On not bonding with strangers

I do a couple of fitness classes avec baby a week – mainly for the exercise, but the chatting after class is nice too.  After one of the land-based classes, I was talking to another mother, whose son was the only other baby in the class who had learned to crawl.  (Which, by the way, make these classes much more disruptive than what my baby just lay or sat on the mat.)  After class, I went over and asked how old her son was – ten and a half months at that point.  I said that Jess too was that age!  And then we compared birthdays, and the babies were born on the same day!  And at the same hospital, as it turned out!  What a coincidence!  I said that Jess had been born around 4 in the morning, and turns out that her son was born right before midnight.

I said something along the lines of “maybe I saw you there – we were in the hospital for a couple of days.”  She looked down her nose at me and stated flatly.  “I had a midwife.  We were out of the hospital very fast.”  I sputtered slightly, and said something about how after 55 hours of labour, I’d had a c-section.  I swear that she looked at me and sniffed disapprovingly.  I muttered something about being pretty sure that it wouldn’t have mattered what kind of assistance I had, that J wouldn’t have come out any other way.  She sniffed again, and I slunk away from her and her placid, stolid baby.

You guys, it’s been 11 months and I’m still defensive as fuck about my birth experience.  And you know why?  It’s because PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY JUDGING ME TO MY FACE ABOUT IT.  Sure, not people I like, or people who matter, but it’s true – there is shaming out there for c-sections.  I get it!  I desperately, frantically didn’t want one.  I laboured for two and a half days because of how much I didn’t want one.

But I didn’t have a choice.

I mean, I made every choice possible to have a natural birth.  I did my readings, I hired a doula, I gave birth in a natural-birth friendly hospital with nurses who were fully supportive of my intentions, I went as long as I could without the drugs (pitocin contractions are not the same as normal ones – they are way, way more painful).  When the doctors announced that I needed a c-section, I refused and got another hour to try and make things progress.  It didn’t work.  The baby was unable to come out the normal way, and that sucked.

But I didn’t have a choice.

And yet, I still feel so judged for it.  By virtual strangers who have no idea.  And that sucks.

Having the section sucked.  The fact that the morphine didn’t work sucked.  The fact that my feelings of failure fed my PPD sucked.  The fact that 11 months later I still have abdominal pain sucks.

But the fact that my baby was born healthy and alive and that I am healthy and alive?  Does not suck.  Sure, it was less than ideal, but the end result was positive, so good enough.  Fuck the haters, and all.

 

As you can imagine, this woman and I have NOT become friends.

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Birth Story – part 2

We left for the hospital just before 7:00 am, just as the snow was beginning to fall. I’d repeatedly made a joke about how even in a blizzard, we would still be able to get to the hospital, as it is so close to our house.  It therefore amused me that it did, in fact, turn in to a full blown blizzard.  The doula took an hour and a half to do a 20 minute drive, due to the snow and traffic.  It was basically the only thing I expected about the birth to come true – I mean, of course there was a blizzard!  (Sure, it had totally stopped by the time she was born the next day, but still.  There was a blizzard as we headed for the hospital.)

We got to the hospital and headed for the 6th floor – the same triage I’d been checked out at two weeks earlier, after a bad fall.  It was nice that because of that fall, all of our paperwork was up to date.  (And I had already had the discussion with the nurse to remove my father as my primary contact, because that was hard enough when I wasn’t in labour.)  They put me in triage, and the doctor confirmed that they would be inducing me as soon as a delivery room became available.  Which took until noon, because every time a room would become available, some lucky woman in full blown labour would arrive and logically get the room.  We walked the short hallway, David got us scones and we chatted.  I had an IV put in at 8:00 am, because they were about to move me in to a delivery room and I was going to need it for the induction.  Having to drag the pole around for an extra 4 hours was annoying, but what could we do?

We finally got a room – the nice room – the room with the tv and vcr player! Heh.  The doctor checked me out and after 38 hours of early labour, I was completely effaced but only a single centimeter dilated.  About as big of a failure as you can imagine, and it was hard to hear that so much work has resulted in what happens to most women before they even go in to labour – sometimes weeks before.    I was hooked up to an IV of oxytocin around noon, and they would increase the dosage every 15 minutes for the next 5 hours.  The oxytocin worked quickly, in that the contractions started in earnest.  We hung out, working through poses and quietly watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on vhs.

