Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Isn't she lovely...

This is the birth story of my daughter, my first baby. It was never recorded anywhere, so I had to use those precious and hard to come by brain cells for this one. Anything to win! Actually at this point this entry might be disqualified from the contest because it is more than two hours past midnight, but I am determined to finally put it into writing, before I become old and senile and start making up details that never happened.

When pregnant with DD, I read a lot about pregnancies, but I would always omit the sections dealing with birth and labor. But there comes a time when one has to face the inevitable, i.e. they still haven't invented a way to get the baby out of you without you actually being there, so I decided to educate myself (if only a little bit) about labor and delivery. My resolve to finally stomach these chapters of What to Expect was partially fueled by a co-worker who kept on saying that I needed to know the signs of labor because water breaks first only in the movies, in real life it rarely happens.

For some time we went back and forth about doing the birthing class, but I was feeling very lousy at nights, so we decided against it. Instead, I bought a video from Lamaze discussing all the relevant things. (I was hoping it was relevant because the hairstyle were at least twenty years out of date.) I remember watching it religiously for the first hour, until they got to showing actual births. From that point I was watching with my legs tightly crossed and with fists tightly clutched. I think I looked like I was in more pain than the women delivering babies. The first woman in the video gave birth naturally and wasn’t so hard to watch, but then it was time for the C-Section. I was half-way though that and crying non-stop when my best friend, who happened to be a medical school graduate, called me. When she found out why I was bawling (I wasn’t able to stop when I picked up the phone), she told me to shut the thing off. I said, “But I have to be informed! I have to know what to expect! You are a medical professional, how can you say that?” To which she replied, “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you what to do.” I think I masochistically protested a few more times, but my usually very agreeable friend was very firm, and to this day (three and a half years later) I haven’t finished watching that video.

As if sensing my lack of education, many friends and well-wishers took it upon themselves to fill in the gaps. One of my friends was particularly vocal about episiotomies. In her words, “Episiotomy is the worst. I actually enjoyed labor, I did it all naturally adn labor was pure pleasure (to this day, I go - HUH??? are you sure they didn't give you drugs, legal or otherwise?), but after episiotomy I wasn’t able to walk for three months. Whatever you do, don’t get episiotomy. And this is the link to the website on how and why to avoid them.” I spent about half hour searching the site and reading testimonies, crying and clutching my chair all the time while I was there. My DH came home while I was in the process of getting educated, and I was asked very firmly not to go on that site or speak to that friend until I delivered the baby. Things like those happened left and right in my first pregnancy, which made me and my husband mad to no end, though my anger usually was expressed through uncontrollable stream of tears, crossing my legs and whimpering. I guess by the time I was preggers the second time, the well-wishers figured I was a pro and left me alone, or maybe I was less impressionable, but I don't remember the avalanche of the worst case scenarios that time around.

I decided to work until my due date because despite all the scientific literature to the contrary, the real life "experts" predicted that I would be overdue. (They also predicted I would have a boy.) Also, at thirty eight weeks the baby hadn't dropped yet, and in the first pregnancy What to Expect says you have at least four weeks (or something like this) after the baby drops until the actual delivery. So I was sure that I would be severely overdue, which was fine with me, I wasn't in a rush. One morning I made my usual 5.45 bathroom trip and returned to bed, just to wet it as soon as I lay down. Since it was a gush, I knew right away that my water broke. "But it only happens in the movies," I thought. Oh well, not only... I told DH, and it was the funniest thing in the world: he sprung up from deep sleep like a Jack in the Box and literally jumped out of bed!

I didn't really know what to do next, so I grabbed What to Expect, which said that I needed to call my doctor. "But it is only 6 a.m.," I thought. I read on, and the next sentence said to call the doc even in the middle of the night. "But he is still sleeping," I thought. I read on again, and the next sentence said not to worry about waking the doc up since they expect it. It was hilarious and felt as if I was having a conversation with the book! I still didn't call until 7 a.m. to be polite, but when I did, the doc told me he wanted to see me in the hospital within the hour. So with a towel between my legs (pads were no good any more) I was running around the house packing the bag just in case, which just twelve hours ago I was sure I had another two weeks to prepare. I also called work and said that I wasn't sure when I would come in that day because "the doctor wants to see me." I was actually planning to show up at work that day if the doctor let me go home! I know, you can say that, idiot in denial! (To my defense, the books actually say that it might take up to two days before water breaking and the actual delivery.) Long story short, we were at the hospital within two hours, but all was well except for the walking with a towel in the middle of a busy street.

