Best Present Ever

Today is my birthday, which means I usually: 1) get a massage, 2) go to Starbucks, and 3) write a blog post.  Today is no exception.

So far, today has been fabulous.  My little girl started sleeping through the night about 3 days ago, which has been a godsend because everyone in the family (including her, poor thing) is sick.  Today, my babies let me sleep in til 9am.  NINE. In the MORNING.  Best birthday present ever.

We snuggled and breastfed and ate breakfast and danced and sang.  I tried on my pre-pregnancy jeans (always a gamble) AND THEY (just barely) FIT.  Let’s just take a moment to glow in that last sentence.  Aah.  As if that weren’t enough, I saw a rainbow on the drive here.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a leprechaun today.  Or maybe Bigfoot.

So.  Since last year I blogged about my own birth, and since then I’ve given birth, so let’s talk about that one.

The two times I’ve given birth were extremely different.  For my first, I was induced, labor took 32 hours (including 2.5 hours of pushing), and ended in a vaginal birth aided by an epidural.

The short version of my second L&D is as follows: labor was so fast that it only took 3 hours and ended with me giving birth on my bathroom floor while my baby was delivered by firefighters.  It was the most physically painful and intense experience of my entire life.

Allow me to back up.  Because I was induced last time at 41 weeks, I was determined to do everything in my power to try and go into labor naturally.  I asked my OB to sweep my membranes on Tuesday, December 20 when I was 39 weeks +1.  Initially I had some cramping, but nothing major.  At 2am Thursday morning, I woke up with contractions.  They were mild, but strong enough to wake me up, and I found that they were coming at regular intervals once I started tracking them.

I woke my husband and we called L&D.  The nurse asked me a bunch of questions but she wasn’t convinced I was in labor because the intensity of my contractions just wasn’t there.  She advised to call my childcare person to come over but to wait another 30 minutes and see if the contractions ramped up at all.  Her guess was that this was false labor and they’d go away and she was right.  I felt horrible for getting my friend (who was also pregnant) out of bed for a false alarm, but we all went back to sleep.

That day I took it easy and had a few wimpy contractions here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We went to bed.  I woke up at 3am Friday morning with contractions again.  This time, as I tracked them, their intensity increased but their frequency was all over the place.  Around 5am Brian woke up and I told him what was going on and we talked about what to do between contractions.  At 5:20 we decided to call L&D, so I said I’d get up to pee and then we’d call.

I stood up and quickly discovered that I couldn’t walk as the intensity of my contractions rapidly increased.  I turned around, grabbed the side of the bed and instinctively swayed and moaned to get through the waves of pain.  Brian was still quite groggy and wasn’t grasping onto what was happening so I finally barked at him to get up and help me walk to the toilet.  As we moved I started to panic because my body no longer felt like it belonged to me; some force had just taken over.

As soon as I sat down on the toilet, my water broke.  I turned to my husband and told him (screamed at him) to call L&D.  Immediately, my body was rocked to the core by a contraction that started pushing my baby out of me.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  My instinct was to try to suppress the urge to push because there was no way my baby was coming so early.  In hindsight, this probably made things all the more painful.

My husband couldn’t hear what the nurse was saying over my screams, but she could most definitely hear me scream that I needed to push, I need to push!  She told him to hang up and call 911.  By this time it was 5:40am…and my baby was born at 5:57am.  It took the firefighters 9 minutes to get to our house, and Audrey was born 8 minutes after that.

The dispatcher told my husband to get me flat on my back and to get some towels.  It was only then that it dawned on me that they were getting me ready to have the baby right there on the bathroom floor.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified in my entire life.

My husband started grabbing our good towels we got as wedding presents and, in true form, I was still able to scream, NO!  NOT THE GOOD TOWELS!  GET THE OLD ONES! because I’m a freak.  And bless him, he got the old towels for me.  The dispatcher continued to ask questions, one of which was, Do you see the head?  He looked once, no.  He looked again, and yes, yes he could.  YOU CAN SEE THE HEAD?!  I screamed in reply.  I was still in shock and denial about what was happening.  Contractions were back to back at this point and  I was screaming pretty much the whole time.  In case you’re wondering, my two-year-old was down the hall and slept through the whole thing.  Like I said, my kids (angels) are sleepers.

We could hear the firetruck arrive and B ran downstairs (still in only his boxers) to let them in.  They had trouble finding me at first but I think they just followed the screams.  I immediately asked them for pain meds – ANYTHING! – and they sadly shook their heads and said they couldn’t.  I was devastated.

Pretty soon her head was born (worst pain of my entire life) and they told me to keep pushing to get the rest of her body out, and I remember thinking that I just couldn’t.  I needed that 15 second rest between contractions.  I pushed again and she was out.  She wasn’t crying right away and I held out my arms for her, but it felt like an eternity while he rubbed her back, suctioned her mouth and got her properly breathing.  Once it was apparent that we were both just fine, the 6 firefighters who were crammed into my bathroom were overjoyed.  They proudly announced the time of birth and her Apgar score.

They had B cut the cord and gave us the shears to keep, joking that they make great cigar cutters.  One firefighter asked for our phones and started snapping pictures.  She was here.  My little girl was in the world.  I couldn’t believe it.

