Somehow, Bingo is six months old. I want to write a post about her transformation from squishy newborn to funny, active little person, but right now I’m painfully aware of both my overall failure to blog and my specific failure to blog about Bingo’s birth. I’ll begin with the latter in an attempt to remedy the former. Still following? Good!
Bingo’s birth story was mostly written at the time of the event, time- stamped updates typed into my phone by me and then, later, by Sea. If you don’t want to read it, here is the summary:
After the contractions brought about by induction #1– cervical gel- tapered off, induction #2- pitocin- went ahead as scheduled, beginning on November 21st. Labor was long, painful, and scary at times. It culminated in two hours of pushing, followed by a caesarean after I spiked a fever and labor stalled. Of course, what it really culminated in was the birth of the fabulous Bingo. This end product- and the care/love of Sea, our friends, and our fabulous midwives- make this a happy story, even though, at the time, a lot of it felt like anything but.
And here is the long version, written on November 21st and 22nd, 2013.
Additions are in italics, but here- mostly as it happened, is Bingo’s birth.
Overnight on November 20th: By the time I go to bed at midnight, contractions are coming quickly, though they’re still mild. I’m sure that I’ll wake up in the night in full labor. Instead I wake up at 2:30am to find that they’ve slowed down. I walk around for an hour, but decide that sleep is more important than trying to force their return. At 7:00am I wake up to find that the contractions have stopped, but that I’ve leaked fluid. I page the student midwife, who seems totally unimpressed with this development. She tells me that the fluid is probably just watery cervical mucus, and without contractions not much changes. Induction part 2.5 is still on for 10:30am. Mild contractions start again.
10:51am, November 21st: Back at the hospital, contractions effectively stopped. Sea, a first year student midwife (who I haven’t mentioned, but we’ve been letting her follow our pregnancy as a learning experience) and I are in the room where Bingo will be born. We’ve somehow lucked into a large private room with a view. Now we sit and wait for somebody to remember we’re here.
11:26am: The doctor (a different one than yesterday), a nurse and two student nurses come in. The doctor, an incredibly nice and bubbly woman, made the student nurses stand to the side. A last attempt to preserve my modesty? The drip is in now, which is making me fight with my fear of needles. I’m lying down, waiting, and trying to ignore my left hand.
12:21pm: Nothing is happening. I am slowly knitting, the student midwife (First Year) is crocheting, Sea has pulled out her laptop.
12:47pm: Still not much is happening. I watch each contraction on the monitor, and am annoyed when the reading on one contraction is lower than the last. They’re still mild and totally manageable. First Year has gone for coffee.
(Later I was told that the readings have nothing to do with contraction strength/effectiveness. Oh well.)
1:09pm: Surprise visit from Herbal Tea, at the hospital to pay a bill! It’s nice to see her smiling face: really. While she sits and smiles at me, the nurse comes in and adjusts the IV. “Let’s get this show on the road!”
(Now I remember Herbal Tea’s visit as one of the most positive parts of my hospital experience. Though I had a much closer relationship with Diet Coke, Herbal Tea came in at exactly the right moment, smelling like fresh air and familiarity.)
1:15pm: IVs are fast! Contractions are getting stronger and closer together. This is good for my competitive spirit.
2:12pm (the first update written by Sea): Sea says, “Try to sleep…” The nurse responds sarcastically, “Yeah you can try between the pains!”
(Neither Sea or I wrote anything for the next 4.5 hours. At some point The Doctor arrived, though I don’t remember when. During these hours the contractions became stronger and harder to manage. I couldn’t talk through them, and the sound of people talking became unbearable. Turned on my side, during each one I would cover my ears and huff and puff as if to blow the house down. Still tethered to the IV, I could only move if the nurse or The Doctor unhooked me, briefly.
I considered an epidural, twice. The first time the anesthesiologist came by and described it, effectively, as sunshine and rainbows. There would be no pain! There were no side effects! Maybe a headache, but nothing more. Even through the pain of contractions, I knew that wasn’t true. I rejected the epidural but then, when the nurse came by to increase the drugs being used for induction, I gave up. The epidural took effect almost immediately, and the relief- at the time- was indescribable.)
6:45pm: Epidural. The nurse asks if I’m feeling normal. I respond, “Not like this morning or nine months ago…” and nurse says, “You will never feel normal again.”
6:50pm: I smilingly tell Sea and the Student Midwife, “Now everything’s great! Labor A. is a sucker.”
6:53pm (the first update actually written by me since 1:15pm): Had an epidural. No regrets.
7:04pm: I’ve decided that they should sell portable epidurals, for period cramps or the general discomforts of life.
7:49pm: Two of our good friends, The Doctor and V, have arrived at the hospital. I’m alone for a moment, as Sea and First Year have gone to eat dinner with them. Later, Sea, First Year and The Doctor will come back in while V waits to see if any of us need more support. I’m so grateful for all of them, for this community of support, Bingo’s extended family. I’m especially grateful for Sea.
8:15pm (written by Sea again): I am 5 to 6 cm dilated. The doctor (the actual doctor, not our friend) breaks my water. There’s meconium in it, but we’re okay. The doctor says, “Well, now I’m more optimistic.”
(No time stamp): Bingo’s heart rate begins to drop every time that I lie on my left side. When I lie on my right side it goes back up.
