My Birth Story: Insert Labor Day Pun Here

So yesterday was my due date, but I already have a bouncing baby boy who is over 3 weeks old!

Since I shared my first birth story here, I wanted to share this one as well. Did I really write a FOUR POST series the first time around? Geeze. (See here, here, here, and here)

This will just be the one post. Spoiler alert: this time around went MUCH quicker.

So rewind to September 3rd, the day before labor day and the day of my baby shower. We cut it close, to say the least.

It had been an eventful weekend, as we’d also just moved into a new house. After spending the day at my parents house, we came home to box land to go to bed on a mattress on the floor. Junior was having trouble sleeping in our new house, so dada was showing him cat videos on his phone while I showered. And in the shower, I started having contractions. Not the usual ones, either, these ones hurt. In fact, I thought to myself about how water was called “the midwife’s epidural” and how that must be some crap because I wasn’t even in labor and the water was doing nothing for me (ha. ha. I never think I’m in labor when I’m in labor).

I got out of the shower and immediately started timing the contractions. Right off the bat they were 30 seconds long and two minutes apart.  I was miserable. I wanted to call the doctor right then, but again, I thought there was no way this was labor. I’d give it an hour to stop. Well, that was one of the longest hours of my life, and by the end of it the contractions were still consistent and I was beginning to think this was indeed labor.

So it happened that the moment my husband laid our son down to sleep, I opened the door and told him sorry, but we gotta go.

He insisted on packing a bag and even had the audacity to ask if I wanted to put some pants on. NO. NO I DID NOT. DAMN IT.

We arrived at the hospital just after midnight. It was officially Labor Day.

Exactly like last time, I didn’t think I had hit transition yet. This time, however, every nurse I encountered tried to tell me I was. But I’d only been in labor for an hour and a half, and it seemed like there was a long road ahead. Spoiler alert: there wasn’t.

I demanded an epidural PRONTO. I thought I’d get in a nap and be refreshed and ready when time to push rolled around. But while they set the epidural, my water broke and the nurse said call the doctor, it’s time to push.

All the while I’m still quite certain we have a ways to go. When I arrived, I was only at 4 centimeters! It had only been 30 minutes! Well bam, they measured again and in half an hour I’d gone from 4 to 10. No wonder I was in so much pain! Dang!

So I was totally bewildered. At this point we were just waiting on the doctor. It was pretty easy to resist the urge to push thanks to the epidural, but I also had a cold, and I could not resist the urge to cough. Every time I did, the whole room jumped. “WHOA, whoa, eeeasy!” One nurse said he didn’t know what would happen if I sneezed.

My doctor wasn’t on call (of course). When the on call doctor arrived, lo and behold, it was the same doctor who had delivered Junior! I guess they have her working all the holidays.

I pushed for one contraction. Everyone exchanged looks and the nurse said “ok, we might need you to do a half-push next time. Just listen really carefully, we might ask.” and I’m like “ok…I don’t know how to do a half push…” and one of the guys shook his head and smiled. “She’s going to have this baby without pushing.”

And I don’t even know what to tell you. At 3:08 am on Labor Day morning, my baby just arrived of his own accord. Most of my laboring was in my coughing, which sounds like I’m kidding but it’s true. I looked down and saw a baby. He wasn’t crying because this labor wasn’t weird enough already. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but it was very loose. The NICU people looked him over, suctioned him, weighed him, still no crying. He didn’t even cry when he got his vitamin K shot. I just kept asking “is something wrong? Is he ok? Why isn’t he crying?” the doctors just said they’d checked him over, he was healthy, seems happy… he must just be a very chill baby.

I guess so. He’s healthy as a baby horse. He just didn’t cry for the first 24 hours of his life. I guess because he didn’t feel like it. Or he enjoyed freaking me out.

So TA DA. That’s the end of the story. I just had a baby all of a sudden. Obviously, very different from my first son. He had a special yellow hat at the hospital to signify that he was late preterm, so that nurses would know to watch him extra close. He was tiny to us – 7 lbs 4 oz. But whenever we marvel out loud about how small he is, everyone is quick to say “he’s actually kinda regular size, even big for a preterm baby.”

