Monday, September 15, 2008

Birthing Story, Part 2

Something changed on the way to the hospital. I don't know whether it was the fear of a medicine-induced C-section or the bumpy car ride, but something in R's condition changed. The contraction pattern and intensity we had been waiting for finally started to kick in.

We entered the hospital's birthing center when R fell to her hands and knees, moanin
g through the next contraction. Some alarmed folks in the waiting area tried to help by pointing her in the direction of the emergency room. Elizabeth, our doctor, politely informed them that R was in exactly the right place to birth.

After checking in, we hurried down the hall and up the elevator and down another hallway. They assigned us a room with two nurses already prepping the area. A gown was handed to R and she and Erica, the doula, entered the bathroom to change...and continue laboring on the toilet. Already, we were throwing the hospital staff out of their comfort zone.

Throughout the morning, the nurses tried their best to monitor R's vital signs and the baby's heartbeat. Everything was running along smoothly, but they had a hard time monitoring R since she barely spent any time laboring in the bed. Luckily, the nurses were good sports and even acknowledged that we all seemed to know what we were doing.

This happened throughout our time at the hospital. We were able to bend (and sometimes break) the rules at nearly every step. It became clearer and clearer that Elizabeth knew the right people and exactly how to schmooze in order to allow R to labor naturally and spontaneously.

At some point, it was suggested that something be done to move the contract
ions to the final stage of transition so that R could dilate from 8 centimeters to the necessary 10. The doctor on call suggested a series of interventions, starting from the least intrusive and eventually leading to a possible C-section. The first step was to break R's water and see what happened.

Almost immediately, R began transition. We were told she had two hours before more intrusive measures would be taken (ie drugs). So, to work we went. Erica, Elizabeth, and I did anything we could to assist R.
R was the star, though. She had labored for 27 or so hours before coming to the hospital. Now she had to endure the toughest part of labor. Through constant breathing exercises and various positions on and off the bed, R worked through each increasingly intense contraction. She worked so hard that the IV popped from her hand.

Finally, the resident entered the room. If she found that R had progressed significantly (meaning the final 2 centimeters of dilation) then she could begin to push - an urge she had for the previous two hours of labor. If there was no change, the dreaded interventions would begin.

Thankfully, R dilated the final two centimeters. We made many, many adjustments to the bed. The nurse was sent out to look for the birthing bar. (Yes. The hospital only had one birthing bar.) Once she returned with the bar, the nurses put it in backwards. We fixed that, but found it to be wobbly, so Elizabeth somehow held the bar, the heart monitor for the baby, and R's perineum all at the same time.

The pushing began.

The best part of the early pushing was when R would rest her feet up on the bar. To this, the nurse said, "Well, I've never seen it used for that." I questioned whether she had ever seen the bar used at all, but whatever.

Luckily, Elizabeth was permitted to continue to help R through the pushing all the way
up to the crowning. The resident stepped in at that moment. They had some "pleasantries" about what would be the best position to push. The resident won out and R laid back.

I have always seen my partner as one of the strongest, most competent people I've ever met. However, nothing she has ever done could ever compare to what she did next. She pushed with such great might, that I could see the muscles in her arms bulge. The amount of adrenaline R had running through her body was absolutely amazing. She is easily the strongest person I know. It was easily the most amazing feat of strength I have ever seen.

Anyway, the pushing continued. We were encouraged to feel the baby's head, which we did. R later told me that it was incentive to keep going. I thought it was a gooey, hairy piece of flesh, but I wasn't passing it through my vagina.

The biggest difference between a hospital birth and a natural/home birth became very apparent at this time. The resident wanted R to push with all her might, like a super woman or some macho crap like that. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Erica encouraged R to ease her baby out. It was a difference between harvesting the baby and bringing a child into a world where her mother was valued as much as she. Either way, the baby came out.

Lucia was promptly laid on a table. She screamed as soon as her little behind touch
ed the table's surface. I was directed to cut the chord, which I did in a haze. Then, before the baby could be whisked away, R asked me to tell her the sex.

The pressure was on. I had one chance in my life to get this right. I looked, but was confused for a second. I remember that some of the birthing books I read described a baby's genitalia as swollen from all the hormones during birth. When one's bits are swollen the way they are at birth, everything looks like a sack of flesh. I finally snapped to and made the call.
"It's a girl!"

There was an eruption in the room as I realized several doctors, nurses, students, other community members seem to fill the room. As I turned to congratulate my partner, the nurse called me to follow her. Like a carrot tied to a stick, she led me our of the delivery room into a closet of med students.

Since Lucia was born with meconium in the sack, she had to be checked and cleaned by the pediatrician. So, she and her med students scrubbed the baby and sucked all the meconium from her nasal passages and lungs. She kicked at the students as they tried to get her foot print.

The doctor turned to me for her name. I couldn't speak. As those who were at my wedding could attest, I have a bit of a crying problem in such situations. Once I gathered myself, I was able to verbalize "Lucia."

They handed me my child and I whisked her off to her mother for some bonding and nursing.

Our birthing experience wasn't exactly what we had intended, but it was close. R was able to have a natural, spontaneous birth. The last four hours just took place at the hospital. There's more to the story, but that's the birth.

Now, we have the most beautiful and easy going baby we could have ever wished for in Lucia Caroline.


ATR said...

Hooray! Sorry I have taken so long in congratulating you both, but, well...congratulations. What an awesome birthing story. I am so happy for you all that it worked out in a way you could be happy with (meaning the situation--of course, you were going to be happy with the baby, anyway!).

Monkey and I look forward to seeing the three of you in a couple of weeks. Take care.

Juliet said...

Oh wow -- what an intensely moving story. Thanks so much to you and R for sharing. As the only single, nonparent working with one old mom, one new mom and one about-to-be new mom, I am constantly being told horror stories about the birthing process. Your story really provided some new perspective and ideas for whenever I decide to spawn.

But most of all: Congratulations on a beautiful child!