So when things left off on the blog, pre-baby, I was 39 weeks pregnant and coming up on my induction date.
As I mentioned before, I had a lot of mixed feelings about being induced. On the one hand: Get this baby out of me while it's still alive. On the other hand: I don't want to force an induction, I would ideally like to have a low-intervention, med-free labor and delivery, and what if I'm forcing the baby and my body do something it's not ready for?
In the end, I quit trying to make decisions for myself and just trusted my OB. And so he scheduled me to be induced at 8pm on Thursday night.
At 7pm on Thursday, my parents had arrived at our house to dog-sit, and I called the charge nurse at the hospital to make sure they had a room for us.
They did not.
My 8 o'clock induction was now delayed until "maybe around midnight, we'll call you back later."
David was practically beside himself, but I felt sort of stoic about the whole thing. Much to our surprise, they called back around 8pm and told us to be at the hospital between 9:30 and 10pm.
We had decided to deliver the Deuce at the same hospital where we had Eliza. It is a smaller hospital, directly across the street from the big hospital that people call "The Baby Factory." I had gone back and forth about where to deliver, but once we got passed 38 weeks and the chance of needing the big hospital's level three NICU was lower, we chose the same hospital where we had Eliza. I knew there might be some triggers there, but the care we received was so wonderful that I thought it would be worth it. I liked the idea of some day driving by the hospital with the Deuce and saying, "There's the hospital where you and Eliza were born." But what really cinched the deal was when the amazing labor & delivery nurse who had been with us when Eliza was born e-mailed me and I found out she was working the night that I was going to be induced. Sometimes the universe just does you a favor, you know? So I felt really good about our decision to return to the same hospital.
But sometimes the universe rubs salt in your wounds...
We checked in at the same desk where we'd checked in the night I was in labor with Eliza. The girl working at the desk looked all of eighteen years old. She asked if it was my first baby. I must have paused before responding, because then she said cheerily, "Second? Third?" So I said it was my second and braced myself for the next question: "How old is your first?" But instead she asked what we were having and I told her it was a surprise.
She asked me if I had a living will or durable power of attorney. I said no, glancing at David as I did, because we'd recently had one of those conversations about Unpleasant but Grown-Up Things We Should Do, like make a living will. The girl seemed to sense that I felt kind of bad about not having one, because she quickly added, "Don't worry! You're not going to die today!"
I just stared at her because ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WHO SAYS THAT?
I actually thought it was kind of hilarious and the sort of exchange that would happen on a sitcom. Then, just as I thought our encounter was over, she handed me back my insurance card and said, "So, what do you have at home?"
It hit me like a punch in the gut.
I almost said, "Two dogs and three chickens."
But instead I told her we lost our first baby and she was a little girl. She looked positively stunned. She works at the front desk in labor and delivery, but judging by the shocked look on her face, this may have been the first time she had ever heard of a baby dying. Anyway, as she said she was sorry and I thanked her for her sympathy and then the charge nurse showed up to save us from the Most Awkward Check-In Experience Ever.
She took us back to the labor and delivery room and told us that our nurse, Stephanie, was on duty and would like to be assigned to us if we were sure that was okay. I totally wanted Stephanie there (as did David) so we requested her.
Stephanie remembered my anxiety about needles and was super nice about covering my IV lock with gauze so I wouldn't have to see it in my arm. She also remembered Eliza's birthday, which just about made me cry. I was barely dilated at all (she said one and a half) and my doctor had decided to start with a Cervidil insert instead of the Pitocin drip, to see if that would soften the cervix enough to get my body contracting and into labor on its own.
The Cervidil was inserted around midnight and David and I both managed to fall asleep. I woke up at 2:45am with contractions and watched them on the monitor, then woke up David because I thought they were pretty uncomfortable.
HA. HAHAHAHA. I had no idea what uncomfortable was.
When I was pregnant with Eliza and doing all kinds of researching and being all smug and know-it-all about everything, I had decided to have a med-free birth because it was healthy and natural and all mammals can do it and why do we need to interfere with biology and natural labor moves more quickly and it's possible that it's actually better for the baby to be more alert and blah blah blah. David and I took classes, he was totally prepared to coach me, we knew exactly what to expect and I was going to be totally in control of my birth experience.
You know what they say about the best laid plans.
As I've written about before, when I went into labor with Eliza, it happened so quickly that I barely realized what was going on (yeah... so much for knowing everything...). By the time I realized I was having contractions, they were four minutes apart. By the time I got to the hospital, I was fully dilated and she was practically crowning. I was in labor for another hour, tops, and then she was born. The physical discomfort of labor had nothing on the emotional agony of knowing that my baby was dead, and after giving birth to a 3 pound, 9 ounce baby girl, I didn't need a single stitch. I walked out of the hospital less than twelve hours later, and went home and wanted to die from emotional, not physical, pain.
