Tuesday, September 25, 2012

This One Time When I Had a Baby...Part One

This post is about having a baby. I do not recommend this post to any person who
a.) is about to have a baby and is feeling fragile (i.e. is about to have a baby)
b.) still believes in the stork
c.) refers to fallopian tubes as women's plumbing
d.) believes that menstrual cramps can be "prayed away" (in fact you should avoid my blog altogether)
e.) is related to, or well acquainted with me, and whose relationship with me might be unfavorably and unalterably changed by the image of me doing any of the horribly unflattering things associated with having a baby.


In that case....

On August 27th, the day after my 32nd birthday, a tropical storm was whipping its way up the East coast. Its name was Irene. 
I was thirty-nine weeks and three days pregnant. I had just put in my last day as a part time hair salon receptionist in Provincetown and was making yet one more "last" grocery shopping trip before having this damn baby.
This time while stocking up on more food to bring with us to the hospital I was also throwing in gallons of spring water as we were being warned of a possible shortage should we lose power, which was pretty much a given on outer Cape Cod.
Sure enough, Irene blew through with fifty mile-per-hour winds. Even though we only got hit with the outer bands of the weather system, we still lost power, and as expected, water. 
Not having clean water for a few hours is a pain in the ass, not having it for a day is unsanitary, and not having it while in labor is an emergency. I knew this, and though I wasn't yet in labor, I had an uneasy feeling.
The day after Irene blew through Scott and I went on a walk during the power outage to survey the wreckage. I was pretty big at that point and we walked slow. We ran into various acquaintances around town and chit chatted. We were even invited to join in on some drinking and bocce ball. Being that we weren't in a drinking and bocce ball sort of mood we waddled back home and planned for another evening without power, eating as much of the food in our no-longer-frozen freezer as we could. 
We watched Austrailia on Scott's battery-powered laptop, listened to a battery powered radio, and fell asleep.
Earlier that evening I had noticed the slightest pinkish hue on my toilet paper (by the way, I am going to talk about stuff having to do with my body in an explicit way, as it is pertinent to the story, so if the thought of reading about my cervix is upsetting to you in any way, then you should go find a blog about soccer, or Labradoodles, or something non-cervical.)
As I was saying, my bloody show... well, the show had started. 
If you google bloody show you will find out that it doesn't always indicate labor impending within 24 hours, but in this case it did, and somehow, don't ask me how, I could tell this was the case for me. (Might have been that whole hocus-pocus-ladies'-intuition thingy. Go ahead and burn me at the stake.)
So as you can imagine, a little bit of panic had started creeping in. I barely slept that night, thinking about the possibility of going into labor, and being stuck on the outer Cape without running water, or worse yet, driving almost two hours to our hospital further in Cape and still being without running water. It was a restless night. I slept poorly. And when I woke up to pee at that first glimpse of light, I was discomforted by the eerie absence of electrical charge in the air. There was a dull silence; the power had not come back on in the night as I had prayed it would.
It didn't help that after my first morning's pee, the toilet paper was now tinged bright red.
I went back to my sleeping husband and laid down next to him. I was going to try to fall asleep. I was not going to freak out. Maybe I would fall back asleep and when I woke up the power would have come back on, our water would be restored, and I'd have a nice shower as my labor began.
I actually did drift off briefly and barely for maybe a half hour, when, at 5:32 am, I experienced a sensation that was at first dismissible and then at once obvious and painful. 
It was a tightening, more pressure than pain, but strong and ominous in nature. I opened my eyes and it took a moment for it to register that surely, that had been a contraction.
I laid there mentally skimming over my poorly committed hypno-birthing notes. The techniques seemed clumsy and irrelevant and barely accessible. I had had one contraction and already I was losing my grip on myself.
The second contraction came and went less than a half hour later. My husband woke up to the sound of my "breathing techniques"- only he called them "hyperventilating."
I told him I'd had two contractions already in the last half hour. He told me I needed to slow my breathing waay down. This wasn't something he'd picked up from birthing literature. It was something you say when you're trying to keep someone else from freaking out.
