Monday, May 20, 2013

Birth Story

I just read through the post I wrote 6 days ago, on my way into the hospital.  I don't know whether to laugh or cry reviewing the last week, really.  It depends, I suppose, on what time you ask me.  Today is our last day in the NICU (a term I didn't know before I had a baby of my own).  I guess I have a pretty intense birth story now, so before I forget it (the way I forgot my daughter's) I want to write it down.  I wish I'd blogged every day here, but physically I think I just needed the time to try and heal, to get myself back.  I am not yet back, just feeling like I'm ready to write it down.

On the way into the c-section I was so miserable.  I could barely walk, and I know pregnant women say that, but the immense, immense pressure of the front of my body was so different than the first pregnancy.  I had gained something like 60 pounds, I could feel a burning pressure at all times on my bladder, a numbness in my crotch which I can't even explain, pain in my legs, swelling in my hands, a constant feeling like I had to throw up, and even lying there, waiting to be "prepped" I found the pain of lying (in any position) completely unbearable.  It left me unable to breathe.

I had my question for the doctor.  Can we please avoid mag sulfate?  He said he would try, and said it actually looked like there would be no need, he just couldn't guarantee it.  I took it.  If I could avoid the two days of horror I endured on that drug during the last birth, it was worth trying.

I cannot describe how surreal it is to have a c-section.  You get wheeled on a bed down a long hall, and have no sense of where youre going.  Once you get there, it is almost unbearably cold, and you're in a little thin gown, fully exposed, paper hat on, while your husband waits in another room.  The anesthesiologist tries to calm you down and is generally funny, relaxed (must be a prerequisite for that job).  He numbs you, and gives you a shot, and then slowly you feel your body lose feeling. They move you to a super skinny bed, with barely room for your bottom, and places to put your hands.  I couldn't feel my hands either.  But I didn't know if that was from the swelling or the anesthesia.  I felt nervous, and weird, and aware of the number of people in that room.  There's the nurse with the pretty eyes, the joking anesthesiologist, the guy who's going to check the baby and the assisting him.  Nurses who will assist my doctor, and my doctor standing aloofly in the background, waiting for this prepwork.  I am only somewhat aware of my body being pretty fully exposed, waist-down to this room of people.  Mostly I feel so good being numb, having been in so much pain for the end of the pregnancy.

The husband is brought in.  He attempts to be reassuring, and they tell him the camera is ok.  He goes into "photojournalist" mode this time, and I miss a little the way he was my counselor the first time.  He takes my hand, but I barely feel it.  The surgery begins.  I feel nothing, but their goal is to not lose time once I'm open.  I hear the remarks, "wow, this is a lot of fluid, the uterus is very distended" and then something along the lines of "we need to get more of this fluid" and then the voice of the doctor gets more and more tense.  I have a vague feeling that things are not going perfectly, he is barking at the nurse a bit, "no, don't hold it there.  Support the head.  No!  The other side."  and a few seconds later, "this camera is driving me crazy" and my husband has been moved further away from the table.  I can hear the doctor sweating.  There is a clear moment when the baby is out, but unlike my daughter, no "crying goat".  No screaming.  Just waiting.

I hear the baby grunting, groaning, and then finally after about a million minutes, a clear, loud cry.  I look over at him, and he's pink, and he's got oxygen, and he seems ok, and I have no sense of emotions, like the first time.  I just feel relieved.  My doctor says he didn't see hair, and my husband corrects him.  There is laughing, because the baby has a lot of hair.  Then my happy doctor apologizes to my husband.  He feigns a bit of interest in me, he tells me, "i know that was just a minute but it felt like 5 hours" and he starts the stitch-up.  The neo-natologist says "we need to take him to NICU" and I acknowledge sadly there will be no face-to-face, no breastfeeding in the recovery room.  I'm nervous, but also vomiting from the medicine.

Wheeled into the recovery room, I vomit more.  I talk, I can't wiggle my toes, but they say that's ok.  Feeling comes back into me and it means a lot of itching.  My fingers are moving, but not well, and there's that darn IV that I don't want to rip out.  No baby.   Finally, eternally later, I see him, and hold him.  He has tubes in his nose.  The doc says he will be ok, but his lungs don't quite seem ready.  Tubes in his nose, IV in his arm, just like me, but I need to vomit, I need to close my eyes.  I can't really relate to him as these drugs wear off and take their toll.

