Wednesday, March 6, 2013

sophie so far: a birth story

wow. i can't believe it's been 4 months since her birth and 5 since i posted anything at all. this space definitely deserves some love.

you know how the longer you put something off, the more you stress over it and worry that it's not gonna turn out the way you want? that's exactly how i've been about writing this post. i've been putting all this pressure on myself to make it THE perfect post to end all posts because, after all, this is the birth of my first child we're talking about. but it's been so long now, there are so many things i could say, not to mention the fact that we've taken SO many pictures (seriously, have you SEEN my facebook and/or instagram posts?), how am i even going to begin to decide which stories to tell and which photos to use?? that's what i've been thinking. and it's been stressing me out.

so i've decided not to think at all and just to WRITE.


so here goes.

the morning of friday, october 26th started out like any other. we got up around 5:45 and i did not prepare bryan's breakfast or lunch, just as i always didn't do ever since i hit somewhere around the 6 month mark (ok, so it was way before the 6 month mark). bryan showered and as he was getting ready to leave, i complained that these DARN braxton-hicks contractions were getting a bit obnoxious since they were getting increasingly painful but still nowhere close to being regular. just more discomfort STILL without the long-awaited outcome of labor. because obviously i wasn't in labor. obviously.

i was in labor.

literally about 2 minutes after bryan walked out the door, around 6:30 AM, while i was in the shower, i suddenly heard a POP (an actual POP), and BOOM, my water broke.

can i just pause for a minute to say that no one ever told me (not my doctor, the baby books or even my weekly pregnancy emails)

1) that it is possible to be in labor without having regular contractions

2) that it is possible to actually HEAR you water breaking (i seriously thought something might be wrong)

may i also say, how LUCKY was i that this just happened to take place in the shower?? not only that, i was actually DONE showering, i was just hanging around to let the warm water run over my aching belly.

this last thought actually took the time to occur to me as i was getting out of the shower, grabbing wildly for a towel, and stumbled to my phone to call bryan.

"turn around, my water just broke."
"ok, making a u-turn now."
"thanks, bye."

that was the extent of our conversation. as i went about getting dressed and texting everyone who needed to know, i marveled at how calmly and efficiently i was proceeding. it was a lot like my wedding day. one of those days where you expect to be a complete and utter MESS, yet somehow you end up being very in the moment and in control. i had just awaken from a full night's sleep. i'd just showered. my hospital bags were already packed, and now i was ready to eat breakfast while i waited for bryan. it was a little too perfect. in hindsight, i think maybe God was trying to make up for what he was about to do to me when i got to the hospital since i'd already been in labor for several hours without having the slightest idea.

bryan got home and was wonderful. he called my mom (my text hadn't woken her up) and the doctor, who said that yes, we should come to the hospital, but to take our time. "dr.a" was the one on call at the time. i thought, "ok, not my first choice, but i've heard good things about him. let's do this!" then dr.a tells us that his shift is about to end and that "dr.b" would be on call once we arrived. my heart sank.

i am not dr.b's biggest fan. i'd gotten the feeling in my appointments with him that he was the sort of man who told you exactly what you wanted to hear, which automatically made me skeptical. everything was "absolutely perfect" and "the best i've ever seen".

i should give a little more background.

my birth (meaning, my mother's birthing of me) was a traumatic one. literally. that's an actual medical term, "traumatic birth". this means that when i was born, there were issues. apparently my mom had a narrow pelvis, which the doctors weren't able to determine before she went into labor. this caused problems. like, pry-me-out-with-forceps, took-my-mom-weeks-to-recover, had-to-have-a-c-section-the-next-3-times-like-she-shoulda-had-with-me problems.

so from the beginning, i was worried that my mother's pelvis had weasled its way into her half of my gene pool. a c-section was my greatest fear, and an episiotomy was a close second. from the beginning, i asked my docs about this. while the others pretty much told me that we wouldn't know for sure what kind of birth experience i would have until i actually went into labor, dr.b was unfailingly optimistic. why was i worried about needing a c-section, dr.b asked. i had "great birthing hips", dr.b said. there was "no chance" i would need an episiotomy, dr.b said.

