Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pull Up Another Chair

Part One of Mia's birth story is here.

When Eric arrived, he was nearly bouncing with excitement; between that and my nerves, we were almost wholly useless. But, he could drive and I could continue to call Justin on the way to the hospital. At least there were those things.

Justin finally picked up the phone and I told him what had happened. He was devastated. He'd planned his trips to be far enough away so he'd be at the birth no matter what, but now, in the middle of the night, he could do nothing. His company's travel department wouldn't be available until early in the morning, so he couldn't even have the consolation of knowing when he'd get to leave. Or if he'd get to leave -- there was a major snowstorm blanketing the entire area around him. He threw his clothes on, stuffed his bags, and waited. Pacing the room, waiting for sunrise.

Back in Missouri, Eric helped me check into the hospital, where we were greeted dubiously. The nurses were terribly confused; they'd just received notification that I was on the schedule for a cesarean, but that was nearly 4 weeks away. With as much patience as I could muster, I explained that my water had broken now; 4 weeks early or not, I needed a room immediately.

In perhaps the most embarrassing moment of the night, my nurse hiked up my gown to check my cervix without first informing my brother -- still in the room -- of her intentions. We'd forgotten to tell them that he was my brother, not my husband, and I will forever be grateful for his quick face-hiding reflexes.

After that, the pace began to pick up. Eric had gotten ahold of my mom who was on her way, and the nurses were hooking me up to various drips and monitors. I hadn't begun feeling any contractions yet, and I hoped they'd stay away long enough to stall the birth so Justin could arrive. Between myself and my gathering family members, Justin was always in contact, being kept up on the situation.

My doctor was notified and knew that we were without the daddy; he instructed the nurses to just keep an eye on me and inform him of every little change in status. We couldn't let labor progress so far that the baby began descending into the birth canal, but we wanted to put off the c-section as long as possible, giving Justin every chance to make it home. I was told to be completely open with the nurses when I began feeling any pain -- they wanted to start my epidural early enough to stall labor, if possible. But in my research I'd heard both sides: that epidurals can either stall or speed up labor. I decided to put it off as long as possible, not wanting to take the chance of having labor progress too quickly.

Being the middle of the night, I was encouraged to sleep. My brother and mom were resting with me, but in the dark room, I didn't ever close my eyes. I watched the clock, counting hours since rupture, hours until sunrise on the east coast, hours since contractions began. My mind was in constant motion.

Around 2 AM, I began to feel the first twinges of contractions. The monitors they'd placed on my belly never once registered any activity throughout my entire labor. In the early hours, I was happy with that because it meant I could directly disobey my doctor's orders: I lied about my contractions. I told nobody when the pains began. I thought that once I told them about contractions, they'd check me again for dilation, and once that happened...into the operating room I was sure to go. The doctor had stated that he didn't want to let me get past 3 centimeters. At that point, he'd have to take the baby, Justin or no Justin.

My pretense grew thin, though, by about 3 AM. The pain was getting to be too much to endure silently, and the nurses no longer took my bait. I felt like a cheater in the principal's office when my main nurse looked me straight in the eyes and asked if my contractions had begun yet. Um, maybe a little bit, but I can barely tell if that's what they even ..... ahhhhh .... hooooo ... aaaarrrrre. She knew before I finished the sentence that I'd been withholding information, and my gig was up. They kept trying to get me to start the epidural, but I kept insisting that it should wait. It was only around 4 AM in Pennsylvania, a good 3 hours before any likely flight out for Justin.

During the night, he got in contact with a friend and co-worker named Eduardo. Ed told him to not even worry about setting up transportation through the travel department, that he should just charge a flight home to the company credit card and worry about the rest later. Ed got online and helped him find a flight into the closest airport which was still an hour away from home. Since Justin wouldn't have a car at the airport when he landed (he'd flown out of a different airport at the beginning of the week), Ed offered to meet him there and bring him straight to the hospital. Eduardo is a saint. If our child had been a boy, I'm sure we'd have considered a namesake.

