I woke up with Superman at 4:30 to make his lunch and send him off to work. (Work! Glorious work!) Then I went back to bed and slept until 10 - something I'm not usually in the habit of doing but boy am I glad I did!
As I ate my cereal I read "Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight" when suddenly I was having trouble focusing on the page. The words in my left field of vision disappeared into a sparkly white blob. Um. OK? I blinked, glanced away, and looked back. Still couldn't read. In fact, it was getting slightly worse. I tried not to panic and dashed into the bedroom to stare at myself in the mirror. My pupils were dilated, but the room was dimly lit. My peripheral vision was bright shimmery white.
I went back to my cereal and hoped that it would all just go away if I ignored it. I didn't pick up the book right away. In a few minutes I checked again and it was exactly the same. So I took a deep breath and called my OB. The nurse took my message and within 10 minutes the doctor called me back.
"Go to labor and delivery. It doesn't sound like anything too alarming because you don't have any other symptoms, but we think you should get it checked out."
"Um, but I can't see well enough to drive safely. Can I wait an hour until my husband gets home from work?"
"We think you should get there as soon as you can find a ride to go."
I call Brittany who is more than willing to come get me. On the way, I call Superman to give him a heads up. I tell him to stay at work until I know more.
I go up to labor and delivery and they put me in a delivery room, in a hospital gown and everything. They attach the fetal heartbeat monitor and one that monitors contractions. The nurse asks if I can feel the contractions. HUH WHAT!? No. But I'm contracting!? Yes, but not very often. Suh-weet !
Then another nurse comes in and takes all my vitals. She says everything is normal; blood pressure is good, urine is good and I'm not swelling up. If I had preeclampsia I probably would have experienced some of those symptoms first, before vision problems. She will give all the info to the doctor on call and see what he recommends. I am one week overdue.
I wait. And wait. And talk with Brittany about colon cleansers. (Fascinating stuff, really.)
The doctor wants to keep me there and induce me. Even though he doesn't know why my eyes are doing this (it happens every couple of hours and lasts 20 minutes or so) he thinks it's a good idea to try and encourage the baby to come out. Drat. I don't want to be induced. He explains that we'll start out with the lowest possible form of induction - the softening of my cervix with a drug called Cervidill. If that doesn't do anything after 12 hours then he'll take it out (it's like a tampon-type thing) and discuss pitocin. Eek. Hate pitocin. Do not want it.
Through out my whole stay there were usually a couple of nursing students from the local community college shadowing the nurse or doctor. I signed a paper saying this was OK with me because, heck, if I was a nursing student I would totally want to watch someone in labor. Of course, this also increased the number of strangers that have seen me naked. But I don't care because I'll never see them again.
So the Cervidill went in at 4 pm while a couple of extra strangers watched. Before he left Dr. S wanted to confirm that the baby's head was down. Good thing he did - her head wasn't down. She wasn't completely breech; her head was more out to the side. He pried and pushed and leaned into my belly to no avail. He suggested I empty my bladder and see if that would free up any room. I did and it did and hooray! her head went down. Whew. Wouldn't want to induce a baby whose head isn't down!
Brittany had to go to get an MRI done and so Joy came over to be with me until Superman got in from work. I had called my labor coach and gave her the heads up. Superman called his parents and I talked with my parents, who, of course, were in New York City for LL's competition and performance.
Superman called on his way home from work to tell me that he felt nauseous and thought he had a fever. He went home first to collect all our hospital stuff, then went to the chiropractor (his back was absolutely killing him), then come to my room. The second he walked in the door I could tell he was sick. His eyes, the way he gingerly set each foot down as he walked to me, his shoulders were slightly hunched, he was all shaky. Poor poor guy. The nurses brought in a reclining chair from a recovery room and he lay down. Not long after that he went into the bathroom and threw up about 10 times. Then he fell asleep.
They brought me dinner at 6 pm. I played spider solitaire on my laptop while listening to NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. No wireless networks to be found, unfortunately.
Peggy (labor coach) called to check in on me a few times and let me know that she was in town visiting her son and daughter-in-law until there was further news with me. (She lives a little more than an hour away.)
The Cervidill slowly increased the frequency of my contractions but I didn't feel anything more than slightly irritating menstrual cramps. I prayed and prayed that Cervidill would be all my body needed to start laboring naturally. Cervidill just softens the cervix; doesn't cause contractions - just sends a message to the body that the cervix is getting ready for a baby to come out so now would be a prime time to start labor.
