THE BIRTH OF ELLA: DAY 1
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2008
When I awoke Thursday morning, the first thing I thought was, “I need to get up today and take a shower and get ready.”
The week had started out rocky. The week before, we had a bout of bad snowy weather. That weekend was met with a round of flu that incapacitated our house and followed into the next week. Between the two, nothing had been done at the store or at home. I had spent the weekend and first part of the week in a semi-fetal position rotating between the couch and the big double chair in our living room. Non-stop coughing fits faded days into nights and then back into days again. On Tuesday I had my weekly checkup at the doctor’s office. The nurse said, “You want to get rid of that cough before birth. You certainly don’t want to have a cough if you need an episiotomy.” I relayed to the doctor that I had been having some lower back pain the week before and she checked me wondering if I was having “back labor.” I wasn’t dilated at all. I still had almost a month to go, so I was pretty sure that my cough would be resolved by then.
The cough on top of being almost nine months pregnant had barely given me a moments rest for days. Starting on Tuesday night, I hadn’t slept more than 15 minutes an hour, if I slept at all. By the time Thursday morning rolled around, I was miserable – sleep deprived, coughed out, way too pregnant, and just generally feeling awful - more than awful. I remember crying because I was just genuinely “done” with everything.
Thursday afternoon around 3:00 p.m., I was sitting on the couch, Todd having migrated from our germ-filled bedroom onto the double chair, both of us trading off coughing fits. I had a particularly bad coughing fit when I felt something different. Being almost nine months pregnant, it wasn’t shocking that I had been leaking a little urine every time I coughed, but this felt different. I made an abrupt exit and went to the bathroom where I found a slow trickle of fluid down my leg. My first thought was that my water had broken, but doubt soon clouded. This wasn’t the gush of fluid that you heard about or saw on TV or the movies, this was just a very slow trickle, like when you leave a sink faucet on just a bit. I wondered if this was it. There was a sign of mucous discharge and that seemed to be more of a “sign” than the fluid trickle, but I still wasn’t sure.
Knowing that once your water broke your chance of infection increased, I cursed myself silently for not having followed my gut instinct of getting up to take a shower that morning. I jumped in the shower for a quick rinse off. Since I had abruptly left without a word earlier, Todd came to check on me. In a very happy, sing-songy voice said, “This could be the very early start of having a baby!” Honestly? I didn’t really think that I was in labor. Nor did I think that in less than 24 hours a baby would really be here. The bills weren’t paid. The bookstore wasn’t prepared. Neither my bag nor the baby’s bag was completely packed. The nursery wasn’t even done. And, we were both sick for goodness sake.
Todd started to panic. “Do we need to go?” he shouted through the shower curtain. “I’m fine,” I replied. I was remarkably calm. I think I was in denial. I finished my shower, put on my makeup and even flat ironed my hair all the while the slow trickle of fluid continued and I really started to feel contractions. And then? I made my husband paint my toe nails. “Are you serious?” he said. I couldn’t have been more serious. It seemed really important to me to have nice toenails. I timed my contractions to five minutes apart as Todd finished painting my toenails. I got dressed and finished packing the bags as Todd prepared the car seat and warmed up the car. We were on our way.
The contractions strengthened on the way to the hospital. I rested with my eyes closed while listening to Todd make calls to all the appropriate people. I remember thinking that my fear would be to get to the hospital, have it turn out to be false labor, and then have to call everyone back. How embarrassing!
It was before 6:00 p.m. when we got to the hospital. Once registered and upstairs at Labor & Delivery, we were sent to a postpartum room right next to the nurses’ desk. I knew they didn’t think I was in labor. I was only 36 weeks after all and my due date was almost a month off. One nurse even went as far as to say “Oh...is this your first?” in a condescending way. I was in pain and annoyed that they thought I wouldn’t know my own body. By this time, there was no doubt in my mind that I was in labor.
Once in the “temporary” room, the resident checked me and seemed surprised to find me dilated to two. As they prepared me to be admitted, they asked me the results of my Group B Strep (GBS) test. Group B Strep is something that everyone can carry on their body and if the mother tests positive at the time of birth, she can pass it on to the baby and it can be potentially fatal to the newborn. We were going to do my GBS test at the doctor’s office the following week. They admitted me to the birthing suite and immediately started me on antibiotics as a prophylactic measure to counteract the Group B Strep should the test they swabbed have positive results.
