Nothing Gold

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. -Robert Frost

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Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

I am a white American middle class suburban housewife trying desperately to tell herself that that is not who she is. One time I was a glowing young ruffian. Oh my God it was a million years ago.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Adah's Birth Story

I'd like to share my labor story here. You might want to hear it, and I might want to read it later. Watch out, I think it'll be long and perhaps boring. And maybe gross. Here goes:

On Friday, March 20 I had a regular appointment with one of the three midwives I had been seeing. My due date was either the 23rd or the 25th depending on where you looked in my chart. They were pretty much going with the 23rd. That date was calculated from my last period. The other was calculated from her size at my first ultrasound. It always worries me how set in stone that date is. Especially when they ask me the date of my last period and I say, "uh, I think it was around...". Then that date is all important and inflexible. I meant to fudge it by a couple of days this time, but I forgot to.

Anyway all had been going well up until this appointment. I was really tired because we'd driven to the airport the night before to pick up my mother-in-law rather late and the appointment was rather early. The nurse took my blood pressure and it was high. She waited a few minutes and took it again. It was still high. When Danette, the midwife, came in she did the regular stuff and then took it again. It was still high. My cervix had not started dilating so it was not favorable for induction. I didn't have protein in my urine or any other symptoms of preeclampsia, but it's not something to mess with. It's the number one cause of maternal death. So she ordered a non stress test, which consists of me sitting still with a fetal monitor on to see how the baby is doing. At first she wasn't doing anything and Danette was worried and called the hospital about me coming over to be induced, but they gave me some food and the baby woke up and starting moving. She seemed to be doing fine, so Danette told me to stay on bed rest over the weekend and come in on Monday. She also told me to buy a blood pressure monitor and check it at home, and call if it got too high.

I laid on my side pretty much all weekend, and my blood pressure was fine. On Monday, Schuyler went with me to my appointment just in case, but we expected everything to be normal and them to say it was probably just caused by me being so tired. Nope, my blood pressure was high at the office even though it had been fine that morning at home. I saw Kathy, the other midwife. She said the since I was at my due date, and now dilated one cm, I should go to the hospital right away and start the induction process. She stripped my membranes, which hurt, but I was really hoping it would work and I would not need Pitocin in the morning. It was about 1pm and she said if we went straight to the hospital (which was across the street) I could get a Misoprostol pill at 2pm and then a second at 6pm and a third at 10pm and get a sleeping pill then so that I could get some sleep before they started Pitocin at 6am. She said that sometimes the Misoprostol pill works on it's own and that is what I was hoping for.

We went to the hospital right then, but it took them a long time to get me checked in and I didn't get my first pill until after 3pm. Schuyler hung out with me a little then went home to get our stuff and to tell Levi and Judy (my mother-in-law) what was up. He asked Levi if he wanted to come to the hospital to visit me, and Levi started crying. He was worried that he would have to watch the birth and Schuyler was able to convince him that I wouldn't have the baby while he was there. So they all came to visit. Levi seemed really uncomfortable and stressed out while he was there. Poor kid. I shouldn't have let him watch that one episode of A Baby Story.

On the way to the hospital we were discussing names for the baby and we were both pretty sure that her name would be Ivy. It's such a cute name.

I met a lot of different labor and delivery nurses while I was at the hospital. They seem to come in two types. One group, which is the majority, acts as though their most important job is to take care of the patients. And they are mostly really good at it. They made me feel more comfortable and able. The second, much smaller group, acts as though their most important job is to enforce the rules. They made me feel like a naughty child, which made me feel much less capable of giving birth. I really appreciate those good nurses, they made all the difference.

One all important rule at this hospital was NO FOOD. No liquids either, only ice chips for laboring mothers. I had asked my midwife about this at my very first visit. She gave me permission to eat whatever I wanted. But my midwife wasn't at the hospital with me most of the time, and the nurses were quite strict on this. I wasn't in labor the first night, so I was allowed to eat, but I was told MANY times that I could have absolutely nothing to eat after midnight. This seems crazy to me. I was being induced. I would wake up hungry and not in labor yet and not be allowed to eat. How was I supposed to have the energy to have a baby? And I drink a lot of water normally. Ice chips are not enough. One nurse even stopped Schuyler from going to get food for me that night and made him wait while she checked my chart to see if it was allowed. She couldn't just take our word for it that we knew I wasn't actually in labor yet. I'm still angry about that. She made me feel so small.

Anyway, Schuyler and I mostly just hung out that night. We watched a movie and played a little cribbage. I talked to Stacy on the phone and she was very encouraging. They brought me my third pill rather late at night (12 or so I think) and I asked if I could have half a sleeping pill rather than the whole thing because they affect me strongly. She said she would go check and she actually had to call and wake up my midwife to ask her. I feel kind of bad about that. Schuyler stayed with me that night.

They woke me up at 6am and reminded me not to eat or drink anything. I agreed and then just cheated when they weren't in the room. I didn't want to argue with them. I brought an outfit to wear rather than a hospital gown. When I told the nurse that, her response was "Is this your first baby?" I told her that it wasn't and that I knew my clothes would get ruined and she said that was fine then. But when they started the IV they told me that once they started it, I wouldn't be able to get my shirt off, so I wore the gown with my skirt under it. That worked out great because I could walk around without showing off my butt. I got lots of compliments on it from the nurses.

