16 February 2012

Birth story part II

I'm enjoying writing these posts, and since I love reading birth stories, I hope they're fun for others too. After Gabriel was born I had two conflicting impulses: on one hand, I wanted to tell everybody all the details of his birth (it seemed strange just to announce it without explaining what had gone down!), but on the other hand, I was so ecstatic about it all that I just wanted to savor it for myself. Since "telling everybody all the details" isn't exactly considered societally acceptable, the latter impulse won out.

But now it's fun to revisit the experience, especially since in a few short months we'll be facing another round of labor and birth, and I hope to bring everything I learned then to bear on what we do now (even more so since I will barely know my doctor, and since labor and delivery staff here tend to be very oriented towards a medicalized birth--in other words, M. and I will need to advocate strongly for a natural birth, a task that I think will be easier having gone through it once before).

So where were we? The middle of the night, February 15, 2010. Labor was quiet and calm, but painful and intense. I thought we had hours of labor ahead of us, and so did our midwife and nurse. I had repeatedly asked to labor in the tub, but they kept putting it off, saying that it would be much more effective and a greater relief later in the course of labor. At this point I asked again, and in order to determine whether it was a good moment for the bath, my midwife gave me a cervical check (the first since the beginning of the evening, when I was less than a centimeter dilated). I was eight centimeters dilated! This surprised everyone, especially me, because I had been prepared to discover that I was only at a 5 or a 6.

At this point, my midwife and nurse left the room, and so did my mom, who was getting tired and needed a cup of tea. Precisely then, while lying on the bed after the cervical check, I experienced two long and strong contractions, along with a very strong urge to push. I whimpered to the Mister that he needed to get the midwife. Our nurse came in, discovered that I was at a ten, and asked me to give just a tiny push. The baby was ready to come out! She told me to hang on, not to push, and I held my breath.

Suddenly, the room filled with people. I hadn't expected such a transformation when it came time to actually deliver the baby! Surgical gowns, trays of instruments, a bright light centered between my legs, extra nurses. And my mom walked in with her tea, shocked at the new state of affairs in a room she had left, dark and quiet, only a few minutes earlier.

Pushing with each contraction actually felt great, and not too painful at all. It was more an exertion of energy and strength than anything, although I felt like I wasn't quite getting the hang of it, because they would give me differing instructions about how to push or how to curl around the baby. They dropped the bottom half of the bed and I was then able to grip a squat bar, which gave me a lot more traction, but still, no baby appeared. I was losing energy, even half-dozing between contractions, utterly out of it and waiting for the next contraction to swing me forward. This process by now had taken over an hour, with the baby still caught under my pelvis. He would descend and recede, descend and recede, which is what is supposed to happen, but it felt discouraging. Finally, after nearly two hours, the Mister and my mom could see the baby's head. Their excitement and exclamations gave me some badly needed oomph, although it felt abstract until the midwife told me to reach down and feel his hair. So soft, so present: our baby was arriving!

Even with his head nearly out, the baby just refused to exit his cozy harbor. My heart rate and the baby's were flagging, and they put an oxygen mask on me, which felt supremely annoying and sweaty, and  kept slipping off my face anyway. Worried about the baby's heart rate, my midwife gently asked about an episiotomy. I hadn't wanted one, but at this point, after two hours of pushing, I was ready to agree to anything. I didn't feel a thing when she made the small incision, and then with a rush, at 4:15 in the morning, Gabriel was born.

He cried right away, with soft tremulous cries, and was covered in white vernix (he didn't look like a 41-weeker, said my midwife). He lay on my chest, and although my mom and I had been sure that I would cry when I saw him for the first time, I didn't: I just felt so happy to see him and relieved that he was out. Plus, I felt an overwhelming sense of familiarity: it's YOU! You're here!

I was also somewhat distracted, because there were some distinctly unpleasant sensations still going on below, including the delivery of a very stubborn placenta and the stitching of the episiotomy. We watched, meanwhile, as Gabriel latched on and began to breastfeed, vigorously and contentedly, and pooped meconium all over my dressing gown. Thanks, dude! After about an hour the nurses weighed and measured Gabriel--8 pounds, 13 ounces, and 21 inches--and gave him the eye drops. The Mister got to hold his son for the first time, and my dad arrived in time to take some beautiful photos. We called M.'s parents in Spain on skype, while nurses kept telling us we would be leaving the delivery room but never actually showing up to move us (turns out four other women were delivering their babies at about that time, so the staff was a bit harried and had more important matters to attend to)! At long last, we gathered up our belongings onto a little cart, I got a new gown and was moved to a wheelchair, and Gabriel got his little wheely bassinet so we were on the move. As dawn arrived to reveal a snowdrifted scene outside the window, we settled into a cozy recovery room as a brand new family of three.


Jess said...

I love birth stories too! My first was also natural, but during time number two I ended up having a bit more medical intervention than I wanted (hormones), and opted for the epidural at the very end as I just couldn't take it anymore...every 60 seconds in agony for hours, and I was exhausted. All's well that ends well, and pushing on number two was over in 3 minutes...much faster second time around!!!

Robin said...

Birth stories are so great because they're all SO unique. So I know I can't expect the next one to go just the same...but I hope just as good!? And less pushing sounds FANTASTIC.