Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Grand Entrance

I'm annoyed with my broken slumber yet again, as I am awakened to traipse to the bathroom. The whole bladder as a trampoline charade has gotten old; this child is relentless.

As I hoist myself up and gather the momentum, necessary at this point, to move, I notice a sharp pain. Oh good, another stomach ache to inhibit my sleeping abilities. I happen to glance at the clock-4 AM sharp. I mosey on to the bathroom, note my disheveled and overly tired appearance in the mirror, then parade my circus-worthy belly back to bed. Strange. At 4:10, that stomach ache is back for round two. I think about how peculiar the timing is, but decide that I couldn't possible be given the reprieve I have yearned for for so long. I just know that I am going to be a leading source of mockery, laughter and news broadcasts- "The lady that has been pregnant for 12 years and counting..." My voice of reason starts to dominate a bit more when that stomach ache returns (ever so promptly) at 4:25, and then again at 4:33. and 4:41.

I decide to wake Jimmy...I want someone else to lay here and be anxious with me. As the saying goes, "Two anxious heads are better than one." Err, something like that. I wake a groggy husband and tell him that I suspect the much-anticipated REAL contractions had arrived. He simply replied, "What do you mean?" Leave it to my husband to be confused at a sentence such as, "I think the contractions are real now." I laid in bed for several minutes contemplating the exact "realness" of these contractions. I had visions of being the clown at the hospital-you know the one who gets there and is sent home because contractions are non existent on the monitor. They were far more annoying than painful, but they were coming at very regular seven-minute intervals.

I decide to phone the mom (fear not, for I previously okayed it with her that there was a great possibility I would be calling in the middle of the night if she truly wanted me to) and busted out the big L word (for those of you just catching on: labor, also known as the great terrorist that was about to wreak extreme havoc on my lady parts). She questioned me about them, wanting to ensure that I was indeed interrupting her sweet sleep for good cause. Again, the swirling visions of me being the walking joke at the hospital occurred. She told me that she would get up and get ready and then call in about an hour to see if they were still happening.

Much aimless running walking around and pacing ensued. Would you believe that after forty entire weeks of being pregnant, that wasn't an adequate enough time span to get a simple hospital bag packed?! Well believe it, because I promise that's what I did as I waited for Mom to dial me back. A word to the wise: don't wait until you are in labor to begin packing because your head isn't clear. All of a sudden, I felt like I had been given a serious case of attention deficit disorder, and could not, for the life of me, make myself do or think about one thing at a time. Frankly, it's a miracle I came to the hospital with anything at all. At one point, I just threw some random items into my overnight bag, zipped it up, and tossed it in a pile with other things I was bringing. And okay, lets be honest. I knew I wasn't leaving that hospital looking like a rockstar and I was currently down to about three whole things that fit me, so what shape would I be in to wear anything other than sweats home?

Finally, I sat my anxious [large] behind in the kitchen chair and nervously sipped my ice water. Jimmy ran around like a lunatic until mom got there-he was trying to figure out what to bring (he didn't listen to my persistent whining about him not being ready to just get in the car and go when the time came). Mom and Meredith arrived after what seemed like a decade of waiting and the two of them must have been going somewhere other than the hell I was headed for. They showed up looking like they were off on some grand trip for a couple of weeks. They came bearing blankets and pillows to get cozy with on the way to the hospital. I was not that naive-I knew there would be no more sleeping peacefully for me...for a long, long time. Mom being...well, Mom, insisted that we pack towels and gloves just in case.

We never turned the radio on in the car, and there was never a bit of silence. I couldn't tell you a single tidbit of the conversation. I quietly monitored the frequency of my contractions (in case you're keeping score, they remained at a steady seven minutes apart). I managed to dump my cup of water out of sheer nervousness clumsiness on the way there. As we got closer to the hospital (hour-long drive), we discussed the possibility of going somewhere and walking to ensure that they weren't going to taper off (I think everyone envisioned me being the aforementioned laughing stock because my contractions weren't the "real thing"). So, we did just that. In true high class fashion, we pulled into the Wal Mart parking lot. I'm not sure what part of my obsessive personality decided I should buy some breast pads at that given moment, but I did just that. At one point, I sat down right outside of the restrooms (while Jimmy went) and a very-worried shelf stocker asked me if I would be alright. I definitely would be..just in a few hours. I assured her that I would be and got up as not to frighten anyone else. I'm sure they thought they might be in for some more excitement than what they bargained for.

