If you missed it, you can catch up on the home birth portion of this story in
Around 7:30pm on Saturday, I get wheeled into the emergency room. DH goes to the desk and tells them I pre-registered online. Of course they have no record of me. He argues with the poor, clueless chick while I traumatize the handful of people in the waiting room who have an unobstructed view of me going through the worst pain of my life. They watch me brace myself with my arms and lift myself up off the wheelchair during every contraction and practically scream my way through it. Afterward, I apologize to the crowd. “Sorry, you guys.” We were there way too long as an exasperated DH explains how to spell my name and fills out paperwork, all the while trying not to lose his shit on the poor girl at the front desk.
Eventually, we are wheeled into a room. I stand up and apologize for the wet mark. “Don’t worry,” says the male nurse. “We see it all the time.” I strip down and get into a hideous hospital gown. It didn’t occur to me to put on my pretty delivery dress. DH hands our birth plan to the main nurse who’s been orchestrating things and explains that we didn’t originally want drugs, and we have other items on a checklist that we’re not interested in. Let’s call her Nurse Ratched, shall we? She’s all smiles and assures us that she’ll attach our birth plan to our chart so everyone will be in the know. She lies.
Lots of this part of the story are fuzzy to me. I ask for (or demand?) an epidural. I don’t consult with DH about this, (not that he’d have the courage to argue it.) I went in with my mind made up that I was getting one. It didn’t even occur to me to think twice, based on our original plans. I think part of me was assuming that most of what we want will be thrown out the window anyway, so I might as well kick it all off with some pain relief. I’m sad about this. I mean, I don’t know if I could’ve done a drug-free hospital birth, but I didn’t even try.
Before I get the epi, I have to get rehydrated with IV fluids. They hand me this cone shaped bag in case I have to vomit, and I oblige. It’s mostly water, as that’s the only thing I’ve had in almost a day. The IV takes way too long. I’m a miserable SOB. My midwife arrives and hangs out. She tells the nurses that when my water broke, it was clean, as in no meconium. The presence of meconium means the baby is distressed and could get an infection if she breathes it in. A red flag in the medical community.
Finally, the anasthesiologist, Olga, arrives. I tell her that because I’m a redhead, she has to give me more epidural than the average person, since redheads have a higher tolerance for pain meds. With her strong accent, she agrees. Before she can stick me with the giant spine needle, she tells my midwife and my husband that they have to leave the room. I want to protest, but I also just WANT THE DRUG OH GOD JUST PUT IT IN ME ALREADY. So, DH gives me a kiss and out the door they go. (I learn later they were taken waaaay away from the room, to go stand by the elevators! What the hell? Someone says it’s so no one faints when they see me get stuck with the giant needle – and it protects them from getting sued. Ridiculous.)
Upon seeing me shaking uncontrollably, Olga tells me, “You have to sit still. I can’t do this if you’re moving like that.” I say, “Hold on, I’m having a contraction.” She says, “You’re going to have lots of contractions, and I need to get this in, so you have to sit still.”
!! Are you fucking kidding me? You don’t know what I’m going through, lady, so hang on for one fucking minute while I brace myself through this contraction, and you can stick me afterward! Jesus Christ!!
That’s what I wanted to say to her. Instead, another nurse hands me a pillow to hold onto, and I lean over it, doing my best to be a good patient. I’m still trembling quite a bit, but Olga manages to do her job just fine.
I don’t remember how long it takes, but oh, man, do I feel better! DH and my midwife return, and I’m all smiles now. I mean, it’s all rainbows and unicorns as far as I’m concerned. I feel nothing from the hips down. It is glorious. Everyone comments on how much better I look. Like I’m not even going to stab anyone anymore.
They attach another machine to me so they can tell when I’m having contractions. Then I’m told I will get a catheter because a full bladder can interfere with baby’s trajectory or something. I don’t argue. Then they say they want to put an internal monitor on the baby. (They do this by attaching it to the baby’s scalp with a little hook.) The idea terrifies me, and was definitely on our Do Not Want list but again, I don’t argue. I fail at birth plans.
Inevitably, we get the “let’s move things along” speech and are told they want to adminiser Pitocin. (A synthetic hormone that mimics a woman’s natural Oxytocin. It will increase the contractions.) I knew it was coming – I could practically write their script. We had this on the No list as well, which they clearly didn’t read. DH argues for more time before we decide to do that, and the nurse leaves. This was something we were taught in our hypnobirth class – to ask for a delay before making decisions about something they want you to do. I’m really proud of him. Eventually they bring it up again, and either he approves it or I do. I don’t remember, but I do remember not really giving a fuck.
