I’m writing this even though something terrible happened, my hard drive crashed and I lost all my data, including the birth document I had spent two evenings writing. That hurts. But instead of rewriting from the beginning, I want to pick up where I left off, keep riding the momentum. I will get around to rewriting the first part again sometime, but I feel I want to just continue for now.
So as I can’t remember precisely where I left off, stop me if you’ve heard all this before. I think it was the part where your papa arrived at the hospital and I was being moved from a salle de travail to a salle de naissance. Your papa arrived just as that was happening.
Before being installed, I said i had to go to the bathroom. I thought I just had to pee, but I had to do number two also. Sorry if that’s too much information. I think it’s interesting that my body eliminated itself like that, right before things got down to business (even though I feel that what was before was down to business too). It also later meant that I didn’t end up pooping in the delivery room, which was nice. Another good reason to eat lightly during early labor. Your papa was in the bathroom with me in case I keeled over or something, and we crossed a boundary with that experience that we had never crossed before.
Ah well. It ain’t as though a few hours later we didn’t cross an even bigger boundary.
So, here, maybe I am already starting to forget, but this part I can’t really tell anecdotally. It must have been around ten or eleven when I was moved to the sale de naissance. The cold anesthetist came in and said they were going to prepare the epidural. The anesthetist’s assistant was not much better, she said we had to move the bag of labor stuff (which your papa had brought from my room, with the tennis balls and evian spritzer and massage oils, etc) because it was in the way. When she first spoke to me, I didn’t understand what she said. I think she spoke to me during a contraction. She asked your papa “Est-ce que votre femme parle le français?”
I answered for him: “Oui, Madame, a priori je parle le français, alors que c’est un peu difficile en ce moment”.
She looked surprised and reassured. The anesthetist had me sit up and round my back so she could find a spot between two vertabra. She applied betadine to a spot just above my tattoo.
What can I say about the epidural, son. Maybe it did hurt, but honestly, with the contractions I was feeling, and with the amount that I had been piqued the past three days, it was nothing. Really. I know that supposedly it’s a bigger needle and they insert a catheter, but it honestly didn’t hurt anymore than having an IV administered or blood drawn. I know that lots of people always freak out about the epidural and the big needle and catheter, but if I hadn’t been shown a picture of the big needle in my birth prep class I never, ever would have known. It really was the least of my concerns at that particular moment.
So, the epidural. I don’t know how long it took to start working, perhaps ten minutes or so. There were no clocks in the salle de naissance, which was nice and unusual. The midwife Laur helped me into a position with my legs up on my corpomed pillow, to encourage descent and to relieve pain.
What can I say about the epidural except that it was the best part of labor. Haha. The five or so hours that the epidural worked were wonderful. The thing about the epidural was, I could feel the contraction, but it didn’t hurt! I could feel it start to roll, gain momentum, peak like at San Onofre, and then roll back into the sea. But it was sweet, sweet relief. One of my fondest memories was your papa and I playing this game where he would look at the monitor and I would try to guess when the contraction was coming and what number it was, and he would tell me if I was right or not. We must have played that game for an hour or so. It felt wonderful. And contrary to popular belief, I could feel my legs, and I even stood up a couple of times with no problem, and I could feel when I had to urinate (because that is also a concern with the epidural) and Laur brought me a bedpan and I did my liquid business no problem.
Around midnight or so, we decided your papa should maybe go into my room upstairs to sleep for a while as nothing much was happening and he would need rest for the big show later. I also napped, which was much needed.
Laur came in at some point before your papa left and decided that things weren’t moving along fast enough, and she was going to administer a dose of pitocin. Irony of all ironies, this was the very thing I had feared, and when she suggested that, I was like, go right ahead, I am enjoying this and I don’t want to be here for another day. Isn’t that funny.
She came in periodically to check my dilation and to suggest a position change. I was napping and very happy where I was. All that talk of changing position, and I was happy to be lying back.
One thing I remember, oh son this is so funny, but though I was happy to be lying back on my corpomed pillow, I remember having this urge to dance. I remember thinking, that maybe, just maybe, I could have gotten through them better if I had been allowed to blast music and dance. That maybe, I could have lost myself and therefore gotten through the pain. Isn’t that funny? But it was, of course, out of the question.
But being in labor made me want to dance, that much I remember.
But in that moment, I was happy just to lie back and relax. The epidural felt wonderful. Which is why it felt like a horrible, cruel joke when all of a sudden, it simply stopped working.
