Today is Chance’s first birthday. I can’t believe it’s been a year. The clarity of this year, especially, will stay with me forever. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally. For so much of my pregnancy and, of course, the birth of Chance, my mind felt cloudy. All the time. It was hard to think, it was hard to form and hold onto memories. Getting my brain back after the pregnancy was like the sun breaking through the clouds, clichéd as that sounds. Most importantly, I could make and recall memories again, like a switch turning back on in my mind. And that was perfect timing, because I would not give up one moment, one memory, good or bad, of this past year with my son. Not one.
Following the fine tradition of other bloggers out there, I’ve decided to share the story of Chance’s birth to commemorate his birthday. Maybe one day he’ll read this account, squirm in embarrassment, and sulk off to his room – grossed out, disgusted, and believing that parents are another species… at least until he has kids of his own.
This account will be a little fuzzy in places because… well because I was drugged and in some pain and those pregnancy hormones were wreaking havoc with my memory. If I get anything wrong Keen is supposed to pop up on comments (finally!) and correct me. Though there are some things he doesn’t remember too well, either. Exhaustion will do that. And before I start I have to say thanks to the very important people who stayed at the hospital the entire time, much to my ever-grateful surprise, because it was a loooong haul. I figured they would at least sneak in and out from home, getting in some naps, but nope, they stuck with me. Even when I told them they should go get some sleep. So here’s to you guys, my best friends Jeanne, Monica, and Christy, my mom and dad, and of course, Keen Dad, who never got that cot they promised. You know I can never thank you all enough.
So a little back story, my estimated due date was March 7th. I had been cramping almost the entire pregnancy, and I was probably having Braxton-Hicks contractions from about 7 ½ - 8 months on, but I didn’t realize at the time that was what they were. About two and a half weeks before my due date I started getting this weird feeling that labor was going to start, and then, instead, all of the cramping I had been having stopped. However, all the stress tests were good, I was still having Braxton-Hicks (couldn’t feel a thing though), and I was still two weeks away from my due date so my OB didn’t worry about it. We did all the usual checks for the next couple of weeks, watching for dilation, thinning, etc. On my due date I went in for an appointment, with the strong possibility that he might check me in to the hospital that night. I could tell my OB was trying to decide whether it would be worth it to wait a couple more days to see if I would start labor or whether he should induce. Instead, after talking again about the cramping that had suddenly stopped two weeks before, he decided to have me check in the next day to induce at 5:00pm.
I check into the hospital at 3:00pm on Tuesday, March 8th, fill out all the usual paperwork, get my plastic baggie of necessary items (I still don’t know what some of them were for) from the hospital staff, and got myself into an oh-so-lovely gown (or what I call, “the perfect weight of cloth to absorb liquid and cling to you uncomfortably”).
5:00pm Right on schedule, they start my induction. Now the way it works, as with all drugs, is they start you on the lowest dosage possible of pitocin and increase it with time until they hit the dosage that works. There are 200 levels of dosages for pitocin. You’ll need to know this for later in the story.
5:00 – 7:00pm They’ve started me on pitocin but it isn’t doing a whole lot. At this point, even though they were upping the dose periodically I was feeling nothing. (You know that whole thing about inducing labor will make the contractions stronger? Yeah, didn’t happen with me.) Now I’m a little fuzzy on the exact time, but at some point my OB came in, examined me and was dithering about when he should break my water, if that needed to be done. It turns out he was on call for that night, but not the next night; he was trying to plan it so if he broke my water he’d actually be on shift to deliver my baby. (That’s why he had me come in at 5:00pm. He thought if I naturally progressed I should be ready to deliver by the next morning.) He’s figuring that it would be, with the pitocin, about eight hours after he breaks my water to go into active labor. He decides not to break my water Tuesday night, but will wait for the next morning.
7:00pm – 9:00 am next morning They continue to steadily increase the doses of pitocin. This is what happens almost every time: drip drip, goes the IV… one (as in a single) contraction… nothing… wait wait wait… watch the monitors… more nothing… move up to the next dosage. This went on for hours. People always gasp when I say my labor was 36 hours, but I’m always quick to tell them that I was NOT having contractions that whole time. I figure a good 16 hours of it was merely cramps, when I felt anything at all.
9:00am My OB comes in and finally breaks my water. This is the defining moment because if you don’t deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking, they automatically perform a cesarean. I’m still not dilated much but (I think) there was some progress… like a centimeter. Man, I suck at this labor thing.
