Yep, I've known I was going to use this movie title for this post for a long, long time.
It's time for the birth story kids, it's time. Our lil hero turns one in an hour, we'll celebrate him on this day for the rest of his life, our lives. This life. (draft started 11pm on April 5th)
This time last year I was in the hospital wondering what the eff I was doing there. I had just gotten an epidural put in by a very hot, sassy, gum-snapping Armenian chick whose work was overseen by a giant man with an awkward walk. I was terrified. There I was perched on the edge of a hard bed with a breeze on my butt and what felt like duct tape up and down my back and the tiny long needle about to go in.
Snappy gum: Don't move. It's really important that you don't move.
Me: Contraction. WAIT! Please wait. I can't Not move during a...... aaahheeeighhggghggheihhh. F*ck. HOld on. Ouch. okay. hold on. okay. go ahead.
Snappy: Ok, this will sting a bit.
Me: Seriously? Nothing can phase me now.
Snappy: Ok! Great, so now you will soon feel relief. Push this button (hands me a contraption on the end of a cord with a red button) if you need more relief, it will dispense more medicine.
So the army of amazing women who had followed me, the belly, and cute hubs across town to the fancy-ass UCLA medical center now disperse in search of sleep. My midwife says, sleep. Take advantage of this epidural to finally get some rest. Sounds like a pretty good plan since I have not slept since 3 am Saturday morning when the 'rushes' started - and this is now 11pm Sunday night. The boy isn't going to come on April 5th after all. Or April 4th either (our first guess seeing how labor started that day) I guess we'll meet him tomorrow.
'Rushes' by the way, is the lovely term that midwifes and other lovely hippy-dippy sweet people who want to make you think that you can give birth in a lovely home-like candle lit setting or in a calm part of some damn sea or a water tub with dolphins n' such and gracefully and gently move through the feeling of the 'rush' of sensation and by calling it a 'rush' it is somehow not the FAWKING TIDAL WAVE of PAIN and utter ridiculous PAIN and searing hot PAIN and bone-crushing body-wracking FAWKING PAIN and I guess it's not a bad plan to call it something other than the FTWOP (fawking tidal waves of pain) but I think they were pretty darn misleading but thankfully I am not angry. Really.
As they are leaving, I am a mix of compassionate for their needs along with a hollow feeling of being completely deserted. I watch their backs march away into the inky night which is visible through the giant window of our strangely beautiful hospital room that has nice dim lighting. The view is sweet of Westwood's spots of lights and perhaps campus beyond. Sleep they said. As my awareness fuzzes out into the lights visible over my giant belly and the form of a sweet sleeping husband on the bench, I feel grateful for their beauty and their kindness and belief in my ability to have a natural home birth but also just a little bit grateful for the gum snapping Armenian gal and her freaky needle.
And I fall into delicious sleep. I close my eyes and ask the images of the previous 40 hours of my existence to disappear into a drugged oblivion. The walking and walking and the waves of pain and constant throwing up and the sitting on the toilet waiting for the world to end and standing and no, actually, walking and the waves coming consistently and then intermittently and none of it added up the the labor I was supposed to have. The walking sure. The singing even on Saturday night as my doula, BF and I did laps around our block. The beautiful moon behind the black palm trees in the gentle April night. My sweet doula and her constant presence. The warm smell of hubs neck as I leaned into him, his gentle ways and slight anxiety obvious through the haze.
What wasn't invited was the lack of rhythm. The fact that the swimmer was turned and his shoulder was stuck in some weird way. That the labor was termed 'prodromal' which is a mystery but I think says something about my head that isn't great. The IV drip due to my inability to keep anything down, even water. The thought-out labortime snacks I had prepared sat somewhere nearby, I think someone quietly nibbled on them at some point. I can't remember. The time at home was behind a wall of water and glass and pain.
A few hours later I am awoken by the midwife on duty, she needs to 'check me' to see how well the pitocin is working. Fine. That's fine, check it out. She frowns and pulls her gloved hand out of the exit zone.
Nice midwife: Oh well, okay. So. You're only dilated to 5cm. We were hoping for more. We need to up the Pitocin.
Nice midwife: Try to go back to sleep.
