Monday, November 26, 2012

Everley Read: A Birth(day) Story

Thursday September 20, 2012 started out as normally as a day can when you are one day away from both your 37th birthday and the due date of your second child. I'm going to do my best to describe how this seemingly normal day turned into the kind of day where I thankfully, narrowly avoided becoming one of those women who gives birth at home in her toilet.

Bare with me - it's a long one and it's not been an easy tale to write nor was it an easy event to weather - but the final results are spectacular and well worth the read:

The results.
7:45am: Wake up to the sound of the alarm and proceed through regular daily morning routine of waking Bella, getting her fed, cleaned, dressed, hair done, lunch made and out the door for school.

8:45am: Drop Bella off at her class, kiss the top of her little braided head and tell her I'll pick her up at 5pm.

9:00am: Reading through my mail from the day before and I open a letter from Service Canada and learn that my maternity leave benefits had been declined. Panic! Cry! Am way too pregnant to handle this situation calmly. Cairn tells me to call them and so I obsessively start collecting all my paperwork and spreading it out on the couch along with laptop in preparation for what I assume will be an entire day on the phone with the government.

9:15am: Discover an error on my ROE - my return to work date is listed as September 16, 2012 or in other words four days ago. Amazing. I quickly send an email off to my HR representative letting her know about the error and asking if she can have my info resubmitted. I open the email like this:

Good morning Vanessa, 

Hope you are well. I'm still awaiting the arrival of my baby - due date is tomorrow but looks like this one is pretty comfy in there. No signs he/she is on the way just yet.

I close the email like this:

Have to run now, but will check back in when I'm home this aft. Hopefully I'll have gotten through to Service Canada. I have a sense of urgency about this because I really need my benefits to kick in and I will VERY soon be in hospital and then extremely distracted with a new little one to care for!

If only I knew then...

10:00am: Am still trying to figure out paperwork and set myself up with my Service Canada online account when I remember my 40 week OBGYN appointment is in an hour and a half.  Leave everything where it is, grab a quick shower and get dressed. Decide to put on some makeup since I'm going downtown where people are fancy. Might take in a little lunch and shopping after. Must look alive.

11:00am: Grab purse run out the door.

11:30am: Make it to my appointment just on time. Doc asks me, as always, if everything is okay and I say yes. No change from last week. She proceeds with the exam. My blood pressure is great. Belly measuring normally. Heart rate of baby is... hmmm... she listens a little longer than usual. Lifts up Doppler and spreads on a little more gel. Tries again. Suddenly I'm paying attention to the look on her face which is not quite her usual, "all is good, relax lady" look.

Finally she looks at me and says, "Okay, heart rate is a bit lower than usual. I'm taking my time because it's slower than I like to see but now I'm getting 120 bpms or so. Normal range."

But it's not normal for my baby, who has always been in the 150s... suddenly I'm reminded that I have noticed some decreased fetal movement the last couple of days. I have chalked it up to baby slowing down due to lack of room and resting up for the big event. But combined with a slow heart rate, suddenly it doesn't seem so simple. So I mention it to her. She pauses and then says, "Okay. Let's check you out and then we'll talk." We'll talk?! Oh shit. 

She checks my cervix and mutters something to herself, which I can't fully make out. I'm starting to feel the slightest hint of panic because my doctor is not a mutterer. She smiles at me and says she'll be back in just one moment, then she leaves the room. She's probably gone about two minutes and when she walks back in, she says this,

"Do you want to have a baby today?" 

Mind goes blank. Seeing stars. Not sure how to answer this most unexpected question.  Is 'no' an acceptable answer? Probably not.

"You mean like right now?" 

"Well, yes, today. You are going to take your paperwork right now, walk across the street and admit yourself. You are two cms dilated and cervix is softening. You are not in labour but the combination of a slow heart rate for baby and slowed fetal movement is something we don't want to ignore. Since you are due tomorrow I see no reason to take chances. You'll go, check in, get on a monitor. If baby is okay, we'll have you induced."

"And if baby is not okay?" I say,

"Then we'll section you immediately," she tells me with a sympathetic smile. 

"Okay, sounds good," is what I say.  HOLY FUCK, is what I'm thinking.

She hands me some paperwork, tells me to call my husband and sends me on my way. I'm smiling and chatting with her and the receptionist but on the inside I'M TAKING A HEART ATTACK.         

