Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Dimas, aka you can have a lightning fast birth too

What do you do with fear? To what lengths do you go to avoid pain? These are questions we all have to deal with, but that become more pressing with an approaching due date. 

This was my fifth birth and with each one I have truly improved. Physically speaking, in terms of preparation and recovery. And psychologically or spiritually speaking, in terms of faith over fear. I was more used to doing scary things and knew that it wasn't good to dissect or dwell on your fear. You have to acknowledge it, but push it aside. Every time it pops up, choose faith instead. Ignore the fears. 

So my fears about childbirth got progressively more and more out of control toward the end.

I didn't want to feel the pain. I remembered how much contractions hurt. I was scared of it starting at the hospital like last time. Of the contractions being worse from induction. Of wondering if I should get an epidural or if that would slow or stop labor. Of the hospital lights, the doctors coming in and out and their comments. Of course, of it all ending up in a caesarean. Of getting covid and them wanting to separate the baby. Of just not wanting to go through any bodily changes or ordeal.

Focus on the treasure and ignore the obstacles along the way, my husband read from The Hobbit to the children one night.

Life is just hard. If you don't shun the hard things. If you keep up the energy and motivation to push for them, you get the treasure.

So it was a constant battle of trying to be cheerful and not focusing on fear as each day passed. 

40 weeks came and went and at least I had been able to get our tradition of candles out to friends asking for prayers. I always have the thought "This time I won't get to 41 weeks. This time I will do this or that and it will be different." So getting to 41 again was especially disheartening. One suggestion I got this time that I especially liked was dancing and having fun. I found "baby momma" from a labor dance at an Indian hospital on youtube and that was really fun to do, especially with the other kids.

41 weeks was a Wednesday and my doctor asked someone to find the nurse in charge of the induction room. They weren't able to find her. "Do we really need to schedule already?" I asked, trying to sound casual. "No, but we need to start seeing the openings and just talk to someone about it." That day we picked up spicy food for lunch and dinner at our favorite indian restaurant across the street from the hospital. The owner remembered us from last time.

41 weeks and 1 day. The nurse with the fetal heart monitor asked, weren't you here yesterday? Yes, and Monday too. And probably tomorrow too. After 41 weeks I usually come in everyday just to check. The nurse cast suspicion on my doctor's decision and talked to the other nurses about it. 

41 weeks and two days and it was friday. I was pretty positive my doctor would want to induce before the weekend. The nurse with the heart monitor cornered me with three nursing students behind her and we had a long talk about induction dates, if inductions lead to more medical intervention or not. And the usual, how do I have so many children. The monitor showed more (painless) contractions than before. My doctor didn't suggest induction (surprisingly) and asked me to get checked by her colleague the next day. She said her colleague would surely find the time to induce me the next day. I left very relieved. I was sure it would be that night. I went to bed with a "clean conscience" after having done everything I could for natural induction. I woke up several times at night wondering if I was having contractions or if my water had ruptured. Instead, diarrhea had started that would continue until Sunday (sorry for the information). 

Saturday I sent about ten messages to an american friend while I was in the waiting room, complaining about the portuguese health care system and how patronizing and how unprofessional it is. Then I went in to see the most professional and least patronizing doctor I had ever met. Oops, nevermind. The doctor started by asking, "Why are you coming in everyday?" "Oh, because my doctor is very cautious." She told me everything was ok and laid it out openly, "Do you want me to give you medicine to have the baby out quicker?" "I prefer to wait... If everything is ok and if you agree of course." "Doctors only suggest. You are the one who decides." I was very pleased with what she was saying but at the same time insecure. I went home wondering if everything was really ok. It has to be this night, it will be this night.

Every night since 40 weeks I had gone to bed hopeful (and scared, a mixed feeling) it would be that night and utterly depressed the next morning when it wasn't. That Sunday I was especially depressed. I didn't think it was ever going to happen. I was tired, physically and emotionally. I was feeling frequent, at times slightly painful contractions all throughout the day. "I don't want to raise up false hopes, but if nothing happens today, I give up," I told Daniel. When something has worked for you in the past, you just assume that will always work that way for you and for other people. Since three of my births had started with water breaking or contractions in the middle of the night while sleeping (the fourth induced), I just assumed it would have to be that night while I was sleeping or be induced the next day. I was guessing it would be and dreading the induction at the same time.

