Sunday, March 22, 2009

Painless Childbirth, Or More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

Note: This entry was started Saturday, March 14th.

It's seven thirty. Andy is asleep on the luxurious hide-away cot and Elliot is having some routine tests done by the doctors. Possibly getting circumcised as we speak. I just used the bathroom. (I can get up by myself!)

This entry is really for my benefit. Here's what happened:

My mom had been in Utah for a week and a half, cheerfully waiting for me to start labor. She arrived on March 3rd and was to leave March 13th. My stab at a due date was March 6th, the doctor's was March 9th, the original was March 8th. Those days came and went. Andy and my mom had made me walk several miles of Provo streets and many flights of hospital stairs (we just happened to be at the hospital at the time) to get things going. Finally realized that I was, in fact, having contractions - my tummy would tighten up and get hard - but they were completely painless. Turns out that painless contractions are also useless contractions; nothing was happening. So I went to my doctor's appointment on the morning of Thursday, March 12th - an appointment I really hoped I'd miss. Things still looked exactly the same as they did when I made all that progress a month ago - same dilation and effacement - with the added excitement of a possibly broken bag of waters (much of the evidence was there but the clincher evidence was not. We repeated the test at the hospital with the same results) and, guess what mom, I decided to go breech. They did a quick ultrasound just to make sure the doctor was right about that, and he was. I was also low on amniotic fluid, which is what happens when you're 9+ months pregnant, I suppose.

So the doctor told us to go home, pick up our things/my mother, and get ourselves to the hospital. We were either going to turn the baby manually (which wasn't likely with low fluid levels and even less likely if the water was actually broken) and then induce or have a C-section. The thing about the turning is that even if it did work (which wasn't likely) and wasn't risky for the baby (which it was at that point), my body was still entirely unprepared to labor and give birth. It very well could have ended in C-section anyway, but only after 24 hours of labor and some miraculous baby-turning. My doctor said that he considered himself one of the least likely doctors to recommend a C-section in one of the least likely hospitals in the country to give you a C-section, and he was still recommending it. 

So I never went into labor. The four of us - my mom, Andy, myself, and the baby inside of me - came to the hospital, got up to the secure birthing floor, and weren't sure which security telephone to use - the white one for visitors or the red emergency one for laboring women who are going to have a baby right now daggumit. (I used the red one - it was my only chance.) We had all of our backpacks, our pillows, our diaper bag, and we sat calmly in the lounge while the hospital bureaucracy did its thing, waiting peacefully. I was filling out some paperwork when Susan W. Tanner walked in and asked to see her daughter, who was laboring.

Got to a labor room where they checked a few more things and decided that, yes, a C-section was the way to go. We never tried to turn him. I was disappointed - I wanted to avoid a C-section if at all possible. As I told my mother, I've just never considered myself "a c-section person," whatever that means. My biggest concern was how it would affect future pregnancies and number of children. We want lots. The doctor assured me that he's had one patient get 11 C-sections. My nurse later told me she had 5. The doctor's concern, though, was with the shape of my womb; about 4% of women have breech babies and of those who do, 40% have another breech baby. It usually has something to do with a wonky womb. Fortunately, when he cut me open, he checked out my shape and declared it superfly. And besides, Elliot was head down at my appointment last week and had been for some time; if he'd have been born on time, things probably would have worked out.

So I was prepped for surgery. We could have done it right then, that hour, if I hadn't eaten my Life cereal that morning. They waited until 2:45 to give me anesthesia. An epidural in fact - and I could feel it, and it wasn't comfortable, but it was still relatively painless. Through that needle they also gave me an amazing thing called "Dura-Morph," which is what its name implies: durable morphene. I started to get giggly immediately.

They wheeled me into the operating room and rolled my now-half-numb body onto the table. It was a very slender table with no room to put one's arms. So they had little platforms that stuck out of the side for your arms to rest on. Maybe it was the drugs, but I told Andy later that I felt like I was a gingerbread man, and as they put various pillows and towels and warm things on and around me, I felt like I was being frosted. They put up the curtain. My anesthesiologist, a man with Gumby suspenders on, gave me fatherly pats on the head and asked if I could feel this and that. I could still feel things on my left side, though not my right. And it wasn't pain exactly, just extreme discomfort. He upped the dosage mid-procedure because of the grimaces I was making, but it didn't hurt so bad at all. He narrated what was going on - "They've got you open...They've got his feet out...They're pushing on the head..."

All the while the only things I could see were the white ceiling, the blue curtain, and Andy's beaming face in a white shower cap. I could tell that he was smiling behind his mask. He seemed like he was glowing to me, and he squeezed my hand with his, which was very warm.

Suddenly the doctor's disembodied voice said, "Look up!" or something like that. And there was a little baby boy hanging above the curtain, upside down and covered with chunks and slime. I only saw him for an instant.

