Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sam is one week old today. In honor of the occasion, I'm posting his birth story. It's pretty long, so I'll probably split it into at least two parts. Be forewarned: I will use such terms as "cervix" and "placenta" in these entries, so if you're squeamish about such things (Scott!), you might want to just ask me for the abbreviated version someday.

Sam's Birth Story

Part 1

After being sent home from the hospital early in the morning of December 26, I was extremely frustrated (as I wrote about here). I vowed I wouldn’t let that happen again. I had already had a baby, for crying out loud. I couldn’t believe I was one of those people who went to the hospital mistakenly thinking she was in labor. Not again.

So you can imagine my feelings when the contractions started up again at 11:30 p.m. December 26. “Not again,” I groaned. I dutifully had Jeff begin noting the time of each. They started off three minutes apart almost immediately. And I could tell from my breathing with each one that they were different from yesterday’s. Stronger. More intense. More real. But I wasn’t about to be fooled.

For the next two and a half hours, I paced the floors of our bedroom, reading my book as I walked the twelve or so feet back and forth. Every time I’d feel a contraction, I’d call out “time” and Jeff would jot it down. Every time I had a contraction I was convinced it would be the last one. I tried laying down on my side. On the other side. Squatting. Hands and knees. More walking. Nothing seemed to stop the flow of contractions, which remained steady at three minutes apart. But nothing really seemed to make them more intense, either.

Somewhere during that time Jeff decided to try to sleep a little, so it was just me, pacing the floor in my dark house. Finally, I knew I needed to do something. It was 2 a.m. when I woke Jeff up. My instincts told me we needed to go to the hospital again, but I had decided not to trust my instincts. “What should I do?” I asked a groggy Jeff. He, too, wanted to avoid another false run. Eventually we decided I needed to walk some more, but I needed more than a bedroom-sized track. It was still over 60 degrees outside, so we got dressed and headed out for a walk around the block.

I remember two things about that walk: first, my contractions stayed steady, but got more intense. I had to stop walking and crouch a little, hands on my knees, for most of them. The other thing I remember is the way the wind suddenly picked up. Huge gusts shook the trees around us. Christmas decorations clattered and clanged in the wind. It was so strong Jeff commented that it seemed like tornado weather. “There aren’t tornadoes in December,” I scoffed. We would find out an hour later that we were in a tornado watch at the time.

We made it home without being swept away to Oz, and decided we had to head to the hospital. As I threw a few things in my bag (not much to pack, since it was still packed from the night before), I felt foolish. But I knew how much more ridiculous I’d feel if we waited too long and ended up delivering the baby on the side of Iowa Street. In a tornado. So I told my parents we were off for our nightly errand to Lawrence Memorial, and we headed out.

We got to the emergency room entrance at 3:30 a.m., just as the rain started coming down. The same guy who checked us in the night before was there. I felt my face turning red. I hoped he wouldn’t recognize me, but then I realized that I was wearing the same clothes as the night before. Plus, a nine-months-pregnant woman is a little distinctive, I guess. He was kind enough not to mention anything about it, fortunately.

That deja-vu was repeated when we arrived up in the maternity wing. The nurse from the night before greeted us in the hallway. I covered my face in shame, but she brushed that off. “Better safe than sorry!” she said. At least we weren’t in the same room as before.

I changed into my gown and climbed into the bed for monitoring. I had been feeling the contractions all the way to the hospital and the monitor showed they were coming every three minutes. They also appeared more intense than last night. That was a relief. The nurse checked my cervix. “Hmmm…” she said. I could tell it wasn’t good news. “Same as last night. 5-6 cm.” She must have seen my expression, because she typed it in the machine as 6.

“I’d like you to try the tub,” our nurse suggested. “Are you feeling a lot of pain in your back?” I told her I was. “I think he might be posterior,” she said. “That might explain why your contractions are regular and painful, but aren’t having an effect on your cervix.” She suggested using the tub to relax, and also getting on hands-and-knees to encourage the baby to turn over. I was more than happy to comply, as using the Jacuzzi tub was one thing I really wanted to do while in labor. On her way out of the room, our nurse turned and said, “And try nipple stimulation, too.” Jeff looked at me with surprise. I had to explain what that was as I undressed for the tub.

I was in the tub for about twenty minutes, trying to relax, leaning forward as best I could in the confined space. The contractions continued to come, but I felt better able to handle the waves of pain as I floated in the warm water. I felt a little silly tweaking my nipples, especially with my husband seated on a stool just a couple feet away, but at that point I was willing to do just about anything to get this show on the road.

The nurse returned to monitor my contractions. She suggested we walk around a bit before she checked my progress again, so once again Jeff and I were strolling the halls at 4 a.m. After our brief constitutional, we returned to the room and she checked my progress. “Six…” she said. “Maybe six to seven. But really stretchy.” I think I might have started crying in frustration. I know I felt like it. “So, what do we do now?” I asked. “Well, I want to call Dr. McKeon,” the nurse said. “We’ll see what she suggests. I think you’ll probably have the same choice as last night.” Go home in defeat, or stick around longer just to be sent home later? Great.

I’m sure I wasn’t a very pleasant person to spend time with during the next ten minutes. I spent the time cursing my stupidity and my cervix. But when our nurse came back, everything changed.

“Dr. McKeon wants to keep you here,” she said. She went on to tell us about our two choices: first option was for me to have a little morphine to try to sleep a bit. A nap could accelerate my progress as I relaxed, and would give me a chance to get my strength up before delivery. The second choice was for my doctor to break my water. “She thinks once your water breaks, you’ll go really fast,” the nurse explained. It took me a minute to understand what she was saying, that we were staying in the hospital, and that we’d be having our baby today.

To be continued…

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