War Stories (Or the Monkeyboy's Birth Story, Part 3: Conclusion)

by Jen on May 2, 2008

in Does this baby make me look fat?

I love birth stories. I know that many women complain about hearing them, especially when pregnant themselves. They don’t want to hear about the trial that some other woman had to endure to give birth. They don’t want to be scared by the possibility that anything at all could go wrong (or at least, go apart from expectations).

My attitude is very different. My learning style has always relied on a wide range, both in breadth and depth, of facts and information. Then I analyze and synthesize the relevant information and come up with my own conclusions. So I have always avidly sought out women’s birth stories, because each bit of information I could absorb gave me more insight into what might be in store for me.

Apologies for my extended rendition of the story of Monkey’s birth. (Why did I think that I could write in in one post?) Hopefully, this is the final installation.

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Part 3 (Conclusion)…

I was moved to a labor and delivery room, which was much larger and more comfortable than triage. The L&D nurse assigned to me introduced herself and doubled checked the information in my computerized chart. “It says here that for pain relief, you want an epidural. Is that right? Whenever you think you are ready, just let me know and I’ll call the anesthesiologist down.” She said.

“I’m ready right now.” I told her.

I had a friend later ask me how labor really was and how I knew I wanted an epidural. When I thought about it, I told her that I realized it was time for serious pain relief when I reached a point where I was being mean to people who were being nice to me and trying to help me.

The anesthesiologist arrived, with (this shows you how out of it I was by that point) some other guy in tow. I’m sure I was introduced, and I think it might have been a resident or intern, but I can’t for the life of me remember who the other guy was. The anesthesiologist I remember, because he gave me a gift that I will remember the rest of my days, should I live to be 100: Pain relief.

A friend of mine had her first baby about three months before the Monkeyboy was born. She ended up having an emergency c-section because, after three hours of pushing, the baby had not moved down the birth canal at all. When we talked about the birth, I asked her if she was okay with how things had turned out; with having had a c-section. Her response? “If at that point they would have told me ‘We’re going to have to deliver this baby through your mouth,’ I would have been okay with that.” I’ve had people question me about having an epidural. For most of these women, the issue isn’t the pain relief vs. natural labor that I thought it would be, the big issue is that “they stick a giant needle in your spine.” OldChristine, as a matter of fact, never had one for the single, simple reason that she was too worried about the possible risks to herself. Since I’d already had an amnio, I wasn’t concerned about another needle. And since I was already contorted with excruciating pain, I have this to say: If they had told me “We have to stick this needle in your eye to give you an epidural,” I would have said, “Okay. Which eye do you want?”

I was familiar with the risks, but the anesthesiologist had to go over them anyway. Any time I have anesthesia, I have to remember to inform the doctor that my mother suffered respiratory failure from anesthesia while having her tubes tied (back in the seventies) because they used Anectine on her. The anesthesiologist was the first of several doctors over the next few days who would ask the Hubster and me the question, “Do either of you work in the health-care field?” After we told him no, we asked why he wondered. He said that we were unusually articulate and well-informed on medical matters. And that we’d used the term “respiratory failure” instead of saying “she stopped breathing” which is what most people would have said. The Hubster said later that when the doctor had asked the question, he had really wanted to answer, “No, but I did sleep at a Holid.ay Inn Express last night.”

After the epidural was in place, the anesthesiologist said he was going to give me a shot of something to lessen the pain immediately while I waited for the epidural to take effect. Since he was working behind my back, I couldn’t see what he was doing, but the Hubster said he took a “huge” syringe full of Fent.anyl and injected it into my epidural line. Any surprise I felt pretty good after that?

It didn’t take too long for me to feel better. I expected my legs to go numb or something otherwise dramatic to happen, but what I felt was merely a cessation of pain. I could still feel and move my legs. OldChristine and her hubby returned, but she had forgotten to bring me comfy socks, so I ended up delivering in the black socks I had been wearing that day. (I felt like a nerdy computer geek giving birth.) OldChristine commented, “So this is what having a baby is supposed to be like!” because I was now able to relax and speak coherently (remember, she had no pain relief during her delivery of twins). We were joking and talking when the L&D nurse came back into the room. She also said it seemed that I must be feeling better, since I was able to laugh.

By now my doctor had arrived. He was glad to see I was doing well and told me that the resident, who he had spoken to earlier that afternoon to say he was sending me down and that she should call him back when I got there if it was determined I had broken my water and was in labor, had never returned his call. He had called to see if I had ever arrived at the hospital to find out that yes, I had, and yes, I had broken my water, and yes, I was in labor, and yes, they had admitted me, and so forth. He was not in a friendly mood toward the resident, but his demeanor toward the Hubster and I (as well as OldChristine and her husband, whose babies he had also delivered) was friendly and supportive. One of my friends who is a doctor did her residency at another nearby hospital where my OB is an attending. She remembers him as being demanding and, frankly, kind of mean. I saw for myself that day what she meant. He had very little patience for the hospital staff that did not exhibit the level of performance that he demanded. His bedside manner toward patients (well, toward me, at least), however, was wonderful. He checked my cervix and found that, after only a little over two of hours on the epidural, I was dilated to about eight centimeters. He gave the nurse instructions when to check me again, and left to check on another laboring patient. I think by now it was about 8:00 p.m.

