Oscar B is six months old today! Heather fed him/let him suck on a dill pickle. He was pretty happy about it. I bought him a 6 month+ pacifier because all of his “ninnies” are lost somewhere in the house, and tried to give him a bite of banana this morning but he was not interested.
In honor of his half birthday, I thought I would revisit his birth story, which I wrote within a couple of weeks of his birth, and have not really looked at again. I also have not done too much editing – I went back and forth about whether to leave in the graphic parts and decided that the 2 or 3 people who are reading this either don’t mind or are even interested, so I’ve left it the way it was when I wrote it for the most part. It has cuss words, anatomical terms, and a potentially disturbing image or two at the end. It’s super long, but aren’t they all?
Oscar’s Birth Story
Tuesday (2/19) at my 37 week appointment everything was totally normal, as it had been through the entire pregnancy. This is when Dr. Jones did the cervical check where he sneakily swept my membranes. I had hellacious contractions along with bloody show for the rest of the week, so when other uncomfortable and unpleasant things started happening I attributed them primarily to early labor. Wednesday night/early Thursday I had extreme gastric upset – nausea and diarrhea – and felt just awful. At this point, I thought maybe I actually had Asa’s nasty stomach virus that had made him spend the night in the hospital the week before, but I also still thought it could be labor signs. Thursday night I started having weirder symptoms – I was itchy from head to toe, especially on my hands and feet and the top of my head. Also, I had a few bowel movements that were WHITE. What.THE.fuck!?! Looking back, I kind of can’t believe I didn’t call the doctor on Friday, but I guess we really thought it was just having a virus combined with my body gearing up for labor, so we were trying to be Zen or something. Oh, plus we were buried in a mountain of snow and not over-eager to go back to the doctor and have him push me over the edge into real labor, because we really wanted H to be able to work her shifts that weekend.
Through the weekend (including my 35th birthday on Saturday 2/23) I just kind of maintained like that – writhing around being itchy, taking Benadryl, feeling sick and icky, wondering if this was going to turn into labor or not. I did call the midwife on-call for our practice at some point over the weekend about the itching and it didn’t trigger her alarms, she just told me to take the Benadryl or a cool shower. Overnight Sunday I decided I would call the doctor the next morning (2/25) rather than wait for my appointment Tuesday, because I was miserable, but primarily because we were getting another snowstorm that was predicted to be as much as 12 inches and my inner voice was telling me it was not safe for me to risk not being able to get to the hospital 30 miles away. I called Dr. Jones’ nurse; she said it sounded like I had cholestasis and that he would want to draw labs, and to come in that afternoon. I decided to try to lie down with Heather for the morning. Fifteen minutes later, Jones called me himself to say that he didn’t feel like this could wait and that I should come into labor and delivery because the labs will come back faster and he wanted to monitor baby for a little while – he actually said the words “adverse outcomes” and “stillbirth” on the phone with me, so I definitely had the sense that he was planning to induce me. I felt like the wheels would turn slowly in the hospital, though, and that Heather would need to have gotten some sleep (she had been awake since the previous morning and worked overnight), so I went on my own.
I drove myself to the hospital, after telling my best friend Bob the cat that I’d be coming home with a baby. I knew that would be the case, but the way things unfolded I could never have imagined. I didn’t bother to take our hospital bags with me – just me normal bag that I always carried with a wallet and phone – because I just knew I would be there overnight before anything “interesting” would happen. I did call my sister on the way to the hospital, and one friend, but that’s all.
I think I got there at 10:00 a.m. It took them a short while to get me into a room and start assessing me, but before they ever even got me on the monitor they took my vitals and my blood pressure was through.the.roof. So by 11:00 a.m. I had already been told by a nurse that I would not be leaving without a baby. By noon my blood pressure had gone up so high that Jones had decided I was in danger of seizure/stroke so he needed to start me on magnesium to lower the BP and induce by breaking my water and adding Pitocin as necessary (he did have me call Heather at this point and tell her the what and why of his plans and to get her ass there NOW). He also gave me a dose of real blood pressure medication because I had one blood pressure that was extra shockingly high while he was in the room (they were taking it every 15 minutes). Having my water broken was a less than pleasant experience, and immediately gave me a sense of pressure that could not be alleviated, although I don’t think the baby’s head was actually any lower (it was at 0 station from the get go and stayed there). By 1:00, I was completely miserable, alone (well, unless you count my nurse who had been a nurse since January and was a complete idiot), gushing amniotic fluid, feeling like I was on fire/going to barf from the mag and having ENORMOUS Pitocin contractions which of course I could do nothing about but breathe and grab the side of the bed, because the nurses weren’t even sure I should be allowed to get up to pee much less move around to cope with pain. I guess people like to faint on magnesium?
