Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unnatural (Part 4 - with pictures)

*Sorry for the delay in the fourth part of our birth story. This was hard to write. I, to this day, have not had a moment to cry, to let out all the emotions I have been holding in for so long. Also, all the pictures (of our entire birth, beginning to end) included in this post are completely unedited. All my swollen, shiny shame is on display. Be kind, I'm hard enough on myself. xo - M.

The last picture of my bump, taken in a dark triage room.
The doctor was checking to make sure the baby was stable.

All of this is fuzzy...I remember bits and pieces. As I was asking my family members their side of the story to make sure I had all this accurately written (which is part of the reason this took so long), sometimes their stories would jog a memory that I couldn't recall before. I was very, very tired. I was also distraught. I had a hard time believing that all this was happening; That my pregnancy was over. When I get that way, overly emotional, I tend to shut down and mentally disconnect from my body. It's a skill I honed as a child of an alcoholic, and it comes in handy when I am in extreme physical or emotional pain. To me, this was the ugliest way my beautiful pregnancy could end. More than that, I was scared for my boy and his development. He clearly hadn't been getting enough nutrition between the two and a half weeks that my swelling and blood pressure skyrocketed... I couldn't even entertain the thought that I might lose him. I was silently drowning in what ifs and instead of voicing them and risk scaring Bryan or totally losing it, I didn't talk much. I didn't cry. I just unplugged from it all. Anyways, back to the story.

Kari and Adam stopped by after we were in our room.
Kari brought toenail polish because, although I scheduled a pre-labor pedicure,
we never quite got there.

All night my support system was moving me, re-positioning me, trying to get our boy to move onto my cervix.  We bounced, squatted, swayed, pelvic-rocked, everything. My crew would crack jokes to keep everyone's spirits up and there was joy and laughter in between the pain and depression I was feeling. The doctors came in and requested to break my water. They said I was at a seven and that it would speed things along. They also wanted to put a monitor in to get a more accurate reading on the contractions I was having. Bryan and I talked about it and decided to go ahead and do it. We had labored for over 24 hours at this point. We both weren't happy about it, but we got it done. We knew from this point on that we would be limiting any further cervical checks, so we'd have less of an idea of how I was progressing but we accepted that we needed the extra push that breaking the water would provide.

This was on Sunday morning. I was even more swollen than the day
before and still on water restriction. I hate this picture.

While the actual process of breaking the bag didn't hurt, it was terribly uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, the baby was surrounded by a ton of water and it took a few tries to break my strong bag - Bradley Method for the win! I want to remind you that for the last three months of my pregnancy, I was retaining water. A LOT OF WATER. So when they broke my bag, it was like a lake poured out of me. That boy was well cushioned! Unfortunately, all that water led us to believe that the baby was bigger that he was... So, they put the monitor in and the contractions were more intense. They left us to do our thing, all of us hoping that this would put us in 'real labor.'
Late afternoon on Sunday, April 7. I had the balloon in at this point. 
I tried to sleep as much as possible, thinking I would need my energy to push.

I now recollect that Bryan was not doing well and my sisters kept trying to get him to lay down and rest. He told me that he was having a hard time seeing me go through all of this for so long. He was feeling really anxious and his nerves were shot. Every hour or two lab techs would come in to take blood from me. I was poked all over - I looked like a heroin addict and I am not exaggerating. I have bad veins in my right hand and the IV was in my left, so it took them a lot of tries to get blood sometimes. I bet I looked terrible. I would probably be sick too if I had to see Bryan in that position.

Sunday night at 9:45... Bouncing on the ball. 
Not that I want to draw attention to my upper thigh, but if you
have the courage 
to check out my knee/calf. 
I'm so swollen you can't see my kneecap. My leg is just big puff ball. So hot.

At some point, we talked to the night shift doctors about a c-section. Both my heart rate and Shepherd's heart rate were stable. We felt it wasn't necessary yet. We told them we wanted to wait, but we asked questions. Most specifically I asked how they close their c-sections. She said staples. I was beyond bummed. I had previously told Bryan, over and over again throughout the pregnancy, that if something should happen and I end up in the hospital, I better not get staples. I didn't like the scars they left and I didn't want that kind of a reminder of whatever bad thing had happened. (I knew without a doubt that I would not be having this child through cesarean unless it was an absolute medical emergency. I also knew that having that kind of scar to remind myself of a medical emergency would be way too much for me to handle.)

