Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Somethin' 'Bout Birthin' Babies

Having given birth to three children has qualified me for a few merit badges on the proverbial sash of Motherhood. Every mother has a "war story", if you will, for each child that involves such drama and emotion, that we feel the need to share it with as many people as will listen. At a family baby shower one time, we cousins were comparing notes on our various deliveries while one cousin without children yet, listened, perhaps slightly in shock. Laughingly she quipped, "It's like a bad train wreck, you just have to stop and look!" Ain't that the truth.

We mothers do have a tendency to compare stories in such a fashion that it almost seems like a competition - as if we will earn a bigger badge if our delivery story trumps the last one told. In actuality, I believe it is more of a unique cathartic process of sharing our joys, fears, anxieties and elation with the only other people in the world who can possibly understand...other mothers! So to all you mothers who may still be occasionally checking in to see if I've emerged from the world of nursing, cuddling, diapering and never ending laundry. . . here's my latest story. . . just a little somethin' 'bout birthin' babies!

Expecting a new baby is an experience laden with trepidation as you anticipate the baby's arrival, subsequent delivery and face the prospect of parenthood. . . whether you've done it all before or not! In fact, I'm not sure which is better whilst pregnant: to be blissfully unaware of what you're in for regarding labor and delivery or to know exactly what to expect. Even when you know what to expect, ya really don't and are usually met with the unexpected. Such was the case with our latest bundle of joy.

As our baby turned one year old recently, the pain, agony and emotional upheaval that surrounded her birth seem like a distant memory while the joy continues! So before I lose any accurate recollection of her birth I would like to get it in writing, because naturally "Mommy brain" replaced the "Pregnancy brain" almost immediately following delivery.

Our youngest was technically due on August 15th, 2009, after a long not-too-hot summer. . . at least for everyone else!  Having never delivered early, I had originally anticipated a due date of the 24th. At some point during the last trimester the midwife informed me that she would be on vacation starting on my due date and wondered whether I was interested in inducing early if my body was ready. Absolutely! Are you kidding me?! I wouldn't have to wait it out 'til Labor Day (which, according to my calculations on my previous pregnancies, was a possibility!) - needless to say, I was ecstatic at the prospect of having this one before the start of school.

In the last trimester we became aware of the fact that the baby was breech. She was successfully turned at week 37, so we continued to plan on inducing a few days before her due date, understanding that she could do a 180 which would then require us to have a c-section.  At subsequent visits she continued to remain head down and I had even begun to dilate  (something which had never happened with my previous kids until they were on their way!)  I felt quite optimistic that things would go along smoothly and that she may even decide to come on her own early, despite my track record.  During the third trimester I also began to experience Braxton Hicks contractions on an almost daily basis.  Again, not something I had with my previous pregnancies - this baby just wanted to do everything differently.

Thankfully, baby continued to remain head down and ready for delivery over the next few weeks, so we scheduled a day to be induced, August 12th. Finally, the day arrived to head to the hospital to prep for inducement.  We had been packed up for a while due to all the contractions I had been having, just in case this one decided to surprise us early.  Our older kids were shipped off to my parent's house and we made our way to the hospital, arriving around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11th.  The plan was to be given the prostaglandin gels to kick-start labor during the night, which could mean avoiding pitocin the next day to increase contractions.   I was optimistic about this strategy since it had worked with my second child and that labor had gone an hour and twenty minutes from start to finish (with no medications either, but I digress, remind me to glory in the story of my 10 pounder at a later date!)

After registering and unloading all of our labor, delivery and recovery paraphernalia (pillows, music, clothes, snacks, cameras, etc.) they got me all set up for an ultrasound to check on the position of the baby before inducing.  Apparently, all those contractions I'd been having that day were not part of early labor, but the baby flipping herself around again! Yup, she decided that she was not ready to brave the world and did a complete about face.  The doctor came in to try and turn her head down, but to no avail.  After attempting rather forcefully to coax her into the correct position, he reached the 3 strikes limit and declared that I would need to come back the next day for a c-section.  My heart sank.

I cannot express how deflated we felt returning home without a baby in arms.  It was quite a let down to arrive home late at night knowing we would have to make our way back to the hospital in a few short hours to undergo a c-section.  I had a rather sleepless night as I wrestled with the reality of facing a c-section and the ever increasing contractions.  It was a time of much prayer as I prepared myself mentally, emotionally and spiritually for this change in my birth plan.  I had always had much fear of having a c-section. Many people I knew who had delivered by c-section painted terrible pictures of the painful recovery, which I anticipated being increased in my case due to my fibromyalgia.  Not to mention my fear of undergoing major surgery and the infinitesimally small possibility of never seeing this baby or my other children ever again.  (I know, I'm quite the drama queen...it stems from my creative personality and colorful imagination...the unfortunate side effect being that I am an excellent worry wart!)

