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Jamieson, part 3
In the labor room, the nurse handed me a hospital gown and told me to change in the bathroom. I hopped up onto the bed and the doctor came in to apply the gel that would help get labor started. This was about 1:30. I stayed in bed for about 20 minutes to give it a chance to begin working, and then got up and began walking the halls with Doc. Labor and Delivery at Baylor is not a terribly big place, and so we walked the same circular path dozens of times. At some point Doc went out to the car to get our bags, and Mom walked with me for a while.
My pain level wasn’t too bad initially; it felt a lot like a constant mild cramping sensation. As we walked, the contractions got a bit stronger and I had to breathe deeply through them; they happened about once every time around the path, maybe every 3-4 minutes.
The doctor checked me around 3:00 and I had progressed to 3-1/2 centimeters dilated. He said that we could either wait for up to six more hours and hope I progressed more, at which point we could start me on Pitocin for additional induction goodness, or go ahead now and break my water.
Doc and I decided that it was preferable at this point to just get it over with, so the doctor broke my water, which is about as fun as it sounds. Almost immediately, the contractions increased sharply in intensity. I tried to continue walking around but it quickly became impossible. Once a contraction started, I had to stay in whatever position I was in because moving hurt way too much.
I remember at one point I was on the birthing ball, leaning on the bed, and throwing up into a little basin that Doc was holding for me. That is true love! Plenty of nurses around, and he wanted to do it instead. (And now I can no longer drink orange Vitamin Water.)
Kathryn came in just in time to see this. I didn’t know it was her until later; I just saw a pair of legs in scrubs and assumed it was another nurse since I was preoccupied at the time.
The contractions felt like I had a band across my lower back and around my abdomen, and it was being tightened until it was excruciatingly painful, especially in the back and pelvis. The pain in my uterus was hardly noticeable in comparison.
I worked through contractions for what felt like forever. Doc and I tried the count-up breathing technique, where I took breaths as deep as I could and counted up out loud with each breath to the peak of the contraction, then begin counting down as the intensity lessened. I tried leaning on the birthing ball, on my hands and knees on the floor (I’m sure my butt was hanging out for all the world to see), leaning on the foot of the bed, sitting on the bed with my legs hanging off, and at one point I got into the bathtub. I took off all my clothes in front of everyone before getting in the tub; all sense of modesty had disappeared.
Kathryn worked on my lower back as much as I could tolerate through the contractions, and she also pressed some points in my shoulders that did seem to help with the pain a bit. Doc held my hand the whole time or had his arms around me, helped me count, and tried to keep me focused on my breathing, exactly the way we had practiced in class. He did an amazing job with this, talking me off the “I can’t do this anymore!!” ledge countless times.
The pain during each contraction was so bad that I didn’t even have any reserves left to cry. I don’t think I cried at all, actually. But I know I kept saying “Fuck!” over and over. It was pretty much the only word I could muster. I’m not sure what that says about me.
The problem was, I was only getting about 30 seconds inbetween contractions, and the pain never lessened in the interim to a point that I felt any sense of energy regeneration. Doc and I had previously agreed that I would need to ask for an epidural three separate times before I really meant it; the first two times he would offer me encouragement and try to help me work through the pain. I can’t remember at which points my three requests came, but finally I couldn’t stand it any longer and made my third request. I felt like I was chickening out and caving in to the pain way too soon, but at this point I had been laboring for well over two hours with these unbelievably intense contractions, and I didn’t care anymore about my previous wishes to deliver medication-free. My fancy idealized birth plan had gone out the window when we decided to induce, anyway.
Doc went to find a nurse, and I worked through a few more contractions before the anaesthesiologist arrived. I had to sit upright on the bed for him to put the epidural catheter in, and that just about killed me. The nurse put an IV for fluids into my wrist and the anaesthesiologist worked the needle into my spine. Doc was careful enough, though, to warn him when another contraction was coming so he could stop what he was doing in case I moved. You don’t want to be jerking around when someone is putting needles into your spinal column. Finally the catheter was in and he started the juices flowing. He asked me which leg became warm first (the right one), and I felt a flood of warmth flowing down my right leg and back up again. Then the left one followed soon after. The pain of the contraction that I was in decreased as normal, but then kept on decreasing and decreasing until it was completely gone.
I have never felt relief like that in my life. Epidurals are freaking awesome!
