The baby is 11 days old today. I can't quite figure out how he got to be eleven days old, and then when I went over it I realized that it's because he spent 8 of those days in the hospital that it's been hard to keep track.
I think he's doing better, B"H--he is still not waking up on his own when it's time to eat, but it's much easier to wake him than it has been and over the course of the day it's become progressively easier to get him to nurse. Last night he woke once on his own and I thought he would do it again at night--wrongly, as it turned out. I nursed him at 11, went to sleep myself at 12, and woke up at 6 with a horrified start as I realized that my ten-day-old baby had gone 7 hours without eating. Not good. So today I've been keeping a closer eye on the clock and waking him regularly; I plan to set an alarm tonight. In the meantime, he's had longer periods of alertness, and if the baby scale I borrowed can be trusted has even gained a bit since yesterday.
I said I'd write up a birth story, and if I'm going to do it I'd better do it, because the details are already getting sort of blurry. But I should warn you that it wasn't one of your easier deliveries and I'm still kind of traumatized by the whole thing, and if you, um, haven't had a baby yet and think you might want to do it someday, you might want to stop reading here. Unless, you know, you want a convincing treatise on why you should ALWAYS get the epidural. Because otherwise, you might find yourself writing up a birth story blog post like this one.
Let's see. On Wednesday night I started feeling like things were really moving along and mentioned to MHH that I wouldn't be surprised if the baby came that night or the next day. He just about jumped out of his seat. "Tonight?!" "Well, the baby's got to come eventually..." I went to bed, and woke up in the morning--no baby.
Thursday, same thing, with the contractions coming and going, but nothing I could really time. At around 11, though, things changed, and I called my midwife. She told me the usual--rest, drink some water, call back when they're closer together. Instead of resting, of course, I tidied the house and put away the groceries that I'd had delivered that afternoon, and MHH frantically tried to finish his grading. I called the friends who were on call for middle-of-the-night babysitting, and arranged for Ada to come at 4 am when she got off work (night shift at the local children's hospital) and another friend to come if things got moving earlier. Which, as it happened, they did; at around 2 am, after I'd spent an hour or so lying down, I started feeling that I'd really be much happier if I were already at the hospital. Not that I thought I was going to have the baby any second--it was more that, with Iyyar, I had gone from "well, these contractions aren't so bad" when I called the cab to "oh please please I don't want to have this baby in the back of a taxi" twenty minutes later. So, I wanted to be, you know, prudent about it.
I called the midwife back, and we talked a little bit about when I should leave. I told her why I was worried--because things had gone from 0 to 60 so, so quickly last time--and she paused for a minute and then said, "Well, how about leaving now. I'll meet you at the hospital."
I called the friend who had agreed to come, and put labor bag by the front door, and when she drove up it was -5 outside and I couldn't find my gloves, so I hunted down my fingerless ones and the big triangular lace shawl Cecilia gave me a few years ago. The cab pulled up, and I remember thinking, hmm, climbing up there is not going to be so easy. Somehow or other I got in, and climbed over my labor bag on the floor, and sat in the back with my husband, having a nice calm chat that probably made the cab driver relax a bit about whether the pregnant lady in back was going to mess up his nice clean cab.
This is why I should have written this up earlier--it's all already a blur. I remember walking in the hospital, and the sliding glass doors that don't give any visible indication of which piece of glass is wall and which piece is door--if you don't walk in the right way, you have to stand there waving your hand until something moves. I remember telling MHH that when I'd come in to have Iyyar, that had totally thrown me and I'd stood there thinking, "I'm going to have my baby right here because I won't be able to get in these doors." We went into L & D, and there was Fran, my midwife, and she showed us our room--room 38, the same room I had Iyyar in.
Fran was wearing the socks I'd made her after I had Iyyar--not on purpose, she'd just happened to put them on that morning. I took out the gloves I'd started knitting that morning and sat on the bed for a while working on the cuff; Fran checked me and I was at about 5 cm. MHH took out some finals to grade, and Fran and I walked around the floor to try to get things moving a little more. There were some workers there--at 4 am--doing whatever they were doing, hanging plastic over some doors and moving ladders around. Fran gave me a big cup of water and at one point I had to give it to her to hold, as the contractions got stronger and stronger and I was afraid I would drop it. A nurse came into our room at one point, saying she had a 25-weeker in active labor. That baby has been on my mind since--I wonder how he or she is doing. Fran told me that the hospital, which has a Level III NICU, is full of babies that tiny, because they come from all over the state.
I walked, and knitted a little, and talked to Fran and the nurse, and I don't remember now what else. At some point I stopped knitting the glove I was doing, because the fingers were too much to keep track of, and I started the cuff of the second glove, so I could knit some mindless ribbing. Somehow or other it got to be around 7. I remember looking at the clock and wondering where those hours had gone--I know MHH took a nap, and that he filled out the cord blood donation form while I was knitting, and one nurse left and another came. I knitted a little more and walked a little more, and the contractions got stronger, but I could handle them. I stopped knitting. Fran put a pillow on one of the tray tables for me to lean on, and that was nice, and she rubbed my back a little, which also helped. The first nurse told me that she'd had two Diet Cokes a day when she was pregnant--this made me feel better about having had one a day. Fran checked me again and I was up to 7 centimeters. The contractions had gotten strong, but in between the contractions I felt fine. The new nurse mentioned how comfortable I looked, and I said a little grimly that I'd gotten into trouble in the past with my lack of propensity to scream when in pain. Don't worry, I assured her, it hurts plenty--I'm just not a screamer.
