THE BIRTH STORY | PART TWO
"i'm wonderstruck... all i know is i was enchanted to meet you."
The Pitocin Saga
The pitocin began dripping around 11:30/11:45 pm. Slow and steady. I felt like I was awaiting a jury verdict.
"What will my punishment be? How bad is this going to get...?"
An hour later, and not much to report - just sporadic and unevenly painful contractions - the dosage was upped ever so slightly. Another hour and a half later, we were finally getting somewhere. Very frequent, very regular, very painful. The hormone seemed to be doing what it was supposed to be doing! And I was hoping my body would just kick in and keep on strutting, and not fade out. Around this time Becca and Janet arrived again, and Lydia (who had took all the pictures in the last post) had to leave.
And I still mentally drop to my knees in thanksgiving when I think about these two showing up at this point. I was clearly well on my way now. This was for real for real. Everything was intensifying, and it had been lasting for hours. My form of labor, by the way, was back labor. Back labor... feels like you have elephants on the inside of you, pushing your back and hip bones apart, while a Viking duo smashes your outside with a sledgehammer. Caleb, who is basically concrete and hard as can be, would push
his weight onto me back and I'd still be clamoring
His poor arms and body were sore and exhausted after doing that for hours - it'd truly be like doing a bench press workout for over half a day. Janet and Becca rescued him, told him to rest a bit more, and took over the counter-pressure-work. (Jan was basically riding on me, piggy back style. She pushed as hard as she possibly could!)
Though the pain was phenomenal, I was amazed every single contraction how bearable and manageable it was to relax, breathe and "work with" the contraction. The instant reaction our body has to pain is to tense up (think burning your finger on the stove, or stubbing your toe... you don't go limp and loose! You arch and grab and your arms and face become tense and you say
"ow ow ow ow ow ooooowwww!"
or something ;) and your body goes tight.) But forcing yourself to breathe slowly, and almost "unroll" each body part - from face, to shoulders, to elbows, to hands, to waist, to butt/hips, to thighs, to legs, to toes was fascinatingly pain-reducing. I'd never lie and say that it didn't hurt or that it was easy. It was hard, painful work, but it
was bearable. I could picture the uterus muscle moving in and out, working BorisBoy down more and more. I could refresh and enjoy (?) the breaks and drink and snack and be completely pain-free until the next contraction. We tried an assortment of positions but the one that helped the most was for me to lean my arms and face onto the counter where the sink was, and to squat and sway while someone pushed my back. The swaying. Oh the swaying. Praise Jesus for swaying. It helped
At 4:00 pm I'm told I smiled for the last time until after I held my son ;) And 15 minutes later I got a great leg and arm massage - coconut oil for the win! Anything to try to help me relax relax relax. At 5:00 pm we decided to check my dilation and see how things were progressing. It'd been seven or eight hours since I had been last checked, and I was pleading before the heavenly throne that I wouldn't get a report of
"You're about a 6!"
Thankfully, I was at 8cm. I think part of me was hoping the midwife would - in amazement! - tell me I was at 10cm and would be ready to push soon. Silly mama. Tricks are for kids. 8cm was close - and so much further than I had been! - but I knew a lot still had to happen. Like that dreaded T word: transition. And the P word: pushing. Other than the dilation update, my midwife announced that she didn't feel the bag of water anymore, and she thought it had broken. Which was weird, because between the last cervical check and this one I had no gushing or leaking or water-breaking-signs-of-any-kind. My water bag was a big punk prankster.
But hey! That was more good news! Another thing checked off the list (again?)! At 5:15pm I had a special, um, meeting in the Oval Office. Janet and Becca were very excited. Bradley students seem to especially love that "clear out." Bradley talks about it a lot ;) And boy oh boy was I clear and empty - my body made some serious room for a baby.
