I haven't been able to figure out a way to create a scrapbook without taking out a second mortgage on the house. Believe me, I'm making a valiant attempt at a baby book. But I'm fearful that it may never get finished. In that case, this blog will serve as Alex's baby book. A record of his first months of life. For this reason, I've been thinking it would be a good idea to document the moments leading up to Alex's entrance to this world. My labor story - here goes.
March 24, 2005 (38 weeks): Doctors appointment. I've been having some sort of pains for three days now. They must be contractions because I can't figure out what else they would be. I waddle for the little notebook where I record the start time of each one. I'm hoping for some sort of pattern. But we're getting 5 minutes, 19 minutes, 8 minutes, 22 minutes. I've been reading everything I can online about what contractions are supposed to feel like. No one can seem to explain them to me. So truthfully, I'm a little afraid I might miss them and be in full blown labor and have to drive 45 minutes to the hospital. Ha! Ladies, anyone who's worried about missing labor. Don't. There is no way on earth you can miss it! Trust me.
At my 37 week appointment, I was dilated 2 cms. Surely this week I must have made some progess. My OB, who by the way is the greatest doctor ever, says that I'm still 2 cms dilated. Look her up if you need an OB in Denver. Dr. Cristee Offerdahl. She's like this little waif of a woman who has so much energy you would swear she exists on an I/V drip of caffeine. When I went back for my check up six weeks after Alex was born, I actually cried when Cristee told me I don't need to see her for a whole year. I'm seriously debating getting pregnant again just so I can see my OB again. Okay, I'm not quite that desperate, but she's that great. She's also the sweetest person ever born. She looks at me so empathetically and says,
"I'm sorry, honey. I know this waiting game is so hard."
At this point, I haven't slept more than two hours straight for the past three nights. I'm fat. A pair of small feet has taken up permanent residence in my ribcage. And I've consumed two jars of Metamucil in three days. All I ever taste is orange juice thick with pasty fiber. And I still haven't pooped in a week!
So I lost it. I started bawling. "I'm sorry. I'm just so tired."
I'm sure OBs get this all the time. As Kevin says, they chose a profession in which they're working with women whose hormones are completely messed up. Cristee knew what she was in for years ago. Afterwards, however, I was horrified. I was walking through the building with my sunglasses on to hide the fact that I had been crying. Pregnant celebrities always look glowing and glamorous behind their shades. I just looked bloated - and now splotchy and puffy from crying. Ain't pregnancy grand!
Anway, Cristee could sense that I was in full-on meltdown mode. She said she could squeeze me in on the following Wednesday to strip my membranes. She said she usually had a 50% success rate. Half the patients went into labor within 24 hours of having their membranes stripped. This I could get excited about. I wasn't positive what this stripping thing was all about, but I figured anything with those odds was worth a shot. I sobbed all the way home and started counting the hours - only 144 hours until membrane stripping.
March 29, 2005 (only 16 hours until membrane stripping): I did some research on this "procedure." It doesn't sound pleasant at all. I've never been one to shy away from pain. I've got a very high pain tolerance. But everyone I talk to says this hurts like rolling a car over your leg at very slow speeds over and over again. Hmm. I might even consider trying that with the Taurus if it would get this baby out of me. There's no way I'm backing out of this.
March 30, 2005
11:55 a.m.: I meet my sister-in-law (SIL) downtown at the Aveda Spa. She is also pregnant (due five weeks after I am), so we're the two big girls who can't fit between the front desk and the stylist work stations in the fancy spa. I'm in heaven though. Aveda salons have a smell that I love. I think it might be the witchhazel with peppermint. We have pedicures and I pick this obnoxiously bright shade of red. I just read an article in American Baby about a woman who had a pedicure the day before she went into labor. She felt like crap, but her toes looked fabulous. I may be writhing in the stirrups at the doctor's office, but at least my writhing toes will be fabulous.
We head over to Cristee's office. My SIL has offered to wait with me. She even offered to hold my hand since Kevin is at a meeting for work. Between springing for my pedicure and offering to hold my hand, SIL is on her way to canonization. And I'm not even Catholic. But my red toes and I are ready, and we'll go it alone. The whole process took less than five minutes. I had expected the worst pain ever. Let's just say it was more like a VW Bug than a Taurus rolling over your leg. And not really your leg, but I won't go into those details. You can look it up if you'd like.
