Saturday, January 23, 2016
Lily's Birth Story, Part 2
When last we left off (read Part 1 here), I was on my way to the hospital after about 14 hours of denying I was in real labor or that it was time to get out the door. Around 4:45 p.m. on November 13th, my contractions, which had been about the same in their overall mildness the whole time so far, yet closer and closer together, started to have more of an edge, and I decided we should get going. When Aaron was born, I definitely cut the whole "labor at home as long as you can" thing way too close, and was so not eager to repeat that hellacious car ride.
We live only about 10 minutes from the hospital, but dude, nothing like a contracting uterus to make 10 minutes feel eternal. Like I said, my contractions were getting sharper, and the difference between moving around through them and being strapped into my seatbelt through them was noticeably awful. I braced my arm against the car door during the two contractions that hit during our ride, while Andrew rubbed my shoulders with his non-driving hand.
Walking into the hospital, much like leaving our apartment, was weird--in both of those cases, I knew that next time I walked through the doors I'd have my baby in my arms. We made our way pretty non-eventfully up to Labor and Delivery, where we did all the paperworky things. I only had to drop to the floor once, which I consider an improvement on the last time I was there for Aaron's birth, unknowingly fully dilated, in serious pain and crying in frustration because I thought pre-registering meant I'd get to skip the reception desk. Then we headed into triage.
Try-age. Tree-age? Tree-ahj? Anyway, triage was entirely new to me, since the last time I'd come to the hospital in labor I got whisked right out of there into a delivery room. I got gowned up (side effect of getting there in earlier labor than before: still having enough self-awareness to care about gown buttlessness, at least for a awhile) and checked, and was deemed 6 cm dilated and mostly effaced--I can't remember the number. Even though so much time had passed, at that point, since I'd felt those first twinges in the middle of the night before, and even though I was standing there in a buttless gown with contractions 3 minutes apart, something about the midwife saying "you're in good and active labor, then," was what made the whole thing finally feel real.
The midwives at my practice, like most, I expect, use intermittent fetal monitoring to allow women to move around during labor, but their rule required 20 straight minutes of continual monitoring to get a read on the baby's heart rate. I could do 20 minutes, I thought, after coming back from the bathroom, but after the wrestling match that was Tara, the midwife, trying to attach the monitor around my belly in a position that gave a steady reading (Lily's heartbeat kept dropping off the radar, and even though I swear I was trying not to move around so much, that sucker just did not want to stay put), I ended up being on the monitor for about an hour. I fully admit it might've been my fault--every time a contraction came, all I wanted to do was stand up, lean my elbows on the bed, and sway. But I tried to cooperate while Tara left us to our own devices; we prayed for a safe and easy delivery, and I snuck some trail mix and drank some coconut water.
Oh coconut water. Forever are you conditioned, for me, as the taste of childbirth. I bought some to bring to the hospital with Aaron, too, but as my labor picked up, the thought of even a sip of water, anything besides just getting through the contractions, was unbearable. I arrived in Labor and Delivery extremely dehydrated and needed an IV, and didn't have any of the water until after he was born and I guzzled a whole bottle. Since that was another experience I didn't want a second round of, I'd been trying to stay hydrated all day, and once we were in triage Andrew kept encouraging me to drink up. I didn't feel terribly thirsty, but I knew I should, and I'm thankful he kept passing me the coco.
After we finally got the monitor situation out of the way, I was free, and we moved to a delivery room. Slowly. I had to stop and grip the wall twice on the short trip down the hall, and when we got there, I just kept doing the ol' lean and sway, which more and more I'm imagining as looking like a pale, laughable impression of twerking but...let's just not. "Do you want to try the tub?" Tara asked. There was a tub! I'd been so eager to try laboring in the water last time, but hadn't gotten to the hospital early enough, and if things were to be believed, labor tubs are theee best. "Sure," I said, but told her that at the time, I still wanted to be moving around. She pointed out to me how big the tub was, though, and that it took a while to fill, so she'd start it for if I wanted to get in later. For now, she said, keep my legs and hips far apart and make wide movements to help Lily descend. Sure enough, a few contractions later I got hit by a wave of fatigue. My body was shaking (who knew labor shakes were a thing?), and my elbows were raw from all the weight and movement I'd been bracing against them every few minutes. The nurse attendant wrapped a warm blanket (like, warm from a warmer--that thing was clutch) around me and asked if I wanted to try leaning on a birthing ball. I agreed, thinking the cushiness of the ball would help offset some of the weight I'd been leaning on, but ended up hating it. With all the shaking going on, I couldn't stay balanced on the ball! I got back on my feet until the tub was full and prayed I could keep going.
The tub, you guys. For me, the rumors were true! I feel like "game-changer" is so overused, but if anything changed my labor game, it was that glorious tub. I wasn't expecting to feel the amount of relief I did when I got in! The warmth and the weightlessness were just what the doctor--well, midwife--ordered. And there were jets. It's so funny; I'd read in my Bradley birth book about the mother's emotional map during labor. The typical pattern is that she is relaxed and chatty early on, grows more serious, silent, and focused as labor picks up, and nearly always experiences a moment of doubt and inability right as she's about to transition. Up until getting in the water, I'd been well into the serious phase, but amazingly, though my contractions were getting fiercer and fiercer, I found myself laughing with giddiness in between them and having a conversation with Andrew about tattoos. Tara said I could stay in the tub as long as I wanted, until I felt like I wanted to push, and left us alone in the bathroom. Even though things were getting pretty rough, this was my favorite time. All afternoon, Andrew had been stroking my hair, holding my hands, or rubbing my back every time I moved through a contraction, with the most radiant smile on his face. "I'm not smiling because you're in pain," he said, but because I'm so proud of you, I love you, and because you're doing this for our family." I've heard people say they fell more in love in the delivery room, something that didn't happen to me last time (with Aaron's birth, my presence of mind was too far gone, I think), but darn if we aren't shameless cheeseballs and we both did feel it this time around. During the times I was able to relax in the water, I was so happy enjoying those moments alone with him, ready to meet our daughter.
