All About Valerie!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Here It Is, Val's Birth Story

Naturally, as I sit down to finally write this out, blogger is down and can't even accept this as a draft. The hour is late, I'm exhausted and yet for the first time in oh so long I find myself with that extra burst of energy and I thought, what the hell, why not tell how it really happened?

Before I launch into the nitty gritty of it all, I'll share a few things I'd hoped/planned for about Val's birth.

1. That I'd somehow spontaneously go into labor, though I swear to you (i.e. anyone who will listen) that I had a feeling all along that it just wouldn't go down that way.

2. That I'd make it through that spontaneous labor without drugs of any kind.

3. That immediately after that drug-free spontaneous labor, Valerie would be placed on my chest and she'd recognize my voice, turning her wee head towards me as her first action outside the womb.

This last one, I've come to realize, is at the heart of why I'm still quite emotional about the events surrounding her birth. So there's your foreshadowing, read on if you dare.

Caution: contains cooter-related content. If you'd prefer not to think of me that way, skip this entry.

In the weeks leading up to my due date, Val was growing bigger and bigger until I found myself only using the handicapped toilets (much easier to get up/down on), unable to tie shoes and down to three goddamn shirts and two pairs of shorts.

As a result, I did a lot of laundry.

My belly also got quite hard and I had a fair number of fruitless toni braxton-hicks contractions. As of my 39.5 week appointment, I was less than 1 cm dialated and 50-70% effaced. Which wasn't that great, no matter how we wanted it to be.

More importantly, the baby never dropped, which explains why I didn't dialate any more than that. We all grew concerned about this because none of us (me, Andrea and the docs) wanted me to go much past my due date. Too many horror stories from too many places and I was not not not willing to take *that* particular risk. Instead I balanced it with a willingness to risk not having an IV put in right away. Seemed sane to me, and today, it still does.

Andrea and I talked about induction, when we would schedule it, and decided that starting labor on the 16th would be good, since the baby could likely be born on the 17th. Both our birthdays are on the 17th of the month so wouldn't that be nifty. Except, oh, our OB doesn't work that day so that won't work. Wow, my kid's birthday is directly related to whether or not my doc had the day off. The doc said, well, you'll have your baby around dinnertime! And I thought, how convenient for you.

We agreed to schedule it starting the 15th and left the office to make the arrangements with the nurse. Somehow, there was a mixup and we wound up scheduled for the 14th instead, my due date. At this point, I'm so fucking tired of being pregnant, I'm so frustrated that our baby was making no sign of appearing that I just gave in and scheduled it for that day.

On the way out, I snapped at the receptionist because she practically did a tap dance to try and cheer me up, saying it would make HER feel better if I smiled and took a rose she had there for new patients.

Hi, bitch. I'm grumpy because the birth I've planned for months (my whole life, really) is turning out to be dramatically different than I'd hoped for. Let me have this grumpiness, I am not beholden to you. So keep your flower and shut the hell up already.

So we left the office and accepted that Our Lives would Change starting on 5/14. My parents were here for the birth so we met them for lunch, then said our goodbyes and went on to have a mellow day together. Our last day before we were someone's parents. It was sort of like that last night before you go off to college, where everything you know is about to change and you hold on to your current life for that one last night.

It was that night that I had my only true craving of the pregnancy: for an Italian sub. We found one at Mountain Mike's, went home, I brushed my teeth, checked all the crap in the birthing bags and diaper bag, then waited for Andrea's stomach to calm down enough that we could go. Like, go get in the car to go to the hospital to have ourselves a baby.


On the drive there, I IMed with Susan, saying maybe we should just go to Disneyland instead. She suggested that I could spin the baby out on the teacups. But somehow we wound up at the hospital, parked at the ER entrance since it was now 8ish pm and the lobby was closed. We walked in, unsure whether or not we needed to check in with the ER. We rang their bell and when they didn't answer, we said fuck it and strolled down to maternity, minus our stuff.

The obnoxious nurse who taught our largely worthless breastfeeding class was there and I was so fucking grateful she wasn't assigned to us. Instead, Vivian was. She showed us to our room and the hideous hospital gown I was supposed to wear.

Except of course that our stuff was in the car so we walked back through the hospital to get it. The Sharks game was on so we stood there watching it for as long as possible, trying to do anything we could to put of what was going to happen next.

If I had known how hard it would be, I might have just stood there forever. Or headed to Disneyland instead.

