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Charlie-man

Charlie will be a year old this August 12th. This is the first time in many months I’ve had enough time to sit at my laptop and actually write about him without him climbing onto the keyboard or attempting some precarious feat into which I must intervene so that he makes it to a year. There are few waking moments I actually get to devote just to me these days, but that is well and good, as I prefer to devote them to Charlie.

Sometimes I come up with a novel parenting idea, such as: just letting Charlie feed himself on the kitchen floor! Which, at the time, seems a genius upgrade from his whiny grabbing at my every bite and two hands diving into steaming bowls and plates. After the facade of geniusness subsides, I am left with a disheveled kitchen floor, colorful trail across our living room carpet, and a child I can’t take anywhere until I disrobe, bathe, and re-robe him. It’s hard to decide which method is better in terms of total time and energy invested, but I really need to remind myself that we do own a high chair.

I’m not sure if he has a cold or if he’s just really into screaming this week. I picked him up from my mom’s house after work the other night and she and my sister said, “He was REALLY intense today. Just… non-stop… ALL day.” Lo and behold, it takes until my weekend for me to see exactly what was meant by this. Today he wouldn’t take a nap, but he was screaming because he was so tired. Then, at night, when we try to sleep, he wakes up a bajillion times and has to alternate between one boob and the other a million times while he nurses or he’ll cry if I try to reclaim my body and smack the bottle I offer him all over the bed. This is… intense.

It’s hard to gauge who your baby is when they’re a baby, because they all seem pretty low-key and mellow at first. It’s now that I realize, well, they didn’t really have full control over their bodies and agendas at that time, and maybe if they had, they’d have all been bigger tiny assholes.

I was thinking Charlie was this zen warrior guy… clearly an old soul with little tolerance for bullshit. He loved looking at trees on long walks, slept when I slept, stood out from the baby crowd as the more “mature” and “relaxed” one. Maybe he WAS mature in that he was SILENTLY PLOTTING ULTIMATE DOMINATION OF MY EVERY WAKING HOUR.

One of his new things, is he likes to use everything as a phone. I baked carrot muffins a few weeks ago, and he grabbed his carrot muffin and just squished the shit out of it in his tiny hand, and then smushed it into his ear with a nonsensical telephonic greeting, “Ababablah?” And I died from cute.

He also thinks its funny to mimic my laugh. So when I laugh at something (which is often,) he goes, “huh huh huh!” LIKE IT’S SOME KIND OF FUCKING JOKE.

What else does he do that is cute? What does he do that ISN’T cute? Seriously, I can only keep track of so many of these things. People come up to me at the grocery store and say something like “Oh my goodness he is just ADORABLE, and I’m just like, “Yeah, I know. It gets really old.”

It’s hard to get out of the house on our weekends because it’s just so much preparation and I inevitably always leave something behind that is essential to whatever trip we’ve embarked on. Charlie always loses at LEAST one shoe because he likes to pull just one of them off and then crawl around to make the other moms think I forgot to dress my kid all the way. Right now I have 4 of his shoes, all from different pairs, whose partners are all M.I.A. I kind of give up on shoes. He has a lot of very dirty socks.

That’s all I can think of for now. Thank god he’s sleeping. I keep trying to catch up on my sleep but then I get no weekend. It’s just run around after Charlie to make sure he doesn’t maim himself, sleep when he sleeps, wake up and realize it’s my Monday… have brief existential crisis… keep going because what else are you gonna do?

I hope that the bounty of super cute photos of Charlie help to make me feel like I was doing a good job when I look back on this time. It’s hard to FEEL like I’m doing a good job when I just barely keep my house, mind, and bank account together… but I guess if we’re both alive, I’m employed, and we’re eating well… heck, I AM doing a good job.

Phew.

Snapshot_20130724_2

 

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Milestones

I really should update more regularly so I can keep track of what Charlie first did when… but today we had a lot of firsts. Charlie had his first train ride on the Christmas train in North Bend because our good friends Sarah & John O’Brien were nice enough to give us their extra ticket and bring us along! It was so fun! Even though it was pissing rain, we still had a great time. Pretty much their whole family was there, singing Christmas carols on the train until we stopped to get off and get in line to see Santa!

That’s another first! Charlie met Santa today. He was pretty indifferent about it. Way better than the shrieking and crying response. He looks really confused in his photo, like he’s thinking, “Why is this a thing?” This world is pretty weird, Charlie, not a lot of it is going to make much sense.

santa

After our awesome holiday ride we went to Joann Fabrics and bought some acrylics and canvases so Charlie could PAINT FOR THE FIRST TIME. Another first! I was thinking, “Hmmm, he can’t really use his hands… unless I want him to ingest a handful of swirly colors…” So, instead, I leaned the canvas against the side of the bathtub, put the paint on the bottom of his feet, and let him kick his way into the artist’s life. We got some interesting results, very modern, very fresh, very innovative. If you end up seeing his work in New York , don’t be surprised, he is starting quite early, it’s not like he can get worse.

paint

Three firsts is a good amount of firsts in one day. We were very tired and slept through the rest of our day’s plans. I’m really starting to feel the weight of being busy with Charlie all the time. It’s a new kind of busy, because, it’s not technically productive work, but it requires full attention 24 hours a day, so it’s work. It feels like sleeping on an air mattress with a slow leak. You think you’re comfortable, or if you’re a little less comfortable maybe you don’t notice because it’s such a gradual decline. Maybe those are the hormones seeping out like an air leak, leaving me to one day wake up on the floor with a backache.