I hate IVs. It took them three tries to get it and those spots were sore for a couple of days. Not as sore as other parts of my body though :) Danette came in later that morning and told the nurses I was allowed to eat (yay!) They seemed fine with it then, they really were nice, I guess they just didn't want to get in trouble. The hospital was really busy that day (I had the last available room, it had no window). So, I didn't see much of Danette and the nurses that came in were always different. Even when there wasn't a shift change, I'd get a lot of different women coming in covering for my nurse. They mostly came in for a few minutes to look at the fetal moniter and increase my pitocin. Sometimes they asked about my pain level first and sometimes they just increased it and left. Schuyler and I were mostly alone the whole time. He was wonderful and very supportive.

Before the contractions really started hurting we hung out and watched another movie. The intensity increased pretty steadily. I was kind of groggy from the sleeping pill and I wanted to see if I could sleep a little. Danette came in and checked me. It was a little before noon. I'm having a hard time remembering, but I think I was 3 or 4 cm dilated. She said we should break my water and things would go more quickly. I said I would like to see if I could take a nap first and she said that was fine and she would come back in a bit. So I slept in bits and pieces for awhile, sleeping in between contractions and waking up during them. They were getting more and more painful and after awhile I couldn't lay in bed during them anymore. So I got up and sat on a labor ball. I did fine like that for awhile, rocking my hips during contractions. After that they were too strong to sit during, so I sat on the ball between and stood up with Schuyler's support during. They kept coming in and increasing my pitocin during all this. The contractions were getting worse and I thought about getting in the tub, but I was kind of waiting for Danette to come back first in case she wanted to break my water, but she was with someone else who was having a baby. I wanted some distraction so we went for a walk around the hall. I had a remote fetal monitor and my IV was wheeled. We walked around the halls a few times, stopping to sort of dance during contractions. I was pretty much the only patient out there, but I was grateful for my skirt.
After awhile I couldn't handle that anymore and we went back to the room and I asked the nurse if I could go ahead and get in the bath. She started the water for me and said she would come back and help me in. I had a swimsuit top so I put that on and got in without waiting for her to come back. The monitor worked alright in the tub, but someone kept having to come adjust it because it was cutting out. They would come in, adjust it and leave. Or increase my pitocin and then leave. They were very busy and bustling. They didn't offer much in the way of support, but that was okay because Schuyler was very calm and reassuring and supportive. The contractions had become very painful, but the water helped some. I cried a little and so did Schuyler, but mostly I concentrated on relaxing for the short time in between them. At one point I halfheartedly asked about an epidural and Schuyler asked if I was sure. I just didn't respond and he let it go. (Ahead of time I had instructed him that if I wanted one, he should remind me that I would also need a catheter. I had both with Levi, and I hate catheters. And that if I still wanted one he should go make sure I got one). I was in a lot of pain and I hoped I was in transition and I was worried that I wasn't actually that far in because I wasn't shaking much and with Levi I shook like a leaf. At that point a wonderful nurse named Laura came in and actually talked to me. She asked how I was and said some very encouraging things about how great I was doing. And she decreased my pitocin. Danette came in almost at the same time and Laura said, "I think you should check her, she sounds like she's transitioning." So Danette said she'd check me in the bath. I thought that if I wasn't in transition I would probably die. She checked me and I was 9cm. So they said I should get out of the bath and the three of them helped me get out. They helped me into a gown and got me on the bed. There were two other women in the room then, but I don't remember them at all. One was getting things ready for birthing and was there to whisk away dirty things and bring clean things, and one was getting things ready for a baby. I had Laura on one side with her head right by mine saying encouraging things and Schuyler on the other side also saying encouraging things. They were both amazing. Danette was wonderful too. She kept saying, "Listen to your body and push when you're ready". They called me Marguerite at first, but Schuyler told them to call me Maggie and they did. That was nice. My first push was tentative because it hurt like hell and I was afraid. Danette said, "Maggie, we need to get the baby out. Her heart rate is dropping." She saw that that really freaked me out, and then she said, "That's normal, don't worry. She's fine, but you need to push." So I relaxed a little but was more determined and pushed much harder. I don't know how many pushes it was. It seemed like hundreds, but could have been as little as 5. Giving birth hurts a lot. In between pushes I chanted 'baby,baby,baby' like a mantra. They encouraged me in that. During pushes I was rather loud. You wouldn't really call it screaming, since that's high pitched. It was more like roaring. They gave me a mirror to watch. Then her head was out. The shoulders were next and they were hard too. And then she was out. Then held her up and she was beautiful. I'm crying as I write this. She looked so solid and lovely and somehow graceful and one of the first things I thought was, "Ivy is not that girl's name." She seemed too dignified or something. They gave her to me and I put her to the breast and she nursed like a champ. Both sides. Everyone was very impressed. They said they usually shoot for 5 minutes right at first but she just kept chugging away. Schuyler cut the cord. They weighed her and all the nurses in the room shot out guesses. No one guessed under 7 and a half. She was only 6# 13oz. But she looked so solid and healthy that she seemed bigger.
I birthed the placenta. It's funny because you do still have to push to get the placenta out and at the time it seems so easy because it is so much easier than the baby, but I bet if you had to do it all by itself you would think it was really hard.
Danette checked me for tears. My perineum was fine, but I had a couple of tears inside from the baby's shoulders. One needed stitched.
In between being infatuated with my new baby and grateful to Laura and Danette and Schuyler, I kept thinking, "holy shit, that was hard, labor is really freaking difficult".
Laura told me that it was only 20 minutes from the time she got there until the baby was born. I didn't believe her. I thought it was at least an hour, maybe 2. But we checked our playlist to see which songs we had been on and she was about right. She was born during a string quartet version of a Radiohead song.
Everybody was so happy and friendly during that time right after she was born. I wanted to hug and kiss Laura and Danette, they were so wonderful. Laura had been called in away from her baby because they were so busy and she said this was a wonderful way to start her shift, coming in and delivering a baby right away. She was friendly and bubbly. She said, "it happened so fast, we didn't even get time to bond" I wanted to say, "I felt like we bonded. I want you to stay and hold my hand," but I just smiled.
They said that there weren't any postpartem rooms left, that I would be staying there in the labor and delivery ward and I was glad because then I would have Laura be my nurse for awhile. But a room opened up and they moved me. I wanted to tell Laura how great she was, but she was rather cheerful and talkative so I didn't get to say much to either her or Danette other than "thank you".
After that things were pretty run of the mill. Adah didn't sleep real well in her bassinet and she was not allowed to sleep with me. I let her sleep with me some and I would wake up when anyone came in and pretend that I was not asleep. Levi and Judy visited us right away and Levi was happy and excited and jumped all over everything and drove Schuyler a little crazy. Malissa and Cory came by and brought us taco bell. I ate hospital food and it wasn't great. I discovered that I could send Schuyler to the store cupboard and he could bring me things like ice cream and that was better. The nurses were mostly very sweet and concerned with my recovery. I made no calls the first day. I made Schuyler call everyone. When he was talking to his sister, who is pregnant with her first, I almost said, "tell her to get the epidural," but I didn't. I'm mostly glad I did it without pain relief. I recovered faster and I think those first moments were better. I told Schuyler that I didn't feel any kind of empowerment from it, but I do feel proud of myself and that's something. Also, in those first few days, the pain and difficulty were still fresh in my mind, so whenever something was hard, like painful breastfeeding, or not being able to sit, or just being tired, I kept thinking, "this is so much easier than giving birth" and that actually helped.
We decided to name her Adah because the name just fit her. We knew right away, but we had to decide whether it should be Ada or Adah. It just seemed better with the h. More down to earth or something. Then we had to decide on a middle name. It was between Pascale and Marlene. Marlene is my grandma's name and I liked that it would make the name less fancy. St. Lawrence is a little overbearing sometimes. But Pascale seemed to fit better and that's what we chose. Adah Pascale St. Lawrence born at 3:38pm March 24, 2009. My daughter.