I was remaining calm about the Heather-not-being-there part of things until right before 2:00. I checked my phone to see when she had started what she needed to do: shower, go pick up all of the children and take them home, pack up the hospital stuff in the car, drive to the hospital, call her mother to get her to try to beat the storm and stay with the boys – it had been over an hour and I texted her something like, “Where the literal fuck are you and I have to get an epidural right now.” She said, “Ok.” And I said, “I cannot believe this is happening.” It was all so surreal, and she hadn’t been there experiencing any of it with me, and I just knew she was going to be disappointed in me or not understand or something and oh it was just so fucking awful at that point.
I had decided I had to have an epidural for a couple of reasons besides not being able to cope with the pain. One was that I knew that it would lower my blood pressure – as a function of the medication, but also because the intense pain was clearly raising it even more, so having that alleviated could only help. The blood pressure was scary, because I knew it was a serious hazard to me and the baby, so keeping it from skyrocketing seemed like a good plan. The other reason is that I had this bad, bad feeling that all of these interventions had already condemned me to having a C-section. Although I was committed still to giving it the old college try of at least having a vaginal delivery, I knew that if I waited to get an epidural in the event of a C-section, I would have to get it alone in the operating room, rather than bedside with Heather there.
Heather came in a few minutes later to my writhing, moaning situation. The student nurse’s preceptor told her I was doing a really good job trying to cope. I was so so so glad she was there, but I didn’t want her to touch me. I was completely preoccupied with the thought that she was going to be disappointed in me for getting an epidural. The details of what happened next become fuzzy to me – I remember everything, but it’s hard to access it in the order that it happened, so Heather is going to help me reconstruct it now…
There was a wait for an epidural, because there were so many people delivering – it was hours before another major snowfall on top of the one from the week before AND it was a full moon! They offered me Stadol to tide me over and I was hesitant, but after a couple more contractions lying in the bed even Heather was encouraging me to take it. So I got the Stadol, and I’m glad I did – I think I have to credit that dose of medication with how calmly I handled everything else that happened until the baby was born. It started taking the edge off the peak of the contractions pretty much immediately. Probably more importantly than that, though, is that it made me feel calm about getting the epidural. Apparently I was being super funny – I know that one of the nurses couldn’t stop laughing enough to hold me still while the anesthesiologist did it. I really didn’t even blink about it, and this is probably the thing I least could have predicted about the whole experience. The thought of all of this before it happened? I would have thought that I would have been FREAKING.OUT alternating with hysterical tears at the various turns, but neither of those things ever happened. Anyway, I think the anesthesiologist was even laughing at me, although I couldn’t tell you what was so funny.
So I had the epidural and was much more comfortable. Oh my God, I almost forgot that then that young nurse chick had to put in a urinary catheter – just, there aren’t words. I already left out the part where she tried (but failed) to give me an IV before Heather ever got there. (The preceptor lady ultimately had to do it after new nurse’s multiple failed, botched, unnecessarily long winded, wrong, icky attempts) I don’t know where her boss was at this point, but thank goodness Heather was there, because whoa did that youngin’ not know what she was doing! Heather was thisclose to doing it for her – she was definitely all up in my business holding my body parts and giving the poor chick very explicit instructions to stop her from mutilating my junk. And for what it’s worth, Heather says my anatomy is as straightforward as it comes, as opposed to this chick’s poor future patients who have an opening that’s actually hard to locate! Even with the epidural I was quite aware of the sensations involved in this debacle, and super scared of what it was going to feel like when it wore off (the answer to this, by the way, is BAD, but mercifully my overnight postpartum nurse was someone who’d used to work with Heather and she took it out even though it was supposed to stay in for 24 hours). Once again, the preceptor had to take over, and do exactly what Heather had been telling the young one to do, which was to use one hand to lift the baby’s head up internally so that the catheter could get past it. Barf to all of THAT.
