I know I’m skipping ahead on my story, but eh. It’s my blog. I’ve been doing a lot of research on avoiding another c-section, and this story wouldn’t leave me alone, so I wrote it down.
I don’t know if I have any guys who read this blog, but I don’t want to alienate them. So here, you guys can watch this instead of reading today’s blog:
Okay, onto the story.
For someone so intent on having a natural birth, I was desperate to be induced. If Pitocin was an actual plant that grew somewhere, in October of 2008 cyou ould have found me squatting in a field, cramming half-chewed handfuls of leaves down my throat as fast as I could.
Technically, I was only a day shy of 2 weeks over due.
Realistically, I was more almost 3 weeks overdue. The date according to the due-date calendars was October 10th. On the other hand, at my first ultrasound (when I was supposed to measure at 9 weeks) I measured at 9 weeks, 6 days. They decided to keep my due date the same on the paperwork, and since I knew better than to worry about such a silly little thing as the official due date, I didn’t complain. Mentally I changed my due date, but the paperwork didn’t agree with me.
Somewhere around 36 weeks I woke up one day, and I felt “done”. I don’t know how else to explain it— I just woke up and realized that the DragonMonkey felt like he was finished cooking. Besides, friends, family, and even random strangers on the street took one look at my gigantic planet-sized belly, and everyone agreed: There was no possible way I could make it to 40 weeks. I was definitely going to go early.
At 37 weeks, Matty dropped into position, and I developed PUPPP. PUPPP is an acronym for “Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy”.
What this means, in layman’s terms is the following:
HOLY ****! MY SKIN HAS BURST INTO FLAMES, AND IF I STOP SCRATCHING FOR ONE NANOSECOND, THE FLAMES WILL CONSUME MY SOUL.
In other words, it’s itchy.
It can be classified as “itchy” in the same way flesh-eating bacteria and ethnic genocide can be classified as “not so good”.
I think my experience (and advice) with PUPPP deserves a chapter of its own, so let’s just leave it at that.
After 4 straight days of not sleeping more than 20 minutes at a stretch due to the itching, I managed to devise a routine: Ice-cold oatmeal bath followed by a generous slathering of three different anti-itch lotions, topped off by Sarna, and then I packed bags of ice on my stomach, legs, armpits and thighs.
I’d doze off for about an hour or two, until the ice had melted, and I’d repeat the process.
Somewhere around 3 or 4 in the morning I would give up and try to do something to pass the time. The Bean and I were living in a one bedroom duplex. Our only television was in our bedroom (I didn’t want to wake The Bean) and we didn’t have any internet at the time.
I baked cookies.
I re-re-re-re-re-re-read books I’d read a thousand times.
I refolded laundry.
I tried not to scratch, as I’d already broken through skin and was bleeding in several places.
I stared at the walls.
I moped about, occasionally shaking my fist at the heavens and threatening to empty rooms in a Scarlett-O’-Hara-like resolve to Never Be Pregnant Again!
I’ve never had to deal with insomnia before, but I have to say I have a new found respect for its sufferers.
Ice packs. The second I took them off, the burning fire of an itching returned immediately.
Ice packs. Sarna. Oatmeal baths. Ice packs.
The rash spread further, crawling its way up my stomach and down my legs like a parasite.
Ice cubes in the cold-water bath, in an attempt to make it better. Sarna.
I took to biting my knuckles, once even accidentally biting off a piece of flesh, because for that brief second that I caused myself the pain, I wasn’t itching.
Ice, ice, and more ice. We were going through about 3 bags of ice a day. The corner store must have wondered about our sudden ice fetish.
Days began to meld together, and I felt like I was losing my grip on sanity.
I began begging my Ob/Gyn for an induction, only to chicken out at the last second. I wanted so badly to have a completely natural birth. Surely I could make it a few more days. I was due any day… any second, really.
I saw the nurse practitioner at the doctor’s more than I ever saw the actual doctor, and she knew how important it was for me to try a natural birth. She started stringing me along with half-promises. “Come on in next Tuesday, and if we don’t see any progress, we’ll might induce.”
After the third time we called our families to tell them they had put the induction off for another few days, we quit calling telling them about the possible inductions.
I started trying everything. I walked every night, waddling up hills and slowly through the city.
