Disclaimer: This is the story of a birth experience gone bad. Sensitive people might not want to read. Also, it's looong, so use the bathroom and get comfortable before beginning. Maybe bring supplies, like a protein bar and a full water bottle.
My pregnancy with Matt was pretty easy and text book. I was nauseous in the beginning, but nothing horrible. I ate a donut at 6 weeks in that repeated on me for three days. I was tired, but nothing a good head on the desk lunch hour nap couldn't abate. My blood pressure stayed consistent through out the pregnancy. And I have to say, I looked fabulous despite the weight. The only thing that wasn't so great was the 55+ pound weight gain, all in the last 20 weeks. I am confident that if you went out and did some research it would mean something. Maybe related to his being on the spectrum, or maybe having to to do with his food sensitivities, or maybe some indicator of my personal state of impending lack of health. But in any case, I ate my weight in spanish food (working in the south bronx yum yum), spanish breads, orange juice and I had this bizarre addict's longing for gallons of milk every day from 20 weeks on and I got huge.
Background: Back when I was pregnant I was already a mother to two dogs. (I thought they were good practice! Har dee har har) I lived on the upper east side of manhattan and I used to take the dogs to walk along the east river. In reality there is a walking path along side the FDR drive which is filthy dirty and noisy as hell. Traffic is speeding inches away from the pedestrians and the walk is littered with dog droppings and bum trash. It is almost always crowded with joggers, skater, dog walkers, and any assorted variety of city dwelling characters, but to me back then that couple of miles was a peaceful respite. Me and the dogs walked it regularly enough to recognize the other walkers, and I knew which ones were more regular than the others. I knew the people who were there, walkers, skaters, dog owners, and I knew their styles and attitudes too. Mostly I was wave or "hello" friendly with the other dog owners, because when you live on top of people like you do in the city that kind of thing happens. (or at least it does to me). There were a few irritated people that had vicious dogs and bad attitudes that I avoided. I had a made up scenario for each one, and they never bothered me too much. One of the not so regular dog walking people I used to see was a pointy nosed blonde lady with an exceptionally pointy nosed blonde cocker spaniel. They looked so much alike it was disturbing. They were both mean and I often wondered why an uptight nasty lady would take her mean unfriendly dog to such a close to other people and dogs kind of place.
There were indications all along from my gyno of how my labor would be treated when the time came. I was too young and naive to understand them. I didn't know that when he kept casually mentioning c-sections it because he had an astounding 70% c-section rate. I didn't quite understand that what appeared to be a snicker was truly a malicious snicker when I marched into his office with my all natural non medically intervening birth plan. I knew what I wanted. I had glanced through the options and I thought innocently enough that once I told him what I wanted that it was what I was going to get. I just trusted him, and that was my critical mistake.
Once I got to my last trimester the gyno recommended a lamaze class. (You know where this going now don't you?) He gave us the name of a nurse at the hospital who he thought gave a good class and suggested we take it with her and only with her. I called the nurse, got onto her schedule and we were assigned a weekly spot in her lamaze class that she taught out of her cutesy studio apartment close to the hospital. On the first day I walked in and I almost fell to the floor. It was the pointy nosed blonde haired dog twin mean dog owner. I wanted to turn and run, but I didn't. We sat through the 8 week labor for idiots class. Breathed ourselves purple and went on our way. I knew before ever even experiencing labor that her class was a joke. I (dumb dumb dumb!) figured I'd just handle it as best I could when I got there.
Since lil sis was single at the time she flew in to be there for my big day. Lil sis showed up a few days before my estimated due date and that first night of her visit I was walking through my apartment when I felt a little trickle between my legs. Hmmm. It wasn't the gush I had imagined it would be, but it was most definitely a little leak. It was such a little leak, I needed to be convinced that it was what I suspected it was. I could make it leak more by hula dancing. I took a cup to catch some of the leak so I could make sure it was clear (no meconium) and also because the dog look alike lamaze teacher said it would smell like ammonia. I didn't smell a thing so I made lil sis smell my cup of amniotic fluid leakage and she will never let me forget it. I figure we won't be even until she gets bit by a venomous snake and I have suck out the poison with my own mouth.
