Mama Duck
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Friday, October 24, 2003

Birth Story, part 2

Trying to do it myself

Around noon, my husband and I were shown into a small exam room. A nurse hooked me up to a monitor that tracked both my contractions and the duck's heartbeat. The former were irregular, the latter was strong and steady. We were told that the midwife on call would see us as soon as she could, but that the hospital was crowded--there were many women laboring and all the birthing rooms were full.

We continued to labor, mostly undisturbed. A nurse unhooked my monitors and we walked the halls, hoping to increase the frequency of the contractions. I continued to throw up with strong ones, and couldn't even keep down a Listerine strip, chips of ice or sips of water.

After two hours, the midwife still hadn't made an appearance and it had been fourteen hours since my water had broken and the onset of contractions. I hadn't done more than doze and I hadn't been able to eat or drink. I wished then for my mom, who had cared for my sisters and me when sick by bringing us liquid Jello in a green and purple monster cup. Finally, at 2:45 the midwife came in, apologizing and saying again that they were many women in labor. She confirmed that the duck's heartbeat was strong and did a quick exam. The good news: I was fully effaced. The bad? I was only one centimeter dilated. She stripped my membranes by running her finger around the edge of the cervix in an attempt to progress the labor and said that I should consider Pitocin to augment the contractions, which were still not regular. I said I'd like to try it on my own and she said she'd give it a couple more hours, but since my water had broken and I wasn't keeping anything down we had a more limited time frame than if things had been otherwise.

After she left, my husband and I walked the halls, pausing for each contraction, and I did cat pose after cat pose on the bed in order to prevent back labor. We were moved to a birth room around 4 and we were helped by the first in a series of great nurses. She discussed the options with me and was firm but kind when she said that she did not think my labor would progress on its own if I didn't have the Pitocin. I was sad about this--I'd very much wanted a natural birth with no drugs and I knew that one intervention usually led to another, yet I had to agree with her. My contractions were strong but not getting stronger and still not that regular. My decision was confirmed when the midwife checked me again at 6 p.m. After three more hours, I was still only one centimeter; I hadn't progressed at all. I agreed to the Pitocin and asked that we start with the smallest dose.

At 7:30, the nurses changed shifts. The new nurse was direct and exuberant. When I got checked again at 8, I sagged under the hard news--after two hours of Pitocin and increasingly hard contractions, I had only progressed to 2 centimeters. I would have to dial up the Pitocin intake and get things moving.

The two centimeter news did much to break my spirit. I'd now been contracting for 20 hours, with no sleep and no food or drink. The contractions were hard. In spite of my training and education, I felt them deeply. My muscles cramped and I vocalized through each wave of them. The beginnings were the worst, then they would taper off. I could not imagine getting through enough contractions to get to ten centimeters. "I can't do it," I sobbed to my husband. He looked at me and said simply, "But you have to."

So I told the new nurse to increase the Pitocin gradually and that once I got to four, I'd like to have an epidural so I could get some sleep. As I continued to labor holding on to my husband, she would surreptitiously take the Pitocin drip up a notch in order to move me along. At some point I got an i.v. of fluids for dehydration. In spite of my drips, I was able to try the tub, but it didn't help me handle the contractions and instead seemed to slow them, so I had to let go of yet another hope I'd had for things to help me during labor. The birthing ball didn't help much either. For me, the contractions were difficult no matter what. My husband later said that what concerned him at this stage was that I was so exhausted that I would doze during contractions, wake for their pain, then babble gibberish in the aftermath, then doze again.

Finally, at 10 p.m. the nurse checked me again. "I'm not just saying this to make you feel better, but you're at four, plus I've got room to wiggle." We sent for the anesthesiologist.

I had truly hoped to avoid an epidural. I'd had friends who had mixed results--patchy coverage, or pierced duras resulting in spinal headaches. Yet I knew I couldn't get to ten centimeters without rest and I'd need rest for the pushing. The doctor arrived and was calm and efficient. I worried aloud that I wouldn't be able to lie still enough for him and he said he'd be fine. He did warn me about the possibility of a punctured dura and I asked politely that he try to avoid that. He solemnly said he'd do his best. I felt the cool swabbing on my lower back, then sting of novocaine (oh, how I hate it, even though I know it prevents me from stronger pain) then pressure and then, oh praise be, relief. The crushing tides of the contractions moved further out to sea. They continued to come, and I knew when they began and ended, but their pain was gone. I was giddy with relief and chattered happily at my husband and the nurse through my oxygen mask. The nurse turned out the light and my husband settled down on the narrow, hard window bunk, then we both went went gratefully to sleep, nearly twenty-four hours after we'd been awoken the night before.

posted by Mama Duck2:09 PM


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Thursday, October 02, 2003

The joy of help

A friend who had a baby a few weeks before us called last weekend and made a point to ask how I was doing. He said his wife had noticed during her post-partum period that people would gush over the baby, but not always ask how she was, or ask what they might do to help. We are fortunate to have many friends who have helped us out a great deal, but I too have experienced the "invisible mom" syndrome.

Before I had this baby, I wouldn't have known how best to help new parents, though now it seems so simple. So if any of you out there know new parents, here's my advice--ask how they're doing physically, and ask what you can do to help. Out of many examples, one friend stayed with the baby while I got a haircut, another helped us move an old piece of furniture out and another one in. Simple things mean a lot, and are ideas you can offer when even the most basic question might be difficult for a sleep-starved new parent--unload a dishwasher, bring some food, fold some laundry, change a diaper, empty the garbage, etc. Not only are you helping the parents, who will be wildly grateful, but you'll also get to spend time with the baby too, as well as ensure that the parents are less stressed and tired when they spend time with the baby--it's good for everyone.

posted by Mama Duck6:45 AM


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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

What a difference a mom makes

One of my concerns when we decided we wanted to start a family was that both my husband's and my families were so far away. We love where we live, though, and have no plans to move. We don't have what many people do, though, which is ready access both to help for us and help with the baby. This has made the post-partum weeks more challenging, especially since I have had some difficulties in my physical recovery.

My mom recently stayed a few days to help out as I continued to recover and had to go back in to the doctor for a very unpleasant but necessary procedure. It made a huge difference to have her here and taking care of me. I got more sleep, she helped with cooking, cleaning and laundry and was able to watch the baby so I could nap and take a bath. My days went so much better, and I was very sad to see her go.

posted by Mama Duck12:24 PM


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