The next few days were the hardest part.  The wonderful neo-natologist tells me it will be one of two options.  Either 48 hours in NICU, or 7 days.  And then the news that it won't be 48 hours.  He has "watery lung".  It's not very unusual.  It can happen in c-sections.  My OB comes to me and just says "it's the diabetes" but of course after several days in the hospital I learn how stressful the birth was.  The fluid was far more than any mother anyone in the hospital remembered seeing.  Over 4.5 litres of fluid.  If they hand't created a huge plastic bag to catch it all in, it would have flooded the operating room.  The rush of fluid, at the first incision, started pulling him out feet first.  We knew he was breech, but couldn't predict that the head would be stuck, the last to come out of a distended uterus, and honestly, though the fluid could have caused his time in NICU, so could a few big gulps of fluid into his lungs while the doctor attempted to wrestle him out.

Hubby spent every night in the NICU while I was forced to recover down the hall.  As soon as I could get on my feet, I was up, walking down the hall, just wanting to be with him and the baby.  Waking up each morning in that room by myself was excruciating.  The walk down the hall alone made me feel better.  I did the first one too early, and had nurses hold a bucket while I vomited my way down there.   The baby made me feel hopeful by trying to nurse for 5 minutes once, but then days went by without him being able.  I pumped, and pumped and went through the healing of the c-section, the bizarre diabetes management of the labor & delivery unit, and every day he got just a little better.  He seemed fragile, panting, tubes in his nose, IV in his hand, monitors on his chest, and every time his oxygen levels went out of acceptable, an alarm went off and a nurse came in.

On mornings when the baby seemed better my husband would come running down the hall, grabbing me to say, "he might be ready to nurse," and I'd try, and we were quiet partners in that.

Then I was released as a patient, and moved into his room.  My husband went home, looking as worn out as I'd ever seen him.  I would actually miss walking down the hall and finding Dad holding the baby, half asleep in the arm chair.

You cannot anticipate this feeling, of knowing, logically, your child would probably be ok, of dealing with the emotions of just having a baby, of reporting to teh nurses whether you've pooped yet, when all you really want to do is know that nothing was your fault, that nothing could have gone better.

The care of this NICU was so wonderful.  They never tried to keep us from being parents.  They allowed us to hold him when we wanted, they fed us good food and chatted with me to delay the other feelings.  And oddly, I felt amazing.  I am weaker, sure, having just had surgery, but the weight of the world has been lifted from my tummy, from my legs, and my swollen hands.  My blood is moving at its old pace again, no crazy pressure.  My blood sugars don't need as much help.  I am a real person who can walk and bend over, and THANK YOU LORD--SLEEP.  I can sleep on my belly and my side and my back! 

In one split moment, he got better, just as the NICU doc (did I say how amazing he was?) said.  Looking at him now, he is "wireless" as my husband says.  No IVs, no monitors, no tubes, just hungry, sleeping baby.  Last night he nursed for 50 minutes and passed out, milk drunk.  I adore him, I find, and 5 days with him here has helped me feel it.  I actually feel grateful for this time.  Nothing else pulls me from studying my baby here. 

We are about to be discharged.  Tonight is tying up loose ends, packing, heading home.  He is sweetly sleeping, though I'm about to wake him up to eat.  I feel insanely emotional, like I can't possibly face a change so big as walking out of the hospital, and how will I not panic as I listen to him breathe each night? I feel more overwhelmed than I thought, but I am one of the lucky ones, and I know it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Today will be my son's birthday.

32 years ago I watched my mom give birth to my youngest sister in my bed.  It is an experience I am grateful for.  It wasn't traumatic, it wasn't really "magical", I was 7.  It was normal.  I walked with my mom down the hall as she used the toilet 20 minutes later.  She winced from pain, but it didn't devastate her.  And I think that memory shaped my whole view of birth.  Women have babies, easily, with a little assistance.  It's not a secret, or a medical mystery.  Doctors are kind of...on the side.

