I think this may have been the day after we got home from the hospital. It’s a blur, but I can tell from how she fits into these preemie size pajamas (she doesn’t fit anymore) that it was early on. When we left the hospital, Ginny weighed 4 lbs. 3 oz. She now weighs north of 6.5 lbs. In under three weeks! In the words of my doula: “you have cream.”
I sat here for a minute trying to come up with the one impression to sum up my birth experience with Ginny and the feeling that stands out – stronger than the fear and pain and stress that preceded it all – is that of profound rest when I finally sank into my bed in my new home. My mom and one of my best friends, Megan, were in the house caring for my sons and making a delicious dinner. There were flowers and tiny gold baby shoes waiting for me on my table and I got to hold my daughter and just sleep with her in my arms for the first time since she’d been born. I know so many people have to wait so much longer for this moment (like another client of my doula’s who had also been planning a home birth, went unexpectedly pre-eclamptic and was induced two days later. Her son had heart surgery this past week, so she still hasn’t gotten to hold him in the comfort of her home. My heart goes out to her every day.) but it’s the first time I haven’t gotten to immediately hold and cuddle and sleep with one of my babies. I had the thought before I crashed into sleep that this, undoubtedly, was a bit of how heaven would feel: the feeling of having fled from terror and pain into the embrace of perfect peace and rest.
Aside from that I’ve been trying to decide what’s worth telling. This morning I have to confess that I’ve gotten angry with my kids several times because of various thing preventing me from writing this post. It seems like such a small thing to want to do. I keep thinking surely it’s not selfish to want to write this post. But my babies need me and staring at a screen doesn’t count as being present. Right now they are watching PBS kids so we can all calm down but I just can’t keep parenting this way, so this may be my last post for a long time. I wish I could write all of the things in my head about television and attachment and bonding and joy and parenting but I think I’m not mean to write right now while I’m in the trenches. Perhaps, even, what I write right now doesn’t even have much significance! 🙂
Anyway…the birth was very different from my other two. I was prepared to be in labor for much longer because it was an induction. From the time I knew it would be an induction I was also prepared to accept an epidural if I needed one and was trying to be prepared for the possibility of a c-section. It all ended up going about as well as could be expected while spiraling down from health to a dangerous end of my pregnancy. I went, in 16 or 17 days, from thinking I was in a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy and expecting to give birth at home to having a preemie in the hospital. The steps in between are hardly relevant anymore. There were a lot of doctor visits and many tests and tears. I was very afraid, when it came to the day before I would be induced. That afternoon I put my boys down for their naps thinking there was at least a chance we’d never see each other again in this life. I knew I probably would be fine, but I couldn’t help trying to leave them with a sweet memory in case this was goodbye.
I ended up going to the ER the night before my scheduled induction because my BP skyrocketed and I was feeling even worse than I had been. It turns out I’d gotten the stomach bug Wyatt had that morning. He’d thrown up on me before I left the house to go have my long ultrasound. They gave me a dose of Cervidil at 10:30 p.m. and it felt a lot like the gradual beginning of natural labor, except that I hadn’t been able to eat anything all that afternoon and evening and was super weak and shaky. In the early morning I started throwing up and couldn’t keep any liquid down. The contractions were getting a lot harder, too, and I couldn’t really get out of bed to deal with them because of feeling so weak and because they wanted to have the monitor on Ginny as much as possible.
I just re-read my post about my experience giving birth to Wyatt. I wrote about feeling pretty lonely the whole time. If I’d had more energy to reflect this time I’d probably have said I felt more alone than I ever have. I spent most of my laboring time with only a sleeping or sleepy husband to accompany me. I didn’t even have a friend in the state and hadn’t thought even to bring music. It was just me and Jesus in a dark hospital room and some texts from friends. I think the fear kept me from feeling the loneliness. And the prayers from ya’ll.
There were two points at which things got inexplicably better. One was after the neonatologist came to talk to us about how our baby would be doing when she was born. I literally threw up in the middle of talking to him but he reassured us that our baby would probably be fine and be able to come to me and nurse right away. He also assured us that nothing would be wrong with her long-term despite my having been told she was in the 3rd percentile size-wise and that she hadn’t been getting what she needed in the womb for a long time. Shortly after he left I got some anti-nausea meds, which probably helped too but when I was re-telling this story a couple weeks ago I realized that period when the darkness lifted coincided with the original time I’d told people I’d be induced and many people didn’t know I’d come in the night before so they were probably praying at that moment.