we'll come back to that.

i don't remember much about the drive to the hospital other than what bryan captured on film, which was pretty much him saying, "what're you doing in the car at 7:30 on a friday??" to which i respond, "havin' a baby, i guess!"

we made it to the hospital, where bryan snapped a pic of the "labor and delivery" sign and posted it as our "hint hint" to the world.

we checked in and were escorted to triage, where a very nice nurse asked me whether i would like an epidural "now".

thank God i said yes. because i was about to learn that "now" meant roughly 2 hours from actual now.

we were taken to the delivery room, where i immediately demanded makeup, which my mother provided. naturally, everyone was laughing at me, but i know my husband, and i knew i was about to be in a LOT of pictures. besides, this was the specialist of special occasions i could imagine and i had time to kill. putting on makeup seemed the furthest thing from strange.

for about an hour i continued having increasingly painful, though far from unbearable, contractions.

then the REAL contractions started. and by "REAL" contractions, i'm referring to a 3rd thing no one ever told me about:

3) while initial labor pains do indeed feel like "intense menstrual cramps", the ones that come further along feel nothing like that. not in my case anyway.


4) i don't care what "the business of being born" says... the "REAL" contractions do NOT only come "right-before-you're-about-to-push-and-labor-is-almost-over-anyway". at least not in my case.

i spent about an hour in this other-worldy kind of pain that i'm not even gonna bother trying to describe since it's really not comparable to anything i can think of. all i could do was lie there. bryan kept asking if i wanted to watch something or play cards, something to get my mind off of the pain. but i couldn't move. i couldn't even open my eyes. any kind of movement, even crying, only made it hurt more.

i remember (hehe, this is funny) being SUPER dramatic about it and like, weakly raising a dying hand to bryan and whispering (because it hurt to speak any louder), "tell them i can't do this anymore... i can't do this anymore... go find them... i need it NOW." and bryan being like, "WHAT? WHY ARE YOU WHISPERING?" and i was like, super annoyed that he was yelling and embarrassing me.

and then superman arrived.

i actually called the anesthesiologist a super hero to his face. the man must have a ginormous ego seeing as he literally pulls women out of hell for a living. unlike the doctor and nurses, who patiently waited for each contraction to pass before asking me any questions, mr. incredible had no time for such dilly-dallying. he had lives to save. i was lying there, moaning like some horribly maimed cat begging to be put down, and he was standing nonchalantly with his clipboard, prattling away.

"name? DOB? height? weight?"

i remember thinking that he seemed bored, and slightly annoyed that i was slowing him down by contracting in his presence, like i had saved up the particularly bad ones expressly for his arrival. i remember being irritated. but i was about to forgive him. big time.

as i sat up for the injection, bryan whispered, "omg, please can i take just one picture of you? like as a "before" shot? you look so miserable, it's kind of hilarious..." i would have kicked him in the face if i were anything other than paralyzed with agony. instead i offered him some choice words.

but epidurals are magic, and soon we were like this:

i probably would've forgiven hitler if he'd walked in, let alone my "papa"razzi hubby.

my mental state was so strange. looking back, i think i was so busy focusing on not having a panic attack (i have a nasty history of those), that i didn't feel particularly excited or scared or anything else that i'd expected to feel. all i felt was strangely calm. i spent pretty much the entire time sitting up - by the way, get ready for the 5th thing no one ever told me -

5) sitting up = not the best idea when you're in labor cuz all the blood goes right to your pelvis and swells everything up and then the doc will make you lie down for an extra hour or two before you can push so that the swelling goes down.

so like i said, i spent most of the time sitting up with my eyes closed, focusing on breathing. i felt bad for bryan. i think he felt like he never got to do his job of distracting me with shows and games he had downloaded onto the ipad, the deck of cards, the birthing playlist he'd made especially for this event. i never asked for the stress balls i'd brought to grab onto during the bad contractions (i found that his pinky finger was perfectly suitable for crushing with my bare hands in those crucial moments) or any of the other host of crap i'd crammed into our bags. i didn't even want him to talk to me for the most part. i lay there breathing and he sat there watching me breathe. poor guy.

