Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Firstborn

This is my contribution to the birth story fest going on over at Michelle’s blog, My Semblance of Sanity. If you are afraid of childbirth, and hate scary stories, don’t read it. But, just remember, that if women can tell these war stories with pride and joy, it wasn’t so bad and it’s all worth it. Here goes:

My first experience with motherhood was a baptism by fire. I had no idea what I was in for. My mom had 9 children. I never saw her even throw up. I thought pregnancy wouldn’t be that big a deal. When I was pregnant, I read something a doctor wrote about pregnancy in some of that fun literature you get at the OB’s office. In it, he (because I’m SURE it was a he) said that pregnancy wasn’t an illness. I felt like hunting the guy down and holding him at gunpoint and forcing him to retract that statement. So far, my experience with pregnancy felt an awful lot like the descriptions of chemotherapy I’d heard about. Ok, so maybe it isn’t an illness, but some of us are allergic to it. As the OB said, it’s a good thing the pregnancy test was positive, or else you’d probably be diagnosed with hepatitis by now.

I think I started getting sick within 5 minutes of conception. I then had the nine month stomach flu. I survived one month entirely on Jello gelatin pops which were the only thing I could keep down. The next month, all I could stomach was milk. And so it went. As the second trimester ended, the doctor said the best part of the pregnancy was over. I wished he had’ve told me that was the best part because I missed it being miserable. Everything made me sick; sounds, lights, movement, food, drink, sleeping, existing. My mom tried to empathize, telling me about a time when she was pregnant and she went out to eat but when they set the steak in front of her, she couldn’t even look at it. It was so depressing. That’s the best she could do? She got points for trying.

Being 4’10” and short waisted, the only place for a baby was out. By the last few months I looked like a beached whale and started retaining so much water, my feet squished when I walked. They felt like two water balloons that could split open at any moment. Someone started a rumor that I’d had the baby and I started getting calls to congratulate me. I just cried.

Finally, 3 weeks early at 3:30 am, I went to the bathroom and my water broke. Immediately, I started having contractions. I got all ready to go and woke up my husband. He was so groggy, but once the message got through, he shot up and got dressed. He wasn’t very awake yet. He put on blue and green tie dye shorts and an orange shirt. He looked crazy, but I wasn’t in the mood to redress him. (He was good practice for toddler fashion days.) Off he whisked me to the hospital.

It was a full moon and the place was jam packed. I was finally stuffed in a room, forced to lie flat on my back, and promptly ignored. Every time someone would come in I would ask them to raise my bed and they’d move it up a millimeter. I had no intention of having a natural childbirth. In high school I saw a video of 3 births: one natural, one epidural, one c-section. The epidural lady was enjoying the birth. That’s all I needed to see to make my decision. I wasn’t even anywhere near thinking about the pain meds though because every time I felt a pain, I wished it were worse because that would mean delivery was nigh. I have never wanted out of anything so bad in my life. Soon someone came in for my epidural. The baby’s heartbeats were kind of low so they wanted to be prepared ahead of time. They had already put me on oxygen. Of course I had learned nothing basically about childbirth and didn’t know I needed to be in a better position, or even that I had a right to assert myself. So, I got an epidural and rested. Then it wore off. My husband noticed I seemed to moan when the monitor showed a contraction so he asked me if I felt it. I just nodded. I was really tired. I hadn’t slept well for months.

He told a nurse I was feeling the contractions. A long time went by and he went stomping out and insisting someone come. Soon after the anesthesiologist came in, a nurse banged the door down as she barged into the room, yelling at me, “Your baby’s heart rate is terrible!” As if it was my fault. She proceeded to move me around trying to get me in a position that would improve the flow of oxygen in there. The heart rate was down to 20 when the contractions peaked and they were so close together, there wasn’t time to recover and get it up beyond 70 in between. Soon there was an entourage in the nurse’s wake and they picked me up by my ankles and shook me upside down. My parents were there by then, and it was all so quick that there was no time to cover their eyes. The door was also open with more help pouring in, so anyone walking down the hall got an eyeful. Next they started shaving me and having my husband sign papers as they explained the situation and I translated for my poor deaf husband who was still learning English. Then they made me drink this nasty stuff that tasted like a cough syrup mixed with pee which was to “neutralize my stomach acids” or make me barf my guts out.

