Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everyone's Out Partying at Life is Beautiful and I'm Just Over Here Having a Baby

Boy was I ready to GO! 

Books had been read, classes had been attended, advice had been taken, hospital bag was packed. Lists had been made, furniture had been assembled, Halloween decorations were up. 

Decisions had been made, birth plan had been established, hair was done. Dog went to groomer, work paperwork had been finalized, new car was purchased, rules were established. 

Nobody was ready for this baby the way I was. 

And then it happened. And I was reminded, once again, how little control I actually have over things. 


It was Thursday night, September 24th and I was home alone watching the football game. I was supposed to be napping and getting rest so I could get through my final two days of work without too much stress or fatigue. But, it’s football. So I snoozed for about half and hour and then just relaxed and watched the game. Besides, our doctor’s appointment had been earlier that afternoon and after being told that I was still only dilated to one centimeter with a baby sitting pretty high up, I was sure I had at least a week before Xander was going to make his appearance. 

It was around halftime that I started to feel the pressure in my lower back. A dull cramping, similar to how I’ve felt the night before starting a heavy period. I didn’t think much of it and just tried to relax in bed. 

By the time Johnny came home a little after ten, the pain had increased and started to come in small waves. Surely these couldn’t be contractions. After all, I was supposed to feel those in my cervix and lower abdomen area, right? But there was definitely something going on. 

Around midnight, I realized they weren’t going away. I had done some research online and was confident now that I was, indeed, having contractions. I still wasn’t convinced I was actually going into labor but thought it was a good idea to go to the hospital to see what was, in fact, going on. My belly really didn’t seem like it had dropped much and my water had not broken. They were, most likely, just going to check me out and send me home. 

Being a planner, of course, I still grabbed my hospital bag, laboring music, breastfeeding pillow and birthing ball. You know, just in case. 

We got to the hospital around 1:10am. By now, I was needing to stop walking or sit down to get through each contraction. We waited patiently while they got us a room and after I was all set up, the nurse sent Johnny down to register us. She checked my cervix and confirmed that I was still measuring at one centimeter. However, things had changed as now I was super soft in the parts I needed to be. So, they decided to give me an hour to see how I would measure and we’d go from there. 

At that point, the nurse (Rosario, basically the best nurse that exists on the planet), asked for and reviewed my birth plan, confirming with me that I wanted to have a natural, drug-free labor. 

I had made it pretty clear about my wishes to do so. Johnny and I had attended a birthing class, I had talked about it with plenty of my friends, I had practiced my breathing and stretching and had even been diligent with my Kegel exercises. Thousands of women did natural child birth, including my mother, and I wasn’t about to hit up a bunch of drugs out of fear or a little pain. In fact, just in case Johnny wasn’t able to stave off the nurses (whom I’d been told could be pretty pushy with drugs), I had asked my mother to be my advocate for the natural process, only allowing me to change my mind with a “safe” word. Because, you know, I got this. 

Rosario acknowledged my wishes and said she’d be back to check on me in an hour. 

At this time, I asked Johnny for my music to try and calm me between contractions, which seemed to be coming faster and more intense by the second. Still all in my lower back, I tried to avoid going into a complete fetal curl every time they hit and attempted to keep my animalistic and guttural grunts at a minimum. It wasn’t easy. 

Speaking of Mom as my advocate, please try them again, I asked Johnny, who was close to double digits on the amount of times he had tried to reach both my parents. It was really strange. I knew my dad slept with his phone next to him. But it was late and both of them were not expecting me to be in the hospital so soon, especially after the update post doctor appointment. I was sure they were both just conked out. 

I tried not to watch the clock, knowing that it wouldn’t make these contractions any less frequent or painful. With only about fifteen minutes left until Rosario was back to check on things, my water broke.  

I realized then that no matter what anyone could’ve told me or warned me about, I would never have believed that the pain could be that bad. I mean, I could say that it felt like ten serrated knives being driven into my lower back repeatedly and at a rapid rate, but that would be an understatement. My grunts turned into desperate howls, my sweat permeated the room and I knew right then that everything I thought I had planned for was right out the window. 

When Rosario came in to check me, I was at six centimeters. She officially called go time and we were off to the races. I asked if it was too late for the epidural and thankfully, we were able to get it going right away. However, as the anesthesiologist started working on me, my IV popped out of my left wrist, blood started spraying all over the bed, another colossal sized contraction hit me before the drugs could, the nurse started calling out for a tourniquet, a second nurse was desperately searching for another vein and all I could think was, “Really? This?” 

When that chaos finally settled down and I could no longer feel the lower half of my body, I was able to calm myself and better assess the situation. I still hadn’t gotten a hold of my parents but, of course, Johnny was right next to me and his mom had just shown up as well. I was just starting to get my head back on when Rosario came in with some concern about baby’s heart rate. 

It was dropping low whenever I was contracting, which wasn’t completely abnormal, but the problem was that, as Rosario called it, I was apparently a “contraction machine” and there wasn’t a lot of time in between them for him to get his heart rate back up. She expected my doctor any minute and we’d go from there. 

