Friday, April 15, 2011

The Long Over-due Story of the Under-due Birth, Part Three and final.

When last we saw our heroine, she was still hooked up to several machines, on pitocin with an epidural, and still waiting for a baby to come. Kind of like the last time we saw her before that, except several hours later and much more tired.

At 7:56 a.m. Shallow Man posted on Facebook: "No news yet."

I had woken up a little bit before he had and spent some time just kind of staring out the window in the early-September-morning light, feeling grateful for our awesome view but wishing I wouldn't have to see it for too much longer. I was worn out, my lips were still chapped and dry from the oxygen mask during the night, I was hungry and my body was cramped and sore from not being able to change positions much. At some point (I can't remember now if it was during the night or that morning) they had determined that the Little Guy's heart rate did a lot better when I was lying on my left side, so I couldn't really even switch sides very much, and not for more than a couple of minutes.

The contractions were hurting, too, and I was having trouble with my epidural button. The anesthesiologist had told me that I could push the button for more relief when I needed it, but explained that it would take about 10-15 minutes to spread fully once I'd pushed the button, so it wouldn't be an instantaneous relief kind of thing. So I'd push the button and wait for the agonizing 10 minutes to pass. Only instead of getting better, the pain would worsen significantly in the interim, going from maybe a 2 to a 4 or 5. So I would push the button again when the time was up (it could only be pushed once every 15 minutes or so to make sure I didn't accidentally OD or anything) and start waiting again. By the time that waiting period was up, the pain would be at an 8 and I would be gasping and trying to hold back tears when the stronger contractions hit. So we'd hit the call button and get the anesthesiologist to come and do a quick hit directly into the IV line at my shoulder. Relief would instantly wash through me, I could relax, the world looked sunnier for a while. Until the hit wore off and I tried to push the button again. Rinse and repeat. (In retrospect it seems kind of obvious that the button was probably broken, but at the time I think I was too out of it to really put two and two together, and the anesthesiologist probably thought I was afraid to push it too much, as at one point he was telling me it was okay to just "ride that button" and push it as often as I needed to. For the record, I don't blame him at all. I know my coherency level dropped sharply as I crept higher up the pain scale.)

Around 11:00 a.m., in one of the lulls of direct-hit comfort, the doctor had come in and broken my water in an attempt to get things moving a little faster, as I still was hovering right around 4. I tell you, that is a weird sensation. But I was feeling giddy with relief from the epidural shot and was glad of ANY action tending towards forward progress. In fact, once they'd broken my water, I was feeling excited and positive again, and turned to Shallow Man and asked him to turn on the TV. He asked what I wanted to watch and I, without hesitation, asked for college football. "Because, you know, if we're watching something interesting and fun, it might encourage him to come out and see what's going on."

The BYU game wasn't starting until later that afternoon (if memory serves, it started around 4), so we just picked the first random game that came on. I think it was Iowa, but I'm not sure. At any rate, neither of the teams were ones I had any sort of stake in, which may explain why the Little Guy didn't fall for it. We ended up turning the game off once we started getting to the end of that Button of Doom cycle, anyway.

The repeated up-and-down of the pain level (especially the moments of 8s and even 9s) were really starting to get to me by mid-afternoon. I was able to take a nap at some point after a Direct Hit, but that only meant that I'd sleep through the 4/5 stage and wake up for a particularly nasty contraction in the 7/8 zone. Around this time I started getting vague thoughts about c-sections, but didn't say anything because I didn't know if it was some kind of prompting or just my pain aversion—"chickening out," in essence.

At some point during the day, they told me I couldn't have any more water; just ice. Something to do with not having too much water in the system in case of an emergency c-section or whatnot. (I honestly couldn't tell you what they told me because I was having a hard time concentrating on anything besides the stupid pain-and-button dance.) Which is all well and good, but at this point I had been in the hospital and in labor for well over 24 hours, hadn't eaten since dinner the day before, and I was THIRSTY. Ice, even flavored ice, was not cutting it.

After a particularly grueling hour, the nurse came in and checked me around 5:15. I knew she was going to say I was at least a 7, and the baby would be right around the corner.

"Well, looks like you're just above a 4 now," she said encouragingly. (All of my nurses during, as they put it, my marathon labor were amazing in this department. They walked the fine line between helpfully encouraging and disgustingly, unbearably and callously cheerful and they walked it well.)

I tried to say, "Are you sure?" but it probably came out as more of a whimper.

She thought for a moment and then asked if I'd like to have the doctor check, just to make sure. I nodded.

Once she left I stared at the ceiling, trying not to cry. Shallow Man was holding my hand, as he had been for most of the day, helping me through the worst of the contractions and being generally awesome and supportive.

Brief aside: I remember the chart describing the phases of labor in the pre-natal class we went to, and it said something to the effect of "Feelings towards partner during this time may either be of great love (leaning on them for support) or great anger, but either way are generally very strong." I had worried beforehand about the "YOU DID THIS TO ME!" route, and I had told Shallow Man in advance that if I did go that way to please forgive me in advance for any epithets I might yell at him, but it never got there for me. I was definitely a turn-to-him-for-support-er, and I have to take this moment to say that I never could have done it without him. I know he was probably freaking out, but he never let me see it. And honey, I'm sure those bones in your hand will heal eventually.

The doctor on duty was the third doctor we'd been through by now, and incidentally was the same doc I'd been scheduled to meet with the previous morning but who had been called away (I joked with him later that maybe the reason the labor took so long was because I was waiting for him to keep his appointment). He came in, checked me, and verified I was a 4, "and it shouldn't take more than another 7 or 8 hours." He was also being encouraging, but in my sheer exhaustion and pain he may have said years, not hours. I had been in labor for nearly 29 and a half hours. My rope was only so long, and I reached the end of it right then and there.

