|October 18, 2016
|Posted by Melinda under Being Mom
Blogging has taught me that when telling my personal stories there are two perspectives.
The first is the story as it happens. It’s more about capturing the moment as it is lived with all the contradictions and convoluted truths as it is FELT at that very moment, rather than getting every fact straight. I find it very difficult to go back and truly be able to re-capture who I *was* at those important moments without putting myself down on paper as soon as possible. It’s telling and interpreting the story without knowing what the next chapter holds.
The second perspective is being able to reflect on past events, fit them into a larger picture and sort out biases to try to make sense of it all.
This is a story that is a little bit of both.
Today we are going to celebrate Fig’s first birthday with the story of her birth. My words in the moment, fleshed out a week later, and the story edited and published here one year after it happened.
There’s no endurance content here today, just another birth story, so if that’s not your thing, enjoy a couple of pics of Fig’s birthday party, and perhaps come back on Thursday and check out what I post next.
Ready? Warning, I do talk about blood and use profanity. Again, if this isn’t your thing, you have been warned.
The most amazing thing about giving birth is how little of it I remembered a week later, or even 24 hours later. Not because it was especially painful or awful (it wasn’t) but curiously other than a few of the “big moments” the whole experience begin to fade immediately, even while I tried to hold on to it, knowing that like any other event in my life I would want to write a story about the experience. I find myself asking my husband questions about my own labor, which is a strange feeling. I was THERE but some how I’m left with only vague memories, which is both frustrating and intriguing.
Hours after giving birth I texted the bare facts to a group of friends:
“I was 3cm and 90 percent effaced when I got to the birth center at 5pm after four hours of labor (which I’m counting from that first crampy non Braxton Hicks contraction during lunch at 12:30p)
An hour later I was 5 cm.
So they admitted me at 6p.
An hour and a half later (and after a dose of fentnyl around 7p) I was 8 cm.
They threw me in the tub and didn’t bother checking again when I said I had to push.
13 1/2 head. 7 pounds 14 oz. Born at 10p.
Well. That is less of a birth story…and more of a bullet list of facts.
Fortunately when I *couldn’t sleep in the hospital that night I wrote down a bunch of other thoughts and so that my friends and Dear Reader, comes as close as I can get to sharing the real unadulterated story.
*Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sleep during the night afterwards….or the day afterwards…and arrived at my first night home after being up for a straight 40 hours, including being in labor, which was AWFUL. In retrospect I guess I could have asked for something to help me sleep in the hospital but that didn’t even occur to me until I actually got home.
(Following written in the wee hours of the morning, hours after giving birth to my daughter)
I’m doing great, already hips hurt way less than they have at any point in the last three weeks, and I’m up and moving great. Peeing doesn’t hurt and my biggest concern is not bleeding over the freakin’ bathroom so that my husband doesn’t faint (literally, blood is not his strong point) when he goes in to use it after me.
Nurse said it was one of the most beautiful births she had seen (I accused her of saying that to everyone, which I was assured she doesn’t, but maybe she tells everyone *that* too…). My body did absolutely everything it was supposed to except maybe a little too fast.
I’m still in shock that I managed to go from eating a nice lunch at a brewery at noon to standing up and walking out of the tub at 10pm all done.
It was intense and painful but honestly not the most painful thing I’ve ever done. Every 100 miler (on horseback) I’ve done has been worse. Some 50s have been worse. That 50 ultra (running) I finished last August was worse. However I wonder how much of this perception is because labor was only six hours of intense pain? I know that my limit for pain tolerance is about 18-22 hours depending on what I’m doing and if labor had continued to be as intense as it was and hadn’t progressed quickly, I would have probably had an epidural eventually. No shit, I had contractions like they describe on fucking pitocin. At least 90 seconds and right on top of each other, only getting a break every 4-5 contractions. I would then use that precious break to complain that I wasn’t getting the break between contractions that I had been *promised* as I shook uncontrollably from the hormone dump.
When it all started it was hard to decide when to go into the birth center. The center was about 45 min away and while it was obvious I was in labor, it is the birth centers philosophy to let mom’s labor at home for as long as possible. The problem was deciding what was “really painful”. I could still with effort talk through contractions which didn’t meet my criteria of really painful, even though by timing them it was time.