After a restless night's sleep, a small breakfast in the wee hours of the morning, and attempting to rest a bit in between more contractions, we headed back to the hospital.  We arrived at 1p.m. for a scheduled c-section at 3 p.m.  At this point I had not been allowed anything to eat or drink since early in the morning as part of the prep for surgery.  After registering for the second time in less than 24 hours, we got set up for another ultrasound to determine baby's position.  Once again, my intense contractions were explained as we discovered that baby had flipped herself around one last time.  She was now in the correct position for inducement, so at 2:15 p.m.I was started on pitocin and the contractions were underway by 2:30 p.m.

I'd like to end my emotional roller-coaster-ride-of-a-delivery here and tell you that she arrived with no problem a few hours later, but that would just be too easy now, wouldn't it?  Naturally, this baby continued to throw me curve balls a little while longer.  I realized that having not been allowed to eat or drink anything had really zapped my strength and that if I was going to have the energy to continue laboring I'd need some sustenance.  Eventually, I was able to suck on ice chips and munch a few crackers and the IV bag had definitely helped the re-hydration process.  By 5 p.m. the midwife had decided that it was time to break my water to get things moving more quickly.  However, this proved to be an impossible task, so they decided to give me a rest and try again at a later time.  If I was going to be able to handle the next part of labor, I realized that I would need a little something to take off the edge and allow me to work through these contractions and the breaking of my water.  Around 7 p.m. I asked about a take-the-edge-off drug and they told me that Demerol would make me feel happy and drunk.  Hmmm. . . I'd never been drunk, but I'd been happy. . . so I decided to go for it.  BAD DECISION!

Immediately I felt sick and couldn't even function.  I remember wishing I could throw up, but I could hardly move.  My only recollections of that time is thinking that I'd never want to be drunk if this is how awful you feel and wondering why in the world people take narcotics recreationally...are they crazy?!  Apparently, while I was in this drug induced state the midwife came in and broke my water.  I believe at the time I was trying to make sense of the psychedelic cartoon dreams I was having.

The contractions kicked in to high gear with the breaking of my water at 7 p.m.  After a couple more hours of trying to deal with the intensity of the contractions while feeling horribly doped up, I decided that I needed a break.  I succumbed to the glorious state of relaxation that came with the epidural at 9 p.m.  Having had a bad epidural experience with my first baby, I had been set on avoiding getting one during my subsequent pregnancies.  Unfortunately, this time round the take-the-edge-off drug had in reality pushed me right off the edge and made it impossible for me to handle the contractions.  The epidural gave me the opportunity to rest up a bit before the pushing started and this time I had no ill side effects from which to recover.

Now, I don't know about you, but every time I've had the epidural, they seem to time it just perfectly so that it wears off enough for you to feel the intense pain of pushing!  C'mon, really?!  What am I paying ya for?!  I wanted the no-pain-while-pushing epidural!  I suppose they wanted me to be able to feel the contractions so I could push at the right time, as well as being able to pull myself up on to this birthing bar to squat while bearing down.  While I pushed the nurses would count to ten, which I found a bit annoying because I would be to ten in my head while they are yelling, "One, Two, Great job! Three, Four, You can do it!  Keep pushing! Five Six, oh, try to make it to ten next time."  What?  I was on the count of ten when you were back at four. . . learn how to count lady. . . no chit chat, just numbers please!  This went on from 11 p.m. until 12:30 a.m.  I was exhausted and wondering why the baby had not coming out by now.  I had never had to push this long with either of my other children.  At this point I had really lost a lot of energy and was not able to push with much force.  After pushing for an hour and a half the midwife indicated that the baby just wasn't dropping and we'd need to head to surgery for a c-section.  Finally!

It had taken a couple of days of this roller-coaster-ride-of-a-delivery for me to get to the point where I was actually thankful that I was about to have someone gut me like a pig and pull this baby out of me!  In fact, I was wondering what had taken them so long?!  Did ya really have to let me push for an hour and a half?!  Oh, well, God knew that I had needed to go through all that to be ready emotionally for a c-section.

Within minutes we were rolling through the hallway on the way to the OR.  The baby was born at 1:18 a.m. on Wednesday, August 13, 2009 at 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long.  It took a little while to get her crying, but shortly Hubby was holding her up to me so I could kiss her.  He was dressed in the blue scrubs which brought out his eyes and even now I wish we had thought to get a picture of him holding the baby in the operating room.

After sleeping for a few hours I was able to cuddle and nurse the baby.  The same day I was up out of bed and wondering why people had indicated that c-sections were horrible.  This c-section was the best delivery (minus the 10 hours leading up to it!) and recovery I had.  I was sitting up, walking, holding the baby and nursing - all things that were difficult to do early on with the other two.  Why hadn't I had a c-section before this?!  This was wonderful!  Even in the days to follow I reveled in how much easier of a recovery I was having with this baby.  I do believe that the super glue they used instead of staples or sutures had a big part in the ease of the recovery. Also, the large age gap between our kids provided me with extra hands to take care of our new little girl, enabling me to rest even more.

So, despite being deemed of advanced maternal age, a breech baby who took three days to decide how she wanted to enter the world, and an emergency c-section, this was the best pregnancy, delivery and recovery of all my children.  Thank the Lord for medical advances that enabled me to have this beautiful baby in my arms and to watch her grow into the adorable toddler she is today!

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