(subtitle: There Will Be Blood)
OK so when I left off last time, Jeff and I had just finished cramming several months’ worth of stress and life events into one two-week period. What’s written below is just the events of the next 24-ish hours, sans commentary (I’ll save my feelings for a later post). So…
They say hindsight is 20/20. And in this perfect reflective vision, I now see that on that Sunday afternoon I was likely in pre-labor, or whatever you want to call it. But given all the running around we’d just been doing, it was easy to chalk the little bits of weirdness up to being overly-tired. For one, I slept in the car almost the whole way back to St. Louis (I never sleep in the car). When we got back into town that night, I was still feeling sort of generally icky and achy and spent some time bitching about how I was “tired of being pregnant” (note to the Universe: very funny.) So that evening Jeff sifted me and applied counterpressure to my sacrum and gave me a back rub and generally did all those nice things that one does for one’s pregnant and crabby wife. I went to bed early, with an extensive mental list of packing and chores to begin the following morning (since, y’know, we were planning on leaving St. Louis in just 10 days…).
I woke up at about midnight feeling really warm and even ickier than before. Jeff took my temp (98.6) and I went back to sleep, vowing to sleep in the next day and “take it easy”.
At 2:15 I woke up again, realized “Oh shit I think my water just broke” and ran to the bathroom (JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIES. OR SOMETHING.), where I called to Jeff: “Umm, Love? Don’t freak out but I think my water may have broken.” (secret, just between you and me? I knew that’s what it was. But part of me hoped I’d just peed myself or something. Note to any horny teenagers reading this: yes, pregnancy is just that awesome. It makes you hope that you’ve peed yourself. Always practice safe sex.) Jeff’s body – operating about 15 seconds ahead of Jeff’s brain – immediately leapt out of bed and ran to the bathroom doorway, where he stood staring dumbly at me (sitting sexily there on the toilet) for a ridiculously long period of time. “So, I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, but we should probably go get this checked out” I said.
(Inside my head, though, it was “dammit dammit dammit premature labor and going to the hospital, this was NOT my plan.” But I didn’t tell Jeff that.)
So I got dressed, and he got dressed, and I tossed his laptop, my iPad, and a couple of his bar prep books into his backpack (I suspected that we’d be there for a while, and dude was less than a week away from taking the bar).
Now, keep in mind that this Hoopling wasn’t supposed to be born in a hospital, or in St. Louis. As such, I’d done precisely ZERO research about hospitals in St. Louis (or elsewhere, for that matter). But in the back of my head I remembered our homebirth prep class instructor (Samanda) making the off-hand remark in one session, “If I had to transfer to a hospital, I’d go to St. Mary’s.” St. Mary’s was also the closest hospital to our house. So that’s where we went (this would later prove to be a VGD – Very Good Decision).
At the hospital, the receptionist dude directed me up to the women’s care wing, while Jeff parked the car. I checked in up there, was asked a litany of questions by a very nervous and polite intern (aww), got an IV (ick), a swab to determine if my water had broken (hint: it had), and received the only cervical exam of the whole ordeal (hurt like fucking hell), which indicated that I’d dialated to 2cm. A tech came in and did an ultrasound, which revealed that Hoopling was still head down, locked and loaded. They guessed Hoopling weighed about 4.5 lb (HA! in retrospect).
It was 3:30 am and I was sitting in a hospital bed in St. Louis with an IV in my arm and a still-dazed husband next to me. Whee.
After a quick conversation with an OB, they decided to move me down to a L&D room. I was in premature labor, but since I wasn’t having any notable contractions we were all hopeful that Hoopling could stay inside and bake for a while longer. In L&D I got hooked up to monitors and a magnesium drip to prevent labor, and an IV of antibiotics. And I got a steroid shot in the hip, to try and expedite maturation of Hoopling’s lungs. Fun stuff.