After that classy affair, I started being
bothered by my IV. It hurt so much. Enough that I noticed the pain even during the peak of a contraction. I then realized that my hand had swollen up BADLY. It was about twice the size (maybe more) of my normal hand and it felt like it was ripping open. (I HATE NEEDLES.) The nurse and midwife realized that the needle had come out of my vein and yet remained under my skin, so all the pitocin and antibiotic was going into my skin tissue, not blood stream. No one knows how long it had been like that, so no one knows how much pitocin I
got. Probably at least some? It'd been in since 11:30 and it was now 5:30... but how much? No clue. Soooo, that fateful accident meant that: I got to take the IV out! No more needles in muah! The sledge-hammer-elephant-awful-awful contractions were coming again and again and again. They had been for hours. No turning back now, folks. And if I had been asked what my pain level was on a scale of 1-10, I would have said 10. So quickly. So honestly. Ten ten ten.
But then. About 20 minutes later, the uterus aggression upped the anti. Oh goodness it was bad. I was burping up a storm. The swaying and relaxing and breathing really wasn't doing what it had done before. I told Caleb it felt bowling bowls were being thrown down inside me. No one could push my back hard enough. The breaks in-between contractions were shorter and shorter. A raging Spanish bull was fighting with a fierce Asian tiger, and they were clawing and pounding inside me. I actually remember thinking that I would happily trade places with the Spartan boy who hid the fox under his shirt and didn't flinch while the fox ate his flesh. It sounded much more appealing and much less painful than what I was feeling. At 6:00pm I announced the big milestone announcement:
"I can't do it anymore."
I had been taught that this nasty phase of labor called 'transition' usually lasts about 30-60 minutes. Some lucky women experience it far quicker, or maybe even not at all. And few women experience it for longer than an hour. I knew the '
' and one of those is feeling like you
can't do it anymore. I wanted to just go ahead and start pushing. Really, I wanted to go ahead and hold my baby and be done with this entire thing. "
What an idiot I was to think this was a good idea. This is TERRIBLE. I just want my baby and I just want to take a nap and I want to go get in MY bed and I'm tired and I don't like this one little bit."
I was more than teetering on edge of the Emotional Grand Canyon. I was Nik-Wallenda-ing it over a tightrope. Becca later told me
"At the 6:30-7:00pm mark you hit the wall: SO exhausted. I think we all had tears for you. We gave you and Caleb some time to console each other and process while Mom and Dad and I hid in the hallway. The contractions were
At this point, the contractions were worse then ever, but they
beginning to space out a bit: another 'sign of transition.' A handful of times I fell asleep during those couple minute breaks (and not because the breaks were so peaceful, more because I was entirely
.) When I woke up from one fire and brimstone contraction, I just started to cry and cry. Caleb kept trying to reassure and affirm and support me. I couldn't relax. I couldn't try a new position. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't do anything but cry. The midwife (another new one) came in at 7:30pm and checked my dilation. I calmed down when she was checking, prayingandhopingandwishingandprayingandthinkingandhopingandwanting her to say I was at 10. PA-LEEEZ. FOR THE LOVE. And it was 9. Two and half hours since my last check, and about two hours into transition, and we were at 9cm. I cried and cried some more. I worried because I knew that it wasn't abnormal for women to 'stall out' at 9cm. I worried because I truly didn't believe I could handle another two and a half hours to get to 10cm
and then push
. I felt so stuck.
And then. "Epidural" was spoken. Out loud. In the room. For the first time in 30-something hours. The nurse eagerly and obviously supported the idea. She not-so-subtly wanted me to go ahead and get the epidural. The spine-numbing and contraction-pain-canceling option was 'on the table.' And this is the part of the story where I am
grateful for three things: education, my husband and my 'team.'
