Please excuse the lack of a Question of the Week this week. This is a very special week for Londo and me, so I'm doing some special things. One year ago today, I went into labor. One year ago tomorrow, our little girl was born. In the past year, our lives changed in ways we never would have predicted. I am feeling incredibly happy, without the words to express it. I'm feeling nostalgic about what happened a year ago (and everything since). I'm also completely amazed that we survived to tell the tale! ;-)
So tell the tale I will. It's long and I'm wordy, so bare with me only if you are up for it. The tale of the Pumpkin's birth is like something out of a sitcom. There is humor, frustration, drama, an EKG machine, a big needle and a knife. And it all started in an unexpected way.
My due date was March 1, 2007. I was prepared for the baby to come late, as I'd heard most first babies do and my mom's kids and my sister's daughter were all late (apparently your labor is often like the women in your family). I just knew she'd be late. Sure enough, my due date came and went with no real sign of labor. I'd had Braxton-Hicks on and off for a while, but nothing to indicate a real labor. As the days passed, I had non-stress tests, another ultrasound, and too many cervix checks.
I was very large, wobbly, tired and a bit cranky (this might be an understatement). But I was willing to wait for as long as I could until the baby was ready to come out. Our doctor would let me go up to two weeks after the due date, but not later. So I agreed to schedule an induction for March 15th. The end was in sight. If the baby didn't come on her own prior to then, she'd be coming out then.
The days wore on. I had been working from home for weeks, uncomfortable at the desk in our office, but at least I was in comfy clothes and not stuck in traffic anywhere. On Saturday, March 10th, Londo and I decided we needed to get out of the house and enjoy our extra days of freedom, and I was going completely stir crazy sitting around waiting for this baby to decide to come. Besides, we joked, one sure fire way to get the baby to come was go out and do ordinary things with friends like have lunch and see a movie.
So we met up with two of our close couple friends for lunch at the nearby diner, dessert at the bakery and then a movie. Walking around, I kept getting abdominal cramps. Braxton-Hicks, I figured. They weren't regular or consistent in any way. Just came upon me when I was walking a lot, so I'd stop and breathe a bit, and then continue on.
The guys really wanted to see 300, but the ladies were not in the mood for such testosterone. So we ladies went to Music and Lyrics. It was very cute, and I was enjoying it. But right at the climax of the movie, just when you know something big is going to happen so that the romantic comedy can end happily, I felt an odd sensation in my pants.
Huh, I thought, I better go to the bathroom and check out what's going on. So I got up quickly, grabbing my purse but not saying anything to my friends. I hurried as fast as my waddling legs could take me down the stairs of the theater. Over halfway down, I felt a gush. That's right, a GUSH! I immediately figured that it must be my water breaking. What the heck else could it be? And all I could think was I better get myself to the bathroom and over a toilet.
Once I was safely on the toilet, completely stunned at what just happened, I laughed nervously and realized the predicament I was in. I hadn't told my friends what was going on, and they wouldn't realize that it was anything more than pregnant woman needing the bathroom. The water kept coming in gushes, especially when I moved, so I couldn't simply clean up and go back out. Even though Londo and I had joked that I should wear a pad in case my water broke, we didn't really believe it would happen, and I had nothing more than a pantiliner on! Stuffing toilet paper down my pants wouldn't last me the time it would take to waddle back into the theaters and find Londo or my friends.
I had my cell phone! Aha! So I text messaged Londo "My w ater broke [sic]" and hit send. Only after I hit send did I realize that I had no reception in the bathroom. Urg! What was I going to do? What could I do. I stuffed as much toilet paper as I could down my pants, and waddled out of the stall carefully. I washed my hands, and the woman next to me noticed my face was all red and asked if I was okay. And of course I told her, "My water just broke. I'm not sure what to do."
She looked stunned but was trying to be helpful. Luckily, my friends entered the bathroom right then. "Are you okay???" They asked. "Yes, but my water just broke!" I answered. They expressed the incredulous disbelief/belief that you'd expect, and they ushered me out of the bathroom, making sure I could walk okay.
I was about to tell them that someone had to get Londo, and there he was standing right outside the bathroom door, anxious and excited. I told him, "My water broke." He smiled, "I know. I got your text message." (Apparently, our phones don't need cell reception to send text messages. Now I know this.) He got it at the climax of his movie, and he and his friends hurried out of the theater. He sent one of his friends to get our car, and the other got the ladies out of our movie (that's why they showed up in the bathroom!). He wrapped someone's jacket around my waist and helped me out to our car. Our friends all laughed at us, and we smiled and waved as we drove off.