Son, it’s been three months (NB: at the time of writing, not blogging) since your birth now, and I’ve been pondering my life in my head. I’ve been poring over my life events, and I think that I have been a pretty good person. I never stole anything. I am nice to people. I have helped little old ladies cross the street and mothers carry strollers down stairs. I’ve been pondering and pondering, and simply cannot figure out what horrible thing I did in my life that would merit the punishment of having the epidural fail two hours before your birth, right before the transition stage.
Maybe it was the transition that was too much, or maybe it was the pitocin after all, but whatever it was, I was woken up by the fact that all of a sudden, oh dear, I could feel the contractions again.
And oh, they were just as painful as before. Even worse.
I called Laur in, and she upped the dose. But it didn’t help, and I kept calling her back in, until finally, my legs were completely numb. That was the cruelest part, perhaps. I couldn’t feel my legs when I touched them with my hands, but I could feel everything about the contractions and dilation.
Like when the midwife inserted a catheter into my bladder because I couldn’t feel enough to pee anymore, OH BOY THAT FELT GOOD.
The anesthetist, frankly, looked like she didn’t believe me that I could feel everything. But I could. The thing that they didn’t understand was the fact that the epidural was doing something because my blood pressure was very good and low.
At this point I asked them to bring your papa back. It must have been around three or four am. They tried administering a second epidural, and joy oh joy THAT ONE DIDN’T WORK EITHER.
Frankly, nothing worked. The five years of yoga and yogic breathing I had hoped would help me through an eventual drug-free birth, I can’t say if it helped or didn’t help. It didn’t help, but it was the thing that I was doing to get me trhough it. What I mean by that is, it didn’t make the pain go away, but it’s what I did to get through the contractions.
What do I want to say about the pain of these particular contractions. That deep yogic breathing was what I was drawn to. That if I didn’t pull my chin in and close my eyes during them, it was more unbearable than it already was. You know how you see women on TV and they are screaming during labor? That’s a load of crock. Screaming at that point would have been worse. It was drawing inward which was the best thing to do of all the other options.
The contractions were mercifully short, only about 30 seconds, and it’s very, very true that between them, I was totally fine. Didn’t hurt at all. It’s true that you get a break, though it doesn’t help you to rest all that much. Also what’s true is that at the end of a contraction, you get a lovely adrenaline rush. So I believe that nature gives laboring women cocktails to ease the pain, but it just really isn’t enough. I’m sorry, but it’s not enough.
It was simply unbearable. Those rolling contractions were up to North Shore in intensity, and I just watned it to be over.
Laur held my hand during one of them, and I squeezed her hand tightly as it rolled, and when it was over I nodded thanks to her. Your papa held my hand too, and sprayed Evian on me, and into my mouth as I wasn’t allowed to drink still. A stupid rule I don’t understand. The eating, yes, but not drinking water, I think that’s not so great.
And so, this is where it all gets fuzzy. I know that at one point, I felt the urge to push, and I told Laur that and she said to hold out a little bit longer. The urge to push wasn’t quite as strong as I had expected, but perhaps the epidural lessened that urge a bit. Nice that it did everything except what it was supposed to.
And then, I found myself surprised when Laur said the time was here. I suppose I was so lost in laborland that I thought I was going to be trying to get through contractions forever. She put up some stirrup things, I had been hoping to squat but at that point I really couldn’t care less. They put my legs up in the stirrups, and I really have to say that is another thing I find stupid, this position for giving birth, on my back and in stirrups. Talk about ineffiecient. But like I said, I just didn’t care at this point. I even think if I had had my wits about me, they would have been ok with the squatting. On the other hand, I was a particular case and they did consider it somewhat vital that you come out sooner rather than later.
She explained to me that when I felt a contraction start, I was to breathe in and push like I had never pushed before. Your father was on my right side holding my hand, and Laur was between the stirrups, not sure what she was doing, and then I started to feel the wave out in the distance beginning to roll, and I told her so, and then she said “Madame P, POUSSER!”
Like I said, at this point everything is blurry. I do know that getting to push felt so incredibly good, it lessened the pain of the contraction. It was a relief to be able to push and it helped. At some point, the young doctor from before came in, and your papa tells me there was a pediatrician in there ready to check you when you came out, but I don’t remember when they all came in. At one point I was in the middle of a contraction, and the young doctor said “Madame P, est-ce que vous m’entendez?” She must have thought I had passed out or something. I said “Oui”. I know that I pushed a couple of times, but not enough and your head came out and went back in, to my disappointment, and I thought I was never, ever going to get through this. And so, ironically yet again, when I saw the doctor pull out the forceps, another thing I had hoped to avoid, I WAS RELIEVED.
And I even ASKED HER if she was going to do an episiotomy, and I WAS RELIEVED when she seemed like she was going to.
