Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waterlogged and tender (Fig's birth, part 3)

See Part 1 and Part 2

Now back to Fig's birth story:

My favorite song of all times is called “Driver Education” by Amy Ray. There’s a line in the song that goes, “We come into this life, waterlogged and tender,” and the whole time, that’s all I wanted for Fig. Fig was so sweet, so precious, and after I learned about the different drugs so frequently used during labor, I wanted no part of that. It had nothing to do with pride or trying to prove myself. I just wanted Fig to enter this life as gently as possible.

Now, having been stuck at 5cm for 4 hours (and my water having been broken for 12 hours longer than the hospital staff knew) it seemed like pitocin was inevitable. When my doula came back to the tub after her conversation with the young nurse, I knew she would try to break it to me lightly. But instead of telling me that they wanted to jack me up with pit, she asked me if I would consent to getting some intravenous fluids. I already had the hep-lock in place to get the GBS antibiotics, and my doula reminded me that I’d been throwing up every 3-5 minutes for the last several hours—probably causing some pretty severe dehydration. She said a dehydrated uterus couldn’t contract properly and that might be holding me back. I remembered reading the same thing in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and an IV suddenly seemed like a great idea. The young nurse also said that Dr. T had suggested giving me some sugars in the IV, since I had not been able to eat in a good number of hours (and actually many more hours than they even knew about). If that is really what Dr. T suggested (and I’m not just misremembering things), then I’ve got to hand it to her for suggesting more gentle interventions before pit. I said yes, somehow thinking that if I got the fluids and sugar, maybe some of this excruciating pain would go away. It didn’t though.

At some point (my recollection of events may be out of sequence), my doula also suggested that I get out of the tub. She was beginning to suspect that all my time in the water was holding me back, and I would need to get out to get things moving. In retrospect, I realize how right she was about this, and also that if she would not have been there, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to get out of the tub. Without my doula, I definitely would have been headed straight for exactly the kind of birth I’d been wanting to avoid. When she told me to get out of the tub, it seemed like a hugely overwhelming task, but she and Rob somehow helped me rise to my feet and step out of the water. Just as I did so, I was hit with the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. I’m not sure I can adequately even describe it. It felt like my body was being split in two. I grabbed onto Rob, and if memory serves me correctly, let out a blood-curdling scream.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of how things panned out after this. I think that they had me get in bed—much against my will—once I got out of the tub. The young nurse said she needed to get a better tracing on the baby (as she hadn’t been able to monitor it very well while I was in the tub). She also said she would “check” me again, just on the off-chance that she’d been wrong about me being 5cm because she’d measured me at a strange angle in the tub. I did not want to get in bed and it seems I fought against it but eventually ended up there anyway. My doula told me to just hang on a little bit and then we’d move me to a side-lying position in the bed, so that hopefully it would be less painful and I might be able to get some rest. The young nurse quickly checked me again (it was incredibly painful) and pronounced that I was “6 to 7 cm.” My doula cheered; I could not react. I kept asking, “What does that mean?” and the young nurse responded, “You are 6 to 7 cm dilated.” But that wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I wanted to know, does that mean 6, or does that mean 7? And what does this mean for the pitocin and the epidural?

But nobody said anything about pitocin or an epidural. I felt like, if they’re going to insist that they put me on pit, I need to know. Don’t just spring it on me without giving me time to deal with it. And what did this mean for getting an epidural? Had I missed the epidural window? Somehow in my haze, I recalled that one of my favorite bloggers (@kristysf) had recently had a baby and had been very keen on getting an epidural. She had wanted to make certain not to miss the epidural window, and until I read her blog, I didn’t even know that such a thing as an epidural window existed. Because I’d had no intention of getting an epidural, I hadn’t looked into these things. Now I kind of wished I had, so that I would know.

The baby still looked marvelous, with great heart tones and whatever else it is (if anything) they monitor, so everyone was reassured by that. My doula then had me roll over (most ungracefully) to my left side. I thought, surely this will bring a modicum of relief. I remembered another of my favorite bloggers (Dooce), who wrote about being in this exact position for hours during her labor and getting through it by holding her husband’s hand. I held onto Rob, but the pain only seemed worse and worse. I think I was still throwing up during many of the contractions too. This position had worked for Dooce, but it was not doing the trick for me. Despite how unpleasant it was, I felt stuck there because I was exhausted and didn’t think I had the strength to move.

