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Tammy asked when we were thinking of going to the hospital. Joe said he was fine with us going any time. I said maybe we should go, because that one had been so strong, it almost felt push-y. So she said, okay, let's go. I already had managed to have most of my clothes on, just needed my skirt. They helped me get into it, and I had to go pee before we left, too. I had a few contractions through that whole process and just paused and hugged Tammy, leaning on her, through those.

Somehow (!), we made our way down the stairs, and I could hear the neighbors excitedly ask Joe what was up, and Joe (who was carrying the giant birth ball) said, "It's time, we're going to the hospital!" And the neighbors said, "Oh wow! Where's mama?" Then they looked up the stairs and saw me, and said, "Oh there she is! There's the mama!" I kind of laughed quietly and nervously, as Tammy and I made our way slowly and carefully down the stairs. Tammy laughed with me, and I said to her softly, "This is kind of why I was hoping I'd go in the middle of the night!" I was in my own world, and was not in the mood to deal with neighbors, or anyone at all, really.



Joe ran ahead to get the car (which was across the street, and no one thought I should be crossing the road), and Tammy stood by me with the birth ball that Joe had handed her. I stood in my flip flops against the metal railing to the front steps. The sun shone brightly, a nice warm February day in Los Angeles! The sun's rays on my back and feet felt warm and cozy, as another contraction hit and I just breathed and moaned through it while Tammy rubbed my back and told me what a great job I was doing. Joe pulled up, and came out to walk me to the car, and Tammy took the birth ball in her car and we headed for the hospital. The car ride was SO INTENSE. It was awful being upright in a chair and being strapped in. I'd closed my eyes during each contraction from the very beginning, but at some point, I'd started covering my eyes with my hands as well. And that's how I spent the car ride to the hospital, cradling my rock in one hand, rubbing it and trying to remain as limp as possible during contractions, and moaning loudly every time one hit. It just felt right, like the only way to get through it was to make a lot of noise. I also swore like it was going out of style. "Shit. SHIT. Shit. Oh my god, shit, shit, FUCK..." as Joe drove us there. He said so many encouraging things, which totally helped.

"I can do this. I can do this," I said softly again and again.

"Hell yeah, you can do this!" Joe said, "You ARE doing this! You got this, hunnie, you're doing so great!"

Joe called Tammy to double check where the entrance to the hospital was. She asked if I was doing okay and still making lots of noise. He said yes and that he had been sure the neighbors were going to call the police on us at home! That totally made me laugh, which was awesome!

I wondered if the baby was coming soon, and said, "Oh god, just wait. Wait, wait, wait..." Repeating things really soothed me during labor!

"I better be really far along, because this SUCKS!" I told Joe as we neared the hospital. I thought it was so painful I must be in transition. Maybe I was already 8cm. Maybe when I got there, they'd tell me to start pushing...

We pulled up in the emergency lane and Joe said, "My wife's delivering!" to the valet guy. They immediately got a wheelchair over to me and I somehow got myself in. Then I heard people talking around me as they wheeled me into the building. What's the patient's name? Age? Things like that. Joe and Tammy answered their questions. I continued saying, "Ahhhhhhhhh.. AAAAHHHHH" through contractions. I made no effort to be quiet, and tried to ignore the weight of peoples' eyes watching me in the waiting room area. Next thing I knew, someone wheeled me down the cold hallway, Joe and Tammy behind me, my rock in my hand keeping me anchored.

As we entered the labor and delivery wing, I heard babies crying and I almost started crying again. This is what we came for.

They took us immediately to a delivery room, and a nurse asked me to get into a hospital gown. "Can I just wear this?" I asked, and eyeing my tee shirt and skirt, she said yes, but to remove my bra and panties. So I did. Then they needed to take some vitals on me and the baby, and then someone came in to do a cervical check. I tried to relax, but instead, I yelled through it, and thankfully, it ended quickly.

"Okay," the woman said, "Do you want to know your progress?"

"Well I do NOW," I said, meaning it hurt so much, she might as well tell me where I was.

"You're at 4 centimeters," she said.

"Oh, GOD!" I said miserably, totally defeated. Tammy reassured me, repeating what I'd missed, which was that I was already 90% effaced. And what I didn't even consider until later is that 4 centimeters is active labor! In the moment, I reminded myself not to do math. My "Birthing From Within" book said that laboring animals don't do math. They don't say what I had just thought, which was, holy shit, if it took 12 hours to get to 4 centimeters, it will take another 12 hours to get to 8! I knew that wasn't true, so I pushed that thought away and reminded myself of my mantras...

I can do this...
Open, open...
Just one contraction at a time, one at a time...

