To help fill in posts while I recover and adjust to life with a newborn AND a toddler I have some friends who have agreed to share their birth stories. Today is Brigid, the hilariously wonderful author of Now Showing! and one of the people whose blog I’ve followed before I knew “following someone’s blog” was a thing people did. Fair warning: it’s a birth story so it’s rated PG-13. And don’t get all shocked if someone says “vagina”. Brigid has a potty mouth, which I love about her so I’m posting unedited. If you can’t swear a little after childbirth, really, WHY HAVE FREEDOM AT ALL AMERICA?
Nikola’s Birth Story
by Brigid Keely
It started on Friday March 13th, really. The Braxton Hicks contractions had settled into a fairly routine but not painful pattern, and then they started hurting. Not hurting hurting; they felt like menstrual cramps only more so, and a back ache. I felt odd, too. Very alert, but wanting to conserve energy. I started timing contractions, and by the middle afternoon they were 4-5 minutes apart, pretty consistently. There were a few times where they’d slow down and have a twenty minute rest or so, but over all they were pretty consistent. I called Nesko and asked him to come home a little early. I didn’t think labor was imminent, but I wanted him near by. At this point, my mucus plug was intact and my water was entirely contained. Nesko called the birthing center and since this is my first kid, we were advised to wait until contractions were 3-4 minutes apart instead of 4-5. First babies usually are pokey babies, slow to come out. Lazy assholes.
Around 2:30 that morning (Saturday March 14th, Pi Day) contractions ramped up considerably. I took a very warm shower which helped and we timed contractions a bit more, then went to the hospital because they were very consistent and close together (every minute and twenty seconds to three minutes) and ramping up in intensity. I threw up before leaving, as I mentioned earlier. We live in Chicago, which gets terrible pot holes over the winter, and I felt every single one of them as we drove over them. So instead of speeding to the hospital we crept slowly along so as not to jostle me too much. This added maybe two minutes to our trip.
Nesko let me out in front of the hospital, I rang the special buzzer to be let in, and waddled slowly upstairs, stopping every two minutes or so during a contraction. I got to the nurse’s station and was all “I’m in labor, y’all. Contractions every 1-3 minutes. Ow. Wait. Ok. Sup?” And they were all “so is this your second baby? Third?” and I was all “Nope, number one.” And they were all “holy fuck you are so calm. Come this way.” And I was all “My husband’s on the way up. Do you need my insurance card?” “Naw, we’ll take that later.”
So I went into this tiny room and changed into a hospital gown and they poked around at me and found out that I wasn’t dilated at all. THANK YOU CERVIX. But I was contracting and the baby’s heart was thumping away, the way it does. They took my insurance information and moved me to a delivery room which apparently was the only delivery room that hadn’t been fitted with a DVD player yet. We hung out there all day. I spent most of the time lying on the bed with an IV hooked into my fore arm and monitors strapped to my belly. The pain was pretty bad. When I was finally allowed to get up, the pain was a lot less. My mucus plug started coming out and let me tell you, it’s pretty gross. Like my vagina had bronchitis. Contractions got less intense and less consistent the longer I was in the hospital.
That evening (I mentioned we were there ALL DAY, right?) my doctor came in and was all “In the past kabillion hours you have dilated to 1.3 or some petty shit like that. We can give you pitocin and hope to ramp this up, but most likely you’d have a C-Section and you and I both want to avoid that. You can go home if you want, or we can start the intervention train.” He was more medical in his presentation, this is a translation. I elected to go home and wait things out.
IRONICALLY, had I tried the pitocin, I would probably have had a C-Section anyway AND had a baby born on March 15th which is the Ides of March. SORRY NERDY BABY.
I spent all of Sunday, March 15th, curled up on the couch watching “Myth Busters” while Nesko timed contractions. He kept asking how long it’d be until go time. I kept losing bits of my mucus plug. Contractions got closer together and stronger. We went to bed around 9:30 or so but I couldn’t really sleep because things were getting painful. Around 11:30 or so, I think, I started getting the urge to go stand in a hot shower thinking it would maybe ease the pain. I put off actually getting up because I was very tired and the bed was very comfy, despite the pain I was in.
Then my water broke.
I swear I heard a popping sound, or maybe felt it, but it was like a giant water balloon exploded in my pants. Fortunately I had been sleeping on a waterproof pad JUST IN CASE and scurried into the bathroom leaving a trail of water all over the floor, which Nesko cleaned up (he was a cleaning machine those few days, let me tell you. He became very intimately acquainted with all kinds of my bodily fluids.), and sat on the toilet to drain a bit. I glooped amniotic fluid and mucus plug both into the toilet, felt really gross, and took a shower. Contractions kept coming. We got dressed and headed to the hospital yet again.
