He's here! Born Tuesday, December 13th at 3:34 am. Nine whopping pounds and twenty-three inches. I must comment that I feel fully justified for any discomfort and accompanying "belly-aching" (pun intended!) I uttered during the last several weeks of this pregnancy. No wonder I was feeling baby movements in my groin and my rib cage at the same time!
For those interested in the morbid details, I'll share a few. Some of the most morbid and gory details will remain with those less fortunate who accompanied me through the labor and delivery journey (namely my Dear Mother and Dear Husband, both of whom were there for every minute of it).
Sunday, December 11th: Braxton Hicks contractions at 5 minute intervals for an hour or two at a time on and off throughout the day. A couple "real" contractions beginning by 7 pm Sunday evening and lasting throughout the entire night at irregular intervals.
Monday, December 12th: Scheduled dr appointment at 10:00 am. I decided to skip triage and see my dr first to see what she thought. Dr called it "latent labor" and said I was 75% effaced but not at all dilated. She basically said, "See ya next week" (at my next scheduled appointment). I left feeling discouraged and concerned that I would have a week or more of the pain I was beginning to feel with no end in sight.
Contractions continued all day long with a few hours of extremely painful contractions that I felt only in my lower hips and back. This, I believe, is probably what Dear Sister-in-Law referred to as "back labor." By 8:30 pm I was timing contractions at 5 minutes apart and was just tucking Dear Daughter into bed. Dear Mother is a labor and delivery nurse, so I did what any smart daughter in that situation would do: I called her and told her I had an hour of contractions at 5 minutes apart and I thought they may be getting more painful. Now it was 9:30 pm and Dear Mother and Dear Father headed to our house. Dear Father was going to stay with "Sleeping Beauty" (otherwise known as Dear Daughter), and Dear Mother and Dear Husband were going to accompany me to triage.
By the time we reached the hospital at 10:30 pm, the contractions were so painful that I couldn't walk or hardly breathe through them. After donning the lovely hospital garb necessary and bagging my personal items (I had mental flashes of movie clips of soldiers enlisting and thought to myself that I'd rather get a buzz job on my hair, Demi Moore style in GI Jane, than go through what I knew was going to come next if this was indeed "real labor") I was pronouned 100% effaced and dilated to a 7. Woo-hoo, I was headed into the "real thing." My next thought, "Oh, crap! There's no way out of this now!" I knew that either I'd enter the scary and unfamiliar territory of pushing a watermelon out of an opening that I really could only imagine handling a largish kiwi, or--God forbid--heading back into the O.R. for that other frighteningly familiar path of having my abdomen slashed and child ripped from my flesh (well...we can't tell the story without some drama now, can we?)
11:00pm until 1:00am or 2:00am: I'm not exactly sure when the anesthesiologist arrived to pump the drugs into my back. The time span here is a blur with only rare moments of focusing my eyes. The pain got worse and worse and I don't think I stopped screaming the whole time. My dread of the epidural and the dead legs that go along with it faded into, "When is that @&$%*@ doctor going to get here with those drugs?!!!!!" Then... once the drugs kicked in, an amazing thing happened and the pain was literally gone! I could even feel my legs and move them, and I was only mildly weirded out by the sensations. It was much better than the spinal block for the previous C-section, during which I would tell my brain to move my feet and my feet would not respond. That was the creepiest thing ever.
2:00am - 3:00am: or maybe this stage began sooner, I really wasn't watching the time. There was a constant flurry of trying to keep my blood pressure up. I guess it kept slipping pretty low and the baby was stressing a bit as a result. Meanwhile, I did not dilate any further and the baby was not dropping any lower. It was determined that the baby must be facing backward and not turning, which could explain why I was laboring in my back so much. His head was not wanting to turn the right way in order to continue down that path where watermelon-sized babies mysteriously pass through. Attempts to turn him and assess progress left me with visions of other things I've only seen on t.v. Such as when little baby cows are birthed into the world and some unfortunate soul has to stick his arm elbow deep inside the poor laboring heifer to assist the baby's entry into the world. Only I wasn't the unfortunate soul with arm buried elbow-deep, but the even more unfortunate laboring heifer.