Somehow, my contractions had gone from seven minutes apart to about two, so I went to find Mom and Meredith. We decided to grab breakfast (donuts and milk for all..or Pepsi for Jimmy) and get to the hospital.

To the hospital we arrived-contractions are still about two minutes apart but hardly unbearable. If I am walking when one starts, I simply stop and distract myself. We get to the check-in place (Admissions? I wasn't paying much attention) and I found myself increasingly annoyed with the man in front of me who apparently was not in labor himself, nor did he seem to be in anything resembling a hurry. He finally moved and I checked in. It's now 7:39. And okay, apparently no one is in a hurry this early in the morning, because Mr. Wheelchair himself took his sweet time coming to get me. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) the baby was not seconds away from being born like I secretly hoped for.

I got up to my room and was a little disgusted that they were just now cleaning it. It was like getting to a hotel too early for check in and having to wait while the maids finished up. Gross. I mean, clearly other people give birth in these rooms but I guess the fact that they were just now cleaning brought those nasty visions to the forefront. I got in and got changed so they could check me. I was so anxious about the things to come, that I (get this!) forgot to take off my underwear and sports bra. What part of "Take everything off" did I not understand? I was seven centimeters. Great, so I would definitely be giving birth this day-baby's due date. Shortly after I laid down (in my fashionable hospital gown), I had my blood pressure taken only to come out on the wrong side of that deal. I don't recall what it was that first time, but they left the cuff on me to get repeat readings, and I reached an all time high of 170-something/117. The nurse brought the ultrasound machine in to check the position of the baby. She had to have someone else come in and confirm her findings-baby was down really low, tucked neatly on my left side.

They got me completely hooked up to countless monitors-I had those two great straps around my belly, the blood pressure cuff, my IV, and eventually a catheter and monitor stuck on the baby's head. I felt really restricted, but a little comforted knowing that my baby's heart rate was being closely monitored. See, I love to read. Probably a little too much, and I know all too well all of the accidents that are possible during delivery. I had an extreme fear that the baby's heart would just stop because the contractions were too much stress. At one point, I thought my worst nightmare did come true, and I panicked, practically throwing my mom out the door to run and tell someone. Turns out, the monitor came loose (or something?) I didn't really care what it was once I heard the heartbeat again. And after that, they shut the machine off, so I couldn't tell when something like this happened. Thoughtful action, no? Nothing like calming my already-stressed mind.

So, they continued to fret about my sky-high blood pressure, and my doctor ordered that I be put on an immediate concentrated dose of magnesium sulfate. The nurses continued to inquire about my high blood pressure, and whether or not it had been high in my pregnancy. I refrained from telling them that I was sure it had been high in the last two weeks, but the brainless nurse at my doctor's office simply makes up blood pressure readings (I wish I were joking...) If you want the same effect as magnesium sulfate but don't want the IV, just go chug a glass of whiskey-it will make you feel like you're on fire from the inside out and you will also throw up your donut and milk. The pictures say it all-I was absolutely burning up and it looked like I had an extremely bad sunburn. Mag Sulfate is nasty stuff. And yet, I continued to shake uncontrollably, which was a frustrating, out-of-control feeling.

