Sunday, October 02, 2005

Two Years Old?

Allison turns 2 today. How can it be? It seem such a short period of time, yet I can't imagine life without her.

To celebrate, here's the ultimate in mommy blog narcicism: the birth story. I actually wrote this for her first birthday but never posted it. (Warning: it's long; anyone looking for a short and snappy post should check back in a few days!)

My due date was October 3rd. About 2 weeks before that, I began feeling fairly regular contractions. Since my labor with Sean was pretty short in the grand scheme of labors and I'd been told that labor this time around would be even shorter, I didn't want to risk being at work and many, many miles from the hospital when things started cooking. I decided to work at home that week, which was my last week at work before going on maternity leave.

Thus began the fun game of Hurry Up and Wait. Contractions came and went, came and went, and each time I thought "This is it", they'd stop. This went on for 2 weeks. I was growing impatient with the whole process and stopped just short of accusing my unborn child of manipulating me merely for the fun of it.

The night of October 1st was uneventful. The contractions were popping up here and there, but I was jaded at that point and paid them little mind. At 5:20 a.m. the next morning, I woke up just in time to feel a little, umm, wet. I wasn't sure if this was it, for with Sean my water broke with a distinct POP and definitive gushing. After a few minutes and further leaking, I woke up Jeff and told him that I thought FINALLY the show was about to begin.

And begin it did. The contractions, the real kind this time, launched with ferocity. I called my doctors' answering service, and a few minutes later, a doctor called me back. I was so relieved to hear the doctor who delivered Sean on the other end. I could have gotten one of the four doctors in the practice, and although I like all of them to a certain extent, I felt most comfortable with Dr. M. After refreshing her memory about how fast my first labor had been, she told me to go the hospital immediately. No waiting for until I had contractions spaced 5 minutes apart for 2 hours, as she had advised me with Sean.

I called my mom, who had told me she would come over and watch Sean when I went into labor. She had been on pins and needles with me for the past 2 weeks, so I'm sure she was relieved to be awoken by my phone call.

Between that phone call and my mom's arrival (probably about 30 minutes), I dressed, got my bag together, checked on Sean, and paced. Oh, and doubled over in pain from time to time because of the contractions, which were slamming me at this point. Jeff showered and got himself ready.

After my mom arrived, I gave her some hasty instructions on taking care of Sean. I felt sad about leaving him, knowing that this would be the last time we would see him as our only child. Then Jeff and I got in the car and raced to the hospital. One of benefits of living in our particular neck of overdeveloped suburbia is the 7-minute distance between our house and the hospital.

After we checked in at the ER, a nurse found me a wheelchair and brought us up to the labor and delivery floor. Another pregnant woman registered right after me. She seemed so calm and rather indignantly declined the offer of a wheelchair. But for me, well, the wheelchair was a godsend. The contractions, did I mention the contractions? Oh, they were so painful and so fast. After we got to my labor and deliver room, I practically collared the labor nurse and told her I wanted an epidural.

(That other pregnant woman, the calm one? Not long after she arrived she left because her labor wasn't advanced enough.)

While waiting for the anesthesiologist, the nurse checked my progress. "Three centimeters," she tells me.

Three centimeters?

It felt like my uterus was about to rupture, and she tells me I'm dilated only three centimeters? If that were the case, I thought, the anesthesiologist had better get his or her fanny into my room right now. My relationship with pain is pretty simple: I don't like it, not one little bit.

As the contractions became even more painful, I was gripping Jeff's hand so hard that I was afraid I would break it. Jeff was breathing along with me (hee, hee, hooooooo), which, as it turned out, was not the best course of action.

When the anesthesiologist arrived and was prepping my back for the blessed epidural, I felt it. You know, the "uncontrollable urge to push" that the books warn you about but that I never felt with Sean. I can unequivocally attest that it is indeed uncontrollable; it felt like the baby was going to pop out right then and there regardless of any effort on my part.

Although the baby was ready now, dammit, the doctor hadn't even arrived yet. I had been in the hospital for all of 30 minutes. I was in such pain and so unfocused at this point that I don't know how many people were even in the room. All I could hear were people saying "Don't push!" and "It's okay, push!" and the ever-helpful, "The doctor's not here yet!" At one point someone said, "We can't do anything for you, hon", which in my delirious state I took to mean that I was going to have the baby on my own. In retrospect, of course, I think that the person meant that it was too late to give me an epidural. But the imprecise language caused me considerable anxiety. Note to hospital staff: Choose your words very carefully around women in labor! Do I have to be an editor even when about to give birth?

I don't know how much time elapsed, but the doctor arrived very soon after the urge to push commenced. Thankfully, she got right down to business and told me to push. One striking thing about this experience is that I was so consumed by pain that I couldn't really see, or perhaps focus, very well. But one thing I could see was Jeff next to me, looking as white as a ghost. I remember asking him, in between screeches, "Are you okay?" The nurses kind of laughed at me, saying "Don't worry about him!"

Back to pushing. I don't remember how many pushes it took, but that stage lasted no more than 5 minutes. (I hereby publicly acknowledge all women who struggled with hours and hours of pushing. You are truly my heroines.)

When Dr. M. said "It's a girl," I had two reactions. One was complete surprise, for I had been convinced that I was having another boy. The other was pure gratitude that the pain was over. The doctor put the baby on my chest, and she was already wailing. Healthy as could be.

Over on Jeff's end, though, things weren't going too well.

Through a combination of hyperventilation brought on by his sympathetic breathing and his queasiness over the whole biological experience of birth, Jeff just about passed out. A separate team of nurses surrounded him, hoisted him onto a gurney, and whisked him down to the ER. The only thing I got to say to him before he left was, "Oh, we have a girl!"

The nurses asked me if they could call someone to be with Jeff in the ER. I gave them my mom's number, hoping she could think of someone. The nurses told me later that my brother-in-law Gary would come by before he went to work.

I missed Jeff so much as I held our newly swaddled baby. I can't say it was the calmest half hour -- unlike Sean, who was quiet and calm, Allison cried for much of her first hour of life. But to be honest, it was the sweetest squalling I'd ever heard.

Jeff was in the ER for about an hour; he came back to the delivery suite before my brother-in-law even arrived. He still felt shaky but otherwise was no worse for the wear. And there we were: mom, dad, new baby girl, all set for our trip to the baby floor. From which point the story is as plain vanilla as can be. Thank goodness.

Happy Birthday, Chickie Lou!