We dropped our kids off with two generous friends who had offered to stay with them that afternoon and I walked around a park while talking to my mom on the phone and Daniel talked to a friend on the phone. I was feeling some painful contractions but I'm not even sure how painful they were because I was distracted by the conversation. "Hold on a second mom, I'll call you back." I stepped inside a church which was distributing the Eucharist at that moment. I received communion as usual and... boom!... Had to pause as I was walking away because I felt the first contaction that actually stopped me in my tracks. I sat down on a chair to think about if this could really be happening. Someone asked me if I was in line for confession. I said yes... then no... then yes again. I told Daniel, I think I'm having real contractions I think we should go. He seemed dubious. It was about 5:45 pm. We decided to walk instead. It was early to get our kids. He started calling into question our plan for babysitting. I started getting incredibly irritated. The contractions were progressively getting worse. This had never happened to me. The contractions had always started all of a sudden and not progressively. I started getting nervous. I didn't know how long it would take. My past three births had taken about eight hours from the start of intense contractions to the end. But I was feeling terrible. I just wanted to go home. Or straight to the hospital for an epidural.

We went to get the kids earlier. I told our neighbors to be over at about 7:30 pm. I wasn't imagining leaving for the hospital before ten, but I was feeling such pain I felt like going right away. I sent a message to my doctor saying I would go to the hospital before midnight. Daniel made me change "before midnight" to "soon". He said, "This could take hours or even stop." "I'm in a lot of pain and this time I don't care: I want an epidural right away!" I was very irritated and for some reason could only think of an epidural. That had not been my plan. I was barely able to get in the car and go up the elevator. The kids had no idea what was happening except that I was finally going to the hospital and they couldn't stop yelling and bouncing off the walls. They were singing happy birthday to Dimas at the top of their lungs. Adelaide, six years old and mini-doula, turned to me in the elevator and said, "Mommy, can you hold him in? Do like you do with pee pee, ok? Just hold it."

I made it in the door at 7pm and called my neighbors, saying they could come earlier if they were available. I'm pretty sure they sprinted across the street because they were there in five minutes. I had never felt so grateful. I was so hungry (I hadn't eaten anything since lunchtime) but I was barely able to scarf down a yogurt. I couldn't take the pain. I barely had the mental clarity to make sure everything was in my suitcase and purse, threw my phone at Daniel and said I didn't want to look at it anymore. I was very worried for him to have dinner and then I wanted to leave immediately. I got in the shower and was surprised to find that the hot water did not bring relief during contractions as it had in previous labor. Neither did gently swaying side to side like previous labor also. Each contraction made me grab onto something and stretch out like a scared cat and barely breathe. I was pretty sure I had ever felt contractions like that. I started focusing on when the contraction would finish. There was relief there. I would use the hot water only when the contaction would finish and in that moment I felt brief relief. My plan had always been to stay at home for at least three or four hours. For some reason I couldn't think of any of my birth affirmations or take any comfort in the song that had accompanied me "Those Who Trust" by Enter The Worship Circle. I just kept thinking repetitively: epidural, epidural, epidural. So as soon as Daniel went into the bathroom I asked if he had eaten dinner and asked him to help me get dressed. We passed by the kids without them noticing. "Our neighbors are amazing. They are doing such an amazing job," he told me. It was true. I was so grateful to God for giving us those neighbors for that moment. It warmed my heart, even in that awful moment of physical pain.

We were on the car and on our way to the hospital at about 8pm. At first I got on my knees and held on to the back of the seat. I didn't think I would be able to sit down. I didn't even think I would be able to make it there. I waited for Daniel to ask me to sit down because he is really into car safety. Safety in general. He didn't. He was being very quiet and not talking to me or touching me at all, just how I like it during labor. He had definitely learned from past labor. After a few rough turns I sat down but only one one leg and tighly gripping the sides with each contraction. In between contractions I remembered to breathe and almost felt sleepy it was such a relief. I remembered that from Tommy's birth near the end. The sleepiness between contractions and the zero relief during. Still all I could think about was epidural, epidural, epidural. I'm too old and tired for natural birth. I can't do this.