Shortly after the whole barf-in-that-hospital-pink-bowl act, I started having horrible contractions. I could no longer focus myself elsewhere like I had practiced and studied about crammed for. I could not focus on anything except for the unbearable pain that was overtaking my body. I was curled so tightly against the bed railing, becoming increasingly annoyed with the blood pressure cuff temporarily cutting off circulation every five minutes (and always in the middle of a contraction-no wonder it was a little higher!) My nurse, Vivian made me quite angry which I'm sure did nothing for the whole blood pressure situation either. It was like she was annoyed with my unfamiliarity of the whole labor experience. In this painful stage of labor, I began to whine with pain-there was hardly a break in between contractions and the contractions were so intense, I wanted the floor to jump up and swallow me. With one hand, I grasped the bed rail with white knuckles, and with the other I tried not to squeeze Mom's hand too hard. The nurse was exasperated that I was moaning in pain and told me to focus my energy on blowing out with each contraction. I was partially annoyed and partially grateful with the words coming out of Mom and Jimmy's mouths. I know they were trying to be helpful and encouraging labor cheerleaders, and had the pain not been there, I would have seen this as a positive thing only. I'm highly irritible when in pain, and the constant exclamations of "You can do this, you're almost done," just grated on me. At one point, I announced to no one in particular that I just couldn't do this anymore. Jimmy later told me that this scared the daylights out of him and he realized just how thankful he was that my Mom was present at this point to "say all of the right things."

Sometime amidst all of the pain, my doctor wanted to break my water. She did this to find that nothing would come out because baby's head was in the way. She also placed my catheter at this point-I never realized how much this would hurt. In all of my fretting of the pains of labor, the catheter never came up as a primary worry. I will say, it felt incredibly nice to not have to worry about getting up to use the bathroom for 24 hours. Call me lazy if you will, but it was great.

All I wanted to do was get up and go to the bathroom. And because this was after the catheter had been placed (thus draining me of all fluids), it was pressure that I was feeling. Still, I wish I would have been allowed to go in and just sit, as I think it would have just felt better.

That painful transition stage lasted about an hour. Vivian decided to check me again and told me that I was about nine centimeters. And though I was that close to being at the monumental ten centimeters, I absolutely could not see that I was about to be done. So I suffered through a handful of contractions before she would check me again. When she finally did, she told me I was nearly complete, but that I had this little lip that wasn't dilated yet. Her solution? To shove her arm halfway up my body and try and finish this dilation manually...all during a contraction. It hurt-I wanted to scream at her to stop and to remove her chubby little fingers from my cervix, but held back. She finally stopped, and then decided that I could try pushing through my next contraction. It was about 10:00 at this point. Jimmy calmly rubbed my back and my head occasionally as he spoke encouraging words. Mom stood on my other side doing the same. I'm not sure what Meredith did for most of the time, but occasionally saw her scurrying around taking pictures (as I had requested her to do), and thinking to myself that these pictures of me were going to be horrendous. I saw Meredith around quite a bit more when I got to pushing-she was much more actively involved than I anticipated.

I remembered reading that pushing should feel like you are trying to go to the bathroom. So, that's just what I did. It was awkward trying to find a way to pull my legs back far enough and still be able to push as best as I could. The first three pushes or so were like trial runs-I was trying to get the hang of it. And despite my contractions giving me such a short break in between, it was like I had to relearn how to push effectively each time. Again, my wonderful empathetic nurse became agitated that I was not pushing like a professional, and told me that I should not be pushing in my face. While this is a completely good point, how should I have known how to push perfectly the first time? I'm still baffled abby her short fuse with me, but life goes on. After about a half hour of pushing, they called the doctor in and turned on the bright lights. She was a much better pushing coach. I was pushing three or four times per contraction. I had my husband, also known as the slowest counter ever counting to ten each time. I was really annoyed that he constantly said one more when I knew it wasn't one more set of pushes, but likely two or even three more. Again, the whole I'm in pain so everything is going to rub me the wrong way thing occurred. I was annoyed with the reassuring comments from everyone in the room, but eternally grateful at the same time. I constantly asked for a cold, wet washcloth during the time I was pushing; it was like my own personal narcotic...for about five seconds until the cool wore off. Meredith, Jimmy, and the nurse ran back and forth to the sink countless times to make sure I had what I wanted. Pushing felt better than not, but I still didn't like it. I felt like my entire nether regions were going to spontaneously burst into a trillion different pieces at any given moment. Plus, I was a little concerned about what exactly was coming out down there as I pushed, which I think inhibited my pushing abilities.

