Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chief's Birth Story, Part 3

Read part 2 here

At midnight, I asked the nurse for an epidural.

The details of the next couple of hours are a little fuzzy because of how tired I was and how unbearable the contractions were, but this is what I think happened:

I'm pretty sure the doctor had to order the epidural, because I remember her coming to see me again.  The nurse briefed her on our situation and our decision, and she called up the anesthesiologist to order the drugs.  I'm not sure how long it took for him to get there, but I don't think the needle went into my back until after 1AM.

When he did show up, I had to answer some questions, and I may have had to sign something but I could be making that part up.  The nurse had me undo my gown and sit on the edge of the bed with my legs draped over the side.  She held my hands and told me to relax, and that it was very important that I not move until after it was over.

"Okay.  Can we wait until this contraction passes?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"Honey, this is going to take a while- a few contractions, probably."

"Ah.  Okay."  (In my head all I could think was "Oh shit oh shit oh shit...")

As I had been doing all day, I concentrated on relaxing my entire body completely so that I wouldn't move.  I felt the needle go in- it hurt, but the contractions hurt worse, so I kept breathing and focused on not moving.  

Finally, I was allowed to move again, so I put my legs back on the bed- I would not be getting up until after Chief was born.  I asked the nurse how long the pain relief would last, and she said it's different for each person.  Mr. Geek made a joke about my being a lightweight- something about it only takes one drink to get me drunk...which, yeah, it's true...but we were all so tired that nobody laughed.  I told him it was because his joke wasn't funny, but my mom thought that maybe I didn't get it- "He means that you're a lightweight, honey."

Thanks, Mom.

(We were all kind of out of it at this point.)

The drugs finally kicked in, and my legs and feet started to tingle.  The nurse explained that I wouldn't lose all sensation in my lower half, just the pain.  I could feel her poking my feet, and I could feel the next contraction, but it didn't hurt!  She had me lay down and ordered me to go to sleep- literally, she said, "Okay, Mom, I'm ordering you to go to sleep now."  Mr. Geek didn't need to be told twice- he plopped into the chair next to my bed and conked out.  As always, he started to snore before I fell asleep and I thought it might keep me up.  But I worked through my relaxation exercises again, relaxing my body and trying to relax my mind...and this time, it worked!  The last time I looked at the clock, it said 2AM.  My mom hunkered down in another chair but never fell asleep, and my MIL went out into the waiting room to lay down on a couch.

The next thing I knew, it was 4AM and our nurse was bustling around our room, turning on lights and saying, "Good morning!"  She took a look at the fetal monitor to confirm that Chief was doing just fine, then checked me out one last time.

"It's time to have a baby!" she declared.  My mom rushed out to grab my MIL and Mr. Geek ran to our in-room bathroom to brush his teeth, and then the whole team got into position.  The bed was raised so I was sitting upright, and the nurse instructed my mom and Mr. Geek to each grab one of my legs and pull them up so I could grab the backs of my knees.  When the nurse said "push," I was to pull my legs back as far as I could, tuck my chin to my chest, and hold my breath.  She would then count to 10, and then it was over and I could breathe until the next contraction.  While my team (my mom, MIL, and husband) helped me push, the nurse was massaging my perineum with baby shampoo to try and prevent tearing.  I was hooked up to the monitor so they could see when contractions started, but I could also feel them, and before the nurse had a chance to say "Push!" I was telling everyone "Okay, here's another one!"  The baby was also being monitored the whole time, and her heart rate would drop with each contraction, then rise again- which was normal.

The nurse had said that the doctor wouldn't be called in until the last possible minute- "The baby is going to show up right after the doctor!"  So when my doctor walked in after about an hour of pushing, I was so excited- we were almost done!

Only, we weren't almost done.  The nurse had called the doctor in because I was bleeding a lot, apparently.  More than she was comfortable with.  The doctor poked around and agreed that yeah, it was a lot of blood, and I was tearing, but it was probably going to be okay.  She also put her hands on Chief and discovered that the cord was wrapped around her arm- she said she thought that maybe Chief was squeezing it with every contraction, hence the drastic dip in heart rate we were seeing.  But most importantly, she noticed that Chief was face up!  Of course, my back had been hurting the entire time, but for some reason it never clicked that I was experiencing "back labor."  If any of us had made the connection, I would have made an effort to spin her by getting on my knees more often, but by the time the doctor mentioned it, we were beyond the position-switching phase. 

