Mean Girl to the Rescue!

How'm I gonna save the world when the world ain't ready?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Little Bun becomes ...

Nibbler. Because he's done baking, he's not a bun in the oven any more. And if anyone is unfamiliar with Nibbler on Futurama:

Granted, my kid doesn't have fangs, and sports a mere pair of eyes (no cape, either, but perhaps later). But from a breastfeeding mother's P.O.V., Nibbler is an appropriate nom de blog.

What does he really look like, these days, you ask?


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Part the third: the ickiest of the NICU

When my son was spirited away, it was done by the head neonatal nurse, Mary Anne. She had entered the room after being summoned by my midwife when the baby's heartrate began to fluctuate and/or disappear from hearing. I was dimly aware of her presence behind my left shoulder, but she felt like nothing so much as a cigar store Indian or somewhat lifelike mannequin in my primal birthing state. However, she became much more real to me after she prevented my son from leaving the NICU. At first we were told he'd be returned to us after "an hour or two," once they'd made sure he was OK. His initial APGAR score was a bit low; the second was in normal range, but the blue hue of his arms, legs and lips had them concerned. I had wanted to breastfeed him within an hour (two at the latest), so their time frame was all right with me. What I didn't know was that the NICU's time frame promises are pretty much always bullshit.

About an hour after the birth, I was readied for a short journey to the Maternity Ward to start recuperating in earnest: I was given a haphazard wipedown (much needed after the placenta incident, which had left me awash in blood right down to my toes), and my crotch was outfitted with a coldpack, a belt-ready maxi pad, and a huge disposable seat pad, which was folded in thirds and intended to catch the copious flow of junk from my insides. All these accouterments were stuffed into a lovely pair of stretchy nylon boy shorts. Good times! Then I was wheeled down to my new room (getting up out of the bed was no picnic, I assure you), where Booby took me down to the NICU to see our boy.

That's when we found out that he wouldn't be back with us in "an hour or two." He was fine, but he wouldn't be coming out until "later that afternoon." He'd had some fluid in his lungs (which he'd horked up), and he'd had acidosis due to the stress of his birth: part of the reason it took him so long to come out was that my pelvis is small and strangely-shaped, kind of like an upside down V (thanks, Mom!), resulting in a lack of oxygen to the baby. He was on a glucose drip to get him hydrated. Blood tests were being done, and he had band-aids all over his heels from being stuck with needles. All the machines that go ping were there, going ping. There is no more upsetting sight than that of your kid in an isolette, even when you've been assured that he's fine, because if he were fine, would he be in an isolette, for crissakes?! Better safe than sorry was the motto of the day, it seemed. But the nurse in charge of him (not Mary Anne, who was mysteriously unavailable) allowed me to try to nurse the baby, at least, and get some bonding time in.

After that, we slept. Glorious, glorious sleep. Sleep, I love you.

The baby didn't come out by late afternoon, and we were told more tests had to be done - one at 12 hours post partum. He'd be with us at 8. We were also told that I wasn't allowed to nurse him, as per Mary Anne. The lactation consultant I spoke with didn't see anything wrong with this, nor did she think I should bother pumping (!). No reason given, and a fight ready to erupt between us and them because they were so concerned about his fluid intake and were itching to give him formula. We had to repeatedly instruct the staff (shift by shift) not to give the baby formula or a pacifier, because Mary Anne refused to pass the message on (I don't blame the staff - how were they to know if she didn't tell them?). At 8 we went back to the NICU, only to find out he was staying overnight. Thank God, the night nurse allowed me to breastfeed, hold him as long as I liked, and agreed to cut his IV at midnight so he might actually be interested in feeding the next morning.

We finally got our hands on him at 10 a.m. Looking back, I understand why they wanted to observe him, but I do wish they had communicated to us why a bit more, and come to us with information rather than forcing us to track them down and drag it from them.* I found that I easily let them do what they wanted without questioning them, and that surprised me - Booby was the one who pushed for more information and pushed for our son's release, and I love him for it.

*The whole experience made me wonder how Christian Scientists actually manage to refuse medical treatment for their kids without the NICU running roughshod over them. Do they arrive at the hospital with an ACLU lawyer, or what?


