Friday, July 14, 2006

past due post

June 2, 2006

One month ago today at 7:00am Clay and I hobbled into the emergency room with my mother and brother in tow to check into the maternity ward. We were greeted by many of the nurses and orderlies who work in that ward as the elevator doors opened up. We were lucky enough to have Pat, the nurse who taught our Lamaze class, attending us. She walked us into the room and I was walked through the set up. Basically I’d undress now and not see real clothes again until I left the hospital. Mom found the Classic Movie Channel on the TV and we saw the back half of Sunset Boulevard, a Bob Hope Musical, and a film here Cary Grant was a newspaper man trying to get his reporter ex-wife back. During this unending black and white nostalgia Pat and Amy, the doc I’ve been seeing for the last year, came in and out.

Pat started my I.V. and I should have known then when the HONKING needle was giving me trouble I would need more than just a little pain assistance. I must have asked Pat six times if there was a smaller needle she could use. It didn’t help I was nervous as I could get and more than a little scared. Then after a little while Pat came back and helped me read through the paper work, one of which was the okay to do the epidural. I signed it just in case. Good thing too, I’d had a friend of mine along with two nurses and Amy tell me better to have it as a back up then need it and not be able to get it. I’d also been warned that induction causes labor pains to come faster and harder than normal. This was an understatement.

Pat came in again and gave me the pitocin to start regulating my labor. Things started off okay and the breathing worked well. Puff puff sigh, puff puff sigh. This did not last. They broke my water toward the end of Sunset Boulevard but by the start of the Cary grant vehicle I started to go white and grip Clay’s hand with a clammy palm. What had been taking three breaths to reach its peak was now hitting in one breath gving me no time to get my mind ahead of the pain. They gave me a narcotic to quiet things down. I’m not sure about the pain but when the room began a slow spin like a gentle merry-go-round I began to feel I could nap a bit. However, I’d noticed that the pain had been getting more than I could handle with just regular breathing and after asking several questions to Pat, Amy, Mom, and Clay, I decided to cave. Good thing too because by the time the Anesthesiologist came in (it was his birthday too) the narc had worn off and I was sweating and trying to keep my stomach from leaping up my throat. By then the pains were coming so fast that I had abandoned focusing on breathing and was focused on holding myself together. The most painful part of the epidural was when he poked me in the back with his finger to find the space between vertebrae. It didn’t help that the moment he did so I had a contraction so my yelp was a little more pronounced than I would have liked.

Whatever he injected was freezing cold as it trickled into the spinal canal. The pain immediately started to ebb and I was confident that I would be able to get a nap and the others seemed to think that a very good idea. Clay (who at this time was starving and ready for lunch) decided to go out to the sandwich shop on the next block over and bring back something to eat and drink. I told him I’d be fine but to hurry back as I would miss him. So off he went and Mom and Matt sat with me. It didn’t take long however for me to find that I had a hot spot in the left side of my uterus where the pain refused to subside. When I mentioned this to Pat she said roll over and lie on that side to let gravity carry the medicine there. Unfortunately it didn’t work.

My normal cramps when I have a regular unassisted (medically) period are a little like being stabbed in the gut with a knife which then twists viciously. This was like being skewered on a blunt pike which was then yanked out and plunged in again. I was already shaking when the epidural had been administered but now I was rattling like a maraca. Not ten minutes had passed since Clay’s departure when Amy swept in and checked on my progress announcing from somewhere between my knees that I was nine and a half centimeters dilated and would be giving birth before noon! I vaguely remember looking at the huge clock on the wall that read somewhere around 11:15 and feeling a rush of panic (on top of the already flighty nerves I’d been fighting) as I wondered where Clay had gone and why he wasn’t back yet. Mom was fast on the phone telling him to come back as fast as possible because I’d be giving birth before noon.

Clay probably broke laws getting back up the half block to the hospital parking structure. I remember feeling sheer terror as I faced a room suddenly alive with motion as things were brought in and people scurried about. Clay bustled in about the time I started to lose what little cool I had left. Poor thing had a giant sandwich in one hand and a giant drink in the other and a thoroughly flustered look on his wide-eyed face as Amy announced that we could start pushing. Mom took the food before he placed it in the plastic bassinet that was reserved for Cassandra once she was born. The second the food was away from him he was at my side clenching my hand and left leg on the holster it was in.

