the very unexpected birth story...by the way this is a birth story, it mentions things like dilation (I know, weird) and "checking"--however I left out most of the gory details ;)
On Monday I went to work like any other Monday & took my 35 week picture of my belly. I had to drive to Lawrence (about 30 minutes away) to our other office. I had 6 doz cookies in tow so that all of our office staff could assemble tons of cookie trays for all of our individuals with disabilities. After a couple hours on my feet in Lawrence I kept telling my coworkers that I was not feeling well, and that I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. One of my coworkers suggested that I was probably dehydrated. This prompted me to drink insane amounts of water for the rest of the afternoon, which in turn prompted insane amounts of bathroom trips.
I drove home from Lawrence and although I wasn't feeling great decided it was time for an oil change. I took my car to Jiffy Lube and read my parenting magazine in the waiting room. I didn't want to bug my mom with how I was feeling since she just got back from Hawaii the day before and I figured she was jet lagged and exhausted. I was very uncomfortable and feeling "over" the pregnancy experience.
I got home around 5pm and was trying to lounge on the couch but I just kept getting up and feeling like a whiner. At 7 the "Braxton Hicks" got stronger and I called my nearly-a-nurse sister and quizzed her about false labor-- how long does it last etc. From 7-8 I was having contractions at about 4 minutes apart. I still thought it must be false labor. Finally I called my mom at 9 pm and she said I should call my doctor- "it's an awful long time for this to be going on, just go in and get checked." I was sure that I would be going in, getting checked and going home. Incorrect assumption number 20.
I complied with my mom and called the doctor message line. I got on my comfy sweats first, ate 4 sour gummy worms, drank more water and put in a fresh ponytail. I have a foolproof theory-- when you call the ob line and leave a message you know how serious something is by the amount of time it takes them to call you back. I was on the phone with the doctor within 5 minutes of my message. My doctor was not on call (something I had prepared for all along) but luckily I had seen the partner on-call and was pleased with her. I told Keenan to take his IPOD and I grabbed my book. My bags weren't packed yet (I was 35 weeks 0 days pregnant) and I knew that we would have to wait forever and that we would be coming home. The baby bag was packed incidentally, but I didn't think we should bring it.
I made Keenan stop to get gas, I was worried we would run out on the way to the hospital, we got there at 9:45 and the car ride was a fresh kind of hell. I had figured I would only have to have 3 contractions until we were inside (again "false contractions")-- the red light that made my equation wrong troubled me a lot. Music on the radio was bothering me. This was the first time that I thought this might be real labor (and if it's false labor- I am in for a treat when the real thing comes along!)
I was supposed to meet with the maternity care coordinator on Weds to tour the hospital, fill out paperwork, choose a pediatrician and present her with my birth plan and questions. I obviously didn't make that appointment, and I didn't have my birth plan or a pediatrician.
They got me into a room asked me to change into a gown and I got my nurse (and my hero) Agnes (a slight 20 something girl from Jamaica). My nurse asked me what was going on and I told her and she said maybe I had a kidney infection causing the contractions. I clung to that idea for the time and dutifully went to the toilet to fill up a cup. Then I stood up to go back out to the room and experienced a small gush of fluid that went embarassingly all over the floor. I called for the nurse to apologize for apparently wetting the floor, she grabbed a small test strip and put it to the floor and told me that I had ruptured and asked me to go and get in the bed. I was immediately terrified. Agnes assured me that 35 weeks will be okay, that she had a great shot of being strong because she is a girl and that being biracial would help her too. I tried not to worry, and honestly the pain was the only thing that took away the worry. Agnes checked me and said that I was already 2 cm dialated. She started an IV for fluids and antibiotics because Sloane would need them, I was supposed to have my strep/GB test on Weds. and so they didn't know if I was infected or not. They checked me but the test does not read clear for 72 hours, so the antibiotics were a must.
Agnes told me that I would progress at about 1 cm per hour and that she would check me on the hour unless I wanted it more often. She asked me about pain control and I told her that I wanted to labor naturally. I waited for her to oppose me in any way, instead she said...okay, are you a good listener? I said yes. She said "listen to me, and I will get you through this. you can do it" I was immediately in love with her.
I have always wanted a natural birth, for as long as I can remember, but when I was pregnant Keenan and I did a lot of research and I felt I could do it and that it would be a great thing to do-- I would have this amazing rush of love (oxytocin) and the baby would be more alert, probably ready to breastfeed immediately, and I would avoid a needle in my spine and a long labor.
At one hour Agnes "checked" me again. I of course wanted no part of this- it hurts and why check me if I've only progressed by 1 cm. She told me that she had to do it. Then she said the number 5. 5?! I am supposed to be at 3. She laughed and asked me if I wanted to move to the ball, which I did and I loved. I was still able to laugh with Agnes, direct Keenan to make phone calls to people and talk on the phone to my dad and mom between contractions. Another hour went quite quickly, and it was time for the horrible "checking" again. 7. Now I began a little bit of panic-- this was going too fast! I was worried that my mom and sister were going to miss the delivery (they were traveling from 3 hours away and were still an hour away). The next contractions were more painful (I got through them by breathing, keeping my eyes closed, listening to Agnes describe the crest and fall of the contractions on the monitor and to repeat in my head a mantra I found on-line on a doula's signiture "We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful. It's that women are strong."- Laura Stavoe Harm--even as I say that to myself now I feel strong, empowered and proud of myself)
Shortly after 7 I began to need the pain. I needed the pain because the hospital was becoming a rush of reality that hadn't occurred to me yet. The nurses were insistent on picking a pediatrician. I was annoyed by their persistance. I know now that is because she needed to go to NICU. Then the word NICU was uttered and it was like my whole world stopped. I grew up with a very sick asthmatic sister who spent the first year of her life in and out of NICU (who incidentally is in ICU while I write this). NICU the idea was terrifying. The pain was the only thing keeping me from completely freaking out.