So we chilled out there for a long-ass time. LONG. ASS. TIME. Once it reached a respectable hour Jeff called my mom to let her know what was going on and that there was no urgency, but would she maybe be interested in coming to St. Louis at some point? And then he called the HR lady at WashU to make sure that my COBRA was in effect (since my last day had been Thursday, y’know.). And I sat there in that stupid bed hooked up to all sorts of wires and crap, wearing a makeshift cloth pad, eating a veggie burger and reading blogs on my iPad. I was having very mild, irregular, crampy contractions and the monitors indicated that Hoopling was just ridin’ along with them, so it seemed that we were in a holding pattern. I started recording them on the contraction-timer app on Jeff’s phone just for shits and giggles: 1 minute on, 15 minutes off. 45 seconds on, 12 minutes off. Really exciting stuff.
My mom showed up in early afternoon, and Jeff went home to shower and pick up a couple things. Since it had become apparent that Hoopling would be born in St. Louis (sooner or later), and since we had done no preparation or planning for a hospital birth, we decided to call Samanda and ask if she would be our doula. She said yes (yay!), and then offered to stop by that evening on her way to Trader Joe’s. We said “sure, if you have time.” If only she knew! (Also a VGD)
So the whole time that we were chatting and blog-reading and bar-prepping and veggie-burger-eating, a steady stream of doctors and students were coming in to look at the monitor and ask me questions. Everybody asked how my pain rated on a scale of 1 to 10; my answer was always the same: “1.5? Maybe 2?” After a while it was marginally more noticeable, so I upped my responses to “2 or 2.5, I guess. Maybe.”. A neonatologist came in and introduced himself; I thought briefly “I like this dude”. (FORESHADOWING). Then the OB on day-shift duty came in and I did NOT like him. Never had to see that twerp again.
I need to detour for a minute to talk about this pain thing. I’ve always known that I have a high pain tolerance. In our classes with Samanda, we’d practice pain coping techniques by holding ice cubes to simulate contractions. That’s when I learned that it had zero effect on me (strong Norwegian ice-loving blood, perhaps? :-P). In class I could always feel the *sensation* of the cold ice, but it never felt unpleasant or painful, per se. You might also recall that I’m the nutso who knitted through over an hour of on-the-bone foot tattooing. The tattoo was painful, but tolerable: I knew I was going to have some awesome body art to show for it. So when asked to quantify those contractions, I had to think of the only really truly excruciating pain I’d experienced: some absolutely awful cramps I’d had in England last summer, when we were touring Windsor castle. Fresh off a many-year stint on the Pill, I’d not had really bad cramps before. But those in Windsor castle took the cake. The cramps were so bad that I spent the whole tour crouched in a corner of some big fancy castle-y dining room, clutching Jeff’s hand, ready to sob, pass out, and/or vomit at any moment. (Those only got better when we obtained some special not-available-in-America version of Midol at the grossly overpriced Windsor drugstore. That I was even willing to take medicine then really says something – I’m not a fan of painkillers. I mean, if my arm were lopped off in an ill-advised bout with King Arthur I might take a Tylenol. But that’s about it.) So anyway. Compared to the Windsor castle cramps, those contractions were nothing. NOTHING.
Samanda showed up at around 7:00 just to say hi and answer a few questions (which Jeff and I had been jotting down as they’d occurred to us all day). It was awesome having her there – an expert who knew the hospital lingo, but one also knew us. By then I decided that it felt nice to sit up and stare off in the distance when I had a particularly noticeable contraction, but again: still irregular, still not very painful.
So, it logically stands that a good indication of labor is 1)duration and frequency of regular contractions and 2)pain during contractions. Since my contractions were all over the place and not really very painful, it was determined by everyone (including me) that I wasn’t really in labor. They needed to free up the L&D room for someone who was actually going to L and D, so I got booted to an antepartum room. Samanda decided to stick around for that trip down the hallway (VGD #3).
Here’s where it gets funny. Almost as soon as my ass hit the door in that antepartum room, I had one stronger contraction when some twunty nurse tried to make me lay back for the monitors (I’m pretty sure I told her just where she could shove her fucking monitors, but my exact words were “No, I’m not interested in doing that.”).