By the time I got into the room, around 6:00 p.m., I was having pretty strong contractions. I made it no secret to the nurses and the resident that I wanted whatever drugs could be given to me. I think I actually requested a Margarita IV drip, which got a good laugh. The resident added some pain killer to my IV – which turned out to do nothing. The resident called Dr. Roberts – my doctor – who said that I could have an epidural whenever I was ready. I met Charlie, the nurse anesthetist, who confirmed that he would be ready with the epidural whenever I was ready. For some unknown reason, I decided to wait a little longer. The nurse on duty – Flo – suggested that I wait because the contractions were “only going to get worse.” So, I waited – a huge mistake.
As time went on, obviously the contractions got stronger. It was then that Nurse Flo decided that I needed to complete my paperwork, which she decided to lay out over my pregnant belly while I lay flat in the bed. After she explained each page – and I honestly didn’t care at that point – she then asked, “Do you have a pen?” I looked at my husband in disbelief thinking, “Sure, I’m hiding a pen somewhere on my naked body behind this flimsy hospital gown.” My hate relationship with her had begun.
As the hours ticked on, the pain grew substantially worse. Poor Todd – he felt helpless as I grew silent and withdrew completely inside of myself. I had to go to a place inside of me and completely block out everything else in order to be able to tolerate the pain. I didn’t want him to touch me nor talk to me. I could tell by the look on his face that he was next to devastation. He sat quietly in the recliner across the room and watched me, having learned by this point not to even ask what he could do for me.
A little before 10:00 p.m., I asked Nurse Flo again to let the doctor know that I wanted my epidural. I had asked for it earlier and had not yet received it. There always seemed to be some excuse with her – “the doctor was coming in” and never showed, “the doctors were all in an emergency in the Emergency Room” and on and on. It was after 11:00 p.m. and only after I got quite rude with Nurse Flo before I saw the nurse anesthetist and the doctor. At which point the doctor said, “Why didn’t you let us know? I could’ve given you something else in the IV for pain.” Todd and I looked at each other in disbelief and relayed to her we had been letting Nurse Flo know for a couple of hours. I felt sincere hatred for Nurse Flo.
Before hospitalization, I had been a little leery of the epidural – having heard from a few people that it was pretty painful. I’m not sure if it was the contraction pain taking my mind off of it, but the epidural was nothing comparatively. It was around 11:30 p.m. when I finally received my epidural. I remember at one point during the procedure having a pretty intense contraction. I let the nurse anesthetist know that a big contraction was coming on. I certainly didn’t want to cringe in contraction pain only to have him slip and leave me paralyzed for life. He simply replied, “Good. It will take your mind off of the epidural.” It wasn’t long before I was feeling pretty good and Todd and I had nicknamed nurse anesthetist Charlie “Cocktail Charlie.” The staff got a good kick out of that.
After the epidural, it didn’t occur to me that Cocktail Charlie was hanging out in my room for a long period of time. The nurses had come in several times to let him know that he was needed in another patient room, but he simply said, “I’ll be right there.” It also didn’t occur to me that he had been keeping a close check on the machine monitoring my vitals until a nurse and a doctor rushed into my room. Todd and I quickly exchanged glances while the doctor said to me, “Are you feeling light-headed?” Never having been through this, I assumed this was a normal question for someone just having had an epidural. “I feel fine. Why?” I said. “Well, you had a little drop in your blood pressure,” she replied at which point I looked over at the monitor and saw that my blood pressure was 95/45. If I hadn’t been feeling so good from the epidural and pain medication, I probably would’ve been more alarmed than I was. Throughout the pregnancy, I had problems with high blood pressure having been diagnosed with gestational hypertension. Eventually, my blood pressure stabilized and a nurse later joked with me – “welcome back from the dead!” By this time, awful nurse Flo had been replaced with a wonderful nurse named Michelle. Thank goodness! Epidural + pain medication + new fantastic nurse made Jackie a happy girl. The night was finally looking up.
THE BIRTH OF ELLA: DAY 1
The day we came home from the hospital I couldn't wait to get those pesky hospital tags off of my wrist. They had pumped me so full of fluids and I was so bloated that the wristbands felt like they were cutting off my circulation. They were actually leaving marks/indentations on my wrist. It was just one more thing after 4 days in the hospital that was driving me completely insane. I cut them off and then handed the scissors to Todd and he gently cut Ella's "bracelets" off of her ankle. He then holds them up - completely straight-faced - and says, "What will we do if we need to return her now that we've cut the tags off?!?"
Number of hours between asking for my epidural and actually getting it: 3.5
Number of days in the hospital: 5
Number of annoying nurses: 4
Number of weeks to my projected due date: 4
Beautiful baby girl: priceless
February 8, 2008
6 pounds 1 ounce, 20 inches