Friday, January 20, 2012

Thunderstorm Birth

During the last three weeks of my pregnancy with my first child my husband would drive me around the NW Wisconsin countryside from one non-public body of water to another.  I was wearing my overstretched black tank swim suit with an extra large t-shirt and jumper over all.  Upon arrival at a likely spot I would ditch the jumper and descend to the water.  There, in the water, I would submerge my hugeness and float weightlessly.  From one place to the next we would travel during the hot dry summer days waiting for our child to be born.

On July 4th there were stirrings in the womb to match the fireworks in the sky.  The nurse midwife told me not to go into labor because she already had three moms at the birthing center.  The baby and I complied with her wish.  I had so many baby dreams of how the birth would take place.  I thought it would be gentle, difficult, fulfilling; nothing like what I was about to experience.  Meanwhile we waited as the turk's cap lilies bloomed and the raspberries grew ripe.

You can tell when a mother is about to give birth because they go into a kind of frenzy about getting things absolutely done without compromise or wavering. Some call this the nesting process.  For me it was more like a tornado.  We had to get the upstairs room wallpapered.  For some reason I through this was going to be the baby's room, even through it was dangerous to get up and down the steep stairs and I had no crib up there.  I was later to find that I got much more sleep if the baby slept closely and safely next to me through the night.

The wallpaper was a Scandinavian looking print with small petals of red, yellow, and a beautiful blue grouped together randomly.  There was a nice boarder to go along the bends in the under the roof room.  It was blue with a larger petal pattern. I was absolutely and tearfully set on the idea that this had to get done before the baby could be born.  So we sweated profusely and huffed and puffed and got it done because I was too heavy and large with child to wait any longer.

Sure enough, within the next day or two light contractions began.  I now know they were pre-labor contractions.  Seven minutes apart and about a minute long.  They died off after I called my friend who was training to be a nurse midwife.  She told me to go back to sleep. She had to be kidding! Sleep?  How could anyone sleep? Right.  First time mom-itis.
I went through my day as normally as I could and the contractions dispersed.  When they picked up again in the evening I was sure this was it.  No, it wasn't.  Things picked up some more later in the evening and we were concerned to get to the hospital two hours away.  No having babies in the car!  We could have waited for another 24 hours before going in.

We arrived at the hospital around dusk.  Clouds were gathering for some big rain activity  which we needed.  My contractions stopped completely. I was only 3cm dilated with my cervix tipped back.  The midwife could have told us to go find a hotel and come back when I couldn't talk through contractions any more.  But she didn't.  We were admitted into the hospital at the beginning of a 36 hour ordeal with about 24 hours of it being pre-labor.  I didn't take anything for pain, but they did give me something for sleep. Before I slept I walked the halls and took a shower, then laid down for some light dozing on some sleep meds.  I was still 3cm dilated by morning. Failure to progress.

The thunderclouds were rumbling through the night and into the next day.  I got up and started walking the halls some more.  My water broke, which was something at least.  The nurse midwife and doctor decided I should go on pitocin to speed my labor up.  So I did.
At first it was too fast so they turned it down a bit.  The contractions got stronger and closer together to the point where I couldn't deal with anything but what was happening with the baby and me.  I was glad to be in productive labor at last.

Then all hell broke loose.  It was transition.  My legs were convulsing, I was freezing to death and they told me not to push so I grunted like an out of control freight train trying to turn it's wheels backwards. At last, I was dilated, but had a lip on my cervix.  The midwife pushed it out of the way then it was time to push.  Then I couldn't do anything else but push.  I was laying on my back with the bed raised gripping onto my legs and curling up with each contraction.  Not a very effective way to push, but this is what I had seen in the books I had read and no one suggested any alternatives.

Right when the baby's head was almost crowning the pushing sensation stopped.  My eyes bugged out and my jaw dropped.  Something was wrong.  The baby's heart rate was dropping.  The didn't get me into a squat, but did make me walk into the delivery room.  The doctor decided to use a vacuum  extractor to get my baby out.  I was in despair and scared out of my mind.  Once everything was all set up I had a few contractions, but they were weak.  Then the doctor was ready to do his thing on the next contraction.  He said "don't stop pushing until we tell you to".  I pushed until it felt like my guts were going to burst out my vagina.  At last our baby came out.  He was blue at first, and there was some meconium so he was under some stress, but within 5 minutes his Apgar score was a 10.
He was 9lb 14oz.  A big baby who looked like he was already 2 months old instead of a newborn.

It's no wonder that the pre-labor I had took so long with such a big guy trying to move into position to be born.  Those extra 2 weeks since July 4th had plumped him up.  A beautiful baby with blond hair and baby blue eyes.  He could almost hold his head up when he was on his stomach and could hold it steady when sitting up with some support.  He nursed right away after the nurses quit making him scream.  I was so upset by his screaming I thought they were doing a circumcision on him.

We kept him with us in our room through the night.  When I was sleeping his Dad would hold him on his chest and make partridge noises at him through the night.  I woke to the two of them sleeping together.  It made me very happy after all that I had been through. After two days of thunderstorms the sky was clearing. It sounds like a happy ending but there was more to it than that.

I had been having nightmarish flashbacks of the labor and birth all night long.  The images crept into waking hours, reduced, but still haunting what I through should be a beautiful time with my newborn son.  The labor had been so long.  Hours and hours of it and all one big never ending blur.  I felt as through my body had been beaten into exhaustion.  The actual birth was a horrific intrusion.  I truly did not know that I was giving birth to my son by the time I was pushing.  I was doing what my body demanded of me.  Had I been at other local hospitals I would have ended up with a C-Section, which I was glad to have avoided.  Was this unmatched nightmarish feeling any better? 

In retrospect I know that the nightmarish feeling became PSTD.  My love for my newborn held me through enough to care for him and make some connection, but I was not all the way there.  The PTSD subsided and later became Postpartum Depression.  It lasted for about a year after the birth.  Thank goodness for breastfeeding and the oxytocin lift it gave me through out each day.  It carried me through, that, and long walks and hikes and trips to the lake out in nature with my son in my sling.  He knew how to keep me going.

My son was a very serious baby.  He did not smile for a long time and later had great anxiety about leaving me and being with other people.  Finally we got through it though.  We took things slow.  My reward finally came when one day he was jumping in the johnny-jump-up and I pulled off a sock, sniffed it and threw it behind my shoulder while saying "PHHHHEEEWWWWwwww!!!!!!"  He laughed and laughed.  We both did and we still are.

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