Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Enter Finn

I started this account of Finn’s birth back in April of 2009, a couple weeks after Lucy was born. I meant to finish it, then write Lucy’s birth story. Instead I wrote neither, and let my memories grow fuzzier, so forgive me if this accounting has some holes. It starts with some meandering that is meant to set the stage, of sorts.

October 12, 2006: A Thursday, and Finn’s due date. This day came and went just like all of the 279 days of my pregnancy that had preceded it, with no indication of impending labor. Sigh. Clearly my little boy was going to be late, but the question was, how late?

October 13, 2006: I had a doctor’s appointment, at which I was disappointed by my apparent lack of progress in anything birth related. I scheduled my next prenatal check-up for October 20th. The doctor and I discussed the idea that if the baby still hadn’t arrived at that point, we would set a date for an induction sometime the next week.

October 17, 2006: Feeling tired physically and mentally (from all those co-workers that kept asking me, every day, “Still here, eh?”), I stayed home from work and had a relaxing day with a nice long nap. This was the last time I would ever feel rested. Ever.

October 18, 2006: A Wednesday. I went to work in the morning, and left early for an ultrasound appointment for a bio physical profile (kind of like a non-stress test that just makes sure the baby is still doing OK). Finn did well and hit all the right milestones during the test. His weight was estimated at 8 pounds, 9 ounces – yikes! As scared as I was of a c-section, I was not looking forward to pushing that out of my girly bits.

Driving home from the appointment, I had what I thought might be my very first Braxton Hicks contraction, a vague tightening of my massive belly. Up until then, I had no detectable contractions; though I’m sure I probably had some that I couldn’t feel. I felt momentarily elated, but the contraction was not repeated (yet).

M. and I went to bed that night, probably sometime around 10:30. As I heard M.’s breathing even out and get deeper, I started having contractions. They were painless and pretty far apart (about 10 minutes or so), but they were distracting enough to keep me from getting any sleep. Wee hours of the morning found me surfing the internet out in the living room, tired of staring at my eyelids and not wanting to disturb M. as I tossed and turned. Don’t think me selfless, my rationale was that at least one of us should be somewhat rested for whatever lay ahead, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be me.

October 19, 2006: I’d say I woke up, but I don’t recall getting any actual sleep the night before. I still wasn’t sure at this point whether I was in labor or not. I had done plenty of reading online of other women’s birth and labor experiences (you know, the scientist doing her research to be prepared for labor, AS IF THAT’S EVEN POSSIBLE), but still had no clue what I was really supposed to look for. Short of my water bursting all over the place (a scenario I was terrified of, and also prepared for, as I had been perching on waterproof pads on my mattress, on the couch, and in my car for the last few weeks juuust in case), I didn’t know what kind of “signs” to look for. But I had enough foresight to ask M. to work from home that day and avoid his hour-and-a-half (each way) commute into D.C.

The contractions began to grow in intensity – I was starting to feel a little pain. I called my doctor’s office, and went in to get checked at around 10 am. The doctor measured me at about a centimeter and a half – apparently I was making a little progress from my last appointment, but it was slow. She thought it was probably “the real thing,” but that it could take a long time. Her advice was to go home and wait it out until the contractions were 5 minutes apart, 1 minute… etc, the standard stuff. On the way home we stopped for bagels – I remember that I stuck to a plain bagel with plain cream cheese, a rarity for this everything bagel lover. Apparently I was in no mood for flavor.

We wiled away the afternoon, periodically timing contractions, I’m sure, which, though getting very painful, were not getting very regular. I don’t think we went on a walk. It was a gray, humid, sprinkle-y kind of day, not very inspiring of outdoor activity. Plus, the contractions were really doing a number on my back, making walking (and lying down, and sitting) pretty hard to do.

At around 5, I sent M. out to get us some dinner – I figured we needed the energy. While he was out, I hopped in the shower (as much as a hugely pregnant, contracting woman can hop), then spent some time bouncing on my exercise ball. We ate egg salad sandwiches and French fries (the last of my excused-by-pregnancy junk food eating), and caught our last episode of Jeopardy as non-parents. I’m sure I still managed to rock the answers through the pain . Though still a little erratic, by this time the contractions were more clearly a minute long and five minutes or so apart. So at around 8:30 pm, I called the on-call doc to check in with him, and he advised us to head in to the hospital.

I’m sure the car ride to the hospital was painful, but I’ve blocked that memory out. I do know that when we arrived at the there, I was sent to an L&D room without triage – must have been a slow night. I changed into my hospital gown, got checked (4 cm? maybe? Not sure), and got hooked up to all the various monitors/IVs/blood pressure cuffs they like to strap you down with.

I need to stop for a moment here and note that by this time, I was absolutely positive I was having back labor. Every single contraction was like a knife twisting in my back. I have never, ever felt pain like that before or since. It was later established that Finn was, indeed, turned to the side, which undoubtedly made my labor longer and harder. Back labor sucky suck sucks. And I can say that, because I’ve now had the regular kind of labor, and can verify that it is not quite as full of suckitude.

So, yes, strapped down with monitors and such, in back labor, and forced to lie in a bed. At this point, I was not a happy camper (see below).

I begged the nurse to let me get off the bed and walk around, and she promised to come back after the baby had been monitored for an hour to let me up.

And then she promptly forgot about me. For, like, ever.

I remember at one point writhing on my side, clawing at the bed rail and telling M. that I couldn’t do this, that it hurt too much. I cried. I pleaded with him to go find someone, anyone, who could get me out of the frickin’ bed.

He took off down the hall and found someone, I think just in time for a shift change. But it was not exactly the salvation I had hoped for, which I suppose could only have come in the form of the epidural guy. Instead, he found my new nurse.

Oh, how I came to dislike my new nurse. For clarification, I shall call her Evil Nurse.

