The Final Weeks & Birth Story
~ February 19 - March 10 and beyond . . .
Well, we waited and we waited and we waited. At 8:30 they gave me my first set of pills to begin softening my cervix and making it ready for delivery. They came back four hours later to check my progress. Nothing. Another round of pills, another four hour wait. My mom had come to spend time with me, while Aaron went home to sleep for a few hours. After a lot of nervous chatting, mom and I tried to sleep, without much success. I was miserable, strapped in to various monitors and my IV, and couldn't sleep at all. My next check-up with the nurse showed still no progress, so they gave me yet another round of pills hoping to jump-start my labour finally, and I was told that Dr. Abbott would be in around 6:30. Finally, about six or so, I started to feel some serious cramping, and I knew that it had at last begun. My mom called Aaron, he came back to the hospital and we all waited for the doctor.
By the time Dr. Abbott arrived sometime after seven, I was starting to really notice my contractions picking up. I was up out of bed, walking around the room to help with the pain when he came through the door. We were excited for this next check, hoping that I had made some real progress, and that we would be able to start the Pitocin to begin hard labour. Because my mother and her sisters had all had very, very fast labours (we're talking within 3 hours from beginning to end here!), I think we were expecting that everything was going to just take off from that point on. Dr. Abbott checked me, and much to my chagrin, I had only dilated 1 and a half centimeters. It was very disappointing, but he decided to go ahead and break my water to help things along. I crawled back into bed, got strapped back into my monitors, and immediately after he had finished breaking my water, things did indeed start to pick up. The baby was very low in my uterus, and my contractions were coming on faster and stronger. At last, this was some real progress!
The contractions took me by surprise, once my water had been broken. They were very intense, and within half an hour, I was absolutely miserable. I couldn't get up to walk the pain off anymore, as each contraction was bringing a flood of water still, and as I had never had any intentions of being a martyr about giving birth, we had clearance to call for the anesthesiologist. Shortly thereafter, he arrived to give me my dreaded epidural. I expressed to him beforehand my intense fear of needles, especially gigantor needles going into my spine. However, with Aaron there helping me to be brave (not to mention ditching the killer contractions as incentive) I got through it. I have to admit, like the IV, getting the epidural wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The first shot, which numbs the area, hurts the most, but still was only a big pinch feeling. The insertion of the epidural tube into my back was a very strange feeling, but I can't say that it hurt so much. All and all, not too shabby. And, ahh, very, very quickly I started to feel a million times better. Not only did I have my constant epidural flowing to keep the pain at bay, but I also had my own little button to press and up the dose for a moment, in case I started to feel anything that I didn't want to feel. I loved my epidural.
That was, until about five hours later. Because of the nature of how the epidural flows through your system, you are asked to remain in a reclined position so all the medication doesn't flow to your legs and feet, and away from where you really need it. After several hours of lying in bed, strapped down in the same position, I became very uncomfortable. I had nurses, my mom, and Aaron there to help me flip flop from side to side, but still I was miserable. The problem that arose was, that after so much time with my legs having that asleep, pins-and-needles tingly feeling in them, it began to get painful. Sure, the monitor was tracking huge contractions that I was having, and I couldn't feel a damn thing, but the trade off for me was the growing agony in my legs. One o'clock went by, then two, then three, hour after hour, and I was in so much pain. Aaron and my mom were at either side of my bed, rubbing my legs, trying to get some sensation back into them other than the horrible pins and needles. I was exhausted, I hadn't gotten any sleep since the night before I went into the hospital, and emotionally I was a wreck. I was so frustrated, nothing seemed to be going on, Dr. Abbott was stuck in a surgery somewhere else, there was no relief in sight, and what's worse, no end or no baby in sight either. Occasional check-ups done by the OB in residence showed no significant progress made in all of that time. I think I really started to break down around three in the afternoon, about 24 hours since we had first arrived, and I cried nonstop. I hated my epidural. I hated not being able to move, or sit up. I hated feeling so helpless. There was nothing I could do.
