Tuesday, August 23, 2005

From Impossible to Possible

A word on girl pain: cramps are not so bad for one reason--you know they're going away. Although it feels like some hand has reached through your spine and twisted your uterus as if they were trying to squeeze the last drop out of the juice of a lime, you know that hand will eventually let go. That too is what is do-able, supposedly, about giving birth--it too has an end point. The contractions I was having early on were no worse than bad cramps. But these lasted long. And, as far as anyone wanted (except me, in the pain, and even I wanted to hold out a bit longer--like an hour), the "cramps" could have lasted eight more weeks. I knew that I wouldn't make it ten more days in this much pain. I kept looking to see if the windows opened. I could jump. And my house is only three blocks away. If I was there, well, then maybe I could stand the pain. Maybe the nurses would quit coming in to take my blood pressure or wake me to give me more pills that did who know what to me or the unborn fetus?

Anyway, back to the narrative.
So I ask the resident to check me again, this time with her fingers. They MUST be missing something. But I can't really argue. My jaw is clenched shut tight and I don't have a lot of energy. Erik is so strong. He is totally focused on me making me try to relax. But again, I'm not sure how to relax. It isn't supposed to be happening. And according to medical science, it's not. So whatever relaxation techniques I'd like to employ are psychologically prohibited--either by my desire or by "fact." The resident goes away--I think she'll be back in a minute with permission to find out what's really going on but she doesn't come back.

I get up to pee and find that bending over pressing my feet one by one into the floor as if I'm walking helps a little. Just being out of the bed helps. As does being off the monitors. One time, I kept me and the baby off the monitors for almost half an hour. The nurse came in to protest, but when she saw me, she quickly left me alone.

My mom came in and brought Arby's. I couldn't quite concentrate/relax enough to eat. Plus there was a question about whether I was "allowed" to eat. Being in such intense prelabor. Not that I wasn't going to eat or drink. I'd gone through 4 of those big gulp size hospital jugs of water in the past eight hours. Hence the peeing. The water and the peeing were the only things I were really in charge of in terms of my body or the hospital. The water quenched my thirst, the taking off of the monitors to get up to pee quelched, by its small token of rebellion, some of my desire to jump out the window and run away.

By 6:30 or so, unbeknownst to me at the time, Erik was starting to panic. He called my sister Val and told her that I was in so much pain and had been all day and that no one believed me and he didn't know what to do. One problem with having a "team of midwives" is that there is no one midwife on whom you can call. Plus, since we were in heavily hospitalized way, the midwives weren't likely to hold any sway over actual patient care. But still. Erik had no one to call except Val who had had a baby just a year ago, had been involved all along and had planned to be our Doula had we ever enough time to take another hypnobirthing class.

(Strange to note, though. This is when I hork down an entire ARBY's roast beef in fifteen seconds. Thanks mom.)

So Val races from Holladay to Downtown in ten minutes. She rushes in and is shocked by the attitude of my nurse, who is ARMY-trained for sure. Her hair is so short I can see most of her scalp. When I tell her how bad it hurts, she grunts as if to say--let's amputate your leg without anesthesia and then we'll talk pain. Plus, you've already morphine you baby.
And although at the time I thought she was a horrific nurse, in retrospect, that kind of hard-ass attitude probably kept me calm. Others nurses, who may be more disposed toward empathy, would probably have made me think I was in so much more pain than I could handle. ARMY nurse does tell me that clenching will make it worse. I should try to open up and breathe through them (indicating she does think they are contractions and yet can't contradict the doc?) and RELAX. Although the word relax makes me tighten up like a poked anemone, I do try what she says and find that I can kind of ride them in a surfing kind of way. A cold, hard, coral ripped surf, but surf nonetheless.

And even my screams don't daunt her. Val and Erik are looking at the nurse as if to say "can't you hear her." She looks at me and with only a look, I get the distinct impression that I should be quiet. But I keep screaming every time I get a little cramp. I imagine my leg being cut off as some kind of solace.

And again, Erik is being great. He tells me to remember the fish pond we hiked past on our honeymoon, backpacking in the Wind Rivers. Although there was no discernible tributaries, the pond ran as clear and deep and anything I had ever seen and was full of trout circling.

Finally, even the nurse is convinced by my screaming that perhaps the resident, who had come by 3 hours ago and left the distinct impression she'd be back in a minute with a solution, should actually be summoned.

Suddenly, things change. I no longer feel cramps (albeit himalayan sized cramps). Now I feel weird. Like there is an alien body inside me, trying to come out. It wants to come out through my belly button, throat, butt, vagina--anyway it can get out. It's like the baby doubled in size, started doing jumping jacks and tugging at my kidneys. This s something foreign and now the real screaming begins. I don't even feel bad. I tell Val--I feel like I have to push. I feel like I have to poop.
The nurse goes to get a bed pan.
And thank God for Valerie who translates for the ARMY nurse. No. She says. She is having PUSHING CONTRACTIONS. And Val, who had an epidural with her babies, still knew what the hell I was talking about.