Probably the main reason I haven't written up this birth story yet is that I didn't really want to get to the screaming part. Because I really am not a screamer. But, well, I guess everybody has their limit. I hit mine at around 7:30, when I started to feel like I really, really had to push. Fran checked me again and I was only at around 9 cm. "Try pushing," she said, and I did, and she said I was almost there "but there's still this piece of cervix here that won't budge." With Iyyar, the contractions were by far the worst part, and once I could push I felt better about the whole thing--it's not that I didn't scream, but it was more with the effort of the whole thing. This time, I got to nine centimeters and a bit but my water hadn't broken, and then it did and the baby moved down a little bit and then his head turned and he got stuck. That was when I started screaming this time. This screaming wasn't because of the effort--it was me completely losing control.
I remember Fran telling me to push, not with my face, but to push the baby, and I remember crying back that I couldn't, I was trying but I couldn't do it. It wasn't an issue of it hurt too much or I was too tired--I was trying with every contraction, but nothing was happening. I had Iyyar without any drugs and I had Barak with what one might fairly term completely inadequate pain control, and it was still nothing like this--not with the exhaustion I had with Barak, but with a whole new level of fear that somehow or other I couldn't do this, that I was trying to push but it wasn't happening, and I didn't know why, and it hurt so much all I could do was scream and scream. I remember everyone else in the room--the nurse, the midwife, my husband--telling me things. The midwife told me what she was doing to move the baby, and made me move into a position I don't even want to think about now, and at the same time I thought that the world was imploding and there was no way, no way at all, I could survive this, they were all having normal calm conversations with each other, and it was like being on another planet or in a different world or one of those nightmares you wake up from unable to breathe.
Yeah, see, this is the part I didn't really want to write about.
Somehow Fran moved the baby, and at that point I just refused to push because I couldn't handle it. The one thing about this labor that had made it so different, and easier, than the other two up until this point was that the contractions started and then they stopped and I had a rest in between. With Barak and Iyyar, once they started it was just one long contraction that never ended. This time, I had time to breathe in between, and when she told me to push at the next contraction I could feel it coming but just could not bring myself to try to push, because at that moment I could handle the pain and I knew if I pushed it would hurt more and I didn't want that. I told her I couldn't do it, and she said you have to, or this baby won't come out. So I did, and then she said good! Now you're getting somewhere! And my husband tried to say something encouraging too, and I yelled at him to shut up. There was a small hurt silence and I heard, "I'm just trying to be helpful." "You are saying the right thing," Fran reassured her. "She's just not feeling very receptive right now." At that moment, I wasn't feeling terribly receptive to anybody.
I know that right at the end Fran told me she saw lots of dark hair and I just had to push, and then she said you're almost there, and I asked how many pushes. She didn't know. I asked for an educated guess and she said one to three. I said, okay, I can do that--and somehow that was reassuring because the worst part of the pain was feeling that I was getting nowhere, it was never going to end, and I was completely, totally trapped alone in this alternate universe. So I pushed, and I screamed some more, and I think it was more than three pushes in the end but I pushed and his head was out and then I pushed again and the rest of him came out. Someone showed me the baby and said look, is it a girl or a boy? and I said, it's a boy, and there he was on my chest all warm and wet and wiggling and crying and I didn't care at all. All I cared about was that it was over, and I kept saying it, again and again--it's over, it's over, it's over. Someone asked me if I wanted to see the baby and I said no, but all of a sudden there he was anyway, with his tiny little sweet face, but I was shaking too hard to hold him.
They cleaned him up and I cried some more as Fran reminded me that there was still that issue of a placenta, and my reaction to "you have to push some more" was "you have got to be kidding me." I can't deal with any more pushing, no way are you putting in any stitches, just leave. me. alone. Of course she couldn't do that, and eventually she did what she needed to do, and it was light outside now and there was snow and the baby was fine and it was over, and I tried to get the baby to nurse, and he did, and then after a while we called a few people and told them it was a boy.
I guess every birth feels cataclysmic in its own way, but I think mine have all sort of been on the outer edges of what one might term your average cataclysm. Fran stopped by to see me the next day and explained what had happened, and agreed that it wasn't what normally happens in a birth. She used the term "deep transverse arrest," and told me that it was nothing I was doing wrong, but the baby's head had turned in a way that he couldn't come out. I'd been pushing, but the signals, as she put it, weren't getting through. I was sitting there nursing the baby as she talked and I told her I could never, ever do that again. She said, forget this birth--it wasn't you, it was the baby's position. And, she said, if you'd had an epidural you probably would have ended up with a c-section.
Well, anyway. As I said earlier, it's over now, and the baby is asleep in his carseat, and he'll be two weeks old on Friday and I'm up and about again. My husband is wondering why I even wrote this up, and I guess it's because I might want it later, although I might just save this and not post it. I'm trying to think of a good way to wrap this up, but I can't--it's just how it happened, or at least it's how I remember it.