First-timers never seem quite sure about going into labor, and I was no exception. I called Fran back from school around lunchtime on a Friday, because I was getting a trickle of fluid and some contractions, but the contractions stopped coming and the fluid stopped trickling, and in the evening we went on over to the hospital just to check on whether it was amniotic fluid or the mysterious "something else" of pregnant-woman legend...they said it wasn't amniotic fluid, but since the trickle had stopped quite a while back, that didn't surprise me. Probably a high leak that resealed.
We walked all weekend. Around the beach park, watching people playing volleyball...we made the 2-mile circuit twice. Around the parking lot by Fran's mom's place. Around the neighborhood by my parents' place. Up curbs, down curbs. Up stairs, down stairs.
I went to sleep defeated on Sunday night and sent Fran to school on Monday morning. Only to call him back, again around noon. This time at least, I told him to stay at school until he got out at 4. I labored lightly all day, nothing difficult or painful but oh so exciting. My mom did a manicure and pedicure. It felt nice but she painted my nails and that is very unlike me, so in the birth and postpartum photos it doesn't seem like ME holding my baby. Small thing, eh? But my bond with her was so tenuous, right at the beginning, that it seems sad to me.
I was so very hungry by dinner. My mom had made spaghetti and I ate a ton of it, despite the warning that it was sure to all come back up. By the time we were sitting around after dinner, contractions were coming almost every minute, but were still pretty painless. I definitely knew they were there. It wasn't feeling particularly urgent, but the birth center/hospital was over the mountain, so off we headed.
Things became painful when we got there.
This is where my memory really leaves off. It was a fog really. It was more pain than I had imagined and a lot of that was poor coping. We had been to childbirth ed classes, but it was one of those "you don't get a medal for going natural" classes, and all of the techniques we'd learned were about coaching, talking, touching...interacting. I discovered I was a very introspective birther and wanted not a thing to do with people telling me what to do, with looking at things, with being touched. And yet, this was all we'd learned. Our "teacher" had actually told us that it was a bad idea to close your eyes during a contraction!
So childbirth was a FIGHT for me. A tooth-and-nails, knock-em-down, FIGHT. My body versus my brain. My husband, because of that childbirth ed training, largely fell on the "brain" side of the fight and kept trying to coach. I was so stuck in myself that I couldn't tell him not to. I'm not sure I muttered a whole two intelligible words until well after I'd given birth. My body battled my brain with everything it had; muscles, hormones, everything. I was convinced I needed to battle back.
It was torture.
The nurse at some point asked whether my water broke. "Friday," I said, thinking of my trickle and not entirely thinking straight at the moment. "That's not what we want to hear," she said. "OK," I said, "it didn't break yet then." "Much better," she said, charting the news happily. Later, during pushing, my water would gush during a contraction but not EXPLODE the way it did with my second, so I do think that it leaked a bit on Friday and had reopened that leak during labor. But whatever, it is probably better she charted that it was unbroken.
Probably around 10pm the nurse asked for the second time whether I wanted an epidural, and informed me that the anesthesiologist was going home for the night and it would take an hour if we decided later. I was beyond speaking by this point and my mom answered for me, "no, she doesn't want one, send him home." "You sure?" the nurse said. I nodded. The anesthesiologist left.
At some point I did throw up that spaghetti. My mom was ready with a large bucket.
At some point I got in the bathtub, and that was nice. But it was small and to submerge my belly any kind of meaningfully I needed to lean backwards, and that was uncomfortable, so I stayed in there for probably only a little more than half an hour (wild guess there).
I don't remember a lot from the last couple hours. I remember at one point I stared at the instructions for operating the hospital bed and that got me through one contraction without losing my connection to reality.
Towards the end, I fell asleep between each contraction, I was so tired. I think that this was what finally allowed my body to complete the process, because I was too tired to fight it anymore.
When I started pushing, my mom had to battle the nurses to "let" me push in a crouch. The squat bar they'd advertised in their literature was nowhere to be found, and it was obvious that if it existed at all, it was in some dusty far-off closet.
Pushing wasn't the relief I'd heard it was, but it wasn't horrid either. I don't remember the nurse checking to see that I was fully dilated, but this might have been because I blocked it out. The only reason I remember pushing in a squat is because I can remember holding tight to the back of the bed (fully tilted upwards), looking straight at the wall, knees half-akimbo and embedded in the top half of the bed.
