Thursday, June 11, 2009

Birth Story (repost)

'Behind every baby is an unbelievable story.' This post will be featured in Baby Week, a Discovery Health series, to air Sunday-Friday, June 14-19 at 8P e/p on Discovery Health. Episode premieres are:
Twins By Surprise Sunday, Sunday, June 14, 8P e/p
Little Parents, Big Pregnancy Monday, June 15, 8P e/p
Births Beyond Belief Tuesday, June 16, 8P e/p
Obese & Pregnant Wednesday, June 17, 8P e/p

As I write this, my beautiful daughter Olivia Grace is snuggled against my chest, sound asleep in her baby sling; hopefully she will remain that way long enough for me to finish this post. She was born on March 14, 2009, at 3:58 PM, weighing in at nearly 10 pounds. We are both as healthy and happy as we can be.

Warning: pregnant women and squeamish persons, this is all you need to know. Please stop reading now.

Before Olivia was born, I did everything in my power to prepare for a healthy, natural childbirth. I chose Clementine Midwifery as my care provider, did regular prenatal yoga at Park Slope Yoga Center, hired my wonderful yoga teacher Sasha as my doula, and attended childbirth classes with Jada Shapiro at Birth Day Presence. I cannot recommend all of these people highly enough. I got every bit of care and medical attention that I required, plus an enormous amount of practical information and emotional support. I am forever grateful that I ditched the insurance plan that placed me with a male OB/GYN from the Ukraine who was only in the office once a week, and who made me wait in the waiting room for two hours to tell me I was fine.

The pregnancy went mostly very well. As a bodyworker, I see a lot of pregnant women, and I know just how uncomfortable pregnancy can get; I was grateful not to have agonizing lower back pains, excessive nausea, insomnia, gestational diabetes, or hideous acne. I gained the minimum healthy amount of weight, got breathless going upstairs, and took a lot of naps. Childbirth classes were fun, and although I didn't write off the possibility of getting an epidural, I was game to try it without the drugs.

The only thing I wasn't prepared for was not to go into labor at all.

A week past my due date, I started trying folk remedies to bring it on. I got an acupuncture treatment from Laura at Providence Day Spa. I went for walks, and bounced interminably on my yoga ball. I ate spicy food and got a pedicure. Joe and I tried those other things that are supposed to induce labor, wink wink. The baby didn't budge.

The problem was that she was turned around--'occipital posterior presentation'--and wasn't dropping down. As time went by, she got bigger and bigger, to the point where she wasn't able to drop. My body being wise, it simply refused to push a rock against a hard place, and waited for someone to come and do something about it.

Two weeks past my due date, I was induced. I labored for 9 hours without drugs, then broke down and asked for the epidural. Pain is one thing; unending pain without purpose is quite another, and at that point I could sense that the contractions weren't accomplishing anything.

It took 45 minutes to install the epidural catheter, which wasn't fun. They kept stabbing me in the spine, asking "do you feel that?", taking it out and trying again. The last time they hit a nerve which led down my right leg, which was REALLY interesting, but after some twiddling it worked well enough. I was able to get the first sleep I'd had in more than 24 hours.

Eight hours later, after the maximum dose of pitocin had failed to bring the baby any closer to emerging, I agreed to a c-section. They shipped me to the OR, strapped me into the Jesus Christ position and extracted my baby. As soon as we were introduced she recognized my voice and Joe's voice; her eyes moved toward us and she stopped crying. I asked her if the name 'Olivia Grace' was okay with her, and she consented.

Then the epidural catheter fell out.

I know the catheter fell out because when the anaesthesiologist came in two days later to remove it, it wasn't in. I know that it fell out then because I started feeling the c-section in ways they hadn't warned me about. "Ow," I said, politely. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. That's very violent."

They whisked Olivia away and started feeding me drugs, seemingly at random. "Is this better?" they asked.

"Well, maybe a little. Ow." They kept apologizing for putting little pinpricks in my shoulder, which I found ironic and amusing. The anaesthesiologist said, "we usually don't use this one, because it causes hallucinations, but it works as a last resort. Here come the sixties!"

