February 13, 2007

The Story

Give any mother half an opportunity, and she'll gladly give you the full, unvarnished story of how she gave birth. It's a defining experience for a woman, both instinctive and difficult, primal and sometimes terrifying. When it comes to getting personal, there simply isn't anything that qualifies more than bringing a life, a new person, into the world.

For me, this time around was very different than the birth of my first child, and it's hard to avoid the drawing of comparisons. In fact, we seem to spend a large part of our days comparing the differences between the two girls. With Anna, I was induced, and went through 26 hours of pitocin-created contractions before the long and difficult near-2-hours of pushing began. I had an epidural about 2 hours after the pitocin drip began. The drug caused me to go, almost instantly, from mild, period-like cramping to off the charts, mind-blowing contractions that were less than a minute apart and nearly a minute in duration. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, I felt helpless and scared and I panicked completely. After the epidural, I felt the occasional twinge, and I felt the pressure of the baby descending as I pushed, but no real pain at all, even during the (unnecessary) episiotomy. During the labor, I had my water broken prematurely before I was even dilated (OUCH!), I had internal monitors for the baby and for my contractions and I was on oxygen the whole time because Anna showed frequent signs of fetal distress (turns out, she had the cord wrapped twice around her neck).

This time was different.

For three weeks prior to my labor starting, I had been having "false" labor episodes where I'd have regular contractions that got more intense, but then stopped after a few hours. So, on Superbowl Sunday at 2 p.m., when I started having strong contractions, about 5 minutes apart, at first I wasn't really paying attention. But they kept getting stronger and by 3 p.m. I was convinced it was the real thing. By that time, after only an hour, they were 4 minutes apart and I was unable to talk or sit during the contractions, they were that strong. We headed to the hospital, where they checked my cervix. I was only 3 centimeters, the same as I had been two days before. The nurse sent us out into the hospital to walk around and get things moving, so dressed in my lovely gown and slippers, Kurt and I walked and walked and walked.

By the time we got back, about 5:30 p.m., my contractions had become much more intense, and on the monitor were starting to peak near the top of the scale. I was contracting 2-3 minutes apart for 45-60 seconds each time. But, somehow, my cervix was simply not responding; I was still at 3 centimeters.

my OB was out of town for the night, but his partner was on call and decided to admit me anyway, since with such a strong contraction pattern, there'd be no way for me to know when it was time to come back to the hospital if they sent me home. Also, the baby was still high up in my body, not descending into my pelvis, so if my water broke I was at a high risk for a prolapsed cord.

I labored for ten hours at the hospital with no pain medications. We walked up and down the hallways for much of that time. I'd lean on the walls every 2-3 minutes during powerful contractions that fully took all my concentration to get through. I can honestly say that by midnight I was in so much pain I could barely breath at all. The contractions were sharp, knife-like, and seemed to fill my whole body. I would lean on Kurt, trying to breath and fighting back tears and panic.

Then things got bad. The OB came in and checked me again, and to everyone's shock, and my total frustration and disbelief, I had not dilated at all. The baby was still high, my cervix was showing no changes, but my contraction pattern and pain level were practically textbook for transition labor, the final stage before pushing.

Exhausted, disappointed and upset, I had an epidural a little bit later so that I could get some sleep. By 5 a.m., my contractions had mellowed out to about 4 minutes apart, but I could still feel them, mildly, through the epidural. My primary OB came in to check on my at about 6 a.m. and had the nerve to tell me that everything I'd gone through wasn't "real labor" because I hadn't dilated at all. I almost decked him, but instead just told him I begged to differ and that he could call it when he was feeling it.

At that point, still only dilated to 3 cm, he told me my options were to start a Pitocin drip, have him break my water or continue to wait. He also told me that if I continued to show no progress I was potentially going to need a c-section, especially with the risk of a cord prolapse with the baby so high.

We started the pitocin drip at about 6:30 a.m., and my contractions really started to pick up, immediately. I was feeling them enough that I had to start breathing through them, but I put off getting another dose for my epidural becuase everyone kept telling me I was going to be there for a LONG time still and I didn't want to waste it on manageable pains.

Silly me. Sitting around in the room with my mom and Kurt, at 9:45 a.m. we were talking about the baby blanket my mom was crocheting. I was at the point were I was about to call the nurse for a dose into my epidural because the numbness had completely worn off from my hips up. Just at that moment, my mom looked up at the contraction monitor and said, "Oh, honey, this looks like a big one..." as she leaned up to put a hand on my arm. The contraction sort of filled my body, I felt an enormous amount of pain and pressure... and my water broke all over the place.

We called the nurse immediately, and thankfully the baby's cord was safe and sound still inside me. Then the nurse checked my cervix. She looked panicked, and said, "Oh, my. You're about 7 centimeters. No, you're 8."

And then the pains started coming, like nothing I'd ever felt before. The nurse called for the extra dose for my epidural, but by then it was too late- by the time it started to numb me, Silvia was already breastfeeding.

They sent a 911 page to my OB, who had gone back to his office to see some patients. In a matter of moments I was fully dilated and the baby's head was starting to descend. The pain I was feeling was excruciating and I couldn't stop crying. The only thing I remember clearly is that Kurt's face was right next to mine, helping me focus and breath and everyone was telling me NOT to push, no matter what. My OB slid in the door just as I couldn't take it anymore, the anesthesiologist dosed my epidural, telling me it'd feel better in about 15 minutes (HA!), and then, suddenly, I was pushing. I pushed 4 times, and the very act seemed to make my pain disappear, and then the nurse was calling out, "It's a girl!", and there was a beautiful, slimy and totally healthy 8 lb, 2 oz baby girl placed on my belly. She took a breath and started to cry.

It was 10:19 a.m.

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