Evil Nurse did let me walk around for a bit, though it did not provide the relief I had hoped for. I’ll give her that. But in no other way was I happy with her. We disagreed, she and I, about whether I was in labor. This is the crux of why I thought her evil. After 24 hours of contractions and searing pain, I was 100% certain (!) that I was in labor. She, however, looked at the monitors that had been printing out a record of my contractions, and told me that I was not really in labor. My contractions weren’t strong enough, or regular enough. She didn’t check me to see if I had dilated more. She didn’t wonder whether the contractions weren’t registering well on the monitor because the monitor was on my BELLY, and the contractions were in my BACK. She just declared me “not in labor.”

October 20, 2010: Sometime after midnight, I begged for an epidural (hmm, notice how many times I’ve used the word “beg” or “plead” in this narrative?) so I could get some rest. So my body could relax and finish doing what it needed to do. Evil Nurse did not want to give me one. She even made vague noises about sending me home. She tried to give me a shot of narcotic instead, which I refused. I demanded the epidural and the epidural only. She finally called the doctor (I don’t believe he actually came to the hospital that night), and he OK’d the epidural. Good thing he was safe at home, otherwise he would have had a smelly crying sweaty pregnant lady trying to french him.

My anesthesiologist arrived, and as I saw on the hospital bill later, his name was, fittingly, Dr. Paine. He made M. leave the room, and I had to hug Evil Nurse while he administered the epidural. I shivered and felt nauseous and tried not to cry, but somehow managed to not have a contraction during the placement of the catheter. I contemplated throwing up on Evil Nurse, out of spite or necessity, not sure which. But the process was smooth, and in no time I was lying much more comfortably in my bed. Dr. Paine must have hit the sweet spot, because this epidural really, really worked.

From about 2:30 to 5:30 am, I tried to sleep, I really did. But my lower body was so numb and heavy that I was kind of freaked out by it, and kept worrying that I would forget to breathe. I think being pain-free probably also let me finally be a little excited about the fact that I was going to meet my baby soon. M. had no problem sleeping, of course.

At 5:30 the jackhammering started. Hmm, what’s that again? Your hospital didn’t have the dulcet sounds of jackhammering in the wee hours of the morning? You’re jealous that mine did? Or maybe you’re wondering who the frick would think it’s a good idea to jackhammer in the pitch dark and rattle the walls and beds of SICK PEOPLE!! (And angry tired laboring women)! Look, I know hospitals occasionally have to expand, to renovate, whatever. But couldn’t the really loud construction-y stuff happen when people aren’t normally still sleeping?

So I officially got no sleep, for the second night in a row. I was really going to start this motherhood thing with a bang!

There was another shift change at 7 am, and I got a new set of nurses (yay!). I also found out that I was about 7-8 cm dilated (take that, Evil Nurse!!). We were really getting somewhere. I hung out for a while, and eventually the doctor came in to check on me. He broke my water to try and speed up the last bit of progress. At some point, I was given pitocin for the same reason. I was still pleasantly numb, so this was all really just background movement for me.

At 11:30 am, I was deemed “complete,” and told that I could start pushing. M. and the nursing intern that was shadowing my nurse each grabbed a leg, a leg that felt like a block of underwater concrete to me. I was completely unable to move any part of my lower body at all. I felt certain that M. and the intern must have been breaking their backs holding my legs up, so heavy did they feel. The sun was shining, we had Gypsy Kings music playing in the background, and we all joked around in between pushes. I felt no pain – in fact, the nurse had to keep telling me when I was having a contraction, so I’d know when to push. It was the most fun and relaxing part of my entire hospital stay.

Eventually, Finn began having decelerations every time I pushed. I was given oxygen, rolled onto my side a bit more, and an internal monitor was placed on Finn’s head. Things became a bit more serious. The nurse seemed certain that the doctor would recommend a c-section, and she had M. gown up in some scrubs. Because meconium was found in my amniotic fluid, a team from the NICU was assembled “just in case.” I was half resigned to getting a c-section, despite an intense fear of the procedure (Abdomen cut open! Recovery time! Probability of forever having c-sections if we have more babies!). Thankfully, the doctor was a bit less reactionary than that. He let me keep pushing since Finn’s heart rate was recovering in between every push. He did cut me to get him out faster, though. I managed to ask the doctor if the baby had any hair – for some reason it was very important to me that my baby have hair. I think they look more “done” that way. Fully cooked. He seemed puzzled that I asked, but I felt as though this was a perfectly natural question. I was assured that he did, indeed, have hair.

And then finally, at 12:30 pm, Finn William was born!

My predicted giant of a baby weighed in at only 7 lbs 3 oz (love the accuracy of modern medicine). The umbilical cord was wrapped twice around his neck, so M. wasn’t able to cut the cord. This probably also explains why Finn’s heart rate kept decelerating with every push. But he was checked over by the NICU team, and deemed perfectly healthy. Perfectly healthy, and with a crapload of hair (with highlights! WTF!) that all the nurses oohed and aahed over for our entire hospital stay.

I don’t think I have ever recovered from the sleep deficit of those 40 hours of labor. And I am quite positive that I shall throw many of those details back in Finn’s face when he is a teenager and aggravating me. And he will roll his eyes, and blow off all the pain and effort it took me to get him in to this world. As he should. Because who dwells on stuff like that, when they could instead focus on the after? The part where a couple was made a family by the cutest little boy you will ever see. For real.

3 Days Old

8 Months Old

Happy 4th Birthday, Finny!!!! XOXOXOXO


  1. Thank you for sharing this. . .and hope I'm around when Finn is old enough to read it!! Also, am very grateful for the days of "twilight sleep" when I had my 4 babies. Love and Happy B'Day to Finn. . .Mimi