Then the world exploded.

As those who are close to me know, it is my belief that the physical world is an illusion, a projection of the mind, and that reality is complete spiritual unity. This ceased to be a theoretical proposition and became my direct experience. "I am foam," I declared.

I expanded in all directions, becoming one with the Universal Mind, at the same time as a small part of me recalled that there were these things that thought of themselves as people, who were born and got old and got married and died, and wasn't that ridiculous. They sent each other silly coded messages on something called "the Internet" when they could communicate totally and directly at any moment. This might have been a fun game, except that along the way, a lot of suffering happens.

Suffering was a particularly pertinent issue to me, because they started stuffing my uterus back into my abdominal cavity, which was startlingly painful, given that it was only going back where it belonged. "Burrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnn," I remarked. "Flame. I am flame. Burrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnn. Why did we invent consciousness? This is a STUPID experiment. We need to stop it RIGHT NOW."

The OB/GYN who performed the surgery told me later, "You were one of the colorful ones." I moved on to shouting Course in Miracles lessons at the top of my voice, and told Joe (who was, of course, part of my own mind, as was the midwife, the anaesthesiologist, and the rest of humanity) "You are the ONLY person I would do this for. Fuck those Christians." The six parts of my mind which were in the operating room at the time all chuckled.

All in all, if every woman who gave birth or had a c-section went through this, there would soon be no more people.

After an indeterminate period of time, my individual identity began to reconstitute itself, in a dim ugly room. One part of me coalesced into a midwife, another into my mom. The midwife appeared to understand when I confided that I loved her, that we were one, but my mom persisted in using this silly 'telephone' thing to 'call other people.' She also kept asking me if I wanted her to leave, and informing me that I'd forget she'd been there, which was just dumb, and I told her so.

Really I was quite disturbed, given that in the act of bringing a child into 'the world,' I had simultaneously gained proof that both 'the world' and 'children' didn't actually exist. Although I was unhappy that Olivia had been spirited away into the NICU because her glucose was crashing, I recognized that it was probably a good thing for me to get used to being me again before taking responsibility for her.

At 9 PM they finally got me installed in a postpartum room and brought her to me for a few minutes. They wouldn't let me keep her; they said it was 'a privilege' that I got to see her at all, which was a little rich. I put up a fight but was overpowered, and they took her away again. I was attached by an IV to a box which beeped all night, keeping me awake, and caused my feet to swell up to the size of small watermelons.

Later, of course, everything was fine. Intense, agonizing pain aside, the week of Olivia's birth was one of the happiest of my life. Midwives and doula seemed to expect me to be sad that 'things hadn't gone as planned,' but as far as I am concerned, things are ducky. If this were 1850, I'd be dead, instead of having a gorgeous, healthy 10 lb. baby and a small surgical scar; why, then, would I waste a second on natural childbirth regrets, let alone sue the hospital for gross negligence in the matter of the catheter?

Unless, of course, they decide to get ugly about the bill.


Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Ah, yes, I remember it well--"the least pinprick of the catheter..." My fifth (and last) son came without so much as an aspirin. This was not on purpose either. I didn't take the classes etc. There was no one else in the room, just me and him. I do not --repeat--do NOT recommend it. But it's okay now. I've come to terms with it.

He is 34.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Oh, and this is a great post! I'm glad she likes her name--I think it's lovely.

Barak said...

Wow. What a ride! And I was just *reading* it. I'm drenched with sweat. Congratulations. I'm so sorry it was so exciting.

Spatula said...

Pretty Lady, only you could be so funny and gracious about a malfunctioning epidural in the middle of a C-section. I read your story torn between laughing and crying, and decided I would settle for asking you the name of that drug you were on, if and when the time comes for me to go through something similar.

This bit of consciousness is happy for all three of you. In a goofy, verbally communicated Internet-based way :-D

LXV said...