he really was wonderful.

as the hours passed, i kept waiting for someone to ask whether i had a birth plan, which i did. it was nicely typed up - 4 copies so that all the nurses and the doctor would be sure to get one. eventually it became clear that no one was going to ask whether i had one, much less request a copy in writing. i think i realized this after being informed that i would be receiving pitocin now, without being asked what i thought about it. i was so caught off guard by the 6th thing no one ever told me...

(6) pitocin isn't just used to induce labor, but also to regulate contractions that persist in being irregular)

... that all i could say was, "do i have to have it?" the nurse told me that yes, i had to have it, in an annoyed tone that dared me to keep questioning her. i mentally added her to the list of not my favorite people.

dr.b came in and told my family to feel free to go home for a bit since it would be at least 2 hours before i started pushing and another 3-4 hours of pushing after that before the baby would arrive on scene. my mom stuck around but my dad headed home to do some work.

about an hour later, i threw up, which sounds gross and unnecessary, but the nurses recognized it as a common sign that it was time to start pushing. so they called dr.b back in to check on my progress.

after checking me, he confirmed that i was already almost far enough along to start pushing! before i could get excited though, "but i just don't think this baby is going to fit. we should probably just go ahead and schedule a c-section."






"but... but..." i sputtered, "you said it wouldn't be a problem, that everything was absolutely perfect, are you sure??"

"yes, you have very narrow hips and i think it would be best."

so much for those great birthing hips he couldn't stop telling me about before.

"well, i mean, can i at least TRY pushing?"

dr.b blinked slowly, like he didn't quite understand.

"do you WANT to?"

"why, do you think i shouldn't?"

dr.b shrugged. "i don't not want you to. i just don't think it's going to work."

"well, i'd really like to try before ruling it out."

"let's wait and make that call when it's time to push, ok?"

as soon as he was out of the room i burst into tears. thank goodness for the nurses, who came back in and, on hearing what dr.b had just told me, declared him out of his mind and told me i had to try pushing.

not long after, i started feeling like i could push (it was never an "overwhelming urge" like the books said, which was nice). dr.b was brought back in and asked if i still wanted to try pushing.


"ok then. go ahead and push as hard as you can for ten seconds." and for ten seconds, i focused all my energy on very actively NOT wanting a c-section. i pushed, literally, for a normal birth with all my might.

after ten seconds, dr.b raised both his eyebrows. he stood up.

"well, you've just shown me that you can move that baby." he looked at the nurse. "she's ready to push. i'll see you in a few hours."

i can't even tell you how relieved i was. i cried again, and bryan kissed me and told me how proud he was of me for sticking to my guns.

the nurse smiled at me. "ok, let's do this! you're gonna show him!" i mentally promoted her to my list of people i kinda like.

the next 20 minutes were insane. and i mean insanely easy. and FAST. although i could feel everything i was doing, i was in absolutely no pain, and that child seemed to be soaring out of me. with each push, she came barreling forward at an amazing rate.

the nurses were so excited. "your wife is AMAZING!" the nurse said to bryan, as she reached for the phone and said, "tell dr.b to get back in here, this baby is coming NOW."

indeed she was. dr.b barely made it back in there in time. "look, mom!" he said, trying to get me to observe her head protruding from my body.

no thanks.

