|"Monday's Child is fair of face . . ."|
The cheeks! We are powerless to resist them.
Full disclosure: This is Baby's birth story, and it's long. If you don't like birth stories or talk about cervical dilation or you don't have the time, go ahead and skip this one. If, like me, you are a Nosy Parker, then feel free to keep reading.
It's been one week since Baby joined us, and I still can't believe she's here. And that she's a she. It's fair to say that it's been quite a week around the old place.
Even though I was pretty sure that I'd be having another induction, I was still hoping to go into labor on my own. At my last doctor's appointment, when it was clear that my cervix hadn't changed, I knew that my doctor was ready to do whatever I wanted in terms of scheduling an induction. My doctor is such a good egg.
One of the comforting things about having another induced labor was the familiarity. This would be my fifth induction in a row, and I knew that I would be considered an elective induction even though I was overdue. I put it off as long as my doctor and Rob felt comfortable with, trying to give Baby as many chances as I could to come on her own.
Baby was not as into that plan as I had hoped, so it was induction time once again. Because of my stubborn cervix, I needed to go into the hospital overnight for ripening medicine, so my mother came over on Sunday night to be with the other kids. I packed my bag, we put the little ones in bed, and left for the hospital.
Although Rob and I have made that unhurried drive to the hospital five times in a row now, it is still a strange ride. I feel about a hundred different things in a twenty minute span: excitement, nervousness, fear, happiness, a little sadness, and relief. Rob likes to keep me talking so that I don't start to obsess over how much our lives are about to change. He is also a really good egg.
We checked in at 8:00 pm and I got to see the inside of yet another labor triage room in our hospital. There are four triage rooms and I've been in three of them. All of them are similarly bleak looking, which has always struck me as unfortunate. I know they have to be bare bones since they are not designed to have women stay there for the duration, but I still think they should slap a picture or two up on the wall. Maybe one of those posters with the little kitten dangling from a tree branch with the words "Hang in there!!!" across the top?
Once I was outfitted in my spiffy gown, my IV was started and I signed all the papers saying, essentially, "Hey, I'm pregnant and I'd like to have my baby here, so give a girl a hand, will you?" My doctor came in and placed the little tablet of medicine on my cervix and the waiting began. That's probably the part of labor induction that can be so maddening to me -- the hurry up and wait game.
Luckily, I am also the mother of five other hooligans, so even though I was feeling anxious, my natural reaction to lying still in a bed in a dimly lit room for longer than five minutes is to sleep. I listened to the low gallop-gallop noise of the baby's heartbeat, and before I knew it, four hours had elapsed and my doctor was coming in to check on my progress. The nurse looked at the record of my contractions and asked if I was feeling any of them. I wasn't -- and that's how you know just how tired this mama was.
The doctor checked my cervix and all those contractions I couldn't feel had bumped me up to four centimeters. Now that's the kind of labor that I like! That four centimeters was enough to spring me from the triage room and into a real L&D room.
I gathered up my IV pole and our whole little entourage ambled down the hallway at 1:30 in the morning to a new room. In retrospect, this sounds like it was taking a sweet forever, but for an overnight induction we were moving right along. Rob and I were amused to realize that my room this time around was the same room where I delivered Bun. I guess if you have enough babies in one place, you're bound to end up using some of the same rooms.
My nurse was awesome, just the cutest little thing ever. I know that makes me sound like a grandma, but she was so tiny and petite that I could have slid her in my pocket. She kept the room dim and quiet so that I could doze if possible. She also set up my pitocin drip, so I knew the lovely light contractions would quickly become a thing of the past.
I definitely started feeling the contractions more and more, but they were still completely manageable. I wasn't even breathing too heavily through most of them, so I took that as a good sign. Maybe the pitocin would not send me on a crazy hormone-fueled labor rage this time? It is good to have a dream . . . .
Then I hit six centimeters. And there I stayed. For much longer than I would have liked. (Although again, in retrospect, I was not really stalled out at six. Just an extra long stop as compared to my last three labors.) The pitocin was kicking things into high gear now and I was still breathing and breathing. I was happy that I still had some nice gaps to breathe between contractions.
My doctor came in and she was ready to break my water. She and the nurse asked that loaded question: Do you want an epidural? If I did want one, then now was the time, before that little cushion of fluid was gone and the contractions became even more intense.
For a lot of women, that is not a loaded question at all. Either they get one or they don't.
But I've done it both ways, and I just didn't know how I wanted to go this time around. "Pain free" sounds so enticing when you are riddled with pain.
I figured I'd always opt for an epidural because it has worked so well for me, but something happened to that plan during Sally's birth. I got an epidural, but it hit a little patch of scar tissue in my back and it didn't work. I ended up having a natural childbirth, in which I also happened to have a catheter in my back and a numb left leg. That is not the exact recipe for a pain free birth.
What that epidural mishap showed me was that I could do it without drugs, if I wanted to. But what I also learned about myself was that I had to REALLY want to do it without drugs. I had to commit, because the thing that nearly broke me about Sally's birth was that I was expecting pain relief and it never came. It's all mental with me, and as strange as it sounds, it was harder for me to go into labor expecting pain relief and not getting it than to go into labor expecting nothing at all.