Emmi and Mikey saved my life last night by coming over with a bottle of tequila and some amazing goat cheese and baby wrangling skills. Mikey told Charlie about all the most inane discoveries of our generation, including the Concord plane and 28.8 modems. Charlie fell fast asleep with the Bore-Method© and Emmi gathered more market research for her product patent, “Spray-On Pubes (for babies)” which I’m sure will be a hit on QVC, as soon as all the lawsuits are dropped.

They were great, they read him books, Emmi sang him a song, my brain was barely working but they made it so I didn’t have to do anything, and I was like, “Oh right, people can come over and do this. I should put in more requests.” So we will definitely try to do that more, it was fucking great.

Been feeling weird, like I said, with the hormonal leakage I feel an emotional deflating and it’s really hard to describe. I don’t know if I’m sad, I guess I just feel under-stimulated? Stagnant? A little directionless? But also quite fulfilled and content to be a full-time mom, so it’s a weird paradox. I am applying to some jobs online, still not sure what I’d do for childcare or how I’d afford it, if I actually got a job that took me away from Charlie, but I guess I thought I should look anyway.

Things are going alright, I really need my friends, and some of them are great, and some of them are not so great, and that’s to be expected, and I’m dealing with it day by day… in a slow reveal of what my life as a parent will end up looking like. Pretty basic so far. Lots of eating, sleeping and forcing myself to drive places so that I’m not just in my apartment all day.

People keep asking me if I miss San Francisco, and I’ll save you all some time by putting it on record here, “No, no I do not miss San Francisco.” I really didn’t leave much behind (besides an awesome job + coworkers) but I do miss Jon. He was/is a really good friend and I hope he comes to visit us, cause life is not nearly as fun without him in my area code. Who else can I have an entirely picture-based iPhone text message conversation with? Or eat a million burritos with? And not have to deal with any drama whatsoever with? He is a good one. He better teach Charlie to swim. Now that I’m thinking about it, I do miss Meena and Evan too. I hope they move back to Seattle. I hope Meena becomes Charlie’s dentist. OK, that is all I miss about SF… and the Mexican food… I miss the Mexican food.

OK now I’m just rambling, my brain isn’t all there these days. I think we’re doing OK though. I’m in close contact with Group Health all the time, although my health insurance is about to run out. I think we’re OK. We just have to keep busy! And keep making dates with people. If you want to hang out, TEXT ME! It may take me awhile to get back to you, but I will, and we will hang out, and you will see for yourself why Charlie is the best baby in the whole world… and he may just paint you something. Who knows!

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Saved by a Stranger

So I was starting to feel a bit down yesterday, maybe from lack of sleep and my mom getting mad at me and my sisters being out of town, so I just tried to nap at home with Charlie and didn’t really go out except to our PEPS meeting in the morning. I woke up today and wasn’t feeling any better, in fact I was feeling worse and dwelling on depressing/hurtful things instead of the wonderful, brilliant, smiley thing right in front of me. It’s not that I’m not trying, I try to make Charlie my main focus every second of every day and maybe it’s the nonstop months of that that finally felt like weight on top of me.

I had to force myself to go outside today, to take Charlie out and to make sure I wasn’t cutting myself off from the world and letting the gloom spread further. So we went to Safeway, to use our WIC checks to get a block of mozzarella to make pizza tonight, but they didn’t have the 1lb. block of mozzarella out so I just grabbed two 8oz. blocks instead. This turned into a huge deal at the check-out line and kept 3 very nice and patient people waiting in line behind us while the checker tried to convince me to get a different kind of cheese. I tried to explain you can’t really make pizza with any other kind of cheese and she took that as, “I don’t want to substitute another cheese and I accept you won’t give me this cheese so I’d like to pass on the cheese today” so she ran my check without the cheese. This means my whole trip: dressing/feeding/prepping Charlie for an outing, strapping him in his chair, loading all our stuff in our car, driving in the rain, parking, collecting all the specific stuff to qualify for the WIC check that had the cheese on it – was for nothing, because she didn’t give me the cheese.