The DragonMonkey descended lower, making walking difficult. It’s a hard thing to explain, but I actually felt that kid’s skull in my nether regions. It felt like if I crossed my legs, I might actually do some damage.
I ate spicy foods.
I drank raspberry tea.
I was stuck at 2 centimeters dilated, and it seemed like I was going to be that way forever.
I increased my walks to several times a day.
They stretched my cervix, and despite the fact that I stood in the shower and tried nipple stimulation (oh, the sexiness) for over an hour, I couldn’t get the contractions to become regular. As soon as I stopped, they would stop.
I walked some more.
I ate Indian food so spicy it made my eyes burn just to be near it.
I waddled to the nearby library and researched every method of inducing labor that I could. I’m pretty sure I tried almost all of them.
I even bought a bottle of syrup of ipecac, but couldn’t actually go through with it.
Nightly, I turned to The Bean, heaving my grossly swollen body onto its side, tapped his shoulder, and said the world’s least romantic line: “Sweetie? I need you to deposit some more sperm near my cervix.”
To his credit, he never once complained.
To my credit, I told him he could shut his eyes and think about Anne Hathaway.
Inexplicably, miraculously, the PUPPP’s inflammation decreased. It wasn’t gone, but I could at least get 2-3 hours of sleep at a stretch. It felt like heaven.
Monday night, October 13th, I felt a change. I’d been in and out of the bathroom all day, with cramping and the runs (oh, the double sexiness.) Spicy food? Impending sign of labor? It was hard to say which it was. I’d had occasional Braxton Hicks contractions all day. My sister and I went down to screen a movie (Australia), and I warned her that there was a real possibility that we would have to leave before we were finished.
I made it through the movie with only 2 or 3 contractions. I was thoroughly disappointed.
I went home and slept restlessly, waking up several times with low, burning cramps.
Tuesday was awful. I had low, light contractions all day long. They weren’t terribly painful, but they were frustrating. I wanted the kid out, and I wanted him out NOW.
I walked some more, stopping occasionally to lean against a tree and sway.
Tuesday night was no better than Monday night. I was able to sleep some, but between the itching and the occasional contraction, it wasn’t the best.
By Wednesday, I was a mess. I began having visions of baby elephants and a 2-year-long gestation period. I kissed the Bean goodbye, and stayed in the house all day. I timed the contractions desperately. 45 minutes, 35, minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 8 minutes, 8 minutes, 7 minutes……. And then they would reset. 45 minutes apart, 35 minutes, 18 minutes, 9 minutes, 8 minutes, 7 minutes… 50 minutes. And so on, and so on.
I didn’t have any real friends in the area, so there was no one to talk to. It was a very long day.
Finally, about four in the afternoon, when I was once again around the 7-8 minute mark, I called the hospital.
“I’m having contractions, and they’re about 7 minutes apart. Should I come in?”
“Don’t come in until you’re five minutes apart,” said the nurse in a bored tone. “Just drink some warm milk and go for a walk and call us back when you’re at five minutes.”
She hung up on me.
I stared at my cell phone and had visions of ramming a machete through her skull.
Warm milk? Seriously?
The Bean came home, and the sun set. Exhausted, I slept deeply between the contractions, which were about once every hour. When I could feel my stomach tightening, I would immediately scramble to my hands and knees, since that seemed to make it feel better. I didn’t realize it at the time, but The DragonMonkey was facing backwards, so I was actually enjoying the beauty of back labor.
Dawn finally came. I had an early morning doctor’s appointment. I went out onto our front porch, and sat in depressed exhaustion, leaning my forehead against the pillars. I was going to be pregnant forever.
My neighbor came out onto her porch, and looked at me in surprise. “You’re still pregnant? I thought you had that baby by now.”
I was too tired to be as snarky as I felt, so I just ignored her.
At the doctor’s I put my feet up in the stirrups, and I prayed. I didn’t know what I was going to do if she told me I was still only 2 centimeters dilated. Dig the baby out with a spoon? Jump off a bridge? They were all sounding like viable options by that point.
She took a little longer than normal before lowering my covering, then looked at me. “Becky, you’re at five and a half centimeters. You need to go to the hospital.”
I was so happy, I couldn’t help myself. I broke down crying.