The VW Bug has stopped doing laps in my uterus, and Cristee tells me that she wants to do an ultrasound. The baby is measuring smaller than she would like this week. Of course I'm panicked. Now is the time to take SIL up on the hand holding. Turns out, everything is fine. Baby is measuring small because he's all squished up between my ribs and my overstuffed intestines. Everything looks normal.
Say goodbyes to world's coolest SIL and jump in the Taurus with Kevin. The Taurus and Kevin are happy that they don't need to drive around in my uterus today. We head over to the Museum of Nature and Science courtesy of my brother and SIL's free pass. Seriously, how much more love could I be having for those two today! No time for love though. It's time to focus. I am determined. We're not leaving this museum until I'm in labor.
1:45 p.m.: Strolling through the boring gemology section and contractions begin. I've been having Braxton-Hicks since week 34, so I'm a pro at these crampy front pains that I'm having. I sit down a few times and even need to breathe through a few painful ones. Somewhere near the Bears of Alaska diorama, I decide that even if my body isn't 100% ready, I'm desperate enough to will myself into labor.
4:00 p.m.: We've seen the entire museum and my back is really sore from standing up for so long. When we get outside, the wind is starting to pick up and the temperature has dropped 15 degrees. We do two big laps around the museum and the grounds in the park. Poor Kevin is freezing and windblown, but he's following his manic wife around the museum. There are seriously people staring out the window laughing at the waddling fat girl in flip-flops (I didn't want to ruin my pedicure!) dragging her husband in circles through the arctic winds.
4:34 p.m.: We head up the mountain towards home. The snow has started and we're debating whether we should have just stayed at my brother and SIL's place so that we don't have to come back down in a snowstorm. But Bailey is at home by herself, and I want to have a nervous breakdown in the comfort of my own home if labor doesn't start tonight.
6:30 p.m.: Still having contractions. They are anywhere from ten to twenty minutes apart, so nothing is really happening yet. We decide to go out to dinner at a cozy little place just down the road from our house. Kevin finally convinces me to change out of the flip-flops because there are almost three inches of snow on the ground now. Although the Bistro is a nice restaurant, I wear my stretchy grey yoga pants to dinner. What are they going to do? Refuse service to the ravenous pregnant girl on the verge of a mental episode. I don't think so. Dinner is everything a "last" dinner should be. Romantic and tasty. I could only eat about 1/4 of my food. Another side effect of feet in the ribs and concretized intestines is absolutely no room for food. Not to mention, I've heard that some people throw up in labor. And spinach-artichoke dip does not look good coming back up.
7:46 p.m.: The Netflix Gods have blessed us with a comedy. Thank god it wasn't Monster or The House of Sand and Fog. My mental state is too fragile for tragedy. Last movie as a childless couple? Fast Times at Ridgemont High. A classic raunchy, tasteless high school movie. What better way to end your irresponsible childless years than with Spicoli saying,
"All I need are some tasty waves, some cool buds, and I'm fine."
9:45 p.m.: Finish packing last minute items in the hospital bag and it's off to bed. I must have this baby tonight because we have run out of room in our bed. Between Kevin, me (and my partner The Belly), the dog (who still thinks there's room for her in the bed) and Phil there is not one square inch of free space in the bed. No, I haven't picked up a second husband during this pregnancy. Phil is the 6-foot long body pillow that we bought at around week 29 to help with my hip and back pain. We decided that the pillow needed a name since it was almost like having another person in bed with us. We retired Phil after we came home from the hospital. I was so sad. I had grown accustomed to being sandwiched between Kevin and Phil with Bailey lying on my feet. I sometimes sneak down to our guest room and stare lovingly into the closet where Phil is living. I take great comfort in knowing that Phil is down there waiting for my next pregnancy.
9:59 p.m.: Say silent prayers to any God that I've ever believed in, any higher power that might be out there who would have some say as to whether this baby comes tonight.
11:55 p.m.: Contractions have started getting stronger and closer together. I time them for the next hour trying to get some more sleep. I finally get up and finish the trashy magazine, Star, that I've been flipping through all day. It's nice to know that Denise Richards and Liv Tyler are suffering through pregnancy right along with me tonight.
March 31, 2005:
1:04 a.m.: Wake up Kevin to let him know that this is it. We're both pretty calm and very excited. He helps me time for the next fifty-six minutes. I keep thinking that if this is the worst it gets, I can handle this. There's no way I will need the epidural. It's certainly not fun, but I could even handle these contractions for the next twelve hours if need be.