One of my mantras in my pregnancy with the Deuce was that I was not going to make plans. But the truth is that based on my experience with Eliza, I had a lot of expectations and assumptions about how this birth was going to go. I assumed it would go quickly, I'd pop out the baby without drugs, I wouldn't need any stitches, and this time (knock on wood, spit on the evil eye) we'd have a happy ending and a beautiful, screaming baby.
Well, at least I was right about the beautiful, screaming baby. No complaints about that.
By 4am, I THOUGHT my contractions were more intense, and decided it was time to call my doula. She may have wondered why she needed to show up to watch me rock on a birth ball and lip sync to the Eagles Pandora radio (reason #115 to have a doula: she has commercial-free Pandora on her iPhone), but I was glad she was there because Stephanie got called out for a c-section, so for a couple of hours it was just David and Julie-the-doula and me.
My contractions continued to be what I called "intense" (again: HAHAHAHA) but when they checked me, I was not dilating very much at all. Julie kept me changing positions (birth ball, hands and knees, squat bar, side-lying, shower, labor tub, doesn't matter it hurts like hell every where you go!). We were moving right along, and I was totally believing David and Julie's encouraging words, but once I hit 6 centimeters, my cervix decided, "Meh. This seems far enough. What? The average newborn head is around 13 inches in circumference? Nah. Six centimeters should be totally fine. We're good here."
I continued to have increasingly intense contractions and my cervix continued to not give a shit and I realized that I'd heard "Hotel California" THREE TIMES since my contractions started and I was starting to believe that when the Eagles sang "you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave," they were actually talking directly to me during this particular experience.
There was a shift change and Stephanie had to leave and we got a new nurse named Michelle, whom I didn't even look at for the first four hours of her shift because I kept my eyes closed while coping with contractions, and I was irrationally pissed off at poor Michelle because (1) when she checked my cervix, it HURT and (2) she NEVER had good news after she checked it--"still a six." Eff you very much.
Oh, ALSO, I'd bought this gown to wear while I was in labor because I didn't want the grief-trigger of the hospital gown I had on when Eliza was born. It was called a "pretty pusher" which is quite possibly the stupidest name ever, but at least it wasn't a hospital gown (I said as I ordered it). Could have saved my money, because once things really got started, I just wore a sports bra and NOTHING ELSE. And I DID NOT CARE. Because NOTHING MATTERED except that David keep spraying my low back with warm water in the shower and DON'T YOU DARE STOP NOT EVER OR I WILL KILL YOU AFTER THIS CONTRACTION STOPS KILLING ME.
The most relaxing part of the entire experience (and by "most relaxing," I mean, "not relaxing at all, but better than freaking everything else") was getting in the labor tub. It was filled with warm water and it made my contractions bearable. It was amazing to think that earlier in the day I'd been floating in our neighbor's pool, splashing water on my belly as the Deuce kicked inside me. The labor tub gave me enough relief that I was able to talk and to actually rest between contractions--I would almost doze off before another contraction would rip through me. I started out telling myself "Relax, relax, relax," with each contraction, but I ended up just moaning "Oh-oh-oh." I asked Julie if I was the loudest person ever and she said no, there was someone louder than me the day before.
Oh--ALSO--I kept vomiting. Now, many of you may know that next to needles, I hate vomiting more than just about anything. I puke very dramatically (lots of retching and gagging and noise-making) and I freaking hate it.
David would try to say encouraging things like, "You're really getting close," but I said, "Shut up! You don't know!" because he DIDN'T. However, it did help when Julie told me that things were getting close. Still, they were not close enough. After I'd been in labor for over eight hours, I was STILL at a 6. The nurse Michelle asked if there was anything she could get me, and I said, "Just kill me now."
There was another point when I was in the labor tub that David said something inane but intended to be sweet and nice and I didn't have the strength to tell him to shut up, but I managed to move my fingers just enough to flip him off. Because I am SO KLASSY.
As an example of how much more polite I was to the doula rather than my husband, there was another point when Julie was trying to get me to eat a popsicle and I did not WANT a freaking popsicle but I didn't want to be totally rude, so I managed to say between contractions, "I just don't care for Hawaiian punch." Which is true, but mostly I didn't want to eat anything or drink anything because I knew I couldn't keep it down.
At several points, I told David and Julie that I was "totally over this." I was in so much pain, I wasn't even thinking about the Deuce. I was just thinking about how much it freaking hurt.
When Julie left the room at one point, I actually gave David our safe word (coined after we watched that one Mission Impossible movie where everybody wears a different face just so we would always be able to recognize each other, should imposters show up wearing our faces) and told him I wanted the epidural. He ignored me, and when Julie came back in the room we didn't talk about it again, which I guess means that I didn't really mean it.
