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Friday, March 18, 2011

Birth Story, Episode IV: IN WHICH baby girl is born

I am awoken by a contraction. It takes a while, and I wake up just before it peaks. I know instantly that this is for real, no more "warm up" anymore. So I lie there and wait for the next one. For a brief second, I panic. The boxes are as tall as me or taller in the next room. We do not have kitchen appliances, a countertop, or running water in the kitchen. The baby's room is not painted so we can't put anything in there. The kitchen is still being put together so we can't put anything in there either. There is plaster and all sorts of construction dust covering the floor of the basement so that's off limits too. My suegra, bless her heart, packed our house so I have no clue which things are where (and already know that things that having nothing to do with each other are packed together in the same box).

But just as quickly I am calm again. Zen-like. I am NOT a "Zen" sort of person. But I am so relaxed. It feels oddly like I know that I have to do THIS now. And I have to do this NOW. Things are how they are. Nothing will change, and I cannot change them now. That is fine. (I am really astounded how I let it all go like that.)

The next one hits. It is interesting. I can feel the build, peak, ebb. I skootch slightly away from The Hottest Computer Scientist in the Universe soas not to wake him up. I reach for the phone to check the time (but I don't think I timed the duration or frequency). It is about 2:35.

For what feels like a long time, I stay in bed. At first (when labor begins) I think there is a rush of adrenaline. I am awake, waiting for the next one to come.

Bit by bit, so slowly I don't even realize, I start coping in a more physically responsive way - moving somehow. (I don't know now if I was bunching up or bending over or what I was doing.) At some point it is too much, and I get out of bed to work through the contractions - but by now the initial adrenaline has waned, and I am SO tired (see Parts I II and III). I climb up into our ridiculously high bed and sometimes even fall asleep between contractions. They are much closer together than 10 minutes, because I spent all day yesterday with contractions 10 minutes apart, but I don't time them. I am trying to just deal with things as they come, and not risk feeling discouraged. I know from birth class that this could be another 15 or 20 hours like this, so I just try to deal one contraction at a time and not worry about how many more there might be.

I go from leaning on the bed to sort of squatting and hanging off the side. I am definitely vocalizing - some sort of low moaning I think. I end up going out to the rooms full of boxes, wrapped in a blanket, and sort of half squatting and swaying back and forth while moaning. Sometimes I pace back to the bed but climbing in and out is so much goddamn effort.

Finally I realize I need my labor support. I wake up Guillermo, who, also utterly exhausted and a very sound sleeper always, has slept through... TWO HOURS of labor. Woohoo! I did two hours! Well, 1:40. I am glad!

Anyway THCSITU immediately starts timing using the free "Contraction Timer" app he'd already added to his phone. I woke him up to ask him to blow up the exercise ball I got for this purpose, so he does that. He hops to and says he wants to make the warming thingy we saw in the videos in class. By some miracle, I know exactly where the rice is - since it's kept in a huge glass jar thing with a pointy lid, it was right on top of a stack. I fish out a heavy duty knee-high sock and he puts it together for me, using all of our remaining rice which was just exactly enough. The microwave is propped on some boxes in the entryway and OH it was nice. I was skeptical for a bit but it really was nice as the contractions got stronger in the next few minutes.

Then he asks about the hospital bag. I tell him where it is and what I need to add to it. I show him where to find the papers I'd collected with the various suggested hospital lists. He inventories the contents and realizes I am in no way prepared to leave for the hospital, so he repacks into an actual piece of luggage instead of a ripped up old backpack, and with a little bit of help finding things packs up the bag except for toiletries.

At the same time he is faithfully timing my contractions. I am using the exercise ball mostly to sit on and rest between contractions at this point, with my arms and head lying on the bed. For the contractions themselves I get to my feet and brace against the bed. I know I am getting louder. I realize that, since we can hear the drawers of the dresser in the room above us open and close, they've got to be able to hear me as well. D'oh. Not much I can do about it, though. I hadn't thought about that aspect of laboring at home. (Again, I am surprised and sort of impressed that I didn't really feel embarrassed.)


At some point I ditch the blanket. I take of my socks. I tell THCSITU, "I feel hot. This can't be right. It's too fast." But I feel good. Not like there is something wrong, just that the steps we learned about are coming closer together than we were supposed to expect. I halfway think that I am mistaking my body's signs, that the "cold" I felt when I used the blanket and the "hot" I feel now are not THE "cold" and "hot" that we were supposed to watch for as mileposts along the labor path.

I start to badger THCSITU after each contraction: how long was it? How about that one? How long were they when you started timing? How far apart now or before? I get kind of irritated that I don't get the answer I am hoping for. Despite the varying (not consistently increasing) length and to some extent frequency, they are without a doubt getting stronger and stronger.

Between contractions I complain: "Who CHOOSES to do this a SECOND TIME? Are people stupid?!?" (I'm pretty sure I cut myself off with "ooooh here iiiis anoooother ooooooonnnnnne...")