"i don't want to" i said without opening my eyes. show me the baby when she was ALL out, thanks very much. i was in the ZONE.

after a grand total of 30 minutes' pushing (during which time dr.b slyly slipped in an episiotomy when he thought no one was watching), bryan suddenly gasped, "look, baby!" (still not sure whether that was direct address or an observation) and dr.b, "you're not gonna get to see this again!" i heard the nurse exclaim two or three times, "she's a big girl!" and remember wondering, "omg, how big??" and opened my eyes just in time to see sophie catherine rosenthal, all 8 lbs, 1 oz of her, sliding into the world.

i wish i could say she was the most beautiful thing i'd ever seen.

that's when i learned, without realizing it, the 6th thing no one had told me:

6) less than 50% of women feel that "instant bond" and "overwhelming love" the first time they lay eyes on their newborn.

honestly, i don't blame them. she looked like a lagoon creature and was shrieking and writhing as though she were being stabbed in the eyeball. i had planned to take her instantly into my arms, do the whole skin to skin thing, i'd even planned what my first words to her would be. instead, in a very unromantic moment, as she was being dangled over me, i thought, "eeeeewwwww...." and could only cup her head in one of my hands and say, "hi, baby..."

luckily, my husband is a talented photographer and you'd never know it by looking at these photos of that moment =).

the nurse stopped commenting on her size and began commenting on her voice, repeating, "she has lungs!" indeed she did (that hasn't changed, by the way). while they were cleaning her up and doing whatever it is they do on that table under that bright light, she never stopped. i mean, she was LOUD.

but then the sweetest thing happened. dr.b said, "dad, get over there!" and bryan, realizing that "dad" meant him, left my side and was at hers within seconds. he bent over her and through my daze i started to hear, "hey there, sophers, it's me, daddy. do you remember me? do you remember my voice?"

apparently she did. almost the instant he began talking, she stopped. like, stopped. i heard this adorable little whimper, and suddenly, i wanted her. i wanted to save her from those poking, prodding nurses and those bright lights and that cold metal.

they brought her to me and i held her for the first time. as she handed her to me, the nurse whispered excitedly, "she has dimples on both cheeks!" i remember being so happy to hear that. she had quieted down and was looking directly at me with these huge black eyes that she kept blinking slowly in the light. i cupped my hand over her forehead to shade them and we stared at each other. i remember her fingers poking out from under her baggy sleeve and she kept curling and uncurling them very slowly and deliberately around my thumb while she observed me.

i remember thinking how much she looked like bryan and wondering whether she would ever look like me at all (she doesn't).

bryan joined us and, just like that, we were a family.

bryan enjoys remembering how dr.b got emotional and apologized for trying to get me to schedule a c-section. "i've never seen anything like that" he kept saying. "i really didn't think you were gonna be able to do it... and i've never seen anyone push a baby out in 30 minutes their first time!"

the rest of our stay is a blur of family, nursing, sleeping-ish, more screaming (from her, not me), aches and pains and lots of tylenol with codeine (episiotomies are no joke, man). i'm happy to say there was also lots of that skin to skin time after she had been cleaned up, and we spent several happy hours sleeping-ish that way.

i'll never forget that first round of skin-to-skin. in an effort to stress the importance of this kind of interaction, the hispanic nurse pressed sophie's little body firmly against mine and, still holding her there, looked me in the eyes and insisted, "thees ees all she knows." and right then, i got it.

i was a mother.

i remember that hurricane sandy was about to hit and so bryan's fam went out and bought us tons of bottled water (which, incidentally, is still under the crib in the nursery) and flashlights (funny how those are the 2 random things you want in an emergency). i thought how exciting it was to be bringing home a baby in a hurricane.

the ride home from the hospital. we call this her little old man face.

i could spend another lifetime writing about what comes after all this, but this is a birth story, not a coming-home-and-learning-to-keep-a-baby-alive story. suffice it to say that there have been a lot of ups, downs, love, laughter, sleepless nights, postpardum depression, post-postpardum depression happiness and bonding, long showers, SVU reruns, baptism, first thanksgiving, first christmas, bottle feedings, bottle rejections, blown out diapers, dimply smiles, kickytime baths, roll overs, first giggles, doctor's appointments, family morning snuggle sessions in bed, little tummies, little noses, love, love, LOVE, and two teeth. yes, by god, she got two teeth last month.

this really does go by too fast.

i'll close with a million of those photos i told you i'd have an impossible time picking out.

and that's how our bean got borned =)