But I did tell Julie that I really didn't think I could do this, that I wasn't even thinking about the Deuce anymore, all I could think about was how miserable I was, and that SOMETHING had to be done.
It was right about this time that my doctor came back in and decided to break my water. I was all for this because PLEASE JUST GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD.
He broke my water, which didn't hurt at all, until the next contraction, which then hurt so bad I vomited for like the fifty-millionth time. (It will be a cold day in hell before I want another apple juice, let me tell you.)
Contractions after my water broke made me cuss. When I was in college, my best guy friend and I had this thing we'd do where we'd say every single cuss word in a row as one long expletive. I showed off that skill, then apologized for it.
My OB said, very cheerfully, "This baby will be here by 3 o'clock!" and then went back to his surgeries while I moaned and groaned trying to relax on the bed, then finally gave up and headed back into the shower.
I'd heard the doctor say that the baby would be here by three, so I wanted desperately to know what time it was, but I had no idea and I was afraid to ask. I did shout at one point, "I REALLY need it to be 2:45!" but no one responded to that request, so I was afraid that it was more like 10am.
(Actually he broke my water around noon).
Things grew increasingly uncomfortable in the shower. I leaned my head on the shower bar and alternately breathed/moaned/shrieked my way through contractions.
Finally my doctor came back in the room and my doula said, "Brooke, your doctor is here so you can come have your baby."
I replied, "No."
I was suddenly afraid to leave the shower. I was afraid to actually push the baby out. I was having terrible flashbacks, and this irrational part of my brain was convinced that if I pushed out the baby she would be dead and in pieces. I know that's creepy and awful, but it's all I could think about. I did NOT want to push that baby out and re-live the horror of having a dead baby. But I was also hurting bad enough that I couldn't NOT push the baby out.
Also I remember thinking, if I just push this baby out, I'll be able to drink a huge glass of water and I won't want to throw up anymore. And I was really, really thirsty. So that was seriously a real motivation.
I came out of the shower and said, "This had better be almost over." And everyone promised me that it was.
So I ended up on my side on the bed, pushing through contractions, ignoring my doula's coaching to breathe "low" instead of getting shrill. The nurse was like, "Brooke, if you can use that energy to push instead of yell, your baby will be here." I was freaking out, though. I was not deep breathing, I was not relaxing, I was not using the contractions. I was not in a good place. I was so scared that the baby wasn't going to be okay, and I was in serious agony at that point.
My doctor used a Very Firm Voice to give me specific instructions, and I can't remember exactly what he said to me, except I followed his directions and suddenly I knew this baby was about to come out. It took five contractions instead of the TWO that my doctor said it would take, but we were on our way.
I could tell that the baby's head was too big and there was going to be tearing (gag and OUCH), but suddenly, FINALLY, her head was out and all I felt was a surge of sheer relief. My doctor told me to reach down and grab my baby, and I hauled the baby up onto my chest. She felt so heavy! There are no adjectives to describe what it felt like to lift her up onto me and feel how warm and heavy and squirmy she was.
She started crying, a whimper and then a wail, and I started laughing and David started crying. And then David was hugging and kissing me even though I was lying down and there was a slimy, squirmy baby between us and there was blood and gunk everywhere, and the nurse was rubbing the baby with a blanket and it was SO FREAKING AWESOME.
[What I didn't know at the time was that the cord had been around her neck ("loosely," according to her chart), and my OB had quickly removed it before telling me to pick up the baby. I'm glad I didn't know that until the next day.]
She was warm and squalling and she opened her eyes and it was seriously the most incredible thing I'd ever seen. David couldn't believe how amazing it was to see her take her first breath. He cut the umbilical cord and I held the baby and looked at David's huge smile and seriously--for a moment--forgot all about the pain and the fear and just felt this overwhelming love and happiness and relief. They are not joking about those endorphins.
And then I said, "Is it a boy or a girl?"
I'd been expecting my OB to make the announcement like I imagined they did in the old days, but instead he laughed and told me to look and see. So I awkwardly shifted and moved the umbilical cord out of the way (since it was hanging between the baby's legs). I'd been convinced all along that it was a boy, so I moved the cord, looking for a teensy baby penis. But there wasn't one!
And then I looked at David and said, "Oh my God! She's a girl! We have another girl!"
To tell you the truth, I hadn't realized how much I was secretly hoping for a girl until I saw that she was one. I don't think I ever would have admitted it if she'd been a boy, and, honestly, I can't imagine that I would have felt disappointed if she'd been a boy, given how high on life I was at that moment. But I was so BEYOND thrilled to be holding another baby girl, a baby whose skin was so beautifully pink. I'm not the kind of person who likes surprises, but this was absolutely the best surprise I've ever had.