I was so overwhelmed and upset that I couldn’t think of anything else to do other than just walk out into the rain again. I knew that if I chose to speak to a manager, it would take even longer and Charlie would get hungry/upset/start crying and I would be even more upset. So I took him out to the car and just sat there, feeling very desperate and defeated and tried to find my phone to call someone to talk to, but I had forgotten my phone at home. So I just had to turn around and go back home…

As soon as I got through the door I just set down my groceries without putting them in the fridge and went and grabbed my phone. I knew things were bad, I was feeling on the verge of tears, and I didn’t want things to get any worse. I didn’t know who to call so I called the number at the bottom of the last e-mail my Group Health OBGYN sent me. An operator answered and asked how she could help and I said I was trying to reach my doctor and she said “well it’s SATURDAY, she’s not here, would you like to speak to a consulting nurse?” (I had no idea it was Saturday, feeling like even more of a disaster) I said,

“I don’t really know why I’m calling, I’m a single mother, I’m doing this all by myself, I’m all alone and I’m feeling really upset and helpless.”

“OK, don’t worry, let me transfer you to someone who can help you,” and she transferred me to a consulting nurse.

She got on the phone and I still didn’t know what to say.

“My name is Laura, I’m a consulting nurse, how can I help?”

“I don’t even know.” I let out a big sigh. “I’m all alone, I’m taking care of my 3 month old son, I’m feeling a lot of resentment and sadness today and I was just freaking out at Safeway and didn’t know who to call.”

“Do you feel like you might hurt your baby?”

“No, not at all, he’s really good, that’s why I’m upset because I don’t want him to see me sad. I guess I just feel like I’m doing a shitty job.”

“Ashley you are not doing a shitty job. I was a single mom myself and it was ROUGH, I totally know where you’re coming from and how difficult it can be. What you’re describing sounds like the natural, normal baby blues. As long as you don’t feel like hurting yourself or your child, because that’s when it gets into the postpartum depression zone, you are just reacting to the enormous amount of stress that is raising a child on your own.”

What followed was one of the most honest, open narratives of this woman’s own experience with getting pregnant in a casual relationship while she was in college and her decision to keep the pregnancy and raise the child herself. She shared very intimate and personal details with me because she felt that we, as single mothers, were on a level… and I was so relieved, that I was able to be included in the league of women this woman belongs to.

She told me about hitting her stride with motherhood around her son’s second year where she said she finally felt like everything gelled, but how hard it was up until then…  how there were times she didn’t think she could do it… how she thought about giving him up… that maybe she hadn’t made the right decision… for her son or for herself… and I related to her so much.

“But I realized this little guy was the best thing in my life, he and I got to grow into being mother and son to each other, and you two will grow into that too, it takes TIME.”

“Yeah, I hope so. How old is he now?”

“Well, my son would have been 25 years old this year, but he passed away in a car accident when he was 17.”

“Oh my god…”

“…but I got 17 years with this amazing person and I realized that life is such a gift and I definitely made the right decision and you made the right decision too, Ashley, you did. You just have to take time sometimes to make sure you’re taking care of yourself too, but I think you’re going to do really well.”

“Wow, yeah, I hope so.”

All I can say is, it’s been 3 months of continuous, really, truly amazing moments with Charlie (which is why I haven’t stopped to write in this blog) and this is the first time I felt I really HAD TO write because this woman made me feel like I have the most amazing gift, and I am doing a good job, an admirable job, a very difficult job, and I am doing the right things… making healthy decisions for the both of us, every day… and falling into a whole new world of being a parent.

It’s OK to be overwhelmed, it is appropriate in these circumstances. I have resources, I can reach out, keep tabs on myself. I learn more every day. I meet new, intelligent people who help me to grow… and Charlie and I just keep growing… together. We are doing well.

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Some things I forgot to mention about my birth, my sisters were there too! Conny came to the hospital with us as soon as my water broke so she was there pretty much the whole time with a couple brief sleeping/outfit changing trips back home. Aurora had this huge garage sale planned the day I went into labor which she cancelled to come out and be with us in the hospital. She brought us a lovely bouquet of flowers and later (when I was allowed to eat) bought me a turkey sandwich and Sunchips which were the first things I had to eat after Charlie was born. Aurora’s boyfriend Gustavo also came along, but strategically left the room every time anything vagina-related occurred. They were all real troopers, especially considering how vocal/intense I became once the pushing stage drew nearer.

I am using the notes my mother took throughout the birth to quote the events/times somewhat accurately.

8:30pm Friday August 10th – I take one tablespoon castor oil with apple juice before going to bed

3:30am Saturday August 11th – Water breaks in bed, we call hospital, they tell us to come in.

4:30am – Drive to hospital with contractions 2-3 minutes apart

8am – McDonald’s breakfast order: 3 eggmcmuffins, 2 hashbrowns, OJ, LOTS OF SALSA AND KETCHUP

9:50am – Grandma calls and talks about WWII, quotes Churchill, “This is not the end of the beginning, it is the beginning of the end!”