Once again, he dropped me off, I buzzed, so calm, how many babies, etc. This time I was taken straight to the delivery room (the same one we’d been in before, which had no DVD player). I was once again tethered to an IV (in my RIGHT fore arm this time) and fetal monitors and confined to an uncomfortable bed. Nesko tried to sleep. So did I. My back muscles felt like they were being pulled apart. If you’ve ever shredded chicken or beef for tacos or pulled pork for barbecue sandwiches, that’s what it felt like my back muscles were doing. I asked for a shot of demerol so I could sleep; I’d been told by several people affiliated with the hospital (including the hospital tour) that demerol was the drug they use. I’ve had demerol before and it works for me. I was told that no, they do not use demerol, they use something else I hadn’t heard of (stadohl?) and they can only give two injections of it. I asked for an injection and they jabbed my thigh. It dulled the pain slightly, but only for two hours.
I wound up asking for an epidural.
I don’t really remember them putting it in. I think it hurt. My legs went numb and that was really weird. I’d try to move my feet and just… couldn’t. There was nothing. Not quite nothing… it was almost like static between tv or radio stations, if that makes sense. I couldn’t feel the contractions any more unless I really focused on them, and even then it was kind of like when you get a filling at the dentist and you can feel sensations and pressure but not actual pain. I slept a lot, but it wasn’t a refreshing sleep. Somewhere along the line an internal fetal monitor was put in (which I really didn’t want before this all started) and a catheter (no longer having to get up to pee? sounds great in theory, but…).
Several hours later I had progressed to… wait for it… 2 cm dilated! Holy FUCK. THANK YOU CERVIX, YOU LAZY JERK. Pitocin was started to speed things along. Contractions were still strong and frequent, just… nothing was happening. Around 7:30pm I was fully dilated but Nikola hadn’t descended much at all, so we made a bunch of jokes about him being a lazy bum or just too comfortable where he was. My doctor suggested a C-Section. I agreed and was wheeled into the OR which I remember as being right across the hall, but I don’t think it really was. It’s all pretty blurry, frankly. I had to wriggle (numb from the waist down) from my bed onto the operating table, which was crazy narrow and had these like wings for my arms to go on, all spread out. Like Jesus. A fat, pregnant, paralyzed Jesus. They strapped my legs down and erected a curtain. I knew Nesko couldn’t handle the OR and called my mom in (she and my dad were there, well, were in the cafeteria eating). She arrived soon after I’d been strapped down and the epidural increased. It was freezing going in, and let me tell you, it’s creepy to have someone poke your arm and say “can you feel that” and you can, and then poke your stomach and say “can you feel that” and you can and then say “can you feel that” and you didn’t feel anything. I felt so removed from my body.
I fell asleep on the operating table. It was pretty boring. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so when they put Nikola on the counter under the warming lamp and cleaned him up, I couldn’t see anything. My mom narrated how big he was etc but I wasn’t really paying attention. The entire operation took an hour and was held up some because I’m fat and this caused some problems stitching me up (they had to clamp bits of me out of the way). After the operation they took me back into the delivery room and once again I had to wriggle my (even number, but now with additional stitches and severed muscles) self back onto the bed. Nikola was in the room already and people were clustered around him because he is just that cute, he attracts groupies like honey attracts flies. He was naked under the warmer, I guess, but I was really out of it and didn’t really get a good look at him until the next day.
Numb from the waist down, catheterized, de-babied, I lay on the hospital bed. It felt like I was lying in a pool of blood, but I don’t know if I really was or not. I was told someone was going to come in and clean me up, so maybe I really was bloody, I don’t know. I felt the urge to fart, and several people had told me that farting is important after a C-Section (seriously, it is), so I farted. Only it wasn’t a fart. I shit myself. Two, maybe three times. I just couldn’t control it. I am embarrassed to say this, but hey. I’m trying to be truthful about what childbirth can be like (vomit! poop! uncontrollable sweating that wakes you up!) so other people aren’t taken by surprise so there you go. I shit myself. You might also. Or you might not. I lay there in the bed, unmoving, in a pool of blood and shit and I turned to Nesko. “I am lying in bed in a pool of blood and shit, waiting for someone else to come clean me up. I feel so… Decadent.” He laughed. I laughed. Laughing was a mistake. Ow. Anyway, I started referring to this as The Incident in my head.
