Thursday, September 25, 2008

Birth Story, Part Three

(Part One)
(Part Two)

I’m guessing it was only a couple of minutes that we waited for the nurse to take me to my room, but it seemed like much longer. We later found out that L&D was unusually busy that night at the small hospital. Over the course of my labor and birth, ten babies would be born.

Pausing once for a contraction, we made our way to my room. I took a quick look around and saw that the room looked exactly like the one we’d been shown on our tour a couple of months earlier. The next day I found out that it was the nicest, biggest room in L&D, the one usually reserved for the births of hospital employees. I got it because it was the only room available when we arrived. Impeccable timing! Too bad I was in too much pain to appreciate it. All I cared about was getting through the required 20 minutes of fetal monitoring so I could get in the shower.

They hooked me up to the monitor, and I sat on the edge of the bed while they checked the baby’s heart rate and confirmed my name and birth date and snapped hospital ID bracelets onto my wrist. I still couldn’t believe that I was going to have my baby, but it must be happening if they were giving me a bracelet, right?

The baby was doing fine. Margie the midwife came in to check me. I was glad she was on duty that night, since she's one of my favorite midwives.

“You’re six centimeters and 100% effaced!” she announced. “Great job.”

I was a little disappointed, as I was hoping to be further along. But I pushed the number out of my head and made my way to the bathroom so I could get in the shower. I felt like I was underwater, moving slowly. Margie came in with me and asked if I wanted any pain medication.

“No,” I told her. "No meds."

“She’s planning to go without,” Mike explained.

She and the nurses never offered it again.

I stripped down, Mike got into his bathing suit, and we got in the shower. Cathy the doula used the massaging shower head to move the hot water over my back and belly, which felt great.

“She’s done this before!” I remember saying to Mike.

I still wished for a tub, but the hot shower made things much better. I’m not sure how long we were in there- it might have been an hour or two. Cathy asked if I wanted to sit on the shower seat or the birth ball while the shower ran. I tried both, but standing and leaning on Mike made the pain more bearable. I took a deep breath as each contraction began, and breathed slowly and deeply through each one as I made low, guttural noises. My throat would be very sore the next day from doing this for so many hours. Cathy had plugged the aromatherapy machine in, and I smelled oranges. The ocean sounds & meditation music CD was playing in the background. The lights were dimmed and I was only aware of myself, Mike, and the doula.

At some point I got too hot, and we got out of the shower. I changed into a hospital gown. Cathy asked if I wanted her to call Margie so she could check me, but I said no. If I hadn’t progressed, I didn’t want to know. Every once in a while Margie or a nurse would come in and check the baby’s heartbeat with the portable Doppler.

I walked the room for a while, and when a contraction came I would hold onto Mike and sway while Cathy massaged my back. I vomited several times, though there was nothing left in my stomach. Since my mom was busy recording parts of the labor on our camcorder, Mike’s mom was in charge of keeping a supply of ice chips and fetching things we needed from the suitcase.

At some point, I stopped walking and switched to sitting on the end of the bed and clasping Mike’s hands in mine as he stood and pulled rhythmically on my arms, while Cathy massaged my lower back with firm, downward movements. For several hours that was the only way I could manage, focusing on just one contraction at a time. Mike and Cathy kept going and going. Any time I called for them, they were there in an instant.

Time had no meaning that night. It was as though Mike and I were in another world. There was no clock in the room and I was glad, because I didn’t want to break my concentration by focusing on how much time had or hadn’t passed. But every once in a while I would hear a nurse or one of the moms say, “It’s midnight.” “It’s 1 a.m.” and I would marvel at how the night seemed to be both standing still and passing at warp speed.

At some point I consented to have Margie check me and I was 8 centimeters dilated. I got back in the shower, and we stayed in for nearly an hour. After I got out, I walked the room again. I went to the bassinet that was ready and waiting for my baby, and touched the blanket inside. I saw a picture hanging on the wall, that Got Milk? ad with Mariska Hargitay and her baby. I remember thinking, Didn’t she have her baby, like, YEARS ago?

The room was still dimly lit, smelling of citrus and with the sound of the ocean in the background. I wasn't actively aware of the ocean sounds CD while it was playing, but any time it stopped, I noticed immediately and asked for someone to start it again. Cathy and my family later told me that Margie and the nurses were impressed with how serene the environment was. Apparently they were also impressed with how "polite" I was. I laughed when I heard that. I tend to be a fairly quiet, introverted person, so wouldn't it make sense that I would be the same way in labor?

From time to time I would hear a baby cry as it was born. That was really encouraging, but at some point I also heard a woman's screams coming from down the hall.

"Shut the door!" I called. Cathy took care of it.

The contractions were coming faster, and I was glad because I hoped that meant I would soon be at 10 centimeters. The pain enveloped me, and during the contractions I moaned softly, “Please help me. Please help me.”

“You have lots of people here to help you,” Mike would answer. “I will help you.”

Mike didn’t worry when I said this (although apparently it was ripping my mom's heart to shreds). We had a code word that I would use if I couldn’t take it any more and really needed medication. A code word allows the laboring woman to say anything she needs to, to beg for drugs or to say she can’t do it, all the while knowing that the secret word is there if she really needs it. I can honestly say that I never thought about using it.

Sometimes I asked Cathy, “How much longer?”, even though I knew she couldn’t really answer with any accuracy. But she would say, “It shouldn’t be too much longer.”

“An hour?” I would gasp. “Okay. I can do this for another hour.”

“Let’s go for another hour,” she would say.

Margie came back into the room and asked if I wanted her to check me. I said yes, certain that I must be at 10. My heart sank when I saw her shake her head. After nearly three hours, I was still at eight centimeters.

“Do you want me to break your bag of waters?” she asked. “It could make the contractions harder to handle, but it might speed things along, especially if you're getting tired.”

Another contraction passed, and I told her yes. Do it.

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Blogger Suse said...

I remember asking my midwives in my first and third labour how much longer (didn't have time to ask with the second labour!). The midwife I had for my firstborn was tremendous, and answered reassuringly, murmuring how well I was doing and I was nearly there. It was all I needed.

The third labour midwife took my question of how much longer, literally, and just shrugged. Utterly useless. A good midwife is worth her weight in gold.

Loving your birth story posts and am anxiously awaiting part four.


12:19 AM  
Blogger BabelBabe said...

you are amazing. i got drugs as soon as is set foot in the hospital : )

re: nursing - lots of people will say different things. I do know that a beer or two a day (preferably dark) will help with both milk supply and letdown. (and oatmeal increases milk supply (not that that's an issue, apparently, eh? you earth mother, you...), so you know,a nice oatmeal stout? double duty...) A glass or two of wine is perfectly fine. I myself limit hard alcohol to one drink...maaayyyyybbbeee two, over say, an evening (2-4 hours) before I start thinking about p&d. more than two, I consider p&D. BUT many people will tell you I am way overcautious about this and happily drink three or four and nurse away.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

Oatmeal stout works for me. LOL

You did a lot better in labor than I did. I was still a ninny for number three. :-)

6:36 PM  

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