8:49pm: It’s incredible how quickly interventions add up- I’m hooked up to IVs, monitors, a catheter, the epidural. We didn’t have a birthplan to mourn, so I don’t feel sad: it’s just strange.
(Every update after this was written by Sea, though most of them were dictated by me.)
8:57pm: Bloodwork, “just in case” I have to go into the OR.
11:40pm: I have terrible heartburn, enough to make me feel sick. In the midst of a Code Pink (not mine), they bring me an antacid.
12:15am: Bingo’s heartrate has been too high for 15 minutes. A nice nurse- Nurse Peggy- comes in, smiles, and hooks up more fluid. We like her, because she’s the first nurse who smiles.
12:40am: I’m 9cm dilated, and they sit me up to bring the baby down more. (I don’t actually remember this.) They think the baby is “sunny side up”, and pushing could take 2 or 3 hours.
1:05am: It’s been a long time since I’ve thrown up at 1am.
3:45am: Sea’s update from this time reads, “pushing vomiting poop etc pen dropped on vagina”. Most of this, I think, is pretty self-explanatory and I remember it only as a feverish blur. As for the pen being dropped on my vagina, this actually happened. The doctor accidentally dropped it during an exam. I think she mentioned something about disinfecting it afterwards.
4:45am: My temperature is high. Diet Coke says that we will make a decision together, but that the doctor might want to get the baby out faster.
5:00am: The doctor gives the midwives 30 minutes to help me progress with Tylenol, fluids and pushing. She’ll then come back in to check, talk, and make a plan.
5:13am: There is a one second power outage, which resets all of the machines. (I don’t remember this at all.)
5:24am: The midwives encourage me every step of the way. “Oh, the baby is much lower! That’s a good change! I’m impressed with you! You are an impressive pusher! That is some decent change!” Bingo is still facing sunny side up.
5:28am: Because of the epidural, I can’t tell when I’m having contractions. I become fixated on the monitor, trying to read and respond to the contractions that way. The Student Midwife says that we will get to see the sun rise.
5:38am: I have a temperature and, no matter how hard I try to push, the baby is not progressing. I am maxed out on the drugs used for induction.
5:40am: After two hours of pushing, the doctor says that my high temperature is not a good sign. She tells us that Bingo will be born via c-section. She tells me that she is proud of me, and that there is no failure in this.
5:58am: The Student Midwife tells me that the baby is doing fine, that it’s about me now. I have a high temperature, there’s blood in my urine, and they’re worried about uterine infection. Despite two hours of pushing, Bingo is not moving. As I’m rushed to the OR, Sea is tossed a gown, hat and booties. Diet Coke hugs Sea and tells her that I am a great pusher- that the doctor rarely says proud.
This is where the updates end.
After this point, I remember looking at the hallway lights as I was wheeled to the operating room. I was asked to sign something, an almost impossible feat for my heavy and shaking hand. Once the paper was signed, my arms and body were strapped down: a good thing, as I began shaking uncontrollably almost as soon as the anesthetic was administered. I would not stop shaking until I was in the recovery room, already holding Bingo on my chest. I felt vague tugs and pushes as the doctor and medical student took over from the anesthesiologist. Terrified for Bingo’s wellbeing and totally unconcerned with my own, it felt to me like the procedure took hours. Sea sat by my head, the Student Midwife stood beside her, Diet Coke was on the other side of the surgical sheet watching as Bingo was born. I don’t remember anything that anybody said or did until Bingo let out her first cry, an angry squawk that I was so relieved to hear. After this, the doctor- or somebody- commented, “He has an impressive head!” With Bingo safe and separated from me, I became more aware of my shaking body and the surgery that was currently taking place. Even when Bingo, wiped clean and swaddled, was placed in Sea’s arms, I had trouble focussing on this brand new baby. “Look at our perfect baby”, Sea would say. I would look, but then find my attention drawn back to the surgery, blurrily reflected in the metal dome of the lamp above me. Eventually they were done, and the room slowly emptied. Sea and Bingo were gone, and a stranger told me to wrap my arms around myself so that they could move me out of the ER. I hugged my strangely empty body, and everything was unfamiliar. In the recovery room I finally held Bingo, as both of us blinked in this bright and unknown space.
In the days and weeks following Bingo’s birth, I felt upset with how it had gone. I felt overwhelmed by the physical recovery from surgery, and the lingering impacts of the interventions. I felt disappointed in myself for not having done things differently, though I don’t know what ‘differently’ would have involved. Now, though, I don’t really feel that way. Partially, things feel different because of the human brain’s impressive ability to forget the things that overwhelm it. But mainly things feel different because the negative physical experience of labor and birth is such a small part of what happened then and what has happened since. Throughout the labor and birth, Bingo, Sea and I were surrounded by the love and support of an incredible network of friends. We experienced amazing care, both then and in the weeks that followed, from dedicated and impossibly skilled midwives. I had Sea. And, of course, Sea and I have Bingo- a small, vibrant person much more important than her birth. As Diet Coke told me once, as I sat crying in her office, “Birth is just the doorway. Some people get to go through it smoothly, others bump their heads. But the rest of your lives is the journey: the birth is just the door.”
And that, friends, was the one we went through.