Friday, September 20, 2013

The KLAW's Birth Story

Our first baby was due on September 14, 2013 but we were so very ready to meet him, we hoped he'd arrive early. We tried every trick in the wives' tale book, and nothing seemed to be jump-starting labor.
Finally on Tuesday, September 10, baby boy was ready to begin his journey into the world. I'd been having painless Braxton-Hicks contractions for almost two weeks, with varying degrees of regularity and duration, but never escalating to real labor. On that Tuesday morning, during my commute to work, I noticed several contractions, about ten minutes apart. During my departmental meeting that morning, I began timing the contractions. They were still not painful, but were ongoing, lasting several minutes at a time with pauses in-between. I texted a screen shot of the contraction timing app to Tom to let him know... he didn't see my text til about 3 pm and immediately started getting excited.

I decided I wanted to leave work early, just in case these contractions developed into the real thing. The following day was going to be my last day before maternity leave, even if the baby hadn't arrived, because Tom's mom Shirl was scheduled to arrive. Because of this, I'd been wrapping up my outstanding projects at work, and wanted to complete everything before going home. So "early" ended up being around 4pm.  The girls in the office all wished me well. One of them told me that the baby should be born at 6:50 that night, which would be symbolic for her since that is when her mother passed away. I told her I doubted that would happen since it was only a couple hours away, but it was a nice thought to contemplate.

On the way home I called my OB's office to see if they had any insight for me on my ongoing contractions. The nurse said it was probably nothing, but that I should go to Labor and Delivery at the hospital just to get checked. She said she would call ahead and I let Tom know we would be making a trip to the hospital that night. I then called my mom to let her know. As I was talking to her, I pulled into the Michaels parking lot - I just had to get one more picture frame because I intended to finish the last few nesting projects around the house before heading to L&D.

When I arrived home, Tom was basically ready to turn around and go to the hospital. I told him to slow his roll - I had a few more things I wanted to do before we left. Plus everyone told me to labor as long as I could at home - to the point I could no longer talk through a contraction - and so I did not want to rush over there only to be admitted too soon. So I had him hanging pictures on the wall, straightening up, etc. while I packed the last few items I wanted in my suitcase. Amid my puttering around I stopped to use the bathroom, as was customary every, oh, five minutes at that stage of pregnancy. (If bodily fluids and female anatomy gross you out STOP READING NOW) I peed, no biggie, but then afterwards I peed some more. But not voluntarily. Had I lost control of my bladder? That happens sometimes. I turned to flush the toilet and noticed a cloudy appearance to its contents.

I went back to where Tom was working and told him, "I think my water broke!" Just then I felt another gush of fluid dribble on my foot and amended my first statement. "My water definitely broke! Go get me a towel!" This was about 5:50 pm. With the towel between my legs, I waddled back to the bathroom and threw on a maxi-pad. I carried on cleaning, but Tom intervened when I tried to start vacuuming. At this point contractions started for real. Now I know what they meant when they say you'll know when you start having real contractions. Tom loaded the car as I finished up a few last-minute things. At one point I was overcome by a contraction and sat down at the kitchen table to ride it out. Tom came over, and flustered, asked "What are you doing now? Let's go!" I could only hold up my finger (the pointer, indicating hold on, not the middle finger - yet). When the pain subsided I said to him, "I was having a contraction. This is gonna hurt like hell."

I had intentions of taking a few more photos, doing a few more chores, but decided at that point enough was enough and we headed out. As we were driving, I looked at the clock. It was 6:49. I texted my coworker that they baby wouldn't be born at 6:50 like she'd hoped, but that we were on our way to go have him. Her mother's spirit was probably with us on our journey.