I think this was the part where they still had me lying down and had the anesthesiologist come in and chat with me about my history with anesthesia, in case of the need for an emergency c-section. I remember signing forms, wishing the anesthesiologist would shut up about the epidural already, thinking that it could be easy to get one, remembering that I DID NOT want one, wanting them to just GO AWAY, and that it was hard to answer questions.

"Have you ever had surgery?"

"Wisdom teeth," was all I could say. In my head I said the rest of the response I usually provide, which is, "And a second surgery for complications from the wisdom teeth, and a third surgery to remove 4 teeth for getting braces." But none of that came out. I just wanted them to leave, and luckily, they did. (I don't even remember if it was a man or a woman at this point, just that I wanted them to go away so badly.)

After all the formalities were complete, Tammy asked if I wanted to get in the shower. YES I DID! They got the water all nice and warm and we put the birth ball in there. I didn't want to sit on it, I wanted to lie on it again, like I'd done at home. So Tammy put down her gardener's knee pad that she'd brought, and I got in there and knelt down on it, and draped myself over the ball again. Joe came in and helped adjust the temperature, but it was hard, with me saying, "Oh my god, that's too hot. It's getting hotter. Woah, too cold!!" Suddenly I wanted all the steam in the world to be in that room and it felt so good. The door opened and the cold air that swooshed in was the worst feeling ever. I wanted that door closed. And then it was too hot, and I wanted to air the room out with the door open. Regulating the temperature so that it felt right was so hard! And my body seemed to need different things at different times. Suddenly, I had to pee, and Tammy said to just go ahead and go in the shower, so I did. It was nice not to have to get up!

Next thing I knew, I was told it was time to get out of the shower, because they needed to put in an IV port. I didn't want to move, but they said I could get back in the shower afterward, so I got up, and they wrapped me in a huge towel.

I sat in the bed, and the nurse, Courtney, asked me to lie down. I laid on my side, and asked that the IV port be put in my wrist, not my hand. She said okay, and started trying to do it. It was hard though, because they can't do it during a contraction, so she had to wait until it was over. She kept tightening and undoing the rubber tourniquet, and I kept trying to remain limp during contractions. This meant my wrist wasn't staying put, and she took my wrist, set it down again, and when I relaxed a bit and let it move slightly, I heard her sigh in exasperation. Then I got really irritated, but was SO trying to stay in my zone that I didn't say anything or let it really register that she was annoyed at me for having contractions! She said in an impatient tone, "Can you lie on your back?" and I said, "No, I can't." Fuck that! Lying on my side was already uncomfortable, and I was two seconds away from saying I didn't want the port at all.

Ann, the midwife, came in to check on things. I was so glad it was her. (You don't know which midwife you'll get until you arrive.) Courtney said she couldn't get the IV port in, and Ann suggested I get in the shower to help warm up my veins. What a wonderful idea!!

So back in the shower I went. I kneeled on the floor of the shower again and rocked on the ball, holding Tammy's hand at least part of the time. All of a sudden, when the contractions hit again, I reached out and slapped the shower wall, over and over, this rhythmic slap, slap, slap, like I was keeping time with the contraction or something. I don't know why, but it helped, and I did it for what felt like a long time, contracting and slapping the tiles.

Tammy said they needed to check the baby's heartbeat again (this needed to be done every 30 minutes), but that I could stay in the shower, and they'd bring the doppler over. Tammy asked if I wanted to sit on top of the birth ball in the shower, so I tried it, and it was nice. Courtney came over and squatted down in front of me, using the doppler. (Joe told me later that she had total "plumber's crack" showing!) I hated the heartbeat checks, because it always took a while to find, and in that time, I'd start feeling a bit worried (though I kept telling myself he was fine), and then finally, they'd say he really was fine, and leave me alone.

Soon it was time to get out of the shower again, to put in the IV port. I told Tammy, "I don't like that girl!" and she said, "I don't either." Then I said, "I don't want to lie down.." And Tammy left me to go ask them what my options were while Joe stayed by my side. She came back after she found out I'd be able to sit on the edge of the bed, and I said okay. I stepped out of the bathroom and my body gushed fluid. "Oh man, I'm still leaking," I said, and Ann (? .. someone, anyway!) said, "That's okay, that's normal, you'll keep leaking until the baby's out." Oh. I hadn't realized that somehow!

Draped in just a towel, I sat on the edge of the bed to try this one more time. It was a different nurse doing the IV port (and showing Courtney), and I breathed a sigh of relief. This nurse was really nice, but she tried a little too hard to be helpful. At this point, I'd been laboring for over 12 hours and had my own rhythm going. When a contraction hit, I'd say, "OHHHHHH" for a long time, and that was just how it was going. This nurse told me, "You're doing great, Meghan! Just relax. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth."

I ignored her.

"Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth."

I shook my head as I moaned. The next one hit and I moaned again. "No no, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth."

"SSSHH! SHH, SHH! STOP SAYING THAT!!!" I snapped, and to her credit, she did!

