I will say this one more time, because SERIOUSLY, y’all. I don’t get how some of you mom bloggers manage to get posts up, containing actual words and sentences and shit, while your newborn is still a… newborn. Olivia is two weeks old, and I am just now feeling like I can manage to remember that one generally uses SOAP in the shower, you know, if one wants to be clean, and not smelling like a combination of armpit and maple syrup.
If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you know I had some very specific… IDEAS about how this birth was going to go. I hired a midwife, I drove in LA traffic to a birth center an hour away, I picked a doula, and I read a horrifying book that instructed me to picture my vagina as a blooming rose, better to deliver this baby vaginally, and without medication- in a giant round tub filled with warm water and self-satisfaction. I read books and birth stories and testimonials, planning and plotting for a non-medicated birth outside the hospital, like I was some sort of super woman, some sort of hippie-dippie earth mama.
ASIDE: I have never gotten a single negative comment on this blog, which I attribute to my intimate readership, but I also know birth stories bring out the nutty in people, so let me say this: I AM 100% GLAD OLIVIA AND I ARE ALIVE AND HEALTHY. But this is my blog and my story, and if I’d like to spend the next one million paragraphs moaning about how things didn’t go my way, then you, dear reader, have any number of choices. Read, click away, rage at my self-righteousness (IN YOUR OWN HEAD), do a line dance, I don’t care. But the first person who comments that this is Olivia’s way of showing she’s in charge now and always gets a flaming diaper to the doorstop, I SWEAR TO GOD.
Anyhoo- none of you are assholes of that caliber, so here we go. It started on a Saturday, when I was so desperate to get labor started I drank a hideous concoction of castor oil, vodka, and orange juice. There are no words to describe how awful this potion is, so I’m not even going to try, other than to tell you that castor oil, while tasteless, has the texture of melted Chapstick, and it coats your lips, and OH MY FUCKING GOD it is the foulest thing ever designed to be consumed. I essentially went right to bed after this, because the “cocktail” made me feel like shit- but sure enough, by midnight I was having thirty second contractions about three minutes apart, and LO, there was a bit of excitement at our house, while my mother and J traded off keeping me company as I bounced on the ball and watched crappy TV until about 5am. At which point everything stopped. By morning I was just the same as I had been the week before, except now I was 42 weeks pregnant and there were no additional signs of impending labor. I think it’s at this point that I started to realize that my water had also broken the night before, so we knew we were on the clock, to a certain extent- my midwife wasn’t too concerned about it, as it hadn’t gushed, but was rather a small leak, but conventional hospital wisdom has you delivering within 24 hours once your water breaks, so… we waited.
I spent the next two nights the same way- breathing through contractions that stopped the minute the sun came up, getting more and more irritated about how large I was getting. My parents and I walked, and walked some more, and ate, and then walked again, all trying to get Olivia to drop into position and make the contractions going, but nothing seemed to budge her.
On Tuesday, J, my mother and I drove up to the birth center for a routine check in- at 42weeks and 2 days, mostly to discuss what the hell we were going to do. Even with the laissez-faire attitude of modern midwifery, 43 completed weeks is starting to be a little worrisome. When the midwife checked me, however, I was at 5 cm dilated, so I climbed into the tub and had my midwife break my water even more (the little leak from Saturday night still left a bulging bag), hoping that would slam Olivia’s head onto my cervix and get some contractions going. No motherfucking dice. No herbs, no swinging, no walking, no melodic music, no motherfucking visualization could make me have a single contraction during daylight hours. And now my water was broken, there was meconium in the fluid, and the clock was ticking.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where I started to feel like it was all spiralling out of control, so for the purposes of this narrative, let’s just say it was here- on the advice of my midwife, with the idea being to keep the best chances of still having a vaginal birth, we all loaded up and headed to the hospital. No more giant tub, no more earth mama, no more well-thought-out birth plan. The midwife we’d spent a month choosing wasn’t in charge anymore, and all the planning to give birth outside the medical arena flew out the window.
Once we got to the hospital, it was a fucking textbook case of intervention stacking up on top of intervention, just like they tell you it will in those books about non-medicated births. A pitocin drip, an IV, a hideous hospital gown, a fetal monitor, a contraction monitor, and having to be unplugged from all of the above every time I needed to pee, which, thanks to the IV, was EVERY OTHER MINUTE. I labored for three hours on the pitocin, before the nurse checked me and said I was now at 4 centimeters (breaking the bag of waters had sent Olivia shooting BACKWARDS into my uterus, so my cervix had actually SHRUNK from the 5 centimeters it was dilated before). FOUR? HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, ONLY FOUR? I sent the nurse running for the anesthesiologist, who was about to leave the floor for the night.
You know what they don’t tell you about epidurals? Well, about getting one placed? You have to hold still. Ok, maybe they tell you that, but they don’t tell you that you’ll also be having a MOTHERFUCKING contraction while you’re supposed to be holding still, and that holding still while some guy has a needle in your dural space is next to impossible, and will make you cling like a baby monkey to the nurse in front of you, sobbing. Also, these contractions will be the strongest ones yet, and you will flood the bed with amniotic fluid, and you will lose all concept of personal dignity, because you are tethered to a series of machines, and you are leaking from all orifices, and you’ve just had to reveal to your partner how, EXACTLY, you like your toilet paper folded.
Once you get the epidural, on the other hand, you will be in heaven. You will want to make love to your anesthesiologist, even if he does have Dumbo ears. You will not care that you are having contractions, because you can’t feel them, and you will not care that you’re strapped to a million machines, because you will also be catheterized, and there will be no need to get out of bed, ever. I am sorry I ever said a disparaging word about epidurals, even in passing, because if there ever was a miracle of modern medicine, it is the epidural. J and I slept until morning, which is now Wednesday, for those of you confused by my inability to notify you of the timeline.
The nurse checked me again around 10am, and I was at an EIGHT! An eight is pretty fucking exciting, except for when the baby is barely at a zero station. Not even close, said the doctor, who then proceeded to list my options as follows: have a c-section now, labor for a couple more hours and have a c-section then, or have an emergency c-section even later. And here I totally lost it.
I cried, and raged, and begged J to forgive me for wasting all her money on a fancy midwife and a doula, like I was someone special, like I could plan or BUY my way to a “perfect” birth. I felt like the stupidest cow on the planet- thinking I could have something different, something special, something I’d be proud of later, like look at me, I did it all on my own. I felt like I’d been doing all this planning, and someone, somewhere, was laughing at me, because who the hell was I, exactly? I’ve never been so furiously disappointed in anything in my entire life.
Since my options were c-section, c-section, or c-section, we decided to go ahead and get it over with, because I was tired of looking at those beige walls with a flower patterned wall paper border around the ceiling, and nurses and monitors, and fluids and the ridiculous hospital gown. They wheeled me into the OR, and while the OB and his assistant discussed their favorite place to get Mexican food, they lasered me open and yanked Olivia out, quiet and blue, and lifted her over the drape.
“Hi, Olivia!” I managed, and they took her somewhere else, and I heard her yell, just one big gust, and for a split second, just a little tiny moment in time, I felt like it didn’t matter how she got here, because she was here, and she was alive.
PS- there’s obviously more to the whole story, but we’re 1600 words in already, so I am going to be a douchebag and write this in two parts. I’ll try and get the second part up before the next ice age, but you know, newborn and some shit.