I had just finished crying my eyes out when Merp and I finally sat down at Egg Plantation (a breakfast place we were trying for the first time in our new town). We had gotten lost on the way there and I blamed him, my co-pilot, for failing to point me in the right direction. Being 5 days past my due date at that point, I was anxious, exhausted, and grouchy, which made crying about a 20-minute detour away from a full belly seem totally reasonable. Don’t stand between a pregnant woman and breakfast unless you want to see her cry.
So there we were, finally awaiting peanut butter stuffed french toast and omelets, sitting feet away from a Spanish guitar player plucking away at the strings in a cozy, but very busy, courtyard full of other breakfast goers, when I felt a pop and a gush. Fluid streamed down my legs as I wiggled to the bathroom. My water had broken. It was on.
We took our food (that I never did get to eat) to go and I timed my contractions on the way home. They were instantly 30-50 seconds long and only 2 to 3 minutes a part. I had expected a slow build, something like menstrual cramps at first with about 10-mintues between, so this intensity scared the shit out of me. It seemed the dates had worked! Combined with the acupuncture session I’d done the day before to “open the door” to labor, Merp and I were convinced that this baby was coming and quick. And the pain … It felt like my monthly endo cramps right before an episode (puking, pooping, and writhing on the floor), so we grabbed our bags and told our doula Cali to meet us at the hospital.
I had hoped to wait out the need for an epidural until I was further dilated, so imagine my disappointment when I was only at 2.5 centimeters, despite those strong and fast contractions, when we arrived at Labor and Delivery. How was I going to survive dilating to 10? I didn’t want to lose control like I did with my endo pain every month and so believing that the dates would work their magic (and I wouldn’t need Pitocin) and that I’d be holding a baby within hours, I went for it. My back and legs were numb within minutes of the catheter being inserted. It was great! At first.
I began to realize that being stuck in a bed half numb made moving and getting comfortable very very difficult. Additionally, I became extremely lethargic, unable to keep my eyes open, but unable to reach deep sleep because of the many interruptions and beeping machines. Each time the nurses or my wonderful doctor would come in to check my cervix, I’d be hopeful that the position changes my doula was helping me achieve along with the nipple stimulation I was self administering with my breast pump would help make a change. Unfortunately, 8 hours, no food or quality rest, later I had stopped dilating at 7. Though Daphne wasn’t showing any signs of distress at that point we had another problem.
Meconium. When my doc first examined me at the hospital she found a brown substance in my fluid. I found this information to further acquaint you with meconium if you aren’t already:
Meconium is a thick, green, tar like substance that lines your baby’s intestines during pregnancy. Typically this substance is not released in your baby’s bowel movements until after birth. However, occasionally you will find that your baby will have a bowel movement prior to birth, excreting the meconium into the amniotic fluid.
If meconium is present during your labor and birth, you will be watched more closely for signs of fetal distress. Alone, meconium staining of the amniotic fluid does not mean that your baby is suffering from fetal distress. However, since it is one sign, your labor and birth team will look for others.
At my Friday check-up my doctor urged me to consider induction for reasons like this. Back then I was extremely resistant. Daphne would come when she was ready. Too many women get induced. Modern medicine is full of unnecessary interventions. Blah, blah, blah. But now my feelings about induction have totally changed. If ever I am blessed with another child and am past my due date, I will SERIOUSLY consider induction, or even c-section, to help protect the health of my baby.
So by hour 9 it was time to consider pitocin. I talked it over honestly with my doctor and she said that at this point my water had been broken for hours and hours and I had stalled. This and the meconium had almost the same risks to the fetus as introducing pitocin, maybe more.
When the pitocin was strapped to the metal pole beside me, my right leg began to almost simultaneously regain feeling. And then my right lower abdomen began pulsing painfully with every single contraction. The epi didn’t seem to be working anymore. My night nurse seemed sympathetic, but said there was no redoing the epidural at this point. I’d just have to suffer and suffer I did.
But this is where my doula Cali really stepped it up. She had been AMAZING up to this point, replenishing my water and ice chips (oh my insatiable thirst!), sneaking me jolly ranchers, and bringing me and washing my breast pump. I had already determined that hiring her was the best decision I had ever made (EVERYONE should have a doula through labor so you don’t kill your family members), but when the pain hit again FOR 3 HOURS, she was deeply engaged in helping me get through it. Counter pressure, foot massages, and other doula tricks helped me survive. Without her, this already tortuous experience would have been unbearable.