We always joked with Junior that we “never had a newborn.” He was so big and strong. He was chubby, had hair, he didn’t look like a newborn or flop around. This time, we had a newborn. A preterm newborn even! Honestly it really scares me sometimes how small he is. He doesn’t have a lot of baby fat (he’s got a lot of baby fur though!) and you can feel how small and fragile his little bones are. For the first week of his life, we were at the doctor every day to monitor his weight gain. He had a lip tie and a tongue tie, breastfeeding got off to a really rocky start, and he was slightly jaundiced so he was a hard sleeper. So hard that it was often difficult to get him to eat, he was just so sleepy!

But we had his tongue and lip ties corrected early on. He got better at eating, his jaundice went away, and he passed his birth weight. He really is quite strong – he was lifting his head from day one! Sometimes I think he could roll over if he really put his mind to it. And I knew when he was still in the womb what a strong kicker he is – he used to wake me up with it! But to me, he still seems really, really, REALLY small. I love it as much as it worries me.

So that’s the story of Finny, named for the character in A Separate Peace. He already seems as precocious, innocent, and spontaneous as his namesake.

I’ll try to write more soon. As of now, I’m very sleep deprived, I’m still unpacking and getting settled in our new house, and I’m already feeling some endometriosis and IBS and anxiety things sneaking up on me. This is easily the craziest time of my life so far, and my husband said it’s honestly a good bet that this will be the craziest time of our lives ever – having a toddler and a newborn, moving, and did I mention my husband just switched careers too?

Yeah spacing that stuff out would have been good. But! Here we are. So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, you know why. But the blog is not done.

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Birth Story Pt. 3: All Dilated and Nowhere to Go

(Read Pt. 1 Here) (Read Pt. 2 Here)

While we were driving, I fielded the idea of going to a hospital again. Which means I randomly yelled “Hospital?!” and “Medicine?!” a few times in between contractions.

We were in a really awkward position actually. Our birth center was a 45 minute drive (maybe 25 if we seriously endangered ourselves). And remember that I don’t know I’m in transition – I believe the worst is yet to come. Under this assumption, along with the influence of having not slept at all in over 24 hours (happy new year!), I have lost any confidence in my ability to have this baby without pain medication.

There’s a hospital nearby, but we already know what we’ll get there: pitocin, episiotomy, and no say in anything that happens. I’m willing to surrender my rights and preferences, however, because I have just crashed through every level of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs and I’m sure I’m actually dying. Plus a part of me is thinking this baby’s coming in the car either way, might as well be near a hospital.

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So I start chirping out some new vocabulary: “Go to Baylor? Go to Baylor?”

Because downtown, only about 20 minutes away, is the hospital that midwives had recommended for us if we couldn’t find a birth center that took our insurance and had room for us. When I had kidney stones, we wound up in another Baylor hospital in another city, and they had been very pro-natural birth. I know because we were bracing ourselves to go in to early labor before we figured out what was going on.

Husband acquiesced and we headed downtown for a hospital I’d never set foot in before, flying on faith and pain-driven madness.

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My memory of things gets ragged around this point. The pain was more mind-warping than narcotics. I remember flashes of things and lots of panic. I know that when we got there we had trouble finding the right door, but once we did they had special parking spaces right there. I remember walking down the halls thinking “ok, gotta be quiet now” while I kept yelling because I guess my brain was done having a say in what my body did.

I remember walking up to a desk where a receptionist smiled and said “Happy New Year!” before I put my head down on the papers she tried to hand me. Then she said “You can sit on the floor if you like. You wouldn’t be the first.” So I dropped to the ground and kept audibly crying while Hubs filled out the paperwork. Two nurses came up with a wheelchair, one saying she doubted I’d want to sit still at this point. She was correct, but for some reason I also felt it would be rude to turn down, so I decided I’d try.

The nurses were so sweet to me. They kept saying what a good job I was doing working through those contractions, and to take my time. My brain wouldn’t really let me feel embarrassed by the scene I was making, but I definitely had the feeling that I should be embarrassed.

