Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Salvador's Birth Story: By the Book

Read Lillian's birth story first! Part 1 and Part 2

One would think that in the two years between Lilli and Sal, I would have read more about childbirth and dealing with the pain of contractions, but in reality, I didn't.  Life was full of other, more pressing things.  Not just my teaching, but the extra full-time job of parenting a rebellious and dishonest teen who was determined to do as little school-work as possible.  I've sat on both sides of the parent-teacher conference table, and I've had to both give and receive bad news about a child.  Childbirth is easy in comparison.

I never gave any thought to natural childbirth with Salvador.  I'd felt contractions with Lilli, and they were enough to last me a lifetime!  I told Dr. K that I wanted an epidural as soon as possible in the process--end of discussion, end of plan.  Pitocin?  Didn't cross my mind.  I had three goals: vaginal birth and no episiotomy (and hopefully no tearing), and healthy baby and mama. I didn't have a birth plan (I'd never heard of a birth plan). When I see articles bemoaning the epidural rate in the USA, I remember that it isn't just up to the doctors.  How many women are just like I was with Sal's birth?  Give me the epidural.  I don't want any pain.  Break my water if you think it's necessary.  Women go into birth planning and expecting that epidural, so, like me, they don't learn how to handle contractions.  They don't check out the Bradley Method or Lamaze or Hypnobirthing.   The epidural is the plan.

I had my 40 week appointment a few days before my due date, as my due date landed on a weekend (and Halloween).  I felt good.  I didn't have the swelling in my ankles and feet I'd had with Lilli.  My blood pressure was good.  My parents had even bought me a blood pressure monitor for home, so I could keep track of it daily.  I'd had some more intense Braxton-Hicks contractions that week, but nothing that didn't go away immediately if I stood up or sat down or walked around the house.  I wasn't sure what to expect of early labor, even though this was my second rodeo.  Dr. K found me partially dilated (a 2 or 3, I think), and discovered that I had a very small, high leak of amniotic fluid.  I'd also lost my mucus plug, probably early that morning when I was too dang tired to notice.  She sent me home to get my bag, arrange childcare for Lillian, call Lupe, and come on back.  Labor was coming.

She was right.

I was back at the hospital before noon, and it wasn't long before contractions started, and when they started getting uncomfortable, I was happy to have that epidural put in.  I have to say, when it works, it makes labor easy.  So easy.  I read a good book until it was almost time to push.  I know many articles and birth books talk about how epidurals slow down labor, make pitocin necessary, and lead to c-sections.  When I consider that I started feeling labor around 1 pm, and Sal was born after less than twenty minutes of pushing at 6 pm (right on the dot; we had double nurses present because it was shift change), I have to conclude that it didn't slow me down, at least.  My entire labor was about 5 hours, unless we count the labor I couldn't feel before that (do you count labor you can't feel?).  And there was Sal.  Remember that we had double nurses there?  Yup, my newborn son peed all over both shifts as they weighed and measured him.

What didn't happen after he was born was bleeding.  The cyst that had caused all the trouble after Lilli had disappeared as the uterus shrank.  When I became pregnant again, it reappeared.  In the aftermath of birth, Dr. K was able to quickly remove it and suture the site.  It never reappeared, though we had ultrasound techs check for it with each of our next two pregnancies.  That part of my life was gone, and I doubt we will ever know what caused it in the first place.

He looks thoughtful here, but I think he spent his first hour after birth screaming. He'd had enough of this birth stuff and was ready to go back to that nice, warm, dark place.    
If I take away the learning curve needed to care for Lilli, Sal really was my hardest baby (so far . . .).  He wasn't colicky or anything, but he did get overwhelmed very easily.  He didn't like too much light, too much noise or too much activity.  He wanted life to be like before: warm, dark, and quiet except for some nice, rhythmic white noise.  I used to swaddle him up, warm an extra receiving blanket to put on his back, and rock him around the kitchen with the vent fan on high.  It was the best way to get him to sleep.  Baby wearing and co-sleeping had made things easier with Lilli, but I can't imagine parenting baby Sal without them.  She liked them; he needed them.

Though the epidural didn't slow my birth, I did get to feel the after effects.  I itched horribly for most of the next day (try sleeping through that), and I was headachy.  As much as I liked the pain relief, I didn't like the side effects.  I just didn't know what the options really were, and I didn't think I'd ever be able to handle a natural labor.  I still thought of labor as the hard, fast contractions I'd experienced with Lilli.

My favorite, favorite picture from the hospital.  Lilli and Sal meet for the first time.  She was thrilled with baby brother (at least until she found out how noisy he was).

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