They had to explain to me what I needed to do in order to have the baby. As the contraction peaked I needed to roll up like I was doing sit-ups with my chin tucked down and my hands behind my knees. Sounds simple enough, except I couldn’t quite get my body to coordinate itself as the pike that had been jabbing me was now roughly harpoon sized and the contractions seemed not to end but to pulse at an ever quickening pace from thundering to sound barrier shattering. As all this is occurring I am also to hold my breath. So with all the control I can scrap together that hadn’t been obliterated from my mind (what with the pain the fear and the panic swirling about at a fevered pitch) I tell my body what it has to do.

1. hold breath

2. tuck chin

3. roll up

4. grab knees

5. push as if going to the bathroom

6. rest as pain subsides

7. repeat

My first attempt yielded 1,3, and an odd realization that I couldn’t feel my legs or anything else below the epidural save for the unbelievable pain surrounding my left side. It turned out that the hot spot made clenching rolling up and pushing twice as painful as just lying there. This proved to be a problem for me. The following attempts were equally successful in combining 3-4 of the needed steps but not all and certainly not in order or with any grace. All I could say was “I don’t think I can do this” (I seriously thought I physically couldn’t do it) which was answered with a “you are sweetie, you are doing it.” from a number of people who I knew were there but could no longer see. There was one point where I lost near total control of what my body wanted to do and it nearly got up and walked out without me, my right leg flailing a bit and my back arching wrong. I began to fear hurting Cassandra, wondering how long she’d been in the canal, would she be okay, and why couldn’t someone go in there and get her? It didn’t help when Clay said she back tracked between each contraction. After several attempts at finding the rhythm I collapsed back white faced in terror “I’m letting her down, I can’t do it” I said beginning to cry. The contractions were nearly on top of one another, my muscled refused to work right and the brief moments I had been able to push had left me exhausted and gasping. My ability to hold the breath got less and less and the urge to scream rather than push was getting stronger and stronger. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to do it without some help and of course had no way to communicate what exactly I needed in order be helped. I tried again, the air in my lungs escaping unbidden in a screechy grunt and I collapsed back crying when Pat said very close to my ear “You can do this. Now when the next pain hits hold your breath, grab your knees and push for about ten seconds.” Now when you’re in labor ten seconds is an eternity yet something in what she said struck a chord and suddenly I could hear Mom and Clay saying I was almost there, that I could do it, that they loved me, and that I was doing great, that I’d be okay and the baby was coming. Pat had gently laid a hand on my shoulder and when the next pain hit I took a deep breath (something I had had trouble doing) held it in and rolled up chin tucked and grabbed my knees. Now all I had to do was find the right area to push in and I’d be set. Pat counted, Clay cheered and mom rubbed my leg. It seemed unearthly quiet as I searched franticly for the right muscle group. It took 5 seconds to find it but when I did things happened so fast. In one push she was crowning, on the second her head came through and Amy went to work, on the third push her shoulders popped out and on the last one she slid out. Her tiny cry filled the air and I started calling to her.

“It’s all right Cassandra, I’m still here. Mommy and Daddy are right here.” They laid her on my stomach, chord still attached, screaming, cold, bloody, and an odd shade between purple and scarlet. Her head was slightly squished but since she spent very little time in the canal it still held a lot of it’s rounded shape. They cut her free and cleaned her up and set her in our arms. Clay held her first gazing at the tiny creature he’d just seen birthed. He helped me hold her as my arms were noodles by then and there in that moment they handed her to me I knew that while I’d been birthing her she’d been changing everything. The second I’d found the strength to shove past all the chaos in my head to get her to into this world I’d become someone very different to the person who’d walked in. As Clay watched his daughter being born things suddenly came into crisp focus, priorities suddenly shifted and the world took on a whole different tone. As we held her for the first time staring at her round puffy face and her dark hair and eyes, listening to her cry and feeling the weight of her against us we fell in love with the tiny person whose very existence had force a rebirth of our own.

In the past month we’ve taken over 100 photos, learned her cries, read books, looked up facts, called the doctor and asked questions. We’ve listened intently to advice whether we used it or not, spoken with some relatives and discussed at great length when exactly we want to begin to travel with her.

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