Here's something I wrote at about this time:
--- It's 8 pm and the Cervidill has definitely done something. I'm having contractions regularly now. Looks like a neat little row of mountains over there. The nurse says that it's not so much a measure of the contractions intensity as it is a way to measure frequency and duration. It looks impressive but it really doesn't feel any worse than bad menstrual cramps. ---
I had to stop typing after that because my eyes did that thing again and I couldn't see. Also, Superman was remaining sick and horizontal and I was realizing that my pain was increasing and there was no way I could do this alone. I had to call Peggy and let her know that I needed her now. She got there around 9:30 and immediately began to care for me AND Superman, who was still achy and shaking and had the chills. Peggy arrived just in time to witness a nurse trying to push sleeping pills on me, which I later found out made her (Peggy) absolutely livid. I assured the nurse that I had never taken anything to help me sleep in my entire life so I didn't see why I should start now. Plus, I couldn't imagine trying to sleep through the now quite uncomfortable and regular pain I was experiencing.
So. The pain was getting worse. My contractions were getting closer, like every couple of minutes and I began to focus on breathing through each one. Talking was out of the question and I could not STAND to be touched during a contraction. It broke my concentration. Between contractions I went as limp as I possibly could, relaxing every muscle I had in order to collect energy to make it through the next one. I had been hooked up to an IV by now which was supplying me with water and electrolytes. I hated having that little wheeled cart attached to my arm. I also hated the monitors around my belly but they had to be there as long as the Cervidill was in. I wanted to move around and walk (the bed is SO uncomfortable) but I was tied to the monitors. I wanted them to take the cervidill out; wasn't it obvious that it had done its job and I was in labor? The nurse said they didn't want to check me unless I asked for something for the pain. Each time they check me there's a chance the Cervidill might come out or be knocked out of place. Well, I wasn't going to ask for anything for the pain so I guessed I would have to live without being checked.
I labored on my side, leaning over the back of the bed, standing by the side of the bed. Laying on the bed was the absolute worst. Each time I contracted my left hand (IV hand) would become super tense. My fingers would curl down and tighten and I physically would have to pry them open with my other hand. This made me frantic because as I focused on relaxing every muscle group in my body, I would get hung up on my hand which would make my whole arm and shoulder tense. If I couldn't relax through the contraction the pain would take over. Peggy rubbed my hand open each time. Also, while I was on the bed my arms and legs would get all tingly-numb and I shake and tremble. I couldn't control the shaking or numbness and that made it nearly impossible to cope. Laboring on the bed was awful for me. Each time they took my blood pressure or checked my dilation I had to be in the bed, on my back and I hated hated hated it.
Finally Peggy convinced the nurse to check me at 11 pm, 7 hours after the Cervidill went in. I was dilated to 5! She took the Cervidill out which meant the monitor could come OFF and I was free to move around, dragging my little IV tree with me. I wanted to get in the shower so they gloved and taped my IV hand. Superman changed into his bathing suit and got the water ready for me. It took me a few contractions to make it into the shower and then we sat together.
About then SuperMIL arrived and she was filled in by Peggy while Superman and I were in the shower. The shower was noisy. I didn't like the splattering sound of the water but the hot water felt really good. I sometimes stood, sometimes sat through contractions. Superman played the water over my shoulders and back but once a contraction began I had to have the water off me or held in one spot. As I came out of the shower I expected to get cold, but I didn't. Peggy put me in the rocking chair next. Then I probably stood/leaned against the bed for a while, then I got back in the bed because I think they wanted to check me again. I was at 7 cm. At that point I think I stayed on the bed, on my side. (Have I mentioned how I hate the bed!?! Totally awful. Would get an epidural in a heartbeat if I had to stay in the bed.)
The contractions were right on top of each other now and I was IN. SO. MUCH. PAIN. I had very little break between contractions and these contractions were peaking high, and sometimes double-peaking. The double-peaking contractions are the worst because you feel it start to go away, but then the pain never completely leaves and before you know it it's ramping up again to peak at another insanely high level of pain. I was losing my concentration and couldn't breathe deeply through the contractions any more. Peggy got right next to me and told me to copy her breathing. Hee hee hee hee hee. I tried but I felt like I was hyperventilating. If you can't breathe slowly and deeply, she said, then do hee hee hee hee. I had to switch to that sometimes because the pain would take my breath away. My eyes were shut because I couldn't see clearly again. My hand was contracting and my legs were shaking.
About this time I remember Peggy saying, "Beck, you know it's OK to take something for the pain." Yes yes I know, I nodded, but indicated I didn't want it. She waited a while and then told me again. Now, Peggy is very much an advocate for all-natural childbirth. She has been a labor and delivery nurse and she has been a childbirth educator for 20+ years. She knows her stuff and she is extremely experienced. Based on our conversations prior to my labor, I knew that Peggy would do everything she can to help me have a drug-free labor and here she is, telling me that I can take something for the pain. By the third time she tells me this I realize that she wouldn't be telling me this for no reason and so I consent to a dose of Nubane (supposed to take the edge off; not get rid of the pain completely.) The nurse administers the drug through my IV and I begin to wonder when it will kick in. I hear Peggy say "I like those numbers a lot better." I keep asking if the drug is supposed to be working yet and they say it is but I feel no edge being taken off. I feel MORE edge.
