Birth bravery

JR was born after 22 hours of intense back labor caused by him being in the posterior position. Over 14 of those hours involved absolutely no pain medication, paired with the occasional dosage of Pitocin (for those of you who have ever experience Pitocin on its own…well, to say it’s “of the devil” is not too much of an exaggeration). After all that work, and all that pain, and all those episodes of his heart rate dropping dramatically with each strong contraction, my doctor and I decided to do a C-section. A few minutes later I was rolled into the OR, shifted over to the operating table, and was awake (though thankfully numb) as I was cut open to have my 10-pound child safely removed from my body.

I think that’s pretty badass.

That’s not to say that women who push their children into this world aren’t badass. Obviously they are. I mean, have you seen the size of a newborn baby (more specifically, the HEAD of a newborn baby)? How that physically happens is beyond me. But I still (STILL) get comments every now and then from people who seem to imply that I somehow wussed out by having a C-section. That I didn’t work hard enough or educate myself enough on my options about labor and delivery. Because getting cut in half and having your insides shifted all over the place and not being able to be the first person to hold your child after carrying him for almost 10 months and laboring for him for almost an entire day is CLEARLY the goal here (I hope you can sense my sarcasm). Like all mothers, I did what I had to do to make sure my kid was safe. And he is. He’s here, I’m here, all is well. THAT is the goal, at least in my approach to this whole mothering thing.

(Sorry for the rantish talk. When people who are essentially strangers imply that they have more knowledge of the state of my uterus, my vagina (hi, Dad!), and my relationship with my doctor than I do, it gets a bit tiresome after a while.)

Back in January, Mama Vee over at There Are No Ordinary Moments wrote a post that is such important reading for mothers who brought their babies into this world via C-section…or for anyone really.

Read it here: Cesarean Courage

All births require bravery — whether they happen at home, in the hospital, naturally with minimal intervention, with an epidural, via C-section, what have you. We need to remember that.

Birth stories, self-promotion, etc.

So part of my job at RVANews is to contribute to the fortnightly parenting column, Raising Richmond. Although we occasionally switch things up by having a special outing to a Richmond locale or inviting a dad or two to contribute, the format usually consists of the amazingly wonderful (seriously, she’s so nice, you think she’s kidding) Patience Salgado and I sharing our thoughts about various parenting topics.

This time around, we decided to open things up for people to share their birth stories, specifically what led them to choosing where to have their babies. Because, you see, when it comes to birthing our babies, Patience and I have had very different experiences. She’s had the majority of her babies (she has FOUR) at home with the help of a midwife. I had my kid at a hospital in what turned out to be a very intervention-heavy experience — still special, but quite…well…involved.

When you get a minute, will you head over and read it, let us know your thoughts? And if you’re up for it, Mamas, will you share your experiences? Not only am I oddly interested in birth stories, I think talking about our experiences really helps mothers-to-be as they look at their options when it comes time to bring their babies into the world.

Not the blues, but somewhat bluish

Now that it’s been 10 (holy heck how did that happen?) months since I had a baby, I’m finally in a place where I can really, really talk about what it was like afterward.

I don’t mean the physical pain or the exhaustion, which, in retrospect, weren’t that awful for me because I was blessed with a very easy baby. And Percocet. Lots of that.

Now I’m talking about my feelings.

When we were in our childbirth class, our instructor mentioned that if you’ve struggled with anxiety or depression, you’re something like 85% more likely to experience postpartum depression. Being someone who fits quite neatly into that category, I made sure I thoroughly educated myself on the symptoms and knew what to look out for.

When we brought JR home, I can surely say that I went through the baby blues. There was much crying and hand wringing and fretting and “oh my God what have I done”-ing for a couple weeks until my hormones leveled out. And never did I experience what would be classified as postpartum depression. Most of the time I was happy – tired and sometimes crabby, but mostly happy.

I was also scared out of my ever-loving mind. Not because I didn’t think I knew what I was doing. I did know what I was doing. I knew I was more than capable of taking care of my baby. But, I was sometimes paralyzed by the fear of The Bad Things That Could Happen.