When the morning nurse, Candy, took over though I was done. It was finally time to push, the hardest part of all, but yet it felt like the life juice had been completely squeezed out of me. I was depleted. Nothing left. I cried to her about the pain and unlike the other nurse she made shit happen. No, my epi wasn’t just deficient as the other nurse had me believe, the bag had simply run out. I may have been running on empty for hours. And though the anesthesiologist fixed me up and I felt some immediate relief… it wasn’t enough to give me the strength for the 3-hours of pushing that followed. The “window of pain” as they called it was as open as a taco truck on a Tuesday, and I was too totally and utterly exhausted to labor through it. SO much so that I had a mental breakdown and begged my doctor for a c-section. We are talking I-feel-like-I’m-going-to-die-fuck-you-cut-this-baby-out-of-me style breakdown. I became the stereotypical woman in labor, writhing in pain, beat down with the baseball bat that is 10-hours of labor, crying and screaming at every one around me. My doctor ordered an hour nap and a round of pep talks before we’d even consider changing the plan. I truly love this woman, but then and there I hated her.
I woke up to my husband in the room asking my doula and mother for time alone with me. He was the bearer of pep talk number 1. He assured me that I could do it as did my doc, the nurse, my doula, and mom. I was the only one who lacked that faith. So Merp held my hand. Merp let me cry. Merp begged me to try again. It was a moment that makes me so proud of him, my sleep deprived husband who had been silently supportive up to this point, spoke up exactly when and how I needed him too.
Then Cali joined the party and gave me a talk of her own. She gently urged me to clear away the barriers that were slowing my transition to motherhood. She was aware of the pain that surrounded my femininity and baby maker, from abuse to endo, and she promised me that those things, though they mattered, didn’t make me any less whole, any less capable of being an amazing mother. I may have lacked energy at that point, but I had plenty of tears left. I sobbed when I heard those words and repeated after her when she said, “You can do this.”
And soon I did. My little team and I worked on my breath and once I got that down it was time to push again. But note, because of the travesty of last time, I was given an oxygen mask since I had developed the tendency to hyper ventilate between pushes. This time though, I was also given a visual. I was told to think of pushing as swimming. You push when you’re under the water. You breathe when you come up for air. Wax on wax off. I finally felt ready to kick this labor’s ass.
An hour or so later, with pushing in full affect (and doc and nurse barking at me like baby delivering drill sergeants), several new people joined the room. A man and two women, who I later learned were a respiratory therapist and two NICU nurses. I wasn’t sure why they were there, and in that moment I didn’t feel shy. If they wanted to watch Daphne’s entrance into the world and help cheer me on, so be it. I needed all the support I could get!
But they weren’t there for me. They were there for Daphne. At some point earlier Joe, the therapist, had come in and explained that he may need to clear Daphne’s airways when she arrived and that if she didn’t come out crying they wouldn’t incite her to until it was safe. I have no memory of this conversation. So when I growled out one final squeeze and Daphne slid from my body into my doctor’s arms, I didn’t hear a thing. But what I saw is something I’ll never forget. I saw a blue baby, you guys. A limp little blue baby. I yelped for my doc to hurry, to cut that cord, to get D across the room to the NICU team. And once she was over there, I yelled that they should take her somewhere, they should save her, they should keep her safe. I’ve never ever before felt such raw panic and primal fear.
As they worked, suctioning her lungs, clearing shit literally from every orifice of her body, I looked around and saw that everyone was fairly calm. It would be okay they told me. She’d be fine. And moments later I began to believe them when I finally heard her cry, when I saw her blue body flash to pink like an open for business sign had just been turned on. Life! Beautiful heart wrenching incredible life!
Daphne’s initial APGAR score was a 3, followed by a 9 and a 9. They rarely give out tens I’ve been told. At this point I don’t have the energy to obsessively Google whether or not that first score could have implications down the road for D’s development. I’ve been assured that there’s nothing to worry about, that her body was oxygenated from the placenta up until moments before all the shit was siphoned from her. But not only do I lack the energy, I’m already convinced that Merp and I’s precious little baby is perfect just the way she is.