Of course, we had one more stop to make. I knew once I was admitted I would not be able to eat, and I had skipped lunch, so we popped into Paradise Bakery to get a sandwich and a smoothie. The painful contractions continued as I ate, and once I'd completed my sandwich and was growing more uncomfortable, I told Tom we had to skedaddle. He asked the guy behind the counter for a to-go box and the worker, in the middle of taking another customer's order, told him to hold on. Tom exclaimed, "My wife is in labor, we have to go!" and the poor fellow was much more accommodating. As I slid off the counter-height stool, I felt another gush coming on and shuffled out the door with my legs clenched like a Catholic school girl on prom night. I am certain I left a trail of dribbles out the door. Once outside, I took a step and WHOOSH! If my water was broken before, now it was beyond repair. I feel bad for the two gals enjoying coffee on the patio there.

We made our way across the street to the hospital. Tom pulled up to the entrance and grabbed a random nurse to have her wheel me up to L&D. She was about to go home for the day, and was very sweet to give us a hand, especially since I had to wait a moment for a contraction to pass to make my way from the car to the wheelchair.

When I arrived at Labor and Delivery I said, "Hi! I am here to have a baby! My Doctor's office called ahead, my name is Katie Whitfield." They looked down at their little clipboard, saw me there, and wheeled me over to Triage. Once in the room, the nurse asked what my symptoms were. As I was describing what was going on, Tom arrived. He must have run through the parking lot after parking the car to make it there that quickly. I went on to tell the nurse I'd been having painless contractions all day, and then my water broke and they got real. She said, "Oh, your water broke! Well, we don't need to be in Triage, you need a room!" Of course they were just expecting me to come in for a check and then probably have to send me on my merry way.

I requested the one room with a large Jacuzzi tub so that I could try to labor in the water to encourage a natural birth. Once in the room a flurry of activity began, with several nurses trying to do several things to me at once.  This was the worst part of the birth experience. My contractions were close together at this point and quite painful. I had nurses simultaneously asking me questions, trying to monitor the baby, drawing blood and checking my cervix, all while Tom stood by helplessly as I turned from a zen pregnant mama set on having a natural childbirth experience to a crazed, cursing psychopath howling for an epidural. So what caused my change of heart? I can attribute it directly to the nursing staff's actions, which had actually little to do with the nurses themselves (as they were really quite lovely) but the medical interventions that were required as part of a routine hospital birth.
  1. Monitoring:  They asked me to climb into the bed so that they could get an initial read with the fetal monitors. They had a hard time finding the baby's heartbeat, which freaked me out and set me on edge since we'd never had a problem in the OB's office. As I writhed in pain with each contraction, the machine would lose the heartbeat. They tried to press the leads deeper into my contracting muscles, to which I would loudly express my displeasure.  I struggled to find a comfortable position in which to have a contraction without moving and disturbing the monitor. I wasn't comfortable flat on my back when NOT in labor, so that wasn't working for me. I tried to lay on my side, as was recommended for the Bradley Method of childbirth. Well screw that Bradley guy, laying on my side and breathing did little to help. I lay there on my side, clutching the bed rails, cursing up a storm, praying I could make it to the requisite 20 consecutive minutes of heartbeat tape. All the following actions were going on concurrently and I was not kind to the staff who were trying to do their jobs. At one point, according to Tom (since I don't really remember what was coming out of my mouth), I said to a nurse, "Go away, I can't deal with you right now." Not my proudest moment.
  2.  Admitting: While this was going on, they needed to formally admit me to the hospital. The computers were acting up for some reason, and so they were asking me for information I'd already provided on the pre-registration forms (they later realized they still had me checked in to triage, which is why they couldn't pull me up again). I couldn't focus well enough to formulate answers to their questions let alone speak or sign the forms they stuffed in my face, so this added to my frustration.  At that point I probably would have signed anything. Thankfully, Tom was able to step in and take care of much of the paperwork.
  3.  IV: Hospital policy requires an IV port be inserted in the event I needed it. The nurse who did it, frankly, did a shitty job. It hurt the entire time it was in and I still have a little bit of a tingling sensation more than a week later from whatever nerve she jabbed. She tried to get a blood draw from the same port but failed, so the phlebotomist had to come in and take a separate sample. At that point this tech was just another annoying person flitting about me, poking and prodding me while I was already in pain.
  4.  Cervical Check: One of the nurses asked if she could check my cervix to see how dilated and effaced I was. She said the other nurse would then come and also check. She tried explaining to me that she had just transferred to this hospital from a teaching hospital where the doctors had all the hands on experience. I didn't understand at the time what she was talking about because I was in a pain-induced delirium, but basically she wanted to use me as a Guinea pig. I must have said yes, because the next thing I know, not one, but two women are jabbing me in my cervix. After all that, their proclamation was that I was three centimeters dilated. Three centimeters?!? I was 2 centimeters at my doctor's appointment a week prior, been having mild contractions all day, been actively laboring for well over 3 hours at this point, and I was only 3 centimeters!?! The nurses gave me the not-so-encouraging prognosis that average labor progresses at one centimeter dilation per hour, up to ten centimeters, meaning I'd be at this for about 7 hours longer. With that determination, I was fully defeated and told Tom I wanted an epidural. At around 9:30 pm he told the nurses I wanted the drugs.

