It seems like every few months a story hits the news about a family that has a baby en route to the hospital. The commentary can get really awful. I used to read about the couples who gave birth at the side of the road or in the back of a car and think to myself “How do you not know you’re about to have a baby?” and some other things that are way harsher than that. A couple of years ago I might have been one of those nasty commenters. Not anymore. I get it now. It took very nearly delivering The Wee Monkey on a country road at 4 in the morning for me to get it, but I definitely do and I definitely don’t judge anyone’s birth story.
I often hesitate to share our birth story and not because he was almost born in our SUV. I hesitate because I’m not sure people want to hear it and not because it’s gory or because it was a terrible ordeal, but because it wasn’t. I had a wonderful birth. And by and large I’m afraid to share it outside of our closest circle.
I was put on full bedrest for the last month of my pregnancy for pre-eclampsia symptoms. I’d had a relatively easy pregnancy up until that point. I was enjoying my third trimester and the last thing I wanted to do was spend a month in bed barely moving. Work was hard, but work had been stressful for some time. As a recruiter for a sophmore company and the first employee the two owners had hired I was fairly used to stress, long hours and the ever increasing demands as the company grew.
Aside from the grotesque swelling I wasn’t in any real discomfort, I loved being pregnant but work was really getting to me. I burst into tears after conference calls with my boss more and more often. Being ordered to bed rest was a relief and an inconvenience at the same time.
I rewatched the first eleven seasons of The Simpsons, the first five seasons of Sons of Anarchy, wrote my baby shower thank you notes and did just about anything else I could think of while staying put. It was an almost unbearably hot end of May/beginning of June and we didn’t have airconditioning. So I spent a lot of time sweating in spite of the three fans I had blowing on me constantly. I shuffled from the bathroom to the kitchen (where I more often than not made myself a bacon and tomato or plain tomato sandwich) and toddled back to bed.
The Monkey was due on the 9th of June. I was big and hot and slightly uncomfortable but I was ready to let him come in his own time, whenever he decided he was ready. Hubby had other ideas. (So did our OB/GYN, she started talking induction a week before he was due.) By the 10th he was wound so tightly he jumped six feet whenever he heard someone else’s phone go off. He transferred on our due date and that probably didn’t help with his stress levels. He came home from work early on the 10th – his boss told him to leave – laden with pineapple and ready to do some serious walking followed by a bumpy car ride (thank you Google). I ate some of the pineapple, knowing fully that it wasn’t enough to trigger labour, ended the phone conversation I was having with my mother-in-law and sat down while he laced up my sneakers. I made it down one flight of stairs and about 60 feet before my water broke. That was at 7:45. I felt great. The contractions started shortly after that but they weren’t intense enough to be overly uncomfortable. Yet.
By midnight it was uncomfortable. I tried taking a bath and ended up throwing up instead of relaxing. Poor Hubby still can’t bring himself to eat pineapple…. Around midnight we called our Doula and headed for the hospital. I was staying focused and calm, trying to remember the loads of stuff I had read and trying to concentrate on the excitement of finally getting to meet this little person. Still more than a bit in shock that it was actually happening.
Deanna, our Doula met us at the front doors and we all went down to the maternity ward together. I explained at the desk that my water had broken, (including the rather graphic detail of how many pads I had filled) and we were checked into the triage room. Within minutes a nurse was there to help us. Without so much as introducing herself she performed an internal exam. “You’re one to two centimetres and I see on your chart that you don’t want any medication?” I agreed with her. “Well, there’s nothing you can do here that you can’t do at home.” And she left.
There was a bit more to it than that (not much) but that’s the gist of it. She (I always think of her as “Nurse Nasty”) was incredibly dismissive, closely bordering on rude and she clearly had made up her mind that she didn’t like me at all. I turned to our Doula “She doesn’t believe my water broke does she?” “Nope.” I had explained just how much water there had been. I thought I’d been clear on how far apart my contractions were. I couldn’t understand why she was being so curt with me. My doula explained it “You’re too calm.”
Saying that makes me feel like a jerk. The contractions hurt. Period. Full stop. But when they were over I felt pretty much normal. (After a car accident 9 years ago I spent 8 months in full day physio, did three years of spinal injections and had countless hours of cognitive behavioural therapy learning how to cope with pain so I was able to apply a fair bit of it to my labour experience.)
At 3 (yup! we sat there on our own for hours) another nurse came in. She introduced herself right away, Nancy, and said that she’d been told that I was being discharged. I think I nodded my head. No check. Just pack up and leave. So we did. Deanna offered to go with us but given the hour and the fact that I was so early in the process we told her we’d meet her back at the hospital at 9 (the time we’d been told to return). She told us to call her in between if we needed anything.
