Friday, October 10, 2014

{Hartlie Anne} A Birth Story

Writing about a birth is a heavy thing. Mainly because it takes me so long to process through everything that encompasses bringing a tiny, brand new human into the world. There's so much to think through, so many emotions to categorize, a lot of physical pain from which to heal, a new household and familial routine to implement, and the inevitable writer's block that sleep deprivation induces.

It only took me eleven months to write about my experience birthing Maylin, and by that time Hartlie was almost here herself. One thing I'm learning in mothering this second child is that I'm able to emotionally recover sooner, better.  I was barely {okay, hardly at all, let's be real} over Maylin's birth when we discovered we were pregnant with Hartlie, and I'm afraid to admit it took me more than a few weeks to accept the new life growing inside me. It was difficult to cope with that reality.

Now, though, only four months after delivering Hartlie, I was able to not just start, but finish writing about her birth. This is huge progress, people! Writing in itself has always been therapuetic to me, so part of working through my emotions and memories requires this written rendering of our story.

I issued a disclaimer before jumping into Maylin's birth story, and I'll warn you again. Stories about childbirth tend to be pretty graphic, so if you're not into that sort of thing or are easily grossed out, just click away. No hurt feelings here.

Hartlie's due date was Monday, June 2, and after six weeks of walking an hour a day {sometimes twice, my neighbor called me out on doing "two a days"} at 1 cm dilated and no signs of baby, we chose to induce on Tuesday, June 3. The whole pregnancy I was convinced {due to some descrepancy with Hartlie's due date which is a very long and boring story} that Hartlie would be born early. By at least a week. I had consistent Braxton Hicks contractions from 20 weeks along, and by 36 weeks I had dilated 1 cm. "Hartlie is soooo coming early. A May-Baby. How sweet!" Nope, nope, and no. When I went to my appointment on my due date and I was still only at 1 cm, we decided, with the support of my doctor whom we trust and respect explicitly, to induce the following day. 

We arrived at the hospital at daybreak to get settled in a room and prepped for labor. I actually don't mind this part because it is somewhat soothing to watch the nurses prepare the room and set up the monitors. They have a calm efficiency that sort of pervades the atmosphere and puts me at ease. Like even though I'm an anxious ball of nerves whose heart is fluttering wildly and have no idea what I'm doing even though this is my second birth, at least the nurses do. They do. They know everything and are never nervous or unsure ever and you can not convince me otherwise or else I'll never have another child again. Because birth is scary. Even in today's modern world with our conveniences and medical advcances, childbirth is scary. Beautiful and exhilarating and empowering and one of the best experiences in human existence, but still scary. Also, I'm thankful to have birthed my children in America. I don't know how mothers in third world countries do it. I just don't. Anyway...

Our most beloved and favorite {I can have a favorite, right?} nurse from Maylin's birth with whom we've kept in touch over the past year no longer works in labor and delivery. BUT{!} since she has a bit of freedom with her new position and since her father-in-law is our doctor, she was able to be our nurse for Hartlie's delivery. Another positive for deciding to induce- she was able to plan to be there. When you spend hours with a person who is intimately involved in one of your most life-changing experiences, a bond is formed that's difficult to explain. I can't say enough how much we adore and trust her, and we are so thankful she was able to attend Hartlie's birth.

At 8:15 AM, after prepping everything and putting monitors in place, our nurse checked me. I was at 2 cm. Apparently I'd dilated another centimeter overnight. I was very encouraged by this because that meant my body had already arrived a little early to the party that was delivery day. Better early than late or never in this case. All systems were a go and I was relieved that my body "remembered" how to go into labor. {That my body might forget to go into labor has always been an irrational pregnancy fear of mine.} Our nurse went ahead and started the Pitocin drip, and Michael and I sat back to respond to texts and idly watch the contractions on the computer screen. Or so I thought. But oh, not such the case this time.  I started feeling contractions much sooner and much stronger than I did with Maylin. Which was good! I was glad my body was responding so readily and so well. I soon put my phone away and sat thoughtfully and prayed and "listened" to my body.