I labored on for a few hours with renewed strength after that. I couldn’t eat anything but the meds were helping me not feel so shaky and I’d stopped throwing up at least. The next moment when things really changed for the better was when I got the epidural. I have two thoughts about this: one is that I probably would have been able to get through the induction without it if I’d been able to use the tub or be more mobile and the other is that I’m so grateful it was an option for me and that my doula didn’t shame me for it. My decision to get one was based on being weak, not being able to eat or drink much, knowing I may have hours and hours to go (I was at 4 cm dilated with a thick cervix) and needing to lie down and rest if I could (This was Thursday late morning. I’d been awake since 4 a.m. Wednesday morning and had gotten an average of 5 hours of sleep for weeks before that). It was absolutely the best decision for that moment. I just felt so grateful when the contractions got weaker and – at least for 30 minutes or so – went away altogether. I needed a rest.
I didn’t actually get to sleep! The end came much more quickly than any expected.
The epidural probably kicked in at about 2:30, Henry got lunch and then we settled in for a rest with the lights off. I tried to sleep between being turned from side to side every 15 minutes but not long after the first or second turn I could feel contractions getting stronger through epidural. I’d gotten one dose of pitocin and she’d turned it up once so I thought that was probably why. I made a mental note to ask if they would wait to turn up the pit for awhile so I would get more of a chance to rest. The contractions got closer together and I started to feel a twinge of nausea after one would subside. I don’t know why I didn’t think it was the nausea meds wearing off, I just didn’t. I started to think maybe I was in transition. I mentioned the pain returning to the nurse and she said I should just use my extra dose of epidural – which I did – then she turned me on my right side and left the room.
This is the crazy hilarious part. Get ready for it.
As soon as she turned me (this was probably 3:47 or so) the contractions got super intense and there was no let-up. I was having to moan my way through them even WITH the epidural. The ONLY time I’d ever experienced this in the past was when pushing was imminent but I didn’t want to cry wolf. I also had to throw up, so I woke Henry up to get me a bucket. I added, reluctantly, that he should probably tell the nurse that I thought I might be in transition and call Courtenay. I dimly remember him doing that as I was on my side trying to position the bucket so I could puke. Then I dimly remember the nurse coming in as I threw up and my water broke and saying to her afterward, “yep, it’s transition. My water just broke.” She was moving around doing various urgent things as I threw up again and said “I just felt her move down” and I truly don’t know what, if anything, had time to transpire before my third puke that PUSHED MY DAUGHTER OUT to which I replied “a whole bunch of stuff just came out.”
A whole bunch of stuff.
The only reason I can think for saying it like that was that I didn’t want to admit I’d just puked a baby out and didn’t wait for the doctor or possibly that she was so tiny and in her caul that it didn’t feel like a baby at all – just a bunch of stuff. Seriously. It did NOT feel like a baby at all. And I could feel it. It wasn’t because of being numb. Epidurals don’t actually prevent you from feeling the “ring of fire” sensation of pushing. I just didn’t feel it.
The nurse came over and lifted my blanket (yes. I was still covered in a blanket, on my side, with all the lights off) and said into her walkie-talkie “and…we have a baby.”
Oh man, was that doctor in a controlled panic. She was obviously not ready for this. None of us were. Henry was standing by my side, stunned. He couldn’t muster a word for a good 5 minutes. I was trying not to crush my daughter with my leg, worried there was something wrong with her because of his expression as he looked down, and sad that I couldn’t really see her. Apparently she was covered in a thick layer of vernix. In 10 seconds we had roughly 50-100 people in the room (Oh, hi med student I chatted with this morning! welcome to my vagina!) and everyone calmed down when it became clear that Ginny was fine (crying, pink and perfect. We got a thumbs up from Dr. Boxwalla [the neonatologist] and she came to me about 2 minutes later) and that I hadn’t just ripped my lower body in half puking out a baby. In fact, the first smile my OB cracked was when she looked up at me and said, dryly, “no lacerations.”
The other awesome thing about my epidural was that because I gave birth so soon after I got it, it was still in effect for a lot of the after-birth contractions which suck so badly.
Ginny had to spent about 15 hours in the special nursery and I got almost no sleep for the ensuing two days while at the hospital, but that is all done now and feels like ancient history. I’m just so grateful it all ended up the way it did. I’m also grateful I’m not still pregnant. I totally could have been still pregnant as I write this. Her due date was yesterday. And I’m grateful for you all – for your love and support and timely words and prayers. I couldn’t have done it without you.