boring, it was painful, it was not what I had expected.

I asked my nurse, a young, bouncy, inexperienced blond, if I could move around and she said sure, of course! She unstrapped me from a few of the wires but since I was still hooked to the IV all I could was waddle awkwardly to a chair, where I sat and thought, “this is not better”. I asked for a birthing ball but after disappearing for a long time, my nurse told me that they were all in use. Apparently the hospital was full of women giving birth! Why should I expect to get any of the promised birthing devices that I had hoped to rely upon? It was difficult realizing that all the labor coping mechanisms that I had envisioned were not really as accessible as I had hoped. And I was quickly seeing the downward spiral of this whole process: because I was on pitocin I had to stay on a heart monitor for the baby. Because of the heart monitor I couldn’t walk around. Because I couldn’t walk around I felt out of control and unable to figure out how to deal with the pain. And naturally as the pitocin began to work the pain began to increase and I felt like I had been duped. In addition to that, I was starving. Thanks to Dan’s smart stop at CVS on the way we did have food, but my nurse wouldn’t let me eat it “just in case” I needed a C-section. Our birthing coach had told us how important eating and drinking was during labor in order to keep your strength up, and yet here I was starving, with hours of labor ahead, and I couldn’t eat. None of it added up to me, and I knew that the hospital was taking over my birth experience whether I liked it or not. Luckily the crowded hospital gave us some freedom from our nurse and Dan snuck me a few bites of Chef Boyardee.

At 12:30 a.m., after the Bruins lost and we had nothing left to watch and were just exhausted and bored, I suddenly had The Contraction. I was heading to the bathroom gingerly, dragging a pile of medical equipment behind me, when I had to stop and grab the frame of the bathroom door and just try to stay upright through the overwhelming pain that rolled through my body like a wave. It was awful. I looked at the clock and thought “I have to sleep”. I was so tired, so hungry, and so frustrated that I kept clocking in at 3 centimeters. I decided that it was time for the epidural so that Dan and I could try to get some sleep before our big day.

I got the epidural fairly quickly and took one mistaken look back over my shoulder – god, that needle was big – and then I was hooked up to another tube! Yay! Unfortunately the epidural didn’t work quite as perfectly as I’d hoped – while the majority of the contraction pain was gone, my legs went all pins and needles and proceeded to stay that way for the rest of the evening. The nurse agreed to turn out the bright scary lights so we could try to sleep – Dan on a weird fold out chair, and me on the hospital bed with an IV, pitocin, epidural, baby heart monitor and contraction monitor.

Sleep eluded us both for a variety of reasons: I couldn’t move at all because of all the attachments, and the epidural made my legs feel creepy and weird. Every time I wanted to move the nurse had to come in and help me, and periodically something would misalign in my Pile O’ Medical Equipment and a loud beep would start that wouldn’t stop until our (spacey and frequently MIA) nurse would come back in the room and shut it off. I put Murder, She Wrote on our laptop and tried to at least doze; hoping that just being quiet and resting would help. Unfortunately, every time I would finally nod off I was poked or prodded back awake.

The on-call doctor, obviously not my own OB, came in to check me once in a while and eventually I made it to 5 centimeters, which was good news, but then I proceeded to stay at 5 for….the rest of my life. I had hit five in the early hours of the morning and by the later morning hours I was still at 5. The on-call doctor said something to the effect of “well, let’s not throw in the towel yet”. When she left the room I cried because I knew what she meant, I knew what she was threatening, and I couldn’t understand why we were already THERE. The baby was fine, I was fine, and the process was just taking a while. I knew we could do this; everyone just had to be patient.

Luckily shortly after this Pronouncement of Doom there was a shift change and we lost flighty nurse for Awesome Earth Mother nurse, and the on-call doctor was replaced by the New on-call doctor who was too busy to threaten me. Dan said he could hear screaming from the hallway (blessedly I missed this) and we heard from our new nurse that there were record numbers of women showing up to give birth, and that not just one but TWO women had shown up fully-dilated within ten minutes of each other. So the delivery floor was in chaos.

Once the sun was fully up and the morning began to progress my phone started to ring. My parents, wondering what the heck was going on since they hadn’t heard from us in hours, and my friends texting to see if I was okay. Dan’s family was similarly blowing up his phone, and we just felt sheepish: we don’t know, she’s only at a 5, the doctor doesn’t know, we’ll call you, we’ll text you, we promise.

Awesome Earth Mother nurse became my savior in all of this. She started tweaking the pitocin, looking at my blood pressure, looking at the baby’s heartbeat, adjusting my pillows, turning me from side to side, helping me and providing a sense of calm. At some point my body started shaking, my teeth chattering, and my epidural wore off almost completely. I had forgotten to maintain it and as the pain crashed down over me I was horrified and writhed in pain, clutching my belly, wondering how much longer this would last. My nurse reminded me to push the little button when I needed more pain relief. While I had hesitated before, hoping to keep the level of medication just to where I needed it, now that I had experienced the full scope of where my body was, I pushed that little button.