After making all sorts of promises that we would head straight to the hospital, the Bean and I headed home. I wanted my bag, and The Bean was in DESPERATE need of a haircut, especially since we were about to be featured in about the 1,400 photographs my mom took of the event. Since I now knew that my contractions weren’t just wasted Braxton Hicks contractions, I didn’t care that they were coming so far apart. With a smile I waved The Bean out the door, and he dashed to the corner.
Humming happily, I began fussing about the house. I knew the next time I saw it I would have a baby. I washed some dishes, and had to resist the urge to start cleaning the bathroom.
About 30 minutes later, my phone rang.
“Is this Becky?” the voice on the other end sounded disgruntled.
“Yes. May I ask who is calling?”
“This is the hospital. We were told you were going to be here any minute. We paged the doctor, and you’re not here. Where ARE you?” She sounded for all the world like a grumpy mom chastising a toddler.
I was so happy I wasn’t going to be eternally pregnant that I chose to ignore her attitude.
“Oh, we’ll there in a moment. We just needed to stop by the house and pick up some items.”
“Well, you need to get here soon. Just get in the car and come here now.”
I raised an eyebrow, but ignored her surly tone.
“We’ll be there as soon as we can!”
She hung up on me.
The Bean came home, sporting the worst haircut I’ve ever seen. The Bean favors the short, crew cut that Marines often wear. Until I saw him, I wasn’t aware you could actually mess up that hairstyle. He looked like he’d been attacked by a pack of feral moths.
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” he asked, grabbing my bag and helping me into the car.
“No, no,” I lied, eyeballing an actual tuft of hair that sprouted out of the side of his head like a weed. “It looks great.”
We pulled into the hospital and made our way over to labor and delivery.
“Uh, we’re here to check in, please.”
The nurse looked at us in confusion.
“Who referred you? What procedure?”
“Um, actually, we’re here to give birth. I’m in labor. About 5 ½ centimeters along?”
Here eyebrows hiked up. “Wow. You guys are really calm! Sorry, I didn’t realize it was you guys. We’ve been expecting you. You know, you were supposed to be here sooner. Your nurse just left to get her lunch. She’s been waiting to check you in,” she scolded.
I didn’t know what else to say. “I’m sorry?”
She sighed. “It’s okay. I can page her.”
I changed and lay down on the bed, smiling over at the Bean. My nurse came in, a impressively solid woman with a permanently scowling face.
“Hi there,” I said.
“Lay down on the bed.”
“Oh, sorry. It just feels better to stand between contractions. Sure, no problem.”
She ignored me, and waited for me to settle in before strapping on the fetal monitors.
“Sorry about taking you away from your lunch. I’m doing pretty good right now. You don’t have to wait around on me.”
She glanced at me dourly. “I do. You need 10 minutes of fetal monitoring.”
She finished strapping me in and inserting my IV.
“Bend your legs.”
I stared at her in confusion, and crooked my leg slightly.
She sighed, heavily. “More.”
I bent the other one, still confused.
“MORE,” she said, in exasperation, and grabbing one leg to show me what she wanted.
“Oh. Sorr—“ I started to say, then yelped as she dove a hand in to check my dilation.
“You need to stay still for me to measure you,” she snapped.
“I didn’t realize that’s what you were going to do,” I snapped back, biting my tongue before saying anything further. I mean, seriously. Shouldn’t you at least share your first name before plunging wrist-deep in someone’s va-jay-jay?
“Six centimeters,” she hollered out to no one in particular, then said, “Roll over on your side.”
I was done taking her deceptively simple instructions. “Why?”
“I need to give you an enema.”
I glared at her. If I hadn’t of asked, would she even had told me what she was about to do? “Do I have to have one?”
Nurse EvilSpawn glared back at me. “The doctor prefers it. It prevents contamination on your baby and ensures the baby is born in a clean environment.”
I shrugged, motioned The Bean out of the room, and rolled over.
It SERIOUSLY hurt. Either they gave me an enema with one of these:
Or she did it wrong.
“Try to hold it for five minutes. Call me when you are done.” And with that, she left.
Ten or fifteen loud, embarrassing minutes later, I paged her back in the room. She reset the fetal monitors, and the Bean sat beside me, fascinated by the graphs and readouts.