2:00pm I start (finally!) feeling significant labor pains. They had been increasing slowly since my water was broken, but they started revving up consistently sometime after 12:00. My labor nurse goes over the medications available. She basically tells me that I have to go through the first two types of medication before I can have an epidural; that was standard procedure. I had early on made a decision that I would take medication if I needed it. If I could handle the pain, great. If it got to be too much, give me some drugs. I had no ego invested in whatever way I went. Plus, they were free drugs.
3:00 – 3:30ish The contractions have increased dramatically, enough so that I find I’m not thinking very clearly. My labor nurse gives me the first standard drug.
This is when everything goes really loopy. The first drug kicks in and the walls of my room turn into a jungle, complete with monkeys hanging off vines. That’s right… MONKEYS! I was hallucinating. However, I was lucid ENOUGH to know I was hallucinating. I decided not to mention the monkeys to anyone.
Now the problem with being in any kind of distorted mental state is that it makes other things, such as pain, harder to deal with. Mental wires seem to cross, you can’t tell where anything is coming from. I’m not sure if the pain killer simply didn’t work to dull my contractions, or if I was just so looped out and emotional at that point that I couldn’t deal with any pain at all. All I know is that I hurt, my mind was fucked up, and I was getting really emotional. Frankly, I was starting to freak out. However, there was also that part of me that was still just lucid enough to sort of watch what was going on. As in, “whoa, those monkeys are all over the place, shit this hurts, I don’t think this drug is working, fuck, my hair is bugging me”. It was that part of me that made the decision to move on and I managed to focus enough to request the epidural.
Now I know Keen could tell I was loopy without me saying anything, and my mom knew something was up, but I’m pretty sure my nurse damn well knew I was hallucinating too, because standard procedure or not, she skipped the next drug and let me go right to the epidural. Cut off the first drug I was on immediately.
4:00ish maybe, I don’t know. Epidurals are a beautiful beautiful thing. No monkeys are pretty good, too. Somewhere after the epidural my dilation finally starts progressing. I have now been up for 24 hours. I, and everyone who stayed with me, are getting very tired. Things get vague for a while just because it’s all the same. My blood pressure kept skyrocketing so I was confined to the bed almost the whole time I was in the hospital. I know my OB came in at one point and we had a conversation about where (and when) he went to school. Turns out he was like an Asian Doogie Hauser. He started college at 16, but he was, in his words, “much less obnoxious” than the 14-year-old who started at the same time.
7:00, 8:00, 9:00pm I am becoming more and more exhausted. Anyone who says, “sleep while you’re in the hospital” is full of it. I keep hearing that the doctor (not mine, but whoever was on shift by then) will be in soon to “make a decision”. I am progressing but it’s still slow. The pitocin really didn’t speed anything along much. By the time everything is over and done with, I am only seven doses away from the maximum amount of pitocin they can give you.
10:00pm I’m suddenly at ten centimeters. At least I’m pretty sure it was right around then time-wise. Shortly before this I remember asking the nurse if the doctor(s) were ever coming to “make a decision”. I hadn’t seen a doctor now since Doogie Hauser earlier that day. I thought it was kind of strange how far you could go through the birthing process without any doctors visiting. My labor nurse, god bless her, was awesome and never left my side.
Wednesday / Thursday
10:00pm – 1:30am I start pushing sometime in this period. I know that I pushed for an hour and a half, but I’m not sure when I started and stopped exactly. The baby was just not moving. He was in place, ready to go, but for all the pushing I was doing, I didn’t feel anything moving inside. No exodus to the outside. (I did feel fucking 10-times-worse-than-labor back spasms, triggered by the now nicely-regular contractions. I can’t remember exactly how the contractions felt, but I think I’ll remember those back spasms for the rest of my life. For you guys, think charley horse in your lower back.) I know by 1:30 we had stopped pushing for good, and by 2:00 the vague unseen doctor had “reached a decision” to do the c-section. Duh.
2:00am – 2:30ish A doctor finally comes in and talks with me. I get prepped for surgery, wheeled around, drugged some more, and get my arms strapped down like I’m being crucified. Of all the things I had imagined with a c-section, getting my arms strapped down was not one of them. There was also a radio on in the surgery room that played rock music the entire time.
5:03am Chance is delivered via c-section, while Hotel California plays rather loudly in the background.
The umbilical cord had been wrapped several times around his legs and the doctor surmised this is why Chance wouldn’t move down any more when I was pushing. I couldn’t see anything during the procedure, but I remember getting incredibly sleepy at a specific point, even through the regular exhaustion. I think it was from blood loss or shock, I don’t know. I managed to stay awake long enough to see my son, kiss his head (so small!), and talk with my sweet, exhausted Keen.
Thirty-six hours from start to finish and one year ago today. All in all, it was one of the most surreal and real experiences of my life.
Happy Birthday Chance! We love you. – the weirdgirl and Keen Dad