Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Philomena's Birth Story: Accidentally Natural

Read Lilli and Sal's birth stories first!

Between Sal and his younger sister, Mena, we moved, and I had to say good-bye to Dr. K.  I was at a new clinic, a new hospital and had a new doctor, Dr. P. We were in a new house and new neighborhood, but family problems follow you everywhere.  Times with our teen hadn't gotten any better.  She finally made things easy on everyone by deciding that she'd just move out as soon as she was eighteen--and then doing it.  I knew it wasn't a good decision for her life, as she also dropped out of high school and shacked up with her boyfriend.  They spent the next year or so bouncing around with different friends and relatives and wearing out their welcome (lying to people does that, fast).  For me, it simply made a rough pregnancy a little easier.   There is no peaceful way to live with someone who A) you are responsible for and B) you cannot trust out of your sight.

I've never felt so bad for so long as I did that pregnancy.  The first four months felt like endless food poisoning.  I don't know if it was a reaction to the high stress of the previous year, and especially the four months before the pregnancy, a result of my poor diet (highly processed and not very nutritious, and very short on fruits and veggies), or was simply a quirk of that particular pregnancy.  I had not and have not had morning sickness like that in any other pregnancy.  However, the only other issue with the pregnancy was my susceptibility to bacterial vaginosis, which isn't as uncomfortable as a yeast infection, but can cause premature labor.  It is also treated with the most vile antibiotic I have ever, ever taken in my life.  The antibiotic used for it turned my tongue green, made everything taste horrible, increased my nausea, and left me feeling more lethargic and drained than the pregnancy.  It's horrid stuff, even if it works.

As labor approached, I planned a birth much like the one I had with Salvador: give me the epidural ASAP.  However, I had never gone into labor while at home, and I wasn't sure when to come to the hospital.  I couldn't count on having a checkup that coincided with my "labor day," like last time, and I couldn't exactly get down there and see how dilated I was.  Dr. P told me that the usual guidelines were to come in when the contractions were 5 minutes apart.  Just in case, I bought a copy of The Birth Book by Dr. William Sears.  It's a good thing I did, because it was the only preparation I got for what was coming.

The Monday before my due date (I was due that Friday), I lost my mucus plug.  I probably wouldn't remember that, but I went to my Moms' Book Group that night, and my impending birth was a big topic of conversation.  One of the moms there was our local neonatal nurse, and I mention the mucus plug to her.  "Oh, that baby is coming soon," she predicted.  She was very right.  All the baby and birth books, though, tell moms not to get excited about it.  Labor and delivery nurses roll their eyes if a mom walks in and says she lost her mucus plug and labor is coming.  (Poke around Pinterest to find this one; search "Labor and Delivery Nurses").  I figured I had another full day at least, but I did double check my hospital bag when I got home that night.

I woke up at 2 am with contractions.  Not bad ones, but intense enough that I couldn't sleep. They were about ten minutes apart. I walked around the house a bit.  For a little while, sitting in the rocking chair was comfortable.  As the contractions got more intense, but no closer together, I would bend over and lean on the back of the couch, which helped me relax my uterus.  I felt chilled, so I ran a deep bath and laid in the water on my side, which had the double effect of easing the contractions and letting me doze a little.  When the contractions became too intense for that, I got out.  The contractions were about 6 minutes apart now, close enough to five, so I woke my husband, threw on some clothes and called my parents.  They lived just across town now.  In the twenty minutes between waking my husband and my parents arriving, my contractions became much more intense, enough that sitting through one was very uncomfortable.  But we live less that ten blocks from the hospital, so I figured I would have lots of time to get there, get checked in, bundled into a room, and all the other rigmarole.  It was nearly 4 am, so we had to be buzzed in through the emergency room entrance.

Thankfully, we didn't have to convince the nurses that, yes, I really was in labor, this was no false alarm. It was pretty obvious.  I don't know how long we stood in the waiting room outside the labor and delivery hall (our hospital isn't big enough for a L&D ward), but it felt like a long time, and the contractions were coming thick and fast.  I wanted that epidural, now!  I'm sure, though, that it was too late by the time I left home.  I was much farther along than I thought, and I was terribly afraid I was looking at hours and hours of these heavy, fast contractions.  That fear didn't help.  I could relax like I had been.  Once in the room, the nurses were in a hurry, getting me into the hospital gown, taking my blood pressure, trying to get me to fill out paperwork, trying to get me on the bed to check my progress.  All I knew is that I was losing it.  I leaned on my husband, gripping his coat--he hadn't had a chance to take it off--with each contraction.  I kept apologizing to the nurses.  I felt like I was such a bother, rushing in like this, making a scene.  Nothing the nurses said made me feel that way; that's just me.  I suppose repeating, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," is better than cussing at them.

Then my water broke all over the floor.  I didn't realize it at first.  Everything down there either hurt or was numb, and sensations weren't exactly reaching my brain with much accuracy, or being analysed well.  I thought I'd peed all over, and I was terribly embarrassed.  The nurses insisted I get on the bed for a check.  About the time I did, I felt it.  I needed to push.  I needed it more than anything I had ever needed, and I told the nurses so.  One left to get Dr. P.  The other helped brace my leg and told me to go ahead and push.  One, two, three, and little Philomena was born.  I think Dr. P came in time to catch, but I'm not sure.  Mena was bundled into a warmed blanket and handed to me.  She snuffled around, found the breast and started to nurse.  I know I delivered the placenta and got cleaned up, but I don't remember it.  I had my baby in my arms, healthy, red and perfect--a beet with a brushcut--and I had survived a natural birth completely by accident.  Then the anesthesiologist showed up.  Of course, they had called him, woken him up, then he had to drive in, and prepare everything for an epidural . . . and it was totally unnecessary.  He is the husband of the neonatal nurse, so I sent him home to tell her the good news.  Mena was born at 5:04 AM, almost exactly three hours after labor began.  I had been in my hospital room less than an hour.

Lilli was delighted to have a little sister.
I had been so sick during my pregnancy with Mena, but she made up for it after the birth.  She was a placid, happy baby, and figured out her days and nights within 48 hours.  None of my other children have been such good sleepers.  I admit, for a little while I thought I had just gotten that good at parenting babies.  I had it figured out.  In reality, that was just Mena.  She is still a heavy, good sleeper, and still a generally happy child.  I was surprised by how quickly she and I both recovered from the labor.  Recovering from it was much easier than recovering from Sal's birth, even though he'd been an easy, relaxing, mostly painless labor, and this one had been a whirlwind.  That easy recovery was enough to make me want to try natural birth again.

There's a lot of advice out there about how to have a short labor, what to eat or how to exercise for a natural labor, all the things you have to do to have what I stumbled into totally unawares.  After talking to my mother about her labors, I'm convinced there's a genetic component to laboring.  I'm also convinced that every expecting mom needs to learn how to relax through contractions, how to use visualization to help her, and how to keep calm and in control when it is so tempting to panic.
Everyone all together.

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