I wanted Daniel to run red lights in my mind. I wasn't able to talk. I told him to drop me off at the door and then park. Hurry, let me get out before another contraction comes. I waved to open the automatic door. The security guard asked me if I had already been inside. I said "yes, YES!" (a lie) and motioned for him to open the door. Don't make me yell at you, I thought in my head. I don't have the energy. I breathed heavily and walked slowly across the waiting room (skipping past the front desk) to the horror of about four other pregnant women there (probably imagining their near future). I rang the doorbell to the emergency room and grabbed onto the wall for a contraction while it opened. I wasn't able to move. The nurse inside couldn't see me. The man next to me, waiting to be called to see how wife, told the nurse, "There's a lady here." The door proceeded to close. He put his arm out to stop the door and told the nurse again in a panicked voice, "There's a lady here!" I was able to walk in slowly and lean on the nurse's desk. She had been leisurely chatting with the secretary. They both were up in arms, "Excuse me, you have to pass by the front desk! Did you check in?" I waved my pregnancy book in one hand while I leaned on the table with the other and panted, "I'm.... in..... very.... advanced..... labor.....". They looked at each other and then the secretary said reluctantly, give me her book, I'll check her in. The nurse said "follow me" and started checking me. She put a heart monitor on my stomach and the contractions were as loud and constant as a rap song. She checked my blood pressure and asked me if it was my first child. I said "fifth" and she yelled out to someone, "fifth child here, come quick, and call the husband, now!" Lay down here please, she asked to check my dilation. Another nurse came in while she was doing this and said, "What are you doing to this lady?!" I recognized the voice. "Nurse Amelia!" I said. 'Take off your mask, like that I can't see who you are," she said. "I'm Julie, the one with the cookies." Aaaaah! She was overjoyed. This lady makes some excellent american, chocolate chip cookies. Which child of yours did I deliver, the second, the third? The second, I said, the vaginal birth after c-section. It went really well. We started reminiscing. The other nurse was confused. 'Amelia, this lady has complete dilation, the head is right here." "Let's do this!!!!" said Amélia "Let me help you into this hospital gown." As soon as the slippers were on I started walking slowly toward the door I knew all the rooms were behind. This was my fourth time there and it felt like home. I knew my way around. I knew the people. I had been so scared of induction and angry with "violent obstetric hospital procedures" until then. But now I saw my husband Daniel was right: it's important to create long-term relationships with people and places and in health care too.

I heard them calling for Daniel in the waiting room. He's probably parking the car, I said. Hey, where'd she go? Yelled nurse Amelia. I'm over here, waiting at the door. She came and met me and said let's go but I wasn't able to walk. I said I wanted an epidural. She pointed to her watch and said, "It's 8:40. Mark my words, we will have that baby out by 8:50." She held my hand and we went hand in hand, very slowly, toward a room someone was pointing toward. There was an male nurse who looked nice there. "Fernando," said nurse Amelia, "will you let me deliver this baby? It's personal." She got prepared and talked about what a good cook I was and how she was glad she had eaten that soup earlier on. Nurse Fernando was telling me to lay down and get ready to push but I didn't feel like I could do it. "Are you sure? I think I just want an epidural." I couldn't take even one more minute of that pain.

They said, "Woman! The baby is here, let's do this!" All the while people were saying, call this lady's husband. Tell him he better run." I said, "It's okay, don't wait for him, just get the baby out."

Daniel came in and dropped his jacket on the chair just as nurse amelia was coaching me like a cheerleader. I knew what I had to do but I didn't feel like doing it. I felt too old and tired. Nurse Amelia said, when a contraction comes you give me all you got. All of a sudden I didn't feel any contractions. I wanted to lie and say I didn't have any. I can't do this I said. One or two pushes and this baby is out! She said. I pushed a few times but gently. She said she needed more. I pushed two or three times the way I knew I had to but didn't think I had the strength to. The baby was out! Don't push, stop pushing! She said. They put the baby on me. The most wonderful feeling of weight and movement in the world. How was this miraculous being inside of me a second ago?

8:55 said nurse amelia. See what I said? I was five minutes late. Nurse Fernando asked if he could weigh our baby. How much would you estimate? I said 4 kilos, Daniel said 3,9kg. It was 3,910kg! They were all very pleased and making jokes. I was so happy. The pain was gone. I was so happy the pain was gone. That child was so beautiful and so heavy laying on my chest. He didn't look like any of his siblings to me. He was unique. He was perfect.

Other birth stories here: 

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