We got home, called the paging service for the doctor, called our duola, took a picture of me and my big belly (I insisted on one last picture), called our parents and got our bags ready. The doctor told me to head to the hospital. It was about 4:30 when we got to the hospital. They hooked me up to machines and checked my dilation. Yep, I was definitely in labor and should stay at the hospital. Out of the triage room and into a labor and delivery room. The duola got there soon after we got into the room.
Now, I was not planning on an unmedicated labor and delivery, but because of my Seasonal Affective Disorder and because the due date was early March, I was worried about my energy levels. My biggest symptom from the Seasonal Affective Disorder is overwhelming tiredness, and I did not want to worry about my energy during this very important time. So we got a duola, and it was a fantastic decision. She had been great meeting with us 3 times prior to the birth, and all during the labor and delivery she was such a great support for both me and Londo. I highly recommend getting a duola to everyone!
So let's see. I was doing alright with the early labor in general, I think. We dimmed the lights and put on my favorite playlist on my iPod, which we hooked up to our portable speakers. I had planned to walk around a lot and I definitely wanted to labor in the big tub, since water is such a comfort to me. But every time I got up and tried to walk, the contractions would come more quickly and stronger (very similar to walking around earlier in the day). Just a simple trip to the bathroom for a pee took about a half hour. After using the bathroom and standing back up, I had one contraction on top of another. The duola asked me about the tub, and even though I looked at it with longing, I replied, "All I want to do is go lie down." This was not at all what I thought my laboring would be like, but when you are in the moment, you just have to go with what feels right.
After a while (time lost all meaning), I needed something for the pain, but I wasn't ready for an epidural. As we had talked over with the duola at a planning meeting, I asked for a narcotic. Nothing too strong, but something to take the edge off. Wouldn't you know that this didn't go according to plan either. Later my duola said that she'd never seen anyone have the reaction I did to that narcotic. At first, it did dull the pain enough for me to doze off and get some sleep. But after a while, it just made me feel out of it and unable to deal with the pain I did feel, which was plenty. Oh, and it made my heart rate and the baby's heart rate drop pretty low.
I was constantly monitored now. They said they weren't worried because we both had very regular beats, it was just on the low side, but they wanted to be safe. So they sent for an EKG machine. The guy who ran the machine hooked me up and did whatever it is they do. He deemed me fine, but they kept monitoring me. When a new nurse came on, she said checked the monitor and looked anxious for a minute. Then she said something like, "Oh, right. If the other nurses hadn't warned me that you have a really low heart rate, I would have been worried." At the time, the words meant nothing to me and just rolled over me. Days later, I remembered it and thought that she shouldn't have said something like that to a woman in labor. If the heart rate is so low that it would worry you, why is no one worried? If you aren't worried, don't say anything. But everyone was monitoring me, so I figured as long as it didn't drop much lower or do anything drastic, it was okay. For the record, my heartrate and blood pressure have always been on the low side.
I just was so out of it because of laboring in general, the fact it must have been the middle of the night, and the narcotic's woozy effect on me. My contractions were never regular and consistent the entire time, and I would often have two right on top of each other. They were getting closer together in general. And finally at one point, I had three back to back to back. Londo said he saw it on that monitor thing, that just as one was tappering off, another would hit. Three extremely painful ones in a row, and that was it. I said it is now time for the epidural. Londo nodded. The duola smiled and said it was great that I went as long as I did. The nurse was informed. The anaesthesiologist was sent for.
Londo had to leave the room, which was fine with us both because he hates needles, and I understand that this particular needle is very long. I wouldn't know, because I didn't look. Just numb me, stick me, and make it all better, k? Thanks! And it did get a lot better. You know, everyone said that the bad thing about epidurals is that you can't move around much for your laboring. But I already didn't want to move much for my labor. I was miserable everytime I shifted positions, and forget about walking! That one bathroom trip was way more than enough for me. Another thing people said is awful about hospital births is that you can't eat or drink anything but popsicles and ice chips. You know what? All I wanted in the world was popsicles and ice chips. It was heaven to me, especially because the popsicle sticks had really lame jokes for 5 year olds, which are my favorite kind! Londo and the duola read those to me and cracked jokes for me throughout the entire labor, which is how Londo and I deal with things and it helped a lot.
