Our Birthing Saga, finale: The Slippery Slope (it's a long one)

First, a cute picture...

Ok, when we left off, Kristin’s contractions were beginning to set in and we were watching Waiting for Guffman. We had just gotten to the point where the community actors realize that Guffman is late, but before they realize that he’s not coming at all, when she had me turn the movie off and put in the hypnobirthing cd. She said that the contractions were very strong, but the external monitor was only recording small cramps. We were feeling very alone and beginning to get frightened.

Suddenly the day shift came on and the difference in our care was like, well, like night and day. Suddenly our room was full of people, all solicitous, all concerned and caring. Our nurse introduced herself to us by saying how happy she was to have a hypnobirthing couple and asking us details about our birthing wishes that I hadn’t included on our sign. Best of all, she was there when Kristin’s first really big contraction (registering as a mighty 30 on the external monitor, 30 being the equivalent of, say, the way your uterus feels when someone pinches you on the arm) and though I was caught off guard by the intensity of Kristin’s pain, Nurse Cheerleader didn’t look at the monitor once, but just grabbed Kristin’s hands, called her KRISTIN (as opposed to Whiney Bitch Lesbo Takin’ Up All My Time which is what I think the night nurses though her name was), looked deep into her eyes and told her how strong she was, how she was going to be able to do this, and while she did all this she smoothed Kristin’s forehead out and praised her again on how well she was handling the contraction. She never sounded false or condescending. She helped Kristin through that contraction, and helped me get control of my own fear and feelings of insecurity about being able to comfort someone in that much pain. That moment changed the path of our birthing experience, reminding both Kristin and I that we were strong, that we were the ones in control, and that we were capable of handling whatever came our way.

Though Kristin’s contractions continued to be quite strong, the external monitor was still recording only slight bumps. Without accurate readings on the strength of her contractions, though, the doctors would be unable accurately to judge how much pitocin to administer, so they told us that they would like to insert a monitor into Kristin’s uterus that would tell the world exactly how strong her contractions really were. I got the impression that all these doctors were thinking that Kristin was really wussy and just unable to handle the pain of labor and they wanted to prove it to her by proving that she wasn't really having very strong contractions. So, she agreed to the internal monitor. Putting it in was extremely painful (on top of the pain she was already feeling from the contractions, but she managed it admirably) And, once it was in – voila! contractions everyone would believe. Yes, doctor, we are in labor. It turned out the contractions she was having were like icebergs – the small tip that was visible gave no indication of the dangerous, early-twentieth-century-optimism-crushing mammoth malevolence below. Actually, they looked kinda pretty on the monitor – like the coolest rollercoaster you could ever want to ride. I told Kristin she should be having fun, too bad she didn’t get the joke.

The kind of contractions that she was having on the pit were equivalent to the kinds of contractions women have during the phase of labor called “transition”, excruciatingly painful, one-on-top-of-the-other. The kind of contractions that if this were a movie the director would have had Kristin screaming obscenities at the doctor and swearing that she would never let me touch her again. “Scream harder, scream harder darling, let us really feel your pain, look terrible, you’re a Hollywood star in labor!” Kristin moaned a few times, as I held her hand and rubbed some pain-relief pressure points, but for the most part, you could not tell from looking at her that she was having any contractions, she was so relxed. Doctors would come in the room (yes, plural, I’m not certain if every laboring woman has EVERY SINGLE RESIDENT, STUDENT, AND DOCTOR on the floor hovering over her, but we certainly did) and begin to speak to Kristin about her pain level or some new measurement they wanted to take or some procedure they wanted to do, when they would get a look at the monitor and fall into a respectful silence. Kristin would look at them impatiently and say (very calmly) “you don’t have to wait until it’s over to talk to me, I’m capable of listening to you while going through this.” I swear some of those visitors were in there simply to see the Amazing Hypnobirthing Woman talk her way through contractions as strong as they could give her.

At 11 0’clock Dr. Blue Eyes checked Kristin’s cervix and it had only dilated to a 5 (from a 3 at 6 am) and was still only 90% effaced. They upped the pitocin a bit and she said she would be back in a couple of hours to check again. Nurse Cheerleader had to go Rah Rah Rah a woman though her delivery, so a new nurse came to attend us. Yet another miracle worker. This nurse, let’s call her Nurse So Cool We Want To Move Her Into Our Basement and Force Her To Be Our New Best Friend (BF for short), was awesome, and young, and though supportive of our hypnobirthing method, also was one of the only matter-of-fact people we had talked to when it came to pain relief, because though Kristin was weathering the contractions like a champ, we were both getting extremely tired. Before the induction, we had planned to spend the majority of her labor at home, comfortable, sleeping if possible. With all of this hospitalness, walking, relaxing in the Jacuzzi and sleeping had become impossible. Kristin, faced with the possibility of another 5 hours of hard labor with another 2+ hours of pushing, all on no sleep, felt that she would be too tired to push, or bond with the baby after she was born. I reminded her of the IV, that it would have to stay in longer should she opt for the epidural, but at that point Kristin felt that the best thing she could do for herself and the baby would be to have an epidural so she could get some rest.