For a while, Heather and I were alone together and she held my hand and gave me a cold cloth for my face and fed me little peanut butter cookie things because I was starving and I was only allowed to have ice chips. We chatted about the things that had happened thus far in my attempts to process events.
Jones came in to check me. Heather hollered at him, “What the FUCK?” And he was like, “I KNOW!!!!” They carried on together and talked about me and my pregnancy like medical professionals for a while – telling the other nurses how boringly uneventful everything had been until literally that day. I was 6 cm. Heather told him she didn’t really like my contraction pattern on the monitor and that it was not picking up all of my contractions, which was making them constantly bump up the Pitocin. So he put in an IUPC (intra-uterine pressure catheter) and I was in fact having contractions every 2-3 minutes but they still weren’t strong enough to finish my dilation – probably because magnesium is used to STOP uterine contractions, so it takes an assload of Pit to counteract it. Ugh. So that’s what happened – they just kept bumping up the Pitocin and he would come back and check me and ask me if I felt pressure.
I did feel pressure, most of the time, so he let me do some practice pushing when I was 8 cm, while trying to stretch the last part of the cervix. It didn’t really work so he left for four or five more contractions to see if that would do the trick. When he left, my sweetly assertive wife yelled at him, “You’re going to stay and deliver this baby, right Dr. Jones!?!?!” And he was like, “Uhh, well mumble mumble 7 o’clock, my daughter, something something, we’ll see…” She pleaded, “Don’t leave us!” and winked at me when he left because she was intentionally putting him on the spot.
So Jones came back and we started pushing in earnest. With stirrups and nurses holding my legs and people fucking counting which made me want to punch them. I had been bearing down during contractions secretly for a while before that and I could definitely feel enough through the epidural to know when a contraction was starting and where to push. It was super annoying to be pushing already and have them then notice the contraction on the monitor and start bossing me around. Annoying isn’t even the word, though, for the results of the pushing. I could move the baby – I could feel it happening (plus, Jones and the nurses would get all hyperactive about it) – but he would just go right back. And I don’t mean the two-steps-forward-one-step-back situation that is normal. I mean that I could move him down really well with some contractions, but never make any net progress toward evicting him from my body. I did manage to need stitches inside my vagina three separate times during this hour. Good times. To his credit, Dr. Jones really did try everything that a practitioner can with all of the limitations imposed by my situation – he tried to let me labor down, he tried to let me spontaneously push, he tried having me in stirrups, having me pull against a sheet in a loop, etc.
I pushed for an hour. The baby was not doing so well. Heather and Jones talked about what his heart rate was doing on the monitor in the beginning like it was a good thing, his head coming through the pelvis, but since that wasn’t really happening, it was more like my pushing was harming him. People were talking about me like I wasn’t there – saying that I was exhausted and sick from the magnesium and other things I don’t exactly remember but I do know that it added to my irritation. Jones eventually said that he felt terrible about it, but that he thought we needed to either: a. try vacuum extraction – his hesitation was that this would tear up my vagina even more than it already was and could definitely not work or b. do a C-section. I didn’t give him an immediate answer, because I think he repeated these options a few times. I said things like, “I’m in no position to make this kind of decision right now.” Which Heather says added to the climate that everyone thought I was bonkers at that point from exhaustion and medication. She also says Jones was making big eyes at her like she needed to decide what to do. I also remember saying something along the lines of, “Well, I obviously can’t push this baby out…” which Heather and the nurses misinterpreted as some kind of I’m-tired-I-can’t-do-this type of thing, but I meant it literally and logically – as in, it has become clear to me through these events that for some reason I cannot physiologically push out this baby. Because it was clear to me that Jones thought so too – he hadn’t figured out exactly why yet, but he knew something was NOT right. So when Heather and the nurse started being encouraging and saying, “Yes, yes you can! Believe in yourself! Don’t give up!” I pointed to Jones and said, “No. I really can’t. And he doesn’t think I can either. Just do the C-section.” I think they all thought I had lost my mind, but the thought of the vacuum extraction and the harm it could inflict on me and the baby and still have to be a C-section was too much, too scary. I understood for the first time in my life why C-sections feel “safer” to so many people, even though I’d theretofore thought of them as horrifying. I already had the epidural, and was in a situation where there were risks no matter what, so it just felt like the least scary way to get to the part where the baby was outside of me and alive.