11:45am: I realize that I have left the house without the paperwork that I've been instructed to carry with me at all times. Shitballs. I stumble on quivering legs to the lobby of the building and call Cairn, who thankfully is still at home this morning. He answers with some trepidation and says, "Are we having a baby?" "We are," I reply, and fill him in on what's up. Some cursing ensues on his behalf and I tell him to grab a pen and paper before rattling off a list of things to pack and people to call. Most importantly we need to set up care for Bella.

I walk myself across the street to the hospital while we are talking and briefly lose our connection while in the elevator on my way up to the maternity ward. Still can't believe this is happening and am feeling slightly in shock, shaky and nervous, especially about Bella and how she'll react when it's not me that shows up to get her from school.

12:00pm: I register at the desk and they begin the process of admitting me. The hospital is very busy and there is no room for me in triage so instead I'm sent directly to an L&D room, told to get into a gown and quickly hooked up to monitors for baby's heart rate and contractions. Because there is some question about health of baby they are not messing around and it all happens very fast. I have three repetitive thoughts running through my head at this time:

1. I wish I'd eaten more for breakfast.
2. I'm so glad I shaved my legs today!
3. This is so NOT the bra I wanted to wear for labour. I'm really fixating on this and consider calling Cairn to make sure he packs my intended labour bra. Don't do it because even I know how fucking crazy it sounds.

The non-stress test for the baby consists of monitoring heart rate and pushing a little button whenever I feel fetal movement. Of course now that I'm here the baby is squirming away like it ain't no thang. The heart rate continues to be somewhat erratic but the nurse assures me that this is good and they are happy to see accelerations even if overall the rate is a bit lower than usual. The test lasts 30 minutes and thankfully everything seems fine.

12:30pm: The resident doctor and a midwifery student come in to do the ultrasound part of my non-stress test. I can't help but notice that they are both a good 10 years younger than me. This freaks me out. As she is setting up the machine she looks at the tracking on heart rate and contractions and tells me that both seem to be moving along just perfectly. Both? Yes, both. I am having relatively strong contractions every five minutes. I didn't even know it. I have been feeling braxton hicks since about 20 weeks and nothing I've felt today seems any different than that. She shows me on the monitor next time one happens. I feel it but there is no pain, just tightening. Clearly I am rocking this shit out. Am probably in labour and didn't even know it. Am a superhero.

1:00pm: All my tests are now complete and the baby is looking absolutely perfect. Scores a perfect 8 out of 8. Clearly this is a Virgo I'm carrying, striving for perfection and punctuality. We are going to have a baby today, I'm pretty fucking certain.

The doctor informs me that since my contractions are steady but not painful and I'm only two cms dilated, they are going to discharge me and I should just wait at home until I feel pain and/or my water breaks and then come back.

STOP THE TRAIN DOC. I hear the full screeching brakes in my head and everything. DISCHARGE ME? Oh. Hell. No. I'm in the gown. I'm in an amazing room. My husband is on his way. WITH BAGS OF STUFF. Wrong labour bra not-withstanding I am going to stay here and have this baby today. End of discussion. Childcare is handled, I have a hospital bracelet on for GOD'S SAKE DO NOT SEND ME HOME.

I ask the doctor politely if I can stay. She says no. Explains that the hospital is very busy and they need to the room. Just then I have another contraction - I point out that it's measuring 60 on the monitor (100 is considered extremely strong) and tell her to touch my belly just to feel how contractiony it is. IT'S SO CONTRACTIONY!

She smiles kindly (patronizingly) and says that the fact that I can talk tells her I'm not ready to stay just yet. I want to tell her that the fact that she's like 17 years old tells me she might not know what the hell she's talking about. But - and this is a very significant but - she says she will check me quickly before she sends me home just to be sure I'm not further dilated than I was when I arrived. 

FULL STOP - Important to understand the significance of this moment right here. This seemingly simple decision, to check me one more time, is the one thing that stands between a safe, assisted hospital delivery and me having my baby at home on the bathroom floor. And I'm so grateful that teen-doctor was in fact brilliant enough to be so cautious. THANK YOU DOOGIE HOWSER.

1:15pm:  Doctor checks me and is shocked to discover that I'm now four cms. I have progressed two cms in two hours. Four cms with contractions like mine can be considered active labour. I am staying. HALLELUJAH I am staying. HOLY FUCK I am staying.