Justin headed to the airport in the wee hours of the morning and waited in the parking lot until 5:30 for the airport to open. The flight he'd booked in the middle of the night wasn't leaving until 9 AM, so he was desperate to take any plane flying westward at the earliest availability. Luckily, he switched to a 7 AM flight with a layover in Cincinnati. Unluckily, due the the terrible snowstorm, the flight didn't actually take off until 8 AM.

By 5 AM in Missouri -- about the time Justin was dealing with ticket agents and flight transfers -- I'd had it. I could no longer lie still in the bed with no pain medication; neither did I want to walk around for comfort if that meant a speedier labor. I was dilated past a 3, but my doctor had been keeping up with Justin's travel plans. He knew Justin was nearly ready to fly home, and wanted to delay surgery until the last possible minute, God Bless him. The nurses sighed disapprovingly each time they were instructed to wait longer for surgery prep. But at least they were pleased when I accepted the epidural. Holding onto my mom through contractions, sitting as still as possible despite the pain, the anaesthesiologist drugged me up. It was one of the most physically difficult things I've ever had to do, fighting the urge to rock and move while the long needle penetrated my spine.

I was expecting immediate relief, but for the next 90 minutes or so, it felt like all the pain had merely been shifted from my entire abdomen to my right lower back. For some reason, the epidural missed that section of my body, and the pain felt multiplied in that one area. It was the most awful feeling to be trapped by paralyzed legs, yet still be in the worst pain of my life. I couldn't move myself to ease the pain, nor was the medicine working. Rock and a hard place, defined. After several adjustments and increasing amounts of medication, I was finally, blissfully, without pain. Without any sensation at all. I can't say that I liked being completely numb -- something about not having control over my own body -- but I definitely liked the pain-free aspect. The room immediately seemed brighter. Happier.

I knew Justin was hurrying; we were expecting a baby within a few hours.

I DO apologize...I had no idea this would take up so much space to write! I'll be back later today with the FINAL installment, so as to avoid any rotten tomatoes being lobbed in my direction.


  1. Okay, seriously, this is the best birth story I've ever read! So well-written. Can't wait to read the last installment!

  2. I'm running out of chairs, but you better believe I'm saving one in reserve for the next part of the saga! :)

  3. My heart is racing! I'm sure not as quickly as yours was then, though!

  4. Can't wait to read the rest... I love birth stories!

  5. Tomatoes, bananas, chicken salad... I'm throwing it all at you. FINISH LADY!!

    I don't like the part about the epidural. I'm childless, remember?! I need the bad parts to be covered up!

  6. Great story! And Chelsea, don't worry too much about the epidural. It's different for everyone. I didn't even feel the needle.

    I can't wait to hear the rest! My birth story is a little too dramatic for comfort, so it's nice to read one that is more fun. :-)

  7. Chelsea - It wasn't the epidural that was was being made to sit perfectly still during contractions so the epidural could be placed that was painful. The sitting still killed me. But if you want to know my advice? Go all natural, baby. You have control of your body to work through the contractions, you can move around to help labor along if it's not progressing...I'm a big supporter of natural. That said...the drugs sure did feel nice :) But we're getting ahead of ourselves. You should go get pregnant and THEN we'll have this talk, among many others!

  8. I LOVE a good labor story --yours is so exciting! Can't wait to hear the rest :) No tomatoes from me :)

  9. you see THIS is why I don't watch A Baby Story. I cry when I read about them! Holy cow. You best be back soon, woman. I'm dying!
    How awful of an epidural experience for you......poor girl!
    I will say, time 1) water broke 4 hrs before baby born--epidural.....needed. but the whole 'birth' thing still hurt. not contractions.
    time 2), water broken on my behalf 10 min before they were born. contractions didn't hurt that bad, the birth thing felt about the same {only it happened twice ;)}

  10. I'm with Lenae! You're telling a great story here. Still, I'm glad you ended this installment on a more reassuring note. You had me pretty worried last night--even though I *knew* it was all going to be okay because, after all, four years later you're baking crocodile cakes and blogging, etc.--but, like I said, I was worried.

    (Off subject, you should be like Dickens and publish a book in serial installments. You're great at this!)

  11. Ahem, I'm waiting! I hope you're not doing something silly like feeding your family while *I* am waiting with bated breath for the rest of the story! ;)


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?