When I finally did call, my husband was already throwing the dogs outside and the bags in the car. Me and the midwife kept going back and forth. I kept telling the midwife that because it was my first delivery I really was unsure (and in the back of my mind I kept reminding myself I have a history of pain tolerance and whether I could talk probably wasn’t the best criteria) and since I hadn’t had a pelvic exam since first trimester I finally told her I was coming in to be checked and I could always get a hotel room if I needed to wait around.
When I got checked on arrival to the birth center at 5pm I was barely 3 cm but 90% effaced, so they were going to send me into the garden to walk for two hours and then come back for a recheck. I was pretty sure I was wasting everyone’s time but they reassured me that if I was that dilated and effaced after only a couple of hours of labor, “this was a cervix that was having a baby tonight”. That made me feel immensely better that I hadn’t misjudged coming in.
Before sending me out the walk they decided to do some fetal monitoring. Then because I had to lay on my side to get the baby to move some more I started I vomited because the only position I could handle labor in were positions she was NOT moving in. Of course.
Well. That was unpleasant. Right now, looking back at the whole thing, the copious amounts of vomiting that I did at this point remains THE low point of the whole *ordeal. I HATE vomiting. HATE HATE HATE. So then the nurse says they are going to put an IV in and give me a 500 Ml bolus of fluids because of the vomiting. I begged them not to bolus the fluids (I was keeping fluids down and I could tell that was the only vomiting I would probably do) until after my garden walk. I was really attached to the idea of that walk and they assured me that I could still walk the garden with the IV in place (seriously this birth center is the best), but in the 15 min it took them to prep and place my catheter (and finish the fetal monitoring) there was no more talk of garden walks. The comment was made by the midwife that I was progressing “much faster then anticipated” and less than an hour later I was admittable to the birth center at 5cm, proving her right.
*Today’s Mel interrupting. This isn’t a year-later-rose-colored-glasses. I kept these words as written a couple of hours post birth.
At that point people started MOVING. Everything was normal but while they were all saying to my face how good a job I was doing, what they were whispering was that I wasn’t getting any breaks (which I knew – see earlier paragraph) and what they weren’t saying (and I didn’t know) was that everyone knew it was probably going to be over in a couple of hours.
I was in the middle of asking (begging) for an opioid when the midwife (male) who had just come onto his shift asked me what I did for a living. I said “Vet why. What did I say?” Because truly when your contraction are one on top of each other and it’s bad, it’s not like I was making small talk about my career out or was deliberately using terms that would have hinted at it. He just laughed and said it was the language I used. I was either medical or I was very well researched. Still not entirely sure what tipped him off. At the time all I could think was “Is there another word for ‘give me opioids?!!!!'” (I’ve been since told that most people just want “painkillers”. LOL).
After getting the
opioids painkillers (I think I got Fentanyl. Ironically about the same time my volunteer doula got there) things were lovely for less than 30 min. I was able to lay semi-reclined in bed instead of on my knees with my elbows on back of bed, stopped shaking between contractions, and the contractions slowed so that I had a minute between them and only 1 out of every 4 contractions was a back to back instead of the other way around. It was during this period of time I was actually able to talk to the team and get reassurance of how it was going and we chatted about what sort of things I wanted and didn’t want.
Thirty min later heaven on earth ended and I couldn’t be re-dosed for another hour or more. Back to being on my knees with my elbows on the back of the bed.
Because of contractions being continuous and only getting a break every 3-4 contractions, and between contractions shaking so badly from the hormones and I can tell you that from my perspective, as weird as it sounds, time passed very quickly.
I do remember thinking very logically that there was going to come a point that my capacity to deal with the pain would end and I would need an epidural. But I also knew there were things I could try that would delay that. So, when things were unhappy again after the opioid wore off I went to the next strategy on my coping list – the tub. It took a while to get it filled and prepped, which was a good thing because they had a no mixing-opioids-with-tub rule, and that allowed what ever required time to pass.
I got lucky with the timing because I barely got into the tub before I really felt the need to push. My membranes had ruptured when I stood up to walk from the bed to the tub and while I knew I was 8 cm before getting into the tub, no one had confirmed I was actually at 10 cm – the magic pushing number. At one of my failed attempts at not pushing they had me reach down and I could feel the head and that’s when they said go for it. It was during the last stages of labor and the pushing that I FINALLY got breaks between contractions – a whole 60-120 seconds!!!! – to rest and catch my breath. I was so grateful.
