Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Welcoming Charlie

I spent my entire due date wallowing. Forty weeks pregnant. No sign of baby. No effacement, no dilation, she hadn't even dropped.

For the first time in nine months, I managed to sleep in, missing church, which was a relief. I couldn't bear the thought of answering questions about when she would be coming.
Unlike the previous week or so, I made no effort to get labor started. Nik was shocked when I asked, "Can we go for a drive?" rather than my usual insistence we go for a walk on Sundays. We drove down to a tiny town called Sunol, enjoying all the details of its small Main Street, followed by a long windy drive up into hills thick with trees and the most random spectrum of houses. The further into the hills we drove, the more the houses gave a "yes-a-serial-killer-might-live-here" vibe. The drive was a fun distraction from my self-hosted pity party.

We went home and binge watched like three episodes of Downton Abbey. (I entirely regret this, because the theme song was stuck in my head for all of labor and the entire hospital stay.) I took a shower, admitting due date defeat. I didn't want to go into labor with crazy wet bed head, so in the shower I thought, "I'm probably going to go into labor because of this wet hair." Around 10:30 pm, we went to bed.

At 12:30 am, I woke up to go to the bathroom. When in the bathroom, I realized maybe my water had broken? My pjs were kind of wet. And there was a trickle of water leaking out of me... And I was pretty sure I wasn't peeing...I calmly walked into our room, and said, "Nik, my water broke." He rolled over, and said, "Your kidding." I called my parents, and in a not-so-calm voice explained my water had broken. Something about calling my parents made is seem more real. My hospital bag was semi-packed, so we went around gathering things. As we left the house, Nik packed up the car, and I took out the trash. The nonchalant action of taking out the garbage, while birth was imminent calmed me. The entire situation was so casual, it didn't feel real. The hospital was fifteen minutes away.  We drove under a full moon. I always told Nik I'd have full moon babies. Nik had always said she would come on the 4th. We both enjoyed the satisfaction of our predictions being correct. Upon being admitted to the hospital, my progress was checked and I was at a 3. The way these nurses checked seemed much more invasive than at my doctors, like her goal was to lift me off the bed. 

My parents came to the hospital, and we all settled in for a long night. I was constantly being prodded. Getting an IV, the blood pressure monitor constricting and tightening every 20 minutes. Worst of all was the fetal heart monitor. The sound that had comforted me so much during my pregnancy, was driving me insane. Her quick heartbeat echoed in our room, and the fast pace seemed to be egging my heart to meet it. Nik kept turning it off after the nurses would turn it on. I think it was seven hours later, with no sleep that I was dilated to a 3+. No progress. They began pitocin, and contractions quickly started. The contraction monitor seemed to be like a sporting event for Nik and my dad. "Wow. That was a big one," they'd remark. "Yes, I am aware."Contractions were easier than I anticipated. It felt like a sprint. If I just focused through them, I could manage. I didn't want to be touched, and stood rocking on my feet. If it were up to me, I would have isolated myself in a room and gone through the contractions alone. I didn't want anyone there. 

After two hours of contractions, the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural. I was at a six. She was young and had an arrogance that made me not like her immediately. Crunched into an awkward position, with my back exposed, through four contractions the epidural was placed. In the process of getting the epidural, the baby shifted, and the remaining water broke free. What felt like gallons of warm water poured all over me, the nurse, and the floor, as a I sat through a contraction unable to move because of the epidural. Something about how exposed and tired I was broke me during the epidural. It was terrible.

Everything that occurred after the epidural is fuzzy, because of how exhausted I was. An hour later, it was time to push. The epidural didn't seem very strong, I could move my legs, and feel when I was checked, but I didn't want it to be topped off. I'd always heard you'd want to feel contractions when you pushed. I was terrified to push. These contractions were just a deep pressure that didn't want to be pushed into, like I thought it would feel like. Pushing took two and a half hours. Ten seconds of pushing three times for every contraction. It seemed impossible. The nurse would exclaim, "We can see a dime size of her head!" And I would think, "Lady, are you kidding me?! You think I'm going to get excited over a dime? Do you know how big a baby's head is?" At times I thought to myself, "Surely, no one has been worse at giving birth than me." Because it felt like I was giving everything I had for no return. 

Unlike during the contractions, I desperately needed assistance from everyone when pushing. I needed to hear the nurse tell me, "Breathe. And push." I needed to hear my mom counting, and I needed to hear Nik's encouragement after each session of pushing. The level of difficulty was unimaginable. I never thought it would be that hard. I never knew how ten seconds could feel like an eternity. To make matters worse, my weak epidural couldn't save me from the Charlie (ironically named) horses that consumed my legs whenever I tried to push. 

After two hours, my doctor came in suited up, and I felt like fifteen other people entered the room. The doctor explained how she was caught on a lip, and she needed to just be pushed over the lip. I felt delirious. I was so exhausted.  He said I'd need an episiotomy, and I was glad he and I had discussed it weeks ago if I were to need one. Next thing I knew, it felt like my entire body was ripped open. I heard excitement enter the room and my doctor said something along the lines of, "Pull out your baby." Umm, no thank you. Completely drained, I gasped, "I have no idea what is going on." I'm assuming he did the honors of grabbing my baby out from me, you know, because he is a doctor. 

They placed Charlie on me, and I just sobbed from the relief that it was over. After a while, they weighed her. And when her 8 lb. 11 oz weight was announced I felt validated in the difficulty of pushing. Seriously, this baby was so chubby. I was over the moon about her rolls. She was my dream baby. 

I always anticipated birth to be a really spiritual experience. From an outsider's perspective, I can recognize the divinity in the process of birth. However, my experience felt very medical. It felt like other times I had gone to the hospital for being sick, but much more exhausting. I don't even really associate Charlie with the experience. It wasn't until we were back in our own home that I felt at peace. The only "special" or spiritual moment was when somehow, in the cloudy fog of the first moments she was out, was looking up at Nik and he was crying. He seemed overjoyed, whispering "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh." I'm really grateful for that memory, because I feel like I can experience that joy through him. 

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