Baby Bug’s Birth Story
The Director’s Very Very Long Uncut Version (for a short version click here)
Viewer Discretion Advised
I’m horrible with numbers. I can’t remember them for some reason. Everyone asks me how many hours I was in labor and I honestly don’t know. I’ll have to ask my sister-in-law to calculate it for me. Because I am mentally handicapped in this way, I will just relay what I remember of the happiest and scariest day of my entire life.
For days I’d been having issues with going to the bathroom. I’d feel like I had to go but then couldn’t. It was as if the baby’s head was resting on my bladder and cutting off the tube that lets you go. It was maddening. Especially since the bathroom is right next to Toby’s office and I must have been in and out of that door every other minute. Sometimes I didn’t even flush. Why bother? I’d be back in two minutes, why not save water? Every time I’d walk by Toby’s door, he would look up at me like I must be losing my mind. And I thought I was. I even called family members to ask them if this could be a symptom that something was going to happen. Nobody knew. It could be… it could just be another side effect of being pregnant. All I could do was wait and see. Something I’d been hearing for weeks.
I tried to focus on other things. It was about two in the afternoon and I was sitting at my computer (which was about 80% of my day when I wasn’t asleep or sitting on the toilet) typing an email when I felt a distinctive pop feeling inside and then some wetness. That was weird, I thought. I quickly clicked over to babycenter.com to see if there was a way to tell if your water had broken or if you were just having trouble holding it. They said the best way to check was to tighten your muscles as if you were stopping urine and push and if fluid came out then most likely your membranes were broken and labor was just around the corner.
I tightened. Nothing happened. So I sat there and continued typing my email. Then gush, two table spoons of liquid came out. Boy, I thought, I’m really having trouble holding it these days. I went to the bathroom for the forty-second time that day, changed my pad and told Toby that things were really getting weird. I told him I wanted to call my doctor but that it was probably just a false alarm. Okay, he said and went back to work.
I called my doctor and as soon as I said “two tablespoons” she told me I better get to the hospital to get checked out. I was surprised. I really didn’t think it was happening. It didn’t feel like anything. There wasn’t any pain and I wasn’t gushing water like in the movies. I told Toby the news and we went through the motions of getting ready to go. We just kept looking at each other with wide confused eyes. Could this be it? Naaaaah…. it’s just a false alarm. I even told Toby he could go ahead and take a shower. I was sure I would get turned away at the hospital and be told to wait for contractions. I wasn’t looking forward to that. What was the hurry if we’re just going to get turned away anyway?
While he showered, I packed. It’s a good thing I typed up a list of things to grab and add to the already packed bag for the hospital because I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was supposed to be doing. I had typed the list for Toby in case I wasn’t able to do it myself, but the list proved to be a life saver for me because my mind was completely blank. I just kept thinking over and over, this could be IT! Or it could be nothing. I felt very confused. Back and forth I argued with myself inside my head.
I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around a trash bag, like my sister-in-law had instructed, for the seat of the car so I wouldn’t ruin the upholstery if any gushing was going to go on later. And then I sat and waited for Toby to get out of the shower. That was when I wrote this post.
Finally, all clean, shaven and dressed in a new button-down shirt, Toby was ready to go. We grabbed our extra pillows, my over-sized duffle bag, my laptop bag, my purse, our many cameras and headed for the van. I didn’t end up needing a thing that I packed in my bag. Why I packed so much, I do not know.
The drive to the hospital was uneventful. It wasn’t the crazy traffic-y nightmare I imagined it would be. We cruised down PCH, past Starbucks, past back bay… chatting as if it was any other day. But inside I was leaping and jumping for joy. It was getting more and more real every minute.
Since we weren’t in any crazy hurry, we decided not to valet park like they told us to in our birth training classes. Toby wanted to leave his camera gear in the van and he’s never been crazy about valet people driving his car with all his gear in the back. So we drove around the winding parking structure and finally found a spot near the top floor. We pushed the elevator button and waited. It seemed like forever. I eyeballed the stairs and Toby and I had the same thought. We took the stairs instead. Let those other people wait for the elevator, we’ve got bigger better things to do with our time. So down the stairs we went, as fast as a fat pregnant lady can go who’s beginning to feel drops of moisture land on her feet. Is it raining? I asked Toby. Nope. It was me. Now it was really real. Something was indeed going on down there.
