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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.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Birth Story, Part III

Following terminology discussed: bloody show, diarrhea.

Thursday morning I had to be up early: we were getting the INTERNET. Cable guy due to come sometime 7:30am or later. Also, the electricians were coming at 8am to correct some things on the new electrical panels (and sadly move a light in the nearly-done kitchen), and the guy doing our kitchen was coming to finish painting and everything else in preparation for the appliances to come the next day. Phew.

I got The Hottest Computer Scientist in the Universe up and into the shower just as the doorbell rang. Cable guy first. We start trooping around, trying to reach a wall (any wall!) I am shoving boxes as he says, "No let me help you!" We negotiate, wander outside, discuss. Agreeing upon an entry point, the electricians arrive. They want to be paid in advance for the day - mind you they are here mostly to correct work they didn't quite get right the first time. But following up and negotiating afterwards is just beyond me at that point. I keep having to stop and lean against things as the contractions are coming and going. Fine. Here's a check, issued with admonishments as I grip my belly. "This baby is coming any day. I NEED THIS WORK DONE."

The kitchen guy shows up, impatient with the electricians. Patient and friendly with me. The cable guy is finishing his work - he drilled a hole in our 13" brick exterior wall! WTF! and I have to get to the office. My office is A MESS. I cannot leave it like that. I think I have a mug with yesterday's yogurt dregs on my desk. Our house is in terrible shape too, the stacks of boxes are literally no LESS than 5' high, sometimes 7' or 8', and there is but a narrow path from the front door to the bedroom, on to the bathroom, on to the kitchen. My huge self can barely get through without brushing against the stacks. I can't touch any walls due to the boxes obstructing them. But there's pretty much nothing I can do about it. My office I can at least make some headway on.

THCSITU leaves for work, "Are you sure you are OK?" Yes, yes I assure him. I'll let you know if anything.

OK, everything's as squared away as I can make it. I go to get dressed and leave for work. When it hits: bloody show. Diarrhea.

Oh. Crap. Ohcrap. Ohcrap.

Leaving the bathroom I feel a little lightheaded. Not dangerously so, just the kind when you are in a little bit of shock. "Um, guys?" I call, leaning into the kitchen. "This baby might be here *very* soon. FYI." They respond cheerfully, toothily. Yeah, yeah we are gonna finish this right up today! they say. Aha. They say that every time. Here's hoping that lit a fire under them. Sigh.

I start tracking the contractions. They are 10 min apart on the dot. I think. I am nervous and confused. I get dressed, purse ready, coat on, and call the midwives. Report back. The nurse responds pleasantly, "Sounds like things are moving!" My question is, can I please go to work? Our class provided strict instructions that you should spend early labour RESTING - but I could still have a few days of early labor ahead of me, right? She says, "If you feel like going to work, go to work."

So I set out. I text THCSITU simply "Contractions marked with X" and text him an X every time they hit. Easy way to see the times - and as they get more painful I don't have the hassle of composing a message, just the "X". They are ten minutes apart on the dot, all the way into the city and back around out to work. I think it took 30 min to walk the 3 blocks from the train to the office. THCSITU gets a little worried, I text some reassurance and wait to confer with my suegra. After she and I talked, I let my dad and sister know what was going on.

I sent my boss an email, "I might not be here tomorrow. We should perhaps meet today." It turns out a new HR lady had just started that day. So she got email too: "I might not be in tomorrow, if there's paperwork to be done I gotta do it today."

My boss and I met for an hour around 2 or 3 pm. The contractions were so strong by that point I couldn't talk through them - I had to stop and regain focus again after they passed.

But by the end of the day, they were way more mild! I felt like such an idiot. Responding to email about maternity leave paperwork, I said, "Well, maybe I was wrong." As my boss wished me all sorts of good luck on her way out, I sheepishly said, "I don't know what's going on, I might be here tomorrow after all!"

My dad called, worried that if he didn't pick me up right now we'd be stuck in rush hour traffic. I reassured him that I could take the train just fine.

I had my regularly scheduled weekly midwife visit that night. They'd said if I didn't go into labor, show up to the appointment. So we went. THCSITU was running late, I think. By the time we got there, the contractions were totally gone. The apprentice midwife wrapped up the appointment with the following statement: "If you went into labor tonight, I'd have to write about you in a book. You aren't having a baby today."

THCSITU thought I was blowing the day out of proportion. Of course, he hadn't seen me have any of that day's contractions.

It was St. Patrick's Day. We went to my dad's to say Hi before he and some friends went on a (tame) bar crawl. Sitting there, kvetching about how these teaser contractions are coming and going - they start again. 3 guys in their 50s, very "Are you OK? Are you sure??" I laugh it off - the midwife said I'm not having a baby today. How long are these things going to keep doing this?!? I get up and get my own tea. We'll be fine.

We went to bed sometime after 11, probably before 1:30am.

Which is good because I woke up at 2:30 am. This was it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Birth Story, Part 2

Following terminology discussed further down: mucous plug, bloody show
You've been warned.

In the morning of Week 38, after being up till 1am, then waking up at 3:30 with false labor, staying awake freaking out about being unprepared, I finally slept around 5 or so. Then a bunch of alarms went off at 7 - about half an hour before they should have. Turns out an old cellphone, intended to be recycled, had gotten turned on during the moving process. It took forever to find it and shut it off - and I burst into tears. "I'm so tired," I cried. I was tired, but also terrified. The Hottest Computer Scientist in the Universe didn't know that part, of course.

