Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sam's Big Day: Our Unusual Birth Story

I spent a good part of my pregnancy reading the book What to Expect When You're Expecting. I have since found that, for me, that book had NO IDEA what I should expect when I was expecting (nowhere did it mention choroid plexus cysts, inverted S:D ratios, or Giant Tools). Still, I thought I would at least be able to rely on it for the usual pregnancy and baby facts that a first time mom with few female support resources might require. It told me all about how Kegel exercises are good, and how soft cheese is bad. But it really failed me in the labor and delivery department.

I tried so hard to prepare myself for what labor and birth would be like, but could never find a good answer to my eternal question, "How will I know I am in labor?" The answer I found in every source, including communication with friends who were moms, was exactly the same: "You'll just know." I spent all manner of time worrying about this. What does that mean? HOW will I know? Can't anyone tell me? Hubby told me, sounding very doula-like, to trust my body and my instincts.

When anyone tells me to trust my gut, I like to reply with my favorite line from the movie High Fidelity: I don't trust my gut. My gut's got shit for brains!

Never has that line been so well-deserved.

On November 30, I worked my last full day at the hospital. On December 1, I had a routine weekly check-up with Dr. Teddy Bear's nurse practitioner. Even though I was just 7 days from my due date, she had not actually checked me for dilation/effacement up to that point. My co-workers at the hospital were actually pretty shocked, but I hadn't reported any contractions. This time, she decided to have the nurse check me anyway. The nurse asked me if this was really my first baby, because it seemed like I had had one before. Then she announced that I was already between 4-5 cm dilated!

I burst into tears at the thought of them putting me in a wheelchair and rolling me down to L&D right then and there. Neither she nor Hubby really understood what that was about. I don't understand their surprise.

I thought I had another week. I was not ready for this. The bags were packed, but at home. I was dressed and ready to go to work in my office at the college next door. NOT ready to go have a baby. And I was SO EMBARRASSED that despite my best efforts to educate myself, I had no frickin' clue I had progressed that far. She called me the "Mack Momma" for not even noticing that I was halfway dilated already. (This made me laugh as I usually curse in pain when I stub my toe.) As it turned out, L&D was full, so they sent me home with a plan to go back in at midnight. Since I was already dressed, we left the appointment and went to work. I got nothing done, but I showed up, so I didn't have to waste a day of FMLA.

Hubby and I went home that evening and packed up the last minute stuff. We let our parents and close friends know we were headed to the hospital. We called Fr. Charlie, who said he would come to the hospital and baptize Sam right away if we needed him to before surgery. I packed a pure white blanket to wrap Sam up with in case of a hospital baptism.

I checked in, disappointed that Hubby wasn't allowed in the room right away, and that the carefully selected clothing I had chosen for labor comfort were quickly set aside in favor of a backless hospital gown. They hooked me up to the monitor, and asked me if I wanted an epidural when the time came. The "early and often" approach to epidurals was my mantra. I am a pharmacist, after all...I believe in the healing power of drugs.

The OBGYN resident on that evening checked on me periodically, but explained that her goal was actually to "keep me pregnant" for as long as possible, to avoid a NICU transfer and neonatal echo during off-hours. Hubby got some rest, and I watched silly movies to pass the time. For a while I listened to the iPod playlist I had painstakingly put together for relaxation, but not as much as I thought. I still wasn't in any pain. When I progressed to about 6 or 7, and things started picking up again in L&D, my nurse came in and said "If you still want an epidural, I think we should consult the anesthesiologist now. He is going to get busy here in a bit." The anesthesiologist was actually a resident, a smallish guy with dark hair and blue eyes. After he left, Hubby and I laughed and laughed because his name, like his face, was strikingly similar to the character Zach Braff played on Scrubs.

At about 8 in the morning, the overnight OBGYN resident thanked me for staying pregnant all night, and turned on Pitocin to move things along before leaving. My husband saw Dr. Teddy Bear out in the hall when I was about 9 cm, and as Dr. Teddy ran by he just waved and said, "It's baby time in Tennessee!" I languished at 10 cm and fully effaced for a while because he was off delivering another baby. As long as I felt no pressing need to push, they were going to let me wait as long as possible.

At around 12:45, they came to tell me they were taking me to the OR to deliver. They weren't expecting to do any surgery, but they would have all sorts of staff and equipment on hand in case Sam needed it, and the OR would accommodate it better than the L&D room. They gave Hubby scrubs to put on and away we went. When we got to the OR there were not many people around. An OBGYN resident who goes to our church walked in (!) then realized he was in the wrong room and walked out (whew!). Nurses started filing in from what seemed like everywhere...Sam was going to get quite the hero's welcome!

Dr. Teddy Bear and his intern, Dr. O came in to deliver Sam. I started pushing a few minutes after 1pm. I thought to myself, maybe he will be born at 1:31 pm, like I was. Not even close.

Samuel Alexander drew his first breath of fresh air at 1:13 pm on December 2, 2010. He weighed 7 pounds and 10 ounces, and was 21 inches long. They called Hubby to cut the cord, and then Dr. O announced that Sam had cut his own cord (we still don't know what that meant exactly). I stayed pretty calm, just trying to get a look at him. They took him away to clean him up. I asked Hubby, "Ten and ten?" which he confirmed, telling me his feet looked comically big, but that he was beautiful. I remember everyone telling me that, but wanting to see it for myself. By the time I got to see him, he was already cleaned up and swaddled, with a hat on. I got to hold him for just a minute, crying the whole time of course, so relieved to see his beautiful face. Before I knew it, they were taking him away to the NICU, and I was crying even more. I held him for 39 weeks, that moment just didn't seem the right time to let him go.