#51: Have a baby (part 2)

When I left off, I'd requested an epidural.

It was probably about 6:45 a.m. by the time I requested it. While the anesthesiologist was sought, we were moved into a a labor room and introduced to a new nurse. She told us we were definitely having this baby today, and for sure by the time her shift ended at 3 p.m.

The resident anesthesiologist came in to explain the procedure of the combined spinal/epidural: you get quick pain relief from the spinal block and much longer pain relief from the epidural through one procedure. I found it funny that they explain the procedure, its potential side effects and who knows what else to the woman in labor. I remember looking at him and thinking, I know he's talking to me and I am trying so hard to listen but these darn contractions just keep on coming and I can't focus on anything else! He left to get the drugs ready (you can't do that before the pep talk?) and I got hooked up to an IV to receive antibiotics since I tested positive for a common strain of strep. I had asked my doctor if the insertion of the IV was painful (I'd never been in the hospital before) and she said something along the lines of "Well, it's not the most painful thing you'll be experiencing that day." She also said that about checking the cervix. All very true yet not encouraging at the time.

The resident anesthesiologist came back along with the head anesthesiologist and the meds. I sat on one side of the bed and hugged a pillow, trying to hunch my back and relax like the anesthesiologists said. Contractions kept rolling and it was hard to keep such an unnatural position. The insertion of the needle was uncomfortable but I kept telling myself it would be over soon and the pain would be gone, so I could handle five more minutes of pain and discomfort! If you've seen "Finding Nemo," remember that part with the little girl at the dentist? She's banging on the glass of the aquarium and the starfish is losing his grip and saying, "Find a happy place, find a happy place!!" That's how I felt.

But the needle pokes kept coming and I felt fluid flowing down my back, which I imagined at first to be blood but later learned it was spinal fluid. I was not a very good judge of time at this point but it seemed like the procedure was taking a lot longer than previously billed. I heard afterward that the resident couldn't get the needle in the right spot and the chief anesthesiologist took over. He got the needle in and told me that I might feel a jolt as the medicine took effect. The sensation that followed was BY FAR the worst part of labor for me: what felt like an electric current flashed painfully through my back and down my left leg. The shock scared me so much that I actually screamed.

After that trauma, the anesthesiologist said I'd feel one more and then I wouldn't feel any more pain. What he meant was I'd feel another contraction but I thought he meant I'd feel another shock. I lost it, sobbing and saying some nonsensical things (I really can't remember what). Then Mark told me he meant one more contraction and I thought PRAISE GOD, a contraction I can handle. It came and went and then... relief. I could've hugged those anesthesiologists! Well, maybe not the resident. They told me afterward that I had a tricky curvature to my spine. Who knew!

The difference between the hour leading up to the epidural and the moments after it took effect was stunning. I felt like Dorothy when she left her black and white world behind and entered one of Technicolor. I know there are a lot of people who choose to receive no pain medication but I always knew I wouldn't be one of them. I don't regret it at all, even after experiencing the electric jolt, which they told me only 10 percent of people experience.

After the epidural, around 7:40 a.m., I was helped into bed and encouraged to order some chicken broth and juice to get up some energy for pushing. I even got in a nap! A couple hours went by and the resident doctor who had previously checked my cervix came in, along with my OB who thankfully happened to be on call that day. She and I laughed that I'd managed to "plan" my delivery on a day that she was on call. She said I was progressing well and that she'd be in and out during the pushing stage since there were other patients on the floor who were as far along as I was.

They left and my nurse gave me a crash course on what pushing would look like. I never took any labor classes so I soaked up the instruction and hoped I could do a fast job. The resident came back shortly after and checked my cervix again, which was much more pleasant with an epidural. During the check, my water broke. I heard the pop in time to see the resident's shocked face and felt (and stifled) a strong urge to laugh. I don't think that had ever happened to her before. Then I was told I had made it to 10 centimeters and it was time to start pushing!

Nothing could have prepared me for the physicality of pushing. My doctor told me that pushing out the baby would be one of the most physical things I'd ever do but I had no idea how hard and taxing it would be. Mark fed me Clif Shot Bloks (energy chews) in between pushes and I can honestly say those little snacks saved me. If you're pregnant, stock up on Shot Bloks. After about an hour of pushing, my doctor came back along with a slew of nurses who started readying the room for the arrival of a baby. That's how I knew he must be close! Well, that and they kept telling me I was SO close to being done and just keep going!

At this point we were out of Shot Bloks and I didn't know how I was going to go on much longer. They asked if I wanted a mirror (no thanks) and if I wanted to feel the baby's head (um, no, I know he's there, but thanks). I couldn't believe that some women can push for hours on end. I never knew exhaustion until those final pushes when I felt him slip out, which was the most relieving and emotional feeling I can't even come close to describing. I burst into tears the moment he was out; I wasn't conscious of anything else except how exhausted I was and that our boy was crying. They placed him on top of me and the first thought I had was of how big he was! That and he was covered in fine dark hair. No one warns you how potentially hairy babies can be!

You can't see all the hair.
I could barely reconcile that this tiny human had just come out of me. It didn't make sense. When they told us he weighed eight pounds and 12 ounces, I felt a rush of gratefulness that doctors screen for gestational diabetes. He might have been huge had I not been monitoring my blood sugar! We decided on his name, Brendan, while he lay on my chest and the doctors stitched me up.

Brendan was born exactly at noon on August 24, 2014. The next hours were a whirlwind of nurses, family, and barely being able to keep my eyes open. We had to stay in the delivery room for a while because the recovery rooms were full but that was fine with me - the room was huge.

Mac and cheese!
Mark's dad and Brendan
I couldn't believe that we had spent so much time thinking of when the baby would come and that the moment was finally here. It was so surreal. Even now, eight weeks post-birth, it's hard to believe that we are post-birth and not still preparing. For instance, I'd made some meals in advance and frozen them "for when the baby comes" and I feel like I have to give myself permission to eat those meals because the baby is now here and that's why I made them.

I also want to write posts on recovering from birth and transitioning to parenthood but all in good time. I feel like every time I sit down to start writing, Brendan wakes up. I guess that's life!

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