Education: The potential side effects of an epidural are intense (anywhere from a life-threatening infection, to a dural puncture [a leak in spine, that can drain the fluid around the brain], and nerve damage to fever, decreased blood pressure, etc) not to mention the promised side effects: namely numbness and inability to walk/move out of bed
. I also know that the epidural process isn't instant. I sat there, in my teary, overcome, physically and mentally pained and DONE state, and was able to still remember that they need to call the anesthesiologist, he has to prep and do paperwork, perform the procedure, and then let the juice begin to work. The whole process could easily take 30-60 minutes. I also knew that
epidurals slow down the intensity and the effectiveness of contractions, and can often slow down labor. And then
pitocin is up-ed to make the contractions stronger. This cocktail
puts a baby in a precarious and crazy position, one that frequently causes their heart to have a bad rate. A bad baby heart-rate can quickly turn into an emergency c-section situation. I knew that. I knew I didn't want that. I knew I had worked too hard for too long to just abandon our goals now. I knew I'd rather work hard for an hour and actual make something happen than 'wait around' to be numbed up. And to be honest, I didn't want to have come so far... 32 hours of hospital stay!... to try an epidural
now. "If I'm going to do this, I should have done it a long time ago. What was the point of going through ALL that if I'm going to numb myself at the very bitter end?"
My husband: The moment the nurse gave us a second to talk about what we wanted to do, he took my face and looked right into my eyes and said
"Kristen. You are
close. This is almost done. You are 9cm and could probably be pushing the baby out by the time the epidural started working. You're so brave. You're so strong. And you don't need it. I know you don't. You can absolutely do this."
He was right. And I needed him to tell me.
My 'team': Janet and Becca quickly reenforced Caleb's words. They promised me I was so near the end. They promised I'd be holding Rowdy soon. They promised me I could do it. Then my mom suggested I go get in the shower and let the hot water fall onto my back. And that was it. That was exactly the option I needed.
With a fresh wave of motivation, and a
lack of all decency, I de-robed and bolted for the shower. Caleb grabbed some swim trunks and jumped in with me. Mom held the shower-head over my back while Caleb pushed. We all prayed out loud over and over again. I talked to my body. I talked to my baby. I talked to myself. I grunted like a wild beast. I pleaded with God. I shook and moaned. I heard the encouraging words of the people around me. The contractions were still miserable, but I felt somewhat 'in control' again and like I could force this kid down by focusing
hard. I squatted like a gorilla and worked and worked and worked. But ten short minutes later my epidural-fan-nurse came in the bathroom and told me I needed to get back in bed and be checked on the monitors (to hear the baby's heart beat.)
My HERO mother said
"Why does she have to get back in bed? Can't you use a portable doppler?"
The nurse told my mom that the midwife said I had to get in bed. My mom fired (and I do mean fired) back with
"Can you please go check with the midwife right now and get specific instruction from her that Kristen must get out of the shower and be strapped to the monitor? And can you also ask if the portable device may be used?"
The nurse semi-argued back but did leave and returned with a portable monitor. And I got to stay in the shower ;)
So instead of 10 minutes, I was able to work in there for 45 minutes. I was totally refocused, Caleb was 'rejuvenated' and I was finally as sure as everyone else that I
do this. Around 8:30pm I was out of the shower, and at 8:45 I used the word "pressure" over and over. I was a little annoyed because the nurse kept asking me if I had 'the urge to push' and I said I didn't particularly feel 'an urge' but I felt pressure and I was in excruciating pain and I was mentally VERY ready to push. She would somewhat casually say
"Well, let us know what you have the urge."
My mom had seven kids and did not always have the urge to push. I knew from reading that not all women get 'that urge.' I wanted to push. I felt ready. I felt pressure. My mom grabbed the midwife and at 9:00 pm she checked me.
The midwife, who is a very monotone, collected, unemotional and un-animated lady, blankly said
"I'll be back in half an hour and we can re-check then."
HALF AN HOUR?!? I nearly lost it again. Tears filled my eyes. I couldn't do another half an hour. I just couldn't. I wanted to push.
