I think I can say she is fourteen without stuttering in disbelief now.
As I was doing my typical try to make a funny status update on Facebook the day before her birthday, a mini thread about her birth story happened and someone asked if I had written it down anywhere. I honestly could not remember if I had ever blogged the full story here or not. A check of the archives would suggest that I have hinted at aspects of the story, but have never blogged it or written it anywhere else.
At the first thought of writing the story I pooh-poohed the idea because I am fairly certain that unless I develop some sort of brain injury/condition there is no way I will ever forget this story.
Then as I am often wont to do I gave it some more thought. One of my comments in my FB discussion was that I didn't know if I could ever tell #1 the full story because I have trouble getting through it without being very emotional. Not that emotional is a bad thing. I should be emotional during the telling of this story. It was a very emotional event. I am talking more along the lines of due to my excessive bawling I may not be able to be understood and it could take 3 days to get the story out.
Writing the story down would solve this issue. #1 knows the basic outline and details of her birth, but I have never sat her down and told her the whole story. She knows the funny stuff that happened right as labor started, and the fact that had to stay in the NICU for a week and why that had to happen.
This blog has also been sort of a journal of our lives for the past 6 years. I have desires to have it made into a book for the family to keep someday. I think it would be nice to have both kids birth stories as part of that book. I have not been the best at documenting their lives, so this would in my mind make up for some of that.
So I have made the decision to blog each girl's birth story. I will start with #1 because...well she was my first.
So here we go. Deep Breath.
Oh yeah, Disclaimer time!
If you have never given birth, or about to give birth to your first child I will caution against reading this story. If you choose not to heed my warning then remember that my circumstances were very unusual, and try not to let it scare the hell out of you.
#1 was due December 16. We had been living in California up until my 7th month of pregnancy, and moved back to Topeka in mid September of her birth year. We lived with BH's parents until jobs and housing could be secured.
It took us longer to do those things than we expected, and we wound up moving over Thanksgiving weekend in 1997. Thanksgiving was very late that year. My BP had been climbing at my most recent pre-natal appointments and I was supposed to sit and watch everyone move my stuff in the house. That was fun and didn't raise my BP at all!
#1 had been in the Breech position for several weeks. We had done everything under the sun to try and get her to turn around, external version (the doctor pushed on me for an hour and that kid would not budge!), lying on an ironing board upside down, and my favorite Moxybustion treatment. In an nutshell moxybustion involved incense and a special point on the outside of my small toe. I know it sounds crazy but there was a lot of research on it's success. #1 would get really active during the treatments, but no flippy flippy. At 38 weeks it was obvious she was in that position until birth. I had been getting my prenatal care at our local Birth and Women's center. The breech position issue put me in a high risk delivery category, and they had to refer me to another doctor and I was no longer going to have the cozy home like birth center birth, but a hospital experience. My disappointment was HUGE.
I had a pre-natal appointment the Monday after Thanksgiving, and again my BP was high. My doctor ordered me to stay home and rest, and skip my evening shift at work. So I spent the rest of the day doing a load or two of baby laundry, sitting, fretting, trying to will a miracle flip from #1 in to a head down position, and forcing myself to keep from unpacking boxes.
BH came home from work, and we ate our first meal cooked in our new home. Frozen pizza. (Don't judge! We was poor back then!) BH then went off to the nursery to put together furniture and get a nest ready for our little bird.
Once he finished he called me in to view the final product. I was so excited! It is really difficult to be hardcore nesting with no nest to feather. I walked around the room oohing and ahhing appropriately. Once I had completed my inspection I patted my HUGE belly and informed #1 that she could come out any time now, because we had her nest all ready for her.
I went back to lie down some more, and after about a half hour of rest I felt a funny little pop, and then a little trickle. I hollered to BH, "Hey are you ready to head to the hospital and have this baby?" He replied with a laugh and told me in no uncertain terms that my joke was not funny. I responded by informing that either my water had broken or I was seriously peeing myself. I stood up at this point and there was no doubting what was going on then. He still didn't believe me, even as I was shouting at him to bring me dry pants.
Eventually I convinced him and then the fun began. What with the move and all there had been no packing of the "Let's go have a baby bag." We had a list and good intent, but no follow through. BH laughed and giggled as he ran around the house searching for the list and the stuff we needed. I stayed in the bathroom, as I only had so many pairs of pants that I could use.
