Ender's Birth Story

Oh man, I'm a mom!

To preface this birth story (which I am writing out of total need for catharsis and no entertainment whatsoever) I'll start with the end of my pregnancy.  I'll also state that I have always had an extreme fear of pregnancy and childbirth.  I was fully anticipating a traumatic experience but it really blew away even my expectations. Ha!  Also, a final disclaimer: this is not a fun or entertaining read and unless you're just that interested, I'd skip over it.  I wanted a written experience for my own benefit and that's about it.  You've been warned of the tedious horror of this birth story! Onward! 

On my 30th birthday, which was the solar eclipse, I felt a total lack of fetal movement.  It was worrying, obviously--he'd always been a fairly active baby.  Allyn and I went to the doctor, who appeased me by performing an ultrasound.  He confirmed the decreased movements (as well as some other stuff--fluid in his kidney, low amniotic fluid, a few complications) and ordered weekly NSTs until an induction was scheduled.  They kept an eye on the kid, who had just literally decided he wasn't going to move anymore.  My health got poorer, with increased glucose and even worse anemia.  I was so done that I didn't even mind the fact that I was getting induced.  Going into labor naturally wasn't important; I just wanted to get this over with, I was so miserable and worried about his health.

So we check in, September 4 at 2030.  I had told my OB as well as the nurse on staff that I have intense PTSD and any internal exam or invasive procedure was going to set me off--even things like the IV and catheters, they're HUGE triggers--but right away my hopes for being understood and respected were dashed when it became obvious that my nurse was a total novice.  She was more nervous than I was and I was the one about to have a baby.  She blew out a vein in my arm immediately and I started crying.

She informed me that she'd have to perform a cervical check and I warned her again that I wasn't going to handle it well.  She then proceeded to ignore my screams and panicked lack of breath and jam her fingers up in there nice and good while being panicky and terrified of my reaction.  I did learn, post-sobbing, that I was already 2 centimeters dilated.  She started cervodil and I asked for the charge nurse to step in for any future cervical checks.  I have nothing against novice medical personnel but I'm done being a guinea pig for them, it's like cooking your first meal for Gordon Ramsay....just a really, really bad idea to put a severely traumatized person in the hands of people who aren't used to seeing patients with those experiences. 

Hours go by and I held off with any pain medication or intervention because I hate catheters.  The rest of my labor for the next however long was an uneventful blur with increasing pain and discomfort and trying without success to sleep.  I don't even know how an entire day passed, but I do know that I finally, finally asked for pain medication and got fentanyl.  I've never had it before and WHEEEE! I felt better than great, for a very short amount of time.  Once I'd maxed out my fentanyl I endured the pain a bit longer before tapping out and asking for the epidural.  (I should add that in between, I had another panic attack during a cervical check and my doctor suggested I take a xanex.  I suggested I take ten. They gave me one.) 

Now what follows as far as the epidural goes...is my personal experience.  I'm not shitting on my hospital and I don't enjoy talking shit about doctors.  I have huge respect for what they do.  But I also calls em like I sees em and my experience with this doctor was probably one of the worst things I've endured and has made me 10000000000x less likely to ever consider birth or pain meds or doctors or needles or intervention or whatever.  In fact it made me sympathize with my dad ripping all his cords out and trying to leave.  

By the time he came in I was in 10/10 pain and lying on my side half-dissociated.  I had bought a birthing gown that was prettier than ye olde hospital gown and had holes in all the right places: the belly for monitoring, the back for the epidural, and the boobs for skin to skin and breastfeeding.  It was still pretty modest, but since I'd just had a panic attack at a recent cervical check I was splayed out with probably my ass showing.  I don't care, I'm not modest anyway, and a hospital is no place for modesty.  

However, the doctor enters the room, I'm on my side moaning with my eyes closed, and I remember his voice, a disdainful "Can we do something about covering her up? I'm just not going to be comfortable with her or this..." you get the idea.  He continued to complain about whatever body part he saw until one of the nurses rushed over to hide my obnoxious, in the way body.  Had I been more conscious I would've had words with this man--sorry for nudity in the hospital?  And why not address "her" as a human being? I mean, a simple "hey lady let's cover dat ass!" would have sufficed. 

