The Birth Story of Augie Hatch, part 2
When I left off the birth story, we were on our way to the hospital on Monday afternoon (June 4th). We arrived and waited in triage for what felt like ages. As a midwifery student I always thought the whole theory that more babies are born on a full moon to be ridiculous, but this was a full moon and the hospital was slammed.
If you are a birth purist and think any and all medications are bad news, this story is about to get really bothersome to you right about now. There was a point in my life when I might have joined you in that judgement, but no more. Once we went into the hospital, I was clear in my thinking that I was going in because they’d be able to provide me with something I couldn’t get at home (drugs). Because they were so busy I spent about an hour in triage. After some insisting that I really, truly wanted meds (something I’d normally be happy to see in a nurse, but in the moment not so much), I was given a dose of IV pain medications. While I think they might have cut the pain a tiny bit, they mostly made me not give a crap because I was soooo exhausted. But, they did make it tolerable to be in my tiny curtained space in the triage area without access to any of the other things that had helped with pain so far.
Finally we were moved to a labor room where I was set up with an epidural by the nicest anesthesiologist I’ve never met. Hell, he was one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever met. And this isn’t just a reflection on his ability to effectively numb my labor pain; he was solidly a good person. He talked me through the procedure step by step, in a sort of obsessive way that I totally appreciated. It sounded something like this:
“Okay, I’m going to touch your back now.” (touches my back) “That’s my hand you feel on your back” (starts pulling tape off tape dispenser) “That sound you hear is tape. I’m going to pull some off and stick it to your back.” (Sticks tape to my back).
Serious attention to detail folks.
So at that point I’m pretty numbed up, but only on the side I’m lying on. It sort went like that for the next few hours…me sleeping, but having to switch sides every half hour or so to keep the epidural somewhat even. For the birthy people out there, I also got a low level of pitocin started since my contractions had been regular but not very strong up until this point, and IV antibiotics for my fever. A few hours later an OB resident came in to check me and discovered I was completely dilated! Right after this, one of my friends called me and because I was totally loopy at this point (from lack of sleep, not the meds), I answered the phone and was chatting until she realized I was 10 centimeters and made me get off the phone because nobody should be casually chatting with friends at that point, epidural or not.
While I was totally dilated, Hatch was still way up there so they decided to have me “labor down” for an hour. The idea behind this is that if you chill for a bit without pushing, your body and the baby will do the work of getting the baby in a better position to start pushing. Because things were so busy the doctors disappeared for a few hours, during which time I ended up getting a wonderful L&D nurse (she’s actually a nurse midwife working as an L&D nurse). She set up the room so that my midwife could continue to be very involved in my care and got me started with pushing. When the doctors reappeared, it was clear they wanted me to go to a c-section since they were convinced he was too big for me to push out, even though I’d only started pushing twenty minutes earlier!
Let me just say this about pushing. Even with an epidural, it hurt. At that point my epidural had worn off to a point where I couldn’t really tell when I was having a contraction, but I could feel Hatch moving (turning, pushing on my tailbone, everything…). Since I had the epidural I couldn’t get up, but it literally felt like my sacrum was going to crack every time I pushed. My midwife and my nurse had to be very creative in getting me into positions where I could push effectively without me losing my shit because it hurt so badly. For the first two hours of pushing we tried all sorts of things, but I finally realized that one of the more painful positions was the one that seemed to work best so I sucked it up and went with it. “It” involved pulling my entire upper body up into a crunch using a sheet hanging from a bar over the bed. If that sounds like an insane amount of work, it was. Besides being extremely physical, I literally caused nerve damage to several of my fingers pulling on the sheet that made it so I couldn’t feel those fingers for about a month after giving birth.
While I was in labor my dad was in the waiting area scoping out gossip. Apparently for most of the time I was pushing (almost four hours!), the doctors were going between c-sections, pissed that I wasn’t consenting to a c-section. My nurse did an amazing job of buying us extra time, allowing my midwife to be unusually hands on, and generally making the best of the hospital situation. Without the hours and hours of work that they put in, there is no way I would have had Hatch without surgery. Instead, I ended up pushing him out with the resident barely making it into the room (I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe I was actually having him when my nurse called…).
Everything after he was born was sort of a mess. Hatch wasn’t looking so hot when he was first born, so there was about five minutes of scary stuff that I will spare you the pictures from (nobody likes to look at pictures of babies getting resuscitated, right?). During that time, the doctor freaked out about getting my placenta out and actually managed to rip the cord mostly off of the placenta. For those of you who don’t know, that is bad news and meant she had to stick her arm up into my uterus and literally pull out the placenta. While I was pretty preoccupied with what was going on with Hatch, this still hurt about 100 times worse than pushing him out.
Then we learned that because I’d had a fever in labor, they wanted to take Hatch to the NICU for 48 hours for antibiotics and observation (since they assume I had a uterine infection). This is where P and I figured out exactly how rough it is to make decisions as a parent. While it felt like the most unnatural thing to have Hatch stay somewhere else not directly attached to me for two days, there is something about the thought that your baby might be septic that makes you agree to things you might not otherwise think are totally necessary.
Once we’d made the decision not to refuse the NICU (which was absolutely heartbreaking, but seemed like the right thing to do), we had about an hour in the room to hang out with Hatch, let my family meet him, and try to breastfeed. To their credit, they really honored that hour, and even gave us a little extra time by bringing all the equipment into the room to do the newborn exam there instead of in the nursery. The silliest thing is that during that entire time Hatch never opened his eyes once and I was secretly totally freaked out that something was wrong with his eyes (like maybe he didn’t have any). Totally rational. When I told P this later, he said he’d opened them very briefly when they were resuscitating him under the uber bright lights, slammed them shut, and decided that it was unnecessary to open them again. I was not convinced until I got to see him again in the NICU several hours later and he finally squinted them open at me.
This picture of P and Hatch being wheeled away is pretty much the saddest picture ever, and is a good reminder why I will absolutely try to have a homebirth again. Having a baby in the NICU is a story for another day, but was absolutely horrible, heartbreaking, totally scary, and exhausting beyond belief. I feel pretty confident navigating the medical system and I was extremely overwhelmed by it. I can’t even imagine if you didn’t have medical background or if your baby actually had a serious medical issue (instead of whatever the pediatric resident dreamed up to keep your baby there that day).
So that’s the story! I guess some of you might also want the numbers…Hatch was 9 pounds 1.3 oz and 20 1/2 inches when he was born. I’m 5’1″. He was a big old baby. As I told my midwife after the birth, I might want to lay off of the ice cream next time around (she agreed).