Luckily I was not having any contractions, so that helped. We finally got ourselves together and headed to the Birth and Women's center. My care had not been transferred yet, as I was supposed to have my first appointment with the new doctor the next day. The midwife at the B&W center confirmed that yes my water had broken. Given my circumstances it was decided to go straight to the hospital despite the fact that I was not having contractions yet. So off we went!
We got there, registered, and found out that luck was on our side as the doctor I was planning to see the next day was the OB on call that night. He met with me and did an ultrasound to confirm that the baby was still in the breech position. (I guess sometimes babies will do a last minute flip, no such luck for me.) So the doctor discussed options. Given the type of breech position (she was Frank Breech meaning that she was butt first) natural child birth was an option. The doctor went over the pros and cons with us, and the pros and cons of a c-section. He laid out the risks for both as well. After consideration we decided to move forward with natural childbirth.
I know many who are reading this story for the first time will likely struggle with that decision. I have had many discussions regarding my decision. The fact is at the time it was the right decision for us. Birth comes with risk regardless of the circumstances, and I think being comfortable with how you will give birth is important. Natural childbirth was what made me most comfortable.
So decision made, it was time to wait. Because of the breech presentation there was to be no getting up and walking around, using a birth ball, or any of that good stuff to help labor progress and help me manage pain, because breech presentation comes with a significant increase of cord prolapse. So with the exception of a couple of "jailbreaks" to use the toilet I was in bed the entire time. So we waited..and waited.
My water broke around 8:00 PM, but it was well after midnight before I started having noticeable contractions. Once things got started, I would have a contraction, wake up and holler, then fall back to sleep. According to my husband it was kind of humorous to watch, because I seriously would immediately fall asleep as soon as the contraction was over. I guess that was a good thing, because I was going to need a lot of strength come pushing time.
By early morning, around 6-7 AM I was in serious labor. Now if you will recall I mentioned earlier that our original plan had been to give birth at the Birth and Women's Center. It is a fabulous birth center in a huge old Victorian era home. The rooms are lovely, and look more like what you might find at a bed and breakfast. Things like epidurals are not an option for pain management there. There are many other options like birth stools, birthing balls, and a lovely large jacuzzi tub available for helping manage pain. Sometimes they will use Stadol, but that is pretty much it. So during the majority of my pregnancy I did not even think about medication for pain management. BH and I were all good with it, and comfortable knowing that we had many other options to help me through labor.
Well, I had NONE of those lovely options open to me at my hospital birth given my special circumstance. For me, breathing was not cutting it. Screaming my head off during contractions helped a bit. After a few hours of this every couple of minutes, BH gently asked if perhaps it was time to reconsider the epidural.
When I am REALLY sick, or in SERIOUS pain I become irrational. I am not kidding. I will be in the throes of the flu, sky high temp, barely able to get out of bed and insist that I will go to work. When I broke my hand in a car accident as a teenager, I was adamant that I was fine, people were crazy, even though my hand was swollen and hurt if you breathed on it. Got into an argument with my parents about going to the hospital. All that is to say that in the throes of serious labor, I was not fully rational. I flat out refused to have an epidural, and was completely convinced that it would significantly slow down and with all probability stop my labor all together. After 12 hours already gone there was NO WAY. Let's not even talk about the whole NEEDLE IN MY SPINE thing. Never gonna happen my friend.
I realize now that was irrational and in all likelihood an epidural probably would have been quite helpful. If I could go back, I would totally take that epidural.
Finally at about 9 AM it was time to bring this party to an end. They wheeled me down to an OR room just in case things got hincky and they had to do an emergency C-section we would be ready to roll in seconds. In the last hour or before they took me down to push, (Officially push that is, I am pretty sure the involuntary pushing had been going on for a couple hours already.) The doctor kept asking me if this intern, or this student could come and observe the labor. It is not often that they have a natural breech delivery so I was quite the attraction. I believe my answer every time he asked was, "If it will get this baby out soon I don't give a rat's ass who is in there." Because by this time I was not too proud to beg, barter, or steal to get that baby out.
So we are in the OR and that joint is PACKED. I had a huge cheering section. This was a far cry from our birth plan that we wrote out for the birth center. I believe the people to be present in our original plan were me, BH, and the midwife. I think there had to have been about 15 people in that room. No lie.
So they wheeled me in a parked me. Parked me right in front of a HUGE ASS clock. So I could see just how long it was taking me to get this baby out. I did not find it helpful, but it never occurred to me to have them block it out either. I was busy with other things.