She nursed a little bit right away (ow-ow-OW) and I kept holding her as I delivered the placenta (which seemed to take no time at all and I barely noticed it was happening). My doctor started stitching me up (yeah... I was totally right about the tearing). I had to have local anesthesia, which was somewhere between 10 and 12 tiny little shots. Yes, shots with NEEDLES. OMG YOWCH. I mean, yeah, the contractions hurt, but this was a different kind of pain. I call it: A needle in the privates pain. Because that's exactly what it was. Mercy. There was more cursing on my end (I covered the baby's ears).
THEN he started stitching, and while that didn't hurt, I could still feel it. It's a good thing that I was holding the baby, because I kind of wanted to rip my doctor's face off.
Instead, I said, "That is the MOST DISGUSTING thing I have ever felt. I am so grossed out. I am so grossed out right now. Are you using DENTAL FLOSS? Because that feels like dental floss."
He seemed to find that amusing, because he told me it was, in fact, dental floss. I didn't respond because I wasn't sure at that moment if he was kidding. (He was kidding, right?)
Then I told David, "Just so you know, every stitch I'm getting is one week past 6 weeks that we're going to have to wait."
THEN my OB chuckled and said, "Well, I'm putting you into 2014," as he flourished the needle and dental floss. Are you freaking KIDDING me? Because everyone wants a comedian stitching up their hoo-ha!
(Actually, we still love my OB and think he's the greatest thing ever and one of the nurses seemed surprised that he'd delivered my baby and thought he was slowing down his practice and just doing surgeries and all I can say is that she'd better be wrong, because if there's ever going to be another baby duck, we'd really like this guy to be there when it happens.)
Finally, it was all over, my legs were out of stirrups, and I was still clutching the baby. Everyone kept telling me how great I'd been. Actually, I was kind of embarrassed that I had lost my cool and really freaked out there at the end. But, given my circumstances, I guess I can give myself a break there. It really was terrifying.
And you know what? We all survived and that was the only thing that mattered. So I guess I had done good.
We had a brief name debate (first name Caroline? or Audrey?) and I chose Caroline for the first name and it's not like David was going to tell me no, given what he had just seen me do (ie. push enormous baby out of VERY small area with no pain medication over the course of 12 everlasting hours).
At some point, David held the baby and the nurse Michelle (whom I really loved once the agony was over) helped me into a hospital gown, and then my parents came in to see us and we all delighted over how perfect baby Caroline was. I felt very happy and jokey and like all this stress I'd been carrying around had evaporated.
I had hoped so much that this baby's birth would be the opposite of everything we endured with Eliza, but I hadn't expected how healing it would feel to experience it. Not healing in the sense of fixing or replacing our loss, but healing all the same.
I had no concept of time, except that I know that she was born at 2:16pm and we didn't leave labor and delivery to go to our recovery room until 6:30pm. Those four hours were a total blur of holding the baby and staring at her. Toward the very end, I watched Michelle and David give her a bath (I was exhausted) and we all watched as Michelle weighed and foot-printed her.
Michelle measured her head circumference and asked me what I thought it was. I said, "At least 24 inches."
Actually, it was 13 1/2. But it FELT like 24 inches around when it was coming out of me, let me tell you.
David and I both guessed that she weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces, but we were 2 ounces over the mark. She weighed in at 8 pounds even and she was 21 inches long, which seemed far too large to have actually been inside me (one of my recovery nurses said the same thing!). And of course, she already had those deliciously chubby cheeks.
I couldn't get over how perfect she was.
We wheeled to recovery, which was picture-perfect. Every single nurse and doctor we saw was incredibly nice AND sensitive about Eliza. One nurse talked to me about the baby that she lost thirty years ago--a little girl at 27 weeks. Everyone commented on how exceptionally cute she was (and maybe they say that to everyone, but in our case I knew it was true!). I just felt so lucky to be there, so lucky that my baby was healthy and lying in my arms, so incredibly grateful that we made it. I may be jaded and neurotic and have completely lost my innocence when it comes to pregnancy and babies, but I had such appreciation for the no-complications, no-concerns experience that we had, knowing how easily it could have gone some other way.
And David and I kept looking at Caroline and saying to each other, "Isn't she amazing?" and "Isn't she precious?" and "Can you believe she's here?" And David kept telling me how much he loves me and how proud he was, and telling Caroline how much he loves her. It was like the cheesiest, best time ever. We were in the hospital two nights, and we had just a few visitors besides my parents, which was perfect. We spent our time taking turns holding the baby and pointing out to each other how cute she was.
Our experience absolutely could not have been any better. Well, labor could have been shorter and less arduous, but over all, I can't complain about a single thing. It was scary and painful and I had some terrible flashbacks, but it was the happiest ending I could have imagined.
And yes, I'd do it all over again to get her here.
|On her birthday.|