Now, everyone knows that contractions hurt.  But there is normally a break between them – a time to catch your breath.  When you add the synthetic hormone, you stop getting that break, and the contractions are harder and stronger and faster than natural ones.  Much worse, by the time the drug is fully ramped up.  The crappy little chart below illustrates what it felt like for me, with normal contractions, and then drug supplied contractions. You’ll notice two pain lines in the latter.  It really felt that way – the contraction pain, and then the constant, unceasing pain that never, ever let up.  It was horrible.

Contractions Comparison

We had agreed on a safe word before I was induced.  I picked the word elephant.  By 4:00 ish, the contractions were pretty brutal and I started saying elephant during the contractions.  The nurse offered nitrous, which I used for the next couple of hours.  It did, I’ll be honest, very little, but it took the edge off.  And forced me to take slow deep breaths, which helped, as I was in pretty terrible pain.  I tried the shower, which was basically useless and totally uncomfortable, even while sucking back the gas.  It mainly just made me cold and David’s pants wet.

I guess I wasn’t clear enough with David and the doula, because I always knew that if I was induced, I would need an epidural.  I knew that I did not want it for a natural labour if I could help it, but oxytocin labour isn’t normal.  My yoga teacher (also a doula) told us that they are inhuman contractions, and that you almost always need an epidural to withstand the pain.  And she was right.  It’s not productive pain.  It’s closer to torture.  And they, as per my natural birth plan, kept deferring my request for pain relief, also knowing that the longer I could go without it, the more quickly I would progress.  I managed until 6:30 pm when it turned out to flat out begging and pleading.  I think my final argument (begging) was that there was productive pain, and there was suffering, and that this was no longer productive and could I please please please have something to make the suffering stop? In those 6 hours, I had only progressed to 5 cm.

The anesthesiologist arrived just before 7:00 pm and gave me a high dose epidural that had me able to breath and dozing within minutes.  The next two hours passed in about 20 minutes for me.  David and the doula dozed on the couch and the chair, respectively.  I eventually woke up and was able to feel the contractions but was not pained by them.  The nurse kept rolling me from one side to the other, but that was about it for movement – this was not a walking epidural.

Just before midnight, I was checked again and had only managed to progress to maybe 8 cm.  The doctor added an antibiotic to the IV stand, as according to what we told them, my water had broken 48 hours earlier.  (We did lie by a few hours about when my water broke.  We said midnight instead of 9:30 pm because I didn’t want anyone to yell at me.  Again, I don’t endorse this.  I just really, really did not want to be induced.)   Still, 50 hours of labour, including almost 12 with oxtocin, and I was only at 8?  That’s pretty classic failure to progress.  The doctor called in various OB/GYNs and none of them could tell which way the baby was facing.  As in, was this back labour and that is why she was stuck?  No one could tell.  We later found out the J’s fontanelles had basically already closed up within a week of birth, suggesting that they weren’t open enough for her head to squish and be born vaginally.  Certainly, between the hair and the fontanelles, no one could tell.  As well, I’d gone from fully effaced to not effaced at all – the cervix was ‘bunched up like a turtleneck’.  Probably because of her unyielding head slamming against it for twelve hours.

I dozed off between doctor’s visits and intrusive internal exams and being cathetered.   Eventually, I was abruptly woken at 2:00 am by another OB/GYN who announced, without any preamble, that I would be getting a c-section.  I didn’t take it well – I may have burst in to tears – and her attitude didn’t help.  A trio of OB/GYNs came in and lectured me about all the terrible things that could happen to me and the baby if I didn’t immediately consent to it, up to and including fetal death.  The baby had been on the monitor basically since we checked in, and there wasn’t even a heart rate deceleration at any point.  The baby was fine, and they were using mean scare tactics that immediately got my back up.  I asked, and eventually got, one more hour to try and progress further.  I hadn’t been moving much, so for the final hour I rotated in a new position on the bed every 5 minutes.  Around 3:00 am, the nicest of the OBs came back and checked me again.  He looked sad to have to tell me that there was still no progress.