I pushed for about 30 min and then voila! Baby girl *born into my arms and we got to hang out in the tub until the cord was cut. She didn’t make a peep but was breathing fine. I remember being disappointed that she wasn’t screaming like *all* babies do, but the midwife said that he noticed that babies born in the water are pretty mellow. We finally remembered to verify the gender after verifying the most important thing – red hair.
*today’s Mel interrupting again. I was used to cow/goat births where once you pull the head and shoulders out the rest of the calf sorta slithers out. I remember being pissed that once her head was out, she didn’t slither. I had to continue to push things like her shoulders and hips out.
I didn’t set out to have a natural birth, or a water birth, or to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I was open to whatever I needed to do. Bottom line is I got REALLY lucky. And don’t think I don’t appreciate it. There wouldn’t have been time for an epidural if I had decided to get one. There was only time for one opioid dose and when it only lasted for less than 30 min the obvious decision was to try something else (the tub). After the tub? I’m not sure. Maybe would have tried sterile water papules. And then an epidural. I think what kept it bearable was options and being able to move to the next thing when the last thing stopped working. I did get kudos from the nurses that even though that was amazingly fast for a first time mom, it was WAY intense and they were extremely impressed how I handled and compartmentalized the pain. So I guess I don’t feel like I got off too easy? I definitely still had to work hard and scream for it.
Labor was WAY faster than I had anticipated. I was worried about tearing at the end because I knew it had been so quick, but apparently having some time between contractions at the end really helped me both get my breath and help stretch everything because I had NO tearing. I felt great after labor, had minimal bleeding and was up and about without any problems.
So who knows. I might feel like a shit ton of bricks fell on me tomorrow. I might continue to get lucky and feel great. I do know I’m looking forward to proper food tomorrow. Hospital chicken salad sandwich didn’t sound good and the rest of the 11pm offerings was just fruit and stuff. And of course Matt and I bought groceries for three weeks….three weeks ago and so the plan was to go grocery shopping…..today. Oops. So the snacks on hand are minimal and I’m not overjoyed by my selection. Sigh. Thank God my Aunt got me hospital snacks for my baby shower gift. The same thing happened to her. I had put her snacks in the diaper bag where I wouldn’t be tempted to eat them early and they are the highlight of my existence right now.
*this is today’s Mel interrupting again. I continued to feel absolutely fine in the days and weeks afterwards. No weird hormone swings, no physical pain. Biggest thing was trying to catch up on sleep debt from not sleeping that first night. Sleep debt is TORTURE.
Today’s Mel popping in again to finish up :).
So there you have it. My birth story. Added to the endless ones on the internet.
A year later what surprises me the most is how empowering thinking back on labor and birth is for me and what an overall positive experience it was. I did not set out to have one of *those* births. You will have to excuse me if parts of my story sound a bit smug and if I’m being honest, part of me is cringing thinking about people for whom it DIDN’T go right and how maybe this story offends in some way. But, I *am* proud of myself. I *am* proud of my body for doing exactly what it was suppose to do. I’m under no illusions that it was anything but luck of biology that I got exactly the birth I secretly wanted and the one that I heard a lot of other people say they envisioned and wanted.
And yes, I know I could do it again and have it turn out completely differently.
From talking to the nurses and others I had some things in my favor. I was in really good shape going into labor, I had experience dealing with pain over time (endurance sports), I was very familiar with the labor and birth process (large animal vet), and I didn’t go in with any fear.
It was the latter that I was trying to cultivate when I consciously chose not to do any child-birth prep classes. I also didn’t read any child-birth books. I felt like the process was biological and mostly out of my control, and too much knowledge in the “what-ifs” would not be helpful for me (know thyself), and neither would the illusion that I could significantly control the process. I chose a facility that I had lots of trust in, talked to some close friends who were honest with their experiences, and made sure that if needed, modern medical assistance would be available.
But even with all this, I KNOW I got lucky. And I figure that if you are reading this and wondering what your own labor will be like, it’s worth knowing that sometimes everything does go right :).