Friday, October 1, 2010

The Beginning... A Birth Story

It was 10:30 on Monday night. I was just settling in, and preparing to lug my hugely pregnant self out to the driveway to hang out with Jonathan. We’d gotten in the habit of hanging out on nice evenings, planning and anticipating our upcoming life change. I was exactly 38 weeks along, so we knew our little man would be making his appearance any day, and we couldn’t be more excited.

38 weeks pregnant

I stopped for my sixty four thousandth trip of the day to the restroom, and exited with some confusion. Jonathan met me at the doorway and asked what was wrong.
“I think my water just broke.”
“You THINK? You don’t know??”
And I didn’t. I had no clue. (P.S. If you’ve never been involved in the birth process, it actually isn’t that crazy. The water breaking doesn’t happen like it does in the movies.) But I called my doctor, and he insisted we come to the hospital so they could run some tests.

We grabbed our bags, but felt pretty sure we’d be coming back home shortly. During the drive to the hospital, we laughed through quiet nerves, and hoped that our next trip would include a baby in the car seat. The walk through the hospital and up to L & D was tough on my body, especially after having been on bed rest for five months. But Larkin was finally taking it easy, and I’d had less contractions that week than I’d had since 20 weeks.

We got situated in a room, and the nurse ran a test for amniotic fluid. The first test was inconclusive. Jonathan rolled his eyes. The second test was inconclusive. I started to get sad, assuming we’d be going home that night. After taking the third test, the nurse smiled at us. “Your water broke. Your baby will be here in the next 24 hours.”

Here we go!

I stood up in panic, and my water chose that moment to seriously break. We were on the roller coaster! We called family, and requested they wait until later to come to the hospital. The doctor wanted to give me a few hours to see if labor would start spontaneously before he started Pitocin and we planned to get a few hours sleep before then.

At 4 am, Dr. Pinell came by with a hug. He examined me, and came back with the disappointing news that I was only dilated to 1 cm, with no effacement, and the baby hadn’t dropped at all. He warned us that we were probably in for a long journey, but since there is no telling what effect the Pitocin would have, we went ahead and summoned the family.

Now the problems begin. I was offered an epidural, but wanted to wait at least until my contractions started before I got it. However, the Pitocin required the baby to be monitored constantly, which meant I had to lay flat on my back. This is NOT a comfortable position when you’re 9 months pregnant! Between pregnancy pains and the discomfort of my usual backaches, I was in excruciating pain – even though I hadn’t had a single real contraction since they’d started monitoring me. The nurses had to fuss at me because I kept making excuses to get up to try and relieve the pain and was messing up their monitoring. They finally talked me into accepting a dose of pain medication so I could relax.


The pain meds let me get my first bit of sleep all night, but they wore off quickly. Larkin had started showing signs of distress after each tiny contraction, and they needed continuous monitoring, so I agreed to the epidural. This ended up complicating matters further, because they had to keep increasing the dosage in order to try and help my back. Shortly after the epidural was inserted, I was 100% dead weight from the waist down (a typical epidural is supposed to leave you with some feeling and control) and STILL having stabbing pains in my upper back.

The complete numbness was psychologically stressful. I spent the next several hours in a state of panic – convincing myself that I’d never feel my legs again. Then Larkin’s distress started increasing. Now I was panicking for myself and my precious little one. I had spent my entire pregnancy trying to keep him healthy and growing, and now I was terrified of losing him at the last second.

The doctor came back to examine me again. After 14 hours on Pitocin, I was only at 3 cm, barely effaced, and the baby hadn’t dropped at all. My contractions were irregular, and each one was sending the boy further into distress. Dr. Pinell took my hand, and said what I’d been dreading since those lines turned pink:
“We’re going to have to consider a c-section.”

I agreed, and everyone split off in a million directions to prepare for surgery. Jonathan climbed into his surgery suit, my mom kissed me and promised prayers, then they wheeled me out into the blindingly bright hallway. I was scared but heart stoppingly excited, knowing I would meet my son in a matter of minutes.

I was wheeled into surgery while Jonathan waited in the hallway. They moved me onto the table and began prepping me. I was shaking so violently that the anesthesiologist held my hand in sympathy and rushed the others to let Jonathan come in. Once he came in, he sat on a stool by my head and I gripped his hand for all I was worth. The surgery proceeded, but my eyes were locked on Jonathan. I just felt like as long as he was there, everything would be okay.

I won’t go into details about the surgery, I’ll just say it was way more painful than I was expecting, considering I’d been completely numb from the chest down for hours. But just when I thought I couldn’t bear it for another second, I heard the sweetest sound in the world. The doctor lifted Larkin’s tiny body over the surgical sheet, and said… something. I don’t know. I don’t care. I saw my baby, and in that baby was my whole world. Everything else stopped, and it was just me and him and Jonathan. And everything was perfect. Seriously. Stars aligned, galaxies moved, heaven sang. It was well and truly amazing.

Seriously, tell me he isn't beautiful!

And then – he was gone. They whisked my boy away to be measured and weighed and blah blah blah. (I will insert for the record that he was 7 lbs, 12 oz and 21 inches long. He received an almost perfect 9.9 on his APGAR test and was born with dark blue eyes, blonde hair, and almost no eyelashes and eyebrows. He was truly gorgeous, a fact exclaimed at by all the nurses, second only to the doctor laughing at the size of his enormous feet. He was none the worse for wear from his distress, which had been due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around his leg. Poor little guy. He was trying to join the party, but he was just all tangled up!)

All I knew was that I was HERE and my baby was over THERE and that SUCKED. I called to Jonathan (who was busy filming the moment) to ask what Larkin looked like, and (bless his heart) he lied through his teeth and told me he looked like both of us (the boy is positively a clone of his daddy). So I just laid my head back and waited. I just breathed in the sounds of his beautiful cry – and it was beautiful - the most precious indignant mewling you’ve ever heard.

And then he was in my arms. And we studied each other, and I whispered hello. “You are so beautiful”, I said to my son. I laid there as long as they allowed, holding him, and marveling over this miracle in my arms. Suddenly, my life made sense. Every good thing, every bad thing, every tiny detail – they all made sense, and they were all OKAY - because they had brought me there. To that moment, with that man and that baby. And everything was okay, and new, and beautiful.

My son was here. He was safe, and healthy, and beautiful, and he fit in my arms perfectly. My life had begun.

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