1:15pm – Finally convinced to take a low dose of pitocin (2 units) which is later doubled as I show good progress with my contractions

6:30pm – After 5 hours of some of the most painful contractions ever, internal exam shows I am only 3cm so I ask enthusiastically for an epidural

6:50pm – Receive fentanyl pre-epidural “WHEW!!”

7pm – Receive epidural and experience a gradual wave of relief in my lower half until I don’t even notice my contractions anymore. Spinal catheter provides slow constant drip of medication and I am given a button I can press for extra every 15minutes if I need it (which I don’t actually use until later during the pushing stage, but then use as often as it will let me.) They also insert a urinary catheter, which is pretty typical after an epidural since you don’t experience the sensation of having to pee and I may not have had enough control of my legs to walk to the bathroom, I don’t even notice this being inserted because I am in totally painless epidural bliss. I finally get some rest.

10pm – Nurse Michael checks dilation, I am 6cm 90% effaced! YAY!! Gus, Conny, Rara, all go home to rest. Mom stretched out on the pull-out sofa, we drift in and out of sleep as I continue to dilate.

1am – I sit up in bed and my fetal monitors show a dramatic decline in Charlie’s heartbeat so the nurses rush in and say they have to do internal fetal monitoring (which I DID NOT WANT,) but as soon as they do they finally see that variability in Charlie’s heartbeat that they had been so concerned for before. Apparently he was fine the whole time, we just couldn’t read his reactivity through my belly. GOOD NEWS! Everyone is relieved.

1:10am – They check me again, I AM AT 9cm!! Feeling a LOT of pressure/pain in my perenium.

1:55am – I experience the urge to push (truthfully I was having this before, but was trying to hide it because I knew it wasn’t time to push yet.)

At this phase of my labor, I am experiencing what I have heard others describe as “an intense amount of pressure,” but that just doesn’t accurately describe the amount of pain that a HUGE BABY BODY COMING DOWN THROUGH YOUR VAGINA PRESSING UP AGAINST YOUR PERINEUM AND BUTT FEELS LIKE. I was scrrreeeaaaming about my butt for HOURS!

“OH GOD MY BUTT!” “MY BUTT WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!!” “OOOOOOOOOOOH MY POOR POOR BUTTTTTT”

My sisters LOVE retelling my birth story with an emphasis on this part. Any movement whatsoever felt like my butt was being ripped apart, and all I was hearing were a bevvy of nurses coaching me to “push!” Push through the pain! Push no matter how essential an intact butthole may be to my future successes.

“EVERYONE’S TELLING ME TO PUSH I FUCKING KNOW I HAVE TO PUSH, OKAY?!”

Apparently I gave them a really hard time and outright said “NO I’M NOT PUSHING” a bunch of times because the pain was too much. I started crying again and pleaded for someone to get me more medication because my epidural was not doing anything for the intense pain of the PRESSURE of birth. Eventually, an anesthetist came in and gave me a bit of extra epidural (more than my button was providing me with) and had me sit in a position to allow it to seep into my lower half. I was so relieved because I had been pushing for a good 3 hours before I experienced any pain relief, so as soon as I got it, I fell right asleep, complaining that the extra medication “WASN’T DOING ANYTHING!!!” and it was about 15 minutes after that that I was able to take deep breaths and push with every contraction as it came.

My mother and my nurses helped hold my legs (I was in a semi-upright position in the hospital bed and having my thighs held helped give me leverage to push as hard as I could with each contraction) and coach me through taking deep breaths and holding it so I could push 3 times with each contraction (1 to push him down, 2 to hold him there, 3 to move him forward.) They are relieved I am finally cooperating and I am relieved my butt doesn’t feel like it’s prolapsing anymore.

Now, it has been a very long time since I started pushing. A lot of women push for a half an hour to two hours, I was pushing for 4 and half hours. This was not good news for Charlie, his poor little head had been caught in my private parts for much longer than the doctors were comfortable with (and by the time he came out he had a nice cone-shaped head because of it.) So by the time I had been pushing for 4 hours a doctor came in and said we needed to start thinking about having some assistance in getting Charlie out.

“What do you mean, ‘assistance?'” I asked.

“Well, we have 3 options. You can push him out, which it looks like may not be happening as quickly as we’d like it to happen, we can assist a vaginal delivery with a vacuum extraction, or we can start thinking about a c-section.”

Mom and I look at each other like NO FUCKING WAY ARE WE VACUUM EXTRACTING THIS KID and NO WAY IN HELL AM I GOING THROUGH A 25 HOUR LABOR TO HAVE A C SECTION. So my mom negotiates with him and says, “just give us another 30 minutes to push and then we can talk about other options. He agrees but goes to prep everything necessary for a c-section.

As soon as the doctor leaves my mom says, “Ashley you are going to get this baby out vaginally. Next time you have a contraction I want you to take an even bigger, deeper breath and push harder than you ever have before…” and I’m thinking YEAH RIGHT THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN DOING THE LAST FOUR HOURS!