While I’m regurgitating, the OB comes in and says, sometimes barfing will dilate you all the way, they checked, but I was still a 9 so he recommended a c-section. I was only too happy at that time to agree since I just wanted a live baby. So off I was wheeled, past strange people in the hall, looking down on my most miserable self as I looked up their nostrils and thought that all men should die for putting us through this kind of torture.

In the operating room, I was covered and all. I couldn’t see anything in the mirror really, I couldn’t move or keep my eyes open very good. I didn’t have any big plans except to see my baby be born, and I was disappointed. I didn’t see a thing. It felt like my tummy had a zipper that was stuck and they were yanking on it to set it loose. Then the doctor stuck his arm in and pulled out a tiny, 5 lb 9 oz baby girl! “It’s a girl!” I heard, followed by my husband exclaiming, “¡Está blaaaanca!” ( She’s sooo white!) You know, that cheesy stuff doesn’t just fall off in a c-section. They whisked her off to clean her up and all. Then my husband started getting worried. “She didn’t cry, why didn’t she cry? What if she isn’t breathing?” The doctor told him to go see her, she was ok, and in a minute, we heard a little mousy squeak. So deceptive! That girl packed a set of lungs! They put the eye drops in and pricked her heel and all but the moment they stuck a diaper on her (which she drowned in) she cried like a mad thing! Once they had her wrapped up like a burrito, they brought her over for me to see. Upside down. But she had the cutest little pixie upside down face I ever saw and a lot of dark hair. She blinked at me, and I was content. While I was getting sewed up, more tugging, my husband came marching out to the nursery in his great fashion statement, like some kind of absurd model down the runway, to greet my family with his new baby girl in his arms. He was so proud! And that was the end of peace in our house and I’m so glad for it!


Michelle Kemper Brownlow said...

Thanks for your story!
I enjoyed it!

Ellen said...

Hi Shellie, Great story. Loved it. We have something in common. A C Section on our firstborn. Mine was an emergency and so they did the section the old fashioned way, all the way up to my navel;( Never had a problem with any of my next 3 births, all natural, thank god.

Thanks for that;)

Karen said...

Wow. I thought my first was rough. It's truly amazing you had more children.

They picked you up by your ankles?!

caramama said...

Great story! Sounds like a tough pregnancy and L&D! They are worth it though, aren't they?

Lijy said...

you really had a hard time there. Sometimes the docs are really stupid. they don't care about whats going on in the mom-to-be's mind.
when i delivered Jason, they did not show him to me, till i was all sewed up, cleaned and was in the room. I literally cried and pleaded them to show me the baby. idiots.

Burgh Baby said...

You had more? Why? Um, yeah. I sincerely hope you didn't have quite so much drama after that.

Great story!

The Cranes said...


Wow--there were some details in there that I don't remember ever knowing. You were at a 9 when they did the c-section? That's not even fair to get so close and then have to have surgery. But you're right, we did want the baby to be alive. I got there after the "by the ankles" part and Mom and Dad were looking pretty shaken up by everything. You know I can totally empathize with the "feeling like you are on chemotherapy" thing. With my firstborn, some male friend of my husband was asking me how long I had been feeling sick and when I said six weeks, so far, he said, "Well that's not too bad." I about bit his head off! "YOU try having the 24-hour stomach flu every day for six weeks and THEN tell me it's not that bad!" Mom told me that restaurant story too. Didn't help too much, but you're right--she was doing her best to empathize. What a great mom!

The Sports Mama said...

I was induced with both of mine, so I got to skip the whole image of hubby dear wearing whatever he could find. Yeah. Mine was able to shower and primp while I laid in the hospital bed. Weenie.

However... the side benefit? 13 hour continuous drip epidural for the first one, and about 9 hours continuous with the second one. Although in hindsight, the first one might have been too much. I was completely numb from the waist down, and the nurses had to come in and flip me over to the alternate side every 30 minutes or so! :)

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

It is so fun to read or hear other's birth stories! Thanks for sharing!