(Warning to my few male blog readers-- Hi, Dad!--the following post reveals mucho labor and delivery details. Proceed with caution.)
With the impending arrival of the newest Duggan, most of my mental energy right now is devoted to all things labor and delivery.
Was that a contraction?
Did my water just break?
Why don't I feel the baby moving? Is everything OK?
When is this baby cooooooooooooming?
Birth stories are to women what war stories are to my dad, the retired Marine and Vietnam Veteran. If you are a mother and you've delivered a baby, you have an amazing story to tell because bringing forth new life into the world is well, ... it's one of the most amazing gifts we women are privileged to receive. The entrance of all my little darlings into our world was notable, but Christopher's birth was unlike anything I've experienced.
And since I'm a mere 6 days away from my due date (but--again--who's counting?), I thought now might be a good time to relay the adventure that brought him into the world.
How about a little story, kind readers?
Christopher was due five days after Christmas, which worked out perfectly because my mom, dad, my sister, Sarah, and my brother, Kevin, were able to celebrate the holiday with us before the baby arrived. It also meant I had built in childcare, which for a 9 month pregnant woman with multiple littles to take care of, was a huge stress reliever. I didn't have to worry about making frantic phone calls to friends to take care of the kids while we raced to the hospital. Grandma and Grandpa were there to handle them. It was awesome.
For some women, the more babies they have, the shorter their labors become. This has not been the case for me. The more kids I've had, the longer my labors are, so much so that they I have contraction for weeks (even months) before my actual due date. (These aren't those pesky Braxton Hicks contractions, either. They are the real deal that will start and eventually stop only to begin again later. The medical term for this is Prodromal labor and I get it. A lot. One day I'll tell you about Mary Bernadette's birth. Oi vey.) On Christmas day, I actually had several tell tale signs of labor (vomiting, diarrhea, and contractions) for several hours but these stopped and I had to play the waiting game. Again. (As an aside, this type of start and stop labor REALLY messes with a pregnant woman's head.)
The Prodromal--start and stop--labor prompted me to allow the doctor induce me on December 29.
I knew I could probably avoid a C-Section because this was my fourth baby and because I was already fully effaced and 2 centimeters dilated. Plus, my out-of-town family was available to help me and I needed them. So at 5 am on Monday, December 29th, I woke early, scoured myself with the anti-bacterial soap the nurse requested I use, and asked John to take me to get an omelet at the Waffle House. We feasted over plates full of delicious grease and then we headed to the hospital.
By 8 am I was dressed in one of those awful hospital gowns and laying in a hospital bed, while the nurse took my stats. The doctor came in to start the Pitocin drip and I talked him out of breaking my water. He agreed, but was reluctant. This man had been my doctor for all four of my pregnancies and he had delivered several of the kids. He knew I desired to deliver my babies as naturally as possible and I had already communicated I wanted another natural labor (minus the Pitocin, of course). We had a good rapport in our doctor/patient relationship but overall, I think he humored me about the no drug thing. He just didn't see the point if there was a way to avoid the pain, but he always honored my request. (Another aside: giving birth in the South--where the women show up with their hair done and full face of make up on-- is a totally different experience than giving birth on the East Coast. For REALZ. But that is also a post for a different time.)
After he started the drip, I asked the nurse for one of those birthing balls. My friend had told me this made her labor go quicker, so I was willing to try. I bounced on the ball for an hour or two and nothing really happened. I had some mild contractions but they weren't the kind that hurt and I knew I wasn't making any progress. Around 10 am, the doctor came back in, confirmed there was no progress and encouraged me to let him break my water. I agreed and within minutes, I had contractions so intensely and so quickly, I couldn't catch my breath between each one. I thought I was going to hyperventilate.
After a half hour of solid, non-stop pain, one of the nurses checked me. I had gone from 2 centimeters dilated to 8 centimeters. It was about 10:30 am and it was, hands down, the most painful labor experience I'd ever had.
The most unsettling thing about the whole situation was my nurse was not really clued into what was happening. She was about 12 weeks pregnant herself and was very distracted and unaware of how close I was to delivering, even though the doctor had just broken my water. I don't think she had attended many natural births because she seemed utterly clueless that I was in hard-core labor/transition.
While John fooled around on his Blackberry and the nurse flitted about the room, I had another really painful contraction. Right as my pain was at it's peak, I saw the nurse open the door to leave. Though I'm a loud person in everyday life, I'm very quiet when I'm in labor, so I raised my hand to get her attention and said forcefully,
"Please don't leave. This baby is coming."
She smiled and closed the door and went back to preparing the room for delivery. Even John wasn't really aware of how close I was to giving birth because he kept texting and Googling baby names on his phone. In his defense, my labor went really fast once the doctor broke my water, and I think John was expecting me to be in labor for most of the day.
And the nurse? She was in another time zone.
I had another contraction and knew if I stayed sitting on the ball, the baby was going to fall out onto the ground. So as soon as the contraction ended, I hopped off the ball and on the bed.
I pushed one time and out came Christopher--face down with no one to catch him.
When the nurse turned around and saw what happened, she pressed a button that sounded throughout the entire hospital, Code Red! Code Red! John looked up from his blackberry and rushed to me and the baby and then about 5 million people flooded into my room, while I lay there--in full glory-- panting and trying to recover. When a baby is born without a physician in the room, it was this particular hospital's policy to send in special teams to make sure mom and baby are OK.
But no one explained this to me.
I just heard the screeching Code Red! Code Red! and all these official looking people streamed into the room and I panicked.
"What's wrong with the baby? What's wrong with the baby?" I started yelling.
This very southern, African American nurse got in my face.
"Boo," she said. "Your baby is fine."
I choked back tears and said, "What's with all the sirens then?"
"That just means no doctor was in the room."
"Does that mean I have to pay him?" I asked her, jokingly.
She threw her head back in laughter and patted my shoulders.
"You know you're gonna have to pay him," she said.
We laughed together and the doctor strolled in and made a joke about how I never waited for him for anything.
My afterbirth contractions were so strong (maybe from the fact the pitocin had just been turned off?) that I asked for some oral Tylenol with codeine and within a minute my (negligent) nurse stuck something in my IV. I think it was some sort of Demerol or something and I saw stars and the room starting spinning. I immediately regretted the request. I felt stoned, especially because the drug went right into my vein.
The respiratory team checked out Christopher--who was perfectly healthy--and the doctor stitched me up (Christopher came out like gang busters, so you do the math...). Then the nurse brought me to my room, we called my family and they brought the kids to meet their newest sibling.
It was a beautiful day.
And all that searching John did on his phone? He decided that we should name the baby Christopher Thomas Becket Duggan because he was born at Christmas time on Thomas Becket's feast day. I loved the name.
Still, it took me several days to relax because of the way Christopher was born and months to not be unsettled by the memory of it. I like to say I delivered Christopher myself, but I also say it was the way I delivered him that made me open to the beauty of an epidural.
And I confess, the epidural is beautiful, but not more beautiful than him:
I'd take the pain again in a hot minute.