The resident is summoned. The speculum is brought back. I lift my hips and think, if I had the energy, that I would visegrip the resident's head between my knees if she doesn't check me with her goddamned fingers. But she emerges, looking convinced. I'm so sorry she says. You're fully dilated. I see the head.

what the hell? I could have been visualizing that turtleneck this whole time. Been thinking of the unwrapping of my uterus as a beautiful present. Instead, I'd been holding it in, clenching my jaw, my gluts, my abs, such as they were.

I fall in love with this pain. It hurts so bad I scream. The nurse tells me to be quiet and I scream louder. I arch my back. Erik shows me his thumb. He says look at the rivulets on the print. See the piece of skin forming a hangnail. Look how big the nail is, how round the pad. Erik is brilliant. I am fully hypnotized by his fingers. And he learned all of this in one scant class.

But no more time for practicing hypnosis. The resident is hustling into her scrubs. The nurse is throwing scrubs at Erik. He's putting on a blue hairnet hat and I'm thinking, wow, I guess we're going to have a baby now.

They ask if I'd like my midwife to come in now. I did want one of them to come. And Angela was on her way. She was one of my favorites because she was the most beautiful of all the midwives. And again, I'm on my barge, being ferried down the watery halls to the OR.
Babies born this early have to be delivered in the Labor and Delivery OR because it's right next to the NICU.

The lights are too bright and the resident has brought a student, also named Nicole, to come watch. Whatever I say. Learn from my mistakes. I'm screaming and arching and scaring everyone within a block radius out of having a baby (which, being in Utah, is probably a good thing for population control). Angela arrives and finally, someone I trust is here, although I really have met her only once, and she says that instead of screaming, put my scream into my push. I'm told to bend my legs--ARMY nurse holds one and Erik holds the other--and I'm supposed to squeeze out this tiny baby. No problem, I think. Finally, I have something to do. Finally, they believe I'm having a baby. Finally, these fifteen years of practicing my Kegel muscles will come in handy. I'm so thrilled with this pain. I push so hard I think my ear drums will burst. I hope I'm not pooping on anyone. I push from the top of my lungs down through my toes. I do this about eight times. They hold a mirror up for me to look.
I see a gigantic baby come out covered in white and red. She is huge. Of course, I don't have my contacts in, so I can't really tell. Her Apgar is a ten. She screamed right at first. No need for oxygen. She's breathing and crying and red as a reindeer's nose. The placenta is easy to birth and I am suddenly in no more pain. Except the ARMY nurse is kneading on my stomach to get my uterus back in shape. I tell her, do it as hard as you want. At least now somebody believes me that I'm having a baby.

Zoe was born that Saturday night at 8:54 p.m. She weighed 4 lbs and 7 oz. She spent three weeks in the NICU and has been home for 3 weeks. She's very mad now because I'm typing instead of feeding her. It's good to have a loud baby--I always believes she's here.


Trista said...

What is it about terrible nurses when you're having a baby? I'm so glad that Zoe is ok and I'm glad that the hypnobirthing helped you, too, even though it was in less than great circumstances.

You're busy, but Jo over at The Leery Polyp leerypolyp.blogs.com just had her baby as well, and she had something very profound to say about births that don't go as planned -- something that I found thought provoking and comforting as I think over our overly-planned and then nothing-as-planned baby.

Can I put a link to your site on mine?

Nik said...

Please link me up! And I'll link you up too, if that's OK. I've been going through the links on your site and am absolutely obsessed with A Little Bit Pregnant. But I'm going right now to Leery Polyp right now. I guess I'm glad that I didn't know all these blogs before --I would have been even more obsessed and scared--but it's SO nice to know there are so many who can empathize.
Yep, that ARMY nurse was a fright. But if I'd been a nurse all those years surrounded by just-learning residents and mostly-absent attendings, I'd be wretched too.

I hope all is well over there at house of hope and that Kristin is recovering quickly. We'll have to talk about the challenges of breastfeeding soon.

Thanks for checking in.

Trista said...

Challenges of breast feeding is right. Kristin is upstairs right now with a lactation consultant because we had to put Julia on supplements. Sad. Go right ahead and link me.

A little pregnant got me hooked on blogs. She was mentioned in a parenting magazine and I checked her out and was done for.

Dr. Write said...

Great story! It (almost) makes me glad I had a C-section. So little drama. And I learned to love the nurses. But I mostly I loved the guy who brought around the food. I loved him.