Thursday, June 1, 2017

Birth Story #2

It has come to my realization that I didn't publish Big E's birth story. I will have to rectify that oversight, but for now...


The hockey game had just ended. The Leafs won, which should have been my first clue that it was no ordinary Saturday night. It was also my due date, and as Big E was born on her due date, I was on high alert, but also looking for any opportunity to get some rest. J wanted to watch a movie. But it was almost 10pm and all I could think about was how much I would regret staying up until midnight or later if I went into labour. So we compromised. J turned on a movie I wasn’t interested in, and I immediately fell asleep on the couch.  For about 5 minutes.

I felt a twinge. Nothing very uncomfortable, just a weird little twinge in the bottom of my uterus made me say “hm”. I glanced at my watch, just in case. I continued to snooze. 4 minutes later, another twinge. Still not even worth cracking an eye open, except to check the time. And then in another 4 minutes, and another.  After 20 minutes or so, I mentioned it to J. We decided to keep watching the clock. Soon it had been an hour of twinges, getting ever so slightly stronger, every 4 minutes. We weighed our options. I was negative for Group B strep this time, so there was no need to rush to the hospital for IV antibiotics. On the other hand, the contractions were already 4 minutes apart and our doctor had suggested going to the hospital at 5 minutes. With second babies, chances were good that I’d be delivering faster than my 20-hour clocking with Big E, but the timing of labour is truly one of life’s last great mysteries. Also, we would need my parents to look after Big E while we were at the hospital, and by calling sooner rather than later we were less likely to have to drag them out of bed. We made the call, telling them not to rush, but that the moment had arrived. I don’t think it took them any longer than 20 minutes to ring the doorbell, and considering that the drive is 15 minutes, I suspect they may have been camped out in the elevator, taking bets on when the call would come. It took about that long to convince Big E to get out of bed, but once she was conscious enough to process the fact that her baby sister or brother was on its way, she wasn’t hard to get moving. I would later learn that getting her back to sleep at Grandma and Grandpa’s place was another ball game entirely.

We had sort of thought we were getting ahead of the game by having my parents collect Big E, and planned on hanging around the house for a while until things intensified. But I was having some bleeding, and the contractions stayed very close together, so it wasn’t long before we packed the car and headed to the hospital. By the time we were driving, the contractions were uncomfortable enough for me to notice EVERY bump in the road. And our block is VERY bumpy.

We parked in the parking garage, noted our location (impressive for us on a good day) and made our way to the Labour and Delivery ward at around midnight. I think the fact that we sauntered in there smiling and speaking in coherent sentences alerted them to the idea that this wasn’t a particularly emergent situation. But it was only a minute or two before the triage nurse came out and escorted us to our room. She did a quick check, assured me that it was a boy on account of the lower heart rate and that I was only about 2cm dilated, and instructed me to spend the next 2 hours walking around. Feeling a bit disappointed that we couldn’t be doing this at home, I doubled up on the dressing gowns to avoid a Jack Nicholson moment and off we went to roam the deserted halls. It was actually quite peaceful. I sipped water, ate a nutella croissant from Tim Hortons instead of my banana, held on to the handrails when a contraction came while J rubbed my back or held my hips, depending on what my body was very clearly telling me at any given time. We admired the fancy lights in the hospital courtyard that changed colours and tried not to think about how many germs we were coming into contact with. After two hours, at just after 2am, I was fairly uncomfortable but still managing well. So I was discouraged to hear that I was only 3cm dilated, although she did add that I was almost completely effaced. She once again confirmed that I was having a boy, echoing what every single person with an opinion on the subject has predicted throughout my pregnancy.  She said that I was now in active labour so they could move me to the delivery room, and they would check me again in another couple of hours.

Shortly afterwards, we were transferred to the room where I would deliver. And shortly after that I decided to explore the world of pain management. I asked for some nitrous, and that worked really well for about an hour or so, giving me something to focus on (sucking air) through each contraction and taking just enough of the edge off.  But at some point I decided that the nitrous wasn’t cutting it. I told J and the nurse that I wasn’t managing well, and though they attempted to tell me what a great job I was doing, I knew that I was mentally at the end of my game. I needed the epidural, and I was totally cool with that. They called the anaesthesiologist.

