I was so happy because it was Friday and I was planning on getting a lot of sleep that weekend and then do some cleaning in preparation for the baby shower we were having the next weekend. I got up to go to the bathroom at about 1:00 am and then snuggled back down under the covers with a relaxed smile on my face. I was almost back to sleep when trickle trickle . It took me a moment to question and then my eyes shot open with worry: could it be? And then again trickle trickle . I screamed for Sasha and then GUSH!
FUCK FUCK FUCK. NO NO NO. FUCK FUCK FUCK.
I ran to the bathroom where more gushing commenced. There was no doubt about it; my water broke at only 32 weeks pregnant. I wrapped myself in a towel and sat on the bed, shaking with fear and disbelief while Sasha called the doctor.
They do not know why my water broke so early, but I have my own theory: I am a jinxer.
A month earlier I was telling a friend that I had a feeling I was going to deliver early. A day earlier my co-worker asked when I was due and I said any minute now. That night I had heard it was a harvest moon and I said how nice it would be for my baby to be born under such a moon. Why did I think these things and why on earth did I say them out loud?
I knew that once the bag of waters breaks, that is it, time to give birth. So off we went to the hospital in the middle of the night (it is always in the middle of the night, isn’t it?). That whole night is a surreal blur of nurses, hospital gowns, answering a zillion questions, getting hooked up to an I.V. and settled into a room. I was having erratic yet painless contractions. We met with the doctor on call who would yawn dramatically every third word. Laura, the nurse assigned to my room was awesome and we bonded immediately.
The plan was to pump me full of antibiotics to stave off any infection and to also put me on a steroid drip with extra injections that would help the baby’s lung development, which was crucial at this stage. I believed I would be giving birth after 48 hours. They put 2 monitors on my belly, one to watch for contractions and one to monitor the baby’s heart rate. I was also getting extra fluids through the I.V., which exacerbated my already small and baby pressured bladder. This meant I had to go to the bathroom every 30 minutes instead of every hour. This was extra trouble because I needed assistance from a nurse each time to help me with the I.V. and then to re-situate that monitors. This was a class A pain in the ass. It was especially embarrassing to hit my nurse call button to say I had to go to the bathroom AGAIN! They gave me funny underpants to wear, which were made out of a strange mesh fabric and the hospital menstrual pads were gargantuan.
That first night offered us zero sleep. I was strapped in a birthing bed, which is 30 times less comfortable than a regular hospital bed and Sasha was stuck on a two-foot wide fold-out chair-bed that was less comfortable than sleeping on the floor. The constant medical interruptions, plus the still panicky feeling we were experiencing kept us wide awake.
By morning, there was a new doctor and a new nurse assigned to my room. The nurses work 12 hour shifts and the doctors work 24 hour shifts on-call. The new nurse was a lovely lady from England who called me Luv and brought me lots of diet Shasta. My doctor that morning was brand new to the hospital and the only male doctor on staff. He looked like an actor from the 80’s; he was tan and buff and would cross his arms in a way to make his guns bulge. His name was Bond. Dr. Randy Bond. I took an instant disliking to him, which was made more intense when he used the phrase “heroic measures” when discussing possible outcomes of the birth.
With the sunlight, I got a better feel for my room, which was pretty nice. It was a private birthing suite with Jacuzzi tub and two large windows looking out over the trees and mountains.
The morning brought my first hospital meal and I was ecstatic. I know what they say about hospital food and most of it is true, but that morning I was given French toast, fruit, orange juice and a cup of lime sherbet. Due to my gestational diabetes, I had not had any of this food stuff in weeks and did not think I was supposed to eat it now, but since the hospital was giving it to me, it must be OK, so I scarfed it down. Turns out it wasn’t OK. The kitchen staff did not know what a diabetic meal was, so my sugar numbers skyrocketed. By lunch the kitchen staff had been schooled on better meal options for me, and I was brought a plate of unidentified meat with thick white gravy, no sherbet in sight.
My friends Jay and Aimee visited that day with their new baby. They brought flowers, a zillion magazines and some tiny clothes for our baby. When they left, I had tears in my eyes, because I knew childbirth was approaching within the next 24 hours and I was expecting to be induced later that night. The night came and went, however, with nary a sight of Dr. Bond. The next day my own doctor was on-call, and she dropped a bombshell. The plan was not to induce, but to keep the baby in as long as possible with a drop dead date to induce of October 10th, 19 days away. I nearly pooped my pants. I agreed that I wanted to do what was best for the baby and that the longer he could develop in the womb, the better chance he would have when he was born, but I had thought that once the water breaks, you need to give birth within 48 hours, or an infection could harm you and the baby. Apparently this was just a rule with term pregnancies. In my case, the heavy doses of anti-biotics were relied on and as long as my temp did not go above 100.04 degrees and the baby’s heart rate stayed normal, we should be fine.
Shit. Nearly three weeks bedridden in the hospital was going to suck. I would do anything for my baby and was determined to see it through, but holy fricking shit, there were not enough magazines in the world. I called work and let them know I was off 7 weeks earlier than planned. We canceled the baby shower, our birthing classes (no refund) and my pre-natal massage.
That night the original nurse who had checked me in was back and promised to move me to the best room in the hospital. Now that I was “the resident” as they called me, and there for the long haul, she was determined to make me as comfortable as possible, including getting me out of the birthing bed and into a regular hospital bed that was worlds more comfortable. Her plans were put on hold as 4 ladies in labor all arrived at the same time, but the next morning I was moved as promised. This time to a room twice as big as the last, with two full walls of windows. I could see more trees and more mountains and more birds. It was gorgeous. We could see hot air balloons floating in the distance and by evening we could watch the near full harvest moon rise up into the sky. I called it the life affirming room, because the morning sunrise had way of grabbing you by the heart.
