Sunday, September 10, 2006

otto walter's birth story

getting acquainted

friday, august 25: went in for my 39th week checkup that afternoon to meet with the newest of the midwives, sarah. the nurse who weighed me and checked my blood pressure told me that my cervix would be checked and to undress from the waist down. i thought that was a little peculiar given the fact that this midwife didn’t usually see much merit in checking the cervix unless there were contractions going on. throughout the pregnancy, i’d alternated seeing each of the other three midwives at the practice, and for the last few appointments, i had met with sarah whom i liked a lot. of all the midwives, she seemed to embrace the midwifery method the most. toward the end of the pregnancy, her reassurance that everything i would experience during the birthing process would be normal, natural, and safe was like music to my ears.

sarah came in, and began the standard procedures always performed at the checkups. she looked at the paper drape quizzically and asked, “so you want me to check you?” i told her that the nurse told me that she was going to check me, so i just complied. “well, we’ll at least get a baseline measurement, i guess.” she pronounced me closed and long, and then said me that was totally normal. even though i knew that my cervix could dilate and efface in the blink of an eye, i was a little crestfallen. upon completing the appointment, we chatted for a little [a luxury i love about seeing a midwife] and i asked her when she would get hospital privileges; she told me that, after saturday, the OBs at the practice would no longer be covering midwives patients since she would be thrown in to the mix. sweet, i thought, since i’ve not progressed yet, i’ll surely get to have one of the midwives attend my birthing! a concern i’d had was getting to the l&d unit and having some unfamiliar face staring me into the crotch, insisting on keeping me strung up to wires and tubes and on my back. i left the office and headed to chipotle for black bean tacos with hot-sauce, my favorite post-appointment treat!

that evening on the couch, i was feeling some low aches. they were barely noticeable and i commented to casey that either the chipotle hot sauce was kicking in or something was going on. we shrugged it off and went to bed.

saturday, august 26: at 1:15am, i felt like someone snapped a rubberband in my uterus, and then felt a warm glug-glug-glug like a hot water bottle being emptied out. “oh my god, my water just broke!” i hissed to casey. he jumped so quickly out of the bed to get me a towel that he almost puked. fortunately, i’d been sleeping on a lunablanket [like a reusable flannel chux pad] for about a month so my mattress wasn’t deluged. we checked the fluid – clean and clear – and paged the midwife on call. the midwife that called me back, carol, asked me if any surges had started, which they hadn’t. she said if she didn’t hear from me first, she’d call me between 6:00 and 7:00a to see how i was doing. i hung up the phone, grabbed my ipod, and set my on-the-go playlist to play the “easy first stage” track back-to-back four times in a row. i was ready to begin.

almost immediately, my rushes began. ohhh…i thought, so this is what they were talking about. these ain’t no braxton-hicks! i concentrated on each word coming through my headphones, and breathed very deeply through them each. as they got stronger, i employed more and more methods i had learned through hypnobabies training as well as from the book, ina may's guide to childbirth. my exhales became low moans, almost like the “om” sounds one would use in meditation. slowly, i incorporated the peace cue as well to help me with directing anesthesia -- which i envisioned as someone’s very warm, soft, large hands caressing -- to my clenching abdomen. between surges, i would try to shut off and rest, seeing the words spoken on the script scroll through my brain like closed captioning. at one point, i was feeling pressure mounting in my back, so i tried a few belly lifts [learned from back labor no more!] and they subsided instantly, to my relief.

i’m not sure what time it was, but casey asked how i was doing, and i suggested he probably ought to start timing things here. like a track coach with narcolepsy, he snoozed in between my contractions, his thumb pushing the watch’s buttons as i inhaled before each wave. occasionally, he’d report, “that was about 50 seconds long and four minutes apart.” i was amazed – i could not believe everything was moving so quickly! it seemed so manageable. i was emboldened. i could do this!

shortly thereafter, i was too excited to just lay there. i had to cross all my ts and dot all my is. i got up and made sure my bag was packed and my nightgown and sleep bra [for wearing in the tub] were out. i’d run around, then stop and lean on something, either standing or on my knees, and say, “time me”. i’d hear the stopwatch beep and roll through the wave, remembering to smile to myself. fortunately, the black beans and hot sauce eventually did kick in [if you know what i mean] and, happily, my system was good and empty for the birth.

6:30a: casey got up and we decided we’d probably better shower. we scrubbed and then i’d stop to lean on the shower ledge, swiveling my hips in a figure-eight while he pressed on my lower back. i was two to three minutes apart at this point and each surge was over a minute long, but they only felt like they were about 15 seconds long. miraculous! the suggestion from the scripts that every fifteen minutes would seem like only five was totally kicking in. i was geeked. this was great!

7:30a: casey loaded up the car and i made it downstairs. carol, the midwife on-call, rang and i spoke to her between waves with my elbows resting on the seat of a kitchen chair. she would listen to me moan with each contraction and when i’d pick back up, she’d say, “great job. it sounds like you’re doing really well.” i asked, “when should we go to the hospital?” and she replied, “you’ll know. when you decide to leave, just call us and tell us you’re coming. we’ll be ready.” after hanging up, the waves became instantaneously more intense. i suppose i could liken the feeling to being on a rollercoaster and seeing the summit of the track ahead before a precipitous drop. i’d inhale big before really letting my lungs empty with a good, deep “aahhhh!” as i’d plummet to the bottom. i whispered, “it’s time,” and wobbled out to the car double-parked in the street.