This room is very large, I feel like I'm on a boat in a sea of shiny floors. They said it was the nicest room in the wing, sure seems like it. Let's ignore for a minute the beeping of the heartmonitor on the baby that I was never going to get, even if they said I'd need it. Let's ignore the machine hooked into my body providing a flow of narcotics surging into my body and the little one, the thing I was never, ever going to do. Let's focus on the fact that I don't feel the GD rushes. Oh. Wait a minute.
There is no-one here. Cute hubs is asleep on the bench. I don't have the heart to wake him. I'll just push this little button on the end of the thing here, because this 'sensation' is starting to heat up - oh boy.
Me: OUCH. Shit. Um.
The FTOP's are back. That's not the bargain I struck here. I gave up the last remaining shards of my 'birth plan' and dignity to end the reign of pain that had gone on for 40 hours at home and in the car. I am now fully in their world and their world is supposed to be pain-free.
Cute hubs: Zzzzzz. (poor guy he hadn't slept for 1/2 of Friday and most of Saturday night either)
Time to call the nurse. She arrives eventually and promptly calls snappy gum who eventually (after many more FTOP's). She rolls in there rolling her eyes at me.
Snappy: You have sensation?
Me: Yes, plenty.
Snappy: Did you push the button?
Me: Several times.
Snappy: (SIGH) Let me see.
(pause while fiddling with machine)
Okay, I reset it. It should work now in about 20 minutes.
Me: 20 minutes!? Are you serious?
So this goes on. There is no more sleep. But at 5 am it's time to check again, (I wish I'd charged for admission for access, by the end I probably could have paid the hospital bill) and the good news is that we're fully dilated kids. Game on. Let's push.
My army of women slowly arrive as the hubs awakes. Dawn streaks out over UCLA as the pin lights disappear and I wonder about the college kids going to their classes and how they don't know that something miraculous is happening right behind them, right up there on the fourth floor.
At 7 am I have 'labored down' enough and I start to push. Due to the epidural which is now turned off but is still attached, and fetal heart monitor, I cannot push like a normal person, I have to squat awkwardly in the bed or do some kind of upside bar madness. It's not comfortable. It's not reasonable. But I'm okay, it seems okay. Strangely people keep coming in and saying that I look really glamourous. Which is ridiculous. The nurses say "You're the most glamourous pusher I've ever seen".
So an hour passes. Then another one. And still I'm getting pretty good feedback about my efforts. It's certainly not easy and by now I think it's about time to get this lil party over with but oops looks like I'm losing one of the key players.
Nice Midwife: Well, I'm afraid my shift is up - I'm going to turn your case over to our next midwife on duty.
And now you know why I"ve been calling her 'Nice midwife'. Cause here comes the other one.
This new woman enters and before shaking my hand or as much as a hello she checks me and the progress of the boy through the ol canal and now another frown and the stark, nasty disapproval makes my heart drop into my swollen feet.
Mean Midwife: (scowling) Ok, let me see you push. I don't think you're being effective here.
So I proceed to do my glamourous pushing which involves a head toss and some real strain, I mean really - but based on the look on her face, it's not enough.
MM: You're pushing with your face and your legs, you need to push right here. (She illustrates with by thrusting her hand into the spot of which she speaks. Apparently she's touching his head.)
Next comes a confrontation. MM and her folks decide to coach in a non-midwife manner during a contraction by yelling "PUUUUSH" and "RIGHT HERE!" and "OTHER THINGS" and I am just. not. okay. with that. Sure it's a very Hollywood labor moment but I just can't abide by this scene at all. So after I finish panting I yell.
Me: I can't have you yelling at me!
MM: I didn't think I was yelling.
Me: You were.
And by 'pushing back' (ha ha) I create a tense moment that involves a conference outside the room with my real midwife (the one I originally hired for a homebirth) the MM, and the physician on duty.
The RM (real midwife if you're not tracking with my initializing) reappears and strongly encourages me to play ball (as it were) seeing as how it's now Monday morning and my water broke on Saturday and if I don't want to end up under the knife, well. I need to shut the eff up. Not her words exactly, but I get it.
So I push. And I push. And. PUSH. And I get more productive with the pushes, it's less glamour - more progress. The MM does not come back after the above conference (there is a God) but the physician is just as adamant about touching his head ALL THE TIME while I push so it is a deeply uncomfortable (and intimate) experience.