Looking back, I realize how green this guy was.  The overly thorough health history, the painstakingly detailed description of the process, the eternity of preparing the tools and the injection site. His nervousness. But at the time, my brain had enough to contemplate that I didn’t put it all together. It turns out he was a resident, and I was the lucky girl who got to be the first woman in active labour to whom he would (try to) administer an epidural.  Now, J is a doctor. Which means that at one time, he was a resident. I get it. They have to learn. And I’m totally on board with providing them with plenty of opportunity to do so. But. I do think that a woman on the verge of birthing a child is not the most flexible and accommodating of patients, and that in these situations, a supervisor should accompany a resident in the event that things do not go smoothly and time is of the essence. But hey, that’s just my two cents. What do I know?

I also didn’t realize at the time that J was dying a slow death of frustration, watching this guy fumble around. He said afterwards that it was all he could do not to scream “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!!!” at the guy, not wanting to freak me out. He’s such a gentleman.

Now things started to get a little chaotic at this point, mostly from my perspective because I was in so much pain and I was just trying to get through one last contraction before the epidural took effect for about 20 contractions in a row, and J and the nurses were giving me as little information as they could to keep me calm, with minimal success. The details are a bit fuzzy, but from what I’ve pieced together from my memory as well as what the nurses and J told me after the fact, the resident failed miserably at his first “real” epidural. Apparently the spaces between my vertebrae make are quite small, making it difficult to insert the IV. Sounds like BS to me, particularly since the epidural I got 8 years ago worked like a dream. A sweet, sweet dream. So after spending far too much time attempting in vain to succeed, he called the supervisor. During this time, someone thought it a good idea to check me to see where I was, and surprise surprise I was 9cm and it was just about time to push. At this point they had also lost the fetal heart monitor so they couldn’t tell how the baby was doing. So while I’m having horrible medication-free contractions, someone was trying to jam a scalp monitor in there and attach it to the baby’s head. I don’t think I have to tell you that all I could think was “WRONG WAY PEOPLE. GET OUTTA THERE.” Honestly. I can’t express clearly enough how much it sucks to have a person trying to come out of my vagina while people try to put stuff into it. But I digress.

I remember someone saying to me that I could either continue to wait for the epidural, which would take an indeterminate amount of time, or we could just have this baby and it would be over in a few minutes. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of “I NEED HELP.” Apparently at this point the supervisor was manually administering medication through a syringe into my back, but could only get a bit in at a time. In hindsight, I think it kicked in just in time for me to get a freezing needle for the stitches, which is a small blessing I suppose.

I could feel the baby coming. I didn’t feel it last time with the epidural, but this time I felt my body pushing from the inside with each contraction, and I was squeezing my legs shut to stop the baby from coming out. Seems counterintuitive, but there you are. When someone asked me if I felt like I needed to push I said yes, and it was on. Someone grabbed my leg and someone else told me to start pushing, and I didn’t even have the presence of mind to get into any kind of position, I just started pushing.  They told me to grab my legs and push as hard as I could, so I did, for about 6 minutes (that felt like 60 seconds tops) and then, at 4:30am, there was a baby.  I don’t remember much pain with the pushing. It’s true what they say that it’s a relief to push. It gives you something to do besides ride out another wave of pain. And I vaguely remember some discomfort with the aftermath of delivering the placenta and the stitches, but not in any specific detail. Because I was holding a brand new, soft, squishy baby. My baby. A perfect girl. She cried. She opened her eyes. We snuggled. I did the same cry-giggle I did with Big E and couldn’t stop smiling.

Afterwards, both the nurse and J told me what I great job I did and how impressed they were. Yes, I am aware that there probably isn’t a nurse or husband on the planet who has ever told a new mother “You really botched that one. Terrible work.” But I’ll take it. I remember not swearing and I’m a bit surprised about that. It appears that my desire to be polite around strangers is strong enough to withstand childbirth.

That’s my birth story. Or rather Little E's birth story. It took us about 36 hours to come up with her name. The other contenders were Daphne, Violet and Sadie.  Only time will tell if we made the right choice and she loves her name as much as we do, but we did our best.  If she’s anything like Big E, she’ll announce in a few years that she wants to change her name to Rainbow Sparkle, but for at least the next 18 years she’s stuck with the ones we gave her.

6lbs 15oz.
20 inches long.
Born at 4:30am.

Not a boy.

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