Can I tell you something? Pushing a baby out ass first is HARD. I am sure head first is no picnic either, but I will hold up ass first as being worse. I pushed for two hours, and finally got everything but the head out, after being given a very generous episiotomy that I was happy to have. You think I was willing to bargain before pushing, let me tell you that after two hours of serious pushing I would have done ANYTHING to get that baby out. I believe at the end I was repeating over and over, "I just want her out so I can hold her."
So everything is out but the head. This was good, except the head is the hardest part, and I was exhausted. It was also important for the baby's health for me to finish up delivering as soon as possible.
This is where things got ugly. The head was not delivering fast enough. The doctor finally made the decision to use forceps, and got her out.
She was grey and a just a tiny blur as they handed her off to the pediatrician on duty. She had a heart rate, but was not breathing. The pediatrician could not get her intubated properly. The hospital where we delivered did not have a NICU, so an emergency call was made to the hospital across the street and a neonatologist rushed over and got her intubated, breathing, and stabilized.
Those moments were hands down the worst I have ever experienced. I could hear that things were not going well, and I begged them to tell me what was going on. The only answer they gave, "We are doing everything we can." I am not a religious person, and I am not much of one to pray silently let alone out loud. I begged God out loud in front of a room full of people I did not know to save my baby. I cried, and berated myself out loud for choosing not to have a c-section. I remember thinking very clearly that if my baby died, I would also die right there on that hospital bed. I have never felt such raw fear, and oh my GOD the sense of helplessness. I will never forget those feelings as long as I live.
Once she was stable enough to move, they brought her over to me in her isolette. I was not allowed to hold her, but they did allow me to touch her hand before they transported her across the street to the NICU. They took a couple of pictures of her to give me before they left. Jeff followed her over to the NICU since I obviously could not go. That was hard. I really wanted no one else with me but him, but I could not bear the thought of my baby going over there alone.
My whole family was waiting for me when I came back to the room. I remember little of this, other than crying. Lots and lots of crying. They tried to get me to eat, but food just made me nauseous. They kept trying to get me to rest, but despite my long night and morning I could not sleep.
The doctor released me that evening so that I could go over and see the baby. It was a relief, but also heartbreaking to see her. She was intubated and hooked up to what seemed like a million monitors. Her entire bottom area front to back was so bruised and swollen from the birth it looked like she had been beaten. We were not allowed to hold her, and they didn't really want us to touch her much as she needed to recover from the birth trauma. This about killed me. All I could do was stand there, cry, and look at her. I touched her gently anyway. They did have good news that she was barely using the ventilator and the nurses were confident she would have it removed the next day. There was a big concern regarding brain damage. She was oxygen deprived for nearly 10 minutes post birth, and she was curling her toes which can be a sign of brain damage. We were told that she would have a CAT scan the following day to determine what if any damage was there. They said initially that she would be there a few days. A few days was actually 8 days. 8 LONG days. We weren't even allowed to hold her until the third day. That was so hard. What made it worse, was when I finally got to hold her, I was scared to pick her up because of all the tubes and wires she was hooked up to, but I did. I have no idea how parents who have children in the NICU for months stand it. I had fantasies of taking her and running out the door I was so anxious to be out of there. I cried on the way to the hospital and I cried all the way home every day. I cried at home. I barely ate. It was hands down the hardest week I have yet to live.
The next 8 days were long, we were at the NICU most of every day. Every day the news got better. There were no signs of brain damage. All of her organs seemed to be functioning properly. She was eating well, and gaining weight, the jaundice was subsiding. Finally after 8 long days we got to take our baby home.
Once we got her home, the visitors were constant. Only grandparents and our siblings were allowed to visit her in the NICU. My mother came down with the flu the day after she was born, and was not allowed to see her until she came home. We were happy to have visitors, and thrilled to finally get to show her off. We admitted to each other later that we HATED having other people hold her. After waiting so long to hold her the first time ourselves, and with all the rigid NICU rules about it we just wanted her to ourselves.
She was followed by the NICU for a year, as she was at high risk for developmental delays. I was so on top of infant development it was borderline obsessive. She had no delays at all. She has been a happy, healthy, SUPER smart, and well adjusted kid.
We are so lucky that this story ended so well, and it is something I try never to take for granted.
So there you have it. The story of #1's birth.
It was a doozy.