I'm not sure how long I hung out in the tub--and literally, I started hanging on the faucet, using it to support my weight, for each contraction---but I do know the water was cooling off by the time I got the urge to bear down. I yelled to Tara that I wanted to push, and she helped me out of the water with another warmed blanket in hand, which probably would've been cozy except for the fact that I'd stubbornly worn my sports bra into the tub and it took forever to dry. I climbed up on the bed and did my hanging move on the headboard (the bed was at a right angle), vaguely wondering how long this would take and what was going on in the amniotic fluid department. I was confused by having the urge to push, because as far as I knew, my water hadn't broken yet; I didn't even know if pushing was a possibility in that state.
After a one or two pushes that mostly consisted of me shrieking, Tara told me in a loving-but-no-BS way to stop screaming and make lower sounds to channel my energy into getting the baby out. She was awesome, I could tell she meant business, and I didn't want her frustrated with me, so I tried to keep a lid on it…I chalk it up to my authority-pleasing oldest child ways. And then, I felt a huge amount of pressure, along with a massive gush. Oh, that's what was going on with the fluids. I steeled myself for what I thought would be a marathon to come--with Aaron, I pushed for four hours and was so exhausted and in pain. Up until then, this hadn't been, you know, the most pleasant experience of my life, but it certainly wasn't awful. So imagine my surprise when Tara said, "she's got so much hair!"
The fact that Lils was already crowning came as a complete shock to me; I'd had no idea she had been stationed so far down. It was enough encouragement to push again, with the fleeting thought that this might not have to take four hours after all, and then Tara and Andrew and the nurses were all yelling that she was almost there and just one more, and at 6:58 p.m, Lily took her first breath of air. I was so surprised that she was already here, having still been inside me, water bag and all, about 7 minutes earlier, that I stayed there, still clinging to the back of the bed, and just looked down at her. "Get her! Say hi!" the nurse said, breaking my daze, and I picked up my baby girl and snuggled her for the first time. She seemed incredibly tiny, and I wasn't expecting to hear she weighed 8 pounds and 1 ounce! I guess that's perspective for you, since I'd spent the last 38 weeks hanging out with a 25-pound two-year-old.
Lily cried for a few minutes and cleared out her little lungs, and she nursed while we waited on the placenta. The nurses wrapped another blanket around both of us, and Andrew and I stared at her in amazement while she busied herself getting her colostrum and pooping on my arm. Andrew cut the cord, I pushed out the placenta and got the dreaded uterine smashing, and Tara checked for tears. I didn't have one, but she was concerned with how much I was bleeding. I got hooked up to a pitocin drip to encourage the contractions that should've stemmed the bloodflow, but when it didn't slow my bleeding down, Tara wanted to try suppositories. Four of them! I told her I'd rather go through labor again. "The alternative is that if this keeps up you could bleed to death," she said. Um, okay. In they went, Tara applied some pressure, and eventually everything calmed down. When it was all over, she said I'd lost around 40 CCs of blood, which is approaching, but not a full-on, hemorrhage. God bless the suppositories.
Because of the blood loss, we hung out in the delivery room for about two and a half hours, which I hear is longer than normal, but which also gave Andrew the opportunity to run across the street from the hospital and bring back Chipotle. He ordered double steak for mine, he said, because I looked so pale from the bleeding! I don't know how much iron it restored but being able to eat dinner around a normal time of day, after a day spent delivering a baby, was awesome, and so was going to sleep (at least for the few hours that a new baby and constant nurse visits allow) around 11 p.m. The normalcy of ending the day in a semi-normal way--as normal as it can be on the first day of your baby's life!-- combined with the quick pushing and no tears, made a huge difference in how I felt, recovery-wise.
It's things like that, the timing and the recovery, that amazed me so much about Lily's birth and arrival into our lives. For now I'm content in Camp Hospital Birth, but even having had a natural, intervention-free birth with Aaron (save the IV for hydration), that experience had been physically and emotionally miserable, and even without interventions I felt so bewildered and exhausted by the whole thing that I felt things were just sort of happening to me and struggled to bond with him right away. The difficulty of his birth, combined with a lot of nursing complications and rookie parent lack of sleep, took a huge toll on Andrew's and my ability to treat each other with love or, you know, basic good manners. I'm thankful we emerged on the other side purified, determined to be nicer and more forgiving (gradually getting more sleep helped), but I prayed for most of Lils' pregnancy that even if our lives were shaken up again to that degree, that our will to love and to forgive would be stronger this time.
I'd prayed, too, for a couple other things. First, I asked the Lord not for an easier or less painful birth necessarily, but for more presence of mind during my labor. Second, I'd been anxious about getting to the hospital on time, since I knew most babies come faster after the first, and because it had been so difficult last time when we got there so far into things. And amazingly, thanks entirely to grace, every single one of those prayers for a more peaceful birth and gentler transition for our relationship was answered. I felt so humbled to realize it, not just in the sense that any grace comes to me completely unmerited, but because I sincerely questioned whether I was worthy of them--motherhood has broken and restored me over and over again, and so many days end with me thinking I could've done more for my kids, been a little more present, a little more patient. Never have I been more vulnerable, but never have I been more humbled by the little souls God has entrusted to us, in all of their adorably hilarious, sometimes frustrating, always loving fullness.