Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Birth

I’m not actually sure why I haven’t written this sooner. I guess the experience needed to settle a bit before I was ready to put "pen to paper." I know details have been lost in my mind but here's the gist of the story.

Chapter 1: Ready or not

Evening of Tuesday, December 16th

There had been a huge snow storm and choir was cancelled. I celebrated by going to bed early—around 9. I was exhausted, for some reason, and although 9pm was a very early bedtime for me even in the late stages of pregnancy, I felt that I needed to hit the sack.
Jonathan followed at the more socially acceptable time of 10:30.

At 11pm I woke up suddenly and something in my body told me to get up out of bed immediately. I did, and felt warm fluid rolling down my legs. I wondered if my water had broken or if I had lost bladder control, which I had always imagined was a real possibility for extremely pregnant women. I waddled to the bathroom and determined that I was not, in fact, incontinent. Then it occurred to me: I was just 37 weeks, 2 days. Was it too early to have this baby healthily? Would he be big enough?

The thought was fleeting as I had to figure out how to wake my husband and alert him to our impending parenthood.

I grabbed Jonathan’s bath towel and held it between my legs as I shuffled back into the dark bedroom.

“Uh, honey?”
“Huh?” says a sleepy Jonathan.
“I think my water just broke.”

I have never seen this guy wake up so fast as I did that night. Together we assessed the situation and I called the on-call doctor to discuss what to do. I remember saying, “Sorry to bother you but either my water just broke or I have lost bladder control.” The doc advised us to come in and get checked out.

Although we had 4 hours to get ready and come in, the snow made us a little leery so we showered, did some last minute straightening up and headed in.

I had never expected this to start in this way. I was hoping to be a little early but was figuring I’d be late, just like most first time moms. But here we were, on our way to the hospital. Couldn’t believe it. Already my birth experience was different than I’d imagined.Now don’t get me wrong. Dr. Hoprasart and I had talked about my birth plan and my only real goal was a healthy mom and a healthy baby. I tried hard not to lock myself into any expectations, for fear that I’d be spending my labor energy being disappointed when there were many more productive uses for something so precious.

Chapter 2: The Wait

I had frequently played out the drive to the hospital in my mind. I predicted that my contractions were going to be 5 minutes apart and that I would have had at least 3 in the car. We had picked our route based not only on speed but also on potholes, as Chicago/Evanston was riddled with them thanks to the brutal winter plowing.

As we headed out I realized that what I had imagined this part of our journey to be like was way off—already the second of many times this would happen to us over the next 30+ hours.

The drive to the hospital took about12 minutes (helps to be on the roads at 1am). We were calm, I experienced no major contractions to speak of, and we didn’t need to pull over. The nursing staff were expecting us and ushered us into our Labor and Delivery room.

Wednesday, December 17

I changed into a gown and when asked, reported that I was having some discomfort that I thought were contractions. Oh boy was I wrong.

I was eager to get checked and see if my body had made any progress but the only thing that would get checked at this point was my amniotic sac, which was deemed to indeed be ruptured. Hooray! I wasn’t incontinent!

Since I wasn’t having contractions, I was given 1.5 hours to walk around to try to get things going naturally. I asked the doctor on call (not my OB) how many hours they’d allow me to go since my water had broken and it was reported that as long as the baby was tolerating labor well and I didn’t get a fever, there was really no specific time line to be followed. Great!

Our admitting nurse checked my blood pressure and realized it was quite high. Preeclampsia became an immediate concern and a urine sample was obtained using a straight catheter (not fun) to determine if there was protein in my urine. Fortunately this was not the case and I was allowed my full hour and a half walk around the quiet Women’s Hospital lobby.

We walked and walked and walked in slow circles around the fountain, stopping to grab sips of water and marvel at what was to come. We laughed at the security guard who had undoubtedly seen many couples walk these steps before us. We felt very in control and calm.

Although our walk bolstered our spirits, it really didn’t do anything for my labor. I thought I felt uncomfortable every now and then but when we got back to the room and got hooked up to the contraction monitor, it was determined that I wasn’t really having much in the way of productive contractions at all. Sigh.

Pitocin was started and I was now bound to the room, on continuous monitoring.

Contractions started to pick up and Jonathan helped by reading the print-out from the contraction seismometer, as we called it, and I was able to manage the contractions just fine. Only problem: as soon as I’d establish a pattern of good, strong contractions, they’d peter out. After several increases in the pitocin level, I figured it was time for an epidural.

It had been 8 hours. There had been a nursing shift change. Life was being lived all around us and we were in a time warp. Finally it was determined that it was time for a cervix check, and I was thrilled, as this was the only real way to measure all this good work I’d been doing through these tough contractions. I was sure I’d be at 6 or 7 and that the next few centimeters would fly by after I got my epidural and was able to sleep.

The verdict: two. Two measly centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. The resident who checked me looked sad—must have been a reflection of what she saw on my face although I was working hard not to be too disappointed. She guessed that my cervix was still “high and tight” when I went in to labor and that my water broke without my body really being ready to progress.

Third time my expectations were sorely off. But, after processing with Jonathan, I decided that the epidural was still in order.

Chapter 3: Blessed Anesthesia

At some point in the early morning our parents were called, as were our respective bosses. My parents requested to come over for a quick visit, as my mother was scheduled to have an incision check at her surgeon’s office across the street from the hospital. I allowed them to come in but asked that the visit would be short. I didn’t really feel like entertaining and they completely understood. Their visit indeed short and sweet—nothing like the sight of your daughter swaying around on a birthing ball, deep in the throes of multiple contractions to send one willingly out the door.

