Sunday, February 2, 2014

Caleb William, A Birth Story | Part 2

(here's Part 1)

Now that I have more experience with hospitalization, pain, and hospital intake procedures, it never ceases to baffle me the way that they pepper you with idiotic questions while your suffering increases. The worst part is usually 2 or 3 people ask you the same questions in succession. I mean -- we have computers and smart phones. Can't they get on the same page without forcing me to repeat myself between mind-numbing contractions? Else I'll just tattoo this to my forehead: "No, I don't smoke. No, I haven't been drinking. My husband and I have just looked through all three of our bags and our phones and everything else and it looks like we forgot the pediatrician's information so NO I don't have that for you and I know you're making a big deal about it but guess what? I know there is a pediatrician who works in this department in case I don't already have one so you can leave me alone now. Thanks!" And yes, I know these dear ones are just doing their job, so I don't really blame them, but really someone should change the procedure. In the meantime, I hope they enjoy my response: "I'm sorry but I can't answer that question right now."

Anyhoo, they took me into a triage room and put me in a gown and contraction monitor and gave me a million pieces of paper to fill out and sent my husband to properly park the car. They did ask me a million questions and then made me lay back (which I found to be excruciatingly painful pretty much the entire time I was in labor) so they could check me and found that I was 6-7 cm dilated, so I would be staying and not getting sent home. Everyone seemed surprised that as I first-time mom, I was actually dilated and they were admitting me. I think secretly they were blowing me off in their heads, which is always a good feeling. My cervix showed them what's up! Ha.

So, I think it was between 3 and 4 am (?) when we found ourselves in a nice big room with some nice nurses and got me all hooked up to contraction and baby monitors, and all I really wanted to do was get back in the shower (I'd tried the shower a little bit at home), so they worked out a system for that and I got in there and spent as much time in the shower as I could. Because the hot water was pretty much the only thing that gave me relief at that point in my labor, I have in mind that I'd like to find a place with a birthing tub that I'll be able to try next time. The shower was good, but I got tired of just standing there as it was small and cramped and I couldn't really get into a comfortable position. My husband was a huge help with taking advantage of this option, so I definitely appreciated him.

One thing I really wish now is that I had continued to try walking around once I'd been admitted. There isn't much opportunity for this because they hook you up to so many darn monitors once you're there (which we were prepared for and this is why we waited until contractions were 3 minutes apart to even leave for the hospital). But even if I had paced the room, or opted to try the birth ball, I think it would've been better because I would've had gravity on my side, and probably would've found a more relaxing position. As it was, when I took a break from the shower I was pretty much sitting in the hospital bed and screaming whenever someone tried to make me lay down (cause OW!). I wasn't really able to relax.

The end result of this was that after 6 more hours of laboring, I was growing delirious. I had found an ability for a few hours to breathe through my contractions, and I wasn't consciously choosing it but I have a vague memory of a humming pattern that I used to focus myself. I remember everyone telling me I was doing a great job and all the nurses asking what classes I had taken to learn the techniques I was using, and I was like, "Uhh, regular hospital brand?" But maybe this is the party line they give all the ladies to boost their self-confidence.

It was starting to get light outside, and my sister had arrived and was there supporting and encouraging me with my husband. (They were both awesome, btw.) I didn't have any pain meds or really any meds, just an IV. My contractions were very painful and they were coming so close together at this point that I was barely getting a minute to rest. Mind you, by now I've missed two nights of sleep in a row, and I'd been laboring fast and furiously for 12 hours. The pain and exhaustion started taking over my brain and I couldn't really make small decisions anymore. All I could think was "I want to go to sleep. I need to go to sleep." I was feeling nauseated, and I remember people saying maybe I was getting to the transition phase.

I think I started to cry but I'm not sure. I was despairing that I was going to be able to make it much longer. I couldn't really connect with anyone and I felt very alone and unable to manage the pain anymore. The doctor came in and checked me at this point. It turned out that my cervix hadn't changed since we'd been admitted. The baby was even higher than before. This is why I say I wish I used some other laboring positions and opted to have gravity on my side. Being so exhausted, and for the most part just sitting legs up in the hospital bed, I don't think I was able to relax to allow my body to continue working.