I ask about the time, and decide to wait until it's closer to an "appropriate" hour to call the nurses. (It was maybe around 6am or so?). The contractions come and go and come and go, I'm moaning pretty good, no longer thinking about the folks upstairs or really anything else except how long and how far apart the contractions are. I am looking for that 3-minutes-apart benchmark that for some reason is stuck in my head. THCSITU insists that the contractions are still nearly 5 min apart. But at about 7:30am I insist right back that he needs to call the midwives NOW. The message he leaves goes something like this:
Hi, my wife is having contractions, they are five minutes apart so please call us back.

Good lord! As soon as he hung up I grabbed a scrap of paper and started writing down info. THIS duration of contractions, yes, but for THIS many hours and I am feeling THIS and THIS. I have to stop while writing to let a contraction pass. "Call back!" I bark, throwing the envelope at him. (Looking back, I realize that I could feel transition coming.) He dutifully does, then we agree it's a good idea for him to shower because we don't know how long it might be before the baby is born. Better he can be showered and refreshed to help me through whatever else we will deal with!

While he's in the shower the midwife calls back. I answer the phone but a contraction comes so I can't talk, mid-word I stick the phone across the shower curtain and go back to hang on to the end of the bed. I'm sort of grabbing the corner and leaning back, my enormous pregnant butt swaying back and down like a pendulum. "We have to go. We have to go." I am sort of rhythmically pleading. I feel almost like pushing. (I couldn't tell quite what the feeling was yet, but in a few minutes I knew.) The contraction passes and THCSITU says the midwife wants to talk to me. She calmly asks, "Do you feel like there's pressure in your butt?" "Yes, Yes!!" I exclaim. "You had better come in now. See you there." She sounds calm but very serious.

(I suppose I tell THCSITU and he gets out of the shower. All I remember now is this:) I try to get in the shower myself. We saw on birth videos how the shower is nice to help you cope with contractions. IT IS NOT NICE. A contraction comes and I am pounding on the wall. "WE HAVE TO GO. WE HAVE TO GO." For a second I feel unsure how I will get out of the shower and to the hospital. Still wet, without a towel, I pick up shampoo, face soap, etc. and throw them from where I am standing in the tub into the hallway. THCSITU hears and scoops them up while he is trying to dress himself.

I have no idea how I get dressed. I remember THCSITU sprints out the back door to bring the car around. Waiting for that car to come around and attempting to walk to the car were the longest moments of my life to date. I had at least one contraction outside on the way to the car. My coat was open, shoes untied and possibly not even all the way on. I bent over and bellowed. It was 9am on a Friday.

During the 6 minute drive to the hospital I sort of hollered "I want to PUUUUUUUUUSSSSHHHHHHH" during contractions.

THCSITU dropped me off at Emergency and I went in. "Oh YOU're the one," the reception lady said, in not such a bad way. Then came the WORST PART of labor. Where they tried to make me sit in a wheelchair. I waited at the elevator for FIFTEEN MINUTES. I did not sit. There were two little boys with their mom in a room facing the elevator. The nurse with them did not appreciate the production I was making. I didn't do or say anything except when I contraction hit, and I tried to keep quiet, but seriously? There was a baby about to come out. WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME WAIT YOU IDIOTS, I thought. Finally the nurse to escort me showed up. She was ancient. WRinkly and hunched over, and she wanted to sit me in the chair and push me. I thought that would take FOREVER and she was going to make me sit. I wanted her to push the chair and I would walk with her, but she got an attitude and decided if I wouldn't sit, she wouldn't take the chair. "Fine, please, let's go!" I begged. So we get in the elevator and start to walk. When the contractions hit I have to stop and let them pass. This is clearly a huge inconvenience for her. We walk and walk and it seems like an eternity but finally we are at the triage labor rooms. I holler that I ahve to push again as a contraction hits and...

She hands me a cup. I am supposed to pee in a cup. I look at her and cannot believe it. I am upset but she is in charge. I am afraid I'll never get out of there if I don't. I start to wonder how THCSITU will find me. I go into the bathroom to try and am almost in tears because I know there is no way I am going to be able to pee in the cup.

Just then he shows up with an actual L&D nurse who is WONDERFUL. She tries to check me in but the computer is all wonky. She is sweetly begging me NOT TO PUSH. And I tell her "I know I know but I feel like it! I won't do it but I feel like I have to!!" She gets me to sit in the wheelchair and takes us to a delivery room. It is just a regular room because the "nice" natural birthing rooms (regular bed, birthing tub, etc.) are both full - and my midwife is helping someone else in one of them!

I get on the hospital bed - somehow my clothes are off, maybe? I don't remember - and crouch on my haunches, facing the back of the bed. Between contractions I lean forward on the bed and plaintively whine for the midwife. "Where is Cynthia?" I beg. Finally she comes and she is everything wonderful.

I'm going to post this now even though it is too long and we are not at the end.

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