I decided the leak was indeed amniotic fluid and called the gyno who said I had the option of meeting him at the hospital or in his office in the morning unless the labor picked up. I chose the hospital option and called the husband who was still at work at 11 o'clock at night. Brace yourself for another mistake in this long line of mistakes: the husband said he wanted to work through the night and meet me in the AM when I did the dog drop at my parents before heading off to the hospital. You see, Matt had the audacity to think he was going to show up three days before his due date and the husband had some important things to take care of at work. Since lil sis was there for me I agreed to his plan. I threw some laundry in the machine, decided I was better off napping, tried to rest (hahaha) and spent the night pretty much just wasting time until the morning when I could go to the hospital. And in the morning we called a car service, tossed the one dog we had not had to put to sleep into the car, and made the ride to my parents. Lil sis was timing my contractions. They were a mere 3 minutes apart, but only 45 seconds long and pretty mild. I was in the early stages and I knew it. The cab driver was a bit panicky and I reassured him that I was not going to have a baby in his cab. He was so glad to see us get out! We got to my parents place, which was only blocks from the hospital, met the husband, who showered and then husband switched preggo watch with lil sis and he and I went off to the hospital. For the record, I do not recommend your husband pulling an all-nighter at work the night you go into labor. You might want him to be of sound of mind and judgement for the big day.
Once at the hospital I was hopeful that dog face could be my nurse. Even though I didn't like her I figured she was the evil I knew. She wasn't on shift then. Later I would find out that she had not been there that entire week and despite her reassurances that she would be a labor nurse for at least 3 of the 5 of us in the class, she had not been there for a single one of our class's labors. We read the board and discovered that one of the lamaze class moms was already checked in and laboring. (we were all due with in a week of each other) She was half of an interesting couple. He was much much older, wealthy, had already had a grown family, she was young, blonde, and beautiful, and knocked up two weeks into the relationship and he married her to do the right thing. Since he hadn't been in the delivery room the first time around with his original wife she didn't want him in with her. So I snuck in to say HI and I found her lying in the dimly lit room blissfully unaware due to an effective epidural. She slowly through her pain free haze turned to the nurse and asked in a dreamy voice "Am I having a contraction?" and the nurse said "Yeah, that was a big one." I thought it didn't look like anything I couldn't handle, even though my own birth plan called for an unmedicated birth.
And then they found me and made me go to my own little not a room, more like a windowless converted storage closet. The gyno came in with an itty bitty tiny little resident who I believed was named singer. So the nurse was all worked up (completely pissed! hostile even!) because I had the pregnant leaking nerve to show up 15 minutes before the end of her shift and now she had to fill out all of my admitting forms. One of the questions she asked me was whether or not anything traumatic had happened during my pregnancy and when I told her that I had to put my dog to sleep a month earlier she scoffed at me. I was glad she was at the end of her shift. The new nurse showed up and she wasn't much better. Her name was beryl.
Once the gyno and little singer came in to do the initial exam on me (each individually, yay for two internals) they ordered pitocin. I was two centimeters. My water had only been leaking for 8 hours yet he wanted to speed my labor up. I didn't know enough to refuse the pitocin. Once the pitocin hit me I went from "oh, there goes another contraction" to "AAARRRGGHHHHH!!!". Pitocin was horrible to me. Pitocin worked so well (sarcasm) that I was in instant dreadful agonizing back labor. I thought my spine was going to shatter with each contraction. Also, the new excruciating contractions made Matt jump around and every time I had a mother fucking contraction bitchy beryl had to refit the baby heart rate monitor that I did not want in my medically non-interventive labor and delivery in the first place. So bitchy beryl says to me "I keep losing the tracing, could you please try to lie still and make it easier for both of us" and like the idiot I am (but hopefully used to be and am not any longer) I spend the rest of my labor trying not to move during contractions. So here is how it goes: The husband did not like that I was in one of the closet for room rooms and asked to have me switched to a room with a window. Except he did not ask me what I wanted. I would have told him to leave me the fuck alone. After about an hour of non moving/lie still back labor they start wheeling me around,and they take me from my comfy little now familiar closet as a room room and push my bed/stretcher/medieval torture device into a dismally cold somewhat larger room with filthy old windows so I can spend the next 4 hours wondering if the sky could possibly be as disgusting as it looks through the windows or if maybe this side of the hospital is next to the furnace chimney and the windows are coated with furnace debris or if it is indeed the end of the world as my back and it's every three minute or so threat to shatter might indicate.