I called our midwife. She assured me that the hospital had power and running water and that being my first baby, it would be at least another twenty-four hours before I delivered. She told me to go about my day as calmly and normally as possible, and hard as it was, to try not to think about being in labor. She said to call when my contractions started coming less than a certain amount of time apart or when I they became very painful.
I called an hour later during a contraction. I handed Scott the phone after dialing. He stumbled, telling her he wasn't sure what to say but that I dialed and handed him the phone. I grabbed the phone and told the midwife that the contractions were much stronger than the previous hour. She said to come in.
Would you believe that I didn't have a bag packed? The thing about that is, most of the things you would put in such a bag are things you use every day. I believe I had a bag out, ready to be packed. And we did the typical sitcom throwing things into the bag, waddling and breathing heavy to the car, mad dash to the hospital. There really was no time to do any last minute things, as I was sure there would be.
There was no cleaning for hours, or baking, or long walks, or relaxing showers. There was that crunchy feeling you have after being awake all night and not having been able to bathe for a day and a half in addition to the late August humidity, swelling, heartburn, and probably worst of all, borderline panic.
Wareham was one and half to two hours away, normally. Scott got there in an hour. 
I had heard awful things about having contractions in cars but I shut my eyes, put the passenger strap to the test, vocalized every contraction, and honestly, I sort of went away.
I don't mean that I fainted, or astral projected, but I did sort of leave my body. 
Don't get me wrong; I felt everything that was happening, but if I kept my eyes shut, all that existed were the contractions, the noises I made in reaction to them, and the relationship between the two. I was existing on the edge of what was happening. At times, I distinctly remember thinking "That one wasn't so bad. I stayed ahead of that one. It is like the ocean. It is like surfing waves. I just need to do that for the next one." And then I would misplace whatever mojo had kept me out of the pain during the last one.
Either that, or some of my contractions just weren't as bad as others, in no particular order. Which I want to address, does in fact actually happen. 
One thing that surprised me about labor, it wasn't quite as mathematical as my reading had lead me to believe.Yes, the contractions get progressively stronger from first to last, but they do wax and wane a bit in that pattern. Not only that, the amount of time between each one fluctuated too. It didn't only get shorter and shorter. 
Although in my case, it didn't make too much of a difference since I was actually in back labor, which means basically that it just hurt the whole effing time. It hurt most during contractions, and slightly less between them. 
You heard me. 
I know my anxiety didn't help and maybe was even the catalyst for the back labor, but no wonder I was freaking mess. I didn't have a chance to come down and regain composure and get all Giselle-y about it between contractions.
The midwife had asked us to meet at her office before going to the hospital, if I felt I could make it, so she could check my dilation and make sure I was in labor enough to be admitted.
When we got there and she examined me, which I also found painful, she said I was dilated to four centimeters.
Four centimeters after a couple of hours of contractions for a first baby is atypical and some might even say impressive. I don't mean that I had actually done anything deserving of applause at that point. I mean it's not the medical standard, though obviously, not unheard of.
Well I, for one, was not impressed. 
As I stole a glance at the bloody latex glove our midwife pulled off her hand, I told her I was a little disheartened that the pain I was experiencing was only that of a four centimeter dilation while I cowered at the thought of what was to come for the remaining five centimeters and god knows how many hours.
I didn't like where this was headed. Already several facts I was planning to rely on had been disproven by my freakishly strong labor.
Cue wavy fantasy montage... A full day of uneventful contractions with hour long breaks between while I relaxed and bathed in my own home as I eased my baby down... That was the labor I had signed up for. Not relentless pressure and pain rendering it impossible to poop, let alone breathe, as I leaked enough bright red mucus to make a phone book maxi pad necessary before even having given birth yet.
This was shaping up like a crime scene.

1 comment:

  1. Keep going, Sarah--You can do it!!!
    Thank you for letting us go back in time with you, Scott & Oscar...Wow...even though we know the end result, I can't wait to hear how it goes from here...Love you & your writing.
    --amanda jane