Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Enter: Liam Damian Davey

Liam is resting next to me in his boppy pillow, arms thrown above his head, cherub mouth red and plump, and legs curled under him as though he were still in the womb, even though today is his sixth day of freedom. It's our sixth day together as a family. A perfect, happy and complete entity.

I couldn't ask for more in a child. He is calm, quiet and undemanding.

So very much unlike our labor and delivery experience.

Let me take a moment to recap the last ten weeks. They have gotten fuzzy even to me, and I really don't want to forget them.

Around 30 weeks I started having contractions. A few weeks later I had the flu and was ultimately put on modified bed rest, which meant I could do a bit of housework here and there, but really had to put my feet up and rest. That was incredibly hard for me to do. I am a clean freak and really just wanted to spend my days toothbrush in hand, scrubbing the baseboards. Or something.

We made it to 37 weeks, full term, safely. 37 weeks meant he could come anytime he wanted. It also meant I could do whatever I felt up to doing. It was March and the weather was gorgeous. So we spent a lot of time outside. I felt great, the best I had since the beginning of pregnancy, and I had a lot of energy.

We went to the zoo with our friends Guin and Alan
We also went to the Medieval Fair, where I touched souls with an Eurasian Eagle owl.
Mainly we did a lot of hiking at Sutton Wilderness Park trails

I started having contractions around that time. My mom flew in from Germany on April 15th, the day before the first of my three estimated due dates. When both the first and second of these passed, I was 41 weeks, and Liam was still lying posterior, my midwife suggested I see a chiropractor who would use the Webster technique to encourage baby to turn.

We saw Dr. Sparks at the Sparks Clinic here in Norman, and I really would recommend him to anyone. Not only is he a truly caring doctor, but his techniques are effective.

Just not on me. We all called Liam stubborn and were disappointed that he didn't turn.

At my 42 week appointment, my midwife suggested I get an ultrasound to make sure my placenta was still functioning properly. I was not quite 42 weeks yet, but I had white blood cells in my urine, immense swelling and pitting, blood pressure issues, and in general everything was looking a bit worrisome.

The next day, Thursday April 19th, I had my ultrasound. We saw Liam pee, which was hilarious. We saw his gorgeous chubby cheeks. And we saw that my placenta was, in fact, a bit mature and the blood flow to Liam was not as it should be,

The Doctor who saw me, and who would attend Liam's birth if we needed a hospital birth, turned out to be a jerk, for a lack of a better word. He found it impossible to speak to me as a human being and he did not mince his words when he told me that if I hadn't gone into labor by Sunday, I would be induced Monday. In the mean time, he told me to try every natural method of induction possible.

I left his office in tears, completely distraught. I was upset about an induction, because an induction meant pitocin, meant having my waters broken, meant pain I couldn't handle, meant Liam's heart rate dropping, meant ultimately a C-Section. That is the progression I envisioned. Perhaps that's exactly where things went wrong.

I went straight to Dr. Sparks office, to be induced via acupuncture. I must admit I did not believe in its potency, and I thought it wouldn't work simply because of my disbelief. To me, these things require a certain amount of faith. Either way I was glad to be there, because Dr. Sparks was able to comfort me and told me that, come what may, I still would be able to have a vaginal delivery. Which was the most important thing, aside from a healthy baby.

To my surprise, contractions started as soon as I left his office. I was sent home with tiny needles in small round bandaids attached to both wrists and ankles. They were like buttons I was to push anytime I had a contractions. They did, indeed, stimulate my contractions and intensified them. But, again, the contractions were entirely manageable and I knew they weren't doing the trick.

I called Gail, my midwife, when I got home. It turned out that Dr. Ryan, who had seen me after my ultrasound that day, had told her a slightly different story than I had gotten from him. Both he and my midwife firmly believed I would need an induction. My cervix, for whatever reason, was not responding, even though my body was trying very hard to expel baby Liam. I was told that, since my cervix wasn't ripening, merely having my waters broken or being put on a pitocin drip wouldn't do the trick. First, my cervix would need to be ripened.

With a drug called cytotec.

When I heard her say the name, there was a wooshing between my ears and I thought I would faint. If I hadn't been upset and afraid before, I sure was now.

Before, I simply saw my perfect birth going down the drain. Now, I saw myself and possibly Liam, dying.