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We were carried downstairs and into the ambulance and taken to the hospital.  A few firefighters even stayed behind at the house to wait for my childcare person to get there.  Later that day, she brought my son to the hospital so he could meet Audrey.  We came back home the next day – Christmas Eve – to start our lives as a family of four.

Best Christmas present ever.

Six Things I’d Do Differently During Labor and Delivery (and some things I wouldn’t)

On this day last year, I was induced to give birth to my first child.

I can’t believe it’s been an entire year…it went by super fast.  As I usually do, I’ve been looking back on my experiences a year ago and have been having all the feelings.

I plan to eventually have another kid, and that makes me think of what I might like to do differently with the second labor and delivery.  And even as I write that previous sentence, I realize how pointless it would be to count on my wishes coming true, because for all I know, my second labor will be totally different because that’s how the universe works.

But, for the hell of it, here are some things I’d do differently, followed by some things I did that were totally right for me.

Things I’d do differently whilst expelling a baby from my body

  1. Advocate more fiercely against being induced

We have Kaiser Oregon insurance, and for some reason they have a guideline to push induction at 41 weeks.  I know plenty of other midwives/doctors/facilities who won’t induce until 42 weeks.  Either way, I don’t like feeling pushed to force my body into doing something it clearly isn’t ready to do.  Next time, I plan to bring this topic up sooner with my midwife and advocate for as natural a process as possible.

2. Ask my midwife when she plans to go on a frickin vacation

My midwife went on vacation the very week I was due, and then I had to have the induction discussion with a midwife I had just met.  It sucked.  Medical people – please tell your pregnant patients well in advance when you’re planning a vacation.  Grr.

3. Bring (even more of) my own crap to the hospital for delivery

Our Kaiser hospital claimed to be a “breastfeeding friendly” hospital.  What that really translated to was, “We won’t provide you with simple things like breastfeeding pillows, and the things we do provide, we’ll judge you for not bringing your own.”

I’ll start with the breastfeeding pillow.  I had one, but I left it at home.  My hospital only provided those thin, plasticy hospital pillows, and I had to stack 6-8 pillows around me in order to get my kid in the right position to even try latching.  It was awkward and very inconvenient.

Since my boy had trouble latching, they asked if I had brought my breast pump.  I said no.  They gave me one, but it came with a glare.

Next time, I am bringing all my own stuff.

4. Do everything I can to minimize interruptions and distractions

Nurses and doctors and photographers and clowns and dancing bears were coming in and out of my room juuust about every 30 minutes.  Are you frickin kidding me?!  There is no way anyone can get any sleep or try to breastfeed with that parade of crazy.  This hospital claimed to offer “collaborative care” for my baby and me, meaning that the baby’s doctor and my doctor would work together as a team.  Well you know what?  That never happened.  It didn’t help to have my doc come and take my vitals and then my baby’s doc came to take his vitals 20 minutes later.  After this happened to us many times, my husband and I finally had to actually yell at a nurse to get her to leave.  And my husband doesn’t yell.  We were pissed.

Next time, we plan to tell everyone straight up to take our vitals at the same time and to minimize visits.  And we’re bringing paper and tape and a pen to make signs to put on our door telling the photographer to stay the hell away.  And you too, dancing bears!

5.  Advocate to switch nurses if one isn’t meeting our needs

There was one nurse who came in juuuust after I was finished trying to get my boy to latch.  And by try, I mean that we spent 20 minutes wrestling with my boob and his mouth and he was having none of it.  I put him down so we could both sleep and we’d try again later.  Enter nurse, and she insisted that it was time to nurse.  I told her we’d just tried.  Like, just.  She didn’t believe me.  She brought my baby to me and insisted that she watch while I try to get him to latch in front of her.

Looking back, I should have asked for a new nurse right then.  If I have to do it over again, I hope I have the ladyballs to do it (ask for a new nurse), because she made me feel like crap and she sucks at her job.  At the very least, I’d have my husband go to the nurses’ desk and request a new nurse.  Passive-aggressive advocating is better than no advocating at all.

6. Advocate for leaving the hospital sooner

My boy was having trouble breastfeeding, and so it took us a bit longer to figure out a feeding plan that would work for us.  I am thankful that things didn’t turn out worse, because had my boy lost any more weight they would have discharged me and kept him and I would have been very worried and peeved.  Buuut, I still feel like they took their sweet time getting us ready to go.

We were in the hospital postpartum for 2 days, but when you tack that onto being induced and laboring in the hospital for 2 full days prior, it felt like a looong time.  We were tired and cranky.  I wanted my own bed and my own shower.  Next time, I am going to be packing my bags much sooner as long as we’re all good and healthy.

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Now, I know I’ve just done a bit of bitching, but overall I am satisfied and have made peace with my experience.

Hell, there were even some things we did really well that I’ll totally do again:

  1. Brought my own pillow

Cannot emphasize this enough.

2. Brought my own snacks

Because you can’t always (or ever) count on hospital food.

3. Brought my own DVDs

Our hospital room had a DVD player, and I think watching Ryan Gosling helped to move labor along.  Seriously.

4. Made a labor playlist

Music really helps to calm me down, and although it didn’t magically end up taking the pain away, it definitely helped.  Perhaps Led Zeppelin will work for you, too.

5. Yell at people who aren’t meeting my needs

This includes husbands.  Sometimes, you just need to take your pain out on others.  It’s not healthy, but it’s like giving birth: you don’t always get what you want.