I know what will be next. They’re going to say they don’t like what they see on the monitor and the baby is in distress. Sure enough, the nurse shows DH how the dips on the monitor are the baby’s heartrate dropping during every contraction. She tsk-tsks and shakes her head, looking worried. I try not to notice. I’m still on a high from the freedom from pain, and I don’t even care what they think they see. It all feels like standard protocol, and I think I’ve convinced myself that none of it matters, it’s just what they do, and it’s nothing to be concerned about. (I’m sure the drugs had something to do with my apathy too.)
At some point, when they get a look at the fluid leaking out of me, a nurse says, “Look at all that. She said it was clean, but it isn’t.” There is meconium in the fluid. Did my midwife lie to them? Or did the meconium come later?
I have not even seen my doctor yet, and the nurse says, “Let’s try some pushing.” Say what? I ask where Dr. B is, and she says something like, “Getting coffee and reading his notes.” This makes me think we’re nowhere near ready to push this kid out, so whatever, if the nurse wants to get it started, so be it. (Am I this amenable in real life? Or are the drugs this powerful?) They put my legs in stirrups, and I’m all splayed out for the world to see. There are many people coming in and out, setting things up, taking a look up my hoo-ha, offering their comments. I don’t even care. I just want this overwith. They put an oxygen mask on my face, which I hate. It smells awful and the cold air makes me feel like I can’t breathe. They say it’s needed for the baby. DH sees me struggling with the mask, which I keep trying to remove, and holds it off my face, so I can still breathe it in, but I don’t feel like I’m suffocating.
I think it was around 10pm when my midwife says her goodbyes. I didn’t react to that until days later, when it occurs me to be mad about it. She says something like, “Call me when you’ve got the big news. Good luck!” I was under the impression that she would be my doula at the hospital. Guess I was wrong. I guess she assumed I was in good hands and wasn’t needed. Or maybe she was just tired and wanted to be in bed. Chalk it up to one more disappointment.
With DH by my side, Nurse Ratched explains how it works. I have to take one deep breath in and out quickly, then a deep breath in and hold it while bearing down. Random people are holding my feet, and DH and I grab my legs. When I’m told I’m having a contraction, I pull myself up and “push.” Granted, I can’t feel a thing, so I have no idea if I’m actually pushing. They stopped the epidural some time ago, so I’d start to be able to feel something, but it has no effect. While I’m pushing, someone starts a count to 10 – really slowly – and it’s around 7 when I lose my breath and exhale. I get stern comments about how I have to push for longer than that. I take another breath quickly and do it again. And again. And again. I get negative feedback like, “You can do better than that!” (I mean, if you know me at all, you know I do not respond to negative coaching like that.) I try to focus on DH, who’s telling me I can do it, and he’s so proud of me, but in my head, I’m in a negative space. My eyes feel like they’re going to explode. My throat is burning. I haven’t had a drink of water in I don’t know how long. I’m really thirsty. (I’ve had, like, 3 ice chips before the pushing. Each time I wanted to laugh. Oh yeah, this does it. Thank you, nurse. I’m so quenched by that tiny piece of ice!) All I hear are these people’s disapproval of my efforts, so in my head, I’m all, “I can’t do this. This is too hard. I’ll never get her out.” I’m out of breath, my head is pounding, and I don’t get a break. It’s just pushpushpush and no one says, “There she is!” or “She’s almost there!” I don’t think she’s ever going to come out. I’m all negativenegativenegative. I want to give up. I fail at not being a quitter.
I’m not sure how long this goes on, but I’m sick of Nurse Ratched, who’s not at all nice anymore, and I’m tired of all these strangers all up in my business. This is not what I wanted. These are all assholes who don’t care about me. It feels like people are just walking past the room and notice a birth is happening and come in and join in. It’s like a convention in here. Who the fuck are all these people? One nurse even refers to our baby as “he.” DH yells at her, “We’re having a girl!” I don’t want to do this anymore. Fuck these guys. I quit. I tell them I’m done. I can’t feel anything down there so asking me to push harder is ridiculous. They’re just going to have to cut her out of me. I do some more vomiting in the plastic cone, although I can’t fathom what could possibly still be in my stomach. No one cares. Oh, and by the way, WHERE THE FUCK IS MY DOCTOR?!