I couldn't really talk but I was laying there whimpering and trying to form sentences asking what would happen.  I've seen epidurals in videos, but my brain fog assured I didn't really remember what the procedure entailed.  I tried to ask.  I remember feeling him picking me up and sliding me around very unceremoniously and it terrified me.  I hate that I have that reaction when he was just doing his job, but he was very rough and strong, and being a ragdoll flung around was not pleasant nor good for abating trauma. 

Nobody really replied to my dazed questions, and without a warning he jammed in the first needle.  You know, the spine is a pretty bad place to jab somebody without a warning.  I can give him the benefit of the doubt there, maybe he thought going without warning was the better idea for the traumatized wimpy girl who couldn't even handle a cervical check like an adult...I don't know. What I do know is that I screamed, and sobbed, and while he was working he just kept saying "DON'T SOB DON'T SOB STOP SOBBING" which was exactly as effective as you'd think.  I felt totally betrayed and disrespected and ignored, all I wanted was to do what Dad did and rip everything out, tell them to eat it, and run to Farner.  In fact I strongly considered it, and probably would have done it had I not been pregnant.

I was so traumatized by this point that I was begging for Derik.  He came and calmed me down the best that he could.  I don't even remember his visit, just crying like a baby and wanting to hear his voice.  Everything was making everything else worse.  The awkwardness of the medical staff (is there seriously zero training on abuse survivors and invasive procedures?) the horrible epidural placement experience, the defeatedness of being confined to the bed thanks to the catheter and all of the other shame I was experiencing at already not getting the birth you're promised in those woodsy twee mommy blogs....it was just snowballing. Poor Allyn didn't have a chance.  I kept wishing he would leave and go home and pet Flemith so I could just endure this without looking so weak and pathetic, but I was also scared to be alone.  So he was in the shittiest position (after me of course...) 

Unsurprisingly the epidural failed.  My feet got numb and I was dying of pain in my pelvis.  I was told to sit up and push the button to get the medicine to flow to my pelvic area.  It didn't help.  In fact (is this even a thing?) the areas that he numbed actually hurt.  It felt like Novocaine wearing off a pulled tooth and every nerve was tingling with stabbing pains. From this point on I was in even more of a dissociative fog due to pain.

The OB on duty showed up to break the amniotic sac and all I remember from that was hearing, after the burst of fluid, the word 'meconium.'  I started to panic as everyone stupidly assured me "oh, it's norrrmal, it's noooothing.  You probably read some bad stuff about it but it's normal and we'll just flush out the fluid with some IV fluid..." there are not enough unimpressed, eye-rolly gifs in the world to express my disdain...I hate being treated like a total fucking idiot by medical professionals.  I got an internal fetal monitor, (yes, placing that hurt, as did everything else in this entire scenario) but despite the pain and now fear for my baby, it was "time to push"!  

Out of the shit show so far, I actually enjoyed pushing.  It felt like I was making a difference.  I was being coached and guided to do something instead of sitting there getting stabbed and poked and fingered and prodded.  I did really good at pushing.  It hurt, and it began to hurt more as the baby moved--the nurse remarked at one point while feeling around up in there that I was going to tear "really badly" because of how tight I was...great!  Thanks! I didn't care, it was a finish line--!

--until it wasn't.  I pushed. and pushed. and pushed. I could feel fluid coming out and every time I pushed, I could feel the little fetal monitor cord move out, and then immediately go back in.  The kid's head was stuck.  I pushed anyway, sure that when the time came I could deal with the pain (since the only thing numb was still my feet and calves, and the doctor kept coming back to give me more doses, which wound their way up my back and into my shoulder area) but it just didn't happen.  My strength started to go.

I was surprised to learn later that I'd been pushing for hours.  My OB had warned me before we started that a first time mom might have a long time pushing, ie "one or two hours."  Um okay, because I've been here since Monday night and it's now Wednesday morning, two hours isn't even long.  As it turns out I pushed close to three hours.  I could feel my baby in my pelvis and I knew he was stuck.  Finally I just gave up.  I told the nurses it wasn't happening and I'm sure they hear that with everyone's birth so they did their best to cheerlead me on.  Nope.  Not happening.  "You've got to push! You can do it! He's almost here!" 

I think at this point I crashed.  I told the doctor I was done and just wanted the baby out.  He looked at me for a minute, probably reflecting on how happy he was to be a man, and then nodded in agreement.  I heard rabble of preparing me for a c section and everyone ran off.  A nurse cheerfully told Allyn to bring the camera because he would want photos once the baby was out.  I stopped him and told him what I truly truly believed; that I wasn't going to make it and was going to die shortly.