Gyno and singer start visiting me every 45 minutes, sometimes more often. They enter the room, they do not talk to me, he does an internal, sometimes I have my eyes closed in deep concentration trying not to move and all, and am only aware of his presence as he initiates the finger rape of me, he removes his fingers from my birth canal, gives singer the nod, she inserts her fingers in my birth canal, they leave and whisper in the hallway where I can see them but can not hear them. I have to call out "How many centimeters?" "Tell me what you think" and they are clearly very put out by having to actually speak to the laboring woman and by having to tell the laboring woman what they have just determined. And I continue to endure the back labor, trying not to move during contractions, and the surprise internal exams (you should have seen his glower when I asked that he not do them during a contraction!). Despite my attempts to lie still, they keep losing the tracing on the baby and I consent to an internal monitor being screwed into his head. I pray that they do not poke his little brain putting it in. I also pray that by getting a better grip on his heart beat maybe the atmosphere, which I am not at all happy about around me will change and I will feel more like a participant in this event and less like a nuisance slab of meat. During this whole ordeal bitchy beryl is pretty much absent. She comes in every one on a while to look at me disapprovingly and scold me for not being relaxed. It seems as if the only advice she has is "Relax" though she never mentions how I am supposed to do that while not moving during my back labor contractions while lying flat on my back.
At one point I am told I have permission to lie on my left side (I shit you not, they gave me permission to move) to see if that helps the back labor. The entire event of my labor seems incredibly chaotic, the gyno and singer are poking me more often, they are less communicative (if that is even possible) I am being scolded more and more by bitchy beryl for not being relaxed. All this is opposed to the serene setting I walked in on when my class mate was laboring with an epidural. So I decide that perhaps I will take the epidural and try to regain some modicum of order and control in this situation which has rapidly spiraled out of control. The anesthesiologist comes in. He tells me to sit up and lean on the husband. The husband almost faints and everyone in the room runs to him because they say "Hey, we can't pick you up off the floor buddy! Better sit down" and I have to lean on beryl who I would rather kill than see. The epidural goes in, I fell nothing different, anesthesiologist tells me to wait 20 minutes and see and he disappears. I am lying down on my side again and things start to pick up now.
I am still in incredible pain and I tell beryl that the epidural didn't take. She tells me that I am panicking and if I would only relax I would see that it did take. I tell her again and again. and even offer to hop off the table despite the IV, epidural, monitor and internal monitor that are all plugged into me in their various locations and hop around the room to demonstrate but the bitch keeps telling me it is all in my head and if only I wasn't so panicked I would know that I was just fine. I ask to see the anesthesiologist again but am told he is busy. So I begin to turn inward. I am incredibly focused on me and I no longer pay attention to what is going on around me. Everything I hear is a blur. Everything I feel is a blur. I know I am right and they are not. There are inconsistencies in Matt's heart rate, they give me oxygen. Then I am finally 9 1/2 centimeters, they say I have a lip. I say "I am not numb" out loud but I am too defeated to shout and be heard. They ask me to sign a release for a c-section. I say NO. I do not want a section. The husband signs it. I watch him sign it. There is no fight left in me. That is what I think. They wheel me toward the operating room, I am fading into the ceiling tiles. The operating room is being cleaned. They push me against the wall to wait and the gyno sits down next to my head. I check out. I loose myself in the beat of Matt's heart that I can hear from the monitor. I go into a trance. The next 20 minutes are completely blank. We spend them in the hall waiting. No one touches me or checks me.