And the following thirty minutes, ladies and gentlemen (okay, ladies) were... well, basically, I was screaming "THIS IS [NOT HEAVEN]!!!!! THIS IS [NOT HEAVEN]!!!!! I'M NEVER HAVING CHILDREN AGAIN!!!! I've tried to think of ways to describe this. One odd analogy that came to mind was a soft corn tortilla (my body equals tortilla). The early contractions felt like someone folding a tortilla in half and tearing it. Then the later contractions felt like someone ripping a tortilla into tiny pieces to feed to ducks. The transition contractions felt like tossing a tortilla into a blender and letting it be pureed into tortilla dust. These post-shower contractions? It was like taking a tortilla through a tree-trunk-chipper, setting the chips on fire in furnace, and then feeding the ashes to a flock of starving tortilla-ash-eating sharks, then blowing the shark den up with nuclear bombs. It made the "heavy menstrual cramp contractions" sound like a free vacation to Fiji. My grandma used to say that the final minutes of labor is like
"funneling all the power in the entire universe through your body."
Yes. All Jafar-like. It's extraordinary, really, how much
a body had inside it.
My mom says I was absolutely panicked. I remember clawing at things and practically climbing up the counter/wall. I bit hands and clothing. It was absurd. For a girl who had just relatively calmly and gracefully and relax-ed-ly endured a very long labor - even the most extreme moments where met with an effort to relax and breathe. I never swore. I hardly yelled.
Another physical sign of transition is the inability to relax or be comfortable. A woman who was handling labor well may suddenly find that she has no idea what to do and nothing is comfortable any more."
I was not handling labor well anymore. I was a complete disaster. And I honestly thought I was going to pass out and die right then and there. Here's how much pain I was in: I swore... IN FRONT OF MY MOTHER. One of these demon-contractions was a game-changer because the pain was no longer in my back, rather it was in my hips and pelvis. I screamed for Caleb to push
"lower! Lower! LOWER!"
After a day and a half of pushing my back in the same place, he was confused. The women eyed each other.
Janet went to get the midwife. She calmly said she would be in soon. Janet returned alone. So my mama bear went to get her. Something about a strict tone of voice, and fake wrist watch and
got the midwife into my room within 60 seconds ;)
Now. Brief pause to this loooong story. I feel a little bad for this midwife because I had only seen her once before this trip to the hospital. We certainly did not know each other well.
she had only been a part of my 35-hour labor for about two hours. I really think she thought I was a dramatic, bad-at-dealing-with-pain, over-the-top laborer. I don't think she realized
different I was from 5:00pm to 7:00 pm to 9:00pm. And it was still wildly busy on the floor. She was being pulled many directions. I don't think she really believed I was ready to push. I think she didn't fully 'get' how my labor had gone. She was doing the best she could with the knowledge and time she had. But it wasn't particularly available and understanding. Okay. Carry on.
Meeting Our Son
She checked me at 9:30 and said that magical word "
" and at 9:35 I pushed for the first time.
Everyone's eyes got big and the midwife seemed shocked. Caleb nearly squealed and leaped with excitement:
"I can see his head! BABY! He's SO close! I can see his head! He has hair!"
The midwife paused and seemed confused. She asked me if my water had broke a few days ago, or earlier today, or when, really? My mom told her that we had been told it had broken, but we really didn't know when. She shook her head and said
"No, it hadn't. It just broke now."
I took that first push very seriously? FINALLY, for real for real, broke my water and showed off my kid's head all at the same time.
Little Man's heart rate supposedly dropped during that first push (my mom thinks the monitor just picked up my heart rate) so they had me stop pushing while they put an IV in and put an oxygen mask on me. After I was all geared up, they let me push for the second time. I heard a chorus of
"His head! He's coming! His head! You're doing it! He's almost here!"
After that contraction ended the midwife answered a phone call and quietly exited the room. On her way out she mentioned something about pushing. We didn't really hear what she said, and another contraction was coming. "
Can I push?!?"
I asked. The nurse said I could, so I did. After a push or two she told me to stop. "
You need to wait for the midwife to get back."
I'm sorry. But where did the midwife go? Like. My baby is COMING OUT OF ME RIGHT NOW.
