11.30.2005

Birth Story, Part III

Note: Parts I and II can be found here and here.
I didn’t necessarily want my husband to do or say anything, but I was fierce in my desire to have him there. When he got up to go to the bathroom for what seemed like the millionth time, I was the one who was pissed. “How many freaking times are you going to go to the bathroom?” I demanded. “Would you just stay here?” Though the bathroom was part of the labor room we were confined to, and was only about three feet from my bed, I couldn’t bear to have him behind closed doors. If he had a typically wise-ass response to my irrationality, it was lost in the wave of the next contraction.

Also lost in that contraction and the ones that followed was a certain level of consciousness. The pain was so dominant that it pushed all other thoughts and feelings so far away that they were no longer even a part of me. My husband became the active participant in the hospital drama as I floated in and out of my labor fog, catching certain key words and a heavy sense of everyone else’s uneasiness.

With the baby’s heartbeat still responding well to extra fluids and oxygen, my midwife suggested that I try the narcotic Nubain. There went another birth plan bullet point: "don’t ask us if we want drugs—we’ll ask you." While my husband argued the logic of administering a drug with the stated risk of lowering my fetus’s already low heart rate, the midwife insisted that pain management was the best option. He was reason, she was empathy. Since I had come into this open to the possibility of accepting a narcotic (though adamantly opposed to an epidural) I somehow managed to leave my own private haze long enough and with sufficient strength to utter the words “I’ll take it.”

They shot the Nubain into my ass, which burned. Then more went in through the IV. Not too long after, the baby’s heart rate descended from the 120s to 110. In any other circumstance, my husband would’ve said “I told you so.” But he was scared and I was doped up. If I thought I was barely hanging onto consciousness before, I was next to comatose now. The pain thrived—oh, yes, it was having a field day in my mid-section—but my ability to react to it was non existent. I lay there on my side, immersed in misery. There were no more hee-hee-hoos as my husband shifted from conducting the breathing symphony to discussing medical interventions with the midwife, who was growing increasingly concerned. The pain came every two minutes, and the sound of the baby’s heart was a sluggish drumbeat that reverberated throughout my space.

I remember the midwife rocking in her chair, staring at the monitor with her hands resting in her lap. The baby's heart rate fell into the 90s. “It really has me worried,” she repeated. “If that heart rate gets too low, the baby won’t get enough oxygen and she’ll be fatigued by labor.” The solution (and I have no recollection of this) was to administer another narcotic to counteract the effects of the Nubain. This Norcain would block the receptors to keep them from absorbing the Nubain floating around. They gave it an hour to work. It didn’t.

While they waited, my husband decided that it was time to eat. It was 3 o'clock, and he hadn't eaten since he grabbed a muffin early that morning. Unaware of his decision to stuff his face, I turned toward him in a brief moment of cognizance and was shocked to see him munching away on one of the sandwiches he makes each night before bed to eat the next day at work. I looked at the wheat bread and the bright green romaine and I was certain that I had never been so mad in my life. How dare he eat while I alone endure this cluster fuck of a birth experience! Who did he think he was? I stared at him while the anger seethed inside me, feeding on the agony of another contraction. But the Nubain was still doing its thing and the receptors that had absorbed it told me that there was no point in wasting energy yelling at him. So I stared some more, and I seethed again. And my husband later said he had no idea that I had even been irked by the sandwich episode.

In yet another blow to the birth plan, my midwife decided that an internal monitor was necessary. The midwife and the nurse prodded me to get on all fours as they inserted the wires through my cervix and onto the baby’s head while blood squirted everywhere. I have vague recollections of the discomfort, but none of the blood. That detail was later recounted by my husband. He also told me that the first attempt failed, and that the midwife had to try a second time to get a reading from the internal monitor. More discomfort. More blood. If I had been in the mood for irony, I would have picked up the birth plan and ripped it into shreds, throwing them up into the air so that they could fall down on us like a freak July snowstorm.

But the internal monitor finally picked up a heart beat that matched the dire predictions of the external version, and a doctor was dispatched. The midwife was out of her league. It took a half hour for the obstetrician to arrive, but when she did, she took one look at the long paper feeding out of the monitor machine and said “This baby has to come out NOW.”

11.29.2005

Where "8 Hours" Comes From, And Where It's Going

Still high on the childbirth cocktail of progesterone, prolactin, oxytocin, and endorphins, life during the Fourth Trimester was three crazy months of baby, baby, baby. Nature is a compassionate mother, though, and she laid a hormonal path on which I traveled relatively free from fatigue. If my body was tired (and it must have been) I didn't know about it. If it was hungry, I wasn't aware of that, either. It was as if my body was intricately wired with the wherewithal to withstand the insanity of bringing a screaming little kickboxer into our home. My own desires for sleep or a complete meal eaten in a single session were replaced by the necessity of caring for someone else. I thanked God for this every day, for the old me could never have pulled it off.

Now birth and those first few months post natal are all but forgotten, and corporal life as I've known it is back with a vengeance. I wake up exhausted and starving, then schlep off to the shower, where I sit under the running water and think about the calories in a ham, egg and cheese sandwich. The fog of the fourth trimester has lifted, revealing that which has been there for the past three months, but which has been shrouded by a mercifully altered mental state. It has uncovered a world where sleep does not exist.

I need those 8 hours, now more than ever. Yet it's not in the stars. That, my friends, is the story of the rest of my life.