Now I was confined to the bed since my lower half no longer had sensation. I could wiggle my toes a little and bend my legs at the knee just a bit, but could feel nothing. The doctor checked my cervix; I’d only progressed half a centimeter to 4 the entire time I’d been laboring so intensely. He checked the baby, and he was “sunny side up;” in otherwords, facing the wrong way. I had been having back labor, not regular labor, which is why it was so intensely painful and located across my lower back and pelvis. He also said that the reason that I’d only progressed 1/2 centimeter was likely because the intensity of the back labor was causing my uterus to seize up. I was too tense to dilate. The epidural was definitely the right choice, not only because I was able to relax but also because my labor was not progressing properly otherwise.
They had me flip onto my side to try and encourage the baby to start turning into the proper position. I laid like that for a while, talking to Doc and Kathryn and my mom. Kathryn worked on some pressure points on my ankles that are supposed to help regulate labor. She told me later that every time she pressed the pressure points, she could see my contractions on the monitor go flatline. I have to wonder if I hadn’t yet had the epidural and she was doing that, would it have made them stop? Or hurt less? Hard to say, but I find it fascinating that it was having an effect.
When the doctor checked back in a little while later, Mr. Baby had turned about half way around! He decided to reach in and manually turn the baby the rest of the way (Doc said from the chair across the room “Remember: lefty loosey, righty tighty!”), which he did in a matter of minutes.
After that, my job was to lie there on my back until I’d achieved full dilation. By about 8:30 in the evening, I was at 10 centimeters, and it was time to start pushing. Doc and I had talked about the pushing part being with just us in the room (and the medical staff, of course), a fact that I had failed to communicate to my mom and Kathryn before I went into labor. I feel bad about the mix-up, but I felt that this part of the process was really intimate and I wanted it to be something special that Doc and I shared.
A flurry of nurses came in and began to set the room up for delivery. I don’t remember exactly what this involved, but I know there were some tables full of instruments that might become necessary. At almost 9:00, with Doc and a nurse each holding one of my legs up (a lovely position to be in), I began to push. It was an interesting sensation because I couldn’t really feel anything, but the nurse coached me and I was able to get the hang of it pretty quickly. When you push, you take a deep breath and then let it out slowly while bearing down, while the nurse counts to ten. You do this three times per contraction. The baby slowly begins to emerge, but it’s like two steps forward, one step back, so it takes a while. They had set up a mirror so I could watch what was going on, which at first sounds kinda gross but it is completely fascinating. I felt a sense of great pressure, and I watched my baby begin to emerge! It was utterly amazing!!
After 45 minutes of pushing, the baby began to crown. The doctor came in (and blocked the mirror, unfortunately), but at 9:46 p.m., Jamieson Harlan Scott was born. I immediately began to cry with joy.
It was not without complications, though. The doctor had Doc cut the cord, but very very quickly. And then they took Jamie away to the warming bassinet instead of putting him on top of me right away. I knew that something was wrong. They told me that he just needed a little suction to get some stuff out of his lungs, but the way they were furiously working on him told me that it was a lot more serious than that. They had oxygen on him and Doc said that they kept lifting up his little arms, and they would just drop back onto the table like dead weight.
I had some complications myself. My placenta didn’t want to come out on its own. It had gotten itself stuck to the wall of my uterus. The doctor had to manually remove it, and it came out in chunks. Luckily I coudn’t feel any pain from this, but the pressure was intense. They brought Jamie to me about 20 minutes after he was born, and the doctor was still working on me at this point. Jamie’s breathing was still rattly, so they took him again and did some more suction.
I didn’t tear externally, but they had to put in a few internal stitches. Again: thank you, epidural.
When they brought Jamie to me again, I tried to get him to breastfeed, and he latched on like he knew exactly what he was doing. We fed successfully for about 20 minutes, and then they wheeled us up to my postpartum recovery room.
After we got settled in, Doc went down to the waiting room to get Mom and Kathryn. I felt kind of bad because at this point they’d been waiting down there probably almost five hours. I don’t know where the time went, but it was close to 2 in the morning by now. We spent a little time visiting in the room, and they left for home a short while later.
The rest of the time in the hospital is kind of a blur and I’m forgetting so many details already. My mom was there off and on helping us, we slept in short bursts, I fed Jamie when he was hungry, nurses came in and out around the clock to take my or Jamie’s vital signs, we signed a lot of paperwork, learned a lot of things about baby care, Doc gave Jamie his first sponge bath, I tried to eat the crappy hospital food (two words: clear gravy), we practiced swaddling a lot, Doc took a lot of photos, and Jamie had lots of tests and screenings, all of which he passed with flying colors.
We came home on Wednesday afternoon.
I’ll write more about Jamie’s first week of life when I have a little more time.