Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wallaby Birth Story

He was born on December 10, at 7:28am.  Made it in the nick of time.

I showed up at the hospital the day before, about an hour late for my induction, properly stressed about the whole thing.  Inductions are dangerous.  They increase the risk of ending up with a C-section.  They can be rushed and cause distress in the baby.  And they really suck in terms of pain.  Wombat was induced, and being hooked up to pitocin machine felt like someone knocked the wind out of you and then kept punching you repeatedly.  I was hoping to avoid induction with Wallaby, but there we were, week 42 rapidly closing and no sign of labor, and therefore, no choice.  With Wombat, I was at my wits end for how to delay induction another couple of days, and was very upset to have to go to the hospital and be messed with.  This time I didn't stress out as much as the first time: I kind of came to terms with it, and also I was just busy.  I ran out of the house an hour late after setting everything up for my parents to stay with Wombat and finishing up last-minute work items.  My Mom laughed and said that I was talking about giving birth the way you'd talk about going to a store "OK, I'll just run out and deliver the baby real quick, and then I'll be back and we can think of what to buy to cook next week...."

So I got to the hospital an hour late, got checked in, and after a while a midwife came by and offered some words of encouragement.  I didn't get my hopes up much, thinking that I've played this game before.  With Wombat, the induction started off on Cervidil, which did get contractions started.  Unfortunately, the contractions were not coming fast enough - they just started early labor, and they were getting more intense but not very quickly.  The midwife with me at the time suggested to try walking around to get them to pick up.  Determined to avoid pitocin at all costs, I made a big lap in and around the hospital, running all over the place, and got myself really tired just to get back and find out that contractions still have not become productive.  Midwife insisted on pitocin.  Pitocin was very ouchy.  I was already exhausted.  (No one tells you that to make it through pain you have to be well rested.  It takes a lot of energy and mental focus to deal with pain, it turns out.  If you are tired, your focus will be the first to go, and as soon as it leaves, you are done for).  After a few hours of feeling like drowning under pain, midwife said things still were not moving as fast as she'd like and told me we needed to break my water.  I asked for an epidural at that point.  Wombat was born soon after that.

So this time around, I was determined to not get myself tired out because, I told myself, let's face it - chances were pitocin was coming.  I was going to go through the whole Cervidil thing, have it (probably) start mild contractions again, then buck up and try to ride out the pitocin as long as I could.  It was important to go into it rested.  Midwife said "Sometimes with the second child, Cervidil does wonderful things, you never know".  That would be nice.

I got checked in, went to the birthing room, and on the first check, the midwife declared that I was at 4 centimeters.  This meant that I must have been having some contractions of my own and not feeling them!  This also meant that Cervidil had no point.  4 cm is as far as it will get you, and if you are already there, it will do nothing.  We decided to wait until morning; if nothing would happen, we'd start Pitocin then.  The monitor showed contractions.  I stared at it in disbelief.  The midwife suggested to strip the membranes to try to hurry things up.  We did.  I really still didn't think this was labor.

And then contractions came! They were very mild at first.  I walked around a little to try to get them to intensify, or at least to stay; I was really careful to not get tired out.  But they stayed! They became regular!  They came every 6 minutes and lasted 1-2 minutes each!  "Look at you!" said the nurse. By 11pm, I decided that I should go to sleep - I needed to be rested to handle labor, natural or pitocined.  So I fell asleep.

Contractions woke me up at 3am.  I've never been so happy to have something hurt in my life. I walked around my room to try and make them stay, or get more intense faster.  I was afraid that just like the last time, the contractions will be pronounced "not good enough".  By 5am they definitely became good enough for me; they took all of my concentration to get through. At 5am, I asked the nurse to call my midwife.  The contractions would come fast and really hard, and I was starting to feel the urge to push.  The nurse checked me and said we were at 6cm.  I remember saying that with contractions coming this fast, I really hope the midwife is not driving from Olney.