My doula said she thought we needed to get me on my feet and use gravity for a while. Oh God no, I thought, there is no way I can stand up through this. But somehow, Rob and my doula got me to stand at the edge of the bed, bent over and swaying back and forth. The contractions started to feel very different. I had thought they were intense while I was in the tub. Ha! That had been nothing compared to this. They came, practically on top of each other. There was no end to them. Even between contractions, there was still intense pain and unbelievable pressure. After a while, I couldn’t even tell when one contraction ended and another began. And it started to feel like all the organs of my body, from my brain on down, were trying to force themselves out through my perenium.

My doula was very in tune with what was happening to me, and she kept asking me, “Do you feel like pushing?” Pushing?? That would mean this ordeal was about to end, and it did not seem like the end was near at all. I couldn’t really speak to answer her, but I didn’t think that I felt like pushing. Pushing didn’t seem to be a violent enough word to describe what this felt like.

Eventually, I couldn’t stand up anymore, so Rob and my doula got me back onto the bed—this time sitting up cross-legged. This position made me feel that it was less likely that the contractions would force all of my internal organs out of my body. By this point, I was closing in on 20 hours and was completely exhausted. Rob and my doula each held onto me to keep me upright. I started to loudly hum or moan through contractions. Somehow it was the only way I could get through them. If I caught the contraction right at the beginning and took a slow, deep breath—then let it out in a loud, low hum, I managed to survive. My doula encouraged me to do this, and I remembered reading about this in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth too. If I drifted off and let my concentration waver, then the contraction caught me off guard and it ended up being so intense that I had to scream through it. I thought of all of my friends who have had babies, especially those who have had more than one baby (meaning they’d lived through it once and actually wanted to do it again!) and wondered how they did it. I thought of my mother. I thought of one of my friends who had a difficult labor with her first son, but maintained that she enjoyed every minute of it. I thought of the all the hippies in Ina May’s book who described their contractions as rushes or waves and laughed or kissed their husbands all throughout the birth. None of this was like what I was feeling. Maybe it was my terror of the pit, of the GBS, of my water breaking so early, and the incessant vomiting. But this was not something I would ever look back on fondly.

At some point, I jumped up onto my knees during a contraction, unable to moan anymore but rather only shriek most ungracefully. I have no recollection of doing this, but thank god my doula was there because she knew that this meant business. She got the young nurse back into the room to check me. It was excruciating; I think I may have kicked her during the procedure. I dreaded hearing that I had made no progress, but instead, the young nurse said, “She’s complete.” Had I misheard her? It seemed like days had passed since I had gotten out of the tub, stuck at 5 cm. But it really had only been an hour and a half. From 5 to 10 in an hour and a half. Nobody had expected that. It was almost 1 in the morning and Dr. T was at home, probably asleep. While the young nurse rushed to go call Dr. T, my doula kept asking me if I felt like pushing. In retrospect, I realize that I was pushing and had been pushing for a while but it was completely involuntary and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Some other nurses came into the room with trays of things and a bassinet for the baby. I still did not think that this was real. I felt like the nurse must have made a mistake; she would come back and tell me, “I’m sorry, you’re still at 5,” and there would be no end, ever, to the pain.

Everyone told me I had to wait to push until Dr. T got there. I became extraordinarily angry at Dr T (not for the first time throughout this) because it seemed that once she got there, this could be over, but since she wasn’t there, it would only be prolonged. Could I really be at 10? This was the most intense pain imaginable. They made me pant during contractions to try to stop me from pushing, but it was pretty much futile. You can’t stop yourself from pushing, it’s like a reflex. During each contraction, I grabbed onto somebody—Rob, my doula, maybe even the young nurse—and wailed in an attempt to pant like they instructed. I had thought that once you got to 10—to the pushing phase—the intensity of the contractions was supposed to subside. This was not the case for me. My doula constantly encouraged me, saying that these little, involuntary pushes I did during the contractions were beneficial and it was allowing the baby to gently stretch my perineum.

Finally the young nurse we could try a “practice push” to see what kind of “pusher” I would be and get an idea of how long this phase might take. When it came down to it, I had no idea how to actually push. The young nurse told me to take a deep breath at the beginning of a contraction and bear down as hard as I could while they counted to ten. I looked at my doula with panic, vaguely remembering that this standard hospital style of pushing was not a good way to get the baby out. Why? I couldn’t exactly remember… something about how holding your breath deprived the baby of oxygen and could make its heart rate decelerate. But for the life of me I couldn’t remember any alternative.