Sunday night at 10:45. In another position, hanging of the edge of the bed. 
I'm in the zone! 

I asked multiple times if that was the only way to close. She said yes. I'm not saying that I had already given up and accepted a c-section as our fate, but I think I was subconsciously preparing for it. I remember laying my head back after that conversation and being so angry at God. I felt so cheated and so robbed. I also felt damn stubborn and I think it did the same to my coaches. The conversation renewed all of our strength and resolve to try to have a natural birth. I did not want staples. I did not want a c-section. I would be damned if I had to do both.

Most of my overnight crew. From left, my mom, Kari and my mother-in-law, Sylvia.

This my eldest sister, Alison. If she ever decides to change
professions, midwifery would suit her. ;)

We made it through the night and on to shift change, which meant a new nurse. Her name was Alicia and she was pretty awesome. We also got new doctors... The attending doctor had terrible bedside manners. She asked if she could check me and we said we would rather not because my bag had already been broken. We discussed it with her and then on our own and decided she could check me. She was very, extremely rough. It was the most painful that I had. She said I was a four. The previous doctors had said a seven. How did I go from a seven all the way to a four?! Everyone was pretty upset by her attitude and demeanor. 

She left for a while, came back and immediately said,  "So we are prepping you for c-section?" I'm pretty sure my sisters and the nurse wanted to tear her limb from limb. We angrily said no and she left. We continued to try different positions and I believe I was on the bed, side-laying with my leg up on the meal tray when the attending doctor (with bad bedside manners) and the resident doctor came in to discuss our options a little while later. The resident doctor was much nicer, and we had a discussion about the check I had received. She asked if the seven had been noted on the computer and our nurse said it had been. The doctor asked if she could check me, and we again said we wanted to limit the number of checks because of infection. She said she would like to check herself to see what it really was, a four or a seven. Bryan and I discussed it and she checked me. She said that she agreed that it was a four - but almost a five.

 My sisters and new addition to the crew, Colleen. 
9am Monday morning. It had been a long night.

They talked to us about a c-section and we said we wanted to wait longer and to keep trying. They said they would come back later. I'm not sure if the nurse said something to the resident doctor, but we never saw the attending doctor again. A few hours passed by. I'm not really sure of the things we did. The next thing I remember was sitting on the toilet looking up at my husband and my eldest sister, Alison. (I wasn't going to the restroom - I was just squatting there.) I brought up talking about a c-section and both Bryan and Alison said that they still believed that I could have a vaginal birth.

Right before noon.

I remember looking up at them and just knowing that this wasn't right. I wasn't in labor. Neither was Shepherd. We were just innocent bystanders in a medicinal labor. My body never took over the laboring process. Shepherd and I were both not ready for all of this to happen. I told them that I had been doing this for over 36 hours. I was exhausted, out of options, and Shepherd was not on my cervix. I had been on pitocin and magnesium since Saturday evening and we were lucky that both me and the boy were still stable. I had accepted that we couldn't go on like this forever. I was a 28 on pit (which would only go to thirty), I was exhausted and I was HUGE. I had retained even more water during the labor, so much that as Bryan explained to me later, they had to cut off my hospital wristband and give me a new larger one. I explained to them that I was scared to keep going and risk something happening to Shepherd because I was too proud to get a cesarean. I remember thinking that I would never forgive myself if I had refused a cesarean up until it was a life-or-death emergency. Not worth it. Both Bryan and Alison still wanted me to have the natural experience and I did too, so we looked at my options.

Bryan said we could either keep trying, we could get an epidural to see if that would let my body rest and hopefully take over...or we could get a c-section. 

We talked more about how we were lucky that both my heart rate and Shepherd's stabilized after the Cervidil was out. If we kept going, who knew what the magnesium would do to both of us. We had given it our best shot and he was just too early. He wasn't ready to come out. 