About six o'clock, Dr. Abbott arrived back at our room. He walked in to find a very, VERY unhappy me, and sat down to do an examination of my progress himself. Honestly, as completely miserable as I was, I was desperately hoping that he would say I was at 10 centimeters, and would turn down my epidural and make me push. I would have given anything for that outcome. However, after he checked me, he said that I was only at 3. It broke my heart to hear that, and I started crying all over again, telling him that I just couldn't do it anymore. I had nothing left; I was out of energy, and completely out of any remaining will power. That's when things got scarier. He took my mom out of the room and I heard them whispering. Shortly, they came back in, and Dr. Abbott came over to talk to me. He said that, when he had just done my exam, he had noticed a few things. The baby was very low, and was in the process of coming through my pelvic canal. Although the baby was ready and willing enough, and I was certainly having very strong contractions coming across through the monitor, there was a serious problem. He could feel the baby's head pressing on the pelvic bone, trying to come through, but as he felt that, he was also able to feel that my pelvis is misshapen. Instead of being a nice, round tunnel for the baby's head, my canal is triangular, something called an android pelvis. He had known that I was very narrow, but until he felt that baby's head pressing down on me, he hadn't been able to foresee this particular problem. Now, the pressure from the baby trying to come through had caused my cervix to actually backtrack in its progress. Worse yet, was that he had noticed swelling on the baby's head as well, from being essentially smashed by my contractions into a space he was never going to fit through. Dr. Abbott started talking about how all this was actually causing a knot on the top of the baby's head, and as he kept explaining things to me, I started to realize exactly what was going on. There was no way that I could naturally have this baby. They were going to operate on me. Finally, he said it. Because of the trauma on both my body and the baby's, and not to mention the fact that I was so exhausted, he wanted to perform a caesarean section immediately. Now, I've never been in a hospital before, never had surgery, never even broken a bone. Obviously, I was extremely scared. He explained that they would take me into surgery as soon as the paperwork was finalized, and I had signed off on everything. They were going to get me in there, give me a spinal (epidural on steroids, yikes), and get this baby out within the hour. I was overwhelmed, I cried, I looked at Aaron and my mom who told me that this was the best way to go. I can't remember any other time in my life being as scared as I was of what was about to happen.
Of course, I consented, and within a few minutes, everyone around me was in action. The nurses bustled in and prepped me for surgery. Paperwork was done, and before I knew it, they were rolling me out towards the operating room. My mom started sobbing as I was leaving, and I asked her to call my dad, because I wanted him there when I was done. My dad has always been my great comforter. Aaron trailed behind me, and was stopped at the door of the OR to put on his scrubs. The nurses and doctors inside got me off the gurney and onto the table, and they sat me up, prepping me for my spinal. Because of the epidural still in my system, thank God, I couldn't feel any of this.. They laid me back down on the table, and started pulling up the sheet blocking my view of my lower body. I was all alone, except for the anesthesiologist somewhere behind my head, whom I couldn't see. The spinal started to take hold, first I lost all the feeling in my feet and legs, then I couldn't move my hands, and finally all feeling from my chest down disappeared. Honestly, the scariest part of the whole ordeal was losing the feeling in my chest. I couldn't feel my lungs anymore, couldn't feel them breathing. Every time I opened my mouth and tried to inhale, it felt like there was no air, and I was suffocating. Though the doctors assured me that I was actually breathing just fine, not being able to feel it sent me into a panic. More drama! I started hyperventilating on the table, trying to gasp for air. It took about five minutes for the anesthesiologist to convince me that I actually was intaking plenty of air, and that I was not going to suffocate. I eventually went into a sort of shock, and calmed down. They brought Aaron in, which helped, and the surgery started.
