For those of you who are interested in such things (all two of you), here is the story of Gwendolyn's birth. I will not be hurt if you don't want to read this- it's very long, and some of you are just not down with such things. I'm mostly just laying this down for my own benefit, before the memory fades and I start adding and subtracting details. I probably already have, but here goes.
Ok, so first things first. Don't read this if this sort of stuff squeems you out, ok? Cause I'm not going to edit myself. Birth is the most visceral, true thing I've ever experienced, and I'm not gonna cheapen it by calling things "who-has" and "whatsits" when I can just say "Cervix" and be done with it. K? Ok.
At 6am on June the 15th I was admitted to the hospital to be induced (you all remember how I was 10 days late, etc). I had done all the pre-admission paperwork weeks before so basically all I had to do was show up in the wee small hours with my bag and husband and sign some scarey waivers and away we went. Still, it was 7am by the time I was comfy in bed dressed in a lovely backless number with my spankin' new IV and ready to get some medication to kick our little ladybug out. They did an exam and lo and behold, I was still closed and not dilated save for the pathetic "fingertip" my doc had given me at my last visit. So meds would be needed not only for contraction starting, but to open the gateway, so to speak. See, I promised no euphemisms, and yet, there is one in the first paragraph. Oh well.
SO medication- they gave me this crap called Cytotec. I did not want Cytotec, because I had heard a myriad of ugly things about it on the interwebs, but I was bamboozled by a nurse into getting it anyway(ask me for details on that ridiculous story if you wanna. Suffice it to say, stick to your guns when it comes to your gut-instincts and medicine). I was told I'd need about 3 doses minimum to really do the trick w/ the Cytotec, so I was planning on a long day. Ha. Ha ha ha. Within one half hour of the first dose, I was in full labor with contractions coming 2 minutes apart. Let me repeat. I went from no contractions chillaxin in my bed watching the People's Court with Judge Marilyn Milian, to earth shattering contractions 2 minutes apart. Um, ouch.
I got up to use the bathroom and when I got back in and re-hooked up the fetal monitor, Gwendy's heart rate was all over the place- down to 50 and up to 200 and back down again. I thought I just had it on wrong and was calling the nurse when she, another nurse and a doctor came RUNNING IN and put me on my side and slapped on an oxygen mask and gave me a big shot of something. (!!!!) It turns out, labor that fast put our baby into a sort of "faint" and they needed to dose me with Terbuterol (sp?)to stall the labor. At this point I was crying and freaking out for my baby and also having super scarey tremors from the Terbuterol. My husband stepped up, like big time. He was so strong and soothing and didn't show any panic (which he admitted later he was totally feeling) and reasoned with me that they would do a C-section if anything was really wrong with Gwen and all in all got me calmed way down. Still, SOOO terribly scarey.
After this little episode, her heart rate stabilized and we were back on track, but the nurse informed me "No more Cytotec". Um, ya THINK?? I just.....GRRRRR.
So, anyways, they decided to see if labor would now progress on its own. And. it. did. Holy cow. Like, there are not words. Before going thru this, I would ask women who had kids to describe the nature of the pain of childbirth, and they would invariably say "It's like the worst cramp you've ever had". So I thought I knew what to expect. Except now I know that's like asking someone how it feels to have your jaw removed with some rusty pliers and having them say "It's like the worst tooth ache you've ever had". It may be true, but it just can't go far enough to really prep you. Labor hurts, a whole lot.
I labored womanfully sans meds for like 8 hours. I was still on the fence at this point as to whether to do the drugs, you see, and I was trying to hold out to see how progress went. My inlaws arrived during this dark time, which involved a lot of me moaning gutturally into Gavin's shoulder like an injured animal. And after all that they checked me and I was like 3 cms. So it was time to do some pitocin. The inlaws went to our house to deal with our dogs and chill out and wait.
BTW, while you are doing the hardest thing, ever, you are not allowed to eat at all, on the off-chance you might need to be knocked out and would potentially aspirate on your own food. And Gavin and his folks had burritos, like in my room. I got yelled at by the nurse for eating a lifesaver. Just saying.
By now, my drug-induced labor was kind of blowing my mind, and I knew it was going to get a whole lot worse before it was over what w/ the pitocin, so I asked about pain management options. I was told Stadol was a nice little narcotic that would just "take the edge off" and let me rest for about an hour. Yes, give me that. Now please.
Except once again, my body reacted to this drug about 7Xs more than it should have. I swear, if I were a super hero, I would be called Sevenfold, and my power would be an over-the-top reaction to everything, times 7. I'd wear seven costumes, and if someone slightly insulted me, I'd kill them in seven ways. Anywho, I was instantly euphoric and high as a freakin kite. Like seriously, best feeling EVER. I now know why drug addicts rock that party- it was AWESOME. The release from pain plus the high of the drug was maaaaagical. I started high-dialing all my friends and fam to let them know just how awesome it actually was, much to their amusement. And I knew one thing, I was not going back to pain-town again. Bring on the epidural.