A couple minutes later she returned and she took one look at me 'down there' and instructed the nurses to prep for delivery. (Because, yes, up until this point there was nothing prepared for him to actual come out. No scissors to cut the cord. No blanket. Nothing.) They hustled about preparing the table, and dropping down that big light, and giving the midwife her outer-garment, and putting a blanket on my belly. Caleb whispered to me
"This is it, baby. We're about to meet him. You're about to hold him. This is it. You did it. I'm so proud of you. You're incredible. We're going to see him in just a second. It's happening, baby."
Pushing was an incredible relief from the contraction pain. I'm quite curious how God made it work, because all of that torture-of-a-contraction melted away when I pushed. Pushing wasn't painful it was just 'hard.' I think I said
"This is like pushing the Empire State Building through me!"
I felt calm again, though. I could feel my body dropping and releasing my baby. The next contraction came and I pushed - trying to be steady, strong and patient. The room was cheering and adrenaline began to pump. Pushing felt similar to sitting on the floor, with your back against the wall, and legs pulled back and resting on a couch or bed you're trying to move alone. Using alllll your might you try to push the furniture with your legs and it won't budge... and then! All of a sudden! It slides away like it's on ice! A perfect, sweet head plopped out and in the same push his whole body came, too. He. Was. OUT! NOT in me anymore! And... It felt dreamy and completely, completely wonderful:
He reached his long arms towards me, nuzzled into me when I wrapped myself around him, and looked right up at me as he took his first liquidy, panty breaths. He was perfectly rosy, with flailing arms and legs. He was smooth and had chubby cheeks made to be kissed.
What had been the depths of the dark side, in truly a single
transformed like the Beast's Castle, into a high and bliss I've never experienced before. I felt
My body felt
My mind was clear and
engaged. I remember the details of those first few seconds brilliantly, in dazzling colors. I can smell and feel and breathe it. My heart was absolutely swelling. Just being poured into with the warm water of brand new love. I loved my son (I really did!) before I met him. But here he was! With us! Caleb was breathless and equally smitten right beside me, where he'd been the whole time. I felt so strongly for him in that moment. I adore my husband. My mother was incredible. My friends are bizarrely kind and amazing. My dad is in the doorway, with tears in his eyes.
I am SO proud of myself! Of us! WE DID IT.
Oh, I felt amazing. No pain. None. No cloudiness. No fog. Just intense happy and true emotion. I wouldn't trade those 60 seconds for the entire world. I'd do the natural birth all over again, in a heart beat, just to have that first minute back.
While I was still laying there I told the people around me
"Oh, that was worth it. That was so worth it."
I'll never forget Rowdy's spindly, strong arms reaching
for me. It was honestly a combination of all my favorite feelings: winning championship games, making hard-to-make-teams, scoring over 100%, people loving the food I made for them, falling in love, being in love, getting engaged, waiting to walk down the aisle, coming home after our honeymoon, making Rowdy, listening to my dad laugh, talking for hours with my mom, the times I've 'been filled with' the Holy Spirit, long nights of worship and conversation, laughing through childhood memories with my brothers and sisters. All of it. BOOM. In one moment. A culmination of all the things that got me and my Caleb to the place where we were a part of a new soul, a mysterious, fresh person, being welcomed into his earthly life... it was absolute ecstasy. An intoxicating felicity.
I count it the highest privilege and honor to be able to feel and be a part of the labor and delivery we had. I know so many women who either simply can't have this experience, or who choose not to, and I have only become more grateful for what our story was. It was different than what I expected or certainly wanted, but it was marvelous all the same. And nothing can replace the beauty of that intensity. Something as 'simple' as Rowdy being given right to me, and him gurgling and grunting and grabbing our fingers and sucking his fists and rooting around on my chest, while we looked at each other, just would be foolish and impossible to describe with words. Within a few minutes he was latched-on and learning how to nurse. He was so alert and strong. He knew me and responded to my voice, and daddy's too. In a room mildly buzzed with people and machines, he was deeply focused on us. Incredible. I was so proud of him. So... okay... I'm rambling now. It was nothing short of the over-used word: amazing.