The nurses, done with their laundry list of prerequisite tests and procedures, scuttled off to page the on-call anesthesiologist. Finally released from my cybernetic tethers, I clambered out of bed and straddled the Twinkie-shaped birthing ball they provided and finally found comfort. Tom, relieved to see my relief, sat nearby and offered kind words and gentle caresses. The thought crossed my mind that if I'd gotten into that position from the get-go, I wouldn't have been so traumatized.

About an hour later, the anesthesiologist arrived. They switched me to a regular room since I wouldn't be needing the tub as I'd be confined to the bed. The nurses checked my cervix again, I was at four to five centimeters - still quite a ways to go! The doctor was calm and proficient, and started me on a low dose of medicine as indicated by my early stage of labor.  Before long I found total relief from the pain. I could still move my legs some, which surprised me, and I was incredibly itchy from the medicine.  

Over the next hour and a half, Tom and I sat chatting about how our baby would soon be here. My mood was much improved and we tried to joke with the nurses to make up for my prior surliness. We had my labor playlist going in the background. I watched the contractions on the monitor (no problem finding the heartbeat now!) as they were consistently two to three minutes apart.  I could feel the pressure, but no pain. That is, until I did start feeling pain again. I told the nurse, and she called the anesthesiologist in. He'd been snoozing in the on-call room and arrived in his stocking feet. He checked the catheter in my back and thought perhaps it had come loose while I squirmed from the itchiness.

He gave me another dose of medicine, and I felt it coursing through my body, but I felt no relief. Instead, my pain increased. The (new) nurse suggested they check my cervix, in the event I'd progressed quickly to the final stages of labor. When checked, they realized I was fully dilated and instantly the room was once again a flurry of activity and around 12:30 am my OB was paged to get her butt over to the hospital! I was informed that there would not be time to reinsert the epidural catheter and it was pointed out to me that I would be able to have a natural birth experience from that point forward. With that change of perspective, and with Tom's encouragement, I prepared myself to push our baby out into the world.

The nurses prepared the room, converting the bed Transformer-style into one with stirrups. I have no idea what everyone else was doing - preparing instruments and warming bassinets, I suppose. In the hour it took the doctor to arrive, I began to feel the need to push. Every time I said, "Here comes another contraction. I have to push!" I would be met with a chorus of, "Don't push! Don't push! The doctor is almost here! Breathe through it! Of course we could handle this if the doctor doesn't arrive in time, but don't push!"

Around 1:30 am, the doctor arrived. She threw on a pair of galoshes and perched herself between my legs at the end of the bed. Finally I could push. With Tom holding one hand, and offering encouraging words in my ear, I pushed. The doctor told me to hold my breath so my exertions weren't wasted. She told me to pull back on my legs, which were up in the stirrups. I remembered reading something about the advantages of sticking your elbows out at this point, so I did that.

I could feel everything thanks to the epidural's exodus, but I couldn't quite tell exactly what I was feeling based on the narrative around me. I was told I was close, they could see hair, I was almost there! I could see Tom peering down into the abyss at the end of the bed, which surprised me since I thought he'd be more squeamish. I guess excitement overtook that. After less than ten minutes of pushing, I felt a BLOOP, BLOOP, BLOOP and at 1:52 am on September 11, 2013, out the baby came, all in one go.