Cairn arrives. 

I'm immediately set up on an IV and penicillin drip, which I require because I'm GBS positive.

1:45pm: Cairn leaves to go get lunch. I'm so hungry. I haven't gone more than two hours without eating in months and my body is all WTF WOMAN WHERE ARE MY CARBS?

3:00pm: My nurse comes to check in and tells me that at 5pm they are going to break my water and see what happens before starting me on Pitocin. I remind her, as I do every time that I see her, that I would like an epidural before my contractions get painful. I do not want to feel pain. No pain, please, I'd prefer no pain because I have already felt that pain once in my life and I'm not into the painful pain of it all. She assures me that they'll get me set up before they begin Pitocin, that way I'll be good and numb before any painful contractions (which I do not want to feel) even kick in.

Just so we're perfectly clear, I do not want to feel any pain.  

3:30pm: Contractions are now coming regularly on their own. Every five minutes or so and still looking strong on the monitor but not at all painful. Baby is monitoring perfectly well. At this point I use the washroom and notice a bit of bleeding. It definitely feels like I'm in labour now without any interventions and I'm hopeful that I won't even need the Pitocin once my water is broken.

5:00pm: OMG SO BORED. An emergency twin C-section (jerks) is taking place on the ward so my water-breaking ceremony has to be delayed. Instead they start me on a second dose of antibiotics and tell us to sit tight. Cairn and I are playing Words with Friends and thinking that maybe we should have let them discharge me after all.

BORED (but glad I did my hair and makeup this morning).
6:30pm: Nurse checks vitals and finds that baby's heart rate has decelerated again. They put me back on the monitors and this time they want me to stay hooked up until baby arrives. Boo. I hate the monitors. They are confining and distracting and quite frankly nerve-wracking. My excitement is starting to wane, my frustration is starting to rise.

7:00pm: Cairn goes to get dinner and not to alarm you but I'm probably dying of starvation.

7:15pm: Call to talk to Bella expecting heartfelt and teary conversation about the pending arrival of her new sibling. Bella could care less abut me or my dumb baby and would rather play with Papa at his house for the rest of her life. Fair enough.

7:30pm: Contractions continue to get stronger and more regular, am watching the monitor like a TV. Still no pain, am now convinced that I'll just sneeze and have this baby without feeling so much as a nasty cramp. Am relieved about that but growing aggravated at the lack of attention from hospital staff. I need to pee, am stuck in bed and the nurses are changing shifts so I'm asked to repeat my story and information yet again. READ THE CHART, NURSES. In other news, baby's heart rate is back up and steady. So there's that.

Here's me thinking I'm having a 'big' contraction, when in fact I'm feeling but a wee tickle of a twinge compared to what's yet to come.
9:30pm: After a failed attempt at napping my contractions seem to have all but stopped. My night nurse Kate has been popping in every hour, but other than that nothing is happening at all.

10:30pm: Mad at everyone. Hate the monitors. Hungry, cranky, pissed off that they still have not checked me or broken my water, which they said they would do FIVE HOURS AGO.

10:45pm: As if they could sense my growing discontent the doctor and Nurse Kate arrive to break my water. Because I was already super stoned on a epidural when they broke my water last time, I have no idea what to expect. Just like in the movies, they grab a knitting needle, poke around in there and GUSH. Warm, clear fluid. Thought it's admittedly gross to be covered in your own amniotic fluid, Nurse Kate changes my bedding and brings me a warmed blanket (I'm freezing at this point) and I try to relax and settle in for what I know is now the final stretch (pun intended).

11:00pm: It's been 15 minutes and not only have my contractions have kicked back in but this time I can feel them. In fact they hurt. Didn't we talk clearly about the pain issue? I mention to Nurse Kate that they are getting painful and she tells me that they'd like to wait 30 minutes and see how I progress on my own before starting Pitocin. In the meantime, she'll notify the anesthesiologist (who is currently busy with another patient) that I'm ready for my epidural. I figure I can tolerate anything for thirty minutes.

130 is baby's happy, healthy heartbeat; 135+ is my decidedly NOT happy contraction level.

