Now, where were we in this story? Oh yes, I was in excruciating pain yet had just discovered that I was NOT in fact in “real” labor. They decided to induce said labor to help things along. If you’ve been through an induction, you know what’s coming. The already-unbearable contractions only got worse, and the camel-back pattern continued so that I pretty much had no rest in between. I was in such misery that my nurse offered to call in the anesthesiologist soon thereafter, though I was only about 2 cm dilated. I immediately agreed. All of my ideals had long since left me. I needed relief.
After the epidural was placed I had the usual reaction: I had an immediate crush on my anesthesiologist. Those guys have the GOODS, man. The universe of my life calmed for the first time in many hours, and I thought I would finally have some rest while my body got ready for the big moment. I had seen such scenarios numerous times in the shows I had obsessively watched throughout pregnancy: the relief of the epidural, the mama-to-be finally resting, sleeping off and on as her body gets ready for the work ahead. My nurse turned the lights down and left us to rest. But that was not to be.
Why not? Three problems:
1. The shaking. My body was not doing so well with the drugs, and I began to shake uncontrollably.
2. Back labor. It took awhile to figure this one out. The first clue was that I wasn’t getting enough pain relief from the epidural. To be blunt, it felt like my baby girl was trying to push herself out of my ass. The constant pressure was god-awful.
3. Decels. Baby girl wasn’t digging this whole thing either. So they put me on oxygen and turned me from one side to the other to try to achieve better blood flow, and we nervously watched the monitor. (Watched, no listened to, because we had already begged them to turn the sound off. The ever-changing pattern of beeps was making us crazy.)
So there was no restful period while waiting to push. Just hours of discomfort, worry, and fear. Twenty hours after this whole drama began, I was worn out, the decels weren’t getting any better, and the neonatologist recommended we head to the OR for an emergency c-section. Neither of us hesitated. We were wrung out, and needed to get our baby girl out of danger. (A note here: as an academic and feminist I am well aware of the critique of this kind of birth situation. Was she really in danger? How much of this was caused by the medical interventions? I’m not going to take these questions on here. I’m just telling how I felt as it all happened. Pain and fear overrode all critique.)
As relieved as I was that the ordeal was just about over, I was out of my mind with anxiety as they rolled me down to the OR. They hooked me up to the machines and I heard someone ask, “Is that mom or the baby?” They were asking whose heartbeat was out of control fast. It was MINE. My crush anesthesiologist mainlined some ativan into my IV to help me out, and though it did take the edge off I was still on edge. My first worry was feeling the knife. As he tested my level of anesthesia I second-guessed myself. “Can you feel this?” “Um, I’m not sure.” (Turns up the meds.) “How about now?” “I don’t think so.” (Turns it up again.) “Uh, I’m feeling this weird tingling in my arms, is that normal?”
I don’t remember a whole lot after that. I remember feeling terrified. I remember the music: “My Girl,” and someone commenting that it was appropriate. I remember my hubby holding my hand and talking me through it. I remember hearing my baby girl cry for the first time (the memory makes me choke up even still). I remember someone saying she was 5 pounds. I remember them showing her to me. I remember kissing her. I remember urging my husband to go with her, reassuring him that I would be okay.
I remember even less of the time they spent finishing the surgery, so I must have dozed off through some of it. Apparently it took a long time, because the hubby later told me he had begun to worry. I have a vague memory of someone commenting that the cord was short, or thin, or something like that. (The next day the pediatrician on call told me that the condition of the cord, as well as baby girl’s low birth weight, suggested that her placenta may have stopped working properly in the last weeks. This made sense, as her estimated weight at 37 weeks, when we had the version procedure, had been 6 pounds. To me, this meant that I hadn’t been crazy to feel that she was supposed to be born soon therafter. Perhaps I had some sort of maternal instinct that all was not well in there.)
My memory is clearer of the recovery room. I was shaking from the anesthesia, but didn’t want the demerol because I had read so many stories of terrible nausea. It’s funny to me now. After all I had been through, I was afraid of some nausea? What the hell? I finally let them give me a half dose, which calmed the shaking for only a short while before it returned with a vengeance.
They finally rolled me down to my room, where I saw the most wonderful sight of my husband holding our baby girl swaddled in the standard issue pink and blue blankets. After a precarious transfer into my hospital bed (during which I was convinced they were going to roll me off onto the floor), I finally got to hold my little miracle. It had been a wild ride, but my baby girl, now known here as The Little One, had finally been born. It hadn’t gone at all as I had planned or expected. But none of that mattered as I held her and kissed her soft cheeks and sang to her for the first time.
So that’s the end of my (or rather, the little one’s) birth story. There’s much more to tell, a whole postpartum drama to relate, but I’m not quite ready to revisit it just yet. Let’s just say that it involved a whole lotta crazy.