Thursday, April 24, 2014

blogging from the sitz bath

Actually home, with an actual baby, and not actually pregnant any more, as I type this. Also a sleep-deprived zombie, which is why I think the previous sentence is a perfectly reasonable one to write.

[Birth story ahead. I try not to get too graphic, but, you know, words like "cervix" might be unavoidable.]

The hospital was finally able to take us in for my induction Sunday night. We arrived, got settled, and I took my first dose of misoprostol, and tried to get some sleep. Second dose came around midnight, and at two-thirty my water broke. This happening naturally is a good sign, so they delayed the third dose to see if I could dilate on my own. 

Contractions started soon after three, and kept me up the rest of the night, though they weren't unbearable. Sometime around eight in the morning, I think (things get blurry from this point), the doctor decided that I should have a third dose of misoprostol to get the dilation further along. I was concerned, because the contractions were already ramping up, but I agreed. 

What followed was pain for which there aren't words (not to be melodramatic or anything). The comparisons of induced labor to being eaten alive by bears are still not something I can address from personal experience, but since being eaten by bears is almost certainly over much more quickly, I would lean towards that being the lesser of the experiences. 

In any case, it was not long before I decided that I had proved everything I needed to prove. I've been through enough in thirty-seven years. So I called in the doctor and the nurse and said that I would like to discuss pain options. 

The nurse said, "But I'm going to get you in the bath! And you haven't walked around yet! And I had three kids without any interventions!" 


The doctor (not my usual OB; just the doc on the floor that day - and bear in mind that she'd been the one to push the third dose of drugs past my concerns) shook her head at me. "Beatrice," she said. "Beatrice, Beatrice."

I knew then I was in trouble.

"Beatrice, childbirth is a woman's Mt. Everest." (I had not the mental wherewithal to ask if that was the case even for women who have climbed the literal, non-uterine-metaphor, Mt. Everest. I was in the fetal position on a hospital bed crying.) "And what country is Mt. Everest in?"

"Nepal?" I hazarded, totally confused.  

"Yes. And you haven't even gotten to Nepal. You haven't even left Boston. You're sitting on the tarmac at Logan. What you're going through now is NOTHING." 

She proceeded to talk at great length about how the pain I was currently experiencing, which was the definition of unbearable as far I was concerned, in that I was requesting desperately of the medical establishment that I not have to bear it any longer, was probably the least amount of pain I would experience for the next twenty-four hours, which was why (and I'm sure it was my own failing that I couldn't quite follow her logic here) I had to just suck it up and be strong and get through that pain and forthcoming pain twenty times times worse without drugs, because billions of women do so every day, and also Mt. Everest. As pep talks go, it was the most balls-out insane, and worst, one ever.  

Yes, there was some stuff about how if I had pain medications at that point it would mean I would have to have them in place throughout the rest of my labor (to which I said, SOUNDS AWESOME). But the vast majority of what the doctor and nurse said was total shaming and peer pressure, and eventually I meekly submitted to the idea of walking around and taking a bath instead. 

Several unspeakable hours later (the doctor's metaphorical plane to Nepal may have been a beautiful voyage of feminine empowerment, but mine failed to clear the Alps and the survivors turned to cannibalism), with Berowne's help I managed to convince these two ladies that I was both a grown woman capable of making an informed decision about my medical care and also on the verge of a complete panic attack for which they would be responsible. The doctor relented. The nurse was so disgusted by me and my weakness that she actually left our team at that point and sent us someone else. (Win-win!) 

I was given all the narcotics and, after they'd worn off, an epidural. Throughout the whole span of the drugged part of labor, I still felt the contractions, just to a lesser (or, in the case of the narcotics, not even lesser: simply different) degree. Berowne read to me from Moby-Dick while we waited through this portion, and after five hours of the epidural, I was found to be fully dilated and with the baby's head in position. This did not surprise me at all, because I knew that what I needed was to be relaxed, and that I wouldn't be able to relax unmedicated. Props to the women who can, though I refuse to feel like I wimped out because some other woman would have been able to be all Spartan Boy about the same things I was feeling. Comparisons are odorous. 

By the time we got to pushing, I had almost nothing left (and would have had nothing at all if I'd been in agonizing, blinding pain those five hours). After two and a half hours, I was given an episiotomy, and out she came, perfect as could be. Then my body fell to pieces and I shook uncontrollably (it felt like my bones were rattling) and hyperventilated for half an hour. Apparently this is actually quite common post-birth, given what your body's been through, but I had never heard of it before, though I'd encountered every labor horror story known to modern man during my pregnancy. So I had no expectation of it, and honestly thought that some sort of postpartum psychosis was kicking in thirty seconds after giving birth and that they were going to have to sedate me and I'd wake up in the psych ward. In the end ginger ale largely solved the problem, but yikes. 

Our daughter is beautiful and amazing. Everyone is doing well. The combination of childbirth + an episiotomy means that I feel like I sat on an angry badger, but that will heal. No, I won't have a beautiful empowering childbirth story to tell my daughter, unless you count as empowering the moment when I decided I was going to insist on what I needed in the face of enormous disapproval (which I kind of do). But that is the least of what matters about my new astonishing role as a parent. 

And now, someone is reminding me that it has been an outrageous length of time since she was fed, so you will have to excuse me. Best to all. 


  1. Oh, I'm so glad you were able to get this written; I've been watching this space while telling myself it wasn't fair even to be hopeful. I just read it aloud and there was much laughter and WTFing. The first doc needs to be sent back to med school for her bedside manner and withholding of aid, and back to undergrad for her idiocy in metaphors. Best to all four of you; I hope that adjusting to a new baby, to a new and startlingly small human, and to life in the great beyond, respectively, goes well.

    1. What I totally love is she was still able to remember "Nepal." I am sure in that moment I would have blurted out "YOUR MOM," or something equally classy.

  2. BABY BABY HOLY SHIT MAZEL TOV! I am so excited and happy for you! ....oh my fucking GOD, I would eat the faces off those goddamn so-called medical practitioners if I could, like a shark. I was just thinking about you the other day and hoping you were OK -- and you and daughter and B are splendid! So wonderful.

  3. You did it! You did it! In spite of the "help". Hooray! xoxo