There, now I've said it.
When my other daughters were born, I shared every detail. I am a compulsive "over-sharer" on Facebook. I have had this blog (and mostly written regularly) since 2009. I am not one to keep my mouth shut (or, I guess it'd be keep my computer keys clickless or something).
But I have been very reluctant to talk about that day despite people asking (and being a bit bewildered by my recalcitrance, I suspect) because frankly I have never been more scared in my life. Also, it feels wrong to talk about a day of such great joy as being terrible and scary.
Virtually all new mothers have that "first pic", the one where they are holding their baby for the first time. I have one, too.
The difference is that Gabrielle had been born some time before this picture was actually taken. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my husband captured this moment--the first one of my newborn and I--just after her second bath.
I've been struggling with how to write this piece, grappling with whether I should do a play-by-play of Gab's birth or just focus on the strange and intense feelings the extremes of that day brought forward in me, which is of course the philosophical bend that I try to find in everything that happens.
Forgive me if I go too far one way or the other ...
My water broke around 2:30 a.m., and we headed to the hospital pretty quickly as it was almost an hour away and we already knew that I would need to have IV antibiotics during delivery.
The doctor decided to start pitocin right away because I was only 2 centimeters dilated. I was very upfront about wanting an epidural as soon as possible; this was my third go-round with childbirth, after all, and I saw no reason to suffer agonizing pain needlessly.
The epidural started off okay, with the cold wash, the burning lidocaine, and the need to stay completely still. However, it started to hurt as the anesthesiologist moved the needle then the catheter around. A lot! She seemed to think I was being something of a drama queen as I got lectured on the difference between pain and pressure. I didn't care as long as the contractions stopped hurting.
All of a sudden, my bottom felt ridiculously hot, I couldn't move my feet, and my blood pressure started dropping. The anesthesiologist seemed to think I wasn't trying hard enough to move my feet at first, but I was too scared to be angry as my blood pressure continued to plummet...and Gabrielle's started to follow. I got dizzy and faint and started throwing up with an oxygen mask hooked onto my head...it was terrible.
The scariest part was that the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and my OB were clearly alarmed. I later learned, of course, that my blood pressure had dropped dangerously, had nearly disappeared for a moment or three, that I'm very lucky that ephedrine exists.
They restarted the pitocin, and I was very quickly in agony. If you've ever given birth, you know what "it's time to start pushing pain" feels like, and that's what I was feeling. When the OB checked and I was only at 4 centimeters, I knew something was going on. 4 centimeters just didn't mesh with the frequency and intensity of my contractions, so she did a quick ultrasound. Turns out Gabrielle was facing outward (called "sunny side up" on birth boards), which explained the pain and the lack of quick progress. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but the back of a head slides down the birth canal a lot more smoothly than a face)
I was kind of at the end of my rope (okay, I was about to scream in pain, with tons of dilating still ahead of me), so the OB said the only option for pain management was reattempting the epidural. Because of the epidural/blood pressure debacle, they did not want to give me narcotic pain medicine.
The cause of the drama with the first epidural attempt was a bolus, and I was assured that it was incredibly rare and the odds of it happening again were astronomical. In other words, there's no way I'd have another screwy reaction to an epidural.
Until it happened again...same dizziness, same blood pressure drop, same vomiting into the oxygen, and same fear.
When the OB reluctantly said a C-section was becoming increasingly likely, I was glad. I just wanted it over and the pain and fear to be gone.
This was my first C-section after having two pretty much uneventful vaginal births with my other two daughters. It was scary, to say the least. I was still freaking out over the two epidural attempts, and trusting that there would be no to minimal pain was hard to believe considering the way everything seemed to be going wrong.
They started the C-section, and my husband sat next to me and was very reassuring. I was dizzy and dozy from the medicine, and then my blood pressure dropped yet again and I had yet another round of puking into the oxygen mask.
It was only then that they realized that Gabrielle's shoulder was tightly lodged in my pelvic bone. They could not get her out for awhile, and finally they had to get very aggressive. As a result, my uterine wall tore and the OB had to call for backup and order blood for a transfusion...and everyone was very scared again, which of course freaked me out all over again. I lost a lot of blood, and there was some concern that parts of my urinary system had been damaged.
Once Gabrielle was delivered, she was perfectly fine. I heard her cry, and I wanted to see her more than anything, but they took her away while they tried to figure out how to solve the problem of me. They called my husband over and gave Gabrielle to him. He cut the cord, and they were ushered into a small room where they got to bond and hang out while my blood loss was figured out and remedied and I was stitched up.
It was only later that it occurred to me how serious the situation was as they literally left my husband alone with a newborn baby for an extended period of time.
This was over three weeks ago, and here is my beautiful baby next to me as I write this.