2:00 a.m.: We call the doctors office to have Cristee paged. She's on-call tonight. This is the reason she strips membranes on Wednesdays. Her partners were getting tired of delivering all of her patients in the middle of the night. This way she knows that she'll be on-call when that 50% starts rolling in. The answering service tells me to call back in 15 minutes if I haven't heard from Cristee.
2:12 a.m.: She hasn't called. Why hasn't she called? Why is it still snowing? Boy, this is going to be a fun trip down the mountain.
2:15 a.m.: I call the answering service back. The woman acts all put out that I'm bothering her at 2:15 in the morning. Listen, this is your job, and I'm in labor. Find my doctor!
2:29 a.m.: She hasn't called. Why hasn't she called?
2:30 a.m.: Same woman. Same story.
2:45 a.m.: Kevin makes an executive decision that we're leaving with or without talking to Cristee. We pile in the car with Bailey and drive her to my parents house for babysitting. Bye bye, Bailey. When we next see you we'll have a new little bundle of joy. Bailey will spend many hours looking at Alex and wondering when this strange little squirmy thing is going back to wherever it came from.
3:10 a.m.: Cristee calls back on the cell phone. She's been delivering another baby. Of course it never crossed my mind that someone else would be in labor and that's why she wasn't calling me back.
3:55 a.m.: We've made it through the snow and arrived at the hospital. It's pretty quiet this time of day/night. The admittance nurse tells me about her two children -- one delivered in a military hospital with no epidural, and the other delivered with many drugs and much happiness. I know which side of the epidural fence she's sitting on. I, on the other hand, still haven't decided. All along I've said that I would like to do this without drugs if possible. It's not a matyr thing or a brave woman "hear me roar" thing. I just don't do well with drugs. I can't even take Tylenol with codeine. I end up hanging over the toilet sick. After I had my wisdom teeth pulled, I sucked it up for four days because the one and only time I took the pain drugs they prescribed, I had many meetings with the porcelain god. Let me tell you. The only thing less fun than having four impacted wisdom teeth pulled all at once is repeatedly puking after it's over. Besides, these contractions aren't really that bad. I can handle this.
4:05 a.m.: As I'm sitting in admittance, I notice that the contractions that were coming ever so regularly at four-five minutes apart haven't happened for the last eight minutes. Oh well, just think labor thoughts.
4:10 a.m.: We get upstairs to labor and delivery. The give us a room and get me hooked up to a monitor. And guess what? Yep, you guessed it. The contractions have basically stopped. If I think really hard, I can will a tiny wimpy one every fifteen minutes or so, but they've pretty much dried up. Our L&D nurse smiles sympathetically and tells me I need to walk.
5:30 a.m.: They told me to walk for an hour. We walked an hour and twenty minutes just for good measure. My back is in knots and the Braxton-Hicks are pretty regular. Although, those aren't doing anything to get labor going again. We have paced every square inch of the maternity floor at least forty times. Every square inch except the area right in front of the nurses station. I just know that those nurses are talking about the poor girl who "thought" she was in labor and placing bets about whether I'm going home or not. Well, this girl is not driving back up the mountain through the snow. I will camp out in this L&D room for the next three days if I have to. But we're here and I'm not leaving until I've had this baby.
5:45 a.m.: Cristee breezes into the room. I breathe a sigh of relief. Cristee is here. Everything is going to be okay. She'll think of something. And sure enough she does. She examines me, says that the contractions aren't as strong as they would like and says she's going to break my water. She brings out the big hook (whoa, that's a big hook!). But it doesn't hurt at all. In fact, I barely feel it.
5:57 a.m.: The contractions have started again. I guess all it takes is a little water breaking. We're back on track. And whoa...what was that? Now that's a new sensation. Oh, here comes another one. Holy crap! These are contractions. This is what everyone has been talking about all these years. And literally holy crap. Remember the whole "woe is me-haven't pooped in a week" problem. Well, I don't think it's going to be a problem anymore. Seems that my intestines have decided that these contractions are not meant to push the baby out, but to push the 40 weeks of concretized food out of my digestive track.
6:12 a.m.: And whoa, there's another one. I'm running back to the bathroom. Good thing they have grip bars in this bathroom. I have to brace myself everytime one of these starts. Good God, will it ever end? Am I going to have this baby on the toilet.
