Friday, August 07, 2009

Labor & Delivery

How I went in wanting a completely natural, unmedicated birth and came out with my worst nightmare: a C-section.

On July 13 we went to the hospital around 5 pm to preregister. My due date was still a ways off (July 27) but I thought we were long overdue for preregistration and also for installing the car seat. So we headed to the hospital to take care of the easy one. I had already been having contractions but didn't realize it. The menstrual-cramp like contractions were not the same as the Braxton-Hicks contractions I had been having but I thought these new ones were just my body's way of prepping for the big day in advance. Well in advance.

After the incredibly easy check-in, we went up to the maternity ward to look around and said we were just visiting. I asked to see a birthing room. A nurse at the front desk asked whether I was having contractions and I said no, just cramps. The birthing room was surprisingly nice. It was spacious and looked comfortable. The only weird thing was the crucifix mounted on the wall smack dab on the wall facing the bed. I didn't like that, but it is a Catholic hospital and as I found out later, I had my eyes closed during the vast majority of my late labor anyway so I wasn't going to be weirded out by the presence of a little metallic Jesus anyway.

When a nurse showed us the room she asked if I was in labor, and I said no but then we got to talking and my answers to her questions resulted in me getting checked in. They hooked me up to monitors (fetal heart rate and contraction) and we waited for about an hour. As coincidence would have it, my OB was in the hospital and came by to check in on me. That was a nice surprise. He was leaving for vacation the next day and wasn't coming back until after my due date so that was probably the last I'd see of him. I asked him to check my dilation because I was curious. I was 1 cm and -2 station. He thought it could be another week or two, no way to know and said we could all go home but to come back if things get more serious. He wasn't super specific.

So we went home. As it turned out, I had contractions all night and morning and got no sleep but I didn't think much of the cramps, really. Having experienced severe endometriosis for years and years plus an ER visit due to a ruptured cyst, these cramps were no big deal. I wasn't feeling up for work in the morning so I bagged out of that. Although I didn't realize I was in labor, I was.

I called my mom in the morning around 9 am and had some three-way talks with her and my sister (who had recently had a baby) but nobody thought I was in labor. I had been timing the contractions/cramps on a my iPhone through an app called "Labor Mate." That made it super easy to find out how long contractions were, how much time passed in between them and also what the average time was. It's a really neat app. I'm glad I used it. And, you could email the log! Awesome. Not that it helped me figure out ..when.. to go to the hospital. The app should have a pop-up screen that asks: Have you lost your mucus plug? Are you having 'bloody show'? Then go to the hospital woman! Go!

I called my OB nurse sometime in the morning and asked her how regular the contractions had to be to go the hospital. She was equivocal but said if I have a bright pink discharge, it is time to go. I called Mr. Field Notes at around 11am (while he was on deadline at the newspaper) and told him it was probably time to be thinking about going to the hospital. He got the voicemail around 11:30 am and finished out work for the daily paper then came home. I think he might have even gone swimming after deadline and in between coming home. That's how convinced I was that I was having false labor. Ha ha ha. Was I ever wrong.

I got the bright pink discharge after Mr. FN got home around 1pm. I packed my bag for the hospital.. hadn't even done that yet! And we left. It was a short, short drive to the hospital. If I wasn't well on my way into contractions-land, we could have walked. And, really, that probably would have been better for my delivery but as far along as I was, I may have ended up giving birth on the sidewalk halfway there, assuming we could even have made it that far. Yeah, I am just that crazy — thinking I could WALK to the hospital while in labor. Overachiever? Yep.

But we drove.

I had been laboring on my left side, on all fours, bent over a counter, table or chair or leaning up against a wall.

I got a ride up to the maternity ward in a wheel chair pushed by the front-desk lady. I recalled it was quite a ways to go to get there and I was tired. I hadn't slept since Sunday night (it was Tuesday afternoon).

We got settled into the birthing room and asserted myself by not putting their stupid hospital gown on. I stayed in my T-shirt and just took my skirt off so I'd be more comfortable. Two nurses came in to start an IV line. And, just like last time I was in the hospital (to have surgery for endometriosis), they had a hell of a time finding a vein to get the line started. I didn't want to be hooked up, but it was hospital policy to at least open the line. They didn't actually hook me up to an IV until much, much later. I had poke marks all over both arms and hands. I think they eventually used the smallest bore needle they had. I did not enjoy being a pincushion.

I was definitely in labor now. No doubt about it in their mind. I thought I was going to have my mom there with me, but I was 2 weeks early and she was 500 miles away still. So it was just the Official Help You Labor Nurse (OHYLN) and Mr. FN in the room with me, besides Dr. WooooooJ (who was much cooler than his nickname). He wasn't my regular doc because mine had ..just.. left for vacation. Dr. Wooj and I clicked instantly so I felt good about the whole new doc I've never met before looking at my hoo ha. OHYLN did a quick check and found out I was at 8 cm.