I dissolved into tears, sobbing as hard as my tired body would let me.

There was a pause as four heads snapped around to look at me—Shallow Man, the doctor, the nurse and the intern—and then the doctor slowly said, "Or, at this point, given how long you've been here and your blood pressure, a c-section would be an entirely reasonable option."

It was like that one word—reasonable—was a ray of light flung into the darkness. Yes, I am waxing cliche here, but it was as if he'd thrown me a life preserver as I was drowning in despair and exhaustion. All of a sudden, the little c-section thoughts I'd been having made sense; it wasn't chickening out, it was reasonable. Shallow Man didn't know for sure what I wanted, but was talking with the doctor about the options. I caught my breath between sobs and asked, "How long would it take for a c-section?"

The doctor replied, "Well, it'll take a little longer right now than it normally would, because the shift change is coming up—"

I panicked for a moment, visions of another hour or two swimming before my eyes.

"—but we should be able to get you in there by 6:00."

I glanced at the clock. 5:30. The waiting could all be over in half an hour. I felt confident for the first time in hours as I told him, "Let's do it."

The sense of relief was amazing for my body. I was able to calm down and relax; the pain didn't even seem as bad once the decision was made and I knew it wasn't going to take much longer. The nurses went to get things ready before they ended their shift, and Shallow Man gave me a quick blessing. Then he changed into the coveralls (let me tell you, watching him try to figure those things out was entertaining) and called our families to let them know the plan. (My mom was heading to the General Relief Society meeting, which started at 6:00. My sister told me later, "Yeah, she was there, but I don't think she heard a single word during the meeting.")

Once they wheeled me into the operating room, we were greeted by one of our nurses from the day before, as well as my favorite doctor from the clinic, who'd been called in as the secondary doctor. The room was freezing, but they put some kind of inflatable plastic thing filled with hot air on top of my chest and arms, which kept me warm and blocked my view of the proceedings. Shallow Man is a bit squeamish when it comes to that kind of thing as well, so he stayed up by my head and the anesthesiologist gave us a running commentary on what was going on.

He told me that I would feel pressure where they were operating, but that I shouldn't feel any pain, so he told me to let him know if anything started hurting. I remember feeling one small prick like being poked with a needle but that was the only pain. There was some tugging and then all of a sudden—

a baby was crying.

I looked at Shallow Man and I could tell he was thinking the same thing. Our baby was in the room. The doctor held him up to peek over the inflatable wall, but I couldn't see very well because I wasn't wearing contacts or glasses. At my urging, Shallow Man went over to the station where they were measuring the Little Guy, and I heard them noting down his statistics. 7 pounds, 6 ounces. 20 inches long. Born at 6:30 p.m. Then they wrapped him up and handed him to his daddy, and Shallow Man brought him over to me.

My arms were still secured at this point so all I could do was nuzzle his cheek with my nose. He was the most perfect baby I had ever seen, and he nuzzled me back. Someone took several pictures of the two of us and then the three of us, and then they took the Little Guy out of the room with Shallow Man in tow while I got stitched up.

The Little Guy ended up going to the NICU for about an hour because his lungs were borderline. Shallow Man told me later that he was so close to the border that the nurses spent just about as long trying to decide whether he actually needed to go to the NICU or not as he spent in the NICU itself.

In the meantime, the doctors finished on me, bundled me up in about 700 blankets and took me back to the room, where I proceeded to shiver violently for what felt like forever, and rejoiced when they told me I could have liquids again. That first drink of water was one of the most amazing things I've ever tasted.

What with the NICU and then the nursery and such, it was about three hours before I really got to meet the Little Guy, which remains my only real regret about the whole experience. Which, if you consider 30 hours in labor, is no mean feat.

Once I had my son in my arms, though, those 30 hours didn't seem so bad. Within minutes, I could no longer remember what life was like without him.

Even when everything was crazy in the following hours (when the morphine wore off and I couldn't keep any food down and STILL couldn't sleep) and days (c-section recovery is not that much fun, nursing was not much better at first, and my blood pressure took WEEKS to get back to normal but not before it sent me to the emergency room), I'd look at the Little Guy and smile. Holding him was the one thing that would always make me feel better, and I'm still completely in love with him.

I know I've probably forgotten some details, and I know it's been a ridiculously long story that was a ridiculously long time in coming, but I'm going to go ahead and end it with mush: I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat for our Little Guy.



Thanks for being so patient in waiting for this ridiculously long story to get posted. I promise to return to regularly scheduled non-birth blogging soon.

6 comments:

Steve Finnell said...

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~Shauna~ said...

Love it! You are such a great writer. It's always touching to read about a baby coming into this world. It's so special.

Motion DeSmiths said...

Yikes. Sounds like you were put through the wringer, dear. I'm glad you're doing much better and so happy you got your little boy.

Lost in Translation said...

What a roller coaster. Your sweet little man is a great outcome for such a difficult journey, but dang! As I've said before, I'm glad you are all safe and healthy and well.

MommyD said...

Wow! What a story! Does holding that baby erase all the pain, or what?! Thanks for sharing!

Tina said...

I sure have enjoyed reading the birth story though! So fun! I'm so happy for you and the safe arrival of your little guy. He sure sounds sweet but I'm sorry for all those hours in labor. No fun at all but like you said, totally worth it and you'd do it again in a heartbeat!!