Friday, May 18, 2007

Part the second, Labor & Delivery

Once we arrived at the hospital, I was in a bit of a fugue state. Booby pulled the car up into the emergency parking area, and off we went. Thankfully, we were preregistered, but I still had to sit at a little kiosk and hand over my insurance card and sign some stuff. Fun to do when you're gasping in pain and hardly able to walk! Thank the lord for bureaucracy.

Our midwife was there with a wheelchair for me to ride in. I'd heard a story about a laboring woman who was freaked out by the wheelchair; it took away all her I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-ness and she went up to L&D and got an epidural, toot de suite. But that wheelchair was to me like an oasis in the desert. Seriously, there was no way I could've walked anywhere beyond the front doors in the state I was in.

Once we got upstairs, it was kind of eerie. We were the only ones delivering that night, so it was very quiet, and our midwife, doula and nursing staff just set to the tasks of preparing for the birth. Booby was bringing all our stuff upstairs (note to self: pack lighter for next birth), and there I was, sitting there like tits on a log, doing nothing. But that didn't last long.

I labored, all told, for about ten hours, which really isn't that long compared to most first-timers. Most of us have been regaled with stories of 22-, 36-, or 44-hour labors. My hat goes off to those poor souls, because my ten hours felt like a hundred. And yet, even immediately after, I had forgotten huge swatches of time.

The doula asked me if I wanted to walk around a bit. I don't remember actually telling her no, but I made no moves to get up. The only way I was walking was if someone phoned in a bomb threat. Shortly thereafter, they began to set up the Aqua Doula*, or birthing tub, a device for which I am eternally grateful. My prenatal yoga instructor once referred to the tub as the "natural woman's epidural," and now I know why. The level of instant relief that came from getting into the tub was amazing. Without it, I would have been a screaming wreck.

I labored in the tub for several hours, with Booby giving me drinks of orange Recharge and offering me the food I had assumed I'd want to eat. I was too nauseated for food, though, and I knew that throwing up was coming soon and would signal transition, when things would get even shittier. Eventually, I did hork up my dinner (and may I say that emesis bowls are waaaay too small for anyone vomiting more than a dainty mouthful of bile?), and I guess it wasn't long after that that I felt a popping sensation inside me that was my water breaking.

Every fifteen minutes or so, my midwife would use the underwater Doppler to check the baby's heartbeat. I suppose I was pretty out of it, because I was knocked for a loop when she told me I was going to have to get out of the tub. "What?!" I said. And then I cried, for the first of many times. I remember her saying that the baby's heart rate had slowed again, but later I found out that she hadn't been able to get a heartbeat at all, and kept me in the tub until it was clear that we were going to have to make a change in strategy in order to keep labor going at a good pace and protect the baby from distress. But let me tell you, getting out of a nice, warm tub and into a cold hospital room while laboring is one of the crappiest things I've ever had to do. The second crappiest? Having to labor on my back in a hospital bed, which was at the top of my list of things I didn't want to do, ever.

Anyway, labor on the bed I did. Also on the toilet (which was very successful, if a bit ... strange). It's incredible how one's inhibitions go out the window while in labor. I was naked as a jaybird the entire time (I'd brought a bikini top to wear in the tub, but abandoned it after realizing that my ribcage was far too big to accommodate the top being fastened), and I was pretty impervious to the presence of nurses, midwife, doula and husband seeing me what was undoubtedly my worst physical manifestation, ever. I didn't even care about pooping in front of God and everyone, and that was something I had cared deeply about in the months leading up to that point. The only thing that annoyed me while I was in this "pushing" zone (aside from the pain, of course) was the fact that the nurses had become a 2-person cheerleading team after I got on the bed. I don't like being told what to do at the best of times, and being forcefully exhorted by two strangers to do something that I was already painfully aware I was supposed to do was just infuriating. Hey, I wanted to scream back at them. This isn't a basketball game! Just leave me the fuck alone and shut up. Those bitches were harshing my mellow (I never said a thing out loud, of course, but I felt so remorseful about my nasty thoughts that I actually apologized to one of the nurses afterward).

The distressing thing was, I had no impetus to push. I'd expected a primal urge to kick in and my body to take charge and, well, git 'er done, as it had with the contractions. But instead I just felt an uncomfortable fullness, with no urge to bear down at all. Instead, I pushed with each contraction, at times weeping, at other times just making a ridiculous boo-hooing noise without any tears. I was mightily upset that it felt like nothing was happening - I wanted progress that was inwardly measurable so I could feel empowered to keep going. Finally, my midwife said she saw the head. My doula gave me a hemp scarf to "play"tug-of-war on with her and make the pushes more effective, since the baby's head was popping out and then sliding back up. "Don't you want to see your baby's fuzzy head?" my midwife asked? Well, sure I did! I was just too tired to do the work required to get aforementioned head out to where I could see it. "Isn't there anything else we can do to get this over?" I asked. She pretended she didn't know what I meant. "Nope, you just gotta push, baby," she said.