But I humor her and really try to give it one last hoorah because I DO NOT WANT AN ASSISTED DELIVERY. So I’m pushing as hard as humanly possible with every single contraction as they come and after about 15 minutes I hear the nurses and my mom saying, “OH OH OH THAT’S A GOOD ONE, KEEP GOING OH GOD ASHLEY I SEE HIS HEAD!” and I’m like, “No fucking way.”

So of course, his head makes just a momentary appearance, disappears again, and I have another 10 minutes of seemingly unproductive contractions where I’m pushing so hard I think I’m going to pop a blood vessel. The doctor comes back in again to check on me while I’m having another contraction. I’m pushing, pushing, pushing and suddenly, there’s his head again.

“SHE’S REALLY CLOSE!” they tell the doctor.

“Oh my goodness, I’m not often wowed by how much progress someone has made but my goodness, Ashley you’re really doing this all on your own!”

…and I’m like (in my head) ‘Well yeah isn’t that how it’s SUPPOSED TO BE?!’

So I’m shouting and begging who-knows-who to “HELP ME!” “GET HIM OUT!” “PULL HIM OUT!” because I am at the apex of feeling that INTENSE pressure on my perineum and finally experiencing the “Ring Of Fire” every laboring woman talks about as Charlie’s head is making its way out.

“You don’t need help, you’re doing it! You’re probably just a couple pushes away!”

“FUCKING PULL HIM OUT OF ME!!” I’m screaming.

But sure enough, as I keep pushing as hard as I can (three pushes just isn’t enough anymore so I keep pushing a fourth, a fifth, a sixth time) and with every push a little bit more of him comes out. I’m screaming my head off as I feel his head come all the way out and then I know I probably only have one push left to get his body out, so I take another deep breath and push and I feel his whole entire body pass through me and they’re lifting me up and I feel the slick, soft warmth of his body being placed on my chest and it is the best feeling I have ever felt… and he is beyond any amount of cuteness I could have been prepared for… I barely notice the doctor telling me I have some minor tears he is going to stitch up for me as I’m meeting my son for the first time.

Mom takes a video of Charlie making his debut talky-talky wailing sounds up on my chest like he’s been waiting to tell me something for 10 months and you can see the doctor stitching me up and I don’t even flinch. I’m in love. A whole new kind of love I have never felt before and it feels way more natural than I ever expected it would feel and all my anxiety melts away and there is only Charlie. It’s like he has always been here.

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So, as they were putting together the paperwork for me to sign saying I was rejecting their medical advice and would like to return home, they grew a little concerned with Charlie’s heartbeat on the monitors. “Charlie’s heartbeat is nice and steady at about 140-150BPM, but what we like to see is some variability with some peaks and valleys, that’s what we call a ‘reactive’ baby and that’s what we’d need to see before you could go home. Has he been moving consistently?”

“Yeah he moves all the time, but I think the labor has slowed him down, and he’s usually a pretty mellow guy in there anyway.”

“We’d have to see some of that reflected in his heartbeat before you could go home.”

GOD DAMN IT.

After a few hours sitting around in this semi-private exam room on the monitors, with my contractions still coming semi-regularly, and Conny taking a nap in the car, mom and I start to discuss if it’d be easier to just check in, get my private room and surrender to laboring in the hospital. We were tired, we wanted to get more comfortable and we wanted to be sure Charlie wasn’t in any distress so we felt it was better to keep him at Kaiser on the monitors. So, we ultimately decided not to go home and to check into our private room with a shower, our own bathroom, a bed, pull-out couch, window, tv and DVD player. I plugged my laptop in and put on my “Labor Jams” playlist on Zune and started to get settled in.

We met our nurse Michael who was super personable and attentive and ended up being a fucking god-send when my labor started to pick up. Unfortunately, by the time I had signed all the goddamn paperwork, answered a million questions, been manhandled and moved to another room, my labor had stalled (as I had feared would happen in the hospital.) If I were laboring at home, it probably would not have phased us at all to have contractions stop for a few hours. We could have taken a walk, eaten something spicy, taken more castor oil, etc etc. But, because we were at Kaiser, we were on an 18 hour watch since my water had broken at 3AM to get and keep labor going so Charlie’s risk of infection was reduced.

When my labor stalled for a good hour or two, a couple people came in and told me they’d like to give me pitocin to get the contractions to pick back up again. This was another of my worst fears, the snowball effect of pitocin leading to overwhelming contractions leading to an epidural leading to it being hard for me to push leading to a cesarean section. I said “NO WAY” to the pitocin, which the doctor was kind of flabbergasted at. She assured me that at  Walnut Creek Kaiser they were very  frugal with their pitocin and highly monitored women on it and that is was exceptionally safe and would be the best thing to help labor progress and get Charlie out before there was risk of an infection. Yeah yeah yeah, I know all that, I still don’t want it. Let’s take a walk, let’s use a breast-pump, let’s try other things first. She was silently annoyed with me but was like, OK, you can try it, so we did.