I remember Vivian telling me excitedly (so she did have her nicer moments!) that she could see baby's head. Mom and Meredith looked to see it, and despite some previous concern that I may be too modest during labor, I couldn't have cared any less that they were staring up into my body. When the doctor moved in, I made much better progress pushing. I still had a hard time, however, because I was always questioning my ability-was I making any progress at all?! Would I pushing for six more hours? Finally, the doctor said something that scared me to death. "This baby has got to come out on the next contraction." I knew that something wasn't quite right, because my doctor sounded panicked and the look on Mom's face confirmed it. Mom later told me that she saw the baby's heart rate dip to the sixties at one point and she got really nervous. They placed the vacuum on my baby's head which made my want to cry. I shut my eyes to refocus myself-the last thing I wanted was to be rushed in for an emergency cesarean. At this point, they placed the oxygen mask on me which smelled disgusting. The next contraction came quickly and I beared down as best as I could. The next thing I knew was a pair of scissors snipping straight through my skin-the doctor had given me the dreaded episiotomy. I yelped out in pain-surprisingly, I had been fairly quiet up until this point. There were now several people in the room-a few baby nurses, my nurse, my doctor, a tech or two, and then Jimmy, Meredith, and Mom. I shut my eyes as I pushed, trying to focus all of my energy on birthing my baby. I heard the doctor say ,"Meconium," opened my eyes and saw my sweet baby sitting in my doctor's arms. Jimmy was to announce the unknown gender, but I had to remind him. I looked up at him and said, "What is it?!" He announced happily that baby was indeed a girl, just as he had said all along. I was doubtful and asked him if he was sure (I was so positive I had a little boy in there!) I remember thinking just how small she was. She didn't scream-she simply whimpered a little and it was without a doubt the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. How absolutely perfect she was. Jimmy got to cut her umbilical cord, which he described as being much tougher than he anticipated (not the act of actual cutting, the cord itself). They laid her on my chest for a quick minute before taking her to be cleaned up. I cried so hard and said how beautiful she was over and over again. I have never been in a room so full of raw emotion-I cried, Meredith cried, and at one point I looked over to see Mom and Jimmy hugging and both crying. What a long road we had been on, with such a perfect ending.

Without a shadow of a doubt, giving birth was the best day of my life. The seemingly longest, most painful, and most trying time, but the most rewarding too. I have never experienced something so surreal-it felt like such a dream. Opening my eyes to see her sitting in the doctor's arms, hearing her cry, and then having her on my chest is something I will absolutely never forget. Love at first sight was something I previously didn't believe in; now I absolutely do. Have a baby if you don't believe me. I remember wondering how people did this more than once just minutes after having her. But as I contemplated various things during my hospital stay, it became quite apparent that the outcome of such a physically exhausting experience absolutely outweighed the trying times of it all. I can honestly say I have never experienced such a wide range of emotions all in a matter of hours either-what an experience birth is!

Jimmy stood by my side as I was being stitched, but I assured him I wouldn't mind if he were to go be with his baby. So he did just that-the three of them just stood there and admired her. Ruby Elliana tipped the scales at 7 pounds 5 ounces, and she was 20 inches long. Jimmy soon brought her back to me so I could admire her too. I was shaking uncontrollably at this point, and a little worried that my stitching was going to be a terrible chore, but my doctor encouraged me to just go with the shaking rather than fight it.

When she was finally done stitching (which was hardly worth noting after the pain of the episiotomy with no numbing medication), I could have my baby. I nearly had to claw her out of her daddy's hands. When I asked to hold her, he shook his head no with a huge grin across his face. She has got to teach me how she does it-she had him wrapped around her finger in about five seconds! I finally did get her, and I just stared at her-I was absolutely shocked at how downright beautiful she was. Many phonecalls followed-they got the room cleaned up around me, and we got to sit and admire all of the tiny, perfect features of our sweet baby for over an hour before they took her for a bath. I talked to Dad first (after Mom had called him just minutes after she was born-he heard her cry). He, along with many other, expressed his shock at her being a girl. He had guessed a baby boy to be born on his birthday just two days later. He told me he would be on his way shortly to come see her. I called both of the brothers shortly after to tell them they had a new niece-both were thrilled.

I was told to get some rest and relax-my blood pressure was still a major concern, and we weren't supposed to be having many visitors. Jimmy was with Ruby as she got cleaned up, and I laid in my bed pretending to rest. Is that some sort of joke to ask me to relax and take a nap after having a child-all I wanted to do was shout it out to the world and just admire her.