8:00a: still hooked up to my trusty ipod, i laid on my side in the back seat while casey blasted us down lake shore drive toward the hospital. i was moaning loudly now and throwing in some “open” cues in there. casey was not deterred – we arrived at valet parking and, when asked if i wanted a wheelchair, i said, “yes, please.” i plunked down and then proceeded to gyrate my entire head and thoracic spine, loudly chanting my cues through the next waves. what a dichotomy, i remembered thinking, a writhing, moaning animal with impeccable manners. i didn’t care who heard me or saw me. i was getting down to business! sitting in the wheelchair felt good. as i was wheeled through the halls, i envisioned the bright lights i saw through my closed eyes overhead as the source of relaxation i’d heard described in so many scripts.
i arrived in triage and casey handled all nurses and orderlies that crossed our path, only occasionally rousing me from my state to answer a few questions. they checked me there and i was at nine centimeters. nine! no way! i beamed a huge grin during a trough at casey. “i can’t believe it,” i told him, “that’s so awesome.” as sarah had told me, an OB was on call. she introduced herself and said, “you got to nine all by yourself?! girl, you’re a trooper!” i knew i was gonna like her.

i found myself in our birthing suite and there seemed to be a lot of action. casey was a rockstar, delivering our tray of homemade sweets to the nurses’ station, distributing our birthing preferences, and putting up our door signs that let the nurses know we’re using hypnosis. i remember being asked if i still wanted the tub and i yelled, “yes!” at which the entire room went into high gear to get that area of the suite prepared. i remember the anesthesiologist introducing herself to casey and i thought, oh, no! go away! with the next contraction, exclaimed, “i gotta push!” the OB checked me and said, “you’re at ten! you’re complete! let’s go!” i yanked off my nightie, wearing a bra, and got down deep in the steamy water.

10:00a: the birthing tub was heavenly, at least between surges. casey lovingly administered propel and ice chips, even when i tried to push it away, which was good since i really needed to stay hydrated. the urge to push was so powerful, and i was still yelling through them, when the OB very politely suggested i harness that breath and put it behind each push instead of letting it escape. i tried it, working hard to relax my face, contract my torso, and let my uterus do its stuff. thank god i’m a dancer, i thought. this requires coordination! i remembered reading that the sound that would come out of me as my diaphragm got behind my pushes would sound like “aaaagh!” and boy, was that accurate. it was the weirdest, most beastly yet most necessary noise i’d ever produced. the room was quiet during each trough and casey would pet my head, peering down from the edge of the tub at me with a smile. i’d occasionally crack a joke and smile at him, but i was getting so tired my eyes were crossing. i was so hungry and thirsty, too.

10:50a: i was beginning to get the hang of this pushing thing. in no time, i was crowning! whoo-hoo! a little bit of the head would show, and then slip back in. then a little more would show, and i’d feel him slide back again. with each push, i’d stare at the big blue eyes of this cute little nurse as she’d softly urge me to “pussssshhhhh.” she let the p-word slip out, encouraging me to push through it, and casey was johnny-on-the-spot, firmly yet nicely insisting she not use that word. she never slipped again; she was back to the word “pressure.”

though it was frustrating to feel the baby’s head slide in and out, i hoped like mad it would help me to stretch. i didn’t want to tear and really didn’t want to be cut. the OB came back in [it was a busy day there in l&d] and together with casey and the nurse, she rooted me on. the OB was also helping me with each push by stretching me as well. i was so close. i was beat-down tired, but i was so close. they told me there was all this long, dark hair, waving in the water like seaweed. casey was laughing, his face dripping into the tub. i asked, “are you dripping with sweat?” he said, “no,” through tears, “i’m just a big sap.”

11:29a: my mind was beginning to race at this point. i thought of everything. i’d get empowered thinking of my mother who had had only pericervical injections with the three of us. then, i’d think wistfully of what looked like a really easy epidural birth i saw on tv. i’d also remember bits and pieces of so many phenomenal natural birthing stories i’d read. lastly, i thought of all the naysayers: those that insisted i’d never be able to have a baby without drugs. i saw their faces, and with that, i pushed the daylights out of myself three times. on the third push, i screamed – i felt some stinging – and out shot the entire baby. “look at your baby!” someone exclaimed. the feeling of coming face to face with the being you’ve carried inside your body for ten months is just so unique. he was placed on my belly and i was shocked! the cord was cut and he was passed off to casey so i could get out of the water. with help from the nurses, i walked the trail of towels to my bed. casey followed us, crying and laughing, holding our precious baby boy.

11:40a from the ceiling came the bright light to inspect the damage and i though, oh, brother -- here comes the stitches. the OB checked me, which reduced me to a squirming, squealing beast. that was really the only part i remember thinking, THAT HURTS, but when she said, “relax! it’s okay -- no stitches! you only have some skidmarks,” i was elated. i probably asked her three times to repeat that i hadn’t torn. “oh my god, i can’t believe it! so awesome! i didn’t tear!” i kept repeating. i asked if i could nurse him and he latched right on. amazing! casey and i sat on the bed, subsisting on pure adrenaline and white-hot love for this mewing, wrinkled creature in our arms.

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