I always knew I wasn’t one of those types that had a strong desire to give birth without the help of drugs. I didn’t want a ton of medical interventions, but having already been started on pitocin didn’t bode well for steering clear of those.

Our wonderful nurse talked to me about the epidural and what I’d need to do. Sit still sit still sit still was basically what I heard her say. Check. I can do it. She also gave me a quiet warning: the anesthesiologist on call is the best in the hospital but he’s a little…quirky. Turned out to be the understatement of the century.

Before long, in walks the bright eyed (always a good sign) anesthesiologist who looked to have a steady hand and an enthusiasm for his work. Okay. I won’t lie—I didn’t care if the guy was half asleep and had just rolled in from a night of partying. As long as he could stick a needle in my back and make the pain subside, I’d practically marry the guy. Just stick the needle in, Man, I remember thinking.

After giving my consent (side note: Doctors, please do not expect coherent answers to questions asked of heavily laboring women who are forced to sit still through major contractions—the nurse had to keep telling the doc that I couldn’t answered as I was in the middle of a contraction), the doctor had Jonathan sit down and the procedure was started. After a few minutes I felt the coldness seep into my abdomen and legs and then…my legs turned to tree trunks. I was not prepared for this feeling and it momentarily threw me off—any attempt to move my legs using my mind alone would prove a huge challenge but I got into a comfortable position and dozed off.

Hours passed. It was all of a sudden Thursday, December 18th . Nurses and residents come in and ask how I’m doing. We look at the contraction monitor and were hopeful. Lots of seismic activity. It is determined that the pitocin needs to be turned up again and I am starting to feel the contractions through the epidural. I was actually happy about this because I figured progress was being made.

At one point our lovely nurse (#3) came in with a smile and asked if I was feeling pressure. “I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe, yes?” She was enthusiastic as this could mean real progress.

And then things changed. Several times over the next hour or so the team of nurses would rush into the room and demand that I change positions. The baby’s heart rate was decelerating, and they wanted to make sure the cord wasn’t compressed.
I started to think this wasn’t so fun and exciting anymore and that I’d really like to get the ball rolling.

Soon after, the next on-call doctor came in (still not my OB) and we talked realistically about my progress. They were going to check me and if I hadn’t made significant progress, the baby would have to be delivered via cesarean section. I look at the clock and realize that it’s 5am. I have been laboring for over 30 hours. I still have no baby and by golly, I am very curious to meet the little fellow that is causing all this commotion.
I am checked and determined to be a measly 4 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Surgery it is.

Jonathan and I take a few minutes to process. We think back over the last many hours and can’t think of anything else we’d have done differently. I am not sad at this point but more excited than ever because finally, something was going to happen. We pack up our room and Jonathan gets whisked away to gown up for surgery.

Chapter 4: Surgery
The necessary preparations are made and I am hauled onto a gurney and wheeled into the operating room. The doctor on-call, (STILL not my OB) is kind and things happen very quickly.
Jonathan sits by my head and surgery starts. Not 10 minutes later, a cry is heard. It is 6:11am. I am asked what the baby’s name is and nobody can hear me through my tears. Jonathan says proudly “Benjamin Jay,” and it is at that moment that I see him, fleetingly, over the curtain. He is handed to the neo-natal team and is given a hearty rub down and some deep suction. His apgars are 9/9, which is great. He is 7lbs. 3oz—big for his gestational age, and 20.75 inches. He is handed to Jonathan who promptly holds him down where I can see and I promptly...throw up. I promise it’s not a reflection of how I felt about our child but I’m told that when one’s organs are being shifted around in one’s mid-section, this was not an uncommon occurrence. I’ll never forget the picture of Jonathan holding Ben in one arm and an emesis basin in the other for me. Ah, marriage.

I’m closed up (Jonathan tells me that the doctors are talking about restaurants during this part of the surgery—not sure how to feel about that!) and Jonathan and Ben headed to the nursery while I go to recovery.

Ben needed a little extra time in the nursery to warm up after his bath and we were finally reunited in the room that was to house our new family for the next three days. As the snow came down and the temperatures plummeted, we got to know each other and started the bonding process.

After 5 and a half months with Ben, we are still getting to know each other and I still marvel at the journey that we had as he made his entrance into the world. Throughout the entire experience, I always felt calm and in control. Jonathan was at his very best and did exactly what was needed. We fully trusted our fantastic team of doctors and nurses (an aside, my OB was finally able to get the hospital minutes after I came out of surgery and we had a comical discussion about my next labor at my recovery bedside) and although there were multiple twists and turns that weren’t planned for, ultimately I got what I wanted: a healthy mama and a healthy baby.

Turns out there’s a lesson in all of this. Hard to see when you’re in the moment but it came to me clearly in the depths of a late night feeding session weeks after Ben’s birth: flexibility leads to better parenting and a happier life. A good lesson for a scheduler and planner, like myself.

Almost six months later, I am now happy to refer to myself as a “recovering Type A person.” I have Benjamin Jay to thank for that.

Welcome to the world and to our family, Mr. Cheeks.

3 comments:

Goddess in Progress said...

Wow, I had no idea that's how it all went down! What a story. And always a good thing to write it down for posterity. :-) All's well that ends well, right?

I remember the doctors were asking each other if they'd made it to their lake houses while they were finishing my c-section. Weird.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this entry could have a small warning: "Men, this may be TMI?"

GUB (not a reference to which Woody Allen movie, Jonathan, but "Great Uncle Bill."

Orangeroom said...

I had quite a few meals at Evanston Hospital during the several days we stayed there. I'd have to say that lunch is the best meal, since dinner is really just re-heated lunch.