Epidural doc showed up and he was this wee Asian man, and I was still all stoned and I called him my "boyfriend" and told him "Hey candyman! You have the best job! You like, remove pain! Yay you!". Ah yes, wife on drugs provided Gavin some much-needed comedy relief. My boyfriend got the epidural in- so weird, like Novocaine but spreading down your whole body. I could feel my legs still existed, but they felt heavy and asleep. And the high was fading, but no pain, so I was cool. The kick-ass nurse from the am shift was back on at this point, and she rawked. Bring on my first dose of pitocin. I am 6 cms, so we still have a 'ways to go'.
By now it was like 11 pm, and the nurse told me to get some rest. Except all I could do was listen obsessively to the fetal monitor while Gav snored in the chair next to my bed. And then, at like 12, I started hurting again, bad. WTF? I called the nurse and she gave me another hit of pain relief thru the epidural and then as a kind of afterthought, checked me again, just to be sure. "WOAH!" says she. Apparently in the half hour since she last checked me my body decided to kick it into gear and I was damn near fully dilated. "Call your mother-in-law back. Tell her to come, now". We woke up Gavin and told him the news. And then the nurse told me the news. I'd progressed so fast, there was no time to "get me comfortable" with more epidural. It was just going to hurt. Sorry, Charlie. BOOOOO!!!!!
Right about then, I felt the urge to push. No, urge is not the word. It was like all the force of nature and God and the cosmos surging into you and crystallizing into one simple, unavoidable imperative- "PUSH. PUSH. PUSH." Trying to ignore it would be like trying to kill yourself by holding your breath.
AH, and then! Insult to injury! Like my mother before me, as I hit this "transitional labor" I began to puke my ever loving guts out. "You have got to be FREAKIN' KIDDING ME!!! SERIOUSLY???" sez I, who have just about had it by now. Poor Gavin's job is to catch said puke in a tiny tray that reminds me of the cup from Wayne's World- very inadequate for the job.
Meanwhile, nurse Kris had broken out this ginormous plastic trough for underneath my bed, to catch God knows what. It's best we don't think too much about it. She broke my water (couldn't feel the fluid at all, so the epidural was at least partially in effect) to further things along even more.
By now, my mom-in-law MJ was there, with strict orders from me for "No pictures below the knee line" and my poor father in law was in a rocking chair outside the door, looking, he later told me, like "Some ole perv who likes to hang out and hear women scream or something" and we were ready for some "practice pushes". My bed did this nifty Transformers thing and half folded away and next thing I knew Gav and the nurse had my ankles and we were off to the races, pushing for a count of 10 each time.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my pilates/yoga teacher from Case who made us get to know all our muscles "down there", cause I was like a CHAMPION pusher. I mean, not to toot my own pelvic floor, or anything. I had them wheel out the mirror so I could catch the main event (I am not squeamish, it will shock you to find out) and it was a huge motivator to all of a sudden SEE the top of her head (I did have one freak-out moment where I asked "Why is her head cleft??" only to be told it was just squished for my birthing convenience). By this point, Gavin is practically jumping up and down and doing the dance from Thriller, he is so excited, and as a result his counting started to go too fast so they made him slow down a bit.
The excitement was building and infectious and the whole room (both nurses, Gavin, MJ) were now so into the process they were counting out my pushes together like a Sesame Street cult or something. Turned out my "practice pushes" were kicking so much butt, by the time my actual doc got there, she had just enough time to slap on her scrubs and I had only three more pushes and then SHOOOWAAAA, out she was!!!!!! Craziest feeling, ever, lemee tell you. Just like this huge weight and pressure builds and builds and then just vanishes and the greatest relief of your life washes over you.
They flopped her on my belly, all warm and damp and purple and making this sad kitten sound and already looking to nurse! And like magic, as she breathed she turned rosey pink. Me and Gav were just laughing and crying and looking at her and each other in total awe. We had really, truly, made a person, and here she was. Gavin and the whole birth entourage followed her over to the warmer/weigher thing, and for a moment it was just me and the Dr. What am I, chopped livah?
Once she was nicely clean and swaddled they gave her back to me and I looked into her squinting eyes and that was it. A feeling of perfect happiness and completion and the simple knowledge I'd happily die for this little creature. Really, it's just as wonderful as you'd imagine. More so. One of the maybe 3 perfect moments you get in life.
So there's childbirth for you, according to me. It was a wild ride, I can tell you, but never has hard work been more worth it.
Some Lessons Learned:
1. Listen to the advice of medical professionals, because they do this crap a hundred times a day, but also don't let medical-types bully you, because they do this crap a hundred times a day. Ya feel me?
2. Be ready to not be ready. Because no amount of prep will seem like enough, so just set it free.
3. Bring your own pillow from home.
4. Eat a really kickass breakfast every day the week you're due go into labor. You never when you'll go, and they DON'T FREAKIN FEED YOU!!!
5. Map out a couple of decent places to get take out near the hospital. By the time it was all over, I was freakin starving, and that hospital food was the worst ever. Gavin went and got me a Big Mac, fries and a milkshake, the holy trinity of things I don't let myself eat ever. Best tasting food of my whole life. Well done sir.
6. Marry your best friend. It really makes this kind of stuff so much easier and better.