By the time we made it home the contractions were hellish. Cognitive Therapy was out the window. I was a mess. It was nearly 3:45 and I was seriously questioning if I could make it until 9 without going back to the hospital for drugs. I tried to lie down but it was impossible. I ended up on all fours on the bed in terrible pain and making noises that were a cross between a scream and some sort of animal sound. At one point DH leaned over while rubbing my back and very gently told me that he was afraid the neighbours in our apartment building were going to call the police. I really didn’t care.
I probably should have known I was in trouble when the only thing that felt good was pushing. I’d read about “transition”, we’d talked about it in our pre-natal classes and I’d been discussing it with my mother-in-law not twelve hours before. Instead, all I could think was that if I’d been one to two centimetres dialated at the hospital, I was probably only four to six centimetres and I couldn’t keep going. I was terrified. I couldn’t deal with the pain at all. I started begging for drugs. All I wanted to do was go back to the hospital and get something, gas, epidural, it didn’t matter. If someone had told me that I could have drugs if I punched DH in the face as hard as I could, I would have laid him out.
I had wanted a drug and intervention free delivery and labour. That was the plan. I was so disappointed with myself for wanting to go back to the hospital “early”, so upset that I was “giving up” that I argued for a while about leaving. DH called Deanna.
When she heard that I was giving up she knew I was in transition and she told him we’d better get a move on. Moving was about the last thing I wanted to do but we made it down the elevator and into the car somehow – in spite of our nearly flooded underground parking garage.
We made it to the hospital at 4:45. We headed to the maternity ward and when they checked me I was fully dialated but I “had a lip”. They wanted me to walk up and down the hall three times. I just stood there staring at them in disbelief. He was coming. Now. Deanna looked at me and said “you don’t have to”. Brilliant. She massaged my hips instead. They moved us to a delivery room at 4:55. (I walked.) When we got there the nurses wanted me to pant and I wanted to push, couldn’t help myself really. Someone took off my clothes (pretty sure it was DH and Deanna). I kept insisting that he was coming and they kept insisting that I say “house” very slowly. They had the bed at chest height with me leaning on it, half-assedly trying to say “house”. I felt like no one was listening to me.
I looked at Deanna and said “he’s coming”. She reached between my legs and I’m not sure what she said to the nurses but they finally agreed to lower the bed and let me get on it. Nurse Nancy got on the phone and sent a page through the hospital with a code I don’t remember followed by a request for nurses to come to our room. It seemed very loud and sounded quite urgent. Nurse Nasty popped her head in the door and asked if the doctor had been called. Someone snarled something back at her and she left in a big hurry. I clearly remember one nurse looking down at me and saying “you should put your hands on your thighs as a reminder not to close your legs”. I also very clearly remember thinking to myself “Let me f$#%ing assure you, the last thing I want to do right now is slam my legs shut!” Out loud I said “Ow! That hurts!” “With the next contraction you can push.” And I did. And out he came at 5:05. Caught by Nurse Nancy. They clamped his cord (which I didn’t want done right away) and passed him to me.
It was all the things that people say it is. I was in shock , both because of our history and because he was there so quickly. I’d anticipated having hours of labour to get used to the idea. He was beautiful and I loved him. As I stared he reached up and touched my face.
The doctor got there within a few minutes of his delivery. He commented that there wasn’t much left for him to do. Nurse Nancy told him that the placenta needed delivering. I was still staring at my son, completely lost in him. And then someone rammed a needle into my thigh. Unannounced. I didn’t react well. I glared at her. “It’s only pitocin, to help you deliver your placenta.” I was pissed. Of all the drugs I didn’t want to be given, Pitocin was at the very top of the list. Plus, I was delivering my placenta while she gave me the shot. It was out before I’d finished glaring or she’d had a chance to walk back around to the other side of the bed.
In spite of the confusion, I feel really lucky to have had such a positive birth experience. It certainly wasn’t the delivery we were expecting, but whose is? He was 7 lbs 7.5 oz. He was healthy. (The hospital staff told us he was probably deaf – he isn’t. They also told us within minutes of his birth that he had a membrane issue in his mouth and probably wouldn’t be able to nurse – he didn’t and he did, for 14 months.) With the GBS fiasco we ended up in hospital for three days but we were so shocked by his entry into this world that I was grateful for the time at the hospital. (Except for the last day. We’d had enough and were more than ready to come home by the time they let us leave.)
All things considered I’m glad we were only in labour at the hospital for about twenty minutes. For starters, I would have taken the drugs and I’m very glad that opportunity was taken from me. I ended up getting the type of birth I wanted (drug and intervention free) but I had to deal with some unnecessary fear and panic. I’d rather not have to transition on my own again. Our Monkey was here and we were nothing but grateful.