Andy went with him for a preliminary clean-up. They brought him back for me to admire in fifteen minutes or so. They placed him by my head so we were facing each other, but headed opposite directions - he was looking at my chin and I was looking at his. I stroked his face and said hello. And they took him away again.

It was pretty surreal while the doctors finished everything up. I could hear people talking but I couldn't see them. They talked about Steve Clarke (the politician maybe?) and court and I'm not sure what else because I faded in and out of a dream world where there were wolves. It took an extra half hour or so for them to stitch me up, clean me off, and roll me back onto a bed. I was wheeled back into the labor room to lay alone for an hour while a nice nurse checked my vital signs every fifteen minutes and I couldn't stay awake and there were more wolves.

Then I got to be with my baby.

Andy and my mother and Elliot and I all reunited in a recovery room on the fourth floor. I finally got to hold my baby. He was eight pounds, eight ounces. Pretty heavy. Only eighteen and a half inches long, though. Pretty short. Undeniably handsome - like his father that way.

He didn't look like what I'd imagined - I didn't see Andy or I in him at first. But he was still so beautiful...like a first kiss: kinda weird, yet life-changingly wonderful. Just beautiful.

The pediatrician (who only works in the dead of night, it seems, and wakes you from drug-influenced sleep to talk to you but doesn't turn the light on so all you can remember is a soft-spoken figure in the darkness) declared Elliot "physically perfect." And he is a nice, healthy boy, though he's gone through a few things that, as a paranoid new mother, have terrified me:

- He ate very well at first, then not so well, and he lost a lot of weight. All newborns lose some weight in the first few days, though, and now he's eating just fine and has gained it all back.
- In fact he might eat too well; we had some issues with overeating (which newborns don't usually do) and subsequent puking. I now have him on an eating time limit to be followed by twenty/thirty minutes of sitting him semi-upright, nurse's orders.
- He got a respectable case of jaundice, so much so that we were told to come back to the hospital a few days after we were discharged to do some lab work on it, but it has since cleared up.
- He got bit by a spider. I will have my vengeance.
- He failed his hearing test three times. Not too uncommon for C-Section babies, I hear, and he can hear (he gets startled by loud noises, at least). We just don't know how well yet.
- The scariest thing by far has been his Two-Face Syndrome. Every once in a while, half of his face (exactly half - there's a straight line down the middle) will turn red while the rest remains normal. At first I thought I'd let him get sunburnt somehow, but it would go away and come back, and it was too perfect to be a sunburn. We took him in for an emergency visit to the pediatrician, and he said that babies just have asymmetrical circulation sometimes, and Elliot looks perfectly healthy in every other way, and he's not unhappy. So don't worry about it.

Still, I wish there was a comprehensive infant care encyclopedia in which every entry read, "That's normal, don't sweat it." That would greatly ease my mind.

Yet despite all my efforts to be very worried about him, Elliot is healthy and fine, and he's a very sweet, peaceful baby. I had about two painful contractions, I never went into labor, I was doped up through my recovery, and I got such a lovely child out of it. I feel like I cheated the system. The most pain I've felt has been while laughing - my incision doesn't like to laugh.

Now my beautiful boy is sleeping in the arms of his loving father.

Yeah. We're pretty blessed.

11 reason(s) to click here:

Matt Reichman said...

Simply marvelous. Congratulations!

Chillygator said...

I knew you and MaryAnne (Sister Tanner's daughter) were having babies at the same time, I didn't realize it was the same hospital. That made me laugh (o: You should have become BFFs with her as she's one of my favorite people.

Optimistic. said...

Loved the bit about the dream world of wolves. It reminded me of the dream world of lawn sharks I slipped into while reading Anna Karenina.

bekki said...

Absolutely spiffing. (Sorry, I just wanted to be cool like matt.:) I never thought of myself as a c-section person, either. I even skipped that part in the books because I figured i wouldn't need to worry about it. That's what I get for figuring... :) Good job, by the way, he is a handsome little guy!

Meagan said...

That's funny you thought you were a ginger bread man. When I had my c-section, I thought I was getting crucified. I guess you are just less blasphemous than me.

I'm glad it all went so well for you!

Also, stupid spiders.

Andrea said...

Congratulations. I cried pretty much through that whole thing. He is beautiful!

Laurie said...

Congratulations, dear.

Lisa Michelle said...

I started facebook-stalking for pictures right after I heard he was born: CUTE! So cute! What a handsome little guy--congratulations!

Eliza said...

I can only assume that him getting bit by a spider is somehow connected to his mother getting stung by a wasp during the pregnancy.

I will never forgive myself.



p.s. You're amazing and he's gorgeous!

Ben said...

This is totally going to be read by my wife immediately. Congratulations, friend.

KILEY said...

Congrats! Thanks for sharing the story, I almost cried. You should seriously consider being a writer my friend. I can tell you love being a mom already!