We wandered into the lobby. I didn’t even know where to go first but thankfully my gigantic belly, our bags and two pillows gave us away and some one instructed us to go to the fifth floor. I guess we were that obvious. We rode the elevator up to the fifth floor feeling ecstatic. This was really it! I was so excited.
Checking in to the “Maternal Child Services Admitting Desk” was very anti-climatic. There was nobody else in sight. Everything was very calm. The new building is decorated in soft earth tones. It’s quiet, clean and the lights are not harsh. It almost feels like you are checking into spa or a very clean airport. After making a copy of my insurance card, the woman at the front desk calmly lead us to “our room”. She instructed me to get undressed and get up on the bed. The first thing I thought was, “Wow! Look at the view!” Our window from our room looked straight over the Newport Beach peninsula and then out onto the ocean. In the foreground were boats floating in the harbor. You couldn’t get a better view anywhere else in town. I even thought Toby ought to take some stock photo shots for his inventory.
I got undressed and assumed the position on my big bed. A really young chatty nurse came in and asked me a million questions. I filled out some paper work and then she tried to find a vein in my hand to insert my IV. Of course I have invisible paper thin veins so she had to jab me several times. Then she had to call in two other nurses because she was rapidly using up all my available veins and not making any progress. The nurses fussed over my hands and wrists for quite a while. It hurt a little bit but I knew this was nothing compared to what I had ahead of me. I would have been mad about all the jabbing but the nurses were so friendly I couldn’t hate them.
Finally, a vein was struck and I was hooked up to fluid and pitocen to get my contractions started. Apparently when your water breaks they have to speed things up with pitocen or oxytocin (I can’t remember the difference) because there is danger to the baby if she hangs out in there too long without enough amniotic fluid.
So we sat and waited. Nothing was really going on. I even got my laptop out and made my first slideshow of pictures. My mom and sister-in-law arrived and we began the great process of waiting. This went on for hours.
And then the pain began. At first it was just a little crampy like the beginning of your period. In fact ,a lot of contractions showed up on the monitor that I didn’t even feel. This gave me hope that maybe I wasn’t such a wus after all. Maybe I do have a high pain tolerance. Then the contractions started to get a little harder. Kind of like those cramps you get when you have to bend for a minute because your back is hurting. So I bent and sighed my way though those. THEN the real ones kicked in. These contractions felt like someone was kicking a bruise. Except they were kicking it over and over and then they started chewing on it. Chewing on a bruise is the best way I can describe that pain. But it got worse. Then it moved up to dental surgery levels. Like how you feel when the dentist is jabbing at your teeth and even though they’ve given you fifty-seven shots of Novocain, you can still feel every little thing. And what’s worse is that you don’t know when it’s going to stop. If it would just stop now, you’d be okay but it doesn’t stop. It just keeps going and going and going. And then going some more until you start to leak tears out the side of your eyes and you can’t concentrate any more.
This must have gone on for four hours. I don’t remember. It seemed like forever. The spaces in between the pain got shorter and shorter and the only thing I can really remember is my sister-in-law massaging my lower back and me leaning on Toby’s shoulder. If I didn’t have Toby’s shoulder I think I would have died. He has a spot on his shoulder that I go to and escape it all. It’s special for me.
About this time I’d finally dilated to three centimeters and they decided to give me an epidural. I wanted to wait it out but the pain was just too much. The anesthesiologist was called and they prepped me for the big shot. I rolled on my back and let them do whatever they wanted. I didn’t get a good look at the guy, since I was facing away from him but his voice sounded very sure of himself. As he talked me through each step, I was amazed at how accurately he prepared me for every little sensation. He knew exactly what he was doing and this calmed me. I felt a prick, then a slow oozing ache and then my leg jumped exactly like he said it would.
