Friday, July 9, 2010

Changing my life with a wave of her hand

So, as I believe most of you know already, the Eagle stork has landed! And, as many of you also know already, our planned homebirth did not end up happening. Here is what DID happen.

Thursday afternoon (which also happened to be Canada Day), Mr. Canuck and I decided to walk down to the pub to sit on the patio for a while. He had a couple of beers, I had a cranberry juice, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. And then on the way home, around 5:00, my water broke! Naturally this happened when we were still a good quarter-mile away from home, so I got to waddle all that way in wet jeans. It wasn't quite the gusher that you see in the movies, but it was plenty wet enough, I can tell you. I have to laugh a little now when I remember how excited we were - baby was finally on her way!

Nothing else happened for several hours except that I continued to leak amniotic fluid all over the place. I think I went through five incontinence pads in about four hours. Finally around 9:00 I started feeling some light contractions, so I followed a bit of midwifely advice and took a couple of Tylenol and a sleeping pill so I could get some rest before it was time to get down to business. I was so keyed up, though, that I didn't actually fall asleep until around midnight, and the contractions woke me back up at 2:30 or so. I got Mr. Canuck up to start timing them, and we found that they were already about 2-3 minutes apart and lasting around 45 seconds. So we called Andrea again, as well as April, our wonderful wonderful doula who is worth her weight in gold. Seriously, people – if you’re going to give birth, hire a doula. You won’t regret it.

By the time Andrea and April arrived (as well as Joan, our student midwife), I had gotten myself situated on an exercise ball by the side of the bed and was having to focus fairly hard to get through the contractions. They were uncomfortable, but nothing I couldn't handle at that point - I was still able to talk to people in between and was still aware of my surroundings. Everybody kept commenting on how well I was coping - apparently the only way they could tell I was having a contraction was that I would put my head down on the bed and start breathing more carefully. Cool, I thought. I can totally do this. It's hard work, definitely, but I can do this!

Toward dawn it was time for the first internal exam to see how far I'd progressed. And HOLY COW was that ever painful. That was the first actual hollering I did. Andrea checked me first, then Joan, and I remember yelling at Joan "OH MY GOD PLEASE FINISH ALREADY." And then I informed them that after all that, they had damn well better have good news for me.

But they didn't. I had reached a whole three centimeters. But I was 80% effaced, which they all kept telling me was a very good thing, and since I wasn't really in a position to argue I chose to believe them.

After this my memory gets fuzzy. They checked me every four hours, and each time I had only progressed about a centimeter or so. This was incredibly discouraging. And at some point during the proceedings, I started having back labor as well, because things were just not exciting enough. PAIN PAIN PAIN.

Around 4:00 Andrea checked me again, and it turned out that I hadn't progressed more than about half a centimeter since last time. It had been 23 hours since my water broke, 19 hours since my first contraction, and 14 hours of hard, active labor, and I was only at seven fucking centimeters pardon my French. I had only slept about 3 hours the night before and hadn't had anything to eat except some yogurt around 5:00 that morning. I had nothing left in me. So when Andrea recommended heading in to the hospital for augmentation, I agreed immediately, after informing all of them that if I was getting Pitocin, I was also getting an epidural, because if it was that bad already there was no way I could handle anything harder.

So off to the hospital we went. We could have gone to the one right around the corner, but the midwives don’t have admitting privileges there, and it was incredibly important to me to keep them in charge. So we went to North York General, which is about a 30-minute drive away. (Luckily, we had taken my cousin Beth's excellent advice and done a prenatal hospital tour, so at least we knew what we were going into.) Pro Tip: DO NOT spend half an hour in a car over a bumpy road while you’re in hard labor if there is any way this can be avoided.

Once we got into the birthing suite, if I’d had any energy left I would have been clutching people’s lapels and screaming for the epidural, but I had to wait...I don’t know, half an hour? Time sort of stopped meaning anything somewhere along the way. In the meantime, Carla, our backup midwife who met us at the hospital, consulted with the OB on call, who agreed with Andrea’s assessment. And at some point Joan tried to insert an IV and missed the vein. That should have hurt like a bitch, but honestly, at that point she could have been sticking the needle straight into my eyeball and I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

After another six years or so, in came the Angel of the Lord in the guise of the anesthetist. This man was incredibly nice, and incredibly good at his job. It took him less than a minute to get the epidural catheter in, and maybe two minutes after that I was blessedly pain-free. He got the dosage absolutely PERFECT, so that I could still feel the contractions but they didn’t hurt anymore. The baby did complain a little bit, but they gave me oxygen and she got better almost immediately.

The next hour and a half or so mainly consisted of sleeping. Carla stood watch in the room while Andrea napped on the couch in the staff lounge, Mr. Canuck crashed out in the recliner in the room, I of course slept in the bed, and April actually went into the bathroom and slept in the tub. After a while, Carla checked my progress and it turned out that the baby was facing the wrong way, hence the back labor. I don’t think she was completely face-up, but it was close, and that was a big part of why I wasn’t progressing. So Carla, who is magical, had me push one time while she did some sort of fancy internal maneuver and actually managed to turn the baby! And again I say THANK GOD for the epidural, because if we had tried that without it I would have crawled right out of my skin and died.

After this, labor was perfectly manageable and even quite pleasant. Around 9:00 Carla checked me again and told me that I was fully dilated and could start pushing anytime. What, really?? I actually really enjoyed that part. I could still feel where to direct it, and because of the epidural I didn’t have that overwhelming urge to push that they say you get at this point, which I think made things easier. Plus, I finally felt like I was DOING something. And after about two hours of pushing, out she came! Our little Eleanor Grace is perfectly healthy and absolutely beautiful, and we cannot get enough of her.

She’s a week old today and is still an angel baby. She’s a champion eater and not half bad at sleeping either. She only lost three ounces of her birth weight and had gained it all back by 5 days, which is really impressive. We’re all getting used to each other, and life is wonderful. :)


KC Snyder-Buell said...

Thanks for the wonderful narrative, it's good to hear a real POV. I have yet to be pregnant and everyone always skims over the whole giving birth thing. And eleanor is beautiful!

Gina said...

What a gorgeous girl! I was hoping you weren't in labor all that time when we were waiting for an update. That will be a fun story to retell with the mommy groups at playdate time. Glad you made it through.

Gina (cousin)

Jennifer C said...

even though it didn't go the way you had planned, it still sounds like a wonderful experience. God is good! said...

Oh, she's perfect!

Anonymous said...

I am really impressed that even though you really wanted a chemical-free home birth, you and your team all had the sense to know when it was time to change plans. In Australia, home-births are quite uncommon and usually the preserve of the radical brigade who sadly only seem to ask for hospital help when it is too late (and then somehow are able to blame the hospital system for failing to save them from the consequences of their choices). There is a time to say that plan A isn't working, let's turn to plan B. It was a good thing that you had already visited the hospital, and so plan B was ready to go when needed.
She is one gorgeous little lady!