Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Retrospective on Labor

Since I never really got into specifics about my labor experience, and because I'd like to document it for posterity, I figure I'll just get it out there today. I'll try to keep the icky stuff to a minimum, but inevitably there will be some, so I apologize in advance. Defintiely a TMI (too much information) post :)

So...it was the evening of June 18th, just after 11pm. Craig and I had just finished watching "She's Got the Look", one of our guilty pleasure reality shows of the summer. I made a trip to the bathroom, partly because I had to pee and partly because I felt a little "damp" down below. Pregnancy tends to bring on a discharge now and then...basically the body getting itself nice and lubricated for delivery. Anyway, this one seemed a little more than usual, but I didn't think much of it. After I peed, I stood up and felt more liquid exiting my body. Again, not to be gross, but pregnancy also screws with your bladder. The baby rests on it the further it drops, and it can make things interesting. For about the last week of pregnancy, I had to pee a lot and just changing position on the toilet might shift things internally and allow me to pee just a little more. Originally I thought that was what was happening, but when I had exited the bathroom, went to get into my pajamas and had it happen again, I knew something might be up. The fluid was clear and had a little more substance than urine might, so when little trickles kept happening, I finally told Craig that my water might be breaking. Hello, panic. Craig wanted me to call the doctor, and when the on-call doctor called me back, she suggested that I hang on until the morning to see if contractions started. If they didn't, I should come into the office in the morning to get checked out. At that point it was about midnight and I had begun packing my hospital bag. Nothing like the last minute!

It was a pretty sleepless night, since I would leak a bit every time I moved. I had plenty of waterproofing going on on the bed, but it still made me nervous. Labor didn't start, so the next morning I called the doctor's office and we went in for a check. They confirmed it was amniotic fluid leaking out and that I was now four centimeters dilated. They sent me for a non-stress test, which basically means that I had to sit in a chair and have my belly monitored for a while, to see if I was contracting and to make sure the baby was okay. I was having contractions that I couldn't feel, but they weren't regular yet. Fortunately, everything looked fine. The doctor suggested we keep ourselves busy for a while and wait for a call to find out when we should go to the hospital. So, since we had one car for the two of us, I dropped Craig off at work and went into work myself. If nothing else I figured it would be nice to get my desk cleaned off and get my out-of-office messages up and running. Just as I was starting to do a project, I got the call that we should go into the hospital right away. Yikes!!

I called Craig, wrapped up things at work, and left. We drove to the hospital, had to wait a bit to get checked in, and finally got settled in our room in the early afternoon. By then my fluid was leaking pretty steadily so I changed into the lovely hospital-issued undies (disposable cotton mesh) and maxi-pads (HUGE--though after a while even those couldn't contain the fluid leakage). They started me on pitocin to get my labor going. I still wasn't feeling anything, but by around dinner time (when I posted my last blog before the baby), I was starting to get really uncomfortable. The contractions felt like bad menstrual cramps, and mine were mostly in my back. Eventually they were using hot packs to try to give me some relief. My parents stopped in later that evening, as everything was starting to get unbearable. They left pretty quickly and headed out to my cousin Lori's (just five minutes away) to sleep for the night. Shortly thereafter I got the epidural. Next time I will know to get it sooner because it was really hard to relax my muscles as they were giving it to me. I was having camelback contractions, which means that they were strong, then they'd back off a bit, and then get strong again before ending. It didn't leave a lot of time between contractions to recover, and it was hard to know when one was really ending, which made it difficult to give me the epidural.

The epidural didn't hurt as bad as I thought it would, and I felt relief almost immediately. It was unreal to go from horrible pain to complete comfort in about five minutes. The feeling was pretty surreal, though. I was still aware that my legs were there, but I couldn't feel anything that was being done from about the waist down. It was so odd. It gave me a bit of a loopy feeling, though, and from that point on I pretty much didn't care what happened to the lower half of my body. Need to check me? Ok. Put in a catheter? No problem. Honestly, at that point you just don't want to know! I felt pretty good for a decent amount of time (past that point I think I lost all concept of time), and eventually I started feeling a lot of pressure. It started to bother me almost as much as the contraction pain did before the epidural. By the time it was getting unbearable again, they checked me and I was fully dilated. Time to push!

The first hour of pushing wasn't bad. We had a good nurse who cheered me on, and once Craig got through his initial freakout (totally unnecessary since I wasn't in pain at all), that hour wasn't bad. Lots of talking and joking in between contractions, and as a whole it just felt good to do something about the discomfort. All seemed to be going well, but then it just seemed like I was doing a lot of pushing without making much progress. The pressure was getting worse, and by the third hour of pushing they started talking about doing something to my epidural (sort of a refresher, I think...up the dose for a bit), just to give me a break and regain my energy to push more. However, that didn't seem to do much, and eventually they decided to use the vacuum to get Jacob's head past my pelvis, which was what was holding things up all along. That last bit of pushing was pretty awful. It was one of those dig-down-deep moments in life, finding the energy for those last couple pushes. I hoped to feel relief the second he came out. Not so much. It was great to know he was out, but I was in some pretty nifty discomfort, which I later found out was from a hemorrhoid. Yippee. That turned out to be the worst part of the recovery, too.

Craig was the one that broke the news that it was a boy, and by the way, for those of you who remember my posts about his reservations about labor, he saw way more than he wanted to. For all his best intentions of avoiding seeing things and not wanting to cut the cord, he ended up doing and seeing it all (and he's still eager for the six-week healing window to be over! Whew!). He was most surprised at how much coaching he really had to do (the nurse would leave and he'd have to count me through contractions).

Once Jacob was out and they were checking him over, Craig was busy fiddling with the camera and filling me in on things. I was in agony, which I initially thought had to do with them stitching me up but was actually the hemorrhoid. I feel bad because I never had that happy relief moment that you see almost every mom have on the baby shows...the discomfort was that bad. Still, holding him for the first time was pretty cool, even if he was screaming his head off. Eventually they transferred us to our room for the next couple days, and I eagerly scarfed down a meal at about 4am. That was the best turkey sandwich and cookies ever!

The whole experience was pretty surreal. The next day or two was just weird...not a lot of sleep, Jacob going to the special care nursery, dealing with the discomfort, being happy it was all over...just a boatload of emotions. A good few years or so will dull the memory of the pain and help me get up the guts to do it again. Obviously the end result is worth it. Hard to believe he'll be five weeks tomorrow!

Ok, sorry for the icky post, but I hope it was informative for anyone who was wondering...back to happier stuff tomorrow!

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