Blogger Mrs. Krautter said...

I cried too. You sound like a real pro with all of those birthing techniques. It makes me nervous, but glad that I have you to give me advice when that time comes. I can't believe they wouldn't let you eat. A little poop never hurt anyone. I'm glad you wrote this. It is such a beautiful account. I am sure you will be glad to have it.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful story, Maggie. It was an honor to read it.

One tiny detail: do you remember the Radiohead song that was playing when she was born? I'd really like to know. :-)

10:47 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Thanks guys!

Leah - It's actually in case you need general anesthesia (getting knocked all the way out) that you can't eat or drink. It's not a big risk. My midwife said that it's actually the anesthiologist's rule, not the doctors.

Mike - Schuyler says it was "Exit Music (For a Film)".

11:49 AM  
Blogger Maranda said...

Maggie, thanks so much for sharing your beautiful story - Adah's beautiful story. There is nothing like those first moments after they are finally out. You think you really will just die, and then there is a warm, beautiful baby on your tummy. Hugs and kisses to you all.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I laughed and cried reading this, Maggie. I think its funny how each hospital has different rules. I should try to remember the girls' birthing stories. All I have to say, you are lucky they didnt break your water. Holy moses, after they did that it hurt so bad. I was so close to getting an epidural with Brianna. If I were ever to have another child (highly doubtful) I would want to have her at the same hospital as the older two. Or maybe just not in the south :)

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Claire said...

I cried through almost all of this Maggie-it was beautiful. You'll never know how much I admire you and Schuyler both. Levi and Adah are lucky babies

2:31 AM  
Blogger Green Mama said...

Thanks for checking out my blog and leaving your link to your birth story. I also have my birth story on my blog, if you didn't already check it out (I wrote it a while ago).

You're story is very empowering, it seems to be written so peacefully. It may have been hard work for you, but you make it sound so easy and with pitocin, that's wonderful!

4:42 PM  

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