Ay ay ay what a story! Not at all what you were expecting, I'm sure. A posterior delivery can really be long and hard, especially with a big baby. And epidurals, well, they're not always all they're cracked up to be. You are a champ! Thanks for taking the time to share this. I kept wondering what was up when your baby countdown started going backwards-how wrong could the dates be? I guess Olivia Grace really liked it in there, but I'm sure glad she got out OK.

Tracy Helgeson said...

As much as an advocate as I am for natural childbirth, I am also an advocate for whatever it takes for everyone to be safe and alive. I am SO happy for you and Joe and for Olivia too. Now, HAVE FUN!

Pretty Lady said...

Oh, yes, the name of the drug they gave me is ketamine. Its street name is "Special K," and according to the anaesthesiologist who went to remove my catheter, it's basically the same as PCP.

Pretty Lady said...

And thanks, everybody! Olivia, Joe and I are very happy, just tired and sleep-deprived. It's good to be posting again, between feedings. It took me 5 days to finish this post.

Oriane said...

And, if I might add, little O is the sweetest, most adorable baby ever! Holding her is like holding a warm purring cat. And since I tend to like cats more than babies, that's a compliment.


badgermama said...

Congratulations!!! That is wonderful! 8-)

I'm super super happy for you.

LXV said...

Dear Pretty Lady, they used to use a drug called Scopolomine which didn't kill the pain, but made the mothers forget it (HAH!) When I was a labor and delivery nurse back in the bad old days, we had to keep those ladies, sometimes in restraints, in a special labor room with the lights dimmed. We had an expression "scoped to the gills" and the things I heard coming out of their mouths when a contraction came, "well, I never...". And afterwards, they thanked the doctor (read: male doctor) as if he was god or something. It was true barbarism. This was around the time of the very first edition of Our Bodies Ourselves so you younger girls can really appreciate how far we've come.

Here's a quote from Wikipedia (as always, consider the source): "Scopolamine was used from the 1940s to the 1960s to put mothers in labor into a kind of "twilight sleep" that did not stop pain, but merely eliminated the memory of pain by attacking the brain functions responsible for self-awareness and self-control. Often, this caused a kind of psychosis, followed by post-traumatic stress-like memories in thousands of new mothers"

I've seen it and I concur. The "twilight sleep" was truly a nightmare.

Take good care of your little one.

Pretty Lady said...

Lady Xoc, it is true, we younger women have a lot to be grateful for. What human being with a shred of decency would think that such a drug was a good idea? Only someone who thinks merely of his own convenience, not of another's suffering.

LXV said...

PL: We could have a l-o-o-n-g conversation about this but I wouldn't want to tie up your blog. You are absolutely correct when you say: "Only someone who thinks merely of his own convenience..." Obstetrics was BIG business back then and the sexual politix were appalling.

But I'm glad you got the care you needed at the right moment even if it was a bumpy ride.

Carol Diehl said...

Congratulations! You did it, and have a happy, healthy baby girl with a lovely name. So glad you were able to describe the experience with such candor and even humor, and had a place to share it.

Now enjoy!

george said...

PL, Congratulaions! An enlightening post – I can understand warning off pregnant women from reading on but all the rest could use a healthy a dose of reality. Best wishes to you and the family.

Anonymous said...

Long time since I peeped your blog honey. And Misty (daughter-in-law) told me about baby. Congrats. I had a similar birth experience (Over due 2 weeks, natural labor for 24 hours, culiminating in c-section). It's worth it.

Love the name. And am happy all is well (my b/d is 3/9, so I share her zodiac sign I believe).

Hope all is well with you and yours!

Terrymum from KS

MacLaren said...

Congratulations! (And what a bizarre story to boot!) So glad you're okay.

Nancy said...


if they get stinky about the bill, do use the malpractice anesthesia boondoggle.

Steppen Wolf said...

Congratulations. We have two children and I was with her - even if I did not go through the process, I sure understand how you feel.
Happy for you.


k said...

Happy Mother's Day, Steph!