The next thing I knew, the baby was crowning, and she was inviting me to touch Little Bun's head. I'd figured that this would be the thing that kept me going and made the end seem near and the whole endeavor wonderfully real. Instead, it was deeply alarming - babies' heads are made of plates that shift over top of one another in order to get the skull through the birth canal, and the result is a very spongy-feeling head. I felt like I was touching my unborn child's raw brain, and it was unsettling. Fortunately, I had the awareness to refuse her offer of a mirror so I could see the baby crowning. That might have sent me reeling.

After three hours of pushing, on all fours, on my back, and twice, excruciatingly, on my side, finally I was able to push hard enough to get the baby's head out. This is the part where most women tear. Luckily for me, my midwife instructed Booby to put the web of his thumb over my perineum to prevent tearing, and damned if it didn't work! At that point I was ready to rest anyway, because the contraction that I had pushed through was over, and I waited until the next one to push again and get the shoulders out. "Ring of fire" is an apt description of how it feels to push a baby's noggin out of your chocha, but I remember thinking that it wasn't as bad as I'd expected. Don't get me wrong - it hurt like a motherfucker - but it wasn't the pass-out level agony I'd been expecting. Then, suddenly, as I pushed again, the shoulders and the whole baby came flopping out, and the nurses flipped him up onto my chest.

"It's a boy," I noted, feeling very far away, as I saw my fuzzy-headed baby. It was now 7:05 a.m. Booby cut the cord, which was very deteriorated, thin in some places to the point of breakage. The nurses were rubbing the baby furiously with towels. His lips were blue. Uh-oh. That quickly he was whisked away to a table alongside the bed, where he was APGAR'd and weighed, then wrapped like a teeny burrito. Someone put him on my chest again, and we looked into each other's eyes for a full minute. His were navy blue and bottomless. This baby was one old soul. Then my midwife started rooting around in my uterus, because my placenta had broken off from the cord and was marooned up there, and it hurt so much I told them to take the baby wherever it was he needed to go, which was the NICU. At that point, Booby took over baby tracking, because I was in no shape.

Having the placenta manually pulled from my uterus was the most painful part of the whole night, probably because I had expected it to just slide right out like a large but flexible water balloon. Instead I was treated to repeated maulings in my uterine cavity by my midwife, who was so intent on her task that I only found out later that if any sizable part of the placenta was left inside, I'd have to have it surgically removed - kind of a bummer for someone who just delivered a baby drug-free to have to go under anesthetic to have a lump of tissue removed. Out it came, and went into a hazmat bucket so we could bring it home and bury it under our maple tree (I know, I'm a dirty hippie). I had one stitch for a tear on my nethers, but my perineum, as I said, didn't tear at all.

7 lbs., 2 oz. ~ 21" long ~ 7:05 a.m. ~ April 11, 2007

Tomorrow: The Aftermath: Why Does the Neonatal Nurse Hate Us So?

* The Aqua Doula at the hospital resembled nothing so much as a life-size version of the Mattel Barbie Pool Party my mother bought for me at a yard sale when I was a little unfeminist slip of a girl.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Holy shit, I had a baby!

I know, I know, I've been gone for like, 6 weeks. But hey, now I have a baby to show for all my trouble! Here's what happened (warning: I am about to make up for my absence with a very, very long-winded account of my birth experience; you have been warned).

PART I: The Nonstop Excitement of Pre-Labor,

On April 10th, my due date, I had a regular midwife appointment. Booby stayed home sick from work, and as I left, he asked if I wanted him to come with. "Nah," I said. "It's a routine appointment, I'll almost certainly deliver late, and anyway, you're sick." Imagine my surprise when the midwife tried to get the baby's heartbeat on the Doppler and it was way, way too slow!

