Two years ago today
Two years ago today I was in labor. Right about now (1:40) I thought for SURE I was dilated more than 1cm as I had been for the previous 8 hours. When my midwife checked, nope, still 1cm. She told me no more walking and to rest up which was fine with me because my feet and legs were aching from walking practically non-stop since 4:30 am. (Next time I go into labor, I'm going to take a nap, trust me.)
I woke up today at 3:45 am and I admit it was wine-induced. Rooster got his annual review yesterday and with it a hefty raise and a promotion so we split a nice bottle of wine with dinner. I don't regret it, but I sure did at 3:45 this morning. However, the very best part about being up at such an ungodly hour was that I got to witness 4:15am, the time stamp anniversary of when my waters broke and my life began to change whether I was ready for it to or not.
I remembered waking up that morning, feeling like something had just happened and then racing to the bathroom as my insides decided make their presence known to the outside world. I don't think I got any waters on my sheets, believe it or not. I'm telling you, I just KNEW something was up and it was time for action.
My baby, on the other hand, despite getting the ball rolling was actually pretty content to just chill for hours on end, hence my 1 pm check-up and still only 1cm of dilation. Oh. My. God. Really?? I was in sooo much pain, like way more than what you'd think 1cm would cause.
My midwife decided to check out the meconium levels and had me lay down at a little before 3pm. She put her fingers inside me and pushed the baby's head back and up off my cervix. I screamed - yes, SCREAMED - and flopped in pain on the towel-covered mattress. I'd never felt pain like that before. I began to sob, then vomit from the adrenalin and hormone rush due to the pain. It's beautiful, I tell you, the miracle of labor. On top of that, she'd been alarmed at the amount of meconium in the amniotic fluid and she made the call to head in to the hospital.
I sobbed even harder then because I knew that an epidural was in my future. If I was in this much pain and in a hospital there was no fucking way in hell I was going to refuse relief. I was heartbroken and defeated, but utterly resolute to follow my midwife's recommendation seeing as she had over 2000 births under her belt and I was only working on my first.
We also had to race the clock. 3 o'clock in Austin could be the best time of day to hit the highway or the worst, you just never know. It was midweek and we knew we were cutting it close, so we had to act fast.
It was actually pretty hilarious; of all the myriad things we had to do to get ready for a homebirth one of them was to pack a just-in-case-hospital bag. It was the one thing we never did. For Christ's sake, Rooster even dusted the fan blades and we had just steamcleaned the carpets to make for the cleanest possible birthing room, but alas, no hospital bag was to be had. What can I say? We tried.
So, while Rooster raced around the house packing our bags, I headed to the shower. And there I found laboring bliss. Why, oh why, hadn't I taken a shower earlier?? The contractions were like velvet slaps with hot water running over my rotund body. Nothing like the vice-like grip I was experiencing on dry land. I stood like a winded mare in that shower until someone came and got me. My mom and Terry were at the house and wisely and kindly offered us their automatic transmission Volvo. We gladly took them up on it.
Off in the car we go following the midwife to her favorite hospital. Only to get stuck in gridlock traffic. That's right. Pregnant woman writhing in pain, hooting and hollering in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We pulled off the highway twice to try to find an alternate route to no avail. Eventually, we passed the accident that had caused the cluster fuck and we were zooming on our way. A 20 minute drive turned into an HOUR was almost over.
The hospital was a thousand times less scary than I'd imagined, however, it did render my midwife to a walking, talking birthplan and that wasn't exactly what I'd wanted. She wasn't allowed to advice the other health workers or administer midwifery in any way shape or form per Texas law. She handled the transition adeptly and with grace and I was immensely grateful for that as I looked to her over the next several hours for guidance. If she nodded ok to whatever some Dr. Big Hootiehoot said I'd nod, too.