This may seem overly dramatic, but I knew all about cytotec as I had done a fair amount of research on it for one of my college classes. I had written a paper about it, and it was one of the main reasons why I wanted to avoid a hospital birth.

Cytotec is a drug used to treat ulcers and cause abortions. Granted, the process of aborting and birthing an infant are basically the same, but cytotec is in no way approved for use in pregnant women. This is because it can cause contractions so powerful that the uterus ruptures. Uterine rupture can be fatal both for mother and child.

And I was to have this drug administered on Sunday night.

I was torn.

Gail assured me it was safe during the early stages of labor, and they wouldn't use it during later stages. Other than cytotec, my other option was a C-Section. I wasn't sure which one was worse. I had it in my mind that if I had a C-Section I wouldn't be able to bond with Liam. He would be taken away from me, washed, poked and prodded, and critical moments would be missed.

But was the alternative worth the risk? I am not sure how I came to this decision, but I decided to trust the midwives and   let the doctors administer the cytotec. The decision killed me inside; I was a nervous wreck. At the same time, I put my foot down about the obstetrician who was supposed to attend me birth. I refused to let Dr. Ryan attend my birth. I may have to let them give me drugs I didn't want, but I didn't need to put up with a doctor like that. My midwife said she would see if Dr. Willis, who was Dr. Ryan's partner, would accept me as her patient. If not, we could switch to the OU Medical Hospital instead.

So it was decided that I would check in to the hospital Sunday night at midnight, would be administered cytotec then, and if everything went alright I would be induced Monday morning. 
In the mean time, I continued to have contractions, but this wasn't really anything new, and I knew they weren't strong enough to do much. Saturday morning, I had a bloody show, and called Gail to see if I could be checked and possibly have a sweep done. 

That evening, around 7:30 pm, one of the midwife assistants came by to check me and perform the sweep. I was still only 1-2 cm dilated, which I had been for weeks now. But my cervix was no longer posterior, and it was nice and stretchy. The assistant was able to perform the sweep, and stretched me to a 2. She was shocked I didn't feel any of it. I figured that the constant contractions I'd been having for weeks had toughened me up and would make labor easier. 

Boy was I wrong.

I thought my contractions had been pretty strong previously, but the new contractions, which started up immediately, were killer. 

Patrick and I had taken 12 weeks of Bradley Birth classes, so he was "trained" as my birth coach and we had practiced relaxation techniques for weeks. I won't say they proved useless because I couldn't have gotten through a minute of it without Patrick, but I certainly didn't have a pain-free labor, like I have heard many Bradley students say they had. I had intense back labor and since Liam was posterior the pain was magnified even more. The contractions came so quickly that I had only about thirty seconds from the end of one to the start of the next. I could not sit or lie down during a contraction, and getting up from a seated position to get through a contraction was excruciating, so I sitting down for the thirty second break was not really an option. This, coupled with having had contractions for the weeks before active labor started, meant I was quickly losing energy I needed if I was going to get through the night.

Patrick rubbed my back, I labored over the birthing ball, employing every relaxation technique we knew, but the only thing that helped was squatting through each contraction. This meant I would stand at a night stand, counter or the couch, take two breaths in through my nose and exhale through my mouth, squatting with the exhale. Good thing I had a lot of practice breathing this way while running! Nikki, the midwife assistant who was there with us, also encouraged me to visualize and breath the baby out, so there was a lot of moaning. I prayed a lot and visualized Liam dropping lower, and kept repeating, "Come on bebe Liam, come on bebe Liam" like a mantra.

I know I also cussed a lot. "Shit fuck damn" was a favorite exclamation. One funny thing I remember is that I kept making Patrick brush his teeth, use mouth wash chew gum, etc. He had had a Monster energy drink to help him stay awake and I couldn't stand the smell of it on his breath. I don't remember theism but my mom told me I shouted at him "I must kill the monster!!" Har har.

At around 3 am I finally let Nikki convince me to get into the birth pool. I don't know why I had fought it until then. The water helped slow the contractions and ease the pain. I was able to doze for a little bit, and so was Patrick. At this point my mom and Nikki were both asleep in the living room. I have to admit I kind of resented them for it.