I pushed for almost 3 hours, and finally, at 6:50AM on Sunday, November 10, Chief was born.  Our little family had worked together for 32 hours to bring her into the world

She didn't quite cry when she took her first breath; she kind of sputtered, like a car that won't start.  I told Mr. Geek she sounded like a monkey- "ah-ah-ah-ah"- and we both chuckled, but as the nurses hurried her over to the scale they snapped at us that this was NOT a good sound to hear, so we shut up.  As it turns out, despite my nurse's best efforts, I tore pretty badly- they called it a third-degree tear, with fourth being the worst?  Anyway, the doctor was stitching me up, so I couldn't hold Chief until she was done.  They weighed her- 7lbs 12oz- suctioned out her lungs, and cleaned her off, and then finally the doctor was done with me.

photo via my mom
 "Give her to me!" I shouted (well, I raised my voice slightly.  I wasn't quite capable of shouting.) so someone pressed the button on my bed to lift me up into a completely upright position.  They brought her to me and placed her in my arms, and then...the edges of my vision started to turn black.  All the noise in the room seemed to fade and then go out entirely.  I got really cold all of a sudden.

"I can't hear anything," I said, and I thought I said it loudly.  Nobody seemed to be paying attention to me- nurses were writing down Chief's stats and Apgar score.  (9, by the way.)  "I can't see," I whispered.  I looked down at Chief- I was going to drop her, I knew it.  I was going to pass out.  Why wasn't anyone paying attention?

I heard my name vaguely off to my left- it was my nurse.  Someone grabbed Chief from me and handed her to my MIL as my vision disappeared entirely.  My bed was lowered again so I was completely flat, and my vision came back.

"Talk to me," the nurse demanded.

"Hi," I said weakly.

All that was running through my head was that I wanted to try to nurse Chief.  I wanted us to have that oh-so-important skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible- it was supposed to be immediately; would this delay affect our bonding?  Would our relationship suffer because I wasn't yet able to hold her?

So long as I was laying flat, I was okay, so my nurse and doctor conferred on my stats.  One of the things they needed to record was how much blood I lost.  The doctor initially said 3- 300mL- but my nurse said, "I don't know, she bled a lot before you showed up...I think it's more of a 4 or 5..." so they agreed to record a 4 for that category.

"Is that bad?" I asked.

"Five or less is normal," my nurse explained, "anything more than that is considered too much."

They told me I needed to eat, and then I could hold Chief.  I picked up my in-room phone and called the cafeteria to order a stack of pancakes and an orange juice.  I watched as the nurses passed Chief to her dad, her grandmothers.  I was still lying flat on my back when my breakfast arrived, so somebody raised my bed again to sit me up so I could eat, but I passed out again, so they laid me back down.  I was in a pickle; I had to eat, but to eat, I had to sit up, but sitting up made me faint, so I needed to eat so I wouldn't faint. I ended up tearing a pancake into tiny bits that I could nibble on while lying flat, and after a while I was able to lift my bed to a very slight incline so I could sip my juice and finally, finally hold my daughter.  She latched on immediately- it was much easier than I thought it would be- and I stroked her hair as she nursed for the very first time, amazed at how beautiful she was.  Mr. Geek fed me the rest of my pancakes as I held her, and eventually I was able to sit up straight without fainting.

Our moms went home to shower and take a nap, and another nurse came in to transfer us to our recovery room.  A second bed was wheeled in, and the nurse told me to climb into it.

"Um, I can't feel my legs," I explained as I handed Chief to Mr. Geek.

"Still?" she asked, incredulous.

"Still," I confirmed.  She lifted my ankles and moved my legs onto the other bed.

"Now just wriggle your shoulders to get your upper body moved over."

I was kind of surprised that she wasn't really helping me, but I guess she had a lot of paperwork to look over.  It was awkward, but I got myself into the other bed, and Mr. Geek piled all my stuff onto the foot of the bed after he handed Chief back to me.  I was able to hold her as we were wheeled down the hall towards the recovery wing and into our new room.  She turned her face towards me and actually latched on over my gown.

