Archive for March, 2011

Birth story

So I never actually posted K’s birth story, and I typed it out for a comment on Reddit for the third time, I think, so I might as well copy it here and just refer people to it. So I’ll leave in the advice toward the end. Currently it may be a bit wonky; I haven’t had time to properly edit since adding some things.

Of course there may be TMI.

I was to be induced on a Thursday, so Wednesday night they had me go in to the hospital to get something applied to my cervix to help it ripen/dilate. They offered ambien or morphine to help me sleep and recommended the morphine since its affects wouldn’t last into the morning. Morphine feels like being drunk, btw.

The next morning at about 8 or so, I was given an IV. I had the pitocin started by 9. I fell asleep for an hour or so and when I woke up I was in or pretty near active labor, though I didn’t know it at the time. Contractions were painful, around the front of my abdomen, but it wasn’t bad. Our doula recommended taking a little walk around L&D, so we did that, but by the time we were halfway around, my contractions were 20 seconds apart and I could no longer take steps through them. Whoops! They dialed back the pitocin and we hobbled back to the room. Looking back, I can say that I was definitely in active labor by that point.

The rest of it is a blur now. My doula and husband had me going to the bathroom regularly to empty my bladder, but in between trips I think I stood for a while and sat on an exercise ball. I think it was the second time I was on the toilet that I asked my doula if I was in active labor because if I wasn’t, I was pretty sure I couldn’t do this because the contractions were already painful enough that I was starting to have doubts. She checked with the midwife/nurses and assured me I was.

More time on the exercise ball. Our doula sat down in front of me and took control, saying, “do this with me: hee hee hee hoooohhhh.” And that was how I went through all the contractions after that until it was time to push.

I did have a lot of doubt as I got closer to transition. I have no idea how long I was thinking “I can’t do this” during contractions, but once each contraction started to abate, I was okay again. And I couldn’t ask for drugs when the pain was really bad because I was too busy going “hee hee hee hooooohhhh” 🙂 I had told my husband and doula not to give me drugs unless I was saying “GIVE ME THE GODDAMN DRUGS,” and I wasn’t ready to even ask for them, even in the middle of a contraction. I knew enough about my options to know the pain was better for me.

Our doula had explained the drugs they use at this hospital: epidural and a narcotic (I think) that they don’t give you unless you’re at least 3-4 hours away from birth because your body needs to clean it from the baby’s system. The point of that one is to let you get some rest when you’ve been in labor for 15 hours and you are exhausted. I didn’t get to that point.

I could not deal with the idea of a needle in my spine or the catheter required for the epidural. I know pain, I have felt pain, I understand pain. It sucks but I know what it feels like. I have never had a needle in my spine or a catheter and at no point did the pain eclipse my desire not to experience those things.

So eventually they had me lie down. They checked my cervix and the midwife was surprised to find I was 8 cm dilated. My first thought was, “well, no drugs then!” It was kind of a relief to have that decision out of the way. I don’t know how long after that I started to push, but it couldn’t have been long.

The first contraction was a minor change from what I had been used to — it felt a little different toward the end of it. I said something like, “I think I’m ready to push.” The next one, there was no doubt — my entire abdomen convulsed and went HURRRRRRRRRRR, and I had to breathe, and then HURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR….and then HURRRRR. You know how, in movies and sometimes in other people’s birth stories, the nurses tell the woman not to push yet because the doctor isn’t there? I don’t know how they do it because there is no “not pushing”. Your body is pushing and you can either try and relax the rest of you, or you can help. But there is no “waiting to push”.

Don’t be scared by this. It’s actually a great relief, after hours of just going through contractions, to be able to DO something, but not to have to MAKE yourself do it, because your body tells you that we’re pushing now, okay now rest for a moment, okay now push again. And time just flies. I pushed for 2.5 hours, but for the most part it seemed like nothing. Once my baby was born and I could think about time again, I could have sworn it was 15 minutes.

At first I pushed on my side, but my legs were getting tired and my hip started to hurt during contractions (I have bursitis in my hips, and one or both hip joints hurt in certain positions), so we tried a few different things. I intended to squat, but the pain in my hip was only eclipsed by the pain of the contraction at the very peak of it, so that was out. For a while, I was on my hands and knees, and that worked for me. A few things I remember:

My doula was on one side and my husband on the other. During contractions, each of them took a hand and I pulled on their hands like I was in an abdominal machine at the gym. The next day, we were all going to be sore.

I felt a stretchy pain right by my clitoris. Throughout labor, that was the only tearing I felt, and I think that was pretty much the least of it. I don’t know why I felt it there and not all the way around, but I’m not complaining. I also don’t know if I felt that because I was facing down, but it didn’t go away right away when I was back on my back.

They encouraged me to touch the top of the baby’s head. I didn’t want to, fearing it would be weird and I’d freak out. (Some people, when getting a cavity filled at the dentist, put their tongue in the hole in their tooth; I very carefully do not.) But finally I did, and my husband says my whole body relaxed and it seemed that it gave me more strength. I remember deflating like a balloon for a moment. It probably looked like relief, and maybe that’s what I felt, but I don’t now remember feeling that way. It was incredible, and I think that was the moment that “baby!” became Real…but it was surreal too. One of those things you only experience a few times in a lifetime, so it doesn’t feel like it’s possible but there it is, happening all the same. To you.