She stripped my membranes (a procedure I had been dreading, but wasn't actually that bad), and the baby's heart rate picked right up. "I tickled his head!" she told me. Nonetheless, we had to be sure that there wasn't a problem, so off to the hospital I went. On the way, I called Booby, told him to be calm and stay home, and instructed him to call our doula, who is a model of patience and a font of information. He did, and she offered to meet me at the hospital, which was awesome.

I was given a non-stress test and an ultrasound, which showed that the baby was fine and had plenty of amniotic fluid to swim in. A doctor came by and confirmed what the techs had already told me, and when I told him what had happened at the midwife's office, he smirkily suggested that she had actually picked up my heartbeat on the doppler. "Actually," I said, "She was careful to take my pulse at the same time so we knew that it wasn't mine she was picking up." He ignored me and asserted something about only being able to be sure about such things by using the machine that goes ping. Douche.

Meanwhile, I'd turned my cell phone off since we were in the hospital, surrounded by illustrated signs admonishing me to do so. Booby had called about eleventy-hundred times and showed up with our hospital bags and (bless him) our cooler full of "delivery room" food (I was insistent about being allowed to eat and drink while laboring), having been driven over by his brother's wife (bless her). Too bad it was time to go home! But we stopped for lunch in Mount Airy on the way home, where I started having contractions. Hmm, maybe we weren't going home after all!

Actually, the contractions weren't too bad, and I had been well-schooled on the importance of waiting until active labor to hie off to the hospital. It seems that the earlier one arrives, the greater the odds of undergoing a medical intervention: not what we were after with this attempt at a non-medicalized birth (though, admittedly, I figured myself to be a wimp about preventable pain, and I saw an epidural in my future). So we trundled off home, where Booby napped and I showered, juuust in case we wound up back at the hospital, where I would doubtless remain unwashed for hours, perhaps days. Ick.

The contractions were fairly regular all afternoon, and neither showering nor lying down nor walking around made them stop. Apparently, I really was in labor. I called work to let them know I wouldn't be in that day. They assured me that I should stay away, as they weren't interested in delivering a baby in the library that day. The contractions started getting intense, and Booby had me sit on the birth ball, which did NOTHING. We went for a walk around the block (I still thought that maybe this was false labor, and I just needed to walk some more to make the contractions stop). The pain got bad enough that we cut the walk short, but the best part of the stroll was meeting up with our neighbor's Siberian husky, who is very friendly and sweet. For some reason, petting the dog during a contraction really alleviated the pain (or distracted me like nothing else, I'm still not sure). It worked pretty well at home, petting one of the cats, too - perhaps this is another good alternative to drugs during labor? Maybe only for a home birth. What didn't work was pretty much anything Booby did to make me feel better. The contractions escalated too fast for him to feel very helpful, just overwhelmed. It was wonderful to have him there, being calm, but the physical things we were told to do in birth class to help with pain (slow dancing, pressing on my hips, etc.) were pretty ineffective.

At 8:30 p.m., we decided to call the doula, so she could come over and start coaching me. She didn't pick up. After another hour, things were pretty haywire. I don't remember a whole lot of what happened, except that I was on the bed on all fours, and things weren't pretty. It's hard to describe labor pain, except to say this: it really makes you aware that we're basically animals. "Primal" is a good word for the feeling it gave me.

We finally called the doula a second time, and she had me go through a contraction while on the phone with her. I could still kind of talk, and the ability to talk through the pain is an indication of the severity of the pain/progress of the labor. So, she seemed to think it was still early for the hospital yet (much to my dismay). "Call me in ten minutes or in two hours," she breezed. "I'm going to go to sleep right now so I'm ready no matter what." At the mention of a two hour wait, I felt near to tears.

After another hour, it was about 11:00 p.m. I was now unable to speak during a contraction; all I could manage was animalistic moaning and keening. Booby took charge and called our midwife, who listened to me contract, also. "Can we go to the hospital now?" I asked. "Sure!" she said, and laughed when I replied, weakly, "Really?" She's a bit more easygoing than the doula, it seems. I felt near to tears again, but this time with relief. We decided to call the doula from the car so she couldn't talk us out of going to the hospital. Slowly, we made our way to the car to make the 20-minute trip, which I remember pretty well, especially the part where we started riding on the road that had been corduroyed mere days before in anticipation of repaving. Ouch! and Fuck! That wasn't that way the last time we drove this way!

Next installment: Labor and Delivery, or, Yes, Virginia, Reflux Lasts All the Way Up Until the Baby Comes Out

Also: photos!