Thursday, July 9, 2009


As I less-than-patiently await birth stories from at least four of my blog buddies who just had new babies (you'd think they're busy, or something) I thought I would post my own story from, what seems like, a lifetime ago.

“I know one flower which is unique in all the world.” --The Little Prince

Towards the end of my pregnancy I was so fat and tired and miserable that I googled "signs of labor" and "inducing labor" every day for two weeks straight. I had been having contractions for about a month. They didn't hurt much, but sometimes they were very regular, so I ended up in labor and delivery twice for false alarms.
At the hospital they have a separate room for observation. They pretend like they send everyone there to determine if real labor has started, but I'm pretty sure it's just for the first-time moms like me who wander in calmly and say, "Yeah, uh...I think I might be in labor...but I'm not sure."
I had no idea when the baby was actually due because I had two different due dates in September that were about two weeks apart. Since Rosie was a bit of a surprise we didn't know when she might have been conceived. I understand that it's all guesses anyway and I would have been able to go with the flow, but my mother-in-law, Peg, had to be out of town for a week right in the middle of the two due dates. I really wanted her to be there for the birth. Not only did I want her to see her first grandchild being born, but I also wanted somebody who had done it before to be with me. None of my friends had had babies yet.
When Peg left town I was already dilated to a three. I technically had two weeks left until the most likely due date, but I was still positive that Rosie would not wait that long. The whole week Peg was gone I was full of mixed emotions. I was so so so ready to not be pregnant anymore, but I didn't want Peg to miss the birth. She would be home Friday morning, so I was desperately hoping Rose would be born that day. Saturday, September 15 was my mother's birthday. It was the first one since she killed herself, and my feelings about her death were still quite raw. I did not want my baby and my mother to share a birthday.
On Thursday evening I went to visit my sister's new apartment. It was in yet another hundred year old building in a cool old neighborhood downtown, so of course there were a thousand stairs to her door. I climbed them slowly, but secretly hoped the effort would send me over the tipping point and straight to Labor and Delivery. Waiting is just about my poorest skill and not even being sure when the waiting would end was the worst test of my anemic patience, ever.
"I have figured it all out," I said as I caught my breath between flights of stairs. "Peg gets home tomorrow around 11:00am. That means I can go into labor tonight at midnight and spend the average 8-15 hours in labor. That leaves her plenty of time to get here before Rose is born."
“Midnight, huh?” Amy said. “That's a very clever calculation.”
“Thanks. I thought so too.”
At midnight on the dot I woke up screaming. The tight pain in my tummy, back and legs was the most consuming thing I had ever experienced. Eight minutes later, almost to the second I had another contraction. I got out of bed to gather my last minute items for the suitcase that had been gathering dust by the door for a week. Kris stared at me with so much excitement, but I was anything but excited, "You must put on pants. We're going to the hospital, now," I said.
"They said in class that you have to wait until they're five minutes apart."
"I'm not waiting."
Another contraction started while I was getting my toothbrush so I steadied myself on the sink. I wasn't breathing, I couldn't speak, I couldn't signal when it was over like we had practiced. Things hurt me more than they should because my central nervous system is overly-sensitive to pain. My nerves amplify even the tiniest pain message. A pinched finger or a stubbed toe can be excruciating to me, but as a result, I have a lot of practice dealing with terrible pain, so I had been wondering for months what labor would feel like to me, and now I had my answer: crappy.
I only had to endure one contraction in the car because the hospital was close. I stood at the front desk with my suitcase, pillow, and a determination to get an epidural within the next ten minutes. There was no way they were sending me to the observation room again, and I was so happy when they didn't even try. Maybe the fact that I couldn't sign my own name on the form was an indicator of my general discomfort and urgency.
When I got in the room I was almost dilated to a five already. They still made me wait over an hour to get the epidural...something about IV fluids. I was so unprepared for the pain. I tried to do the little breathing patterns we had learned in the birthing class... the same patterns I had neglected to practice more than once. What was I thinking?
Then suddenly I had something else to focus on besides the pain. My baby was in distress because the contractions were so strong and close together. The nurse had me turn to one side, and then the next to try to lower Rosie's heart rate. I flipped over and over like a pancake, and eventually her heart rate settled.
When I finally got the epidural I hated the way it felt. It was nice to just watch the nearly constant contractions go off the chart in intensity on the monitor and not feel them, but I hated that I couldn't move. My legs were heavy and floppy and required my husband to move them for me.
Two hours later, my second exam revealed that I was already completely dilated so they quickly called my doctor. Of course he was unable to make it in time, so a woman I had never met introduced herself to me and said she would be delivering my baby. Then she broke my water. What's one more stranger with her hands up my skirt at this point?
"I'm going to go start your paperwork and then when I get back we'll start pushing."
"Are you serious?" I said.
"We'll push for about an hour, and then we'll see where we're at."
I braced myself for what sounded like a long morning. It was about 4:00 am, and Peg was only just boarding a flight home. But I didn't have to wait long.
As the nurse checked me one more time, she called to her assistant behind her, "go get the doctor, now!"
Then to me as calmly as she could muster, "looks like we're ready to go." It had barely been ten minutes since the doctor had left. The nurse went to put my legs into position for me when I realized that I could move them myself. I started to feel the contractions again, each one stronger than the one before. I was actually happy that my epidural was wearing off though, because I wanted to feel the birth.
Bob excused himself to go call Peg and let her know that her first grandchild was about to arrive. She was beside herself that she could not be there.
After one peek the doctor said, "I guess we're starting now. That didn't take long." I had no idea what they had been waiting for in the first place, but before I knew it the doctor was teaching me how to count and push. I couldn't believe it was happening already. I felt like a little girl again- small, scared, and being dragged along by the hand toward something I didn't want to do. I wasn't ready.
I pulled my legs into my chest and felt the next contraction coming, but this time I had a job to do so the pain was not too bad. I focused on pushing for ten seconds straight. I was supposed to keep my chin down but I kept watching in the mirror. It was fascinating.
I had given up on he he he hoooo a long time ago, but then Amy told me to breath into the spaces between my ribs just like we had practiced at yoga so many times. I breathed into my back and ribs and it calmed me. I suddenly felt more prepared that I thought I was, like maybe I could do this after all.
I only pushed for about 15 minutes before the doctor told me to stop. One last slow push and then there was Rose. I saw a head, and a shoulder and an arm and I said, "oh my God, it's a baby."
"What did you think was going to come out of there?" the doctor said.
The nurse plopped the baby on my tummy and Rosie squinted at my face. She had more black hair than I had ever seen on a baby, dark skin, and blue eyes. She was beautiful, and so tiny. She was only 6lbs. 3oz. I was shocked because an image of Rose had been forming in my mind over the last few weeks, and my vision looked just like her.
They took her away suddenly. Rose hadn't started breathing yet, so they carried her quickly to the warming bed and started a flow of oxygen just in front of her nose. Kris hesitated to go but I released his hand and told him to follow.
My nurse called the NICU for a consultation, but before they arrived Rosie finally took a breath on her own! "Oh, she's a doll!" the NICU doctors said and cooed at her for a few minutes before they were called away again.