My mind constantly raced with thoughts, not of terrible things that I thought I might do to the baby, but with terrible things that could happen to him or us: SIDS, car accidents, house fires, cancer, intruders, carjackings, abductions, me falling down the stairs and hitting my head, leaving him alone in his crib, starving, for hours until someone came home to find us. It became almost crippling at times, not enough to make us shut-ins, but enough to make me contemplate it.

Luckily, this was of thinking has kind of phased itself out. I still have my panicky moments, but I’m sure all mothers do. I never felt that I needed medication, but it might have reached that point if I hadn’t somehow, blessedly, snapped out of it.

Now you’re probably asking, why are you putting this out there? I’m doing so because I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one who has gone through this very specific brand of postpartum anxiety. I just never came across anyone else going through it while I was, too. I didn’t know what to call it or how to even begin talking about it. Hopefully by me saying this, someone else will.

Labor and delivery: the lost footage

The other night Ross and I were going through some pictures on his computer when suddenly one popped up of a baby being cleaned off just after being born. Specifically, MY baby. In a picture I HAD NEVER EVEN SEEN.

As Ross kept flipping through, more and more images (also unseen by me until that moment) flashed before my eyes. Guys, it was like Christmas.

I had recently resigned to the fact that we just didn’t have a lot of pictures of our time in the hospital. What with the pain and the surgery and the suddenly being responsible for an entire other person, I figured we had just unfortunately missed the opportunity. But I was so wrong.

Ladies and gents, I’m so so pleased to present “Labor and delivery: the lost footage.” (Don’t worry, there’s nothing gross.)


Me getting ready to be heaved onto the operating table.


My, that was a big belly.


Starting to process what’s about to happen.


Fresh out of the oven. And he’s angry about it.


I think the nurse was trying to find a diaper that was big enough.


Hanging out in the nursery.

Sigh. It almost makes me want to do it all over again.

Almost.

It’s all coming back to me now…

The last time I opened my laptop (that would be 5 days ago – a concept that is kind of blowing my mind as well) I posted a summary of what I remembered from the days in which I labored with and then birthed Jackson.

Now that I’m a bit farther away from the experience, other things have popped up in my mind. But as I am a new mother and I’m currently spending the majority of my time either changing diapers, nursing, napping, or massaging my bossoms to avoid the glory that is plugged ducts, you will all have to settle for a bulleted list broken down into two parts: low points and high points.

Low points:

  • Having to use a bed pan in front of my nurse because oh my God contractions are a million times worse when you have a full bladder but also oh my God I can’t walk to the bathroom right now.
  • Throwing up mid-contraction.
  • Having your pee bag out for all the world to see after you’ve been given a catheter.
  • Getting a catheter removed.
  • Taking your first pee after the catheter was removed in front of your postpartum nurse and her student.
  • Almost passing out during your first post-birth shower.
  • Incisions. More specifically, incisions that sting like the devil.
  • Having an emotional breakdown when the lactation consultant suggests you take a night off from breastfeeding and let the baby take formula for a couple feedings to give yourself a break, consequently making you feel like a failure.

High points:

  • Labor and delivery nurses.
  • Postpartum nurses.
  • Scottish anesthesiologists.
  • Visiting hours.
  • Having someone else be responsible for making sure you take your medication on time.
  • Postpartum nurses who let you know it’s ok to cry and be scared.
  • The massaging leg cuffs they put on you after having a C-section to prevent blod clots. Seriously, the constant rubbing was amazing.
  • Seeing my 97 year old grandma hold Jackson for the first time.
  • Turkey sandwiches during all hours of the night (and postpartum nurses who will hold your giant, hungry baby as you eat said sandwiches).

The birth (as I remember it)

As you may remember, I left my 40-week doctor’s appointment with the staff letting me know they would get in contact with me about starting an induction the following week. I ended up getting a call the next morning letting us know that we would be on stand by to go in Sunday evening when I would get a nice dose of cervical gel and eventually an IV of Pitocin to get things started.