Several hours later, literally, some people came in to clean me up. They did a poor job, as I found out later. I was taken up to the recovery room which ALSO had no DVD player (allegedly it’s the only recovery room that didn’t have one. WHATEVER.) I was on a morphine drip (mmmm) and in a slightly more comfortable bed. At one point some nurses came in and removed the catheter and told me that “when I felt up to it” I should get up and walk around and use the bathroom. Then they left. It was dark. I slept. Nesko slept. Nikola was in the room with us and kept making monkey noises. I sweated an ungodly amount. UNGODLY. This is apparently normal, also. IT IS THE MIRACLE OF LIFE, Y’ALL.
Eventually the sun came up and I had to kind of pee. You know how it is when you sort of have to pee but it’s not urgent but you want to use the toilet before it becomes urgent? It was like that. I called Nesko over and he helped me haul myself out of bed and onto my no-longer numb feet. I held onto him and the drip stand, and took a few steps, and felt pretty ok to use the toilet. Then we discovered that the drip stand was plugged into the wall, and the cord would not reach to the bathroom. GOOD TIMES. Luckily for us, a nurse came in and was surprised to see me up. She helped me into the bathroom and also helped me clean up. She asked me if I normally “have a little bit of anal leakage.” lolwhut. It turns out the nurses who cleaned me up left poo all over me. May I point out that I’d just had MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY and also had poo all over me? Good one. This nurse cleaned me up very thoroughly and I walked around a little in the room and checked out the baby (so cute! so much hair! huge feet!) and went back to bed.
At some point breast feeding was tried. I wasn’t producing much of anything so mostly we did formula which the hospital supplied.
It was a long, boring, 3 day hospital stay with some mostly terribly bland hospital food (seriously, how do you fuck up mashed potatoes? SERIOUSLY.) and some very inept nurses (oh, hey, no, when I rang for the pain medication I was supposed to have received AN HOUR AND A HALF AGO I didn’t really mean it) and some kind of lax house keeping (my IV pulled out and I bled on the floor and it stayed there for three days; I took a shower and there was a dirty bandaid (not mine) in the shower) and some really kick ass nurses, and a vague promise to take me to a different room to show me a breast feeding video (never happened). We also had a lot of visitors, family and friends, including Brian who kept making jokes that made me laugh and OH THE PAIN but it was totally worth it. On the final day we were told we could probably go home that day as soon as my doctor said it was alright. “check out time” (whatever that is) is 11:00. We were told we could go home around noon-ish. We were finally approved to leave at 5:30pm, which meant we were packed and ready to go and cooling our heels for over five hours before being sprung.
We went to visit Nesko’s family for dinner, then picked up my prescription drugs including pain medication (NOTE: these events should have occurred in reverse order! DUH!) and then went home. I had hilariously awful problems getting in and out of the car, I was so stiff and sore. And then we were home!
That’s pretty much it. I would rather have done a drug-free vaginal birth, but a C-Section isn’t the end of the world, although I do think it’s interfering with my milk production (it was slow to come in and I’m still not producing a huge amount of it). A lot of stuff happened that I didn’t expect, or didn’t expect would happen to me (pooping! Asking for an epidural!) Several nurses remembered me (“You were so calm checking in! I thought you’d had like five kids!” “You’re the one who brought your own pillows! that’s such a great idea!”) which was cool. One nurse (the one who was an hour and a half late with my pain medication, and who kept asking me if I’d gone pee pee or poo poo) came in at like 2am and started asking questions about how many kids I’d had. “This is your second pregnancy? The first was an abortion?” Uh, no, it was a miscarriage, but THANK YOU for asking that in front of my mother or husband, I forget who was there, that’s a totally normal question to ask at 2am FUCK YOU. She came back at 5am with “discharge paperwork” but I yelled at her and she went away before she could ask about my pee pee and poo poo.
That’s pretty much it. I consider most of it uneventful. I had some bad experiences with some of the nurses who didn’t seem to know what they were doing or who violated what’s apparently normal procedure (apparently, normally, you remove a catheter only after someone’s recovered full feeling in their legs AND you help them to the bathroom. You don’t just leave them with vague advice to get up and walk around later when they’re less numb. Also, normally, when someone has an epidural needle or spigot or whatever removed, it’s also normal to remove all the tape and not leave it there. Oh, and epidurals? You can “ring” for more if you feel pain. Nobody told me that for HOURS, that I had my own push button for pain relief.). Other nurses were really great.
People have asked me if I’d do this again and yeah, I would in a few years.
Sorry if this is kind of garbled and confused. I was in pain and/or drugged up and my memory of a lot of stuff is cloudy.
PS it was several days after The Incident before I could poop again. Farting? No problem! Pooping? Oh man, constipation is usually a stranger to me. If you have a C-Section be prepared for poop problems.