Sunday, August 17, 2008

Proceed with caution - The Birth Story

They say there is some sort of hormonal response in a new mom that helps her forget the pain of her childbirth. In Erik's "New Father" book, it even says that for new Dads it can take up to a year to recover from seeing your wife in the throws of labor....

With that on my mind, I was trying to remember what it was like the Monday that I gave birth, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in frigid January.

It was 4:43am when my water broke. My punctual body got things groovin' on its own accord 2 minutes before the alarm would sound, waking us, to call the labor ward for my scheduled induction that day. In retrospect, I can say that early labor had started about 12 hours earlier, but what did I know?

I remember eating cereal that morning, and checking my email. Erik walked into the living room ready, I think, to hightail it to the hospital. "I am eating breakfast. I may not get to eat for a while. Oh, and I am having contractions now."

Poor guy. He wanted coffee. So, we stopped at Caribou. I am not sure why we thought it would be open at 5am - it wasn't - but sitting there looking at the hours, I had my first real, honest-to-God-it-hurts, contraction.

"Lets just go to the hospital."

We were so relaxed. I loved this about my pregnancy. It was like the biggest dose of chill for me. Whatever hormones I had going on were GREAT for me and my marriage!

The day went by in a series of bad news. First, my fluids weren't clear. Then my blood pressure was borderline. Third, my OB didn't like my "egg" (supposed to be round) shape. Go figure. I was round everywhere else.

After 10:30am, I had an epidural on board. I had been looking forward to it. But in classic Mara style, the drugs didn't do anything but make me feel helpless and out of control and I didn't like it. (As is usually the case with me and drugs). My legs felt like they were in an ice box, and I was complaining about them and the blood pressure cuff that I felt was trying to strangle me with its attack on my arm.

Then the fever started. Xanthe's heartbeat was erratic, going up and down with the contractions. She wasn't coming down into my pelvis. The pitocin and my natural contractions didn't sync up, and my nurse seems baffled and frustrated at the strength of my own body rhythm. Which begs the question - why mess with a good thing?

By 2pm, I had started to run a fever. This was a development that I hadn't read about. I had read about all the other minor but normal complications, and I was well versed in what pre-eclampsia might do to me and the baby. But a fever? I don't think I have had a actual fever for years. I hardly ever get sick.

And the fever started to climb. At 4PM, I hit the line-in-the-sand number, 100.4 degrees. I was 7cm dialated but Xanthe wasn't staying down. Her heart rate was erratic and something appeared to be wrong. Too add insult to injury, it also appeared that Xanthe had flipped over and was now face up, not ideal. But, really, that was the least of our worries.

Oh, and I did I mention I have a heart condition? It was enough to send my OB over the edge.

My OB called it. Time to prep for surgery. It was time to deliver Xanthe. It was time to say that my body had done all that it could, that the drugs couldn't help, that something was keeping us from doing what women had done naturally for centuries. I needed help. I was ready. I was tired, I was uncomfortable. And with the declaration of a c-section my blood pressure went through the roof. Not surprisingly, I immediately felt as if my epidural was wearing off. I was tired, I was thirsty, I was ready to meet my baby. I had tried to keep my cool the whole day, but there in that moment, I was scared. I didn't understand why my body, which I had failed to give any credit to during my pregnancy (and yet was repeatedly told everything was fine) would fail me now.

Erik got into scrubs and I got wheeled into surgery. They gave me dose after dose of bone chilling anesthesia until finally, I admitted that I couldn't feel a thing. At the instruction of the nurse by my head, I repeatedly took deep breaths and listened to the surgeons discuss their weekly schedules over the curtain across my stomach.

The NICU staff, the nurses, the anesthesiologists, the surgeons, everyone was in and out and there I was, arms stretched into a T on a table 10 inches wide, trying to think of my happy place, the hammock swinging between two palm trees.

Erik came in the room and rubbed my forehead. He looked totally freaked out. Who could blame him? Within 15 minutes, our lives changed forever. Xanthe came out, reluctantly given the cord around her neck, with a ferocious cry. I had been told that she might not cry... so when I heard this noise my daughter made, it was the sweetest feeling in the world. She could have sounded like a frog and it would have been a concerto to me.

Erik went to her. She scored in the 8-9 on her Agpars. Too bad for her, my expectations will now always be that high.

Its funny the things you remember. After Xanthe was delivered and I got to see (I use the world lightly given my altered and weeping state) her for the first time, they lowered my head and keep my legs high to put me back together. I couldn't breathe at all, my mucus membranes in my nose were going bananas and I just remember how stuffed up I was....

My next happy memory was receiving ice chips in the recovery room. I hadn't had anything to drink all day, and they tasted better to me than anything I had ever had in my life. I ate cup after cup of ice chips.

Then Erik came in, and he brought Xanthe. We laid her on my chest. Erik helped move the wires from me, and her IV, and lo and behold.... my little girl suckled. She knew me and I was meeting her. All of a sudden, I forgot all of it.

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