By 10:00 a.m. I was at 6 centimeters and hearing a new number made me feel like I could get past the c-section threat and know that my baby was going to arrive the old fashioned way. Our nurse and I talked throughout the morning and I felt that we were getting to know each other. She brought me a cherry Italian ice and then a bowl so I could throw up the cherry Italian ice. She told me that women always throw up when they reach 6 centimeters, so it was a good thing

Around 11:00 a.m. I suddenly felt something new, something awful and bad, a feeling that jumped up through the drugs and said “HELLO YOU ARE HAVING A BABY TODAY”. It was the mythical, much-talked-about pressure. To me it felt like a bowling ball was about to come out of my ass. I said to the nurse in a shaky voice, “I think I feel pressure?” and she checked me and said, “You’re right, you’re fully dilated”.

I was so happy, thinking that the worst was over (HA!) and that all I had to do now was push. In the movies, women push two or three times and their babies come out, so I was ready to do this! The only thing that threw me off was how awful, awful, awful the pressure felt – so uncomfortable, so excruciating, and I knew that I had to push through it to make the baby come out. The nurse told me to lie on my side while my mother rushed to get to the hospital after she got The Call from Dan. She arrived, walked in to find me sweaty and gigantic and disheveled from a night of no sleep – and we both choked up. I was scared, I had pushing performance anxiety, and suddenly I was throwing up again. Dan handled it wonderfully, dragging over a trash can and cleaning up after me, telling me that everything would be okay.

I started pushing. My nurse could not have been more awesome, telling me how great I was doing and encouraging me, telling me I could do it. The new doctor came in a little while into the pushing and quickly left after making some comment like, “this is going to take hours” and my nurse told me, “No, she’s wrong, you’re going to do this quickly, your pushes are very strong, you can do this, I know it”. I realize now that she was saying that more for my sake than any basis in reality, but thank god for that, because the last thing I needed to hear was that I still had hours to go. Even though it ended up being true.

Pushing turned out to be excruciating. I was in so much pain, feeling the baby’s head push against me that in between contractions I writhed and sweated, silently praying that it would over soon, soon, please god, soon. I was so incredibly hot that I felt like my head was going to explode, and my mother and Dan took turns wringing out cold washcloths and putting them on my head, trying to keep me cool. I couldn’t talk between pushes, I was giving it everything I had, and when Dan touched my arm gently I said, “please don’t take this the wrong way but don’t touch me.” He laughed, the nurse laughed, I'm sure they had expected more cursing than politeness.

At some point the nurse told me to put my hand down and when I reached down I could feel my baby’s head and her downy fuzzy baby hair when I pushed. It was happening! She was coming! It helped me so much to feel that she was right there that after that I would feel down between my legs after every series of pushes, just to remind myself that very soon this ordeal would be over. Toward the end I started to verbalize what had only been an internal mantra: "I've got to get the baby out. I've GOT to get the baby out".

Finally, finally, finally, after what felt like an eternity of me getting increasingly more frantic during pushes and everyone saying, “you’re doing it, the baby’s almost here” I heard the nurse call the doctor for my delivery. I kept pushing, unable to stop, and when the doctor arrived and told me to stop pushing so she could prepare the room I totally ignored her. Luckily the doctor quickly gowned up, pulled away the bottom portion of the hospital bed, and got in position. I pushed again, as hard as I could, and my mother started crying and shouted “she’s coming!” Suddenly I felt the most bizarre thing ever – my daughter’s head breaking free – and the rest of her slid out quickly, in what was an almost-hilarious explosion of gore. And the relief! Oh my god, the relief that it was over, that I was done, that she was here - I had never felt so tired in my life.

I looked down and there was a bluish-purple limp, slimy baby lumped on my stomach. I immediately tried to pull her toward me but the doctor yelled at me to stop. She did something with her cord and then the nurse helped me to hold her, and I pulled her close and tried to see her face. Her body was so floppy and slippery that I couldn’t really see her. Dan was holding her hand and when I looked up at him he was crying. Of course my mother was crying, and almost immediately after the baby was born my father called her to find out what the heck was going on? Didn’t we know what time it was??

We didn’t. It was 2:00. The baby had been born at 1:56 p.m. I had pushed for two and a half hours, and the doctor explained that it had taken so long because the baby had been facing the wrong direction. In fact she had a giant bruise on her cone-shaped head from where she had been pushed up against my pelvic bone.

Right after I gave birth I was suddenly overcome by such a huge wave of exhaustion that it took everything in me not to pass out. I had zero energy left; every muscle in my body ached, I was covered in sweat, and I was getting the chills. I held the baby for a long while during this period, struggling to keep my eyes open, until the nurses took her to weigh her and swaddle her. The whole time I held her and after the nurses (more than one, now that the baby was here) took her to the bassinet on the other side of the room, the doctor was sewing me up and dealing with the aftermath. She was in such a hurry to get to the next patient that she was moving as quickly as she could, and when I protested that I could feel the needle she insisted that I was wrong. I was in so much pain that the addition of her needle piercing my flesh was making me cry and beg for more medication, and finally she said to me exasperatedly, “why don’t you push your epidural button?” I had completely forgotten about the epidural, had in fact not pushed that button for HOURS, since before I was fully dilated. I was glad that I hadn’t relied on it toward the end since it had helped me to feel the pressure and push so hard, but I realized that that was one of the reasons I hurt so bad.