8 cm dilated.

I got to 8 cm dilation at home — alone.

Yes, I am that bad ass.

Everybody thought I was within two hours of delivery. But from that point (around 1:30 pm) until around 10 p.m., I stayed at 8cm despite the contractions getting stronger. I labored on my left side (at home, too) for a long time, because that's what felt the best but the OHYLN had me use other positions to try to move my dilation along. I did the birth ball, hip rocking on the ball, on all fours, leaning over the back of the inclined bed, etc but nothing was working.

My cervix was swelling too and I reverted to 6cm dilated.

An apologetic Dr. Wooj said it was really time for me to try lying on my back, which I really did not want to do, both because I knew that would be a lot less comfortable and because we'd lose the effect of gravity, but I listened to my doc and did it. The point was to get my swollen cervix to ease up, and that would theoretically be helped by taking some of the pressure of the baby's head off.

By this point, my breathing changed to the deep breaths in and out and the moans and groans and animalistic grunts associated with late labor. I went into meditation mode for the next god-knows-how-long. My eyes were closed most of the time and I kept seeing the game Zip Word. It's an iPhone game like Boggle. I had been playing it for the previous week.

Yep, it wasn't the image of 'Our Savior Jesus Christ' that got me through labor, it was...

Zip Word.

At some point, maybe around dinnertime, 6pm or so, my water broke. I barfed at the time, right immediately before or right after — I can't recall. However, the sensation of my water breaking, the explosion, was Intense. I don't recall it as being painful, but it must have been to make me barf. My water breaking was the coolest, most unexpected neat-o thing that happened during labor and delivery. I can't really describe how it felt, just that it was like nothing else I'd ever experienced and was intense. It was not even remotely similar to any waters breaking I had ever seen in the movies. Not even close. And, I would totally love to experience that again because it was so intense, but it's never ever gonna happen, ever, ever again. Humpf.

So, I eventually got back up to 8cm after being down at 6cm.

At some point prior, but after my water broke, Dr. Wooj hooked me up with an internal sensor to measure contractions. It showed weak contractions that weren't doing anything. Also at some point prior but after my water broke, the baby's heart rate slowed too much for the doctor's comfort, so Wooj administered a drug to ease the contractions, which were doubling up and too close together yet also not achieving any progress. The contractions started intensifying a bit after the drug wore off, but never fully recovered and made no impact on dilation for hours, so Dr. Wooj suggested a C-section. I had been stagnate at 8cm for six to eight hours at least.

I asked if there was anything else we could try to move things along. He said we'd tried re-positioning me and that didn't work but we could try an epidural and pitocin. The epidural was to relax me / my uterus, which he thought had been under stress for too long. I got the pitocin to re-kickstart delivery-stage contractions.

Lurch, the anesthesiologist with the iPhone, administered the epi, and then the pitocin was infused, but only for about 20 minutes or so. At that point, Wooj said he thought it was time to cut bait because the contractions were not strong enough according to the internal sensor. As much as I didn't want to have a c-section, I knew that if I wanted to have this baby it looked like the best option given the fact that for a good ten hours I showed no increased dilation.

The baby was in a good position, not posterior or anything like that which would have made labor slower and harder — nope, just my god-damned back fucking luck.

At one point after we decided to go ahead with the section, Doc Wooj remarked, "You may look like you're 15, but you have a 35-year-old uterus and it just doesn't know what to do." It seems he was right.

Upon arriving at the hospital and finding out I was at 8cm, I had been so excited. So excited! I knew that baby was going to be here soon — and on Bastille Day to boot. Bastille Day is like the Fourth of July but for France. I taught myself French after college, to read St. Exupery's Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand and Stars for all you non-Francophiles) and also to prepare for doing field work in Africa where being able to converse in French makes the job easier. I never made it to Africa for fieldwork, but I retained a fondness for French stuff and did got to France a couple times after college. Although my accent was terrible, I am sure, I still got around splendidly. A fondness for France and French stuff is something I share with Mr. Field Notes' mom. For the longest time, I actually thought she was born on Bastille Day and I thought that was pretty cool. But she was born two days prior. When it came time for Baby Field Notes to be born, I was stoked that she was actually coming on Bastille Day!

So after the writing was on the wall for the c-section, I told Dr. Wooj that if I had to have a c-section I was cool with that if it could still happen that day, on Bastille Day. It was getting on toward 10 or 11pm at the time so they wheeled me down to the OR.

There, Lurch (he really did resemble the dude from the Addams Family), the anesthesiologist amped up the epidural and Dr. Wooj and another doc did the C-section. There were some other dudes in the room too, who may have been docs or just surgical nurses, I don't know, but in addition to me, there were at least 4 maybe 5 doctors who had to be there to get Baby Field Notes into this world. That's a lot of god-damned doctors!

