Monday, June 30, 2008

Eleanor's Birth Story

The Moms Blog group is posting birth stories tomorrow. I've posted about my first birth experience; to give my three year old Eleanor her due, this is the beginning of her story:

Eleanor is here. She came out at 11:37 in the morning on Friday. I thought I would go into labor on Thursday – 40 weeks to the day of a second night of bedtime fun in one week – how often does that happen?

Snow storms on Tuesday and Wednesday dropped six or eight inches of beautiful snow. My cousin Sal came over on Tuesday night and getting rid of all that extra holiday vino, I made a champagne themed dinner. Shrimp broiled in champagne vinaigrette (yum!) on butter lettuce and a citrus salad with limes, grapefruit, Meyer lemons, blood oranges and pomegranate seeds, splashed with more champagne. (It needed avocado.) For dessert I made champagne jelly layered with strawberries. We drank water.

I’d been feeling some back tightness that came on gradually and lasted a few seconds. Neighbor Kristy said, “You’re in labor,” on Thursday night. I made a cranberry coffee cake.

Midnight between Thursday and Friday. I don’t really know if I had been asleep (I must have been) but a contraction woke me and I said to Randy, “I’m getting the epidural.” Then my water broke, a former mystery since I never noticed it with Mia’s labor but how could I not? Water pouring out, soaking towels between my legs. With Mia, it must have happened while I was in the bathtub.

I tried to take a bath now but the cramped quarters, unlike our old house’s deep claw-foot, and the distraction of two year old Mia’s care took me out of the tub. Six to eight minutes apart, only 15 seconds, increased to 25-30. Very low in my belly. Randy packed the car. Mia woke and Randy put her in our bed, but she soon toddled out, sucking thumb and holding Lovey blanket to see us in the bathroom light. It helped to hold Randy around the neck and crunch over a little. “We’re playing,” I told Mia.

Off to Kate and Ehran’s. On the way, Randy called to wake them up. When Ehran answered, Randy said, “Today?” in a quivering, plaintive voice, just as Ehran’s grandpa had when they called to tell him they were on the way to pick him up for a wedding.

Just like I imagined, I sat in the car with contractions while Kate came out to give me a kiss and ask Mia is she wanted to sleep over. “Okay!” replied Mia, to our great relief. She had never been away from us.

It was a beautiful picture, Mia in Kate’s arms, leaning her head down on Kate’s shoulder, Randy following with the pink suitcase and port-a-crib, Ehran waiting in p.j.’s on the porch under the Christmas lights, snow on the yard. The drive to Evanston hospital was through a winter wonderland with soft mounds of snow lit by colored lights. Little traffic. Much more bearable pain than the drive to Northwestern two years before.

Once there, the only person around is the info desk attendant who sits and watches us struggle with a wheelchair Randy found leaning against the wall. I start to laugh, it becomes a little hysterical because of the foot rests on the chair that won’t move into place and the attendant who just sits and watches. Our room is mere steps away. A clumsy resident tests my fluid despite the soaked towels in the shower and wheels in an ultrasound to see if the head is down, (“The HEAD is DOWN,” I tell him) then says I’m only four centimeters. Bummer. “People go home at four centimeters, “ I tell Randy.

I didn’t think I needed an overly detailed birthplan people would ignore, because I just had three desires: no cutting (episiotomy or C-section), no Pitocin and washed hands. I should have talked this out with the doctor ahead of time. I thought we were of the same mind.

Instead, we bicker like a conservative freshman and her alternative roommate sharing a dorm room. “If the epidural slows you down, we’ll just slip you some Pitocin” she says in a chillingly casual voice. “If it’s a life or death situation, we’ll need to do whatever we can to get the baby out.” This was not a high risk situation. I was trying to be patient, conserve my strength, resist arguing. “You can’t push like that, no way, unh-unh, ain’t gonna happen,” she insists when I try to turn on my side.

But her threats and arguments don’t matter a wit because as soon as the epidural was turned off and I started to feel again, I could push against the contractions and the baby was down where I could feel her. I looked over at Randy and saw his face change as he looked down between my legs and I knew the pushes were working and she was coming.

I was working hard, but smart. I knew that pushing with my arms and neck didn’t accomplish anything, so all my strength was concentrated on my abdomen. Since my face wasn’t contorted and red, I think the doctor thought I wasn’t working.

“Push!” says the doctor, “PUSH!”
“I am pushing!”
“No, you’re not – you couldn’t talk if you were!”
Then the baby came out.

And all my complaints were moot and gone because a big purple pretty girl was in the doctor’s hands, folded legs up to head and amazing, but silent. She is rushed over to the warmer and rubbed and suctioned and massaged while poor Randy stands off to the side, empty handed. I call him to me because I can see her too from where I'm lying and he needs to understand everything is okay, she just needs some encouraging. And Eleanor gives some cries and pinks up very quickly and gurgles and she’s fine. Ten pounds, seven ounces.

Elation. Bliss. Spacy-ness. Fatigue. My words sound strange coming out of my mouth. She nurses beautifully.

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