So I did it—feeling a ridiculously terrifying amount of pain—and before the young nurse had even uttered the number “3,” she was telling me to stop, stop, stop… the baby’s head was coming out and we had to wait for Dr. T. I was outraged. I just wanted the young nurse to catch the baby. Or my doula. Or Rob. Or anyone, really. They tried to distract me by telling me I could reach down and feel the baby’s head. So I did. It was kind of slimy.

Mercifully, Dr. T arrived, wearing black Capri pants and a white t-shirt. Everyone was trying to get me into a more reclined position on the bed, and I struggled against it, thinking that they were trying to make me lie down on my back. But they just wanted me sort of semi-sitting, which wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. My doula held one of my legs and Rob held the other. Dr. T took one look at me and said that in 2 pushes, this baby would be out. How could she lie to me, I raged, thinking it wasn’t possible that this could be happening so quickly. I was hit with a bone-crunching contraction and she told me to push, then realized that she hadn’t yet had time to put on gloves, and so I had to pant through it again.

Once Dr. T was properly gloved, another contraction started and everybody told me to push. I started pushing, feeling a searing, tearing fire, and hearing myself scream. My doula could tell that I stopped pushing, and she told me to just keep going—push through the pain, it was supposed to feel like this. In my mind I thought, there is no way I can push through this. It would kill me. I’d heard other people describe the pushing phase as a release… not as painful as dilation because you were finally working with your body. In fact, I’d even heard people say that at this point it actually felt good to push because you were doing what your body wanted you to do. For me, nothing could have been farther from the truth. If my doula hadn’t told me I had to keep pushing, there is no way I would have continued. But with her encouragement, I did. When the contraction was over, I felt a strange sensation. The pressure that had been there for hours, making me so certain my body would break in two, seemed to be strangely floating away. “The head’s out!” Dr. T announced. The head was out?! In one push? I couldn’t believe it. Before I had time to process this, another contraction came and they told me to push again.

I felt the baby leave my body. I saw it in Dr. T’s hands. She put it on my stomach. It was crying and covered in blood. I held onto it—it was wet and slippery. It smelled like blood and earth. I couldn’t speak. It felt like this was an out of body experience, like I was looking at myself from somewhere above. Wide-eyed, and still unable to speak, I looked at Rob.

Dr. T asked Rob if he wanted to announce the sex, but he couldn’t see from his angle—I was clutching the baby to my chest so tightly. And it hadn’t even occurred to me to wonder. It was Fig. It looked exactly like Fig.

Since Rob wasn’t in a position to see, Dr. T announced, “It’s a boy,” and then he peed on me.

I looked at Rob and said, “William.”

I had done it. No pit. No drugs. No c-section. William had come into this world just as I had wanted him to—waterlogged and tender.

Waterlogged and tender

William Miles Raguet-Schofield
August 12, 2009 at 1:19 am
6 pounds, 12 ounces, 19.5 inches long


Anonymous said...

WHEW!!!!!!!!! I am exhausted just from READING !!!! I'm sooo glad I knew the outcome, or I would have PASSED OUT before I got to the finish!!!! SO PROUD OF YOU<<<<<<<<< you did IT !!!! WILLIAM is a BEAUTIFUL BABY and has a beautiful momma!!!!!!! ENJOY each and every day now, as babies GROW up toooo fast!!! one day, you will be PACKING HIS CLOTHES FOR COLLEGE< OR "SOME FAR AWAY ISLAND">!!! :( WON"T BE EASY !!! always , always in your heart!!!!! luv you mama

amypfan said...

Now I would suggest that you go back and delete these posts, because the only way you'll ever consider having another child is if you allow yourself to forget how horrific having this one was. :)

Seriously, though, I am SO proud of you. You have been a great mommy, right from the very first moment of that water breaking, doing what you knew was best for Will.
Much love!

Anonymous said...

I cried while reading the BIRTH OF WILLIAM! Like your Mom, I was worn out by the time he was here. But, you tell the story beautifully!!! How wonderful that you were able to deliver him the way YOU wanted to. You will NEVER foget that experience, but, you will look back and think ( it was well worth it)!!!! CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU AND ROB!!!!!!!!!!!!!


O'BoyMom said...

I just read the part three and I too, am crying. Aidan's birth was similar to this- just brutal, but in the end- a baby. So happy for you. K

Cathy said...

Wow. I'm so glad you were able to avoid all the nasties and that he got here safe and sound...Woohoo!

Unknown said...

Yeah mommy! Reminds me so much of Michael's birth. The Dr arrived at 5:24pm and Michael was born at 5:27pm. He was so close in size too: 6 lbs 14oz and 20 1/4". Now at 12 months he is 19 lbs and 30 1/2".