Saturday, March 15, 2008

Birthing Children, Part One

Well, here it is... the first of three "about my labors" posts I've been hinting at.

Starting out as a young pregnant woman, I was pretty intense about wanting to have all-natural deliveries. No induction, no epidural, no episiotomy, no c-section, nurse right after delivery, etc. ;-) Perhaps you can already see where this is going. Best laid plans and all that...

A little less than 6 years ago, my co-worker had the (audacity?) brutal honesty to tell me I looked as big as a house. And, to be honest, I really did (still, it was rude of him to tell me that, don't ya think?).

We were so broke back then that I had, in my largest stage of pregnancy, run into a Ross discount store and hoped for a good deal on something that would be appropriate to wear to the office. (I had only worn suits prior to being pregnant.) What did I find but a big, purple, big-flower-printed dress? For a ridiculously low price. And nothing else that even came CLOSE to fitting or being appropriate for office-wear in June in Washington, D.C. So, we got the purple dress. I felt like Barney. I hated that dress. Anyway, I really was big. And so was the baby I was carrying, and though I didn't know it at the time, he wouldn't be coming out until I was even bigger.

Back to the labor story. I, being the natural-focused momma that I was, tried everything from driving bumpy roads, to walking like a maniac at all hours of night, to eating strange foods, to "doing what we had done to get him in there, to get him out." ;) Still, 10 days post-due-date, no baby.

So. I was scheduled to be induced the next day, when my water broke at a little after midnight. I called the hospital, and they said that I didn't need to come in until my contractions got bad or 8am, whichever came first. At 6:30, being the eager young mom, after not sleeping hardly at all, we drove to the hospital with virtually no contractions.

Mrs. All-Natural's compromise #1:

Well, by 1 o'clock in the afternoon, I still wasn't having any contractions. This is problematic, of course, because infection could begin to set in if you don't have a baby within 24 hours of your water breaking. So, I said, "OK, give me the pitocin. But only on the lowest setting."

Mrs. All-Natural's compromise #2:
Around 5pm or so, I asked my husband to ask for the anesthesiologist, that it was time for an epidural. He did all that I'd asked-- asking me if I was sure, trying to give me back rubs, etc., but in the end, I ended up with that huge needle in my back and spent the rest of the evening sleeping between contractions that seemed to be progressing far too slowly.

By 12:30 AM, I was finally dilated to a ten, but I couldn't. feel. anything. Dad-blasted epidural. They kept telling me to lift my torso up off the bed so they could do that fancy mechanically-miraculous change from the normal hospital bed to the delivery bed with those terrible foot stirrups. And I was trying, by golly. But I apparently wasn't even up an inch off of the bed. Did I mention that getting an epidural was a terrible decision? Somehow, between me, Doug, and the nurse, we lifted me up enough for them to do the bed transformation.

A little after 1 AM, he arrived.

First surprise: it's a HE! We have a son!!! :-) (We had opted not to find out his gender, which made for a fun post-delivery surprise.)

Second surprise: he didn't start crying. They're suctioning and whispering. Something's wrong. He aspirated (breathed in) meconium (the first bowel movement, which was passed while in utero rather than once he was out of the womb). After more than a minute, he started crying-- phew. I got to hold him for something like 15 seconds before they whisked him away, giving me a whole extra dose of the epidural because apparently I'm bleeding and passing too many clots, and suddenly I'm alone, confused, in and out of consciousness, with the doctor stitching me up for what seemed like hours, because I'd had a serious tear.

Hours later, around 4 or 5AM, I finally woke up (they really must've knocked me out) to learn that my son (who weighed a hefty 9 pounds, 2 ounces by the way) is in the NICU (newborn ICU), has all kinds of tubes coming out of his face, and oh yeah, "he could die" from this. Way to break it to me, Nurse Ratched. I know, medical lawsuits and all that, but seriously-- have you ever heard of a bedside manner?!

The emotional fog and pressure in those hours were (still to this day) the worst I've ever experienced.

In an effort to DO something, I start pumping milk, in hopes that I could still go on to breastfeed, but goodness-- it's been HOURS since the delivery-- is it even going to be possible to nurse him?, I wonder. I learn that they will go ahead and feed him whatever I can produce, but that if I can't produce a certain amount, they will begin formula feeding him after x amount of ounces. Have I told you how much I was determined to do everything all-natural?

As the fog lifted, and I began pumping, it seemed that the NICU nurses thought *they* were his mother. It was all I could do to make them allow me to be the one to feed him my breastmilk in a bottle, through the little arm holes in the side of the bassinette he had to stay in (with oxygen-regulated air). It was all I could do to convince the doctors not to supplement with formula in the three days following his birth. It was all I could do to talk them into letting him nurse once he came out from the bassinette and could breathe natural air. I lamented to Doug many times in those early days that I feared he would be more bonded to the "stupid nurses" (sorry if you're a nurse, that's just how I felt in those highly emotional days) than he would be to me.

Now, that seems silly to me, but at that time, it seemed like such a legitimate concern.

Thankfully, the hospital had one room that was available for families to stay in, free of charge, if they had a baby in the NICU, and thankfully, for the seven days he was in the NICU, no one else requested the room, so we were able to stay for the duration of his stay. I lived and slept across the hall from him, nursing him round the clock on their schedule (as a sidenote, I'm generally a routine-feeding mom... but it's funny how anti-scheduling many mommies on the internet tend to be, and yet these NICU nurses were WAY rigid about feedings... more than I ever would have been at home).

Anyway, I had to wake up every 3 hours on the dot and feed him, or else they were going to immediately give him formula. I knew if there was any way my milk supply would ever match his needs, supplementation at this stage in the game was not an option. So though I am an *EXTREMELY* heavy sleeper, I managed to wake up every 3 hours so that they wouldn't give him formula. (And sometimes, I would walk in just in the nick of time to keep the snippety nurse from thrusting a bottle of formula into his mouth... they were serious about the every-3-h0urs thing.)

I should say, however, that I'm so thankful for one amazingly wonderful nurse, Dorothy, who never made me feel threatened. All the rest of them tended to be snide towards me and resented that I had to do things differently (by not just letting them use their formula and get on with feedings), but this one nurse was just so gentle and encouraging. She praised me as a mother, encouraged me in nursing him, and was such a breath of fresh air. I'm still SO grateful for that precious older woman and her gentle ways of dealing with me at the most difficult emotional time of my life.

We suffered through that week with the (mostly) rigid nurses, the harsh doctors, and -far more sadly- not getting to hold our son until the third day, and not getting to nurse him until the fourth day. And we made it. We went home with him, fully released in good health on the seventh day, and I went on to nurse him for over a year. And now, he's in Kindergarten, he's almost 6, and he is such a joy to us!

It all seems like a story from long-ago, but I can still feel every emotion when I stop to put myself back in that place and time. So that, friends, was my first labor & delivery experience, and it definitely affected how my next two would go. I'll share more about those next time.

(Because this is such a long story, I'm separating it from the other two stories, but the other two aren't near as eventful or lengthy as this one... so, if you made it this far, I'm amazed... and I can just promise that the other two stories won't be near as long.)


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