Tuesday, April 22, 2008

D-Day, part 1: An inauspicious beginning ...

If you read "37 weeks and always", you know that our little Thumper has made his appearance. I realized the other day that I've written about him several times, but never documented the day he arrived. Thought I'd put it here.

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When you learn you're pregnant, you envision a lot -- not just about your baby, but about how your pregnancy will progress -- and end. For some reason, I was sure that I'd go into labor at night, when my husband was with me. In my mind, we'd wait out the early hours at home in relative comfort, then proceed to the hospital for a smooth and hiccup-less delivery. Our carefully-researched birth preference sheet listed all kinds of requests for that kind of delivery -- we wanted no pain medication to be administered if not necessary, a surgical birth to be avoided if possible, my husband to cut the cord -- all kinds of things. We geared our childbirth class toward natural delivery methods, and it was only at the instructor's insistence that we did more than a cursory run-through of pain-relief options.

It's funny how things tend to do what they're going to do, despite your best-laid plans.

The day after my 37-week doctor's appointment (at which we were told "it'll be a while yet"), I woke up feeling funny. To be specific, I felt ... leaky. Now, as any woman in advanced pregnancy knows, there is a point at which you're told to EXPECT that your bladder is just going to throw in the towel for a while due to the increasingly cramped conditions. So you're prepared for some of that, and you deal accordingly. For most of the morning, then, I was resigned to this sieve-like state, and didn't think too much about it.

But something didn't feel quite right about it. I had a sneaking suspicion that my water had broken. Finally around 11 a.m., I called my husband at work.

"Hey, it's me. Any chance you can come home early?"
"Um -- I feel -- leaky."
([Beat.] Then he whispers.) "You think your water broke?"
"I don't know. But I think you'd better come home."

So he did. And we went to the doctor, and he confirmed it. "Yep. That's amniotic fluid. And that means you're having a baby within the next 24 hours!"

Luckily, we'd packed up the car before heading to the doctor, and we just had to drive across the street to the hospital. On the way, we called family members to tell them what was transpiring. My favorite conversation was with my husband's brother.

My husband: "Hey. What are you guys doing for dinner?:
My brother-in-law: "I dunno. I think my father-in-law's coming in to meet us for Mexican food. Why?"
My husband: "Just thought you might want to meet us at St. Luke's Hospital for dinner instead."
My brother-in-law: "What? Why?"
My husband: "To see the baby."
My brother-in-law (shouting as he catches on): "WHAT BABY?!"
My husband, laughing: "OUR baby."
[General yelling of excitement ensues.]

So we got to the hospital amidst phone calls with parents, brothers, friends, and our doula. We checked in, I changed into my oh-so-stylish gown, was told I was barely dilated, and was then hooked up to a number of monitors to check my blood pressure, contractions, heart rate, and a few other things I can't recall. As I lay in bed with an IV started in one hand (after two or three unsuccessful attempts to find a vein), it hit me that this baby was *coming.* And that this was a scenario (ruptured membranes with no dilation, no contractions and no cervical effacement) that I had NEVER envisioned.

The nurse checking us in finally left the room, and I looked at my husband and dissolved into tears. Bless him, he put his arms around me (a feat in and of itself, not to mention how difficult all the wires, monitors and tubes made it) and coaxed me to talk about what was going through my head. "This isn't what I wanted," I sobbed. "I feel tied down to this bed and out of control. I feel like these people are making a delivery happen to me, and I can't do anything about it and don't have any say in it. I wanted to walk around during early labor. I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to be able to eat if I was hungry. I wanted to feel calm and peaceful and happy and I don't feel any of those things."

With my husband's help, that sense of helplessness passed -- I had just gotten overwhelmed by the rapidity of events at that point. After a while, I was able to walk around and try to get labor progressing more quickly (because lo and behold, the monitor showed I was having mild contractions already and wasn't even aware of it). My doula arrived and started massage to help speed things up. She rubbed my back and abdomen, led me through some breathing exercises and generally got me focused on my body, which was extremely helpful. So from 2 p.m. through midnight, I sat in that room with my husband and our doula, and breathed, and focused, and waited. The contractions grew a little stronger and I could tell that things were moving along.

Disappointingly, though, at about 10 p.m., we learned that I was only 1 centimeter dilated (you have to be 10 centimeters dilated to even start pushing). Worse, my cervix hadn't really thinned appreciably (which it must, to dilate), probably because the baby was still floating within the uterus and hadn't yet descended to press on the cervix. So after my eight hours of natural labor, nothing had really happened except that I'd gotten tired. My doctor wanted to speed things along, since my water was broken and that made the risk of infection higher. So the nurse on duty came in at midnight with what I came to call the hell-box and hooked it up to my IV. That's when we *really* got underway -- and when my natural childbirth preparation and resolve was truly tested.

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