Finally, we got settled in our room and I refused to don the sporty gown. The nurse made me take off my drawers then sit there half-naked while she talked to me. Um, hi. I can totally talk with pants on. Really. After the talking was over, she started things off with cervadil, this gel that's supposed to ripen your cervix. Getting that shit inserted was one of the most painful parts of the whole experience. I have no idea if it was just that my parts weren't ready for it or Vivian had a horrible womanly touch but HOLY SHIT THAT FUCKING HURT.

At some point after that, I put my pants back on and my parents came to visit. We all checked out the fetal heart monitor and the monitor watching my contractions, then they headed back to their hotel. Vivian took that opportunity to assvice me about getting "into the labor zone" and to poo poo everything I'd read to this point, since her experience far outweighed whatever I'd read. Gee, thanks.

The plan was, I'd get more of the gel shit in 4 hours and hopefully it would make me ready enough for pitocin the next morning. I thanked all the gods I could think of when a new nurse, who is actually a friend of ours (from hockey of course) took over. The next round of gel crap went in much easier. It was like 2 am by this point so we tried to get some sleep but man, those labor beds are seriously uncomfortable and I was starting to have some mild contractions. The beds break apart so the doc can deliver the baby which is I'm sure fantastically convenient during those few minutes but when you're trying to get some sleep in that bed, well, good luck. And oh yeah, hope the contractions don't hurt either.

Around 6 am, they started pitocin (via the IV I'd held off getting) as planned but I wasn't really ready so they stopped the drip and tried a different cooter-ripening agent, misoprostal. It was like a little tampon and I had to stay lying down for 2 hours after they put it in.

Yeah, that's funny. I'm 40+ weeks pregnant and you want me to NOT PEE for 2 hours??

Riiight. I got up after about an hour and a half with the first dose. At that point, I started having meaningful (to me) contractions but nothing consistent enough to deem a regular labor pattern. So 4 hours later, they put another of those bad boys in and that started things going. I was contracting about every 2 minutes but they weren't horrible for the moment.

Somewhere around the second dose/10 am-ish, Susan arrived with her popcorn and McDonald's to watch The Birthing Show. Long before we got pregnant, we'd asked her to be there. At the moment she arrived not much was going on and I thought hmmm, we should totally send her home. We really don't need her, we should just tell her to go home and come back later.

That thought lasted until around noon, when things started getting hectic. I managed to get into the much-coveted regular labor pattern with just the 'ripening agents,' skipping pitocin and going straight to some really special contractions.

All the crap I tried to get myself to believe about contractions not being painful was lies. Damn lies. I remember sending an email to Amy saying 'yes I'm in labor, thisshithurts' because I was in too much pain to use the space bar.

Everything I'd read said you had some downtime between them and though they sucked they'd soon be over for the moment.

Not in my labor. From about noon on, they were 1-2 minutes apart and growing in intensity. I used all my breathing techniques. Andrea was absolutely fantastic, doing the relaxation excersizes with me, jumping up each and every time to stroke my arm and talk me through it. When Andrea had to pee, Susan took over with that business.

Starving, I tried to eat during the free minutes I had but a contraction would come and I'd stop chewing, stop talking until it passed. That was a slowass way to eat lunch, I tell you what.

During that lunch Susan scored me what remains the best grilled cheese of my life. I think it took me an hour to eat it between contractions but man, it was tasty.

There was a '24' marathon on TV while this was going on and though I hate that show, I didn't have the energy to select something new so all fucking day I saw Kiefer Sutherland doing his thing. We had the volume off because I couldn't stand to hear it during contractions. I guess it was better if everyone just listened to me breathe instead.

We continued like that until around 6 pm, 12 hours after the contractions started, until finally I could take it no more. When the nurse told me I was only at 3 cm, I called for the goddamn epidural, knowing that, for real, I'd done everything I could without drugs. It was time for some help. At that point, my pants came off and stayed off and an IV went in. The Epidural Man put in the IV because the nurse didn't feel like she could wrangle my veins. Thank you, nice nurse, for knowing your weakness and letting that man ram a knitting needle into my hard so hard it made Susan (who has witness many an IV insertion in her day) jump out of her seat. But it got in and at that point I was so not okay I just didn't care.

I barked at the guy to wait with his needle on my back until the hugely painful contraction I was having stopped but I'm pretty sure he just kept going. Whatever. Soon the drugs took over and I was feeling a crapload better, even if I was pantless and had a catheter (ooh! jug of piss! sweet!). I could talk for as long as I wanted and OMG I wanted french fries soooo bad.

