Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Birth Story and How I Missed My Opportunity for an Epidural

Last week I received a letter from my OBGN explaining he's moving to Charleston. I agree it's a great city, but still. Doesn't Dr. M have an obligation to me since I'm surely one of his favorite patients? I understand he's super busy, but a form letter, really? It just feels so impersonal after he's been so, ahem, up close and personal. The sad news of his departure did cause me to remember the happy details of the day I became a mommy.

My sweet baby was due on Christmas Day in 2008. We were convinced she'd arrive early, but we were mistaken. I remember waddling into work on December 26, somewhat disgruntled that I wasn't snuggling my newborn. That night my semi-OCD/hyper personality kicked into high gear. I cooked dinner and began taking down Christmas decorations like a mad woman. My husband just followed my lead and worked like crazy too. Smart man. After our decorations were wrapped and stored for the next year I finally sat down to rest. And then it happened. It was almost midnight, and my water broke, but not in a large gush like it happens in the movies. It was just a trickle so I wasn't fully convinced. A friend of mine had been mistaken once and was turned away at the hospital because she'd actually just peed on herself. (The horror, I know!) I vowed that would never happen to me.

God bless Google. After a little research I was pretty sure it was amniotic fluid. So I showered and shaved (of course) and we were on our way. The car ride was strangely uneventful, not at all like I’d imagined. I wasn't having contractions so we leisurely made our way across town and debated whether or not this was really happening.

My husband had expected to pull up to the front of the hospital and wheel me inside. Instead, we simply parked and walked in normally. In my mind I should’ve already needed those breathing techniques I'd practiced for months, but, nope. Nothing. The triage nurse confirmed my water had broken, and I was admitted. Hooray! We were ecstatic we'd soon meet our baby girl. The emotions were overwhelming; we were elated and a little shocked it was finally time. It felt surreal and at some point I remember us becoming almost giddy. I was nervous about the unknown, and my husband was worried about how I would respond to the unknown. In case you don’t know, I’m a little bit of a planner. I like to think I fly by the seat of my pants, but I’m only kidding myself. When Dr. M walked in we were both relieved.

It was about 2:00 a.m., and he suggested we rest. In hindsight that would have been an awesome idea, but the thought of sleeping was laughable. He also offered the epidural at any time, but I declined. I was very afraid of being stuck in the bed, unable to move around. In my mind my labor included walking the hallways, eating ice chips and bouncing on a birthing ball for at least a little while. And I honestly still felt nothing.

Dr. M came in a few times to check on us. He's so laid back and funny (a lot like my husband); I'm pretty sure that's what makes him so charming. He has a knack for making you feel at ease; nothing really gets him rattled, or if it does he doesn’t show it. When my contractions started they were immediately pretty hard. By about 6:45 a.m. they were quite intense. I’d been told it would take an hour to feel the effects of the epidural after the initial request, so I decided I'd be in trouble if I waited much longer.

Do you have any idea what 7:00 a.m. is for most hospitals? Shift change. (That’s something they should’ve discussed in those birthing classes I dragged us to.) I buzzed, and the new nurse assured me she’d be in soon. I thought I'd feel better if I stood up, but I immediately felt a lot of pressure. I put my fear of pooping on the table while pushing on the backburner and became terrified I was going to pee all over the floor. As politely as possible I asked for the nurse again. I hadn’t met this nurse yet, and I didn’t want to get on her bad list so soon, but I knew I couldn't wait either. I did what I had to do and began to pull the monitors off myself so I could get to the bathroom. It’s pretty amazing how fast that gets their attention; they came running.

I immediately felt better after what must have been the greatest pee of my entire life, and I knew I'd be okay. I was able to smile again and get back to the bed. I’d progressed to 8cm and was fully effaced. Dr. M called for the anesthesiologist asap and waited with us. Surprisingly, I felt okay. The contractions were still coming consistently, but after relieving the pressure from my bladder I could definitely deal. We talked and joked, and we officially met our new Labor and Delivery Nurse P. She was fantastic and encouraged me to try to have the baby naturally. I laughed at the idea. That was not my plan. Within 10 minutes a nice looking gentleman pushed the epidural cart into our room. Ahhhh, I was ready to feel nothing, but Dr. M. wanted to check once more. He then broke the news to me that in those few minutes I'd dilated fully, and it was too late. I remember his words perfectly, "Amy," he said slowly and calmly, "I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you're not going to be getting an epidural today."

I'm not entirely sure what I said or how I looked (My husband refuses to give me specifics.), but I do know (via confirmation from LD Nurse P) that I had about a 30 to 45 second out-of-body freaking out period before I got my game face on. LD Nurse P was incredible, and although we’d just met her, we loved her immediately. Neither Dr. M or LD Nurse P ever left our room. I'd like to think it's because we were their coolest patients, but I suppose they knew our baby was coming super quickly.

I'll give my husband mad props too. He was uncharacteristically directing people (It's true a ton of people show up, and it's true you won't care.) to get me cool washcloths and encouraging like a coach of the year but not in a cheesy/condescending way. I always knew he was a great catch!

I remember Dr. M kidding me about how much longer it would take and that strangely put me at ease. I think he told me I’d only have a few more hours of pushing. Sarcasm is a way of life for my family, so his joking made an unfamiliar and scary situation seem reasonable and doable. I also remember him chilling out in the rocking chair while I was working overtime on no sleep to perform a miracle. But I found this bizarrely amusing at the time and remember calling him a slacker. I actually only pushed for about 45 minutes, although it felt much longer than that. I was extremely fortunate; the best way I can describe my experience is crazy intense and difficult, but not one of freakish, intolerable pain. My sweet Ellie came into this world looking beautifully perfect and bright-eyed.

My husband was so infatuated with being a brand new daddy and the awe of our gorgeous child I recall the nurse having to tell him it was time to take pictures. He was, and is, one proud father. Please say a little prayer that she never fully learns just how much she has him wrapped around her finger. And it's been like that from the very first breath she took.

While I was getting stitches (lovely) Dr. M's cell phone rang. He'd stayed late to help make us a family. His ringtone, ACDC's Thunderstruck, was the first song my daughter ever heard, just another reason to love him.

Having a baby is such a powerful and amazing experience, and it's even more special when you can share it with people as wonderful as Dr. M and LD Nurse P. Knoxville's loss of Dr. M is definitely Charleston's gain. I can't imagine him not being there if we decide to become more than the three musketeers, but I'm sure it would be fine. We may just have to track down LD Nurse P. Either way, we’ll always cherish our wonderful memories of Ellie's birth, even though it was nothing like we’d planned.

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