I did push the button but I could still feel the needle and finally the doctor grudgingly gave me some local anesthetic which helped quite a bit. After that I remember lying there while the doctor pulled and tugged on me and looking over at Dan and my mother gathered around the baby and suddenly feeling totally alone. I just wanted someone to hold my hand through this last awful part. It was just a moment, but it felt lonely.

I watched while they weighed the baby – before they put her on the scale they asked everyone to guess her weight. The final guess was mine – eight pounds, five ounces – and I was dead on. They put a little cream colored hat on her head and swaddled her in one of the now-infamous pink and blue striped blankets and carried her back over to me. At this point it occurred to people, including my mother, to start asking what the baby’s name was and Dan and I realized that we needed to finalize our decision. We had one name that we both liked, had in fact decided on the spelling that we preferred, but all along we both agreed that we would wait until we saw her to confirm her name. My mother saw us hesitating and decided to give us some privacy so we could confirm what we both already knew: that her name was Deven. Lucky for us, too, since we had no backup name and had actually brought the baby name books to the hospital with us just in case.

The rest of my time in that room was a crazy blur. Deven and I tried out breastfeeding for the first time which completely confused us both. I stared and stared at Deven’s mushy little newborn face and tried to figure out what I felt. I knew she was my baby, the little one who had been kicking me all year, but I also felt like I didn’t know her, like she was a stranger to me. It was not what I had expected to feel, and yet I didn’t know what I had expected. I was so physically drained and so relieved to be done with the labor and delivery that I had been dreading for months and months, it was hard for me to focus on what I felt emotionally. Also, I was starving.

I finally got to eat (YAY!) after the best nurse in the world put a rush on my lunch. Dan and my mother took turns holding Deven while I proceeded to scarf the best effing hospital turkey wrap ever made. Dan started taking pictures of me eating, me laughing, me attempting to brush out my sweat-soaked hair, and then we knew we had to face the music. I put in my contact lenses, which did almost nothing to make me look better, and braced myself for the onslaught of family that had been waiting not-so patiently in the waiting room./p>

Dan’s mother and stepfather came in quickly, and oddly they had brought one of their neighbors with them, an elderly woman who they had also asked me to invite to my baby shower. My father came in right afterward with a giant bouquet of pink roses, and he was beaming at me and his eyes shined with tears. Everyone got out their cameras and took pictures of the baby, and pictures of different combinations of people holding her. Everyone praised me for doing a great job. I called my brother to share the news and he was excited for us, and horrified when I told him I had been in labor for 27 hours. My sister-in-law was out when I called so she called me back as soon as she got home to hear how I was; she had called me the previous morning when I texted her that my water had broken so she was fully aware of how long the labor had taken.

When Dan’s family left my parents stayed behind to help us move to our new room, where we would spend the next two nights. Dan and my parents started moving all of our stuff to the new room while a new nurse stayed behind to help me get up and about. Once I was as mobile as I was going to get, which was basically immobile, I was plunked into a wheelchair, Dan had the baby in a wheely cart thing, and we were pushed triumphantly through the delivery area and over to the new parents area. Passing through I felt like a fucking rockstar, no joke, and there was a bouquet of flowers waiting for me at the front desk, too. Our room was private, with a bed for me and a cot for Dan. The baby was wheeled to the baby spot but I immediately asked to hold her, which is what I proceeded to do pretty much non-stop for the next two weeks.

My parents stayed for a while and then left us alone, tearfully hugging us goodbye. Two of our friends showed up, too excited to wait, so they could meet Deven. A nurse came in to talk to me about caring for my stitches and showed me my meds and offered me stronger painkillers which I accepted. They gave us food, which I started eating and couldn’t stop. And then, around 9, Dan fell asleep. He had been up almost the entire night, he was exhausted. I had also been awake almost the entire night, I had given birth, my body ached in every conceivable way, and yet I was on a crazy high that I couldn’t come down from. I held Deven close and looked at her face and finally, essentially alone but for a sleeping Dan, with just my baby, I had a chance to be calm and peaceful and let my love for her flow out and around her. She was surprisingly alert for a newborn, her eyes were open and looking at me, giving me the same “who are you?” stare that I was giving her. I unswaddled her, feeling like I was breaking some sort of rules – did I really get to keep this tiny baby? Would the omnipresent nurses yell at me? - and examined her tiny feet and her little fingers. I pulled back my hospital gown and cuddled her against my bare chest, keeping her warm and close to me.

I held her all night long, against the hospital’s rules, and because of that I got no sleep. I watched Murder, She Wrote on my laptop and posted on FB that she had arrived, and ate. And by morning, when Dan woke up, I felt transformed by the experience of giving birth and the hours of holding my own daughter. I felt a fierce, intense love for her; I treasured her tiny body and the miracle that she had come out with all the right tiny human parts. I felt blessed; I continue to feel blessed, to have experienced the miracle of her birth and to know the wonderful, silly, crazy little girl that is our Deven.


10:42 a.m. - 2011-11-01

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