At 9:00 AM, my doctor came in to check on my progress and to break my water, which may be one of my least favorite parts of childbirth, and that's even including the contractions. It's just real uncomfortable, and I'll leave it at that. My contractions continued to strengthen and after about another 45 minutes I was having to concentrate and breathe through them, no longer able to participate in conversation with Michael or my nurse during a contraction.

At 10:30 AM, the contractions were painful, not just pinches of pain, but waves of rolling pain that I couldn't silently endure. They were regular and fast with not much recouperating time in between. My nurse checked me. I was at 4 cm and decided to order the epidural.

From this point, things are a little hazy to me due to concentrating so much on riding out each contraction. I know the contractions hurt. I know they were fast. I know that an entire bag of fluid was required to drip into me before I could get the epidural. I know Michael held my hand and was encouraging. That's about it. It was during this time that my nurse decided to turn off the Pitocin drip until after the epidural was administered to give my body a little break. My body had other plans...

Surprisingly, my labor didn't stop, or even slow down. It's like the Pitocin was the kickstart that my body needed to get labor started, and it completely took over from there. The Pitocin stayed off for good for the rest of my labor and delivery. Therefore, I didn't get that little "break" before the epidural was given. Unfortunately.

At 11:15 the anethesiologist arrived to give me the epidural. Mentally, I knew I only had to ride out the pain of contractions until the epidural, so I kept eyeing that fluid bag and doled out my measure of strength until I saw that man in the green scrubs wheel his little cart in my room. Relief would soon be mine, I was sure of it. Yet again, surprise, surprise.

The anesthesiologist explained the procedure while my nurse sat me up on the edge of the bed to get in position for him to insert the needle into my back. I barely remember any of this because the contractions were so forceful, and sitting up to lean over the side of the bed made them stronger. Much stronger. The epidural has to be administered during the peak of a contraction. I remembered from Maylin's birth that the pain of getting the epidural was inconsequential because it was dwarfed by the contraction, so I expected that to be the case this time, too. However, I knew the moment he stuck the needle in my spine, and I knew immediately that something was wrong. My right leg gave a violent, involuntary kick, like it had been hit by that little hammer on the kneecap, and a shocking jolt went through the right side of my body, almost electrifying. I must've cried out or said something, or maybe our nurse did, because the needle was pulled out leaving only the sensation of a contraction. The anesthesiologist apologized, said something about "missing the spot" and being a little "too far to the right." {Ya think??} He would have to start the whole procedure over. We had to wait until the next contraction, and this time, thank goodness, there wasn't an issue. I was told to lie back flat so the epidural could work its way to the lower half of my body, which would take several minutes.

As soon as I lay back, I felt tremendous pressure, like the biggest contraction I'd had yet, and it didn't go away. I breathlessly told my nurse that I didn't think the epidural was working, I could feel so much pressure. "You mean, you feel like you have to push?" she asked. "I don't know!" I almost yelled at her. I realize this is my second time to give birth, but I still felt pretty clueless. She quickly decided to check me, and I could tell by the sensation and the look on her face that, yes, it was indeed time to push. She looked at me and said quite calmly {to her credit}, "You're complete. Time to push. We're about to have a baby." 

It was 11:40. I'd dilated 6 centimeters in the space of an hour. With no pitocin. While getting an epidural.

At this point, to say I freaked out would be putting it mildly. Panic is more the correct term. Mentally, I absolutely was not prepared to be at the delivery stage of labor so soon. I had expected at least another couple of hours after the epidural was given, especially since usually labor is slowed by an epidural. I expected a couple hours of slight sensation from contractions while catching my breath. I expected to be energized and perky with renewed vigor. And nope. That wasn't happening at this point.

It was time to push, and the epidural hadn't kicked in yet. In addition, my nurse explained very calmly during the waves of pain, it was highly unlikely that the epidural would have time to work before delivery, especially due to the fact I'd be sitting upright in pushing position instead of lying flat, which is needed for the epidural to spread to the lower half of the body. I immediately wanted to cry, not from excitement that we were about to meet our baby {like I did with Maylin}, or even from the pain, but because I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to get through the pain to push the baby out. "I'm not sure I can do this! This hurts so bad!" was all I could say over and over. 