The epidural went in at 12:45 and Dr. Blue Eyes came in to check her cervix again. Still at a 5. Baby still at -3 station (negative? the one where it’s high up in the pelvis, not the one where it’s hanging out the birth canal). Kristin’s bp still very high, but not so high she needed to be put on magnesium yet. Dr. Blue Eyes told Kristin that with the type of contractions she had been experiencing for the length of time that she had been experiencing them, it was not looking good that the cervix was not dilating, nor the baby moving down. She said she’d give us another couple of hours, but that she was thinking that we needed to begin thinking about the possibility that this baby would be born via c-section.

Now, a moment here to talk about slippery slopes. All the natural childbirth books that we had read had warned about how interventions are a slippery slope leading to c-sections. And certainly, the amount and severity of interventions in our birth were increasing. On the surface, an advocate for pure, natural labor could consider this a textbook case of interventions slowly but surely leading to an unnecessary c-section. Perhaps. However, we have perfect faith in Dr. Blue Eyes. All along she had been incredibly supportive of our desires, my role as partner and parent, and our wish to labor naturally and with few interventions. With Kristin’s bps as scary as they were, and with the baby’s heartbeat non-reactive (though, to be fair, it was non-reactive most of the pregnancy, but she always passed her bio-physical profiles, so the non-reactive thing wasn’t especially worrisome for us) we knew that the interventions we were receiving were par for the course. We felt as in control as we could be given the situation. Plus, Kristin’s hips are very narrow. They had widened a bit during the pregnancy, but both of us wondered if she would be able to birth the baby through those hips. So, when Dr. Blue Eyes came in and told us that she thought Kristin would need a c-section, we believed that she wasn’t doing it to get us off her plate and move us along, but rather because she sincerely believed that a c-section would be the safest thing for Kristin and the baby. We asked her a lot of questions, among them one from me “Can you do the c-section?” “Oh, I think I know how to do a c-section” “No, I mean, can YOU do the c-section instead of someone else?” “Yes, I will be doing the c-section.” Then Dr. Blue Eyes said she would give us another couple of hours to see if the labor would progress and to make up our minds. If this had been Dr. Condescending, there would have been no way to convince Kristin and I that she was suggesting such a thing for our best interests, and we would have held on until the situation became critical. But Dr. Blue Eyes is not condescending, and instead of feeling like we had fallen (or been shoved) off a mountain, we felt as if we had been guided into a well-provisioned hunter’s shack in the middle of a killing blizzard.

Two hours later, Kristin had napped, I had paced, and the cervix had begun closing up. Dr. Blue Eyes recommended a c-section and we agreed to the procedure. And an hour after that, I watched (and took pictures) as Dr. Blue Eyes held Julia up for Kristin to see and then handed her over to the pediatricians to be cleaned up and evaluated. In a matter of minutes, my wailing beauty had been declared perfectly healthy and handed over to me to take to the nursery. There were only 3 upsetting things about the section itself: 1) Kristin kept wanting to know what was happening, and there was no way I could look over the drape to see the doctor cutting my darling in half, so the anesthesiologist had to keep her updated. I felt like I had failed her at the very end, so I forced myself to stand up and take pictures as they pulled Julia out. 2) While I was standing near the pediatricians as they were examining Julia, I heard a doctor say, “looks like we need a little clean-up over here.” I turned around and saw him standing in a pool of blood and there was something that looked like a piece of Kristin’s LIVER on his foot. Ok, ok, I know that was part of the placenta, nevertheless it gave me a bit of a heart attack. The final thing was that I needed to choose between remaining with Kristin and going with the baby to the nursery. I chose, correctly, to stay with the baby, but it was so hard to leave Kristin there, when the fatalist within (who’s been on a roll, which those who’ve been following my posts can attest) was screaming that that may be the very last time I saw her alive, and how could I leave her alone on her death-bed like that.