8:04 a.m.: These things have been coming every couple of minutes for almost two hours. Kevin has been amazing. He just holds my hand while I breathe through them. All that psycho-babble about "going to another place" from childbirth class is actually true. Screw the counting, screw the hee-hee-ho-ho breathing. All I can do is close my eyes, squeeze Kevin's hand and pretend I'm on the beach in St. Martin. It's a new experience to be driven to your knees by pain. It's not really pain as much as indecision. Everytime I think the poop pipes are empty, I have to dash for the bathroom when the next contraction hits. It was the moment that I was sitting on my hands and knees between the bathroom and the bed that I decided maybe there was a more dignified way to do this.
8:20 a.m.: Call the doctor. Hand me the papers to sign. It's time for the epidural. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not enjoying the primal, back-to-nature feeling that is labor...BUT, I'm not enjoying it.
8:39 a.m.: The contractions are still coming strong. I'm starting to get nervous that I won't be able to hold still long enough for the doctor to get the needle in the right place. Then I'll be paralyzed and pooping. The embarrassment of that thought is enough for me to find my happy place and hold still. And thank the Lord, we had a brief contraction hiatus just long enough for him to get the needle in place.
8:55 a.m.: Oh, the epidural. I love the epidural. Epidural and I are running away to the Turks and Caicos together. All I can say is next time, I'm walking in the door with the papers already signed. It does scare me just a little that they keep rolling me over every half hour like a slab of meat. Something about the epidural drugs settling on one side of your body. But, I'm so happy about the lack of pain they could put me on a spit to turn me for all I care.
9:00-11:00 a.m.: I try to get some rest now that my pipes are empty, my uterus is working and my pain is gone. I can still feel the pressure when the contractions come, but it not the gut-wrenching pain that I was having. We have a few pictures during this time period. I have a very peaceful, very tired smile on my face and I look like someone punched me in both eyes. The dark circles are huge. I don't think this is a textbook side effect of labor. I think it's because I have slept two hours since yesterday morning. 30-plus hours with no sleep can make you look a little beat up. The Bears of Alaska sure seem like a lifetime ago.
During this two hour time, I also have 2-3 people sticking their hands inside me at various times. Apparently most women have one person doing this to monitor their dilation. However, I am the world's most accommodating pregnant woman. Two L&D nurses in training are using my uterus and cervix for training. It's almost like a game. One nurse will reach in and say, "Oh, it feels like 5 cm. Is that right? Did I get it right?" Another one will then reach in and say, "Yes, you're pretty close it's actually 5.5 cm." or "No, why don't you try it again, you're way off base." Note to self: try to be a little more bitchy next time and I (the training dummy) might get a little more sleep.
11:19 a.m.: L&D nurse in training estimates that I am 10 cm dilated. Real L&D nurse confirms this fact. They drop the bottom half of the bed away, set up the stirrups and tell me it's time to take a practice push. So, I put up my feet, wait for the next contraction and push. I hear two different nurses say, "Whoa! Okay, okay. That was really good. Now don't push at all. Not even the tiniest bit. We need to find your doctor."
11:20 a.m.: During the next twenty minutes I experience some serious fear. I can't tell anyone, but this is the first time I've been really scared. I'm not scared of the pushing. I'm terrified that I can't stop what I've started. I have no business being a mother. Send this baby back. I can't handle this responsibility. Leave it to me to get cold feet in the ninth inning.
11:40 a.m.: Cristee arrives. Whew! Once again, I feel calm. She's just that type of person. She can take away all of your anxiety just by showing up. Thank goodness her office is just next door to the hospital. There's no telling how much longer this baby would have stayed inside. Cristee takes a seat as if to say, "Let's get this show on the road." She offers me the mirror. I didn't know how I would feel about watching the show, but I figure everyone else in the room can see what's going on, so why should I miss all the fun. And let me tell you, I'm so glad that I didn't miss it. What an amazing experience (albeit slightly surreal) to watch life being born.
12:05 a.m.: Okay, with this contraction you're going to push. Ready push...one, two, three, four five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. And breathe. Great job. Whoa! Is that a head? Holy cow.
12:08 a.m.: Now push again. Out came the head and one little arm. Alex literally swam the rest of the way out of me. I didn't have to push again, he just slid right out. He was raring to go in this world. There was no stopping him. Once his little head could feel the air, he was getting out of there with or without my help. And that was it. I found myself a mother. And not just any mother, but the mother of the world's most beautiful baby boy. And Kevin was the ultimate partner -- right there with me every step of the way and shedding the same tears of fear, joy and amazement at what we had created.
I will spare you the details of the rest: sewing, cleaning, etc. There's no way better way to end than simply to say:
Welcome to the world little Alex. What a miracle you are!