Probably 10-20 minutes later I began to feel the effects of the epidural. The only way I can describe it is really the “absence of pain”. It’s not like I liked the feeling of being numb. My body felt like it was a balloon being blown up with water. It was as if my entire epidermis was distending two inches and I couldn’t feel it any more. I hate feeling numb. I’ve always feared this part of the birthing process the most. But the absence of pain was pure heaven. It was like I was given permission to sleep and rest after swimming an entire ocean’s length of unbearable pain.
I want to say I closed my eyes with relief but I think they had been closed ever since the dental surgery level contractions had kicked in. I wasn’t very aware of my surroundings. I don’t know who came and went. I don’t know whether the cellulite on my legs was on view for the whole world. I didn’t care about anything. Any sense of modestly had long left the room. I wouldn’t even care who looked at me at this moment. I was in another place.
And then I slept. I slept the whole night. I felt so bad for my relatives. While I was blissed out on drugs, Toby was awake in the chair next to me. Every time I opened my eyes he was there, looking at me. I felt so safe. I felt bad for my sister-in-law. There was only one bed and I had told my mom to take it so she could sleep with her breathing machine. My sister-in-law had fallen asleep at the table, her head resting in her arms and my mom’s rain coat draped over her back because it was so cold in the air conditioned room. This lasted for hours.
Finally when morning came the nurse checked me and I was already dilated to 7 centimeters. I think I had dilated to 7 a long time before that but I have a feeling the nurse was holding out as long as possible to give my doctor a chance to get a night’s sleep. I don’t mean to be critical but I got the feeling they did favors like that for each other. It just seemed too weird that she didn’t check my progress all night long and then magically at 7am I was right where I needed to be. And then two hours after that I was “complete”. I thought they checked you every hour and the progress was slow. I’m not really complaining, it was nice to get a night’s sleep in. Who knows, I needed it.
They pumped up my pitocen dosage and I began pushing. We did two hours of pushing and breathing and counting. I like to think I’m a very good pusher. I gave it all I had. I grunted and grimaced and made the veins on the side of my neck pop out. I couldn’t feel anything below my ribs but I pushed so hard I was sure something was going on.
But then it was time for the nurses to change shifts so they told me to stop pushing. Again, I felt like my whole birthing process was being manipulated around the schedule of the hospital staff but I don’t mean to complain. The nurses really did take care of me. It just seemed weird. While we waited for my new nurse to come on duty the epidural wore off. This is when I wish I could cuss on this blog, it was blankety blankety blank blank blank awful. It was just stupid awful. All that bliss and then the pain again? I was not happy.
Thankfully the nurses don’t really like to see you in pain so they called in the new anesthesiologist on duty and he gave me another dose. Such a relief that was. I was starting to feel really wore out and tired. I had no patience for more pain.
Finally my doctor arrived and things really started happening. The scene was assessed and there were problems. The baby’s head was cock-eyed in my birth canal and she appeared to be hung up on her ear. There also was meconium (when the baby poops in her amniotic sack because of distress) and they didn’t know how old it was. The baby had to come out NOW. She was in danger.
My doctor looked at me and told me I had a choice. I could either push like I’ve never pushed before or I could have a cesarian. I really didn’t want a cesarian. Not after all that work and pain did I want to have major surgery too. So I pushed like there was no tomorrow and I guess it did the trick because after two breathing and pushing sessions and a suction cup on my baby’s head, out she came and in the process so did a third degree tear in my perineum. I like to say “I busted her out”. Something I would regret later for days when sitting on stitches.
There is one little thing I could gloss over because from my point of view I knew nothing but Toby later told me it freaked him out quite a bit. When they couldn’t get her out, they used a “keewee suction cup” vacuum to get her out. Toby said they suctioned her so hard it looked like she had two heads. One her real head and the other this bubble of suctioned skin on the back of her head. I later saw pictures and it did look very scary, indeed.
I couldn’t really see very well what was going on but I remember being surprised at how bloody everything was. I could hear my baby crying and it brought tears to my eyes. I only got to see her for a second and the first thought I had was, “Why do her eyes look like she’s Asian?” Toby always kids me about my ex-boyfriend who is Asian and now I was worried that he’d think the baby wasn’t his. It’s really silly that this was the first thought I had but it was, even though there is no chance in hell that this baby was anybody else’s but Toby’s. She seemed really big and strong and I was so relieved to hear her cry. Everybody rushed over to her to make sure she was breathing and getting the care she needed.