She didn’t die, though when she was transferred from recovery to maternity right at the change from day to night shifts (see chapter 1 if you need a refresher on how we feel about night nurses), and while I was in the nursery with Julia, and my family was outside the nursery looking through the window, Kristin’s anesthesia began wearing off and she went into shock, unable to get any of the night nurses to respond. My mother went to the room to show her pictures, found her convulsing, and went and ripped the heads of several nurses in order to wrap Kristin in the corpses and feed her their blood and livers to give her back heat and strength. That, and she got her a morphine drip, which though it didn’t work all that great (unbelievable, whoever spread those nasty rumors about morphine being a wonder pain killer is surely roasting in hell with only a morphine drip for comfort) was better than nothing. I knew nothing of this until much later, no one wanted to tell me, for fear I would get too upset.

But, we survived. We survived 2 more nights of terrible night nurses (until the very last night when we complained and complained and were finally assigned to a nurse named, I kid you not, Patience, who was another miracle worker and gave us our first 3 continuous hours of sleep since Tuesday night), and 3 days of terrible hospital food. We survived being told that Julia has jaundice and was on the verge of needing a blood transfusion. We survived seeing and hearing her scream in the light box for hours at a time, and now we are home and surviving the sheer, overwhelming joy of having such a beautiful little person in our arms and lives.

Three more thoughts, and I will wrap this saga up:

Though we live in Utah, and I will have to fight to have any scrap of rights over this little girl, at the hospital I was treated with respect and as if I were the child's father. No one ever questioned my right to be anywhere I wanted to be and no one questioned my right to make decisions for Kristin or the baby. For this I am eternally grateful, and more than a little surprised.

I thought that Kristin and my relationship was tight. I thought that I loved her as much as I could love another human being. I was wrong. Over this whole process, I fell in love with her all over again. The emotion is so much deeper, richer, than I have felt before. I am crying as I type this and I think about what an amazing, wonderful person I am partnered with -- hell, I don’t care what the California Supreme Court says – MARRIED to, as I sat with her on her hospital bed and we looked at our daughter, I knew beyond anything else why I was with her and how special what we have is. And on top of that love for Kristin is all this love for Julia… so much that I hurt with it. I am positively tender with emotion, and if ever I can manage to get even a fragment of this feeling into a poem, I will call my life as a writer complete and weep with joy for it.

Yikes, that’s schmaltzy. What do I think I am, a poet or something?

and for the final thing before letting you go…

Silver Linings to C-Sections
1) Our baby was the prettiest baby in the nursery since her head wasn’t all
mushed up by a trip through the birth canal
2) I got to keep my scrubs. A baby and free pajamas! Sweet!
3) People keep bringing us dinner and doing our dishes since not only do we have
a newborn, but Kristin’s recovering from major surgery.
4) No episiotomy, no tearing, no vulva explosion. What’s not to love!
5) Kristin’s got a whole bottle of percoset that she’s not going to use so I
have a head start on my future career as a professional prescription drug
abuser. Hey, every poet’s gotta have a problem!

Posted by Trista @ 6:13 PM

Read or Post a Comment

I *loved* reading your story (both parts-- though I have to say I'm glad that when you left off with part 1 I already knew there was a happy ending!) -- it cracked me up laughing several times and then at the end I was all weepy. Anne Lamott ain't got nuthin' on you. And what a gorgeous, gorgeous baby you have!

You know, I read a lot of blogs these days, and this one might be my most favoritest blog entry ever. All oohing and ahhing about cute babies and happy stuff aside, you are a terrific writer. Thanks for sharing this story -- it made my day.

Posted by Blogger Anne @ 7:08 PM #

i have to say...that my birthing experience was eerily similar to yours/your partner's. weird.

loved reading it from your perspective. great writing too!

Posted by Anonymous Robyn @ 7:29 PM #

Awww ... so sweet! Glad the baby was born okay, and that Kristin is doing well! Julia ... such a nice name. :-)

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 12:05 PM #

After your post on babycakes I had to come read your blog. It was worth it. I read it to M. outloud and was crying by the end.

Your story made me want to be a L&D nurse all over again. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman in labor.

I'm so glad your known donor is working out. If ours needs support I may ask for help. So far he seems like he's holding up better than the two of us (god bless him). Right now he's mostly worried about ejaculating on command and we're mostly worried about him changing his mind. I don't think he will but I'm completely neurotic. I think things will settle down once we actually start.

I would love to chat via e-mail. sacha@drizzle.com

Much love and hugs to you and your awesome family.

Posted by Blogger Sacha @ 10:23 AM #
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