Then just a second later, I needed to push. (Holy shit!). I knew no one would believe me because dudes, I wasn’t even in real labor. So instead of saying “I need to push”, I said “I need to poop”. People don’t fool around when a pregnant woman says she needs to poop, y’all.
Samanda went and told somebody “She says she needs to poop!”, while I pushed just a teeny little bit to feel better. Somebody jabbed another steroid shot in my hip as a last-ditch attempt to mature my poor little 4.5-lb baby’s lungs. Then a new OB came in (Dr. Potter, who later proved to be my hero of awesomeness) and it all escalated quickly from there (ya think?). One of the first things Dr. Potter-my-hero said was, “I know this isn’t the birth experience you’d wanted, but I want you to know you can deliver in any position you want.”
I FREAKING LOVED DR. POTTER RIGHT THEN.
After spending a whopping 20 minutes in the antepartum room, I was whisked down the hall to the closest delivery room, which happened to be one of the giant high-tech shiny metal OR’s reserved for delivering quadruplets stacked like cord wood or something (I think it even had a machine that goes “PING!”). I wanted to push, but even I knew that heading down the hallway with my ass in the air was not a good time to do that. (LOGIC.) That’s also the ONLY time that things were really painful: when I wanted to push, and needed to push, but couldn’t push. THAT was not fun.
(Jeff has read this already and says I wasn’t as coherent in this next part as I make it seem, but this is exactly how it was in my head. The sentences, etc. just maybe didn’t all make it OUT of my head.)
Jeff and Samanda threw on scrubs, and got to the OR just a minute or two after I did. I hopped (err…rolled, with assistance) onto my hands and knees, thoroughly tangling myself in the stupid IV and hospital gown (I tried to make Jeff cut that fucking hospital gown off me, but the nurse wouldn’t let him. God I hated that gown.). The monitors wouldn’t stay on when I was up on all fours, so one nurse, Valerie, (who is also my hero) stretched out next to me and held them in place under me the whole time. Let me restate this: rather than make me do what was convenient for *them*, Dr. Potter-my-hero and Valerie-also-my-hero went out of their way to accommodate my comfort and desires. BAD ASS.
With Samanda at my head, holding my hand and encouraging me, and Jeff and Dr. Potter and half the St. Mary’s staff at my ass staring expectantly at a giant hairy head way up in my vagina (SEXY), I pushed. Pushing felt *good*, y’all. No one tried to tell me what to do or when; I just went with the urges. It was very much a “two steps forward, one step back” feeling, which was sort of frustrating. But the observational part of my brain was still plugged in, so I also kept thinking “Huh. This is exactly like I’d read about!” I also recall (but might be imagining) that there was a lot of silence, and patience: I don’t remember feeling rushed or worried at all. When Hoopling was crowning and I felt the ring of fire, my brain again was like “Aah yes, now I am experiencing the ring of fire.” And in that moment I took a second to sing some Johnny Cash inside my head.
Then at 9:37pm I got sick of waiting and head-singing and having my cellulite-y ass waggling in the breeze, so I bore down like a mofo and shoved that Hoopling out. HUZZAH!
I’d been afraid (much to the amusement of everybody in the room) that I would sit on Hoopling after it was born. I apparently voiced these fears repeatedly. But when Hoopling emerged and Jeff said “It’s a boy!” and then there he was laying on the bed under my stomach, I definitely did *not* sit on him. Just so ya know. (Stupid crazy labor fears).
My first thought seeing the little dude was “Wow! He’s big and pink! And he has hair!” No way was that giant healthy-looking crying thing the “4.5 lb preemie” I’d been promised. I sat back and looked at him for a little bit, and then hopped (rolled, etc.) onto my back so I could cuddle him. Someone had put one of those pink and blue stripey hats on him and I kept trying to take it off so I could get a proper look at him. Since he was quite clearly breathing well and there was no huge rush to get him immediately under observation, we had a moment. I didn’t expect him to nurse straightaway, but knew that there were hormonal benefits to even an attempt (no, seriously. That’s how the thought was in my head: “there will be hormonal benefits to this”), so I shoved a nipple in the general direction of his mouth anyway. And we did all the requisite toe- and finger-counting, etc. But honestly, this bit was rather an awesome blur.