After coming to the hospital, it finally hit me that I might not be going home, that I actually had to deliver that baby, in all likelihood very soon. It was a bit frightening and very, very humbling. I was admitted around 12, so much for showing up ASAP since they had an unusually busy night, and all the L&D rooms were either still taken or not clean yet. They administered pitocin and I was prepared to the do whole natural thing. The nurse came in and had to administer an IV, and DH asked her if he could have the rubber thingy they use to make a tourniquet. He for no apparent reason reverted to his childhood and remembered that back in Russia these rubber things were very hard to find and were used by kids to make slings. The nurse gave him the knowing look, opened a drawer, took out a bunch of them and asked if DH also needed disposable needles. Nice, the guy is about to have a baby and is being accused by a (what else?) Russian nurse of heavy drug use. Whatever...

The doctor came in a few times offering epidural, but I refused. Contractions were bad, but not terrible. When the doc showed up the third time around to offer the epidural yet again, I gave up and agreed, and I have no regrets. I called my mom, who I knew would not want to come until the baby was born, which was perfectly fine with me. Being uncomfortable with blood, pain and medical literature runs in the family. After the epidural, I called mom and she said that I sounded disgustingly happy, not the way a woman in labor should sound. She was used to the Russian sadistic way of delivering when women in labor would be put in a 16-person "screaming room" without drugs (and minimal medical attention at night) until they were ready to deliver. Periodically the nurse would show up and try to hush them saying things like "It cannot hurt so badly. You are not the first one to deliver. Get a grip of yourself, etc." So my giddiness and cheer was definitely not something she was expected.

Time was moving slowly, things weren't progressing as fast as the doctor expected, at 5 pm I was only at 4 cm. Then at seven my parents decided to come, a very pleasant surprise. Maybe it was their presence or a woman across the whole delivering, but around that time things started to pick up, and at 8 I was already at 8 cm. At that time a medial student came into my room and asked me if I would mind having her there during the delivery. I was very tempted to say no. For some time they had me in stirrups, and everyone entering the room, from the nurse's lunch buddy to the cleaning
personnel, felt entitled to peek "there." I think sometimes people, honestly some of them were in no way involved in my delivery, would come in just to do that, possibly out of boredom. I also had a volunteer doula that ordered DH around and did not get hints that she was not really wanted. They didn't let me drink or eat, and my throat was hurting very badly from the ice chips. So to top it all off, they wanted yet another person to be present during the delivery and have a peek down there? But before I said "No" I remembered my best friend, who is the nicest person in the world, complain to me that during her maternity rotation many patients would not want her in the room, and it was very hard to gain proper experience. So I agreed thinking that if she made me uncomfortable, I would just ask her to leave.

At 8.30 the doctor said that it was time to push. All of a sudden I got really, really scared. I even started crying out of fear. I really didn't want to push. Somehow I regained my control and started pushing. They were telling me I was doing it all wrong, pushing with my face. I told them I didn't feel anything down there, so how was I to know how to push. They were getting frustrated with me, I was getting very tired and frustrated too. That's when I really appreciated having the medical student there (I am really sorry for not remembering her name, I think it was Julie.) She was the most helpful person in the whole room. She would give me tips, pat my hand, smile and try to encourage.
Finally when I thought I could not do this any more because I was so exhausted, the doc said that I was just one good push away from delivering and started doing the dreaded episiotomy. I said that I didn't want it; he completely ignored me. To make matters worse, my epidural was wearing off, and I was starting to feel things down there. So as he was about to cut me, I screamed that I wasn't going to get cut without more painkillers. Somehow, that made an impact, they gave me more epidural, and he made the cut. After two or three pushes, since I wasn't able to produce a good one the first time around, at 9.35 p.m. my dear daughter was born. We didn't know we were having a girl, and it really was a surprise!

Then the good old doc started stitching me up and the student started asking him questions about the delivery, his specialty, if he was happy, etc, etc. This is what he told her. "When I started, we rarely had night births. We would just induce women when it was convenient. So if I knew that then or had to do it all over again, I would never go into obstetrics." Hello!!!! You are still stitching up your patient who JUST GAVE BIRTH! I protested and said that I really didn't care to know that the doctor who just delivered my baby didn't want to be there, to which he replied, "What? It's the truth."

When they gave her to me, I looked at my daughter and started to - yes, you guessed it - cry again, but this time because I was overwhelmed by the magic life and birth, by her beauty, by joy, content, happiness, relief that everything went well, by G-
d's generosity to entrust me with such a wonderful baby.

I cried a lot more during my stay in the hospital because of hormones, difficulty nursing, and my
DD's heart murmur. But that is a whole different story, which also ends well.


  1. Ditto of Beth. I'm flattered that you voted for mine (there's something about such sheer volume, isn't there?).

    And I love your sarcasm, too; almost as much as the Zeppelin-Rachmaninoff pairing!


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