So I had to consent to the c-section.  They came back in and when through the risk factors, which sounded EXACTLY like the risk factors they had listed when I didn’t want to have it, up to and including fetal death.  I cried, and signed the consent form.  They took David off to get changed in to scrubs, and the doula left, as she could not accompany us to the OR.  The nurse (my least favourite of the 3 I’d had that day, and in Calgary the nurse spends her whole shift just with you, in the room) gave me this really gross anti-nausea drink, which I immediately puked back up.  (I still wonder why my puke was neon yellow.  Is that the colour of stomach acid?  There certainly wasn’t anything else in my stomach.) She broke regulations to give me enough ice chips to wash the taste out of my mouth.

They wheeled me to the OR, flat on my back.  I felt like I was in a tv show, that’s how cliched it was.  The epidural had mostly worn off, but I knew I was about to get seriously medicated, so I just did my best to breathe through the pain.

They moved me on to the operating table and put nice warm contracting leg cuffs on and covered me in hot blankets, as I was shivering so hard my teeth were chattering.  I’m assuming it must have been in reaction to one of the drugs, as it went on for most of the surgery.  At least the spinal needle was already in – it was hard enough to stay still for that during contractions – I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been while having full body shakes.  Various doctors came in – I think David told me at one point there were a dozen people in the room.  However, they didn’t bring David in right away, and it made me panic.  I kept asking for him, and telling them not to start until they found him.  A nurse mentioned that he wasn’t in the change room, and it made me worry.  He was sitting outside OR in the ‘loneliest hallway in the world’, able to hear me ask for him but not being able to come in.

David said waiting here to be called in to the OR was lonely – the loneliest hallway in the world.

They eventually brought him in and surgery started right away.

The anesthesiologist was amazing.  That nice doctor blend of cocky and kind.  (After giving me the epidural, he declared with perfect confidence, and accuracy, that I would not have a headache.)   After I was transferred to the operating table, he started adding drugs to my IV line.  Things get pretty fuzzy for me at this point, but I know that there was a much stronger epidural, morphine, plus an anti nausea drug, and when the pain killing affect of those drugs wasn’t enough, he added something else to the line.  He was also the only doctor who I remember any interaction with, and he never left my head.  The surgery hurt – I don’t think the morphine took – and every time I winced or moaned, he checked over the curtain to see what was going on.  If it was pushing, he did nothing as apparently pushing and pressure are normal to feel, but for everything else, he reacted to keep me comfortable.

I am as stoned as I look

He also told David when to look over the curtain – to see our baby being born.  David said he had no intention of looking, but when the doctor said to, he couldn’t help but look.  Said it was gross and weird and pretty fucking amazing.

The view from behind the curtain, as they were stitching me back up.

Baby J was born at 4:05 am on March 6, 2012, weighing 8 pounds, 3 ounces.  54 and a half hours after my water broke, via c-section.

I remember one doctor telling another that “she looks healthy” and I so clearly remember my voice wobbling and tearing up as I asked, “it’s a girl?”  I guess they are so used to everyone knowing the sex of the baby before birth that there was no ceremony to the announcement – not even, “It’s a girl!”  Just a baby being taken over to the heating table and David got to go up there and see her.  At some point, they brought her over, all swaddled up, but I’ll be honest and admit I don’t really remember that part.  In fact, they took her away and David followed and then I passed right out, and woke up in the recovery room.  During that time, David got to hold her and feed her a bottle and cuddle.

Freshly born

I just remember waking up hurting and having to spend time in the recovery room trying to make small talk with the nurse.  David and the doctor showed up to tell me that J had an unsurprising but very bad tongue tie so they wanted to clip it right away.  I remember slurring something about David would have to be the one to sign the forms for it, because I didn’t think I could move.  Apparently I was very incoherent.

Eventually I got enough feeling back in my body for them to move me to a room.  Luckily, it was a private room (which only costs $40 a night and was worth every penny) because I had got feeling back in my body and the morphine had NOT given me the promised 12 hours of pain relief because I cried out every time we crossed a door jam and then screamed in agony as the nurses moved me in to the bed.  When asked about what level of pain it was out of 10?  It was 10.  It actually hurt worse than anything else that had happened over the last 3 days.  They must have given me something, because by the time David brought in our daughter, I can remember something other than agony, but I’ll be honest.  It’s all very fuzzy.  And I may have been weeping.  And it was 5:00 am after days of labour – with the last solid sleep being four days earlier.

Meeting my daughter for the first (coherent) time

She was small and red and angry and I had no idea what to do.  I think I tried to feed her and she latched on pretty well, and I remember that David went home around 7:30 am to get some sleep and I must have passed out eventually, because the next day was simply a blur of feedings and diaper changes and endless, ENDLESS sitting around the hospital bored out of my mind, wanting to go home, and sobbing.  I’ll talk about that next, this is long enough already.