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Pain pain pain and the next thing I remember is getting to a room. I had to get in the bed – easier said than done. I rolled and crawled around and screamed when they made me sit still to get a quick temperature or pulse. They asked what my birth plan was – how refreshing! And I think I communicated that I wanted to go natural but I can’t. The nurse said she just wanted to tell me that when moms get desperate like this, they’re usually very very close.

My brain said yeah, we know. Transition. But we’re not even to transition yet. And I can’t. Later I realized she was trying to tell me this was transition, right now! I was 7 cm dialated and 100% effaced. I took in this information. I remember it. But at the time I just couldn’t process it.

I’d also decided there was no way I could have this baby until I could sleep first – this was also something my brain got from our midwife. She said to go to sleep. She meant that I wasn’t really in labor, so this command didn’t actually apply but my brain held fast to it anyway.

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So we went for the epidural.

When we were learning about epidurals, it was one of the things that gave me panic attacks – literally. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. Needles make me nervous, and I hate things in my skin. I couldn’t handle illustrations or even talking about it. But in the wee hours of New Years Day I got one without hardly batting an eye. My husband was in awe, he said he couldn’t believe how well I did with it. Neither could I. I barely remember it.

As soon as it was in, I felt I’d made the right choice and the wrong choice all at once.

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I felt confident in my choice because the medicine worked swiftly and I didn’t feel loopy or sleepy at all. It was like someone simply turned off the pain. I could move my legs and change positions as much as I liked, so labor class wouldn’t go to waste. But the biggest, most important thing to me was my mind. Clear away the pain and my mind was suddenly clear and sharp. I could talk, reason, ask questions, understand the answers, and most importantly, remember it all. From here on, my memory is crystal clear. Without the medication, much of my labor would be in the same choppy haze as my early labor memories.

I was able to go to sleep for about 30 minutes. It felt like 3 hours at least, and I woke up rested and ready to bring a baby into the world.

The epidural also slowed down labor, which gave my parents and sister time to speed across the state of Texas and get there in time to be with me.

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There were a lot of pros that I hadn’t anticipated. But I still regretted it at the same time. Had I given up too soon? Was I a stereotypical first time mom with great expectations that were destined to fail? Did I pressure my husband into not having a say? Would it affect my baby? I was disappointed in myself. Everything happened for the best. Husband says he has no doubt that if I’d decided to go without, that baby would have popped out super quick and it would have been fine, but this way I got to sleep and my family was able to make it to us. I have no good reason to feel bad about getting an epidural, but I do anyway.

After my nap, my family arrived and the doctor recommended we break my water. Here was another intervention! I felt sure I’d ruined all our good intentions by getting an epidural. We were hesitant. We asked questions. The doctor was more than happy to talk it through. She said this was better than using pitocin, which she wanted to avoid as much as we did. She explained that she felt there was little risk of “rushing” the baby since baby was pretty much ready to debut and we slowed it down.

So we went for it. I was so nervous, I knew this could be very painful. But my pain was still “turned off” so I didn’t feel a thing. There also wasn’t an embarrassing gush of fluid – at least not on the scale I imagined in my brain’s worry room (see, it’s like a war room, but with worry…? It’s not the best play on words but I’m going with it).

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I also got another dose of epidural. This time it was much harder to move – it felt like my legs were wrapped in a thick layer of very heavy something.

Then before I knew it, the nurse said “okay, it’s time to push!”

To be concluded……..

How Does Making a Doctor Appointment Make You Feel?

If you’re a regular, healthy person, making an appointment to see the doctor probably isn’t a hugely emotional event. You may be slightly annoyed by it if you have to miss work or something, or you might be kind of excited just because it’s a break from normal routine.

I, personally, see the doctor a lot. Obviously right now I’m almost 9 months pregnant so of course I’m at the doctor all the time, but outside of pregnancy I end up there a lot. Endometriosis flares up, IBS starts giving me grief, or sometimes completely new symptoms come out to play and we need to figure out what the heck is going on. Going to the doctor is more routine for me.