In my semi-shocked state, I honestly don't remember about half of what happened throughout my c-section. I remember wondering when they were going to start the surgery right as Dr. Abbott told Aaron that they were about to take the baby, and did he want to stand up and watch. I remember Aaron standing up, and I remember being surprised that he actually had the courage to watch (he'd been one of those I'm-Going-To-Faint daddies going into it). I remember Aaron disappearing off behind the curtain to where I couldn't see him while they got the baby cleaned up. I heard the baby cry his short bursts of crying, and then Aaron was there again, and he was crying which surprised me. He was saying something like, "oh Jenn, oh Jenn," and he showed me the baby. I said something completely inane, like "does he have blonde hair?" thinking that everyone would get that I meant it as a joke. No one did. Apparently, a spinal renders your comic delivery completely nonexistent. The nurse told Aaron to come with her, that they needed to get the baby to the nursery to check his lungs, and remembering that I should say something meaningful to the baby, I said, "momma loves you" in a really lame way. Luckily, I had a good excuse for my bad behaviour! I remained in the room while Dr. Abbott finished putting me back together. I remember hearing the stapler noise as he closed me up, and thinking, "that's a stapler." Staples creep me out, so I also remember thinking that if I were in my right mind, I'd be more upset about the chu-CHUNK sound of the stapler going into me. And then, it was done. They removed my spinal tube, hooked my IV up to painkillers, and then lifted me from the table to the gurney once again. I was rolled out of the room and into a recovery room.
In the recovery room, I was met by a very sweet nurse who cleaned me up, and hooked me up to more monitors, and leg cuffs to help keep the circulation going while my legs were still paralyzed. The feeling in my body started to come back from my neck down. Soon, I was able to move my hands and arms, though my legs were useless for several hours more. My mom came in shortly after I was brought to the room, and she was ecstatic. My dad had arrived, and he and Aaron were both in the nursery with Charlie, while they bathed him, and got him ready to bring to me. Apparently, he was perfect. I had no idea yet, as I barely got a fleeting glance back in the O.R. They told me that he had been born at 6:49 pm on March the 10th, and that he weighed 7lbs and 3 oz, and was 20 3/4" long. He was a lot smaller than I had thought he would be, and I could not wait to hold him myself. After about half an hour of impatient waiting, Aaron and my dad arrived, and with them was my son. And that's how it's been ever since.
We were in the hospital for another three full days before they let us go home. Everyone was amazing, all the nurses were so helpful and kind to us, but by the time we left, we were exhausted. It had been three days of me learning to get up out of bed and walk again, three days of me strapped in to all sorts of ridiculous machines, and three days of being interrupted constantly by nurses coming to check on the baby and me. Aaron was able to stay with me the entire time, as there was a full sized futon in our room for him to sleep on. Besides the obvious companionship, his being there was a lifesaver, as for a good day and a half, I really couldn't get up to do anything to help with the baby. My family was there for the majority of the days as well, helping out and admiring Charlie.
Despite Aaron's and I's struggles being comfortable in our room, Charlie was a little hero in the hospital. He took to everything with complete grace - his circumcision, the changings, all the check-ups, his bottle. After everything I had gone through, we had decided that I wasn't going to breast feed at all, to allow me all the time I would need to rest and heal, without having to constantly be up and feeding. Charlie had no problems at all with his bottle, and he was completely content. Though I've never much been around babies in my life, I can say with confidence that Charlie has to be one of the most well behaved newborn babies ever lived (ha!). He never cried unless he needed something, and then stops immediately once he's got it. He slept for long, peaceful stints, and when he was awake, he just looked around at people quietly. An excellent, excellent baby.
The other surprise we discovered in the hospital was that Aaron is pretty much a baby care-taking god. He's incredible! As good as I may be at taking care of my son, Aaron is a million times better! He immediately just snapped into some new, nurturing mode that I had never seen before - he is so loving and attentive, it's just awesome. He's been right there in the middle of all the action, feeding and changing the baby without any qualms. There are times when we practically have to pry the baby out of Aaron's arms if any of the rest of us want to hold him! For the first week or so, even, the only way we could get the baby to stop crying when he was upset was to put him in Aaron's arms. Ridiculous! There are so many reasons why I am absolutely in love with Aaron, but this has just been the icing on the cake. Watching him and Charlie together moves me more than anything in my life ever has.