The following hour is something I'll never forget. I have never felt more vulnerable, raw and exposed. I have never been so strong and beautiful. I have never had to do something so incredibly fawking hard. And I've never had such a profound reason to partner with my body. I'm sure it will sound cliche but I dig into a part of myself that I had never met. It's somewhere under the gut, surrounded by soul right next to the heart and nowhere near the brain. It is primal and destructive. I am a cyclone, a whirling dervish a slow rumbling earthquake. I hear a roaring sound resounding in my head, I have no idea if the screams and grunts I hear are mine, as far as I can tell the room is silent as I watch the whole thing from inside and above.
And the time in-between the contractions is so weird. It's a ride on the FTOP's which are massive and huge and fantastic and then we file our nails and wait for the next one. Finally my girlfriend is running around the room weeping and brandishing my camera yelling 'he's coming! 'he's coming! I can see his head!'
Now he's crowning.
And everything stops.
But. He just sits there.
I'd heard of the 'ring of fire' - and I believed it was an accurate name. And I won't go on here but suffice it to say it is a fine name.
F*AWKING HELL-O KITTY WHAT THE EFF DID I DO DESERVE SUCH PAIN?
This is my inner monologue, outwardly I am strangely calm. I focus on my breath. It's 11am and I've been pushing for four hours and really? People? I am just done. So I take another breath.
In the next rush okay contraction he comes out. I don't know much about it because I can't see anything, my eyes have been pushed out of working order and it's all a fuzzy Renoir wash. So after only four and 1/2 hours of pushing, it's done. He's here.
What I have failed to mention thus far is that there was some evidence in the water that caused some alarm that the boy might be in distress so a team of dudes have been called. They arrive in a quiet shuffle all scrubbed and ready to meet him at the table across the shiny floor.
He is quickly ripped away from me and flown across the sea into their hands. I am there alone on the island, stranded in the tangled sheets and blood. I have just turned my guts, heart and other parts inside out in an effort to bring this guy onto the planet - and now he belongs to them. Medical science. A team of gloved hands and plastic tubes that descend deep into his throat and very being and my dear husband stands by and watches helplessly. I can't see any of it, but later he described watching this tiny infant being scrubbed and handled like a car in a car wash without the water.
3 minutes pass.
There is an oppressive weight in the air, like the humidity before a thunderstorm. Alone on my island I watch the storm approach and I wonder. I am curious. I am quiet. I don't know why but I don't feel anxious, just curious.
Will he stay?
Finally a raspy cry. I think a cheer went up in the room, I can't say.
The Real Midwifes of LA County insists that he come onto my chest. I guess this is a little tip of the hat to my original dreamy birth plan of the candle-lit water birth and the sweet bonding and the alleged fact that the tiny guy will come crawling up to find the easy breastfeeding because of course there has been no drugs or anything to inhibit breastfeeding.
But this isn't the world I live in anymore, it's an old idea and I'm not sure how to get back there. His little mouth is yawning open with a weak little cry and I'm helpless like a beached, blind manatee. My hands are heavy like flippers as I try unsuccessfully to comfort this little being who is bound and perched on my chest.
But he's gotta go. The team of faceless carwash guys want him down in the NICU.
Hubs goes with them. And now there is nothing. I'm just there on the windy beach. I'm lost in a blown-out world of white and shapes, I still can't see.
56 hours. I did that dance with the force of nature designed to bring human life to the world for 56 hours.
Unfortunately I felt like I fell off the stage when I couldn't 'see' the birth at home anymore. When we took to the Prius caravan and covered the entire LA basin in search of a hospital with midwives, I'd turned in my shoes. And then the force of nature had to deal with the force of medical science. And in my humble opinion, they don't get along well. But the good news is the boy was born, and he was okay.
After they all roll down the hall to the NICU, my midwife (aka RM) - turns to me and says she is glad we are here, at the hospital. And as I look at her sweet make-up-free face under the turban and see the kindness and sincerity on her face, (what I could see of it), I say I am glad we are here too. But they better not give him antibiotics...
Happy Birthday BHB, I'm so glad you stayed.
In a wash of memories and relief and love,
PS - The NICU story for another time. Thanks for reading this. Hubs and I joke that telling our birthstory is almost 'real time'. Hopefully it wasn't 56 hours for you...