This news put me in a state of extreme sadness. They asked me if I wanted to get an epidural so I could sleep. This terrified me and I got very upset and I was unable to make the decision for what felt like a long time. I was so conflicted because I felt like I should be strong enough to overcome the pain I was experiencing, and I knew that many women do it all the time. I was terrified that something would go wrong and I would experience complications that would somehow compromise my time of bonding with the baby after I gave birth. I was worried it would stop my contractions and I'd end up needing more and more medication, and possibly end up needing a c-section. I truly had so many worries, I didn't know how to make the decision. I worried about disappointing myself and my husband, because we had wanted to try for a natural birth. (My Sister could tell I was having a hard time with the decision and tried to help me process it by asking what I was afraid of. All I could say was "paralysis" -- I was very afraid of epidurals!)

To date I'm not sure how I overcame all those thoughts and emotions to make a decision. I think I just realized that I was going through a lot of pain and turmoil for the end result of no progress. My brain and body's need for rest overcame the conflict and anxiety of my emotions, and I opted for getting the epidural just so I could finally go to sleep and worry about everything else later, after I'd had a nap. The nurse tried to encourage me that if I had the ability to relax, my body would probably loosen up and my labor would probably progress, which she said is common for first-time moms. She suggested that after going through birth once, I might find it easier to try a med-free birth the second time.

The anesthesiologist came in with a huge cart and started giving me his spiel with lots of humor, although I really can't remember anything he said as I was still in excruciating discomfort with almost nonstop contractions. I think my husband was a little annoyed with his jokes and wished he would just get down to the business of putting his wife out of her misery. They made Jhonny sit on a stool so he wouldn't pass out when they stuck the needle in my spine. I remember him having me sit up and telling me to curl my spine outward like a cat. Can I tell you how difficult this is when you are having contractions?? Quite. But before long it was over, and I was sleeping.

The next few hours were sweet, glorious relief. I am so thankful, because I was able to sleep and relax and even regained my ability to think straight and make conversation with my husband, sister, and mom (who arrived after my epidural). I slept for the better part of 3-4 hours, and mercifully, my contraction monitor showed that my contractions were continuing on their own in a textbook pattern -- the nurse said that the way they looked on the monitor it didn't seem like I had an epidural at all. See how you worried for nothing, self?? Still, I'm glad I waited as long as I did, and made the decision based on the way my individual labor progressed. For me, it was just right -- not to say I won't do things differently next time, but it was a perfect first learning experience.

The several hours after the epidural were pretty uneventful. Lots of sleeping, chatting, hydrating, and changing positions. Around 3pm, my doctor came back and checked me again to find that I was ready to start pushing. This was the part of the process when I most wished I didn't have the epidural, because I couldn't feel my contractions well enough to know when I should be pushing, so I had to rely on other people to tell me. I couldn't feel "down there" very well, so I was having a hard time pinpointing exactly where to push. For that reason, I feel like my first several contractions after I started pushing were a lot clumsy and a little unproductive, but my doctor was great and she gave me lots of good guidance on how to redirect and improve my efforts. Eventually I got the hang of things and started making progress. Once I started making progress I knew more because of how exhausted I was between pushes than because I could feel the baby.

It sounds like a super long time, but about an hour and a half of pushing went by extremely quickly. My doctor knew when the baby was about to come, and got dressed in what looked like a hazmat suit (rightfully so) and visor with a shield over her face. I was busy, but I reminded myself to laugh about that later. It was pretty intense! She has a very calm demeanor and does things in a discreet, matter-of-fact, and very calming style, although she's also very authoritative, so with a few short pushes more, as the clock struck 4:46pm on January 7th -- his estimated due date!! -- the baby was born!

Everything became a crazy blur after that. They put the baby on my chest right away so I could hold him while they began cleaning him off and suctioning his breathing passages. He was a good screamer and seemed immediately adorable to me, and I was kissing him all over his slippery head. I don't remember my husband cutting his cord, but apparently he did. I just wanted to hold and cuddle and kiss my baby. Eventually, after what seemed like seconds but I know now was actually several minutes, they took him to the far corner of the room to weigh him and check his blood sugar (he was shaking a bit and he was big, so apparently that leads to indications of blood sugar issues -- but he didn't have any and was probably just cold and objecting to his abrupt change of scenery).

I remember at this point asking my husband to announce his name. We had chosen his first name already, and selected a few possibilities for a middle name, but several days before I'd told my husband that he got to make the final call on the middle name, so I really still didn't know which one he'd chosen. "Caleb William" was the final call (the middle name I'd most wanted!), so Jhonny shared and my mom began to spread the word to family.

*        *        *

So, what's in a name?

to be continued....

(Part 3)
(Part 1)

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