Monday, May 28, 2012

Baby Cary's birth

Emily shares her birth story:

When I found out I was pregnant, I hadn’t been to an OB/GYN in years. Since I was a child, I have despised going to the doctor because of the chance that I might have to remove some or all of my clothing. I wasn’t raised to be ashamed of my body – I am just naturally extremely modest. So I was delighted to be pregnant, but not excited about going to the doctor and having to get undressed.

Around the time of my first OB appointment, a pregnant friend of mine started posting articles on Facebook about the terrors of hospital birth. According to her information, I would be strapped to a gurney in the manner of a horizontal crucifixion, paralyzed by pain medicine from the waist down, forced to labor nude in front of 100 strangers, with the doctor and nurses taking turns violating my body with various unnecessary instruments and machines. If by some miracle I got out of there alive with my baby, we wouldn’t be able to bond or breastfeed because of the trauma, and he would grow up to be a psychopath incapable of making eye contact. 

Needless to say, I was terrified by these posts (from a heretofore reasonable friend) and spent many hours agonizing and crying over my decision to have my baby in the hospital. Being a total birth novice, and having no way to authenticate my friend’s claims about the hospital, I was sadly resigned to my fate but felt it was the only way to be sure that we weren’t too far from help if a true emergency arose.

My son’s birth couldn’t have been more different than what had been portrayed as a typical hospital birth. Six days after his due date, I started feeling strong contractions around 11:30 p.m. My husband (a scientist) tracked them on a spreadsheet. They were one minute long and 7-8 minutes apart until around 2 a.m, when they picked up to 3-5 minutes apart. I rocked and breathed through them, and didn’t scream, to my surprise. We were having a hard time determining when to leave for the hospital, because I thought we were supposed to wait until the contractions were 3 minutes apart consistently for an hour. For some reason, I would have a whole bunch of regular contractions, and then there would be a big gap of about 8 minutes. I figured this meant it wasn’t time to go yet. Suddenly around 5 a.m., the contractions accelerated to 1-3 minutes apart. At this point, I had vomited enough from the pain where I figured I had no fluid left in me to vomit in the car, so it was safe to leave. I really didn’t want to have to take baby home in a vomit car. 

We got to the hospital around 5:45 a.m. After walking around for 10 minutes and becoming lost, I sat on the floor and told my husband to go find the right area, and come back for me. We made it to the labor and delivery intake a short time later, and after determining that my pre-registration information had been lost, I had to take off my clothes and get checked out. YAAA! Pain! I was dilated to a 6. Several nurses asked if I was having a natural birth because I had apparently waited a long time to come in. They got me ready to move to the delivery room, and kept fussing about my gown, making sure it covered everything for the trip down the hall. At that point I couldn’t have cared less if I had to somersault nude to the delivery room on broadcast television…I wanted that epidural. 

Tracy, my delivery nurse, was so nice! Because of all the heavy breathing through the contractions, my mouth was dry as a desert and my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth. I kept asking politely for ice chips, but no one was responding. When Tracy came in, I asked her and she directed someone to bring me ice. It was the best ice I’d ever tasted. She did another check and determined I was 8-9 centimeters dilated. I was starting to be afraid that I wouldn’t have time for the epidural, and silently cursed myself for not leaving earlier. The fetal heart rate monitor was attached, and I had an IV in my arm (I asked the nurse not to put it in my hand because I am a pianist and I’m sensitive about my hands – this wasn’t a problem for the nurse at all). Neither the monitor nor the IV was obtrusive at all, and I loved listening to baby’s heartbeat. Once the monitor was attached, I couldn’t imagine how nervous I would be not knowing if the baby was alive and kicking through the stress of labor. 

Finally the anesthesiologist arrived, and after asking a lot of questions, he was able to place the epidural while Tracy held my hands. I don’t remember feeling any pain when the epidural was administered. About 5 minutes later, I felt a contraction that was about one-tenth of the strength of previous contractions, if that. The anesthesiologist became my new best friend. I started shivering uncontrollably (side effect of the epidural?), so Tracy brought over a bunch of warm blankets and piled them on me. My OB arrived and checked me. This time I was quite relaxed! She said I was at a 9 or a 10, and she would let me get some much-needed rest, and check on me later. I took a 10 minute nap, and then my husband and I called family and friends to let them know the baby was on his way. I felt so relaxed and stress-free after the epidural kicked in. That break was just what I needed to gather my strength to continue laboring after a sleepless night of contractions. I felt totally at ease, and was able to enjoy and reflect upon the experience and marvel at what was to come. 

The doctor returned about an hour later and decided to break my water to move things along. Tracy helped me turn on my side so that the baby could get into a better position and move past my pubic bone (not 100% sure of the medical details here). I spent the next couple of hours relaxing, eating ice, and talking to my husband. Tracy popped in and out to check on me and the baby. Around 11 a.m., it was time to start pushing, so she turned off my epidural. She helped me into a reclined seated position and showed me how to use my arms to brace myself. She and my husband each took a leg (which I could move just fine) and used their bodies to provide leverage for me to push against. Pushing was going rather slowly despite the epidural wearing off and the pain coming back, so I asked for a mirror to see my progress. After a few more pushes, I could see a spot emerging which was the size of a half dollar – the top of the baby’s head!

My OB came in to deliver my son. I was feeling the pain quite a bit and it was causing me to hold back the urge I felt to push, so I asked for the epidural to be turned back on. Once the epidural returned to near-full strength, I wasn’t scared to push harder. I could see the baby crowning in the mirror, and I could feel that I was going to tear, so I asked my OB to do a small episiotomy so that I wouldn’t have to see my perineum explode. She did this for me even though she thought I wouldn’t tear too badly. Since I could feel the size of the baby coming out, I disagreed! One huge push later, and the baby’s head was delivered. My husband said he had his eyes open and was looking around! My OB caught the awed look on my face and said “I know, right!”

She asked me for one more push, and two seconds later my baby was on my chest. He was amazing! Tracy saw how large he was (9 lbs, 8 oz), and said, “No wonder it took so long!” I thought an hour of pushing was not too bad, actually!

After a few minutes together, my husband cut the cord and Tracy took the baby to a little warm table to be cleaned up and checked out, while my husband took pictures. My OB delivered the placenta and stitched me up. I had torn a bit to the side in addition to the episiotomy, but nothing major. Tracy brought the baby back to me and we breastfed right in the delivery room. We are still breastfeeding two months later, and our little family has bonded like you wouldn’t believe.

Thankfully, it turned out that my friend’s “insider knowledge” was a bunch of lies and exaggerations. I loved my hospital birth. It was one of the best days of my life!