Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Motherhood: Part II: Labor

Part I

I had not considered what labor would actually be like. My husband and I had signed up for birthing classes, but they kept getting canceled. I just read books and kept telling myself that women had been giving birth since the dawn of time. I didn't give it much more thought than that. I planned on a natural childbirth, and I knew that pain would occur, but I wasn't afraid.

At 2:30 on December 19th, I awoke to go to the bathroom. I was very pregnant, so I use the term "woke" loosely, as I had perfected the art of getting out of bed, walking to the bathroom, urinating, wiping, and climbing into bed without ever opening my eyes. On this dark morning, however, when I bent to get back in bed I felt a little trickle of moisture. I thought it might be a "driblet" so I just went back to sleep.

At 4:15 I had to pee again. Giant babies tend to put pressure on the bladder, so I was accustomed to "waking" more than once in the night. This time when I woke, I noticed that my thighs were damp. But, since the heater was on, and I had about 10 pounds of blanket on the bed, in addition to my "raging pregnancy hormones," I assumed that the moisture on my thighs was merely sweat. Then I got up to go to the toilet, and the moisture moved, proving it was much more than dewy sweat. Then I felt pressure in my stomach, a little less than the pressure for a poo. I still wasn't convinced that I was in labor. I went to the bathroom and quickly crawled back into bed.

But I was unable to go back to sleep. I had to argue with myself. If my water had broke, I would have felt a rush, or at least been alerted to it. If I were having contractions, surely I would be hunched in screaming pain. I decided to just lay in bed until it was time to get ready for work. I refused to wake my husband; I knew no matter what, we had a long day ahead, and at least one of us should get some rest.

So there I was, arguing with my body until 6:00. That's an argument that few win, by the way. At 6:00 I allowed myself to get out of bed and shower. Surely in the shower I would know if I were in labor. Surely the "water" has some sort of coloring or odor that will scream to mothers "YOU ARE IN LABOR! PREPARE FOR LIFE CHANGES!" Washed, dried, still unsure, but again moist on the legs. This calls for expert advice, although there is still no need to wake the husband.

Thankfully, my mother decided to come down from Alaska to witness her daughter's graduation (good job sis) and the birth of her grandchild. I went timidly into my guest room and gently shook my mother. "Mom, I think I'm in labor."

This was the first time that I stopped arguing with my body since 2:00. I let it win. Little did I know that this was not even the beginning of the "conversation" my body was about to have with me.

I finally decided to wake up my husband. "Babe," I gently rocked him, "I don't want to freak you out, but I think I'm in labor. I need you to call in to work today."

"What?! Ok, let's go!"

"No, it's not time to go to the hospital yet. After you get ready why don't we drive out to my school and pick up my final exams. Maybe I can grade some before we go to the hospital." (Ha ha, silly me!)

So I called the midwife, and they recommended that I get to the hospital around 10:00, so long as I wasn't running a fever or feeling much pain. We decided to take it slow and drive to the next town to retrieve said final exams. While we drove I started to get excited, but not nervous. I was ready, I knew no fear. Slowly, amniotic fluid was draining out of me, but since there was no "pop, gush!" for this event, I felt very much at ease. We got to school just before classes started and I tried to load up my papers. As I did this, my students began to file in for the day. "Don't talk to me, I'm in labor. See you all next semester." They were respectful of this terse wish. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the first sign that I wasn't entirely un-nervous about this whole labor thing.

We drove back home and grabbed the luggage and installed the carseat. We called the family members that wanted to travel from out of town. We figured by the time they got through with their four hour drives, they would get to see the baby. We ate some breakfast, we straightened up the nursery, we grabbed the camera. Then we drove to the hospital.

By this point, my contractions were feeling about the same as period cramps. I used to have pretty uncomfortable periods (before birth control) so I was not in excruciating pain. I was totally over the whole wet-pants thing, so when we got to the hospital and they asked me to put on a gown, I was ready to do so. Except the gowns weren't just the stick-your-arms-through-the-sleeves-and-tie-at-the-but kind. There were snaps. The snaps were near the neck, but not for the neck. They obviously didn't snap down the back either. I enlisted the assistance of my husband. He, too, was flummoxed. We held it up in awe, as I stood there naked and dripping, wondering how two educated people could not figure out how to put on a simple hospital gown.