Bill brought the girls over to visit and snuck me in some fries and a hot fudge sundae with NUTS. The girls got a lot more mileage out of the Birthing Ball than I did. My sundae was sooo good, even if I had to hide it from the nurse and my left leg was numb and the goddamn blood pressure cuff was taking my BP every fucking 2 minutes. Apparently I was swollen just enough to be between cuff sizes so everytime that thing went off, the velcro would start to separate making that really great noise that absolutely prevents any chance of having a nap.

Before they left, Riley took a moment to comfort me:

Good thing I ate, since we were still almost a day away from Val's dramatic arrival. I also got some sleep that night, after battling with the nurses about the goddamn BP cuff. At this point, someone was sticking a hand up my crotch about every hour to see how dilated I was. Before that day, I had thought I'd make Susan leave during these checks because, hey, that's my crotch. But as just about everything I'd read suggested, I just didn't care. I didn't want any additional people in there to watch, but Susan, that was fine.

Most of that night is a drug-induced blur. I got some sleep and at one point looked up to see both Andrea and Susan on their sidekicks, furiously using the Internet. I whined "I want mine too."

At about 4 am, a flock of nurses came rushing in because apparently the baby's heartrate wasn't behaving properly. There was a flurry of activity that included me getting a sporty oxygen mask and more hands in my crotch. They put a fetal scalp monitor on the baby to watch her heartrate better. Andrea stood at my side asking "do we want this?" knowing we really didn't but at that point there was no choice. The baby's health came before anything we wanted or didn't want.

Around 8 am (I think, could have been earlier) the epidural started to wear off in just one place, my lower right side. I had Andrea get the nurse (for some reason I resisted using the call button while in the L&D room) to get the nice man with the drugs to come back and put more in.

What I didn't know at the time was that the window between ASKING for the drugs and GETTING the drugs was about 20 minutes. So if you're in actual ohmyfuckinggodthisisgoingtokillme pain, get ready for some suffering. The nurses wanted to stick a hand up my crotch, then have me push before calling the guy. I did as they asked, praying that he'd arrive soon, please, please soon because HOLY SHIT. The pain I felt then was unreal, the worst pain of my life.

Finally, Mr Nice Man With The Drugs came back and gave me a booster of drugs. I think at this point, I was about 7 cm dilated but that part is all a blur. I do know that soon after, I was at 10 and we all got hopeful that things would change, that the baby would drop and I'd be having a baby pretty damn soon.

Tell that to my stubborn kid. She had other ideas.

10 cm is supposed to be this magic moment, when you feel this urge to push because the kid's head is RIGHT THERE and pressing on your cervix. Again, tell that to my kid. She stayed way up high in my uterus, her wee ass right under my right boob the entire time. I sat at 10cm for about 5 hours (again, my timeline about this stuff is sketchy) and we all waited for Something To Happen.

What really happened was the drugs kept wearing off, but I'd learned my lesson, I asked for them much earlier and was able to get them before the pain completely took over. There was much crotch-checking (yep, still there, yep, still 10) and I found myself asking if the crotch-checkers could tell if the baby had hair on her head. Nobody really knew and they were sort of apologizing that she'd have a conehead when she came out.

Somewhere around this time, Diane (the bestest nurse ever) kept propping me on one side, trying to get the baby to move more toward the middle of my uterus. She was totally angled to the right and no amount of propping got her to move. I also had a really spectacular kink in my neck from the damn bed and Susan was kind enough to craft a hot pack out of Hospital Products.

I lay staring at the warming table where the baby would be placed, at the bassinet that she was supposed to go in. I wondered what she looked like, imagined holding her but had this sick feeling at the back of my throat that it just wasn't going to go down smoothly.

A couple of times, I felt like I was about to poop and was told that was the baby's head pushing down. Cool, I thought, she's going to arrive! But the feeling was fleeting, just for a moment, and then I went back to feeling nothing.

Around noon (I think) my doctor arrived and I thought hey, these people must think this baby is coming out of my crotch! It must be true! They are putting on Special Gowns as if there will be a great wave of bodily fluids to wash a baby out of my crotch!

But that's not how it went down. My doc had me push twice. I'm proud to say that I did as I said I would, with each of those pushing sessions I pooped on the table. Good thing because it was the last time I Pooped Without Fear for a week.

After the second push, she finally said what my heart knew. The baby was not coming down and the best way to get her out was with a c-section RIGHT NOW. Fine, I said. Some part of me thought I should demand to be allowed to push more, that maybe just maybe one more push would change everything. But really, I knew the kid was stuck. It was 12:50 pm and the woman in the room next door to me screamed at the top of her lungs then gave birth about a second after we got the news. Great, I thought, next door lady had the birth I wanted to have.