It was daytime again, and I was struggling along. The doctor checked my cervix and said I was still at 8 centimeters. Still? I had been there for 5 hours! I knew that wasn't a good sign. I looked him in the eye and said, "Are we looking at a C-section?" He said, "I'll give you one more hour to see if there is any progress, otherwise we are looking at a C-section." I asked if I could try laboring in another position, he said he didn't see why not. The position I was in wasn't doing anything. So the duola helped shift me into a squat. My discomfort at moving be damned, I wanted to try everything I could! I knew there were a lot of doctors who wouldn't have let me stall out for this long without already pushing a C-section on me. My doctor was patient and great about it.
But alas, there was no progress after another hour. And at that point, I was done. It had been 15 or 16 hours, and I was exhausted. The baby didn't want to come out, but I told her that we were more stubborn that she was, and if she wasn't going to come out, we were going to go in and get her. Because I was done, and it was time.
The prep was a blur. I remember being in the surgery room, but not getting there. I remember Londo coming in, looking extremely good in dark blue scrubs, and sitting down next to my head. I remember them strapping my arms down (which unfortunately vividly reminded me of the D&C I had for my miscarriage). And I really remember the nausea and the dry heaving and praying that I didn't really throw anything up, because I couldn't move anything but my neck and any vomit would not make it into the small receptical Londo had aimed near me. (I simply can't throw up unless I'm facing down into something.)
Mostly, I remember being scared and knowing that to deal with the situation, I need to go to my happy place. I looked at Londo as they were preparing the area, and I said, "I'm going to the beach, okay?" The beach is my happy place where I go in my head for relaxation and meditation techniques. Londo knows this and knew what I meant. He told me that I should and he'd be right there paying attention to everything. So I went to the beach in my head as much as I could. I tried not to pay much attention to the tugging and the sounds below the sheet which blocked my view. I heard the doctor say, "No wonder you were stalled. I can barely get the baby out through the incision!"
And then, I remember hearing this squeaky little bit of a cry. I turned to Londo, "Is that my baby?" His eyes glimmered, "Yes. It is." I started crying, and I started shaking. My body trembled uncontrollably, and not racked with sobs. It was apparently an effect of the anaesthesia or hormones or a combination. I spent the next however long trying everything in my power to get the shuddering under control. I'm not sure if I succeeded or not. But they did subside mostly. And I did overhear her height (21.25 inches) and weight (9 lbs. 5 ounces). She was a big girl--no wonder she wasn't coming out the natural way!
Then the doctor brought the baby over to see me. Oh my, the most beautiful little thing. All I remember is a red, squishy face, with the rest of her all bundled up. And Londo held her to me. I couldn't move, and there was no nursing her right away. I was still trying to control the trembles and keep from throwing up. Not the most idyllic moment, but such a relief that she was out of me and healthy.
I was taken into recovery, and spent a miserable hour or two trying to feel better. I begged the nurse to sit up a little and for an ice chip because my mouth was drier than I knew it was possible to be! She finally relented and gave me an ice chip. When it didn't make me nauseous, she gave me another maybe 5 or 10 minutes later--time still had no meaning. When that didn't make me throw up and I was feeling a lot better, she let me sit up a bit. I think this was the worst part of it all. I was alone behind a thin sheet partition, a desert in my mouth, a desparate need to sit up, and no knowledge of what was going on with my baby--I hadn't even gotten to hold her yet! I understood why, and I even realized I couldn't hold her or be any use to anyone until I recovered. I knew that my body was in a bad way during and after that procedure. I respect that. And I really wanted Londo to be with the baby, not me. But I was miserable and alone. I drifted in and out of sleep, figuring that was the best way to recover.
Finally, I was good enough. They wheeled me out of recover and down the hall. And who did I see in the hall? My dad!!! They stopped me, and he and my mom hurried over. How was I and how did it go and look through the window, there's my baby and Londo!! They wheeled me to the window, and Londo held up the newly bathed baby. My heart swelled. Okay, I was ready to go in my room so they could bring the baby to me, and they wheeled me in the post-partum room.
Soon after, Londo came in with the baby. Knowing my need was so great, he immediately put her in my arms. Overwhelmed with the urge, without even thinking, I quickly put her to my breast. She latched on like she was born for it (pun intended). Tears streamed down my face. My baby. I looked up at Londo and my heart swelled. I had prepared myself in case I wouldn't bond right away, especially after a C-section. I was fortunate in this regard. I felt the bond with the Pumpkin immediately. It was unlike anything I'd ever felt. She is my little miracle, and that whole labor/deliver/C-section/recovery was nothing, not even a blip, except as a way to bring this miracle into my life.
Worth. Every. Second.