We walked all around the hospital, the outside grounds, we found a ping-pong table and played a rowdy game of ping-pong… we returned to the room with no changes, so we asked for a breastpump. I pumped for like a half an hour and all it did was make me really sore and frustrated. Another hour or so went by and the same doctor came back again and asked me if I wanted to try just the minimum dose of pitocin (2 units) to get labor going again. I had watched other women who wanted a natural birth respond well to just the minimum dose of pitocin, so I thought, if we could keep it at the minimum (if my body responded well) then it wouldn’t be so bad, and I agreed.

They hooked the pitocin drip into my saline lock IV at the minimum dosage and my contractions started to come again in about a half hour to an hour. They were manageable but stronger than the natural ones I was having before. My mom helped me breathe through them and my nurse Michael showed me a few techniques to relax my entire body and not fight the contractions when they came. He gave me a shoulder massage and paid attention to me through every contraction, this was a huge help.

After about an hour of these contractions the doctor said they’d like to see them coming  closer together to help me dilate (since my water had broken they had only given me one internal exam when I was admitted and I was still at 1cm.) I guess I must have agreed that having labor pick up would be a good idea so they raised the pitocin to 4 units. It wasn’t long after this that the contractions easily doubled or tripled in intensity and I had a very hard time tolerating them.

It was like night and day from what had been very reasonable, manageable contractions, to these huge waves coming every minute, so strong I could barely stand them, or breathe through them, or take any helpful direction from my mother or nurse. This continued for at least a few hours, which just seemed like one big long painful blur, and I eventually broke down and just started crying in the middle of a contraction and said, “I can’t do this, they hurt SO bad! I don’t think I can do this.” Mom said I wasn’t coping well, I was closing my eyes, I was tensing my body, I forfeited my regulated breathing for huge breathy cries, I was losing my focus and subsequently my cool.

With each contraction I was growing less able to handle them. I was shaking, I was making these low growling noises as loud as I possibly could and I was still crying saying I couldn’t do it. Now, I have no idea if my contractions would have been this unmanageable without pitocin, I can only assume they wouldn’t have been, or that at least they would have gradually increased and my body would have produced natural endorphins to help me cope with the pain. These pitocin-induced contractions increased at a very fast rate, continued at a very fast pace and were overwhelmingly strong. But, I tried with all my might to fight through them for as long as I had to until they would give me another internal exam to tell me how much I had dilated. If they were productive contractions, I thought, it might be worth it to just stick it out and have a fast, yet super painful labor. So about 6 hours of these contractions went by (I thought it was 3 hours but mom chronicled everything and confirmed it was actually 6) and the nurse agreed to check me to see how I was dilating. I was hoping they would check me and announce triumphantly that I was at 5 or 6cm and I could feel all proud of myself and gain the strength to fight through another few hours of these horrendous contractions. Unfortunately, when they checked me, I was barely at 3cm. They encouraged me, saying that it takes the most work to go from 1-4cm and after that, it usually goes much faster (THIS WAS NOT TRUE FOR ME AND I’M GLAD I DIDN’T BUY IT.) But I was completely unable to fathom even another half hour of pain on this level, so I begged them for an epidural, but I was very scared.

I never wanted an epidural, I never wanted ANY drugs during my birth. My entire family has given birth drug-free so I definitely felt like a pansy and a failure in some ways by requesting one. But I also felt like it was appropriate, I had been induced, I was having artificially strong, super regular contractions and I wasn’t dilating quickly, so chances were that there were many more hours ahead and it’d be smart for me to ease the pain, relax, conserve my energy for pushing later. I talked to my mom about it and after a brief discussion of the pros and cons, she was supportive and also thought it was appropriate (she had to watch me crying for hours in agony so I’m sure she knew I wasn’t being a puss.)

When the anesthetist came in I cried out to him, “YOU ARE SAVING MY LIFE!!” He was happy to be of service. My nurse told me they were going to give me a little something (fentantyl) for the pain before my epidural, so that if I had a contraction while they were trying to put the catheter in my spine I wouldn’t seize up or move around. I cannot express in words the smooth, euphoric caress that swept over me as they put this stuff in my IV but I remember saying something like, “OH MY GOD… THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER! WHAT A RELIEF! THANK YOU SO MUCH” I remember feeling a little dizzy, or drunk, but the pain was immediately diminished and I felt soooo relaxed and happy to be escaping a 6 hour world of pain. Once they gave me the fentanyl, I was pretty much ready for anything. Definitely not scared of the epidural any longer, looking forward to it, and felt that I definitely made the right decision in requesting pain relief. I was ready to enter the peaceful period of my labor.