The Hubster had called our families earlier that afternoon, informing them of what was going on and telling them that no one was to come to the hospital — we’d call them when there was something to tell. My stepmother (to whom I am very close) was too excited by the thought that they baby was coming now (she never had any children of her own) and decided that she and my dad should come down anyway. OldChristine tried to run interference for me, but wasn’t able in intercept them in time. Luckily, by the time they arrived, the nurse had just checked me and determined that I had
only a cervical lip left. She said I’d be pushing soon. Thankfully, this was all my dad and stepmother needed to hear to declare that they’d be in the waiting room with OldChristine’s husband.

My doctor came back and wanted me to try a few pushes to see if the baby was ready to move and if I could push with the epidural. The answer to the former was yes. The answer to the latter was no. Since I couldn’t feel what was going on down there, and had never done this before, I wasn’t very effective at pushing with an epidural. The doctor called anesthesia to come turn the epidural back down to half. He told me to let him know when I was feeling something and we’d start pushing.

Slowly I started to feel discomfort again, little whispers of what was really going on with my body. It was no more fun than it had been earlier that afternoon. After a while I told the nurse, “I’m starting to feel something, so could you go please tell the doc that if we’re going to do this, then let’s do it!” When the doctor returned, he again sat beside me on the bed and had me try one more “practice” push. Apparently it was go-time, because the room became all business. He asked OldChristine if she was staying for the birth, because the configuration of the room meant that once the decision was made, she couldn’t leave in the middle of everything happening. She chickened out and decided to leave. The Hubster was not given the choice. The nurses “broke the bed” (removed the lower half), turned on a special bank of lights surrounding a mirror on the ceiling and made other preparations.

The nurse and doctor coached me through pushing, and between contractions my doctor did perineal massage and stretching, to try to keep me from tearing. Eeven though I could feel that something was going on, I still didn’t feel like I was making any headway in the baby-producing department. The nurse, especially, was very encouraging with each push, telling me what a good job I was doing.

Earlier in labor, they’d put an oxygen mask on me, partly due to the fact that I have asthma. All it did was irritate me and make it feel harder for me to breathe. It made the air hot. Luckily, when I asked — in the middle of pushing — if I could take it off, they agreed. I think I was so apparently irritated by it at the time that they knew it was just getting in the way.

At one point I was so sweaty, I couldn’t keep a good grip on my knees. I started to say “I can’t… (get a grip on my legs).” When both the doctor and the nurse jumped right in with “Yes, you can! You’re doing great!” and other words of encouragement. I think they thought I was giving up. This irritated me, because I meant nothing of the sort, so I had to explain myself.

When the baby started to crown, my doctor told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head. He really wanted me to do this, but instead of it motivating me, which I know it’s intended to do, I didn’t want to. First of all, it would have required some serious contortions for me to reach down there and I was uncomfortable (that’s putting it mildly) enough already. Second, I just wanted to get it done. The Monkey was born at 10:09 p.m.

Once the Monkeyboy was out, the doc put him on my stomach while he got the Hubster to cut the cord. Then, the NICU staff whisked him over to the warmer to do their initial check-up. I asked two questions: How are his lungs? and How much does he weigh? He was fine on both counts.

Hospital protocol is for babies born prior to 35 weeks gestation to spend at least three days in the NICU for observation (I guess after that point, it’s a judgment call or based on need). Because of this, there was both a pediatrician and a NICU nurse in the room when he was born. After doing the inital check-up, the pediatrician wheeled the incubator he was in over to my bedside, told me they were taking him to the NICU and tried to tell me what was going on. I turned to the Hubster and said, “Make sure you’re paying attention,” because I was seeing double at that point. (In fact, I broke a blood vessel in my eye during pushing).)

When it was all done, I told the nurse, “I thought you were lying to me about pushing, saying I was doing a good job.” Her response was, “I never lie about that. If someone isn’t doing a good job, I don’t want them to think they are, because I need them to try harder. You did a great job.” Although I didn’t watch the clock, the Hubster said he thought I pushed for about 45 minutes.

I delivered the placenta, and my doctor, who is so in love with his job that he has actually had me look at slides of my own yeast infection just because it was “so cool,” held the placenta up out of the basin to show me all the parts, like the tear where the baby came out. “Touch it,” he said, holding it close to me, “so you can see how it’s both very thin and very strong.” When I told OldChristine this story she asked, “So did you touch it?” I told her, “I threw him a bone, since I didn’t touch the baby’s head while it was crowning and he seemed so disappointed at that. I touched it.”

I had only a small tear, and therefore two stitches did the trick. It took a couple of hours to get me moved to a postpartum room and get me a wheelchair so I could get down to the NICU to see the Monkeyboy.

Due to jaundice, the Monkeyboy spent five days in the NICU, but otherwise he was fine. At five pounds, nine ounces, he wouldn’t have even been considered low birth weight if he were full term. He was never given any breathing assistance and was able to nipple all of his feedings (although breastfeeding was a bit of a challenge at the very beginning because he tired out so easily). We were very lucky.

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The Story Thus Far:
Part 1
Part 2

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