Dr. B finally makes an appearance. I beg him for a C-section. I tell him I can’t do it anymore. I’m exhausted. While strapping on goggles and gloves and laying pads down in the splash zone, he says, “No, you’re not getting a C-section. You can do this.” (Hindsight: Thank God he refused this, as many doctors probably would’ve jumped on board with that idea. I’m grateful for that now although I wanted to kick him in the face at the time.)
With Dr. B at the helm, the “pushing” resumes, with not much success, it seems to me. The consensus from the peanut gallery seems to be that I’m not pushing hard enough. I want to kill everyone. I beg him for more help. “Cut me if you have to. Anything to help her come out.”
What the hell? I’ve just given him permission to give me an episiotomy. Another check on my No list. My poor DH balks at this. I know he’s surprised at my suggestions and acquiescence to every intervention so far. He asks the doctor, “Doesn’t a natural tear heal faster than a cut? Can we wait on this?” Dr. B says, “I don’t want her to tear down to her anus.” Neither do I! Cut me! DH loses, and the cut is made. More pushing. More of my whining. I ask, “What else have you got, Doc? Vacuum assist? Forceps?” He holds up the vacuum assist thingy and I, like a dumbshit, say, “Go for it.”
It breaks my heart that I did this. I don’t know what happened. I just gave up and started suggesting the very things we wanted to avoid. I have no spine. He hooks the vacuum to my poor baby’s head to help pull her out. I don’t even know what’s going through my DH’s mind. He must hate this.
I’m guessing it was an hour and a half to two hours of pushing, which I know is nothing although it felt like forever to me. It wasn’t until the very end – my last two pushes – when it occurs to me to pull my legs into my chest while pushing. And that’s when I finally start to hear the “Yes! She’s coming!” and “There she is! Yes, you’re doing it!” I mean, seriously? All I had to do was pull my legs in, instead of trying to lift myself up and push against the people who are at my feet? Why didn’t anyone tell me that?!
Note for moms-to-be: Pull your legs into your chest while bearing down. It seems so simple now.
Two pushes later, at 2:31am on Sunday, July 1, 26 hours into this journey, CMD comes out. 8 pounds, 3 ounces, 21 inches long. She is perfect.
Dr. B holds her up for me to see for a few brief seconds. I have a fleeting thought of “Wow, she’s so beautiful” (and she was! No mishapen head, no old man wrinkles or alien face that a lot of newborns have – she was gorgeous!) before I collapse and try to catch my breath. I have never been this tired. I go deep inside myself. I don’t feel present. After cleaning off our baby (another No item), they wrap her up and put her on my chest. She takes my breast, and I should be in absolute awe, but I’m not really there. My arms feel so weak, I’m shaking and feel like I’m going to pass out. I don’t think I can hold her. What if I drop her?
There’s all sorts of business happening down below, but I don’t know what. DH takes our baby, and I become aware of Dr. B trying to get out my placenta. I look and see him yanking with both hands. His arms are literally flexed with effort while he tries to pull. A nurse says, “Wow, I’ve never seen one so short like that.” Dr. B says, “It’s not coming out.” I’m thinking, aren’t I supposed to help push the placenta out? I ask him if I can help by trying to push, and he says, “Sure, let’s try that.” I sit up and bear down, giving me a view of what’s going on down there. I’ll spare you the description, but let’s just say that there is a lot of blood. Dr. B struggles to yank part of me out. Poor DH is sitting on the couch with our baby and a bird’s eye view of the entire horror show.
Eventually that part of me gives and Dr. B removes the placenta. There are comments about how unusual that was. I’m thinking, great, I’m done, everyone leave me alone now. Dr. B stitches me up. I ask him how many stitches and he says, “Not many.” I ask again, “But how many is that?” And he says, “Just a few.” Sheesh, can’t a girl get some real numbers?
C is again placed on my chest, but I’m barely aware. I tell the nurse she has to take my baby. I can’t hold her. All I want to do is sleep. I tell her to take the baby to the nursery for the night. I just want to rest. (Another No list item – WTF is wrong with me? We wanted to room in with our baby. It breaks my heart that my baby spent her first night in the nursery.)
I’m pretty out of it now, but there’s some chatter about all the blood …