My doctor attended to the mess that was me. I remember thinking how expertly she handled the needles and fish hooks that she was sewing me up with. Her gloves were covered in blood. It was strange to see her in this capacity since before all of our appointments had been so minimal in contact. She doesn’t talk much. I’d never seen her in her element which apparently is sewing people back up. She smiled at me and told me I’d have a flat tummy before long. All I cared about was my baby though. I watched as they cleaned her and did their various tests on her. She had the best cry ever. I just remember being overwhelmed that she was alive and thriving. I think I was crying and shaking and just feeling like I was in a dream.
They finally brought her to me and I felt a strange combination of knowing that this little wriggling body had always been a part of me and yet she was a complete stranger to me too. How could this dream be coming true when I’d thought for so long it wouldn’t? I just cried and cried and cried. It was unreal. Toby cried too and I’ve only ever seen him cry once before. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
When that was over, and they’d shifted my gigantic numb whale of a body into a wheel chair, I was whisked off to the seventh floor for recovery. Phew. What a strange ride that was. I can’t even remember if I was holding my baby or not. I don’t remember anything. I just remember the amber color of the lighting and the linoleum floor and the quietness of the hospital. I just remember a feeling of well being and that everything was going to be okay now. I was in daze.
They set me up in my room and gave me some more pain medication. I got to hold my baby. She was so sleepy and peaceful all wrapped up tightly in her white with a blue and pink striped hospital swaddling blanket. Her little head still cone shaped was covered in a hat made out of cast material with a pink and blue yarn pom pom on top.
I don’t remember much of what happened next. My mom and sister-in-law went home. We had the hospital’s version of a “celebration dinner”, which was actually a pretty good version of a real celebration dinner, just cooked an hour too long. Toby and I toasted each other with sparkling cider and the sun went down. I assured Toby I would be okay on my own and he went home for a night of sleep since he is the only one who’d stayed up the entire night before. He told me later that he just went home and crashed with his clothes on.
The next day was a barrage of nurses and and vitals being taken. I learned how to ask for an ice pack and describe my pain in levels between 1 and 10. I got to be like Winona Ryder and take perkoset. That stuff really works. When it wore off, I was not happy. I began the whole frustrating process of not being able to nurse and pretty much felt horribly crappy. At the same time I was on top of the world because I was completely and unquestionably in love with my daughter.
I had really worried that I would feel distant from her and that I might suffer like Brooke Shields with immediate post partum blues. But none of my fears came true and I could stare at her for hours. I really like it that my hospital has a “rooming in” policy so mothers can bond with their babies. It worked. I’ve felt bonded since the minute I saw her.
I ate a lot of hospital food with one hand, dribbling and spilling things all over my hospital gown and the baby. I was starving all the time. Toby came back and hung out with us the rest of the day and that was pretty much it for day two.
Day three was a whole other story. This is when I began to feel a little bit neglected. The care at the hospital is wonderful and you really do feel like you are at the Ritz Carlton but when you are showing signs of full recovery, they move on to the other mothers who need their care more. This is totally acceptable but I felt confused and worried by it. I had no idea what was going to happen next. My stitches were hurting all the time and nobody was offering me any pain medication or checking on me like they had before. In fact they were all talking about getting me discharged as soon as possible.
This was really starting to stress me out because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure out the nursing-thing and my baby hadn’t eaten for days! She was starving and getting dehydrated. There were yellow-orange crystals in her diaper–not a good sign. Finally, a nurse talked me into giving her some formula even though I was desperate to breast feed 100%. All the horror stories the lactation clinic nurses had told me about formula were haunting me. I felt like I was being forced to make a life changing decision. Formula and feed the baby what she needed badly or hold out just a little longer and nurse her back to health the way I’d always planned. It was nerve wracking. We finally gave in and little Baby Bug gulped down the formula like a pro.