Anyhow it was our first morning in our new house, and our first night in our new bed. It was a happy exciting morning anyway. We each commuted to work from our new house for the first time. THCSITU left before I did, and that gave me opportunity to call the midwives. They recommended what I expected: I could walk around "like this" for days or even weeks. Business as usual, but if there were any change I was supposed to call in right away. "Things are moving!" the nurse said cheerily. Ulp, I thought.

After all the moving, I took the lazy way: a longer trip both in time and distance traveled, but less walking. I was hoping not to exacerbate the contractions or send myself further into labor. The contractions came and went all day. My suegra called a couple of times to see how I was feeling, or really whether things were progressing. The thought of impending labor really lit a fire under me to wrap things up at work.

That night, we had a breastfeeding class. Most of the content was review from the breastfeeding session in our great birth class, but there was a "hands on" component with waterballoon nipples and teddy bears that we hadn't had before. Once we got out, we went for dinner. One of two options available in our new neighborhood at that hour: IHOP.

We go in and start talking about first priorities for our new house: which things to arrange, what to do with all the boxes, what we have to buy first, when to paint the baby's room. After we order, I tell The Hottest Computer Scientist in the Universe that I have to tell him something.

I explain that I lost the mucous plug the night before and had been having Braxton-Hicks or false labor contractions or something all day. He first got a little peeved that his mom and I had conspired to not tell him right away. "I'm gonna come home from work one day and the baby's just going to already be there or what?" He was mostly joking though. I figured that if I'd told him, it would've just kept him up and there was no point in that. Since there was no bloody show, I knew it wasn't really labor yet anyhow. He acknowledged that to be true, and got kinda quiet. I think it sorta hit him as it had me in the night that this thing was really going to happen for real. I told him that I felt that way in the early morning when the contractions has started. "Holy shit, I am actually going to have to do this. For real. Go through labor, and be someone's mom. Holy crap."

So that bit of news got some quick re-prioritizing done: get stuff for baby's room and buy the damn carseat!

The next nights after work we were never home before 10pm. And then we would do a bit of unloading the car and rearranging/unpacking in the house. Tuesday I think we got the paint for the baby's room, blue and yellow. Tuesday in the daytime Guillermo ordered the carseat and stroller combo. It was due to arrive the next Tuesday. I teased him, "You feel like gambling, huh?"

Thursday lots of stuff was supposed to happen in our house: the electricians were coming for the last time to fix things in the kitchen and basement. The cable guy would bring us internet access. The guy installing the kitchen would finish painting to be ready for the appliances to come Friday. Huzzah!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Birth Story, Part 1

So we moved. We moved on Saturday & Sunday, March 12&13. The only reason this came to pass is because of my amazing suegra. After working a full shift herself each day, she came and stayed till midnight packing our apartment. Her husband and The Hottest Computer Scientist in the Universe ran their butts off carrying boxes and our 3 pieces of furniture down to the cars, then drove out to our house to meet my dad and brother and unload. Repeat.

Saturday THCSITU spent most of the day at the new house, waiting for our bed to be delivered and finishing the painting in our room. Sunday I left him packing the computer equipment/desk and went to buy sheets for our grown-up sized bed so we could have someplace to sleep that night. Our twin bed (yes, you read that right) was going back that night to the mother-in-law's house from whence it came.

At the end of Sunday, the guys left to start the unloading and left me and THCSITU's mom to finish the cleanup of the apt and drive the last carload of stuff away. She did all the real work, I just participated in a few of the activities. Right before leaving, I stopped to use the bathroom. The 15 minute drive to our new house would otherwise be too much for a 9-months-pregnant person's bladder.

"Creo que este bebe va a venir en unos dias," I told her.
"No me digas," she groaned.
"Bueno, hoy no pero... puedes ver que me salió si quieres."

*explicit content warning* if you are prone to being grossed out, quit reading now.

So with my pants around my knees I showed her. I knew it was the mucous plug that had started disintegrating. Yep, she agreed, but maybe I still had a week to go. Since there was no blood, it was certainly early in the process.
*end of explicit content*

We agreed there was no need to worry THCSITU about it yet - it had been a very long couple of days and no baby was showing up that night anyhow.

When we got to the new house... my god. The boxes were piled between 5 and 7 feet high. I arranged the bedroom as best I could as everyone else unloaded that car. My purse, the backpack of vital electronics, clothes, etc. One thing was missing: the backpack I'd started as the "hospital bag." I hunted around and asked about it. No one could tell me if they'd unloaded it or where they'd put it.

As everyone was leaving, around 11 or midnight, I asked THCSITU again.
"We gotta find that bag," I said sort of teasingly (I hoped).
"We will," he replied. "I mean, you're not having a baby tonight."

His mom and I tried not to look at each other as we laughed it off. Right, not tonight...

Around 3 or 4, the contractions started. I was at 38 weeks that day. I remember the first one, realizing what it must be. But even in the moment I knew it was false labor. I hadn't felt any up till that point. I sort of monitored them for a while and then tried not to panic: we didn't even have a frigerator or kitchen sink. We could NOT have this baby yet!!