I described the new contractions to Agnes she told me that I needed to move to the bed and be checked again even though it wasn't an hour from the last check. 8. I began telling Agnes how afraid I was. This is when my mind over matter began to work the opposite way for me. I read Birthing from Within and knew that sometimes a woman keeps herself from progressing because of fear or other emotions. And that is exactly what I did, I stuck at 8-- in fear for 2 hours (very painful hours). Fortunately this allowed for time for my mom and sister to get there. My mom was there for comfort, my sister was there to make sure I got my birth plan- no drugs, no forceps, no hep B (til she is a "term baby"), no episiotomy (if avoidable), breastfeed immediately. At 3 am Agnes checked me for the millionith time and told me again that I was only 8.25 and that Dr. Wittek was going to order Pitocin.
I did not want Pitocin and Taylor (my sister) knew this. I didn't want it because I wanted to do it all without chemicals going into my baby as well as Pitocin speeds everything up and I didn't know how I could keep myself from pushing if the pain got any worse or faster. I turned to Agnes and weakly said "no". She said we can still do pain relief but you need to instead remember to listen to me and let your body do this. I repeated my mantra in my head and I told myself "open" "open" "open" and began to relax through the contractions. I wanted to meet my daughter.
I still did not progress fast enough, Agnes said "I can try one more thing before the Pitocin, but you will not like it, I need to check you and stay there and turn the baby a little to get the pressure off your cervix and get you over the 8." It took four long awkward contractions when she said, "last time". I said "Do you promise" she said "yes". She was right, all of a sudden Dr. Wittek was telling me to open my eyes and there were tons of people in the room and I was pushing, I tore only enough for one tiny stitch, no forceps and- 15 minutes of pushing later my baby was born. I heard someone say "the cord around her neck" and I immediately felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. She was out of me and she did not cry, and it was excruitiating silence and hustle and bustle of tons of nurses and the pediatrician and the neonatologist and my ob and they did not give her to me and I could not see her past the tons of medical personnel who were helping her. And I did not get that rush of oxytocin, instead I got a rush of dread. No one said anything happy...everyone just held their breath as we waited for her to cry.
Her arms had low muscle tone, she looked floppy. (My nearly-nurse sister said this filled her with fear). She got a 7 on her APGAR, which wasn't horrible but wasn't good. They prepared to take her to NICU as they stitched me up. I don't remember anything except craning my neck to try and see my baby.
They held her by my face (like I had been sectioned) for about 30 seconds and then they took her to NICU. And we were in the room and I felt more alone that I ever have in my life, and I felt like it wasn't real and that I was still pregnant and that in January I would do this for real. I felt robbed.
We needed to name her so everyone left the room and Keenan and I deliberated. We chose "Sloane" off of our list because it means "strong" and we knew our little girl was going to have to fight. I chose "Jillian" off the middle name list because it's a part of my mom's name (Jill) and my mom is the strongest fighter I know.
I walked down to NICU, Agnes wanted to wheel me, but there was no reason to, my legs were fine. Only Keenan and I were allowed in, and they already had her hooked up to what seemed to be every machine in the place and they told us we couldn't touch her yet, she was laboring too hard to breathe and they didn't want us to stress her out. I bawled like I never have, even though no sound was coming out, I didn't want her to hear me crying. They put me in a wheelchair and wheeled us back to the room. They put us in the tiniest room, because they knew. They knew we wouldn't have the baby with us, that we wouldn't have joyful visitors. It would just be me, Keenan, and a hospital issued breastpump.
Luckily Sloane got off to a great start passing all of her tests. I finally got to hold her briefly on Wednesday. It still didn't feel real. Keenan got to hold her on Day 3. I relished pumping every 3 hours and taking it down to the NICU because it was the only thing I could do for my baby, even though it was exhausting. Otherwise I just had to sit and watch her, and try not to fall apart (which was increasingly difficult).
Every night we went back to our room, next door we would hear other parent's babies cry and people visiting and bringing gifts. For a big city hospital, this is a crappy set-up. The NICU parents should be close to the NICU and far away from all the parents who get to room-in with their baby.
Finally on Saturday afternoon Sloane passed her last required hospital test (a stress test where she had to sit in her car seat for an hour hooked up to the monitors, she slept through it, with perfect 02 saturation!). The doctor came and finally we got to take our baby home, our baby could officially meet other people, be held and be disconnected to all of her wires. We were very blessed to be able to leave after only 5 days. We are lucky that there was not much really wrong with Sloane, they just wanted to monitor her, make sure she didn't have an infection, make sure that her "grunt" went away and make sure she was able to gain weight.
As for me I am still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that the pregnancy is over and Sloane is already here- we love her to pieces even though she chose a time that means that I am doing all of this on my own-- my mother cannot come and stay until after my sister is out of the hospital, and Sloane is too small to travel for Christmas, Keenan's family isn't involved to the point of wanting to help me, and I needed to work the last few weeks to bank up more maternity leave, sucks that an entire week of "maternity leave" was spent in isolation in the hospital, luckily I have a few great friends who are able to help out a little. Otherwise we will just keep taking it minute by minute, there's not much point in trying to plan beyond that.
title courtesy of the barenaked ladies: what a good boy