What I didn’t know is that all that desperate nursing that I was doing that I thought was in vain… that was making me cry all the time… it actually was working. I didn’t realize that this was all part of the process. The nurses tell you to try and breast feed on each side for fifteen minutes and they know you can’t. You’ll be lucky if you get in five sucks. I thought I was failing but in reality this exercise was getting her the collostrum she needed (but I couldn’t see) and bringing my milk in. I just didn’t know it.
I did learn that the more I stressed out, the worse Baby Bug took to my breast. I learned that breathing in and out slowly helped. Some of the nurses were more helpful than others. Sometimes things worked, sometimes they didn’t. I wish I could go back to my terrified self and tell myself that I was doing okay, that everything was going to be okay. But at the time, I felt like a complete failure. They said my milk would come in by the third day and it didn’t. And it didn’t on the fourth either. I was scared to go home.
But I had to. Even though the the new hospital building is super duper fancy and new, it doesn’t have any more beds in it than the old hospital building. So even though there’s lots of space, there are not enough beds for all the new mothers. That means they need to get you in and out as soon as possible and you will be leaving the comfort of the hospital much much sooner than you are ready. Pack your bags and get the hell out is pretty much their policy on day four.
The problem with getting out is kind of a comedy that I am not proud of now. It just so happened that on the day I was discharged they also had an event at the hospital. It was called “Free Hamburger Day” sponsored by IN-And-OUT, a local hamburger joint. I had no idea this was going on but Toby got stuck in the fray. The place was swarming with people who came to get their free hamburger. He drove and drove and drove around the hospital for half an hour looking for a parking spot. Meanwhile I was up in my hospital room being told to hurry up. I was fuming, thinking he was sleeping in while I was hobbling around my hospital room, trying to pack while holding a crying baby. The nurses checking in on me every five minutes asking where my delinquent husband was, was not helping. I was a crying snotty mess.
By the time I figured out that the problem was “Free Hamburger Day” I was pretty fed up with the hospital staff. I started to remember all the times that it felt like the nurses were hanging out in their station laughing at all of us clueless new moms in the middle of the night. Before I had just chalked it up to my active imagination but now I was beginning to feel a little like I do when I go to the nail salon to get a pedicure and they all talk about me in Vietnamese. It probably is in my head… but that’s where my head was.
I tried not to show it and be ungrateful for all the care they’d given me over the past few days but it oozed out in my defensiveness when they kept asking me where my husband was and that I needed to leave because someone else needed my room. They had me fill out a survey earlier, giving my opinion of the care they’d given me. I had checked “outstanding” in every category but by the time Toby showed up, I’d scrawled the sentence of a mad woman at the bottom of the form. “Everything was wonderful up until the very end and then it was horrible,” I wrote. Not that strong of a statement coming from me who can usually go on for pages when provoked. But none the less something I would regret later.
Finally the wheel chair showed up to wheel me out but Toby had already left with his hands full of my bags that I never even needed. So me and the wheel chair driver woman had to wait for Toby to come back before I was officially wheeled out of the hospital. Something about checking arm bands and making sure we left with the right baby. The woman who was wheeling me decided to wheel me out to the elevator and wait for Toby there. What nobody realized is that she would wheel me right past the nurse’s station where I would overhear them mumbling about me and my scrawled sentence on the bottom of their survey. They appeared quite upset about it and looked away when I attempted a half smile and a wave.
I thoroughly regret losing my cool over my whole discharge process and I wish I could go back and hash it out with those nurses. I’m sure it it just a problem with understaffing and not enough rooms etc. But I really don’t want them to think I was ungrateful. I just wasn’t really up for handling it all right then. I’d like to think I’m justified in my emotional state at the time but it really is a sad aftertaste that I had to leave on such bad terms. Toby tells me not to worry about it. He says they see fourteen new moms every day, sometimes twenty and they’ve probably long forgotten about me. But still, it’s kind of a drag.
Good thing I have the cutest baby ever so I can put all that out of my head and focus on her. Right now she’s on the changing pad next to my computer kicking away and listening to me type. In between keyboard clicks I hear her butt squirting poop into her diaper while she makes grunting sounds like a little piglet.