*I learned later that the numbers Peggy referred to was my blood pressure. It was getting high and therefore was increasing Kate's blood pressure as well, which wasn't good. In addition to "taking the edge off" of pain, Nubane also is supposed to lower blood pressure and that's about all it did in my case, which is exactly what Peggy wanted. She wasn't worried about the pain - she just didn't want to tell me about my blood pressure.*
About then my contractions change a little bit. Now along with feeling like my body is being ripped in half I'm experiencing a sharp, shooting pain at the peak of each contraction. That lasts for 3 or 4 contractions and then I start to feel tremendous pressure. Like, a LOT of pressure. I let Peggy know and she calls the nurse to check me. Only a little bit longer and then you can push, they say. I can't help it! My body is pushing now! I tell them. Wait wait, just wait a little bit they say. I don't know if I waited as long as they wanted me to but I started to push. With the first push my water broke. I felt it on my thigh and I looked down and saw something thick and dark. I wasn't sure if it was my amniotic fluid or something else so I asked Peggy if my water was clear? No, she said. It's not.
DANGIT. There was meconium in the amniotic fluid, a sign that the baby was in distress. I had to get her out soon.
More pressure. Unbelievable pressure. I absolutely had to poop. So much for being lady-like.
Once I started pushing my body changed noticibly. My arms and legs stopped shaking and my hand stopped tensing up. My contractions seemed to be a little farther apart and they hurt SO much less than the contractions immediately before. I felt warm and strengthened. I would push 3 to 4 times through each contraction and it took every ounce of energy I had. SuperMIL was on one side of me and Peggy was on the other. Abby (nurse) was monitoring the descent of Kate's head and encouraging me. Pushing took everything in me. After each contraction I was sure I couldn't push any more but somehow I did.
It was so strange to feel her body coming down and out of me. Finally I reached the "ring of fire" stage and yes it was bad, but I kept waiting for it to be worse. I think the pressure of her head pushed on so many nerve endings that my pain must have been diminished somehow. In any case, I'm thankful!
The doctor had arrived at some point, along with a bunch of other people. Now he was ready to birth the baby.
Oh yeah, Superman. He had been laying in the recliner under 8 zillion blankets this whole time. Now Peggy encouraged him to try and stand up and help me through the final few contractions and watch his daughter be born. He stood by me for 20 seconds or so (I didn't realize this; my eyes were closed and I was too focused on what I was doing) and then had to sit down again because he got dizzy. Right before the birth the doctor said to close the door and before they did Superman made a mad dash out to throw up in the hall. By the time he returned, Kate was born.
I felt her slide out of me and Peggy reminded me, open your eyes! look at your daughter! I did. She was blue. Dark blue. And she wasn't crying. I will never forget that sight, ever. The doctor cut the cord, rushed her to the NICU unit/warmer that had been set up in the room. I stared after her. She was so still and so quiet. CRY! CRY, baby. Please cry. I prayed and held my breath. Peggy followed the baby, concerned, hovering behind the nurses. SuperMIL stayed closer to me. Kate made a small noise and SuperMIL asked if I had heard it. Yes, but that's not enough. I want to hear her cry. Finally she cried and and her color quickly returned. I collapsed back onto the bed, relieved. Dr. S looked at the umbilical cord and showed me a knot. A perfect knot in my baby's nutritional supply. He said it wasn't very tight and he didn't know how long it had been there, but that it had likely gotten tighter during labor. He also told me that the cord had been wrapped around her neck.
It was so much to take in all at once. I didn't cry. I lay back, exhausted, worried, wanting Superman to come back and wanting my baby to be OK. I delivered the placenta and Dr. S began stitching me up. I had an episiotemy (2nd degree); I think he cut where he saw me begin to tear in order to get her out faster.
I labored for six or seven hours (I count from the time it started to hurt) and I pushed for one hour. Many times throughout the night Peggy told me, "Beck, people are praying for you." And afterwards I was told by several people that they were up in the night for some reason or another and they prayed for me. Thank you.
Kate's official APGAR was an 8 at one minute and a 9 at five minutes. The neonatologist doctor gave those scores. He was called in because of the meconium; if it had been the normal nurse only, she said she would have given Kate a 4 (1 min.) and 7 (5 min.) but she wrote down what the doctor said. Kate really did not look good initially, but changed drastically as soon as she started to cry.
Superman came back in while they're still cleaning Kate up; he missed the few anxious minutes when she wasn't breathing or moving.
They finally bring her to me, all wrapped up and she's staring around her with huge eyes. She's in my arms and as I talk to her she moves her head and looks up at me, matching the voice she's heard in utero to a face for the first time. The corners of her mouth pull down into a grumpy-looking pout and she blinks a few times, not crying. I drink in the face I've waited so long to see: her hair, her eyelashes, her nose, her cheeks, her chin.
I am overwhelmed with love. There are no words to describe the gentle weight of my tiny newborn daughter snuggled in my arms, the softness of her breath, the hilarous expressions she makes as she's waking up, her eagerness to nurse.
I am so in love.