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I’m trying to write this now so that it’s fresh in my mind, but the truth is, I can’t remember a lot of my labor. I know that your body does you that favor, by producing amnesiac chemicals and sparing you the graphic memories of some of the worst pain of your life, and I appreciate it.

I was 6 days overdue, HUMUNGOUS (I gained almost 75 pounds during my pregnancy, what can I say, I’m an overachiever,) and really ready to get this baby out by the time of my second post-due date OBGYN appointment. The OBGYN I saw first had offered to sweep my membranes to attempt to get labor rolling and I said “yes, please” but I was only 1 cm dilated and my cervix is really far back so she couldn’t do much, but she tried. I bled a little bit, but still had no contractions and no signs of labor. So, 4 days later, I come back in to see a different OBGYN with small hands and nimble fingers who really goes to town, gripping the edge of the table and plowing up in there to give my membranes a good sweep. GOOD, I thought, SOMETHING HAS TO HAPPEN NOW. I had been losing my mucus plug in the days preceding this, but the doctor said that’s a really overrated way to try to predict labor, it could still be weeks after you lose your plug with nothing happening, so I hoped the membrane sweep would push me over the edge. I lost more plug, cramped up a lot more than after the last sweep, but just like the last time, it was gone in an hour or so and then I was back to feeling totally normal again.

By the end of the day, I still felt like there was nothing going on, so I said to my mom, “I think I’m going to drink a tablespoon of castor oil,” which she was really wary about because that’s how she kick-started her labor with me and she had really painful contractions for 48 hours that weren’t dilating her until the very end. So she insists I wait awhile while she looks up all these awful stories of pregnant women who drank castor oil and had horrible, painful things happen to them including massive dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea and ultimately no resultant labor… and I was like, I’m just going to try the minimum dose, one tablespoon, I bet it won’t even do anything. So I mixed it into some apple juice and shot it back and it didn’t taste like anything (unlike what thousands of whiny pregnant women on the internet will tell you.) It was fine, I was hopeful, I went to sleep and thought I would wake up and nothing would be different.

Around midnight I woke up and realized I was having a lot of cramping. It wasn’t the kind of cramping I was anticipating, because a lot of the castor oil stories I’ve read tell about the intestinal distress, loose stools, stomach cramping, and I was having cramps that felt like menstrual cramps, not digestive related at all. I was HAPPY, EXCITED, READY, the castor oil seemed to be doing its job, so I downed another tablespoon and just tried to go back to sleep.

At 3am I awoke to a huge warm gush pouring out over my legs and my mind went, “oh my god YES! Wait, what do I do? What do I do?” So I sat up, still kind of asleep and said outloud, “I THINK I NEED A TOWEL.” So I waddled into the bathroom, leaving a trail, and got a towel for myself and the bed. I went to investigate with the light on and sure enough there was this huge wet spot on the bed that had poured over the side and left another puddle on the floor. I WAS SO HAPPY. I went into mom’s room where she and Conny were sleeping and said, “Mom, my water just broke.”

“THAT’S SO GOOD, HONEY!” she said, “Now go back to sleep.”

I laughed, as if I could try to sleep after getting this rush of adrenaline with the excitement of impending birth. I went back to my room and decided to take a shower to ease the cramping that was turning into contractions. While I was in the shower, mom came in the bathroom and said, “you should call the hospital and just let them know that your water broke.” “OK,” I said, “yeah I probably should.”

When I called Kaiser they said they’d like me to just stop by so they could take a sample of the fluid and make sure everything was normal. I described the color which was a beige, but mostly clear, and they said yeah why don’t you get cleaned up and just stop in. SO CASUAL, yeah, JUST STOP BY, we won’t TRY AND KEEP YOU THERE SINCE YOUR WATER HAS BROKEN… oooh no! But, I thought, we’d just stop in, they’d take a sample, we could go back home, go back to sleep, wait for contractions to build, labor at home for awhile like we planned, go to the hospital at the last minute, THEN deliver this baby. That’s just not how things worked out.

Luckily we had enough foresight to bring all our hospital bags. I brought my laptop, cell phone charger, newborn clothes for Charlie, mom had her doula book and some extra clothes/supplies, and we headed to Kaiser. When I got into the car I realized I was having regular contractions so we started timing them and they were about 2 1/2 minutes apart, about 30 to 45 seconds long. I was surprised how mellow and euphoric I felt. The contractions were definitely contractions but they were totally manageable, just like menstrual cramps. I breathed along with my mom and we just tried to record them and stay calm in the car. When we got to the hospital and they had to register/check me in I was like, “but I’m leeeeaaaking” and that didn’t seem to phase anyone. They still had to ask me a bunch of questions and I’m sure people leak a lot more interesting fluids on their floors all the time. I remember leaning up with my face towards the wall when I’d have a contraction and just breathing through it while mom tried to answer questions for me in the meantime. It seemed to take forever to get into a room and be able to sit down and get comfortable, but eventually they lead us into an exam room in labor & delivery to try and get a sample of my amniotic fluid.

