laugh it out

(Paul’s birth story)

I was pretty sure Flipper was going to come after his due date, but I hoped that, unlike with Annie, labor would start before an induction was necessary. Unfortunately, it seems my body is so good at being pregnant that it never wants to stop, so we went in for another unnatural start at 41 weeks and 6 days. The Halls held down the fort with Annie while Bryan and I headed for the hospital on Thursday night.

My cervix looked plenty ripe enough to skip the softening medicine that had wreaked such havoc on me the last time, so night-nurse Abby got me hooked up to monitors and an IV, gave me an Ambien, and told us to get a few hours of sleep. A nice surprise, which we actually managed.

Flipper declined his final opportunity to appear voluntarily. At 4am, Abby returned to administer antibiotics, and that was the end of sleep. I watched my mobile fetal monitor blink blue at my navel for a couple of hours, and at 6, a slow Pitocin drip started. I’d been having small contractions for days, which didn’t much change. Cameron arrived a few minutes later with a McDonald’s breakfast for Bryan.

Between 7-8, I met the key members of Team Childbirth: (day) nurse Bernadette, an old-school character I initially speculated was a nun, the low-key doula Darby, who grew up in Plano, and the on-call OB Dr. Ikbal, since mine was on vacation in Estes Park all week. At 7:30, Dr. Ikbal broke my water, and my contractions became legitimate enough for me to feel like I was in “real” labor. It would last 9 hours.

For the next five, I sat on the bed, bounced on a ball, rocked in a chair, and paced the hall, with Darby and Bryan rolling my IV pole and keeping the back of my gown closed. Up so often, I would miss the automatic blood pressure monitoring, and the cuff would inflate completely and uselessly without me. We became expert at unhooking it to deflate and restart the measurement. Every half hour, nurse Bernadette would ask about my pain and, deeming me not uncomfortable enough, increase the Pitocin drip. I snacked on jello, broth, juice, and tea. Darby diffused some aromas in the room. Bryan kept music playing. Cameron texted updates to interested family and friends. Medical staff who came by remarked on the room’s pleasant atmosphere. It was the labor I wanted to have.

walking the halls
walking the halls

Gradually, the contractions got more painful. I started shaking, hard. Walking around no longer seemed plausible, so I stuck to the bed, leaning back against Bryan, which helped the shaking and my breathing. My world shrank down to getting through the next one.

At 1pm, I was 6cm dilated. “How about that epidural?” At 1:30, sweet relief.

At 2:30, I was still 6cm dilated, and the baby still quite high. His heart rate was troubling Bernadette. It would dip during contractions and stay low. She stayed in the room with us, watching the monitor and changing my position in hopes of improving his situation. She cut my pitocin drip in half and gave me oxygen. I worried that with labor stalled and the baby in some distress, I’d be wheeled off for a c-section any moment.

A final flip over to my right side and placement of a giant inflatable peanut between my legs seemed to resolve things, though. Flipper’s heart rate returned to normal, and I almost immediately started feeling a new kind of pressure during contractions, a lot like a baby head in my birth canal. Bernadette stayed with us, and we chatted pleasantly about families and school and jobs.

An hour later, at 4, I asked when we’d take another look at my cervix. “Things, really, uh, there’s a lot of pressure.” Nurse and doula put me off: you really don’t want to check too often—risk of infection, lack of progress can be disheartening, etc etc. Let’s check at 4:30. Okay, I said. I’ll have some jello.

Ten minutes later, Bernadette noticed that I’d pooped. This happens when you are pushing out a baby. So yeah, let’s look at that cervix! Hey! 10 cm! Hey! There’s a baby head. Hey! Let’s get that doctor over here.

Trays of instruments appeared. Medical professionals bustled around. Parents were telephoned. I put down my jello.

My team extracted me from my sports bra and hung it on the IV pole. My legs, one totally dead, were hauled into stirrups. The baby’s head—“yeah, this baby is coming out.” I got a terrible case of the giggles. With each eruption of laughter, the head eased a little farther out. “Just keep laughing!”

During the next contraction, I really pushed, and his head was half-out. I felt it, and everything stretched around it. The doctor smeared it all with oil. One more contraction: push, and his head is out. Push, and there’s the rest. It’s 4:30.

Bryan cuts the cord, and there’s a little blue guy on my chest. I am not prepared. It happened too fast! He’s peeing on me, and snuffling around my boobs. Paul.

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