I lucked out in that the OB on duty was the only one on staff that my midwife really liked. An attractive, bald, South African man. Dr. P, all business, and no softness about him came in and matter of factly told us that he was slammed - babies everywhere, people!! - but he'd be there for us 100%. Polly, the young, dusty blonde OB nurse nodded consent and squeezed my hand. We were already besties, she and I. We shared a little secret otherwise known as the "cervical check." You gotta be besties with the person who periodically puts her hand up your cooter, after all, otherwise you're just a floosie who let's meaningless people touch your girlie parts.
He checks me out, too, checks the meconium levels and decides that I can leave if I want to. I'm hours and hours away and everything looks just fine to him. I'm in a panic. There's no way in hell I'm getting BACK in a car to fight rush hour traffic again. "Or," he says smoothly, "we can start you on an epidural and get you going on a low dose pit drip." He leaves it at that. My eyes are still wide because here's the moment I've been dreading. The moment where I have the power to refuse relief. My contractions are not getting me anywhere. I'm STILL 1 cm 12 hours in and 3-4 minutes apart. I am in a lot of pain and waters keep leaking from me. I'm a freaking mess. The midwife stops him and says, "I wasn't happy with the meconium levels." She levels a look at him seeming to say, LISTEN TO ME, but he brushes past her.
On his way out of the room, my midwife intercepts Dr. P and they bend their heads together. She nods. He nods. He opens the door and says over his shoulder. "I think you should do the epidural." I look at my midwife and she says, "I think you should, too." So, that was it for me.
I said, "Ok," and tossed my fantasy birth out the window. A little later, my midwife would explain that she hadn't seen anyone in as much pain as me at such an early stage and I was clearly becoming fatigued. She felt the epidural would give me a much needed break to rest and recoup before I had to start pushing. It made sense, but I still felt like a colossal failure in the face of temptation (I've never been one to resist, after all), but I sucked it up and decided to roll with it. What choice did I have, really? A woman in labor, naked but for a see through hospital gown, shoeless, purseless, and utterly - let's be honest - clueless. I was in it to win it no matter what I had to do.
I think I had barely stopped nodding my head, "Yes," when the dashingly handsome Indian doctor entered stage right. "Dr. Dimple P." his name tag read. That's right. I remember thinking I've never seen anyone this hot with such an amazing name before. Think Dr. Mohinder Suresh from Heroes hot. He came in guns a-blazing. Reading off his Please-Don't-Sue-Me disclaimer from rote memory. This was the boring part for him. Meanwhile, his sidekick nurses were scurrying around the room pulling open drawers and unwrapping various things I couldn't see. Rooster was holding my hand through the contractions and I was desperately trying to listen to Dr. Hot Dimple and his warnings in order to make an educated decision about the risks of an epidural, but it was all I could do to no scream in pain let alone listen to life-threatening risks. Seriously, there's GOT to be a better way of doing that, right??
I sat on the edge of the bed with legs dangling, Rooster kneeling in front of me as Dr. Hot Dimple opened the back of my gown, still talking a mile a minute, and felt for whatever it was he needed to find. He admonished me on at least one occasion to remain still because he was using the needle. Well, dude... I'm sorry, but do you really expect a laboring woman to be able to hold still?? 10 seconds later it was done and he exited stage left with a swoosh and a swirl never to be seen again. His bill was roughly $2500 for approximately 5 minutes of work. Not bad, dude. Not bad at all. (Incidentally, when I was telling my friend my birth story she thought that name sounded familiar (and I don't blame her) and she remembered that he was photographed at some Austin high-society shindig looking dashing.)
The epidural did just what epidurals are supposed to do, good and bad. I was rendered immobile, so I had to have a catheter (hello, bestie, Polly!) and I had to lay on my sides, never my back, for fear the baby would rotate around and face the wrong way. I was hooked up to fetal monitors and had an IV. I felt like one of those human seed pod thingies from The Matrix.
Eight hours of rest and worry later my best galpal, Polly, came in to check me and was surprised to discover I was 8-9cm. She called for Dr. P and he checked me, too. (It's so great having people stick their hands in you one after the other, isn't it??) Yep, I was ready!