The downside of the pool was that once I got used to the water, the contractions came back even more painfully. Patrick would fall asleep and I'd have to wake him for each contraction, which robbed me of crucial seconds of much needed support. I then would have to jump out of the pool and go back to squatting. Getting out of the pool was the worst pain in the world, at the time.

I think it was around 5am when I first started saying I couldn't do it andy more and wanted to go to the hospital. I hated myself for saying it and was so scared of disappointing Patrick or causing harm to my baby. For me, the hospital was a very bad place.
Since a common sign of transition (the phase between having completed dilation and pushing) is asking for drugs, everyone assumed I was ready and it wouldn't be long. But when I was checked I was only a 4. I tried to tell myself it didn't mean much, since dilation can occur very quickly, but wasn't really able to convince myself.

Nikki and Patrick were able to encourage me and I decided to stay at home for now. At this point I was walking all the time, even through contractions, because squatting wasn't doing the trick anymore. Nikki called Gail for advice and Gail suggested we take my desire to go to the hospital more seriously, as I had gone through a lot the last few weeks and my body was not rested at all. I wasn't sure I would have the energy to get through much more, and she agreed. However, I dreaded the though of getting in the car with contractions almost as much as getting through the rest of the labor, and St. Anthony hospital was a 45 minute drive. The Health Plex, a hospital notorious for its dislike of natural labors and high C-Section rates, was about 20 minutes away. So Gail decided to call them and see if they would take me, just incase I decided I wanted to go.

In between the stronger contractions I sometimes had a milder one, and these were the only thing keeping me at home at this point. Every time the milder contractions came, I was able to think of the health of my baby and my desire to do this drug free, without interventions,

But then the strong contractions were even more persuasive....

At this point I couldn't even let Patrick help me anymore. The pain was too much and I didn't want to be touched. Perhaps that's what killed my will power. During our next phone call with Gail, she encouraged me to go ahead and check in to a hospital and get an epidural. Because I was so scared of the car drive, I chose to go to the Health Plex.

The drive was even worse than I had anticipated but somehow we made it to the hospital. They checked me in, hooked my up to a heart rate monitor for Liam, had me change, and tried to find out if there was anyone who would be willing to give me an epidural. It was 7am and I still hadn't dilated any further. I was surprised at how nice the nurse actually was; I figured they would confine me to the bed, but luckily I was allowed to walk around. However, it took them an hour to decide they wouldn't give me an epidural because they didn't know my history, even though they had my entire medical file at hand. This, we later found out, was actually illegal. To cover their asses as they sent us away, they persuaded me to let them drive me in an ambulance to St. Anthony's. In the mean time they had me waiting, unmonitored, in the hall way. Twenty minutes labor the ambulance still wasn't ready, so we silly left without notifying anyone. We had had enough.

At that point the drive to St. Anthony's was only about 25 minutes, or so we thought. We hadn't realized that the Oklahoma City Marathon was that morning, and the entire are around the hospital was roped off and clogged with runners. Ironically, only ambulances could get through. We had to snake our way inch by inch through the crowds and down ally ways until we finally made it to the hospital around 9 am. It was raining but I rolled down the window in the car and let the wind and water hit my face.

When we got there I was separated from Nikki and Patrick as they had to park their cars. A nurse brought me to my room and handed me my gown; I was naked before she even closed the door and I didn't care.  I wanted the gown on and the epidural set.

At that point I found out there was no anesthesiologist as they were't expecting any births that morning, and in any event I would have to have an IV of fluids before that, and before THAT they needed to ask me one million questions and get me in the system. I was crushed! Not to mention I was going mental from the pain. I was pacing around the hotel room like a caged animal. I remember at one point Patrick got in my way and I yelled at to move; he quietly slunk away to the other side of the room (it was a lovely big room, by the way). I felt like Liam was going to fall out and remember holding my crotch with each contraction to provide counter pressure (how embarrassing!). They thought maybe I was ready to push but when they checked me, I was still only at a 4. Liam was still at a -1 station, meaning he wasn't even engaged yet. The only thing putting pressure on my cervix to dilate it was my bag of waters.

Finally, they hooked me up to the IV and strapped the heart rate and contraction monitor onto me. Unfortunately, this limited my motility immensely. All I could do was watch the drip run; even though it dripped very quickly, the bag seemed to be emptying very slowly! I was squeezing Patrick's hand and it really is just like in the movies - he thought I was going to break it, but to me I simply couldn't squeeze hard enough!