11:30pm: Apparently I can not tolerate anything for thirty minutes. Contractions are now so painful that I can't talk through them and am instead starting to panic each time I feel one coming. Cairn is watching the monitor and calling out how huge they are. They are huge, topping out at 135+ on the machine each time. Still, I ask him very politely to STOP TELLING ME HOW HUGE THEY ARE PLEASE I'M AWARE OF HOW HUGE THEY ARE. They are also coming about every two minutes and Cairn is questioning why nobody is coming back to check on us. I call the nurse on the button. She helps me get up so I can use the washroom and wash my face - both of which are extremely difficult because of how much pain I'm in. SO MUCH FUCKING PAIN.

I get back in bed and tell the nurse that I'm feeling the urge to push and lots of rectal pressure. She doesn't want to check me because if she finds I'm beyond a certain amount dilated they will not allow me to get my epidural. OMG I can't believe this is happening to me. I think this is the first time it dawns on me that I'm about to give birth to this baby without any interventions or pain medication. This is not a happy realization. Nurse Kate checks me and tells me she doesn't think I'll require any Pitocin.


11:50pm: I WANT MY DRUGS GET ME MY DRUGS NOW. Nurse Kate is trying to calm me down, tells me in a chipper voice that I'm doing great, epi is on the way! Rainbows and unicorns! Sunshine and lollypops! Forced happy face and crazy eyes!

I suffer for another 10 minutes and by now I'm baying and screaming like an animal during contractions and panicking like a drowning person in between them. I'm no longer really lucid about what's going on around me. I can hear Cairn questioning why the epidural isn't here yet. I can hear the nurse trying to reassure me that I'm up next and I'll be comfortable very soon.

12:00am: I vaguely make out Cairn wishing me a happy birthday. I'm very fucking far from happy. I'm in agony. My nurse has actually left the room to go and physically get the epi doc and bring her to me when the sudden and unmistakable feeling of pushing a baby out takes over my entire body. This baby is coming out RIGHT NOW. I grab the alarm and I push that thing like 1000 times. I am officially "that" woman. Screaming, moaning, thrashing about in my bed. I'm quite certain at this point that I'm going to die and the thing about it is, I really just hope it will happen before the next contraction.

12:05am: Nurse Kate comes running back and tells me my drugs are on the way. I manage to tell her that I'm pushing and she checks me again. She says I'm still only five cms and that I should NOT push. Do not push. What I'm feeling is just the baby moving down, this is good, but I'm not ready to push. Well whoopty doo, Nurse Kate, I'm not ready to push. Thing is though, MY BODY IS PUSHING AND THERE'S NO STOPPING IT NOW. I'm stuck in the fetal position, in searing, gut-wrenching, indescribable pain and now I have the lovely vision of my baby shooting out of my "not-quite ready yet sweetie, but soon" vagina and tearing me completely in half. Wonderful.

12:10am: Anesthesiologist arrives. And she looks like a clown. No seriously. She's wearing scrubs covered in chilli-peppers (you know the ones) and has these giant pop-bottle glasses on. All I can focus on is those glasses. I'm thinking that anyone with glasses that thick should maybe not put a needle in my spine. However at this point I know something that nobody else in the room has yet to speak aloud. There will be no needle because this baby is coming. out. right. now.

Still, Nurse Kate continues the charade and tries to get me to sit up to receive my epidural. This is laughable and if I wasn't dying on the bed I'd laugh at her right now. I now have both the nurse and the anesthesiologist talking at me, asking questions and telling me to relax. It's clear they both think I'm just being hysterical, which I am, but it's for good reason. I'm about to do the one thing that I have been saying for, oh, my ENTIRE LIFE that I never wanted to do. Deliver a human being out of my vagina without any drugs. The mere thought of this allows me sit up for about 30 seconds before collapsing again and yelling that I can't stop pushing and that the baby is COMING OUT YOU FUCKERS (minus the fuckers part).

12:15am: Nurse Kate, bless her heart, finally senses that I am not just fucking around with her for shits and giggles and checks me again. As soon as she gets me into position and takes a peek down there her face suddenly changes and see a flash of fear in her eyes. I am fully dilated and baby's head is right there. Now things happen fast. She RUNS out into the hall and in minutes is back in with an entire team of people including the attending physician, the midwifery student and the pediatric nurse on hand to attend baby at birth.

I hear her telling them that I'm "quite distressed" (understatement) and that I'm "delivering naturally and not by choice". I hear the pediatric nurse say, "Uh oh." I hear her tell the attending doctor that she checked me just minutes ago and I was only a five. I hear the attending tell her that this baby is coming now. And suddenly she listens. Nurse Kate comes up to the head of my bed, grabs my face and says, "Mia, you are going to have this baby without an epidural." I briefly consider punching her.