Then the IV port was in, and I was just glad that part was over.

I felt so hungry that I asked for a bite of a Luna bar. Joe grabbed one for me, and it was the protein kind that I like, with a flavor I'd been looking forward to trying - dark chocolate mint. I took a bite, and it tasted good, and then, as I was chewing, a contraction started. I stopped chewing, planning to just wait it out, but it was awful having food in my mouth during a contraction. I tried to just spit it out somewhere, and suddenly, I puked really hard. Tammy rushed to get the trash can and put it under me and I heaved into it. When I was done, she said something like, "I guess eating is out." Then she reminded me that puking is good, that it helps move the baby down. And I kind of felt better after that.

Then I spent a long time, hours, just laboring. I sat on the ball mostly, and leaned my arms and face on the bed. Sometimes I hugged Joe during them, my arms on his shoulders, his arms around me. He said he thought I might rip his shirt the way I clung to him! I always covered my face with my hands, kept my eyes closed and rocked back and forth, swaying my hips on the ball with each contraction. Joe and Tammy both just rubbed me and rubbed me. Every time the nurses needed to check the baby's heartbeat, Joe offered for me to lean into him and I did. He stood behind me and I let my body sink back into his, moaning, breathing, as they prodded my belly for the baby, and Joe hugged me and spoke softly in my ear, "It's okay, just breathe. Relax everything. It's just like they taught us in class, let it flow through you, like ocean waves, you're doing great."

Tammy encouraged me too, saying softly what a good job I was doing.

And they each frequently held a straw near me so I could sip ice water. It was awesome.

Later, Joe said he told Tammy that you could tell how severe a contraction was by how much I censored myself. During some contractions, I said, "Shit. SHIT! FUUUUCK! OH my god." And some made me say, "Ohhhhh... frickin' crap." Ha! Mostly I said "oh" in tones. "OHHHH-ohhhh. OHHHHHH-ohhh." And when I heard myself saying, "No no no," I caught myself, and didn't want to slow my body's progress by being scared or negative. I changed it to "Na, na, na," and "Ya ya ya," noises instead.

During one contraction, something happened and the ball I'd been rocking on suddenly wouldn't move. In a panic, I yelled, "Stop pushing the ball, STOP PUSHING ON THE BALL!!"

As it turned out, poor Joe, who'd literally spent hours pushing hard on my back during every single contraction had been standing behind me for god knows how long, and had gotten so tired that he leaned a little on the birth ball. And he said I didn't sound panicked, I sounded angry! Poor Joe. He also didn't know if he was helping at all as I labored, but he kept doing what he was doing, pushing on my back, and speaking soft, encouraging words over and over, even though he didn't know if it was helping me. I'm so glad he did, because it helped immensely, and I kept thinking in my head how grateful I was, but I couldn't articulate any of it. He was so awesome.

Tammy asked if we should try the Spinning Babies technique to turn the baby and I said okay. I got on my hands and knees in the bed, and Tammy got on the bed too, standing over me, slid a sheet under my belly, and then just shimmied the sheet back and forth under me. She did this a few times and told me to tell her when to stop, and I did once it felt weird. Then we thought we'd see if it made a difference and I continued to labor...

The contractions got stronger, or I thought they did, but I wasn't sure if I only felt that way because I was tired. Ann came in to check on me and said to let her know when I felt things change or get stronger, and she'd check my dilation again, and then left us alone.

Only a little while longer passed before I thought, maybe they really are stronger. I was so hesitant to get checked, because it HURTS, and because I didn't want to get checked unless it was time to push. I knew I couldn't stand it if I hadn't made much progress! And two cervical checks is plenty! Then Tammy noticed things getting more intense for me, and asked if I wanted Ann to check me. I thought about it for a second, then nodded and Tammy left to get her, while Joe kept pushing on my back and encouraging me. When Ann came back, I got on the bed, and tried to relax as much as I could, but again, yelled while she checked me. Then she said, "Okay. You're at 9 centimeters. So you can push whenever you feel ready."

"Oh wow, that's GREAT!" Tammy said excitedly. "Meghan, you're there, girl! You did it!"

Ann said, "That's really great. That's really fast progress!"

Then they talked to each other about how long I'd been laboring and how long (or more to the point, short!) it had been since I was just at 4 cm. Only 3 hours had passed. I remember other people having this air of excitement, and me feeling unable to join in with the enthusiasm. THERE IS STILL ONE MORE PART, I thought. I hadn't started pushing yet, and that seemed to be the most important part! I sighed and decided to just get ready. I felt so tired and a little afraid. But I just took a minute to say, "I love you guys." And, "I love you, baby boy." Thinking of him helped me focus on what this was really all about. Joe and Tammy said they loved me too.

PART 3

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October 2014

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