When the doctor brought out the forceps, Laur told me not to look, but on the contrary I’ve never been so happy to see anything in my life.
Not that it was all fun and games. When the doctor did the snip, I felt it, but with everything else that was going on, it was not the worst part.
It was when the doctor shoved the forceps in, that I was at the height of the most painful experience ever, I was wide-eyed with shock, and it was then that my many years of French language skills failed me.
(I’m sorry I yelled so callously about you, son! You know I didn’t mean it the way it sounded).
I was so in shock from the pain of the un-anesthetized use of forceps that I was paralyzed. Everyone was telling me to push, and all I could do was yell. Everyone around me was like “Pousser! Pousser!” And I was so in shock, that I was just staring and yelling, my eyes wide.
At one point, however, it occurred to me that if I wanted this experience to be over, I had to push. So when the next contraction came on, I took a deep breath. I felt I had this wild, crazy smile on my face. I know it was a smile. I pushed, and:
you were out.
You were immediately placed on me. You were very warm and slimy. They pulled my shirt up and placed you on me, and covered you with a blanket. You didn’t cry right away. It was about a minute or two later that you did le premier cri, and it didn’t sound unhappy. It was just kind of an AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! Like you were at first surprised too, about being pulled out, surprised into silence, and then you were announcing your arrival a minute later. Everyone was pleased with your cry.
Otherwise, you were making these lovely little baby noises. You had a streak of blood across your head from my episiotomy. After a few minutes, I couldn’t tell you how long, they put you on a table next to me to do les premiers soins, weighing and that sort of thing. They didn’t clean you right away, your first bath would be a few days later.
The doctor said it was then time for the placenta to come out. I asked her if I could see it. She looked a little surprised, they probably don’t get much of that Berkeley hippie stuff at the BH. Well, at least I didn’t ask her if I could eat it, right son?
She began pushing on my stomach, trying to coax it out, which was very uncomfortable, though I was focused on you. When it came out, she said “Voici le placenta, Madame P” and showed it to me. I was surprised at how big it was. Big and bloody. She pulled up the membrane to show me the bag of waters. The organ that nourished my wonderful son to life.
I wish now I had had a closer look, but I was pretty out of it, and so I just looked and thanked her. I wonder where it is now. Maybe I should have planted a tree. Sorry son, there I go on another hippie rant.
The doctor then sewed me up, WHICH WAS FUN. I honestly didn’t think anything could top the experience I had just had, but being sewed up with no anesthesia, that was FUN. I asked the doctor to give me a local injection, but I don’t think she did. It still hurt, anyway.
I asked Laur what time you were born. She looked a little surprised, looked at her watch and said five fifty am. So I’m not sure if it was really five fifty, or five fifty one, or five forty nine, you get my drift.
Your papa took some videos at this point, and the first video I look really dazed, and I told him that for the next child, we were going to adopt. I’m sorry about that, son, and even three months later I don’t feel that way anymore. Those postpartum forgetting hormones work wonders.
After your soins and my sewing, you had a little white cap put on you and were put back on me. You were still slimy, chalky, warm, and you smelled like dew on the grass, a rich, earthy smell, like new life, like springtime. I could feel your bones through your warm, loose, wrinkly, premature skin. I can still remember what you felt like, what you smelled like, how warm you were. I sang you a song I had been singing to you in my belly for the past few months, the Flaming Lips “She don’t use jelly”. Not a nursery rhyme per se but I think it’s a nice song to sing to children.
And then you were taken up to the neonatal unit, and all my IVs and the epidural were removed, and I don’t remember falling asleep but apparently I slept for two hours in the salle de naissance.
Laur came in at one point, and I thanked her for being such a wonderful companion during the birth. I was having a hard time expressing myself in French, I wanted to tell her that she was a big help. I told her clumsily that I had been nervous about who would be there with me during the birth, and that I was very glad it had been her. She held my hand and smiled, and it seemed she knew what I was trying to say. She told me she would come back to say goodbye to me before her shift ended.
After my nap, I was wheeled up to my room.
All this too is choppy, it’s funny but there is so much I don’t remember now. I know that a very lovely and pretty Spanish midwife, An, who had dark hair, blue eyes and a sweet smile, came in to see me soon after I was wheeled up, to examine my episio and to help me stand up for the first time. Since she was Spanish, we often flipped back into Enlgish as she said English was easier for her than French. I laid back in bed and was brought a meal, tea with milk and a croissant, a juice and a yogurt. An gave me a bunch of pills that I would take for the next few weeks.
Your papa asked if I wanted to sleep, but I was amped to go see you in the neonatal unit. Your father had already been there with you that morning while I slept in the salle de naissance.