Saturday, September 10, 2011

C's Birth Story

The first several weeks postpartum are completely overwhelming. Duh. And yet, I sort of forgot they would be. So sorry for the lack of posting. I keep meaning to, I keep wanting to, but life keeps getting in the way. Which I've realized is totally OK. There is a lot about the last week that I do want to write about, but I'm 10 days out from giving birth to C and I'm already forgetting details, so I'll go back to hospital visits 3 and 4 and delivery for today.

Shortly after midnight on the early morning of August 31st I felt a gush of water that woke me up. I waddled to the bathroom and felt a bunch more come out in the toilet. Then I peed. Then I woke Z and my mom and we got going to the hospital. Since it was my second visit in a 24 hour period they put me in triage. I explained what happened to the nurse and she got the resident to do the test for amniotic fluid. No dice. They waited two hours to redo the test and to see if I progressed from 4cm dilated, all the while my contractions strengthening. Again no dice. I asked what they thought happened. They said there could have been a second amniotic sack (they did an ultrasound and my fluid levels looked good) or I could have peed myself (I really didn't think so. I'd peed right after, they were two completely different sensations. But I was still only 4cm dilated, they'd talked to Doc A and he said to send me home.

At this point I was so frustrated I didn't know what to do. My contractions were really strengthening and getting longer, and I knew I shouldn't go home, but I was so confused and upset and exhausted I didn't communicate that to anyone. My mom came and got us at around 4am. When she pulled up I was having a contraction that was so strong I couldn't move to get into the car. Back at home Z took a snooze and mom timed contractions. After an hour I couldn't bear it anymore and we roused Z and went back to the hospital. The receptionist clearly thought I was a nut ball, but the same nurse was there and she said she thought she might see us again before the end of her shift. Even though we were back in triage I told her I wanted an epidural as soon as possible. I was scared it would be too late because I knew I was progressing fast.

You need to have tests and be hooked up to machines for a while before the epidural can happen. The resident came back and found I was more than 5cm, so I was admitted. Shortly after that Doc A showed up. He said I could get out of bed and move a bit to work through the contractions, even though they want a bunch of fetal monitoring before they do the epidural. It really helped to sway and hang on to Z and moan and grunt through the pain. By then the contractions were so severe that when one would happen I'd be rooted to the ground, the pain was so profound I remember thinking I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't get an epidural. I had no idea how I'd push because the contractions paralyzed me completely. Doc A checked me out, and sure enough I was already at 7cm. Thankfully the anesthesiologist was waiting. Z was fascinated by all his glass vials and needles and the two of them hit it off discussing the intricacies of the procedure. Even through the blinding pain I was amused and a little proud that Z has such an incredible thirst for knowledge. So Z watched his new buddy insert the needle in my back with great interest while the student nurse in the room suddenly rushed out. Turns out she got lightheaded.

Within one contraction I realized I had no idea what an epidural really was before. The one I got with T helped for a few hours, but when it was time to push the pain was bewildering. I had no idea what to do or how to push past it. This time I was as jittery as hell, and my left leg was extremely numb. It's not a group of sensations I'd ever seek out recreationally, but sweet jesus, it was a million times better than the contractions. After about 5 more I could sort of feel when I was having them, but the contractions were a very far off sensation, and not at all unpleasant. At the next check I was 9cm dilated. I continued to drift. Not loving the jitters. Not loving the numbness. And I did want it all to be over. But I was so grateful to be out of the pain. I started to feel some pressure, again it wasn't unbearably painful. I just knew it was time to push. Doc A confirmed my suspicions.

There was a flurry of activity. The room was filled with my nurse, the student nurse, the nurse who was teaching the student, a med student, my doc, and the Chief Resident who'd been my doc on the first two visits to the hospital, and of course Z. They gathered around in a semicircle and the doc told me to start pushing like I had to poop. So I did. Even though I thought I'd have no idea how to do it, I somehow did. I had wanted to grab Charlie's shoulders and pull him on to my stomach the same way I did with T, but there wasn't enough time. It was all over in 5 pushes. On push 3 my water broke, on push 4 his head was out, and on push 5 his shoulders slipped out right along with the rest of him.

He was set on my belly and as soon as Z saw his face he said, "Another Cordano baby!" I didn't get a good look at the face until a while later, I still can't get over how much he looks like T. Delivering the placenta was easy as pie. In fact, I pushed so hard that it shot out and Doc A said, "Hey! Slow down or I'm gonna drop this thing!" And Z did get to use his great grandfather's snips to cut the umbilical cord. As I lay there holding my baby and feeling so completely happy with everything in the universe I heard Doc A mumbling to the Resident. Turns out I tore along the scar tissue from T's birth. From what I could make out it was clear he thought the original repairs were not well done. As Z and I cooed over our New Guy I half listened as Doc A explained to the Resident how to fix me up right. It was Greek to me, him telling her that it would look fine if he just went through the blah blah tissue, but tearing would happen again unless he went deeper into the blah blah blah tissue. It was so cool to hear him teaching, and I felt like I was in such good hands. I was also 100% happy with my epidural decision. I wouldn't have wanted to go through the stitches without one.

When the stitches were done I asked Doc A if all the placenta was really there. I didn't get to see it with T, and I was shocked at how small it was when he held it up. For some reason I thought it'd be as big as the baby. I guess it's held such ominous significance in my life it really has seemed larger than life. He said it was all there and then he explained to everyone why that was so. It was something about the veins crisscrossing the entire thing. All the people in the room (save me and Charlie) had gathered around him to check it out, even Z. The camaraderie in the room among the medical staff was amazing. It was just so fucking positive and awesome to see people learning. I felt relaxed and grateful and I was thrilled Doc A was using my placenta to teach new medical professionals. It was the least I could do after having a birth where I felt supported and encouraged and comfortable with my care.

 Ellie Leonardsmith and her lovely wife/photo assistant were in town yesterday and they did a newborn shoot with C. Naturally, all photos by her.

And here is the photographer herself. Photo by Kelsey, the lovely wife/photo assistant. Thanks to both of you wonderful ladies!


  1. Wow, Karen! Congratulations! Beautiful boy, beautiful story. I love the new photo at the top of your blog! As a student on my OB rotation, it's really, really fabulous to hear that the presence of students and teaching at your birth was a positive, community-nurturing thing.

  2. Congrats again. Isn't it amazing how quick the pushing goes the second time around. Great pics Ellie and Kelsey.

  3. I LOVE your new picture :) C and T are precious! I'm glad the birth was - overall - a good experience. As you were posting updates on fb, I thought it sounded like you were experiencing the kind of labor I dreamed about! I'm glad the epidural was in time and was helpful.

  4. Toldja it would be HELLA easier! (And yay for you knowing that the epidural was EXACTLY what you needed. You have become an amazing advocate of yourself, beauty.) xo