I had two strong contractions, relatively close together. Not being able to sit up or rock on my hands and knees made them really hurt (yaay for back labor).
An unknown doctor came into the room, followed by two unfamiliar nurses. “Your baby’s heart rate keeps dropping during your contractions. We need you to lay on your side. We’re going to start a Pitocin drip to hurry things along. I think it’s best if we break your waters, too.”
I nodded, frustrated and a little worried.
The doctor pulled out an evil-looking hook and talked me through the process. For those of you who haven’t had a baby yet— yes. The rumors are true. It feels like you’ve just peed yourself.
Flat on my back, I reached out to The Bean, and grabbed his hand, only to push his hand away as another strong contraction came. What had felt moderately painful when I was standing suddenly hurt like the dickens now that I was lying down.
This time, I was horribly aware of the sound of the DragonMonkey’s decreasing heart rate throughout the contraction.
“BEEPBEEPBEEP-BEEP-BEEP—BEEEP—–BEEEP—-“ It was impossible to relax and let my body do its thing when I could hear the sound of the contractions apparently squeezing the life out of him.
Nurse Ratchet returned.
“You need to lay flat on your back with your knees bent through the contractions.”
So I did— and &#%#! that hurt. All I wanted was to be able to stand up to take some of the pressure off my back, but I couldn’t, especially not with the sound of the slowing heartbeat echoing in my ears.
I started to get nervous. What if the baby died?
The doctor reentered. “We need to take a more accurate measurement of what’s happening to your baby through the contractions, so we’d like to do some internal fetal monitoring. Also, without the cushion of your waters, the baby doesn’t seem to tolerate the contractions as well. I’d like to thread a catheter up to provide some more fluid for him.
I didn’t want to say it, but come on. Fifteen minutes earlier they’d broken my waters, and now they were going to try and put more water back up in there? Whatever.
The doctor completed his tasks, and I shifted uncomfortably. I had an IV in my arm, two bands around my belly, two thin wires up my vajajay and screwed into my son’s head (they felt weird), another tube threaded up there and running fluid into my uterus (it felt even weirder) that constantly leaked out (that felt the weirdest) and I was now instructed to lay flat on my back for the rest of labor.
The next contraction hit with a vengeance. I twisted halfway onto my side, and tried to breathe through it. The Bean froze, unsure what to do. At the peak of the contraction he tried to hold my hand, and I slapped him away. I could feel myself wanting to make a low, grunting noise, but stopped, because I could feel Nurse EvilSpawn watching me and I felt embarrassed. The contraction was long—well over a minute, and it was well off the charts of intensity on the monitors. I could hear the nurses talking about me, but I was so caught up in the moment that I couldn’t speak.
“She needs to settle down. Look at her heart rate. She really needs to just calm down.”
“What she needs is an epidural, “ said Nurse EvilSpawn. “But she says she doesn’t want one.” I could hear her rolling her eyes.
“But look at her heartrate— that’s not good for the baby.”
“Yeah. I know.”
I wanted to throw something at them. What I *needed* was for them to shut the heck up and quit talking about me like I was a mindless cow. What I *needed* was for someone to actually tell me what was going on, and that it was going to be okay. The Bean was even more nervous than I was, and when he wasn’t sitting there silent and unsure, he was trying to point things out to me on the monitor, like the fact that my previous contraction was strong. Really? Wow. Without that monitor, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. (For the record he has been officially fired from his position as birth coach. We’re getting a doula this time.)
The doctor entered again, and sat at the edge of the bed. “We need to make a decision. Your baby is not tolerating labor well. If you were further along, like 8 or 9 centimeters, I might say that we give it a go. But you’re only at six, and you probably have a long road ahead.”
I glanced at The Bean, who looked just as lost and confused as I was.
“I don’t know. I guess… I guess I just want the baby to be safe. Should I get a C-section? Is that what the baby needs?”
“It’s up to you.”
“What happens if I don’t get one? I just want the baby to be safe.”
The doctor smiled softly, apologetically. “At this point, I can’t make that decision for you. It’s up to you. His heart rate is decreasing significantly with every contraction you have, I can tell you that.”
I sat there for a moment, angry at the way it was turning out. I weighed the odds, and decided that my personal wishes were not worth risking the DragonMonkey’s life.
“Let’s do the C-section.”