I am not sharing this to gain pity, or to complain about what happened to me. Doctors and nurses quite possibly saved my daughter’s life by taking the actions that they did.
But I need to take what steps I can to release emotional baggage and get it out of my brain. A very wise friend told me a while ago that I had about 100 hours of crying left to do about it, and that with hard work I could be done in a few months. This is part of my attempt to clear the way for a new experience and the birth of a different person.
I will warn you, I didn’t leave anything out.
I had been in labor for a day and a half or so. At least, my braxton-hicks had gradually become stronger and more organized until I finally realized, ‘hey, this is going somewhere!’
I’d spent that early labor time baking snickerdoodles to share with people at the hospital, going to Costco, and reading Harry Potter. Once the contractions got to about 15 minutes apart I was most comfortable in the bathtub. I talked on the phone with friends and read the Goblet of Fire and easily managed my labor.
We had taken Bradley Method classes, so I kept waiting for the time when I couldn’t talk through contractions and when it ‘got serious.’ It didn’t seem to come. Finally, when the contractions were about 7 minutes apart I started to feel like something was about to happen. But still I could talk during contractions. I told J. I thought it might be time. He called our doula (it was about 3 in the morning) and told her what was going on. Hearing our details she said, “pfff….call me in 2 hours. Or when your contractions are 5 minutes apart. It’s way too soon.”
Immediately after he hung up the phone, though, I threw up (one of the signposts of transition, which means you’re about ready to push). My contractions came every minute and a half and lasted 45 seconds or so. This was NOT how our Bradley workbook described active labor. We freaked out a little and rushed around trying to make last preparations and get to the hospital in time (I should say, J. did most of the rushing around. I was contracting like crazy that whole time). I convinced him to run the red lights and we made it to the hospital in about 10 minutes.
I walked into the L & D floor contracting and walked up to the counter breathing through it. After it was done, we told them I was there to have my baby. The lady behind the counter looked up in a bored sort of way. “How far apart are they?”
“About a minute and a half.”
“Humm. Uh-huh. Follow me please. Here’s your paperwork.”
“But, we already pre-registered….oh okay fine.” As soon as we walked into a tiny room with a couch and side table for paperwork, I had another contraction. Her eyes widened. “Hey, wait, that was only a minute!!!”
“Yeah, we know….”
Having decided to take my labor seriously, they rushed me back to a room and stuck me in a bed. By the time they checked me I was 6 cm and opening fast. They hooked up the external monitor. 20 minutes later I was at 9 cm when the heartbeat dropped and didn’t go back up.
We’d had low lighting and only one nurse and the midwife who I hadn’t met yet (going to a practice with 9 different midwives, I hadn’t met everybody). She started to sound urgent, but underneath a very calm exterior. “Well, Katie, we have to break your water.”
J. piped up. “Katie, they can’t find the baby’s heartbeat!” (going back through the report, this wasn’t exactly true…her heartbeat was just slow, not lost).
“Okay, do it.”
They broke my water and put on the internal monitor. No better. “Okay, now we have to take you back and do a c-section.”
“Well, then you have to push.”
“What?” I’m not complete, and I’m not having a contraction. Certainly no overwhelming urge to push….I began to let the panic in the room seep in. It stole my voice.
Ummm, okay…. I pushed, and her head came down to where they could see it. “Oh….well, her hand is up over her head. Just keep trying to push…” she said in a not-too-optimistic way…
Suddenly the lights came up and several people rushed into the room. J. was shoved back. He was given scrubs and told to change into them so he could accompany us to the operating room. 25 interns, or possibly the entire supporting cast of Grey’s Anatomy came and rushed me away, starting an IV and asking me my mother’s maiden name.
I said, “Jason?” as I was taken out of the room but he was gone. I didn’t see him again until much, much later. I think in real time it was only about an hour, but it felt (still feels) a lot longer.