Now I never really got into how I pictured birth going on this site, but I was hoping to do things as naturally as possible. But by the time my due date had come and gone, I was willing to alter that plan as needed to get things moving along. And my oh my, natural was not exactly how things ended up.

***

Sunday passed in extreme slow motion. My phone never left my hand during the entire day. By the time 4pm rolled around, I was convinced that we wouldn’t be getting a call that evening.

10 minutes later the phone rang. It was one of the labor and delivery nurses asking me if I wanted to come in and have my baby that night.

Uh, yes please.

I hung up the phone and immediately started screaming to Ross that we needed to go. He rightfully assumed something was wrong at the sound of my shrill and shrieking voice. Of course nothing was wrong, but it was OMG TIME TO GO HAVE A BABY.

We scurried around getting our things together, making the necessary phone calls, and making sure we had everything.

Before getting in the car, Ross took one final belly shot:

Please note that I had been wearing that exact outfit for about 4 days as nothing else fit. Looking at the lower portion of my belly here, it seems that this outfit didn’t really fit either.

***

We got to the hospital at around 4:30 and were ushered into a luxurious Labor & Delivery room. As I got changed and hooked up to monitors, Ross was sent to navigate the maze that is Henrico Doctors’ Hospital to get me registered and fork over the first $300 of our bill.

Once Nurse Linda (who would leave at around 7pm only to come back at 7am to see me STILL IN LABOR and insist that she resume taking care of me) got me situated and Ross found his way back to my room, my doctor arrived to administer The Gel. Let’s just say The Gel involved a long skinny tube and a procedure that left me convinced that The Gel had been applied as far up as my tonsils. My doctor then told the nurse to start me on Pitocin at midnight if necessary as I was only 1/2cm dilated and to call him if it looked like I was getting close, no matter what time it was – he wanted to make sure he was the one to deliver me. Awww.

As my doctor left, Nurse Linda assured me that my doctor “really knows where to stick that gel” and I would probably go into labor on my own.

Let’s just say she was correct.

When I arrived at the hospital I was having very, very mild contractions about once an hour. About 2 minutes after my doctor left, I went from being nice and comfortable to having pretty intense contractions every 5 minutes. Despite the pain, it was getting to be pretty exciting and looking like things were moving along.

***

Things got to be a blur after that. The contractions got to be more painful, mostly in my back. The daytime nurses left and I was left in the care of Christine, another wonderful nurse, even though I kind of hated her every time she had to have me get back into bed to get some time on the monitors. For me, lying in bed was horrible – all I could do was concentrate on the pain, and the pressure on my back made me feel like I was going to split in two. Ok, not really, but it hurt. For me, the birthing ball, walking, and a hot shower (Holy Lord, a hot shower) made the pain manageable. When I was confined to the bed, Ross was perfect as he kept an eye on the monitor to let me know when a contraction was about to happen and when it was about to be over.

***

Friends came and visited at some point, but I have to be honest that I really don’t remember it. Here’s a picture proving it though…

We also had a couple friends show up in the evening and stay through the night. I saw them for about 3 minutes… 3 minutes that I also don’t remember. But here’s more proof that they were there…

***

Christine checked me at around 2am. I had only dilated to 2cm so she went ahead and started the Pitocin. By the time two drops made it into my arm I began what would turn into a 4 minute contraction that sent the baby’s heart rate down to a level that we were just not comfortable with. So we stopped the Pitocin and let me labor along on my own.

***

My water broke on its own at some point, which was incredibly gross, I must admit. There was also an incident in which I had to use a bed pan in front of my nurse (but not my husband because I sent him out of the room). Not exactly a high point dignity-wise, but you do what you have to do.

***

By the time 5am rolled around, I knew I was going to go insane if I didn’t have something to take the edge off. I let Christine know and she quickly gave my IV a shot of something that took me from writhing to stoned in about 30 seconds. Although I could still feel the contractions, I was able to drift in and out between them and let my body rest a bit.