I got to nurse her before they took her upstairs, and I was cheered because it went pretty well. As soon as they finished sewing my body back together, I followed her to the maternity ward.
Subsequent feeding sessions, however, were very difficult. She wouldn't latch and I couldn't keep her awake. I was so frustrated and I felt like such a failure already for not knowing how to feed my child. I had even read a book and gone to a class to learn how, but I just couldn't do it. We eventually resorted to Kris dribbling formula down my chest so Rosie would think it was coming from my breast and want to suck. It took forever to even get half an ounce in her like that.

I felt alone and clueless and for the first time I broke down in tears. Kris made me scooch over on the bed and just held me until I was ready to say out loud that I wanted my mom. I wanted someone to teach me and help me be a mother myself.
It wasn't all frustration and tears though. Between the feedings we got to stare and coo at the most beautiful baby ever born. We marveled at what we had made together and wondered about our new life as parents. We got to show her off to our friends. And when Peg's plane finally landed, Rose met her only Grandmother.

The day after Rose was born was my mother's birthday. We were still in the hospital learning to care for our baby. I was closing my eyes hoping to get a little sleep but it wasn't working. Kris was holding Rosie. I heard a catch in his throat and a few quick sniffs. She was so beautiful and amazing that she made her new dad cry- a feat I had only witnessed a handful of times in ten years. I kept my eyes closed and tried not to intrude on his moment with our new baby. I was thinking of my mother of course. It was only then that I realized that my mother's last words to me were, "Thank you for the rose for my birthday." That's just what she got this year.


Natalie said...

I love the way that her hair is lightening up. She currently looks like her hair threads are made of buckwheat honey.