The anesthesiologist came back to load up my epidural for the surgery. He gave me something by mouth for nausea that made me puke, which was actually a welcome relief because I had been feeling like I was going to barf for hours at that point. I got wheeled into the operating room. Heather had to stay outside for a few minutes. I kept thinking about the kids and how I hadn’t even said goodbye to them that morning when Heather took them to school, so I really hoped I didn’t die now. How I could have thoughts like this without crying or freaking the hell out is beyond my ability to comprehend – the drugs? I found out later – the next day I think – that Asa had cried in the car when she picked them up from school before she came to the hospital. I’m glad I didn’t know that then, because it would have really freaked me out – he’s extremely psychic and clearly sensed there was a reason to be worried, rather than just be excited that baby brother was coming.
The team of people went to move me from my bed to the operating table and almost ripped out my IV on the way. No one talked to me, they just talked about me. When they put up the drape to separate my head from the rest of me it kept falling on my face. Jones told them to go get Heather more than once. They didn’t strap down my arms, which I thought was weird but I certainly wasn’t going to remind them to restrain me. Heather came in and sat beside me and held my hand for literally a minute, but then she said she wanted to take pictures if she was allowed so to tell her when it was time. Jones or someone said, “Okay that’s in 30 seconds.” Which was so beyond bizarre because up to that point I was fixated on the fact that I wasn’t even all the way numb – I was convinced that whatever dude had done to the epidural had not taken effect. Uh, clearly it had because I felt NOTHING – no pressure or pulling or tugging or anything.
So she stood up and started taking pictures – the one she captured of his head being delivered was blind luck because it happened so fast, she says. I heard Jones saying something about the cord and someone else saying it was around his neck one, two, three times, and then Jones saying AND around an arm! [When he came to check on me the next morning his face was so grim when he said how glad he was that he had not pulled out that vacuum extractor and that he hated even to think of what would have happened if he had. Shiver.] I heard the baby cry. I heard people laughing and saying he was peeing. Was he peeing into my open guts? Then he was quiet so I asked Heather if he was okay and she said yes. I think I told her to go to him and she asked me if I was sure and I said yes. She went over to him and said that he was a tiny version of my dad. He cried a lot more and she cried. I just kind of stared up at the lights above me and felt…weird. Out of body, I guess. She came back over to me and showed me pictures of him on her phone, then went back to him. Eventually, she brought him over to me and put him next to my face and I told him happy birthday. Then it was time for them to take him to the nursery and Heather to go with him, so she smooched me through her mask and went. The surgery was already done by then, so a few minutes later they slid me back over to the normal bed and wheeled me back to my room.
I really don’t remember anything clearly about that. I know they had thrown a warm blanket on me because most people feel really cold after a C-section, but I still felt really hot from the magnesium and it was making me miserable. At the same time I was shaking. I guess they were doing things to me like unhooking some things and hooking me up to other things, asking me questions… I know Jones came in and the anesthesiologist and maybe an extra nurse besides the one who would be my night nurse. I know Jones said encouraging things that made me know that my instincts had been right about doing the surgery. On the other hand, the feeling that this was just so unfair and icky was starting to seep in through the overwhelming feeling that I had woken up pregnant and not in labor that morning and then just had a baby who I hadn’t even looked at yet. I’m still trying to recover emotionally from that.
After a while the nurse was done doing whatever she had to do, because she said, “Let me go find out where your baby is and I’ll be right back.” Right exactly at that moment Heather walked in with him, and we were finally left alone and I got to look upon him and smooch him and properly meet him and nurse him and fall in love with him and with my wife all over again.