Y'all. It hurt. I can't reitterate that enough. I've read numerous accounts from women claiming childbirth for them was "a spiritural experience," with dark rooms and soft music and lots of meditation and suddenly they have a baby and they're not even sure if the contractions were painful because they were "in the zone." Ha, ha, ha, ha, HA! So NOT the case! I'm lucky my nurse and Michael were there to calm me down because literally I was in way over my head with the whole pain management and breathing thing. I had carefully mentally measured out my strength until the epidural came, and when it didn't have time to work, it's like I'd used all the strength I'd mentally prepared to use. I didn't think I had anymore. Cue wide-eyed, breathless panic.

Meanwhile, while I was panicking, the room was transforming from a calm, quiet, labor room into a fully functional delivery room, complete with scurrying nurses, beaming spotlights, tables of instruments, and a nursery nurse standing in the corner with her little cart waiting to bathe and weigh the baby. My doctor was paged. My legs were put into stirrups. My bed was raised. Pain or not, it was go-time.

My nurse was right in my face the whole time, breathing with me through each contraction, helping me get into a rhythm. After a few contractions the pain was manageable, but I was still doubtful I could push through it. My nurse ordered a bolster {I think I'm remembering that word correctly}, basically a local numbing anesthetic administered to a specific area, which would work quickly to numb the, ahem, "lady parts" in preparation for pushing. I've found that it helps me during delivery to see my progress, so I had a mirror brought into the room. And just like that, in a matter of minutes, my nurse was counting 10, 9, 8, 7.... and I was bearing down with all my leftover strength, pushing through the contraction, breathing out long and steadily, gripping the bars on the bed, and locking eyes with my man for extra support. I remember when I birthed Maylin my doctor's calm, low voice telling me to pushpushpushpushpush. He didn't have to say a word with Hartlie. She was coming whether I was pushing or not.

It's not every day you get to see something come from nothing, watch an empty void be filled with living, breathing, screaming life. A life that started as a whispered "what if..." between my man and me, that was created by the both of us and grew inside my body.  It's not every day you witness the fulfillment of a long awaited dream, the embodiment of an idea, a hope that was talked about, planned for, prayed over become a reality. I watched the crown of Hartlie's head appear, and nothing in all the world was so precious, so right, so perfect. Then, due to strength that barely registered in my mind, she was in the arms of my doctor, a dream become reality, a thought turned human.

When Hartlie came out, it's as if my entire world telescoped to that tiny baby girl. I heard nothing but the sound of her. I saw nothing but the color of her. Silent, wide-eyed, and purple. And a rock hit my stomach.

A million questions at once, "Is she okay?" 
"What's wrong with her?" 
"Why isn't she crying?" 
"Is she okay?" 
"Is she breathing?" 
"Why is she purple?" 
"Is she okay?

My doctor, so fast I barely registered what he was doing, suctioned mucus from her mouth and nose, rubbed her tiny back.

And then she cried.
And then I cried.
And then I held her, slick with fluid and blood, warm and writhing and wailing, right up against my chest as if I'd never let her go.
12:03 PM, June 3, 2014, my heart expanded to twice its size, letting in another soul to be knit to mine. Another, "Oh, hello, it's you; I've been waiting" moment of meeting.

Reluctantly, I gave her over to the nurse to have her Apgar score checked, not taking my eyes off her for a second, relishing in the sound of her teeny newborn cries. 6 pounds, 15 ounces, 19 1/2 inches, and badly bruised due to such a quick descent through the birth canal, bruising made worse due to traveling most of the birth canal while I was sitting up, leaning forward to get the epidural. Which was kicking in nicely now that the delivery was over. Fancy that.

And suddenly, where once were three, there are now four. Another life is wrapped up so tightly in mine that I can't tell where one ends and the other begins. It's as if I've flecked off portions of my heart, segments of my soul, watched as they've been given breath and form, and set them loose to flutter around outside my body, where they will at times be oblivious to me, but I never oblivious to them.

"Children are a gift of The Lord..." Psalm 127:3 
I couldn't be more convinced.

1 comment:

  1. Love this. You documented Hartlie's birth so well -- she'll be so pleased to read this one day.