(And just to clarify: I don't think that one way is necessarily better than another. The times that I've chosen a medicated birth turned out to be the best way for me at that time. That's why I usually shy away from full blown birth plans -- what works one time may not be what is most needed another time.)
So, to get an epidural or not, that was the question. I had not had one with Mopsy, and I really felt terrific afterward, so I was leaning towards not getting one again. But I was hesitant to just say no thank you. I think a lot of it had to do with having Mopsy only a year prior to Baby. Not enough time had elapsed for me to forget what was coming down the pike.
Still, something in me just told me to wait it out. And if the window closed on my chance for an epidural, then so be it. I could do it.
So I told my doctor that I thought I could go without one, and she said that she'd let me labor for a little while in case I was still on the fence. I knew she would check me and break my water when she came back and then all bets were off.
I labored for another hour, and when my doctor checked me, I was still hanging around six centimeters. I was surprised and disappointed because the contractions had been increasing in length and intensity. I wanted some progress to show for all that work.
Of course I started to cry, and Rob, God bless him, managed to talk me off the ledge. I still refused the epidural, even though I knew the ride was about to get a whole lot bumpier now that my water had been broken.
Sure enough, the contractions became pretty unbearable in a matter of minutes. I kept thinking, Dear God, please make this pass quickly. And if it's not in Your plan for it to pass quickly, then please just let me pass out quickly! Those kinds of thoughts are not that helpful during labor, and so I just focused on listening to Rob reminding me to breathe.
By this time, I was feeling more pressure and pain, and it was all I could do to not scream bloody murder. I always thought it sounded barbaric, but at that moment I could understand why someone in extreme pain might bite down on a leather strap. Each time a contraction hit, I would involuntarily clench my jaw.
My doctor checked again, and I had made it to eight centimeters. Just the knowledge that I had made it past six was enough to help me relax a little. I was clinging to those little moments of rest between contractions, even as those moments became shorter and shorter.
A few minutes after I reached eight centimeters, I felt nauseous, followed by the urge to push. Transition doesn't mess around, my friends, and neither do the doctor and nurses when they've got a woman having her sixth baby. I think they half expected Baby to shoot straight out across the room.
Sure enough, I was ready to start pushing. There was a flurry of activity around me -- my doctor was getting into her gown, the nurses were breaking down the bed, and the nursery staff was getting the warmer all ready -- but I could only focus on Rob and not screaming. I think one of the hardest parts of labor is not being able to push when your body is telling you to push with every fiber of your being.
Finally I could start pushing, and here's where my mind tripped me up again. Sally, Bun, and Mopsy were all born within three pushes, and even though I tried to tell myself that every labor is different, there was still a large part of me that thought Baby would follow suit.
Let's just say she didn't.
I started to push and I could already tell something was different. I couldn't put my finger on it, but my overall impression was that this baby was much harder to move than the previous three. It almost felt like this child wasn't budging at all. That's when I started to lose it.
Now if you ask Rob, he'll tell you I did great, but in my mind I was FREAKING OUT. And I knew I was freaking out because I started to think about all the crazy things that could happen during labor. I thought about all the times Rob came home and told me about babies getting stuck or needing vacuum extraction or having shoulder dystocia . . . . and the one thought that was constantly screaming through my head was "I have no anesthesia. If they need to shoehorn this baby out of here, I am SO screwed!"
I was pushing with all my might, but I still didn't feel like she was moving. I remember saying to Rob, "Why isn't the baby coming out?! I can't do this forever!"
Of course, I wasn't really pushing forever. Please don't hate me, but I pushed for 12 minutes. (Actually, I pushed for three hours with Francie, so I guess I've done my time after all.)
I could feel the moment Baby made the final move to join us, and I gave it everything I had left. I could see the surprise in my doctor's eyes as the baby came out in one powerful, fluid movement, like a little rocket.
As she lifted Baby up onto my chest, I could hear the surprise in Rob's voice as he laughed and said, "It's a GIRL!" All along I had been sure she was a boy, but at that moment I don't think I could have cared less. She was there, safe in my arms, and I was so thankful.
The way she was positioned on my chest, I could really only see the top of her head, and I said, "Oh she looks so small!"
I think every pair of eyes in that room turned to me to see if I had suddenly gone insane. Rob patted my arm and said, "She's not that small, hon."
Of course, I was thinking relatively. Relative to the babies I had left at home, she seemed small. But still, when they put her on the scale and I heard "9 pounds and 12 ounces," my jaw dropped. And then it made perfect sense to me why it felt like she wasn't moving much during pushing.
Once everyone was cleaned up, Rob brought her over and laid her in my arms. She was a solid pink little bundle, who looked like Sally one minute and Mopsy the next. We named her after Rob's mother and godmother, and the first few times Rob looked at her and said her name out loud, he teared up.
She is just exactly what we never thought we'd have, but just exactly what we need. That's how God likes to work sometimes.
So there you have the whole tale. We are settling in, slowly but surely. We're figuring out the new normal, adjusting our schedules and attitudes, and just trying to reach an even keel. In the meantime, I've got to figure out a blog name for Baby and announce the winner of the baby pool.
We'll get there . . . eventually.