With the final two options, an epidural was required. As much as I didn't want my Portuguese pride and stubbornness to get in the way, I still remember feeling so defeated. So upset that my pregnancy was ending like this. Why couldn't there be a rewind button? I needed a do-over. I couldn't rectify that everything that was happening to me was the exact opposite of what I had wanted, what was natural. I remember that I just didn't want to do it. Any of it. I wanted everything to stop, to go back to Saturday and never come to the hospital. But then I thought of the worst case scenario with pre-eclampsia and that was unbearable too. 

So I left my squatting perch and went to the bed. I got comfortable and talked to both of my sisters. We requested the epidural. Bryan sat with me as it was administered, and then we waited. After an hour or two, nothing had picked up, so we made the decision to do the c-section. There was truly no other option. He needed to come out so that we could both get off the medicine and my blood pressure would go down. 

I could see in Kari's eyes that she was heartbroken for me; well they all were, but I think her more so. She knew what I was going to experience. I could see that she wanted anything else than that for me. We prayed together and then I asked them to let my mom, Bryan's mom, and my friend Colleen up to pray with me. We explained the situation to them and we prayed together. 

Once they left, it was all very fast. We talked to the doctor and I asked again if there were any other options for suturing the cesarean. I explained that I did not want staples. She assured me that we could do dissolvable stitches and terry strips instead. I was happy for this tiny victory, even though I felt like I was drowning. I was wheeled to the operating room and transferred to the table. I was terrified and I wanted to breakdown, but I couldn't. I wouldn't scare Bryan, I wouldn't put that on him. I would just endure, although if they had strapped my arms down I probably would have had a panic attack, but no one did. 

The anesthesiologist asked me what type of music I wanted to listen to and I said Christian. He checked to make sure I couldn't feel any pain. Soon, the surgery started and Bryan was let in.

Bryan said something funny. 

Bryan said something stupid.

I seriously love these pictures.. probably because they remind me of this picture that Bryan took:

Not much time elapsed before I could feel the doctors struggling to pull Shepherd out. The reason that he wasn't on my cervix was because his head was stuck sideways in my pelvis. They had to PULL multiple times. The whole table shook. We later learned that the cord had been wrapped around his little neck once, but that would have been okay and fixed if he had came down the birth canal. Finally, they pulled him out.

Bryan was obviously the first person (that I cared about anyways) to take a look at our son, the little life we created. I remember him catching his breath, and he looked at me with tears in his eyes. He says now that it was such an intense moment - that it all became really real for him. He got to take pictures, and we heard Shepherd's little cry. I cried a little. I got to see him soon after and he was beautiful. He is beautiful.

Shepherd Lincoln Vickers was born at 3:36pm on April 8 after 41.5 hours of labor.

Bryan stayed with Shepherd while they closed me up, which unfortunately, I started to feel. The pain was... indescribable. I could feel the doctor suturing my uterus. I started to hum like I did during contractions. The anesthesiologist clicked a button, but I continued to feel, so I continued to hum. I heard something click again. But guess what! Still feeling THINGS! So I hummed on. Then, I heard him 'grrr' under his breath, followed by multiple clicks on a button and that did the trick.

First time holding my boy. 

I definitely didn't have the cocktail of hormones that I had wanted so much. I just felt...numb. After I was closed up, they wheeled me into recovery and the epidural was taken out. I got to hold Shepherd for a minute before the pediatrician came to take a look at him. I was experiencing some pretty gnarly pain in my left leg that I was told was a side effect of the epidural... it felt like the growing pains I had as a child but worse.

Already rooting for Momma. It's insane that they come right out 
of the gate rooting. Amazing. 

Skin to skin contact. I was exhausted.

First bath. Immediate after this he calmed down and 
enjoyed getting his hair washed. 

All clean, wrapped and warm. My sweet burrito.

We were in recovery for longer than we anticipated because they had some problems getting me the pain meds I needed and everything hooked up. Bryan and I traded holding Shepherd during this time, and soon enough we were moved to a room where our family could visit us.

Bryan and I had our son. We were all healthy and I was so happy about that, really and truly. We were both so smitten with him, we just kept staring at him. It was hard not to kiss his sweet  pudge-less face, count his skinny fingers and long toes, and send prayers of thanks to the God for the gift we were given. He was perfect.

But nothing could have prepared me for how unprepared I was to deal with the aftermath of pre-eclampsia and a cesarean, especially when coupled with being new parents.  


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