"Oh, the snaps are for the arms." I am still not sure why.

Gown problem solved, I lie back to listen for heartbeats and feel contractions. The midwife came in and gave me a once-over. Yup, healthy and ready for childbirth, but blood pressure is high. (God forbid a person's blood pressure rise when they are in a potentially stressful situation, it must be because of teh fat. /snark) So they wheeled me past the waiting area--hello Mommy, Sister, Brother-in-law, strangers, why yes those are my unshaven legs, thank you for asking--and into the labor and delivery wing.

The delivery room was wonderful. Fully private, with a shower, television, and two chairs that folded out for guests. We got comfortable and started timing the contractions. They didn't get much more painful nor did they get any closer together. My midwife suggested induction, but I wanted to wait. She said we would have to induce at 4:00 pm, since it would be well over 12 hours since my water broke. I agreed.

To speed up my labor, my husband and I decided to walk the delivery floor. We were doing our first lap when I heard a woman give out an animalistic moan/cry. I stopped dead in my tracks and turned to my husband. "What's wrong?"

Tears welled up in my eyes. "I don't think I've thought this through." I began to weep.

"Well, babe, we're doing it now." And we kept walking.

Family arrived, some impatient, but most were just excited. This is the first grandchild, and therefore very exciting. My dad arrived without his wife. I was relieved (and I felt a bit guilty about that relief). I invited my father, my mother, and my sister to be assistants in the birth of my daughter. Along with my husband, it was my truly immediate family, and I was glad that they all accepted.

4:00 came. Time to induce. I wanted a natural childbirth so that I could avoid needles. I'm not scared of the prick, but I am terrified of my veins being touched, let alone being opened. Well, to induce they have to give an IV and whatnot, so vein violation, here we come. I got my first IV that day, and it took three people to get it in. Then my contractions didn't progress. Oops, the IV isn't in correctly. Lets put it in on the other side, but in the hand this time. Gah, it gives me goosebumps just to think about it.

Now with a fully operational IV pumping pitosin into my body, I finally got a real contraction. It was more than uncomfortable. So, this is what everyone has been bitching about, I thought to myself. But I didn't want any further medical involvement, so drugs were not an option. I dilated away to nine, and then I got bossy.

"I have to push!"

"You should wait for one more centimeter," my midwife suggested.

"Ughhhh!" I did not heed her suggestion.

So I pushed. And I pushed. And I switched positions and pushed some more. My family held and encouraged me and I pushed. Lather, rinse, repeat for five hours.

Then my midwife noticed that I was fed up. It might have had something to do with my plea that she "just get the fucking salad tongs already." They did an ultrasound. Turns out that my baby was face-up. This makes labor more difficult. That information might have been helpful five hours earlier. So they consulted.

We decided that a C-section would be best, as no one really uses salad tongs anymore. At this point I had been in labor for about 22 hours. I was ready for some medical intervention. They gave me a drug to slow my contractions and told me not to push. Yeah, right. So I waited, but my contractions didn't really slow down.

The surgeon arrived. He was pleasant and had a great little sidekick in the form of the anesthesiologist. They joked with me and hauled me into the operating room. Then they injected my spine with glorious liquid that stopped my contractions (at least stopped me from feeling them) and made my feet cold. Soon they were tying up a sheet and bringing my husband in in scrubs.

"I'm sure you hear this a lot, but I love you all." They chuckled.

The surgery was fast, and soon I saw my daughter getting fussed over by nurses. Then they brought her to me and placed her on my chest. It was wonderful. Her head was smushed up a bit, but her eyes were wide open, and she had one eyebrow cocked as if to say, "Is this it?"

Already a smart ass.:)

So my husband took her to the nursery, and we soon got the last bit of rest for the foreseeable future.


  1. I read this yesterday, but was flying around the internet, so I returned for a second read and a comment today.

    This line completely cracked me up: "I don't think I've thought this through."

  2. My husband would have laughed, but he wanted to see his daughter born. :)


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Farmington, NM, United States
Old enough to know better, young enough to change.