After a while they wanted me to be on my back again so I could pull my knees up to help get the baby’s head past my pelvic bone. I do think it was during that part that it started to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere, but it was only briefly. I learned later that they were afraid to up the pitocin because of my earlier fast contractions, though I think they did at some point.

The midwife also pressed on my perineum a few times during the pushing phase. Supposedly, this helps reduce tearing; I have no idea if that’s true or not but it’s worth a shot. It also, and this was much more important to me, gives you something to aim for as you’re pushing. I tended to get all tense (and purple, my husband says) in the face during a push, so they had to do a lot of encouraging to get me to push “down there”.

This was about when I became dimly aware that there were a LOT of people in the room. I didn’t care (which surprised me when I looked back on it), and I still don’t, but damn. They were all cheering for me, and it really helped, which does surprise me since I hate being the center of attention. They were probably mostly there because they were concerned about shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone, which is very dangerous for the baby as they can suffocate if the umbilical cord is caught between the baby’s head and the birth canal.

That was because she wasn’t turned quite right, and they were all prepped for whatever they do in that case. But once her huge head got through, the rest of her rotated and followed in the same push. I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a lot of purple on the table and the midwife looking over at me in surprise. Then everyone descended, lol — the midwife picked up the baby and asked me, “on you?” and I cried “YES!” and they had me pull up my shirt and they laid her on my chest and rubbed her with white towels until she cried. K grabbed my husband’s finger on one side and was facing our doula on the other side, and our doula asked if he wanted to come around to the other side, but he said he’d have to let go of her first, and there was a lot of activity going on that I was dimly aware of, and she wasn’t crying anymore, but my husband was — and laughing too. I stared down at the top of her head, which was covered with the hair that we had seen on the past-due-date ultrasound. At some point my husband did come around to my right where the baby was facing, and apparently our doula took a couple of pictures which I can add to this post in a few minutes, and all the nurses did whatever they had to do, and I got stitched up (I tore very badly, which is unusual) and eventually I was put in a wheelchair and we all went down a floor to Maternity.

I suggest staying in the hospital as long as your insurance will cover. It is so nice to have the nurses there to take care of you and once you get out, then you have to take care of yourself and the baby and you have to call the hospital instead of just ringing a bell to get somebody in your room to answer your questions. I thought about leaving a day early but I’m glad I didn’t.

Oh, and one last piece of advice: ask for a stool softener as soon after the birth as you can. It takes a couple days to start working and you might need it, especially if you are anemic like me and have to take an iron supplement (which causes constipation). Bowel movements after birth, particularly if you tear a lot, can really suck. Eat lots of fiber and get some Metamucil just in case. I don’t want to scare you, but I really wish somebody had told me this beforehand. As I said above, my tearing was unusually bad, so 99.9% certainty you’ll have an easier time, but have the stuff on hand just in case, and take it until you know what to expect. It’s best to just have everything fall out.

Speaking of waste falling out, urinary incontinence is also common after childbirth. When you start to think you might have to pee at some point, get to the bathroom ASAP because you have to go a lot more than you feel like you do, and the muscles you use to hold it in are worn out. Holding in your pee and peeing anyway is a very strange feeling.

Back to less unpleasant topics: My labor was very short — less than 8 hours. They said my baby was probably pretty much ready to come out and labor would have started within the next day or two at the latest. This is one thing I did not mind at all about being induced 12 days late.

Pictures: http://nettabird.imgur.com/birth

Oh, and people say you’ll be overwhelmed with love and all that? I wasn’t overwhelmed. I was really too tired to feel much of anything at all. But within a short time I was definitely amazed with how much I loved her, and that feeling just keeps growing as she gets older.


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A quick check-in

Missed the gym yesterday but my muscles were still kind of stiff so it was just as well. Weights this morning. I wanted to go back to bed, but it was my own damn fault I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, so I made myself go to the gym.

I’ve determined that my squat form isn’t getting appreciably better and it’s probably good enough to add weight to the bar. So last time I added 10 pounds and this morning I did the bar, then 55, then 60, then 65, with 10 reps each. I think I can ramp it up fairly quickly and soon I’ll be doing more on squats than I do on bench (currently 85 with 6 or 7 reps in the morning).

On Saturday I went out in my Vibram FiveFingers (VFFs) for the first time, running. It was every bit as glorious as I remembered. I wanted to run longer, but I forced myself to turn around and go back home, and then to walk rather than do another running interval, because I knew I’d already used up my muscles and I didn’t want to repeat the being-unable-to-walk-properly-for-four-days thing that I did the last time I started running in these shoes. The next day I was stiff right away when I woke up, and Monday morning I was still stiff, but this morning I was good. Tomorrow the high will be 60 so I’ll do another interval set in the morning instead of going to the gym, and then I’ll take K to the park in the afternoon. We’ll try the swings and see how she likes that. I’m really looking forward to it.

So far, I have lost 5 pounds from my starting weight of 182. 1 pound was unconvincing — could have been milk or water weight. Going under 180 for the first time in a year was encouraging. 5 pounds, that’s fat loss right there. That’s calorie restriction paying off. That’s proof I really can lose weight; I’m not stuck with this fat forever. I can do this! And I can’t wait to see 175, then 170, and when I see 169.5 on the scale I am going to need to do something special.

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