Today I have my second "high risk" birth.  The term still leaves a taste in my mouth I don't like.  I want to write a great big story about how I sweat and screamed, and the baby popped out (as my daughter says) and I grasped him to my chest and every moment is as memorable as the first time I stepped on stage.  That won't exactly happen.

If I've learned anything in life it's that my expectations are more likely to ruin things than make them better.  Every year millions of people create an expectation of Valentine's day that it's going to male them feel whole, which ruins the day.  I mean seriously we all hate that day now, drowned in Expectations.

I read a few blogs this morning about peace in caesareans..

I prayed, and I reviewed how I can take this day back.  Sure my body has its problems, but ny daughter was easily conceived, perfect at birth and wonderful now.  God brought me to a park yesterday, where I met a woman whose 4 year old has had 2 open heart surgeries and a kidney removed.  She smiled and hugged him.  She was grateful and funny, and not caught up in comparing herself to all the moms with healthy kids.

Poor me.  She. Never said it once

This day is my 2nd miracle.  It doesn't have to be perfect, or lib  up to some lifelong homebirth expectation.  Thank God that although I have a disease that is the number  one cause of maternal death in undeveloped countries, there is a surgical option that will put a healthy baby in my arms.

And then I can get back to worrying about how to sing more often.

Sorry, Lord.  We both knew I had to say it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Hippy Allure

I have had such a rough morning that I am choosing to shove it aside and deal with it later.  A large part of this involved once again having a huge corporation tell me I owe them a tiny amount of money (to them), which amounts to more than I earn in two months, and that there's nothing I can do about it.  That I couldn't have prevented it (though I tried) that I had no option (though doctors scared me into it) and that now I would either have to face the great CREDIT killer fears that everyone who is halfway down the income line lives under.  I am more than responsible....I'm like the crazy responsible kid who gives themselves hernias trying to do the right thing, sometimes.  But I am not immune to the dark and evil hand of greed that we are part of.

Anyways, that's the ranting section of this.  I called a few people.  My mom, who panicked about my blood pressure and offered me money, which I don't want to take.  I talked to my sister, whose perspective earning twice what I earn is that it's awful, unfair, but just not enough to get worried over (her lawyer bills alone from dealing with a crazy ex have given her some major perspective here), and my lifelong friend, who repeatedly called them f*ckers and shared my incredibly harsh view of the "man" for a few minutes.  It all amounted to some good crying time, and a chance to try to imagine how much worse it could be.

My lifelong friend has always had some different perspetives from me.  We have so many views that over time have caused almost a polar opposition to some thoughts.  But deep inside, we are both children of hippies.  And I have to be honest, everything good comes from hippies.

I mean--all that wonderful garden food, clothes made out of breathable fibers, diseases cured by eating healthy, not wearing bras, not spanking your kids, hating to hear them cry....not wanting to go to war, hoping to find some common ground with everyone you meet (which unfortunately often seems to require letting go of what you actually believe), that's the stuff of our hippy parents.  Vegetarian Mondays, people who talk slower, sandals, not bathing as much, accepting yourself for who you are?  Hippies.

Nowadays I find people who think of themselves as hippies unbearable.  I mean, you want to eat from the garden, but if you shop at Whole Foods and spend like $5 a pound on a vegetable, what the hell is that?  If you can't shut up about the legalization of pot and can't see that all politicians (even the democrats, man) are pretty yucky, I am already bored.  I want that utopia, I really do, where we're just good to each other, and where we can imagine a world in which a rich person sees a poor person and feels a RESPONSIBILITY to save that one person, well, that's where I want to live, but the middle road, eegads. 

I don't like the smell of new car.  I don't like 50 inch screens on my TVs.  I don't like knowing all my food is from a factory farm or made with  high fructose corn syrup, or that you're in denial about what's happening to the polar bear.  I hate credit scores.  But somehow I find those shared feelings unbearable in quite a few people.  I wish I could put my finger on it, the unbearableness.  I don't know if it's because they often seem to hate Jesus, or that they think they know who I should be?  Or their watchful eye makes me feel terrible about feeding my child chicken nuggets?  I don't know.  I just wish I could invent a new hippy.  That's the allure :)

I just noticed my sister sent me 100 bucks, by the way.  I got good people.