What I didn’t expect at this point was how much scrutiny my body fluids and personal assessment of labor would be under. The midwife I saw asked me how I knew my water had broken and I was like, “Ummm, a huge gush of fluid that spills all the way over your bed and leaves two huge puddles and soaks through a towel? Seems pretty obvious to me.” But the thing is, they had just checked my amniotic fluid level the day before and I had a TON of fluid, so when they re-checked me, I STILL had a ton of fluid, (which I found out later was probably because I had a high tear in the waters that didn’t keep leaking directly out, it only let out a little bit of the fluid, which is great because it left lots of cushion for Charlie, but sucked because the nurse freaked me out by saying ‘oh your waters can break but they can reseal, that happens all the time’) so that’s probably why they were skeptical. The other sucky thing is that because of the high tear, no more fluid was coming out while I was sitting in bed, it had all leaked out at the admission desk (which I was like SEE I TOLD YOU I WAS LEAKING THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF IT) and they couldn’t get a good sample. So they took an internal swab to examine on a slide, but it had to dry out to be able to identify if there was amniotic fluid in it and the drying part took forever. They thought it was done at one point and came out and said there was no amniotic fluid and I was like (in my head) ‘that is such fucking bullshit, I’m PREGNANT, I know when my own goddamn water has broken you assholes.’ The midwife was like “are you sure it wasn’t just mucus?” and I was like “if you can make a waterfall out of mucus then the world of fluids is not as I understood it to be.”

FINALLY after I had been sitting with my contractions, waiting to be able to go back home and labor somewhere where I was comfortable (also mom and Conny were there and they were really tired and hoping to go back to sleep soon) the midwife comes out and says OK we found amniotic fluid in your lab so YOU CAN’T GO HOME. And I was like whaaaat? Why not? And they were like well once your water breaks there’s a risk of infection so you should really just stay and labor here so we can keep an eye on you, if you still wanted to go home it would be against medical advice and you’d have to sign some paperwork. So I was like, “that’s fine I don’t mind paperwork, we would like to go home…”

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40 Weeks 3 Days

Although I know there is nothing abnormal about being 3 days overdue on your first baby, it sure does provoke a feeling of being somehow impaired at childbearing. I thought at 40 weeks I’d be having Braxton Hicks up the wazoo and be able to push myself into labor by eating pineapple or drinking castor oil or tweaking my nips… but now that I’m here, none of these things are working and the reality of drinking castor oil when literally NOTHING IS HAPPENING could mean hours on the toilet, contractions with no dilation and a further frustrated me.

Pregnancy and parenting are the ultimate exercises in patience, I know this, and every day I am somehow more patient than the last just by making it through. Although I do believe that everything that is supposed to happen in birth, will happen organically in birth, I really didn’t expect my OBGYN to be pushing induction so hard. There are plenty of good reasons, sure, like I’m leaving on the 30th to drive back to Seattle, so it’d be nice to ensure that I have adequate recovery time post-partum… and when it comes to induction you really need to book a date in advance so you’re not scrambling while you’re two weeks overdue and realizing there are no hospital rooms available in this 2012 summer of breeding. Also, the baby’s only getting bigger, and boy do I NOT LIKE TO HEAR THAT and other things such as “the bigger this baby gets (1/2 pound to a pound more each week) the more likely you are to have a longer, more difficult labor and pushing.” I love when they assess his size through my belly and look and me and say, “there are small, medium and large babies, I’d have to say this one’s a large.” Since I don’t have gestational diabetes I can rightfully brag that my large baby must be a natural over-achiever. Large babies are healthy babies! There were many, many days throughout my pregnancy I was worried Charlie would come out early and be underweight, and those days are over. Why can I not just relax and be grateful without picturing my vagina being ripped in half by Charlie the Collosus?

My sister Conny flew into San Francisco yesterday and is really rooting for me to get this baby out while she’s here. She says she’s going to make me some super spicy Thai food today, and mom is going to continue to take me on walks with the pugs to try and get things moving down there. I really thought I was closer to going into labor a week ago than I do now. I expected a lot more to be going on, and to be noticing a lot more steady progression, but as of right now, I’m still only 1cm dilated and, while my cervix is becoming more effaced, I still am not having contractions… just lots of aches, gas and sharp pains when I move around.

I am frustrated, but I’m committed to avoiding an induction, despite the recommendations of my OBGYN. I don’t want to take any drugs unless they are medically necessary, and my mom is behind me on that, so we’re going to try and stick it out… at least until Friday, when I have another appointment and we may make a new plan. I’ll keep you guys posted on how things are progressing, but just know that Charlie’s heartbeat is super strong, he’s moving around a lot, probably super cozy and just being a stubborn hipster ass about making a stylishly late entrance. All is well. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

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