Just after 10 am the anesthesiologist, my new best friend, appeared. The IV had finally run its course as well. The anesthesiologist hadn't known about the marathon either, go figure. But I was immensely happy to see him and he smelled of Burburry cologne, which made him even more likable. They explained to me what was going to happen and that I would have to sit still while he put the catheter into my spine DURING a contraction. I wasn't sure I could manage it so I was very afraid. The nurse had me hold onto her arms. While the anesthesiologist gave me my numbing shot and prepared my back. I was getting angry because I was having to sit through SEVERAL contractions even before I got the epidural and he just seemed to be chatting away and doing nothing. Patrick later told me he was preparing needles etc. the entire time, so I feel bad for that now.

They explained the epidural would take about 15 minutes to take full effect but I noticed some pain relief immediately - enough to where I could lie down without feeling like I was going to die, which was a good thing because I wasn't allowed to stand anymore.

One thing I did not realize, naive as it might be, was that the epidural numbs your legs as well. I thought that only happened to some women, but they expected me to not be able to feel my legs anymore. Luckily for me, I was still able to feel my legs. I was on a pleasant, tingly high and kept my mobility, meaning I could still turn over whenever they needed me to without needing much assistance.

I immediately knew that getting the epidural had been the right decision for me, as disappointed in myself as I was. I was finally able to rest, to sleep.

looking back at this, I can't believe how bloated from water weight I was. My hands are huge here and look nothing like they do now (thank God).

My mom and mother-in-law, as well as Gail and Nikki, were present.
Gail and Nikki in the most comfortable recliner in the world (or so I am told, I never got to sit in it myself).

They put me on oxygen right away, as Liam's heart rate was immediately affected by the epidural. I hated the oxygen because of how loud it was. I wasn't able to hear or speak much. The straps weren't adjusted and sue the whole contraption wouldn't sat on and I was forced to hold it. Nobody helped me until the anesthesiologist came to check on me and noticed what had happened. I guess I was old enough to adjust it myself but was too drugged and tired to even think of that as an option; my new best friend adjusted it for me :)

My mom and I. I don't think I ever lost my sense of humor throughout the experience. I felt very bionic with so many plugs and cables attached to me. The funniest thing was that for some reason Patrick kept describing me in terms related to birds. I can't remember exactly what was said  but we all thought it was hilarious, especially once I had the oxygen mask on and looked even more bird-like.

Dr. Thomas was the intern who saw to me. She came to ask about my birth plan, and I had to admit that most of it was obsolete now that I had the epidural. I still wanted to catch Liam myself, and Patrick wanted to cut the cord. I wanted to avoid pitocin and having my waters broken, but I knew we would have to be flexible. 

After the epidural, I think I remember dilating fairly quickly. I remember I was 6-8cm but wasn't progressing any more from that. So around 3pm I allowed them to break my waters. Unfortunately I returned to 4cm dilation almost immediately. 

Soon after we decided to start a low dose of piton because my contractions simply weren't strong enough. Liam didn't like this; his heart rate had kept dropping all day, no matter which position I was in, but the pitocin made it even worse and we had to stop that fairly quickly. They removed the contraction and heart rate monitors from around my belly and attached them internally to Liam's head. This was another thing I really wanted to avoid, but at that moment all we cared about was getting the most accurate reading of his heart rate.

At that point my nurse asked me how I felt about a C-Section. Just hearing the term made me burst into tears again. She tried to comfort me by telling me that she wasn't saying I needed one; she only wanted to hear my thoughts on it. I think my tears told her plenty. Gail came and talked to me about her C-Section, and how sometimes they are simply necessary no matter what you do. She also told me that she thought I had made the right decision about coming to the hospital and the epidural, because the way things were going we would have ended up in the hospital either way, and it was better to do it sooner rather than later, when I was even more exhausted. She calmed me down a lot and gave me some things to think about.

My epidural began to wear off and the anesthesiologist was in surgery. I became very scared. The pain was only mild but already I felt like I was dying, if that makes any sense. My body was simply too tired. I didn't know how I could wait for him to finish while still confined to the bed with these contractions. Miraculously, he was able to leave the surgery and come tend to me. He really was like a guardian angel to me at that moment!