3:00am: The decision I dreaded. Gotta get to the O.R. and get the baby out. He'd had enough. Then there were murmurs of whether the drugs were going to numb me well enough to do the section. The dr began contemplating a general anesthetic. I tried not to panic, which didn't matter, since I was already panicked. We had to wait on the drugs the anesthesiologist needed. I had gripping fears of that stuff you see on t.v. where a person is not properly anesthetized during surgery. "Oh, my God!" I was thinking. "I'm going to feel myself being cut open." I actually wasn't sure if that would be worse than the general anesthetic or not.
It was a long procedure this time, or so it seemed to me. The epidural seemed to work. I have nicknamed my anesthesiologist "The Happy Bartender." He had good humor and was a very nice man. He appeared to be having a pretty good time pumping this and that drug into me. Crank up the epi here, stick in some Demerol there, a little of this a little of that. He kept making cocktails and sticking them into my IV. I would make a comment here and there like, "I've got the shakes really bad" and he would say, "I know, I gave you something to calm you a bit." Then I would say, "I'm feeling a little loopy" or something like that, and he would say, "I know, I gave you something that can make you feel that way." I think he just gave me some of everythng he had behind the bar to make sure I was covered. Then the operating dr says, "We got a lot of scar tissue (from the last section) so it's going to take a little longer to cut through it. Lovely. Just the kind of commentary I love to listen to while I'm hanging out on the operating table. The baby came out and there was lots of whooping about how big he was. Nine pounds...and exclamations of 23 inches. I was only the tiniest bit interested. I couldn't wait to know I was sewn up and off that terrible "slicing table." Then the commentary that ensues while being sewn up...about which layer is complete and how progress is going. Something about a rather superficial nick to the bladder that happened on "disection." Disection? Isn't that something you do to a frog in jr. high biology? Nonetheless, I had to admit, it was a rather accurate description of what I felt like was happening to me. Unfortunately, I've watched these procedures on "Birth Day" and "Special Delivery."
I tried to sing, but I couldn't concentrate on any particular song or melody, so it was random humming in an effort to keep my mind off the whole thing. Yeah, right. It seemed like forever. And then came the awful part where they move you around the table to clean up the blood and fluid splatters (sorry, but it's how it is, and we can't have a story without drama, right?). And of course, being completely numb from toes to above the breasts this time (they really cranked that epi), I felt especially vulnerable as they flipped and turned me this way and that. All the way over to the right side. "Great!" I exclaimed out loud as I focused on a bucket half full of blood. "I've got a great view of this bucket full of blood right now" I was beyond feeling queasy, so I just tried hard to tolerate the flipping and lifting and tried not to dwell on the fact that they could just dump me right over on my face on the concrete floor and there wouldn't be a blessed thing I could do about it. I was wishing "The Happy Bartender" would have given me something to make me feel more happy...like maybe laughing gas.
So...that's the story. And Zachary has arrived. I will spare the postpartum details as I am certain I've already offered more information than many of you wanted.
I'm still left with the haunting question of why do women repeat this experience? I still do not know. I can't believe I went through it twice. I can't fathom why or how anyone could go through it three, four, or more times. Maybe other women's labor and delivery experiences aren't so bad. Or maybe I wasn't meant to go through it twice. Without the advent of modern medicine, Dear Daughter would likely not have survived the birthing process...perhaps I wouldn't have either. I can't believe women did this before there were epidurals and surgeries to save babies and mommies from the pain and, unfortunately death. But...I will not go any further down that road. I have two beautiful children and everyone is healthy and alive.
Zachary is a pretty laid back baby so far. This is good, as Dear Daughter is a total Momma's Girl. My enmeshment with her for the past 28 months has contributed greatly to this, I know. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's amazingly life changing. But even in these still often "raw moments" of adjustment, I expect that mothering Dear Son will be a repeat (if not it's own rendition) of mothering Dear Daughter, and nothing short of the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to me.