I tried to resign myself to my new schedule. If I could have been bedridden at home, that would have been one thing, but at the hospital there were constant interruptions: Nurses taking my blood pressure, taking my temperature, positioning my monitors, and endless other little things. Plus some of the nurses were downright chatty. I had not had so many conversations in my whole life. I was also so distracted by the health of my baby and impending labor; I could not concentrate on TV and could barely get through a magazine.
Sasha was a hero. He stayed with me every night on the most uncomfortable chair-bed. During the day he would go feed the cats, run errands for me and make lists of things I needed him to bring me. Then he would come back and keep me company as we watched the almost full moon rise.
Finally, on the fourth night I convinced him to sleep at home and go in to work the next day; no sense in both of us wasting away in the hospital. Of course at 3:00 am I started having contractions. They were mild, but growing stronger. I waited until 6:00 am to call him. He canceled work and came back to the hospital. By noon the contractions were totally gone, but Sasha stayed by my side. By 11:00 pm, my contractions were back in full swing, this time growing stronger each time. The Harvest moon was completely full, this baby was coming.
Up until this point, I had been the ideal long term patient: polite, pleasant, never needing much or ever complaining. This night I became the loud bitch from hell. I still feel bad for the nurse assigned to me that night. At first the contractions were not too painful. They were easy to breathe through and then I would get a nice break until the next one. As they got closer together, I began to drop hints about the pain medication and epidural. By the time I was 100 % effaced and dilated to five centimeters, I was groaning like a wild beast. I asked again about the meds and the nurse said that an order had not even been put in yet. “Don’t you think you better get on that?” I growled, drilling holes in her with my glare.
I was given an intravenous pain medication that was supposed to dull the hurting until the anesthesiologist could get there for the epidural. It did absolutely fuck all to make me feel better and the contractions were kicking my ass. Worthless drug! All it did was make me vomit in the most violent manner. I barfed so hard, I felt like I burst a vessel in my eye. This is when the nurse realized I did not have a birthing bed and I needed to get one pronto. I was put into a rocking chair while they swapped out my bed and I screamed bloody murder the entire time. Sasha was amazing at trying to keep me calm, which was a thankless job at the moment.
The contractions were so bad at this point, it felt like they were happening one right on top of the other. By the time the epidural man got there, I was PISSED. I was already dilated to 8 centimeters and felt like I was going to give birth right then and there and the epidural would be for nothing. I found out later the nurse was terrified I was going to give birth before the staff trained to handle a premature birth could get there. Since my membrane ruptured 5 days earlier, my labor was progressing extremely fast.
Getting an epidural is no box of kittens. It hurts like a mother fucker. Having contractions at the same time was excruciating, so of course I was yelling and screaming up a storm. The epidural man did not like this. If I arched the wrong way while he was sticking a giant needle into my spine, there could be nasty complications. At one point I had the nurse, Sasha and the epidural man all yelling at me at once to BREATHE. I am breathing, cocksuckers, I AM BREATHING!!!
The millisecond the epidural anesthesia kicked in all was right with the world. All the pain and pressure instantly disappeared. My reality was rainbows and lollipops. I think the epidural man double dosed me, because I was in full labor and I could not feel a damn thing and it was glorious. It was 6:00 am and I was able to get some sleep before the next shift came on. I was especially glad, because if I had given birth that night, Dr. Bond would have been called in, and I really wanted to avoid that smarmy guy, especially when it came to matters of my vagina.
At 8:00 am sharp, Nurse Beth came bounding into the room. I had her on another day and liked her, but her boundless, happy energy was the exact opposite of my psyche. She was tall, thin and gorgeous with the healthiest teeth and gums I have ever seen. She was like a cheerleader nurse on crack. She said she fought to get me that morning, so I felt guilty for wishing another nurse won that coin toss.
It was extremely surreal to be in heavy labor, but still be able to chit chat mindlessly about Nurse Beth’s calling to the field of labor and delivery (one time she had to get down on the floor, reach up inside of a woman and push a baby out the C-section opening). The doctor on call arrived and she was a total goofball in a good way. She and Beth were like Laurel and Hardy. I was in full labor, but you would not know it. It was a laugh riot and we were all having fun as they made jokes about me being a natural red head.
By 9:00 am, the team of doctors and nurses skilled in premature baby delivery were on their way, so Beth decided to get me pushing. This is when her cheerleader skills came in handy, because she rooted me on with total skill. I put my knees in the air and held on while Sasha pushed on my back and on the count of three, I would push, count to ten, stop, push, count to ten stop and push. This went on for about 30 minutes with a few conversational breaks in between. Once the baby was crowning, they held up a mirror for me to get a look-see at the baby’s head on its way out. I thought my vagina looked a lot better than the vagina’s on the birthing video, maybe because my baby was about half the size.
Nurse Beth said the baby was ready and moved out of the way. This is when I realized that the nurses do ALL of the work. She got me to push up to the last second and then the doctor slides in there, puts on the splatter shield mask and is basically just there to catch the baby. I geared up for one last push, fully expecting that the baby would come out on the third push, but he immediately came flying out. I had sort of forgotten why we were here and suddenly BABY! I heard a cry and there he was, as beautiful as beautiful gets. He was all in one piece and perfect. Sasha cut the cord and we both were in tears. We got to hold him for a small amount of time before they whisked him off to the Neonatal ICU.
Our boy Finn:
Stay tuned for part two: Finn’s hospital stay, more pictures and a happy ending.