When we finally got home again, everything was lovely. My mom had taken off a week of work, and she was there with us every day. It was fabulous, she cooked and cleaned and did the laundry, so that Aaron and I would have every minute possible to spend together with the baby. The three of us had so much fun that week just getting our routine with Charlie down; I wish that every week could be like that.
I've been home now for almost five of the six weeks I have off from work, and I have to say that everything has gone just ridiculously smoothly. My recovery from the surgery has actually been a total breeze, compared to the long, bed-ridden drama I had originally thought it would be. The first week was difficult, as getting up and down from chairs and couches, or getting up out of bed was agony. There actually were a few times when I had to scream for Aaron to come help me, because I was sleeping flat on my back, and then could not for the life of me get up! But it got better, quickly, and soon aside from being tired, I was moving around pretty normally. Dr. Abbott had given me some very practical recovery advice - don't outdo yourself, and if it hurts, stop doing it. And that's what I did, took it very easy for the first several weeks, and slowly started incorporating all my usual activities and housework back into the routine. After my one-month check-up this past week, everything is healing perfectly, and I'm back to about 80% my normal strength. I feel great, actually. And when else in life can you lose 25lbs in just two weeks, and everything is perfectly ok?!
The very few bumps in the road we encountered in my recovery were for the most part short and sweet. Any post-partum depression I had experienced pretty much came and went during the second week home, when Aaron had to go back to work. I hated being home alone without him after so much uninterrupted time together, and I was scared of having to take care of the baby alone. We had our little dramatic scenes every day when he left for work, but after about a week, as I grew more confident, everything settled down. Dr. Abbott had been concerned that after such a traumatic delivery, I would have difficulties coping with everything that had happened and that I would struggle with post-partum problems. However, when we met last week, he was thrilled to see me so bright-eyed and smiling, completely thrilled with my life and my baby. Emotionally, everything is great now. One weird physical complication that I AM still dealing with is that there is a small patch on my right upper thigh is still numb from the epidural/spinal, and I have that constant pins and needles feeling in that area still. What we think happened is that some of the anesthetic had pooled up and become trapped in my tissue, and that it will work itself out naturally. But besides that, and the sleep deprivation we all inevitably face, I feel fantastic!
Charlie is still for the most part a perfectly happy little baby. We had a barbecue at our house this past weekend, and debuted the baby to the majority of our friends. Throughout the entire evening, he sat in his swing just watching everyone quietly, or he was a perfect little gentleman while being held by various different people, as they fed him. No problems whatsoever. Having him around has been an absolute blast, not just spending time alone with him, but experiencing how totally complete our little family feels now that he's here. It's incredible how thoroughly such a little person can come into our lives and just make us so happy. Aaron's and I's relationship is better, our day-to-day lives are better, our time with friends and family is better. Charlie is our little magic man, and I must say, we absolutely, 100%, completely and totally adore him. And that's that.
As for future plans, who knows? We've very loosely talked about future children, and that's very up in the air. I'd love to have a daughter someday, but not for many, many years. Luckily, the next time around we all know about my android pelvis, which means another c-section delivery. Fine with me! Good to know that after all the hardships we had this time around, that next time we'll know what to expect, and everything should be smooth sailing (not to mention never feeling contractions again, woohoo!) Still, who can argue that even with all the drama of the past 10 months, it wasn't worth every minute. Charlie is just perfect, and we're happy with that. He's starting to smile at us now, which is the best thing ever, our smiley, happy little baby. He's growing and holding up his head, and soon he'll probably be rolling over and all around. Then, crawling, walking, talking, and beyond. That's about as far into the future that we're looking to. Today, Aaron and I just want to live our everyday, wonderful life together with our Charlie.
Note: I just wanted to say to everyone how sorry I am at how appallingly late this entry is coming in. We've obviously had a few interesting weeks, so thank you for bearing with me, and thank you for reading and supporting me throughout this entire experience.