The contracitons on pitocin are very different from contractions you get on your own.  I know there are medical professionals who say that pain in natural labor and pain during induction are comparable.  I would like to punch those professionals in the face.  I don't know how to explain it, but contractions you get on your own do not cause you to go into panic.  They really hurt, but they somehow feel right at the same time.  It's possible to relax into them if you focus.  It's a lot of pain, but it doesn't cause you to tense up or get stressed out by it.  On Pitocin, relaxation was impossible and I felt panicked.  (This made me wonder if somehow natural oxytocin can cross the blood-brain barrier and shut off your fight-or-flight reaction, and synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) can not?) I would moan and grunt my way through contractions with Wallaby, and in my mind be perfectly calm.  I could hear myself make noise and sometimes it sounded like a song I'd sing to Elijah at bedtime; like a sad slow lullaby for the baby. 
 It did get bad enough a couple of times that I thought of getting an epidural.  What stopped me was remembering how, with Elijah, epidural made me loose all feeling of the baby moving (duh, I know).  It really freaked me out at the time; after 9 months of having the kid tumble around, suddenly you feel nothing.  All you have is the baby heart monitor, and you can no longer help the baby get through contractions by moving to be more comfortable yourself.  I hated that feeling.  So this time, when I thought of getting the epidural, I told myself "You won't feel the baby anymore if you do.  You won't be able to walk around with him if you do. "  So I didn't.  If the contractions took longer though, I probably would have caved.  

I don't know how much time passed between calling the midwife and the midwife arriving, but when the midwife got there she said we were at 9cm and it was pretty much time to push.  When she said that, I said "Really?"  She said "We are going to have this baby".  They started warming the bassinet, unwrapping the blanket, getting the lights, the whole thing, and in my head I just kept thinking  "Really? No, really?"

Really.  I'm not sure how long I had to push, but it didn't feel like very long.  It's weird: when it's time to push, if you try to hold it, the pain is really bad.  But if you do actually push, then it doesn't hurt!!  Crazy, but true.  It was a bit of pushing, and changing positions, and the baby was almost out (according to eyewitnesses at my rear end), but not out.  The midwife and nurse suddenly looked worried and, with no explanation and in very strict voices commanded to me that the baby has to come out.  Now. Then they shoved an oxygen mask on my face.  This breathed a lot of new energy into me in addition to oxygen, and I seriously started to push, contractions or no contractions.  And he came out.  And made a lot of noise immediately.  Poor kid. It turned out that he was facing the wrong way: toward my back, not toward my front.  I didn't have back labor, but apparently him facing the wrong way makes it hard, and sometimes impossible, to push him out.  The narrowest side of the head is the forehead, and when the baby faces your back, you have to get a wider side of the head out first.  Sometimes that's not possible, and when that's the case, they have to C-section the kid out.  They can't wait very long, because the umbilical cord is compressed in the birth canal, and the baby will become oxygen-deprived if he doesn't emerge quickly.  That was why my midwife and nurse had the very worried looks on their faces.  Thank lord Wallaby was able to come out.

After that bit of a trip down the birth canal, Wallaby was letting everyone have a piece of his mind, and I wanted to feed him.  They put him on my chest for a little bit, but then the midwife declared that she needed to do the stitches.  I couldn't feed the little one because I was twitching as she was doing it, so he ended up having to shriek for food for what felt like an eternity while she was doing her needlework.  As soon as she was done and Wallaby could eat, he fell asleep and slept the sleep of the just.  And I was so, so happy.  Happy that my baby was ok.  Happy that I delivered a kid all on my own, with no drugs messing with my baby and me.  Happy that he made it in the nick of time.  And really thankful to some higher power that made this happen.

Once he was fed, and washed, and swaddled, we moved to our Mother-Baby room.  It had  a window, and behind the window was the first snowfall of the year.   Beautiful, soft, gigantic snowflakes were rushing to the ground in the morning twilight, and Ingy and I stared at it for a while like it were a present.  "See", we said to Wallaby, "first snow of the season, just for you on your birthday".  He slept through it. :)


Cecilia Newell said...

Amazing and touching story! Thanks for sharing. Wallaby is just darling. :) I'm so, so thrilled for you to have had such an exceptionally happy birth experience. I am in TOTAL agreement with you about punching anyone who claims that an induced labor and a natural labor produces similar contractions; complete lie from those who have not experienced both! Gives you the urge to want to march into every med school and set all potential OB med students straight, doesn't it?

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