But I was already quite tired, and after only a few contractions I needed to lie down again. The nurses "helped" me into that unlovely c-shaped pushing position, and were shocked to see that there was quite a bit of descent. They ran off to call my doctor, insisting that I take it easy on the pushing. As more and more of the head became visible, and there was still no doctor, they tried to get me to breathe through contractions.
I was unable to tell them off, FAR beyond the ability to express myself verbally, but luckily my mom was there.
"Surely you can catch a baby? I'd get ready for that possibility, ladies!" *nurses stand about as far from me as they can get while still in the same room, looking for all the world like deer stuck in headlights* *mom gives nurses a disgusted look, and says "GO AHEAD and PUSH." I'm pretty sure she'd have caught that baby herself if they kept standing there.
Like I was about to do anything else at the moment!
This, btw, is why in all my photos (and I have very graphic photos of this birth) there is NO perineal support even though it is obvious I needed it. I was also, however, spared an episiotomy in a situation where I'm sure all but the most episiotomy-hating doctor would have performed one.
At some point the pictures stopped, because there was no mirror and the only way I could see anything was if Fran turned the swivelling screen of the camera.
My doctor came running in, her hair dishevelled, snowflake sweater pulled over a matching flannel pajama set, chewing gum, just in time to pull on gloves as Becca's head bulged past my perineum.
Her cord was wrapped around her neck a couple of times and tight, if I remember correctly. It is REALLY foggy. I think the doctor cut the cord before she was fully delivered because of it...certainly the cord was cut once already before my husband was presented with the scissors, and I think that this was the reason.
When she was plopped on my chest, I couldn't say anything but "oh, oh, oh." Words still failed me but in a very different way. Becca was born at 2ish in the morning. She stared at me with one eye open and the other sealed shut against the light. She'd switch eyes every now and then but couldn't seem to handle having them both open at once. She nursed pretty quickly after she was born.
Her shoulders were what tore me. Pretty badly, too. 3rd, almost 4th degree. The repair took a long time but my doctor was gentle and careful, and she did a good job of it. It was painful recovering but it healed well and I have no complaints about that.
At some point a broken thermometer was used and read some outrageous high temp. The nurses took Becca over to the side to check things out and redid the temp several times...with the same thermometer. Finally my mom got fed up and just TOLD them to go get a new one. They did, and she was fine. Great.
We slept that morning pretty uneasily. We were still awake when the sun rose outside the window. We slept on and off, people came in to see us. I was exhausted. I don't really remember anything, except that after we woke up that first day a kind nurse took pity on my discomfort and gave me a cast-off set of hospital scrubs to wear. I felt like she'd given me my dignity back, and when Fran's family came to visit I felt like a PERSON. It was so much better than feeling like a PATIENT.
A lovely, vibrant, curly-red-headed nurse with an unidentifiable accent (at least in my memory) was happy to hear that even if we'd had a boy, she wouldn't have had to try and talk us gently out of a circumcision.
My mom took the "breastfeeding" bag (from Similac!) and dumped all the formula propaganda into the trash. With flair. With as many nurses in the room as possible. While expounding on the evils of formula companies.
And after a second night at the hospital we packed up and left.
Recovery was heinous. And not just from my tearing. My body had fought hard, and all my muscles were sore. Very sore. My arms in particular...I couldn't lift them above my head without supreme effort for a week.
My bottom hurt like NOTHING ELSE, which isn't terribly surprising given the tearing. My mom prepped sitz baths for me and I tried to lie exposed to air on a chux pad every now and then. But I was supremely uncomfortable.
When my 6 week check came around I still didn't really feel well, but I suppose my recovery was passable.
I had PPD after my daughter was born, something I didn't recognize until well after I was out of it. She was not the easiest child in the world - colicky, difficult to comfort, supremely high-strung - and that didn't help any.
Fran and I married when she was 6 months old - she was still high-strung but no longer horribly colicky. I pulled out of my PPD a couple of months after that and became the "me" that most of you, who read my blog, now know.
The whole period - pregnancy, birth, and postpartum - was a growing and changing experience for me. I went into it a newly-adult-being, not yet matured, and came out essentially as you know me today.