I was originally told that my doctor wasn’t available that weekend and that someone was on-call for him. Luckily, that wasn’t the case and he showed up, ready to go. The reason this is important is because after a few bouts of pushing, it was clear that little man was not cooperating, not moving down and his heart rate was not stabilizing. I was at nine centimeters when doctor got there, but Xander had turned sideways and getting into the birth canal was just not happening. 

So there it was, the c-section conversation. The only thing I wanted to avoid more than the drugs. My doctor knew how I felt and said that once I was prepped and in the operating room, he would attempt to use the vacuum to see if he could ease Xander out that way first. But I already knew he was just trying to make me feel better. 

Everyone was asked to leave the room while they prepped both me and Johnny for surgery. I remember feeling pretty numb, physically of course, but emotionally as well. Once again, this was NOT how I had been planning the end to my beautiful and perfect pregnancy. Not to mention the concern I had for my baby that was so healthy and happy the last 39 weeks and was now starting to go through trauma trying to come out. 

By the time we were all set to go in the OR, Xander had already reversed whatever small trip he had started to make towards the light. C-section it was. More drugs, arms strapped down, curtain up and it was showtime. 

I remember not thinking much. I just stared up into the lights, tears in my eyes but insisted on holding it together. All of a sudden, I noticed that in one of the metal lights above my head, I could see the reflection of my incision. I knew I should probably look away but I was mesmerized. It was like watching a TV show. Or maybe a car wreck. I saw a bunch of blood, what had to be my intestines and then, after some heavy rolling pressure, I watched as they pulled a seven pound baby from my stomach.  

I’m still not sure how I feel about seeing all of that. 

During labor, little Xander had swallowed a bunch of fluid that he shouldn’t have so after a quick look over the curtain so I could see him, they took him off to the side to suction out the additional fluid. It wasn’t until I heard him start to cry that I finally lost it myself. Fear, frustration, relief and love washed over me more intensely than I could handle. At that moment, nothing about my failed plans mattered. 

They sent Xander and Johnny out together so they could clean him up and do whatever tests needed to be done. The room became quiet very quick as the doctor stitched me up, something else I couldn’t help but watch in the reflection above. I started to feel sick so they gave me more medication for the nausea. This had to be more drugs than I’ve ever been on in my entire life. But, what are you gonna do... I certainly wasn’t going to throw up all over my new baby. 

The doctor finished up with me and as they rolled me out of the room on my way back to my boys, I heard my mom’s voice asking for me. As it turns out, they had both simply left their phones in another room and with their bedroom fans, they never heard the calls. I felt the most upset for my mom, who was devastated that she couldn’t be there for the actual birth, but I assured her that it wouldn’t have mattered as only Johnny was allowed in the OR anyway. My dad fought back tears as well but all I could think was how happy I was to see them and how lucky I was to have everyone there for me. 

The next few days were all about recovery and learning how to take care of Xander. I was thrilled that he caught on to breastfeeding so well (finally, something went according to plan!) and that every nurse that came into the room was better than the one before. I had to stay an extra day because of the surgery and although I know both my mom and Johnny were anxious for me to get home, I was enjoying taking the time out and having all of the support of doctors and hospital staff to get me through everything. 

Most of my war wounds can be seen. I have terrible bruising from the IV incident, elephant-sized calves and ankles from fluid buildup and, of course, the scar that will always belong to my baby boy. 

Emotionally, it’s hard to see what I’m going through. I never planned on being a parent. I never expected a little face to look up at me, rely on me, need me and know that I created that face. I have a natural, easy going approach to parenting but at the same time, I worry about not being good enough, not being smart enough and not being able to do everything I can to make sure he feels about life the way I never really have. I want so much to raise a happy, productive and intelligent human being. The responsibility is overwhelming. 

So, at least for now, I’m just trying to make sure he eats, he poops and he sleeps. Rinse and repeat. As I suspected, Johnny has been amazing and I see his natural fathering skills kicking in immediately. He isn’t quite as laid back as I am and I think that makes for a really good balance for our boy. We alternate sleep, we take care of each other and we miss the other when they aren’t around. With all the shit we’ve been through the last two and a half years, coming together as a team to make sure we surround Xander with love has been done willingly and naturally. And my love for him grows more and more every time I see him hold his son. 

The moral of the story? Shit happens. And it’s hard for someone like me, who loves to be in control of everything, to let go and just allow the chips to fall where they may. While I hope this might be helpful to other future first time mommies, I think it’s a pretty good lesson for all things in life. And certainly one that I’ll embrace more from now on. 

My life has started over. Everything that has happened over the last 35 years leaves my mind when I look down at my beautiful, perfect son. I am forever grateful that I never gave up on myself and found a way through dark times to this bright, sunny meadow I’m standing in now. 

After all, at the end of the day, it turns out that Life is Beautiful.