Those of you who've had hospital births know what happened next: The Birth SWAT Team descended en masse. The dim, gentle lighting was chucked for spot-light strength beams. The kilowatts above me could have powered a small solar-powered car, I'm sure, and if I hadn't been so busy wondering if aliens had just descended upon me and were about to beam me up, I might have made a joke about it.
A dozen people filled the corners of the room all doing their little assembly piece. One nurse, it seemed, had the duty to talk to "Mom." Oh, right, that's me, I realized dreamily. She was too lazy to read my chart and find out my name. Luckily, some of her comrades did read my chart and actually called me by my name.
As things started to heat up I had half the room yelling, "Go, Mom, go!" and the other half shouting, "You can do it, Jess!" My midwife was on one side, Rooster on the other. They each had a knee as I pushed. 10 people are staring at me spread-legged on this table. I briefly think about poop and then think, literally, "Fuck 'em," and just let my body do whatever it had to do. I was quietly angry at the injustice and remarkable formality of my situation. Everyone was so business-like. I was just a piece of their busy night. Nothing too remarkable here, ladies and gentlemen. Let's just get this baby out and head on to the next!
Dr. P did another check and realized that the baby had, indeed rotated. He did a quick push and turn and miraculously got him facing the right way. I just narrowly dodged a C-section, thank you very much.
At some point, someone puts an oxygen mask on my face. No explanations, nothing. I'm FUCKING TERRIFIED now. A few times I think I'm going to vomit again as I'm pushing, but I'm too afraid to say anything for fear they're going to cut me open to "save" me.
A few pushes later and I heard Dr. P call for someone to get "the vacuum" ready. Apparently my baby wasn't coming out as quickly as he'd like. The fetal monitors were registering high levels of distress (no shit). That was all I needed to hear, though. Oxygen mask or no. Vomit in said oxygen mask or no, I was bound and determined that no one was going to suck. my. baby. out. of. me. Period.
So, I pushed as if my very life depended on it and I heard gasps around the room at my display of strength. Everyone was shocked that I had just gotten past the hump no one thought I could do on my own. One or two more pushes and the deed was done.
My little pumpkin was here 21 hours later on the 9th of October. All 8 lbs 11 oz and 20.1 inches of him.
Teeth chattering, shaking, my entire body, literally, vibrating. The oxygen mask still on my face. I'm alone and still terrified. No one has bothered to tell me what was up with the mask. Finally, my midwife comes over and I ask her. She says it was because the baby's heart rate had been slowing down. Then I ask her why I was shaking. She said it was the hormones. - I didn't know hormones could simulate the high of Ecstasy, but ok. I'll take it.
Then Hawk is brought to me, swaddled as babies are. I was utterly floored by how cute he was. Weren't newborns supposed to look like aliens? But he was cherub like already. Enormous cheeks framed dark pewter-colored eyes. He looked up at me and blinked and I was a goner.
Everything I had just endured was worth it a thousand times over for this precious second, caught miraculously on camera by my midwife. I had no idea she even had our camera, but goddamn am I grateful she did.
They took him away after a quiet minute with me and Rooster to make sure he was breathing ok. There actually had been dangerous levels of meconium after all (the good Dr. P had been mistaken) and Hawk had aspirated some of it during birth. They'd also determined that he had entered my birth canal a little wonky, hence the inordinate amount of pain I experienced with little dilation. It all made sense and I felt somewhat vindicated. I wasn't a wimp! I wasn't making any of this up! I needed to be in the hospital and no where else!
When they brought him back they told me to try to nurse. I offered him my cantaloupe-sized breast and he latched on immediately. I felt millions of years of evolution coursing through my veins and out through my breast to my little, peach-fuzzed infant. It was magnificently glorious.
So, yeah... that's what's been on my mind all week. I just felt I had to share. If you've gotten to the end of this, thanks for sticking with it.
This is my first soul tattoo.