So am I the only one who gets depressed when I schedule an appointment? I never want to call. I wait and research and try things on my own until finally I have to call. I make an appointment and as soon as I get off the phone, I feel so sad. Time to go to the doctor…again. It seems like I was just there. I wonder if I’ll get stuck and poked this time. I wonder if there will even be anything we can do to help this. I wonder if I’ll get another “life-sentence” diagnosis. What is it this time?

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Usually the appointment itself isn’t bad or life-altering….usually. But the lead up to it is such a depressing streak of time, at least for me. I imagine this is a common reaction among the chronically ill –  but you tell me!

How does making an appointment make you feel? Do you feel anything or is it just a normal part of your life, like going to the grocery store or doing laundry? Are you excited to get in to see a doctor? Does the problem-solving aspect excite you? Do you become angry, resentful, or sad like me?

Tell me about it in the comments! The holidays are a busy time for doctors – many people schedule their check ups around this time, so I’m thinking there are probably a lot of you out there who have this on your minds right now. Every time I’m up at the hospital in December, the parking is as bad as the malls!

Tis the season I guess!

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Pregnancy Update: 34 Weeks/Doctor Debacle

If you’re reading this blog, you probably have enough experience with doctors to know how frustrating and bewildering they can be. Even if you love your doctor, you’ve probably had your share of “wtf” moments with them too.

If I’m really brutally honest, this isn’t really the first time my doctor has let me down. He can be hard to contact and unreasonable about refilling prescriptions if I’m overdue for an appointment – even if I’m scheduled to come in later that week. Nope, you’ll just have to spend 3 or 4 days unmedicated. Oh, and during that time he won’t talk to me either, this news is relayed by nurses. And I often feel rushed through appointments with no chance to ask questions or voice concerns – or he seems to be in such a hurry that I feel like I need to pick the most important question and ask only that one. And honestly, he usually makes me feel silly for asking anything.

So why do I say I like him? Well, I do. I mean as a person, I genuinely like him. He’s funny, we share similar interests, and we’ve known each other for years. When we talk about non-medical things, he really feels like a friend. That’s part of the reason I feel bad asking medical questions, actually. I don’t want to come off as disrespectful or untrusting to this doctor that I genuinely like. And he has been good to me. He’s answered midnight calls and treated my endometriosis well. He’s operated on me three times. I trust him. He also worked with my infertility doctor off the clock to figure out what might work best for my PCOS. I believe he really cares.

But on the other hand, I started seeing him when I was a teenager. So we definitely started out with that “doctor is above patient” relationship – that is, he was a figure of authority and I was a kid. So as an adult, I still feel “less than.” You know what I mean? I still kind of feel like the embarrassed teenager who should just do what the doctor says. But I’m not. I’m actually an award-winning health blogger now who spends a lot of time researching a lot of medical articles on all sorts of things.

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So maybe things were doomed to begin with.

What does a health blogger do when she gets pregnant? She reads (and reviews) all sorts of books on pregnancy and birth. She watches documentaries. She reads blogs. She takes all the classes she can. And she does something very controversial: she makes a birth plan.

I know. It’s a joke among doctors and nurses and crazy-talk among the “normal” moms and moms-to-be. It’s the hallmark of a controlling, naive “birthzilla.” I knew that and I wanted to emphasize that I am not one of those crazy moms. I respect the doctors’ and nurses’ training and value their advice. I want to talk things out when we can. But to my mind, it seemed like a good idea to have everything written down because when I’m in labor I may not be the best communicator.

I also wanted to talk through the birth day with my doctor beforehand. I wanted to get an idea of his general protocol and what to expect at this specific hospital with him. I’d already told him I wanted a natural-as-possible birth and while it was clear that was unusual to him he seemed on board. So I just wanted to go in with my husband, hand him the birth plan (such a dirty word. Is “list” better?), and just talk through it.