After we had been able to soak him in and bond, really, we were thrilled to be able to watch the room full of family and friends get to feel and snuggle him, too. It was a worn and weary and teary group. The whole of them had worked hard for this Nugget Boy and they were rejoicing. Rejoicing over him and us with gladness. It was another incredible (and un-planned! People just kept coming in, depsite the nurses wanting them to leave! Haha. I'm glad they came and stayed anyway ;) The moment was too perfect) memory for me.
My little sisters had been at the hospital almost as long as I had. They slept on awkwardly, uncomfortable love-seats and waited those grueling 36ish hours with us. They weren't allowed to come back to see me, but I knew they were there. And I kept getting reports from others about how sweet, concerned and eager Shannon and Lauren were. I couldn't wait to let them meet their nephew.
And when they did, they both burst into tears. It was the first time I cried, too. Salty, hot love and relief tears.
But TheLadies weren't the only ones waiting long and hard. My "support parade," as the nurses called it, were there too. We didn't even get pictures of everyone who came back (Jess, Kevin and Mikey... I loved that you were there!)
while I was still in labor&delivery
, delivering a placenta, getting stitched up (a random skin tag/strip ripped off that needed to come off anyway, so it was handy to have it come out during labor... now I don't have to make an appointment to get it removed!), having my stomach mashed on to make my uterus contract, barely dressed... they with glowy-eyes and full hearts made their way into the room to join in the joy.
My wiggly, vocal, peering, muscular, young son. Oh I love you.
Hahaha aaaand this is too "a part of it" not to post ;) I didn't realize until I saw these pictures how... rough I was looking. I told Caleb that at the time I felt like this triumphant war stallion, emerging from a foggy battleground, bloody and tattered, but strapping and formidable and victorious. My flag waving in the background, while clouds parted over the scene. And then... I saw these. And. Yeah. I had more of a War Hippo thing going on. Plopped over on a log. What happened to my face? And Donald Trump Mullet hair? Why was my chin and neck connected with a frog-bubble? Gosh my eyes were tired ;) I love this picture because I've never been more proud of myself, amazed at my guy, and impressed with my body. My body... can do awesome things. Wow. And I won't be gracing the cover of any magazine anytime soon, or hash-tagging "fitmom" or be printing this one out to hang over the fireplace, but in my rough, swollen, disheveled, worn-out state, I love the story it tells, and what I was able to accomplish. So I love these War Hippo shots.
(And! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Janet and Lydia for taking all these pictures. You. Both. Rule.)
The minutes only grew better and better.
As my dad texted me on his way out
"Now you know what instant unconditional love is."
Yup. Amen. I do.
After finally getting cleaned and ready, we left the l&d ward and made that grand trek to the "Mommy & Baby" rooms. We were in the wee hours of our third day in the hospital, and we had a baby to show for it. Roughly four days of real labor, 36 hours of laboring in the hospital, four hours of transition, pitocin but no pain meds, and it was all done. Labor was over and life with a child began.
It was my favorite experience of my life. And the adventure has only just begun! God is good, and does what is good. Our life is good, and we are so happy that God, many decades ago, before the earth was made and before time began, decided to love and make a Little Rowdy. We truly are enchanted.
(Side note: Before labor started, I often prayed that I would have a good recovery. I even said 'I don't mind if the labor is hard, I just don't want the recovery to be hard.' I was worried about stitches and catheters and breast-feeding and bleeding and after-contractions and a slew of other things. I really wanted to be able to fully enjoy my baby once he arrived and not be so physically hurting that I couldn't be 100% 'there' with him.
God completely answered that prayer - but next time I'm going to pray for an easy labor AND easy recovery. Too greedy? But really. I'm stunned and grateful. I've really felt marvelous ever since that last push. Essentially zero pain. Completely mobile. The kid eats long and hard and easily. Natural labors have the best odds at having a smooth recovery, but there is certainly NO guarantee and I easily could have had another long hard road ahead of me