After a moment it was time for him to go wow everyone with stellar Apgars (9!) and I had a placenta to deliver (whee!), so Jeff went off with little dude while I craftily undertook to replicate that hallway scene from The Shining, using only my vagina.
(Aside: it always annoyed me reading other peoples’ birth stories, when they just say “and then I delivered the placenta”. I mean, it’s a whole placenta! Granted it’s not as exciting as the bit that comes before it, but surely you can spare *some* description of what that feels like. So I’m going to tell you.)
Placentas are awesome. They’re a whole organ that your body creates just to sustain another being! They protect and nurture that being, and provide it with the required nutrients for months on end. And they’re 100%, completely disposable: you have another baby, you grow another placenta. And best of all, they’re really freaking easy to deliver, what with the lack of bones and all. It’s seriously like “push, squish, slither, DONE.” (I apologize for the onomatopoeia. But not really.) So yeah, I delivered the placenta. I apparently even said, “I could deliver 400 placentas!” I’m glad no one made me try for that record.
And then the charge nurse showed it to me, and I said, “Cool. I want to keep it.” And she said “No. We need to send it to pathology.” So I tried bargaining (note: I don’t remember this part, but Samanda says I said this): “OK, you keep half and I’ll take half.”
No dice. I didn’t get my placenta, and yes I am still a bit sore about that. It’s mine, dammit! Makes me sick to think of it being tied up in a plastic bag and tossed away with medical waste.
So anyway. Jeff was down the hall with his mini-me, and I got to go to a recovery room. Samanda stayed with me, and my mom came in, and Valerie-also-my-hero started to do all the standard postpartum-y stuff to me. I asked again about my placenta and she seemed truly sorry that she couldn’t get it for me; I told her that next time (if there *is* a next-time-in-the-hospital), I’m going to bring some ground chuck in a cooler and switch it for the placenta when no one’s looking. I don’t think she believed me, but I totally mean it.
And thus began the longest two hours of my *life*. Jeff was off with little dude and a whole bunch of strangers were doing stuff to him and I had no idea what the hell it was, and I wanted to see him but I was told to stay in that goddamned bed, but at least there was apple juice. And every now and again Jeff and my mom would switch stations (Samanda stayed with me the whole time, feeding me that blessed sweet nectar of apple), and Jeff brought phone pics of little dude and told me all about how well he was doing, and I made sure to grab the list of names we’d written up some weeks prior, which Jeff had smartly stuck in his backpack during that quick trip home.
Finally, Valerie-also-my-hero got the go-ahead to help me regain my composure. Samanda headed home, I cleaned up a bit (OW OW OW) and Jeff and I headed over to the NICU to see our Hoopling.
That’s when Jeff and I got to look at him in the calm, quiet, for the first time, together. And I had the name list folded up in my hand but we didn’t need it, because we both looked at him and were immediately like, “Wow. There’s Simon Neal.”
Awesome NICU nurse Amy stood quietly next to us, and when we were ready she explained just how strong and healthy he was, and pointed out how he didn’t need help breathing or anything, and answered a bunch of stupid questions that I asked but now I don’t even remember what they were. Then after a long, long time we went to my postpartum room (it was like 2am by this point), and my mom fetched Taco Bell (best damn bean burrito of my LIFE), and I was feeling quite sore so I took the Motrin that a nurse offered (that’s how you know I was *really* feelin’ it. One whole Motrin!), pumped a quarter-milliliter of colostrum, and fell asleep.
And so our NICU adventure began…
In conclusion, I cannot *wait* until Simon is old enough to explain exactly what he thought he was doing, coming early and all. I just wish that labor had been more painful (the better to guilt him with, you know). “Fetch Mama a Diet Coke. I LABORED PAINLESSLY FOR 16 HOURS THEN PUSHED FOR 20 MINUTES TO BRING YOU INTO THIS EARTH YOUNG MAN” just doesn’t have a strong effect, does it?
PS>I pooped, and Jeff saw. But he still loves me. HE’D BETTER.
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