It's such a strange and terrible feeling to believe you're going to die and say goodbye to someone you love.  I don't even particularly enjoy living, but I've always preferred the idea of dying on my own terms and dying after a miserable non-birth while Allyn had to watch me writhe in pain, unable to provide any comfort, was not how I wanted to go.  I just remember having the thought that he was going to take photos of me before I died, and I didn't want him to be traumatized.  I thought about what my son would be like and how he would be told about me, and how hard it would be for Allyn to bring up a kid himself.  These are horrible, horrible thoughts to have and no woman should have to endure that fear and terror--I'm not blaming any one person for it, but just the system in general.  It failed me here, during this experience.

Anyway, everything after that was literally a dream.  I felt them undress me and move the bed.  They were trying to reassure me that I wouldn't fall off when they changed me from the bed to the crucifix (that's probably not its name but that's what I'm calling it) and at that point falling was the least of my worries.  I've moved a billion patients, most of them bigger than me and I have no fear of backboards or gurneys or whatever, but I couldn't vocalize this--that again they were pandering and reassuring me where they didn't need to, and neglecting me where I needed reassurance--oh well, I was going to die soon.

My body was screaming in pain, I could almost sense some kind of panic coming from my son, and I couldn't decide if I wanted Allyn there or wanted him to be away (someone asked and I eventually ended up yelling for him when I was sure I was dying and my last moments were upon me, haha) the doctor put something in my IV and I started screaming that I could feel it going up my arm.  Everyone was frantically reassuring me that I wouldn't feel anything to which I countered I FEEL EVERYTHING!!! I felt their hands on my body, I felt the pain of the epidural medicine prickling me, I felt whatever the hell going into my arm.
"You can ....feel that?"
"YES I DO!!"
"How strongly can you feel it?"

-awkward medical procedure silence-

I begged to be knocked out and the doctor halfheartedly attempted to tell me that something could happen to the baby--yeah okay but the meconium is a non-issue, right?--and in some kind of demonic voice I uttered I DON'T CARE PUT ME OUT.  If I verbalized that I just wanted to die, I don't remember it, but the truth is that I would've loved the respite.

Aaaaand cue the voice of the damned anesthesiologist very near my head.  I heard him say "I don't think she's going to stand it" (why the fuck does he talk about me in third person!?!??!) as he pushed MORE meds into my epidural and I felt the coldness trickle upwards (as it had nowhere downwards to go by that point, and I was supine) one of the last things I felt was that shitty medicine numb/tingle/sting EVERYTHING from my back up to my shoulders, into my arms, and finally my neck.  Allyn said I fell asleep but the truth is, I passed out--either from exhaustion or pain, or both, who knows.

I woke up to a flurry of doctors and nurses and Allyn holding a bundle of something.  I was so out of it I couldn't talk but I just stared.  I couldn't see the baby's face and barely remembered who I was, let alone that I'd "had" a baby.  He and someone else asked if I wanted to hold him and due to the body-wide epidural, I couldn't even lift my arms.  I legit tried--nope.  I shook my head and fell back asleep. At this time and many times since, it has "felt" like someone just took a baby off a shelf and handed it to me.  I got no experience of birthing, I got zero skin to skin or breastfeeding.  There was just suddenly a baby.  It's a strange and surreal feeling, and a little depressing when you compare it to the "magical miracle of birth" and realize you puked jello all over that horrible anesthesiologist and that was your final contribution before passing out.

I woke up again and it was quieter, and to the left of me was a clear hospital bassinet.  There was a baby in it...again, nothing ever made me feel like this was "my" baby.  Just "the" or "a" baby.  I looked at the baby and the baby looked at me.  Even though we were pretty far apart, a foot or two, he immediately looked at my face.  He was as immobile as I was and we just faced each other and stared.  Everybody always told me how "in love" I would be and how I would just know my baby immediately.  I would say that what I felt was far more profound than love.  Love is pretty ephemeral and mortal in the gist of things.  I felt like the transcendence cat.  I felt like I was looking at something more than a person, or a tiny human, I was looking at a piece of the universe, and a piece of my universe, and I was the universe, and we were both terrified and we had both died and we were both alive and we were total strangers, but we were closer than any two humans could ever be.  Also, he had my eyes.

I've looked at him a lot since and he's looked back and every so often I get a glimmer of that feeling again.  I don't know what to call it, but I'll never get tired of it.