Mr. FN had to disappear for a while to change into scrubs. I wish I had actually seen him in his scrubs, that would have been cool, but I never did. He sat up by my head and hung out for support, which was nice, but then as soon as Baby FN was cut out (11:05 pm, July 14) he was gone. He got to cut the umbilical cord. I didn't get to watch that, which makes me sad, really, but oh well. It's not like I had a choice. The tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this suggests it still matters a lot to me that I was robbed of that experience. Humpf.

For the next three hours — that's right — three painfully long hours, I laid alone (pretty much) waiting for my body to 'wake up.' God that was torture — mental torture. To lie there virtually motionless and with no one besides the wanker nurse to keep me company for three fucking hours was worse than labor. Much, much worse. I couldn't get the dipshit nurse to talk to me. Until I could wiggle my toes and bring my knees up, three hours later, I had to watch her stare at a computer or my chart. Or, I watched the clock. I wasn't even remotely tired and I was fucking paralyzed. Could they not get a fucking TV in the recovery room? Or a ream of paper and a basket to throw wads at? Anything for entertainment. Good god. Or at least a nurse who was talkative? She was brain dead. BRAIN DEAD. I just could not get her to talk to me. Even when she was right next to me staring at my god damned chart. And I am not a talkative person but I needed some social support then, even a modicum would have been nice. At one point, I must have been beyond frustrated at this point, I asked her if she was asleep! She said that's not allowed while working or would be bad while working, or something like that. Fortunately I realized quickly this lady was responsible for giving me meds and for ultimately getting me the heck out of there, so I recovered by saying, "Well you had a very studious look about you." Then I went back to hating her and atrophying from boredom.

I thought I was going to die of boredom, literally.

Why on earth I have not yet signed a DNR order is beyond me, because that lovely experience taught me I will be better off if someone just pulls the plug on me than to let me live paralyzed and helpless. I am no Steven Fucking Hawking. Let. me. tell. you. that. So, yeah, I hated that part.

While I was being sewn up and 'recovering,' I mean dying of boredom, Mr. Field Notes and Baby FN went up to the nursery for weighing, bracelets, other health checks, her first bath, plus lots of suctioning of meconium - yuck. Grandpa Field Notes arrived about 5 minutes after they got to the nursery.

I wish things had gone differently, but I am at peace with what happened. Yes, parts still make me sad, but I'm no longer blaming myself for having to have a c-section. I am no longer crying because "I didn't get to push" and therefore "don't deserve the push pressie" that Mr. Field Notes has for me. Instead, I didn't have to push. I didn't have to have an episiotomy or tear my perineum. My vagina isn't stretched out to kingdom come and back. Some things are not so bad about having a c-section. Some things. I still am not yet approved to drive anywhere and I can't lift anything over ten pounds. And that means I cannot walk those doggies, not for a very long time. But, I am recovering and it wasn't that bad. I can imagine doing it again.

One day Baby Field Notes will learn it took two scary surgeries to bring her into this world.

Whether she appreciates that or not, I am just relieved she's actually here now and so far, apparently healthy as can be!


Rebecca said...

I'm sorry you didn't have the birth you wanted - it sounds like there was a lot of frustration and loneliness - especially in the recovery room! Thank you for sharing your experience so candidly. However, very happy BFN is healthy and you're all doing well. She is lovely!

Virginia Burnett said...

Your labor story sounds very familiar. I had an emergency c-section after obsessively planning for and attempting a natural birth.

Recovery was my least favorite part, too. My husband wanted the sex of our baby to be a surprise so we didn't find out at the sonogram - even though I said "What if I end up with a c-section? Then I'll be the last to find out. That won't be fair." He said I shouldn't worry about that, things would be fine.

It wasn't fair. I woke up in recovery, shivering uncontrollably - it was actually more like being electrocuted - with Jean Stapleton cross cast as the Albino from Princess Bride bending over me saying "You have a beeeeauuuutiful little daughter! Isn't that nice?"

I was so stressed over the shivers that I didn't even care about the baby - I managed to gasp out through my uncontrollably clenched teeth - "Make . . . this . . . stop" before I passed out again.

Anyway, I'm glad you both made it through safely. 15 years from now you'll be able to laugh about it. Plus labor and delivery horror stories are such great guilt fodder as your child grows older, you'll be glad to have this little tidbit tucked away in your memory. :)

Little Lovables said...

it's amazing the things we have to go through to have a supposedly natural experience!

sorry about the c-section, it's hard for my friends to cope who had to had one that wasn't planned either.

some hopsital staff are pretty dense. I was at a 9cm and my water had broken, but when I arrived at the hospital, the nurse tried to send me home for "false labor"

and though I ended up having a vacuum delivery (and the awful tear that went with it) I loved my birthing experiences

goblinbox said...

Excellent excellent excellent birth story! Loved it!

You made me laugh out loud like three times.

Please, throw away any feelings of inadequacy about having a C section right this moment. Look at the alternative: one or both of you could have died.