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He begrudgingly took it and put it in my folder without looking at it. He said he’s done so many births that he doesn’t need to read it, he knows what’s on it. He informs us that when our due date arrives we will be induced with pitocin if we haven’t had the baby yet – and he doesn’t know that’s the number one thing we want to avoid because he didn’t look at the list. Not inducing labor is our strongest wish. I understand there are situations where it can’t be helped, but I also know most women go past their due date, so this is basically a scheduled induction for no medical reason.

He went on to say that he always does episiotomies if you start to tear. Never mind that most doctors no longer do routine episiotomies. He does. And again, he doesn’t know I would rather tear than be cut. He doesn’t talk about it like an option – it’s simply a statement of what will be.

Being free to choose positions won’t matter. Walking, access to a shower, I can pretend all I want that I’ll do those things, but in the end I’m going to want an epidural after all and none of my research and thought will matter.

He concludes by saying that almost everyone who comes in with a birth plan ends up in c-section. It’s just bad luck to discuss it before the big day. Yeah, I definitely want to save the decision-making and question-asking for the day when I’m out of my mind because I’m 10 hours in to labor. That sounds great because I’ll probably be unable to understand any complex decisions – that way the doctor gets to do whatever he wants thinks is best.

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Husband and I were stunned into mostly silence. We felt we had no control over our birth. What we envisioned as a “special day” was quickly sounding like another surgery day. This person who we felt some degree of friendship with wouldn’t even read our wishes, much less work with us on them. Husband had taken off of work to talk and ended up being shooed away without any kind of person-to-person communication. We went to lunch and frantically tried to come up with a way out. Was it too late for a birth center? A midwife? Everyone we’ve talked to so far is booked up already.

A couple of days later my husband got a call from the doctor. He said he’d looked over our plan after all and wanted to talk about it. Well, that’s what we wanted to do last time! Husband was quick to say he couldn’t take off of work again, and insisted on an after hours appointment to talk. So that’s on the horizon somewhere. But husband’s currently out of town, and I’m going in for my Strep B test tomorrow.

Pretty sure I’m going to get a talking to about how ridiculous a natural birth would be. Husband is more optimistic. He thinks we’re in for an apology and some real team work from here on out.

I look back on the advice I’ve given on this blog for years. Things like “Don’t be afraid to fire your doctor.” Well, I’ve never been on such a strict medical time table before. If I do need to fire my doctor, I’m not looking at a few weeks/months of staying sick while I look. Baby ain’t waiting.

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I am not a high risk pregnancy. I’ve done my research and I know there’s no reason I can’t have a natural birth if that’s what I want to do. I know not everyone wants a natural birth. I know it’s going to hurt. I’ve lived with pain a long time now. I know it well. I know the difference between good pain (the kind that comes from running a marathon or climbing a mountain) and bad pain (the kind that comes from illness and injury). Getting pregnant was so hard for me, and this is likely the only child I’ll have. I may not get another chance to try it and see what it’s like. So if it’s not putting me or the baby in danger… why am I being forced into medication and procedures I don’t want? No, it’s worse than that. Why am I not even getting to be a part of the conversation? Ugh.

At this point I’m feeling so discouraged that I’m positive the comment section is going to fill with people telling me doctors DO know best and natural childbirth is just a dumb fad and why should any of it matter anyhow? In the end you get a baby, and if you tried to do it without a doctor you’d probably get yourself killed. Stop being a birthzilla.

Well I can’t. I’m too passionate about health and advocacy. If I can’t advocate for my birth, how can I keep blogging about patient advocacy? I advocated for better student disability rights at my university. I advocated for myself against doctors who wouldn’t keep me informed about tests of my own health. I’ve fired doctors before. I’ve kept trying until I’ve gotten the help I need before. I don’t have a medical degree, I don’t know better than them, but the doctor-patient relationship needs to be on a more equal level than the mechanic-car relationship.

We’ll see what happens.

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Birthzilla or proactive patient? I’m sure you’ll tell me what you think in the comments. 🙂

Pre-Operation Report

I know many of my friends and family are anxious to hear the latest as I go in to surgery, and I also know that sharing my experience step by step could be very helpful to fellow endo sisters about to undergo a laperoscopy, so I thought I’d keep a little log of my experiences as I go. Continue reading