They wheel me into the operating room. No one checks me or touches me or even speaks to me. No one asks me how I am or even offers a single word of encouragement. No one sticks his fingers inside me to see that Matt has now descended into the birth canal. He is on his way out. The anesthesiologist appears for the first time since inserting my useless epidural. I am snapped back into consciousness by the sound of the metal arm planks being pulled out of the operating table. I look at him and say "You will not tie my arms down" and the sound of rage in my own voice scares even me. He says he won't tie them down as long as I keep them on the arm planks and I curl my fingers over the edge of the planks and hold tight. The curtain is hung, the husband lowers his head down next to mine to avoid seeing the blood and I say to the anesthesiologist "I'm not numb" but this time my voice is the dead voice of someone who can not be heard. As he ties on his mask all I see are his eyes through the plastic shield. I am watching the anesthesiologist's eyes. And then I start to tell the husband what I feel going on. "They are shaving me." "They are cleaning me it is cold and wet" "They are pressing on me" and I see the eyes of the anesthesiologist widen in fear "OH MY GOD! THEY ARE CUTTING ME!"
And I can feel the hand of the gyno going into the hole in me and I can feel him pulling and pushing and moving. His hand comes out. His hand goes back in. Push push push. His hand comes out. Singer's slim gentle hand goes in. More pushing and pulling. I know there is something wrong. I do not know what it is. I think one of us is going to die because I know there is something very wrong. There is no hand inside me but I am being cut again. Then the hand is back inside my bigger incision, pushing and pulling and pressure and pain. Then another hand spreads my legs apart, it goes up between my legs and pushes inside of me and it pushes up so hard and quick. And I feel Matt going back into my belly. And there is more pushing from the hand in the cut in my belly and I see the anesthesiologist fill a syringe and hold it up ready for use. And I think it must be me who is going to die. There is nothing normal going on here. And I think I want it to be me who dies and not my baby. And then I hear a baby cry. But it seems so far away and I imagine it is a baby in another room, and I ask "Is that my baby? Is that my baby?" as the anesthesiologist shoots that syringe into my IV and no one bothers to answer my question. I am knocked out.
I come to 7 hours later. They have put me in a room, but I do not know that yet. And climbing back into consciousness is a slow process. At first I hear voices. They are all talking at once and I cannot determine what they are saying. It's confusing. Then my eyes focus. And I see both my family and the husband's family standing around me. And they are making a rectangle the way they are lined up and I wonder if I am in a coffin and they are taking one last look. But I realize I hurt, so I must not be dead. I am afraid to talk because if I am not dead, I fear my baby might be. I know something went wrong. Then they all notice I am awake and I have to speak so I ask if they have seen my baby. And every one starts telling me how cute he is and I realize that somehow my baby is alive too. But I don't want all those people standing around me so I remember what a friend of mine said when we came to visit her after her section and I say "You didn't come to see me, go look at the baby" and they all take the hint and leave. It's about 8 o'clock at night. I fall back into a drugged sleep.
The nurses disturb me a few times that first night changing my IV bags and shooting pain killers into my hips but I never really wake up until the next morning. When I do wake up I begin buzzing for the nurse because I want to see my baby for the first time. She tells me I should rest and let them take care of my baby in the nursery, but I insist so she finally fetches me my baby. It has been almost 21 hours since his birth. I know it is my baby coming down the hallway when I hear him cry. It is the same cry I heard in the operating room. It is the only part of him I experienced. I can distinguish it from all the other baby cries. My baby's cry is breathier, it is unique. The nurse pushes the plastic baby holder to me and I finally meet my little baby and I am completely overwhelmed. I gather him into my arms and I am completely bowled over by a speeding freight train of love and this wild primal ferocious urge to protect him. I tell everyone who will listen that I never knew love until the day I held my baby.