They brought her back after her bath and said she checked out completely perfect-she came back adorning the cutest pink knit hat on her head. Jimmy held her and just stared at her while I laid down in bed. I can't explain the pure emotions of seeing your husband bond with his child so readily-it was so inspiring and such a perfect moment.

Despite the constant prohibiting whines of Vivian, we had visitors-Dad and Corey came and saw her and for some reason I just burst into tears upon seeing them. Just an outpouring of feelings yet again. It was so amazing to see everybody with her-she was so loved immediately. Jeremy and Jessica also came to see her. Everyone was ushered out rather quickly by the visitor police nurse, Vivian which was disappointing. I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy her as much as we were. They would be back the next day, and until then I was counting down the minutes until shift change when I would get a new and (hopefully) improved nurse.

I did-my nurse Mary was wonderful, and although my blood pressure was still a concern, she was much nicer and accomodating for us. Once again, I'm not sure what they envision when they tell you to rest, because they come in to check vitals every hour, and once again, I wanted to just stare at my baby!

Ultimately, they found the magic pill (Procardia) for my blood pressure, and my swelling was reducing quite quickly. Unforunately this did not happen until the end of day two, and I wasn't allowed to get up until about 7:00 that night-about thirty-six hours after checking in, so I felt like I was learning how to walk all over again. My stomach muscles felt like they had gone through a paper shredder-I was so weak I had to hold onto my nurse for support.

I was now two nurses past Mary-both had been wonderful. I also had a nursing student (guy in his fifties I would say) in there, which once again, I had zero pride or modesty left. They were all so great, so the only nurse I wasn't ecstatic about was Vivian who seemed to think she was the Labor and Delivery Goddess.

At this point, it was rewarding to see the blood pressure readings going down. When Jimmy felt okay enough to leave me, he made a McDonalds run so I could have some food with consistency other than rubber and flavor other than paper. I have never tasted a cheeseburger or orange soda that was so wonderful. We sat down and admired our new gift yet again. We talked about Grandma Ruby and both got a little teary-then we read our hospital booklet on baby care and breastfeeding together. It was such a simple moment, and yet so perfect. The night was rather uneventful-at one point we went to change her and it looked like there was blood in her diaper. Quite frightening, but the nurse came down and told us that they call that brickdust and it's basically normal-it's a sign of dehydration. And because my milk had yet to make its big debut, it made sense. So far, breastfeeding had been going wonderfully. Painful, cracked, and blistered, but Ruby was nursing like a pro.

On Wednesday the twelfth, we were hopeful my blood pressure would stay down and we would be given the go ahead to go home (Ruby had been cleared to go the morning of the 11th..also the birthday of her namesake). After hearing a woman give birth (well, the screaming part of it), my nurse came in and told us that they had had several babies and we needed to move. So off we went and I got to walk all the way to my new room-pushing my baby in her respective box. My doctor came in around 8:00 and cleared me to go. I tried not to leap off of the table and kiss her-I was dying to get back to my own bed, my own bathroom, my own clothes, and just my home. I ate my breakfast while Jimmy left to run some errands (we needed a going-home outfit for the princess, plus a multitude of other things). I was discharged and my nurse went over the necessary care, and then I waited for Jimmy to return. He came bearing Starbucks (oh, how I missed thee for the last nine months) and a cute outfit. We learned all of the necessary baby care things from Ruby's nurse (who was a doll), which I think only gave me a longer list of things to obsess about once we got home.

We finally got the go ahead (and my prescription, which was like our ticket out of there!) and we booked it out of there. Okay, so we didn't hurry because for some odd reason, after giving birth, you can walk like an eighty year old (minus the cane, which probably would have helped). We struggled to get her carseat base in, but finally got it. And off we were. To our home with a new family member and beautiful gift from God. Had there been a staring contest on the way home, I would have set the world record-I don't think I looked elsewhere the entire hour plus ride home.

We got home and celebrated Dad's birthday at our house with appetizers, lasagna, and pie. We gave her a sponge bath that night, then sat down on the couch for the first time as a family of three and proceeded to marvel at our miracle once again.

Life is beautiful.

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