First family picture

Birth Story, part 1

So, I think I may as well type this out, to get it out of my own head.

I had my second baby shower on Saturday afternoon.  The first one was with friends, the second was family and family friends – a combo of aunts and cousins and old family friends.  It ended around 5, and I hung out with my mother, my aunt and my cousin Kim for another couple of hours, chatting.  I left my mom’s house at 7, and came home and ate a late dinner with David and then started going through the presents, entering them in to a spreadsheet so I could write the thank you cards.  (What, I don’t like it to be  a task that lingers…  I’d already finished the ones from the first shower a week earlier.)  Around 9:30, I jumped up because I suddenly had to go to the bathroom, and as I did, a little bit of liquid came out.  Afterwards, I joked to David about how sexy late pregnancy is – incontinence and all.  “Or, haha, my water just broke.”  And then the water didn’t stop – just kept trickling out.  And then I panicked.  Hard.  I was so totally unready for this.  I had another week of work!  I hadn’t packed my office.  I hadn’t finished passing off my work. I hadn’t finished my Well Evaluations course.  The nursery wasn’t done.  The tidying I had planned to do on the week between leaving work and having a baby hadn’t even been started.  Let alone the 5 lunch dates I’d lined up, or the emotional work I knew I needed to do to be ready to have the baby.  I wasn’t ready yet in any way.

38 Weeks Pregnant

But there’s no arguing with leaking amniotic fluid.  I kept soaking pads, and I kept crying.  In the picture above, if you look closely, you can see my eyes and nose are red from the weeping.  We quickly moved in to work mode.  We packed a hospital bag, finished entering the presents in to the spreadsheet and tackled a few final nursery chores.  Around 11:30, we called my doula, who recommended I have a relaxing bath and then try to get some sleep, as contractions hadn’t started yet.

So we dozed.  My contractions started up around 3:00 am, and lasted for a couple of hours before tapering off again.  We got out of bed around 10:00 and went for a long walk around the reservoir, stopping at McDonald’s so David could eat lunch and I could pee/leak some more.  The walking helped the contractions, in that they were mildly happening.  I knew that we’d already cheated by not going to the hospital to get it looked at as soon as the waters broke, and that as soon as we crossed hospital doors I’d be signing up for induction at the very least, and I Did Not Want That.  Very VERY strongly.  I’d been working hard for months to have a natural birth.  I’d read the books – ALL the books.  I’d done prenatal yoga for 6 months.  I’d hired a doula.  I’d read up on pain and hypnosis and relaxation and the stages of labour.  I’d done the work, and I really, really wanted to have a natural birth.  And I felt that history and my body were on my side.  My mother was only in labour with me for 4 hours, and David’s mother for 6.5.  I have breeding hips.  I’d had a very easy pregnancy, heartburn aside.  I was far more worried (and prepared) to have the baby late and fast.  Honestly, early and slow didn’t really occur to me.   I was convinced that the baby would be born on March 21 (3 days late), because that’s my late father’s birthday.  Irrational?  Sure.  But we all like to believe that we can control the universe with our minds, right?

At any rate, the walking helped.  We talked to the doula, and she suggested nipple stimulation.  Which totally worked.  Like, crazy worked.  It took the contractions from intermittent to just about every 5 minutes quickly.  Bodies are so weird.  But, like before, the contractions eventually tapered off, only to reappear a few hours later.  We had a timing app, and it showed that they really would come hard and fast for a while, and then slide right back.  It was a little frustrating.  Our doula came over and suggested poses and positions, and eventually made dinner.  Labour started to hurt, and I worked through the yoga poses I’d learned, and bounced on the ball, and all the rest.  Around 1 am, the doula suggested that David go have a nap and she and I chatted for a couple of hours until the contractions were mostly gone, and then she suggested I go to bed.  Yes, for those keeping track, this was 29 hours after my water broke, and I was and am aware that I was potentially courting danger.  Don’t be like me.  But my amniotic fluid continued to be clear and just slightly salty, and have I said how much I did not want to be induced?  I may have been panicking hard about having the baby, but I was panicking harder about the cascade of intervention that I knew would happen as soon as I walked in to the hospital.

Correctly worried, as it turns out.