***

Linda returned at around 7am with instructions to try Pitocin again but at the lowest level possible. The baby did ok with this, but the heart rate still didn’t react well to such strong contractions. We kept an eye on it and backed off the Pitocin off and on when needed. Through all of this I felt that the baby and I were getting such good care. I felt like Linda was completely focused on us, and she kept us up to date on everything. I really couldn’t have asked for more.

***

My doctor arrived at around 9am to check things out. I had made it to 4cm. By that point I was willing to do whatever he suggested to either get some sleep or get things over with. He suggested getting an epidural because things were going to go one of two ways: 1) I was going to be in labor for a good while longer and needed to get some rest so I would be able to push or 2) we were going to need to do a C-section because this kid was just too big to come out on its own. I agreed. My doctor said he would get the order in for the epidural and would be back around lunch time to check how things were going. If I hadn’t made any significant progress, we would need to go in and get the baby. I remember him holding my hand as he told me this, looking worried that I was going to be upset. I wasn’t, but the gesture was touching.

Before I knew it the anesthesiologist was in my room ready to go. He had me lie down on my side and curl up in the fetal position. I felt a little sting, a couple of pokes, and then glorious, blissful numbness. My whole body finally relaxed and I felt like I could breathe for the first time in many hours.

***

I spent the next couple hours drifting in and out of sleep with my waking moments focused on sending threatening messages to my cervix to get its act together. The bastard.

***

True to his promise, my doctor returned around lunch to check things out. No progress whatsoever. He looked at me and said we needed to go ahead and do the C-section. I surprised myself by nodding resolutely and saying, “Ok, let’s do it.”

Linda then told us that we would be heading into surgery at 2pm. Also known as IN 20 MINUTES.

I spent the next few minutes quizzing her on very practical implications of major abdominal surgery…

“How long will I stay in the hospital?”

“How long until I can drive?”

“Will I be *completely* numb or will I still feel a little bit of what’s going on?”

And then a pitiful, “Will you be in the room with me?” She smiled and held my hand and assured me that she would be there the whole time.

***

I was holding it together really well, not at all nervous or scared. That is until my mom walked into the room. As soon as I saw her, I garbled, “Hi, Mama” and started to cry. It wasn’t so much out of fear but more from feeling like I could finally have that emotional release. I then started to exclaim with joy that I now wouldn’t have to worry about pooping in front of anyone. The amount of happiness I got from that realization was a bit ridiculous.

***

A few minutes later, Ross put on his scrubs and we posed for a final sans-child picture:

***

Once I was wheeled into the operating room, I was shifted to the operating table and laid out all crucifix-like.

The look of calm on my face in this picture is a bit astounding to me, but that’s exactly how I felt. I was relaxed and ready to go.

***

Before we knew it the drape was up, and my doctor had arrived. I just kept saying, “I can’t believe this is finally happening” and telling Ross that I loved him. And then the magnitude of the impending birth of my child hit me. And thus began the sobbing…

I’m not one to weep with joy, but that’s the only way I can explain what’s going on here. Everything I had ever wanted was about to happen. It was intense and wonderful.

***

The whole surgery took just under 15 minutes. I didn’t feel a thing, really. Perhaps the sobbing distracted me from that. Suddenly I heard my doctor and the nurses yell, “Whoooooooaaaaaa!” Someone then shouted, “You had a toddler!” We also discovered that the baby was sitting in there sunny-side up, thus explaining the horrible back pain and confirming our decision to opt for surgery as such a position would have made “regular” delivery even more difficult, setting us up for a potential emergency situation. Yay validation!

Ross then peaked around the drape to get the answer to the question we’d been waiting for the entire pregnancy: boy or girl? I love how none of the medical staff announced it and left it to him instead. He looked back at me and said, “Awwww we have a son.”

And then I heard Jackson cry. And it was the single best moment of my entire life.

Linda brought him around the drape and I saw him in all his giant, slippery, wailing glory. Ross followed her back to the warmer as Jackson got cleaned up. Everyone kept marveling as the chub on this kid.

As I lied there getting put back together I felt more relaxed and at peace than I ever had in my entire life. Jackson’s birth had not gone at all how I pictured it. But it brought him here – my little boy, all I had ever wanted.