We swept along the hallways and got to the OR. Someone asked me my mother’s maiden name again. Someone said, “Hi, I’m Dr. asdksjdhfajn (not his real name…). I’ll be your anesthesiologist.”
Oh, crap. “Oh….” I said in a tone that must’ve sounded different than the usual relief that greets the anesthesiologist. I heard snickering. “I’m…I’m sorry, it’s just…I don’t want this…”
“Okay, we’re going to try the vacuum. Dr. nuniwenfk (some intern I think), would you like to try applying the vacuum?” Try? Really? Is there someone who can actually do it and not just try?
They ‘tried’ applying the vacuum 3 times, and each time I was told to push. Everyone in the room counted to 10 while I pushed, and each time her head came down, cocked to the side with her hand over it. After the first or second push I pooped. Someone reached into my rectum and swirled their finger around to clear the area, or something…geez, what the….? Buy a girl a drink first….I’m kinda busy here….
After the third time the vacuum seal failed they said, “Okay, we have to put you out now.” No…………………..
They tied my arms down. Contraction. I started crying. The midwife says, ” Are you having a contraction? I think she’s having a contraction. Wait a minute.”
They finished tying my arms down, and someone started shaving me for the section. You have time to ask me my mother’s maiden name, but no time to say, “hey, by the way, we’re going to shave your privates now…” really?
They put a mask over my face and then…..nothing. Just nothing.
I started to hear voices gradually. Unexpected voices…who is that? Familiar, I think. But why….wait, what?
I opened my eyes, s.l.o.w.l.y. Wait, I was in the middle of something…it was important. My brain feels so fuzzy…What was I doing? “Uhhh…..” The doula’s face came over mine. Oh. Right. I think I remember now. But you weren’t here. You didn’t get to do anything. I remember you mentioned before about these wierd doulas who sing songs to ladies’ vaginas to get them to open…“Want to sing me a little song?” She chuckled.
I saw my mother in law. I didn’t know she was going to be at my birth…
Then my father in law. How am I supposed to push a baby out in front of him? What’s going on here?
Then I saw J. They brought a baby over to me. What’s this? It looks like one of the ones on tv. I though I was going to have a baby that looked all squishy and gross. I don’t understand. I signed 3 different forms so they wouldn’t put erythromycin in her eyes. I don’t have gonorrhea, so this must not be my baby. Well, they’re handing it to me, and now it’s staring at me.
My father in law, full of relief for me and grandfatherly pride, exultantly said, “I got to hold her when she was only five minutes old!”
I didn’t get to hold her. How old is she now? I started crying.
My mother in law assumed I was crying happy tears and took my picture. She framed that particular one and gave it to me a few weeks later. I wanted to throw it. I got unfairly and irrationally angry every time she took a picture for a year afterwards. This was often, as she loves to take pictures. We have since worked through it and even chipped in together to give E. her own camera for Christmas last year so she can take pictures, ‘like Grandma’.
The doula stayed around a while, then left. I was being moved to the post partum floor. The nurse said, “This is your morphine drip. Push this button every time it hurts.” I pushed the button a lot. I still felt sad and numb. My in-laws stayed. My IV came loose and I convinced the postpartum nurse to let me take percoset instead of having an IV. My parents and my brother arrived a couple of hours later.
This story doesn’t really feel like it has an ending. I think mostly because when the big climactic moment of most birth stories occurs the mom is, well, awake. I can’t tell that part of the story because I was not there. So getting closure around it has been…tricky, and disjointed. Everyone keeps telling me that this next birth will be very healing for me. I hope so, but goodness it seems like a lot of pressure to put on this baby. I have done a lot of work over the past 2 years to put this behind me (It took me a year to come out of my shell-shocked new parent state enough to be able to even begin to process what happened. It also took a year before I felt like I could tell anyone the entire story, or like anyone even wanted to hear it. We are not always able to be with each other’s sadness and I appreciate my friend M. more than I can say for asking me to share it, and then for sitting and listening that day at Phoenix Coffee).
I still have a ways to go, obviously. But go I will.