They placed him on my bare chest, all slimy and purplish. He had swallowed some amniotic fluid, so the nurse suctioned his mouth with the bulb syringe. Finally he let out a substantial wail and began to pink up. As Tom and I stared at him in wonder and babbled nonsense, the nurse rubbed him off. The umbilical cord finished pulsing, meaning the baby had received all of the placenta's rich blood, so Tom was instructed to cut the cord. I delivered the placenta, and the doctor repaired two small tears I'd sustained ("One is like a paper cut," she said). As she worked, we reveled in the perfection that was our new son. Once she finished her stitchery, the maddening crowd left the room and gave mommy, daddy, and baby time to bond.

Our new son really was perfect. He was instantly alert, took quickly to the breast for his first meal, and was utterly adorable. He weighed 8 pounds, 4.1 ounces at birth, and measured in at 18.5 inches (though later we re-measured and he was more like 20"). We took turns cuddling with him until the nurses poked their heads back in. As quickly as I could, I asked for them to unhook me from the various devices strapped to me. Before long I was free, with my new son in my arms.

The baby ate and pooped as babies do. Tom's expression on viewing that first merconium poop in the diaper - and the subsequent flow from the baby's bottom as we tried to change the diaper - was priceless. Tom is not a night owl, so eventually he pulled out the chair/bed and dozed off. I was too hopped up on hormones (adrenaline/endorphins/oxytocin/?) to sleep so I just stayed up all night staring at the baby.

We stayed one more night in the hospital. It was a revolving door of hospital staff, doctors, and friends, so by the time that first full night came around I was utterly exhausted. The nursery nurse offered to take the baby for a couple of hours, and since he'd just eaten, I agreed so I could get some sleep. With the baby in the room, I would have stayed awake to check on him with ever rustle or murmur. The next day, one of the nurses asked Tom, "YOUR wife let the baby go to the nursery?" I guess I had a reputation. I also developed a reputation with the nursery staff who helped with breastfeeding, that I had awesome nipples. Hey, there's worse things to be known for.

In the end I am a little disappointed that I did not have the natural childbirth I'd hoped for. I think if things had gone differently out of the gate, I would have been able to labor more comfortably and would not have succumbed to the pain as easily. One of the nurses on our last day in the hospital said I would have been an excellent candidate for a home birth. While I did find being in a hospital comforting just in case, next time I would consider a birth center instead, if it meant no monitoring, no IV, no annoying questions, etc. But in the end, I was unmedicated when it came time to push, so I am confident that the baby benefitted from all my lovely hormones and such that are released at birth. And, according to Tom, down the road I still get to lord over the baby all the pain he caused me!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Watch this space

Hello From Nerdy to Thirty fans!

After a long hiatus, I am re-launching my blog! My life has completely changed since we last met, four years ago. I will go back and fill in the blanks, but to flash forward - In that short time I went from an unhappy, stressed-out, divorced New Yorker working in interior design to a remarried, suburban mom in Texas. Talk about a total 180. I am motivated to publicly start recording my life again because my husband Tom just welcomed into the world our son, whom I will refer to (using his initials) as KLAW (or the Klaw) in these posts.

After some deliberation, I have decided to leave my original blog up as an archive even though its contents seems a lifetime ago and was filled with angst and drama. I have learned that those supposed wrong turns in the path of my life are what led me to where I am today, which I am truly blessed to say, is absolutely happy. The blanks that need to be filled in are the journey that I finally took from A to B that this blog set out to accomplish in the fist place. The moral of the story is: once I got out of my own way and stopped trying to make the world fit the mold I had imagined, everything started falling into place just as I'd always dreamed.

In the coming months, look forward to a new string of ramblings from me, amid the delirium of new motherhood. I am not sure what form this new "mommy blog" will take - perhaps musings and reflections, hilarious anecdotes of my family's antics, diy projects and couponing tips. I invite you to follow along as I start out on this new chapter of my life.