Instead, I BEG her to give me something for pain. I have two clear thoughts going through my head at this moment. The first is of my friend Nadine and her own story about delivering her daughter Lucine naturally on purpose (crazy lady) in the very same room I'm in right now. I remember the part where she received a shot of Demerol. I want a shot of Demerol, or a shot of ANYTHING at all. Nurse Kate calmly tells me that it's too late and that anything they give me won't work on time anyway. Truth be told, Nurse Kate is in her element at this point and I could not have done this without her. She stays right by my face and tells me over and over again that I can do this and that I'll be glad I went natural once baby is here.

12:20am: I'm pushing out my baby. It's incredibly painful and entirely surreal. The second memory I have from this moment is telling myself over and over again in my head that it's just pain, it's just pain, you are not dying, it's just pain. I'm trying to do as they tell me and push without making any noise, but I'm screaming and groaning at the end of each push anyway, there's no way to control it.

I'm in more of an upright position for this birth than I was with Bella, much closer to the action, leaning forward and gripping handles on the bed. I try not to look, but keep getting small glimpses of what's going on down there. It ain't pretty. Between contractions I lie back but there's not much time to rest. During one 'break' the doctor tells me that with the next set of pushes she's going to ask me to stop pushing for a moment.

She says, "You are going to want to do nothing more than push and you'll hate me for telling you to stop, but you have to stop, trust me, it's for your own good."

Amaaaaazing. I can hardly wait. She tells me that I have some scar tissue from my previous episiotomy and they are going to make a small incision to assist me in getting the baby out. I really did not want another episiotomy but at this point, much like last time, I could really not care less what they do.

"Just get it out," I tell her.

12:35am: After only four sets of pushes and about 10 minutes, I feel an incredible amount of searing hot pain followed by an immediate and immense release of pressure as my baby, my beautiful baby who has been safely and securely tucked up within me for nine months but who I have been waiting for all my life, slips out into the world.

I actually see the baby slide right out and into the waiting arms of the doctor. It's been an hour and a half since they broke my water. It's 35 minutes into my 37th birthday. I have just laboured and delivered my baby naturally in less time than it likely would have taken me to get to the hospital had I been at home when my water broke. And then I go into shock.

"Dad, don't you want to know what it is?" I hear the nurse ask Cairn…

"It's a girl!" I hear Cairn say.

They both sound like they are a million miles away. I look up, shaking like a leaf, and see them carry my baby girl over to the warmer. I start to cry. It's a girl. I have another girl.

"She's so beautiful," they are all saying. "I bet you say that about all the babies," I reply.

But she is. She is so beautiful, pink and perfect with a thick shock of dark brown hair.

The hair to which I refer.
As the delivery team begins the brutal act of delivering my placenta and stitching me back together I waiver between dealing with the pain of that action and stealing glimpses of my baby girl as she is cleaned and weighed and wrapped. They hand her to Cairn and he keeps her in his arms while all the King's horses and men are working their best magic down there on poor Humpty Dumpty.

The midwifery student gives me a tour of my placenta. "A perfect specimen," she tells me. "I bet you say that about all the placentas," I reply.

We all have a much needed laugh and I begin to feel myself relax. The team congratulates me again and I finally feel my shaking start to slow as the realization of what just happened sinks in. My baby is here. I have done it.

12:55am: Cairn hands me my baby girl. We lock eyes this perfect baby girl and I and I briefly think of the baby I lost just over a year ago. And then I think it's true what they say, that everything happens for a reason. My reason is now in my arms, healthy and perfect. She arrived on my birthday as if to say, "You see Mama? You were waiting for me. I'm the one that was meant to be yours."

 And just like that the last two hours of pain and fear and panic dissolve. The nine months of a long, hot pregnancy are but a distant memory. The sadness over the miscarriage is replaced with gratitude and relief. Nothing worth having ever comes easily but no other work in this world could ever have a greater reward. I'm in love again. My heart is bursting. My girl is here. We are whole.

Welcome to us Everley Read.

I love you,


1 comment:

flora said...

Beautiful story, Mia. You did well! I'm so happy for you and your little family. I hope to meet her. take care!