Susan later told me that right after the doc said that, they pumped me full of fluid. I have no memory, though I missed seeing my ankles. I was surprised that it took them as long as it did to get me into the OR, after all the TV I'd watched, I'd thought it would be much quicker.

They brought me in alone first (this I really don't get, why the hell couldn't Andrea be there at that point), and a crapload of stuff happened. I heard a scraping noise that turned out to be them dry shaving me, an act that resulted in a crapload of painful ingrown hairs around my incision. I got more anesthetic through my epidural and when they did a test poke I said hey I can feel that. I was so not risking having a c-section without ample medication.

The drugs and the exhaustion made me shake like I was freezing. Andrea came back in and stood at my side. Maybe she sat, I have no idea but she wore a jaunty paper outfit. I wondered how the docs would be able to cut straight with all the shaking. They had me laying at a slight angle, I wonder if that was to help get my wedged baby out easier. I gripped the right arm of the table and that sort of controlled my shaking.

It felt like a million years between getting into the room and Val's arrival. I just wanted to hear her cry but everything was happening on the other side of that drape, a million miles away from me. Finally, they said something and Andrea stood up to see Val and take a picture with Susan's camera, which apparently Susan had thrown at Andrea at the last minute because ours was Someplace Else. Cool, I thought, I can at least see the picture of my baby but Andrea didn't know how to turn that feature on so I was denied.

Val was taken to the warmer in the room and they worked on her. I don't really know what happened, if they used the mask I later saw in pictures or not. I just know that it took FUCKING FOREVER to hear her cry but when she finally did, I cried too. A thousand years later they showed her to me, all wrapped up and looking like a very cute burrito. Then they whisked her off to the nursery and Andrea didn't know if she should stay with me or go. We'd talked about this, but both of us forgot what we'd decided.

At that point, I was scared, tired, and couldn't bear the thought of being alone. So Andrea stayed with me and Susan followed Val to the nursery. I'm still not 100% clear on why Val needed to go there and the fact that they took her there instead of leaving her with Andrea will always piss me off.

My parents had arrived just before then and they stood with Susan at the nursery window while Val was bathed and they did god knows what to her. I waited for a thousand more years while they sewed me back up, then took me to recovery. Diane, Our Amazing Nurse was there with me. I finally took off my shirt (forever after to be known as my Birthing Shirt) and put on the damn gown. But hey, I gave birth in my own clothes, damn it.

I wish I was conscious enough to remember, to really remember the first moment I held Val. I can't even tell you who handed her to me, I just know that I told her that even if she wanted to be a figure skater, that was okay with me.

I really did look like crap, though. At least the baby is cute.

More blurry details, including Val breastfeeding like a professional right off the bat, Susan (who does not cry at births) crying and me getting wheeled down to the postpartum room that we'd come to know very well over the next 4 days.

The 31 hours I labored, I thought only of that first moment, when Val would emerge from my parts and be placed right onto my chest. She'd bee all gooey and I'd help clean her off. She'd hear my voice, hear Andrea's voice, and know us both right away. That was the vision that had gotten me through my ordeal and to date, the most emotional stuff around her birth has been the fact that I didn't get that moment.

But I realized a couple of weeks ago that it was like Tom Hanks in Castaway. For however long he was on that island, he thought of his girlfriend and had hope. Once he was saved, he learns that she's moved on, has a husband. Rather than be crushed, he tells her that it's okay, that he doesn't have her now but he had her while he was on the island and that's what kept him going.

So no, I didn't have the birth experience I hoped for but the vision of it kept me going. And now I have the baby I'd always wanted, the family I'd dreamed of creating. And I'm playing hockey again.


  • Wow! I'm impressed with how much you remember, and your ability to write it all down. Brought tears to my eyes all over again.

    By snarfdog, at 10:39 PM  

  • Liz,

    Thanks for writing that out. I'm sorry that you didn't have that moment with Val, and so I'll leave it at that rather than giving you unneeded assvice.

    I will say that Val is hella lucky to have you and Liz as her parents.

    And that YOU ROCK for giving birth in your own clothes. One of my biggest pet peeves about doctors and hospitals is that they want you in a gown (or nekkid) for everything from a sore knee to a sore throat. So, you're my new No Gown hero.

    By wen, at 9:41 AM  

  • Thanks for sharing the whole story. I'm glad we got to see her as soon as we did.

    This brought back a lot of my memories of G's birth. Lots of parallels, only some of them good...

    By Jennie, at 12:44 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home