At about 7 pm the attending physician, Dr. Moore, came to talk to me. He too asked me how I felt about my lack of progress and the possibility of having a C-Section. I admitted that it was looking more likely, cried a bit more, and agreed that I would have a decision for him in about an hour and a half, after he was done with the C-Section he was about to perform.

After he left i had a sense of peace come over me. I suddenly knew what the right thing to do was and I felt okay about it. I spoke to Gail and told her that I thought a C-Section was going to happen sooner or later, and so it might as well be sooner. There was no reason to stress Liam anymore. Once the other surgery ended, they immediately began to prep me and clean the OR. I was given more meds that made me shake like crazy, as well as something to calm me (though I did not know this at the time - I thought I was being calm because that's how cool I am). Whatever they gave me also made me shake incredibly hard. I could stop it if I closed my eyes and breathed slowly and steadily, but I wanted to see what was going on. Of course I couldn't see much with the sheet in-between me and my belly. My guardian angel, the anesthesiologist, had a nurse bring in heated blankets to place on my legs to help me not shake so much. I was terrified that my shaking would make the surgeons cut wrong, but they didn't seem concerned. 

They had explained to me that I would feel a lot of pressure and and perhaps some "associative pain" in other areas of my body, like my chest. This pain was very real and fairly intense in my arms and chest. I became really scared that I was feeling more pain than I should have been, and they offered to up my medication but I refused. Looking back, it seems silly to not want any more medication at that point, but for some reason it was important to me.

They found Liam and asked me what color hair I thought he had. I said blond and they confirmed it, but when they had him out they everyone was confused because it was hard to tell if it was red or blond. He was quite ruddy.

They had Liam out fairly quickly; Patrick was able to watch. He was quickly transferred to a cot to the left and a bit behind me. It hurt to crane my neck to look at him. He was very red and hardly crying. I told Patrick to go to him and he did while Gail stayed with me. 

She placed a rag next to my face that smelled of the grapefruit essential oils she had dripped on it. It was meant to soothe me but I was so thirsty from not having been allowed anything to drink all day that I actually tried to suck on the rag. It smelled too juicy and sweet to resist. The smell really was very comforting though and it kept me sane while they very carefully stitched me up (it took half an hour) and saw to Liam. 

Once  they had Liam cleaned, measured and weighed (8lbs 9oz, 19 inches - much bigger than anyone was expecting) Patrick was able to bring him to me, and I got to kiss his beautiful nose like I had been promising to do for so many months.


We took our first family pictures and then Patrick left with Liam to show him off to our family. I hated that. It made me feel ill and slightly resentful. I couldn't believe all these other people were able to hold him while I couldn't. It was my worst nightmare come true. At the same time, I was very proud of him and wanted him to be shown off. They were very conflicting emotions.

Finally, finally, finally I was wheeled back into my room. I still wasn't able to hold Liam, because of all the drugs and the shaking, However, they did pull my nightgown down and undress Liam and place him on my chest for some skin to skin. I don't remember much of that. I was later told by my mom that I exclaimed "Oh baby!" when he was finally with me. I remember feeling elated, and I remember his little mouth trying to latch onto my neck. He was born to feed. He was mine.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


But wait! 
The question remains: was I able to bond with Liam, despite having a C-Section? How was the dreaded hospital experience? 

Bonding, to be honest, took some time. I loved I'm intensely, immediately. It felt like he had always been with us and I knew I would protect him with my life. But I didn't feel bonded to him in an emotional way. He was my offspring and it was a biological imperative to protect him. But after we went home, two days later, and especially when I came down with a cold a few days after that, the bonding really began. We co-slept, he and I alone in bed, skin to skin, nursing constantly, and I feel deeply in love with this little life.

Even while he slept, I often remained a awake just to gaze at him, and my heart would flutter. There was nothing as perfect as he.

Now, we are irrevocably bonded. 

Even the worst day with Liam is better than any day that ever came before.

As for my hospital experience, it was wonderful. The doctors and nurses respected my wishes as best as they could, given the circumstances. They took excellent care of me, and they encourages skin to skin time, bonding, and nursing - the most important things, really. 

In the end, everything was perfect.

(this post was written over many weeks and finally finished when Liam was 10 weeks old)

No comments:

Post a Comment