"I'm sorry, baby," I laughed.  "Mommy can't get naked here in the hall!"  As soon as we got into our new room, I pulled down my gown so she could nurse properly.  It really did come naturally to her; I had done a lot of reading about techniques to encourage a good latch and ways to hold her, but for the most part, she did it all herself.  It did hurt a little- especially on the left side, and she would grab at the IV tubes on my left hand, which complicated things more- but we were really good at it from the very beginning.  We went to a class the next day with other brand new moms to see if I could get some advice that could make it less painful, but the LC said we were doing everything right- she just had a very small mouth and I apparently have big nipples.

I think Chief could probably have been released the next morning- she passed all her tests with flying colors- but I definitely could not.  Before we were transferred to the recovery room, they took some blood from me to test my h&h levels (I don't remember what that stands for).  After I fainted for the second time, my doctor told my nurse to amend her report and put my blood loss level as a 5 (500mL).

When I got to the recovery room, I got a phone call from my doctor.  She explained that my h&h levels were right on the borderline of what is considered safe or normal; combine that with the fact that I lost the maximum amount of blood that would be considered normal for a vaginal birth, and she felt it would be beneficial for me to receive 2 units of blood.  Because I wasn't quite over the limit, she was going to leave it up to me to decide- but she highly recommended it.  I felt like crap, and Mr. Geek kept telling me I was white as a sheet, so I agreed to the transfusion.  I had more things to sign and information to read, but eventually, two units of blood were brought to my room and pumped into me through the IV in my hand.  I am so, so glad I agreed to this, as it did wonders to brighten me back up- more so than just eating would have done.  (Later, Mr. Geek told me that if I hadn't said yes, he would have said yes for me- he was really worried about me.)  But that wasn't the only problem I had...

(I warned you there would be talk of bodily functions in this birth story.  So just...yeah.  You were definitely warned.)

I couldn't pee.

All of my lady-bits were super swollen from the almost 3 hours of pushing, plus I had a pretty long tear that was stitched up and trying to heal, and though I was readily accepting any pain pills they would throw at me, going to the bathroom was uncomfortable, to say the least.  Hell, sitting down was uncomfortable, but I couldn't stand for too long because I was still woozy, and walking was almost out of the question.  (The breastfeeding class was just 2 doors down from my room, and I pushed Chief's little bed-cart to it on my own, but that short distance was enough to leave me winded.)

Before being transferred to my recovery room, I was catheterized- which was fine, because the epidural hadn't yet worn off so I couldn't feel it, and obviously couldn't walk to the bathroom anyway.  But once I fully regained feeling in my lower half, I did NOT want that damn catheter again.  My bladder didn't feel full at any point that day- I never felt like I needed to pee- but I was dragged to the bathroom anyway.  I don't know how many times I tried to use the bathroom that day, but nighttime rolled around and I still couldn't go, so they brought back the catheter again.  Apparently that brought out like a gallon of pee or something- filled the whole damn bag immediately- but I never felt a full bladder in the first place.  They taped another bag to my leg so I could, in theory, get out of bed and walk around, but that just wasn't going to happen.  This meant that in the middle of the night, when both grandmas were at home and the nurses were leaving us alone, Mr. Geek had to change a diaper.

For the first time in his life.

"I have no idea what I'm doing," he announced helplessly after he un-swaddled her.  I walked him through the steps- put the new diaper underneath her before you take off the old; wipe from front to back; pull the straps tight; wash your hands.  He did a fantastic job- the first of many in his role as Official Diaper Changer- and then handed her to me to nurse.

The next day seemed nearly as hopeless as the first on the pee front.  At one point, I convinced the nurses to let me take a hot shower- something I hadn't done in 3 days!- in the hopes that it would relax me enough to let things work properly, and they agreed, so long as someone stood in there with me so I didn't fall.  I voted for Mr. Geek to have that responsibility, so he stood just outside the shower stall and helped me scrub the grime off my body.  I started to cry as I ran my hands over my flabby belly covered in disgusting stretch marks; I fell like I'd fallen apart and been re-assembled in the wrong order.  My body wasn't my body anymore- it didn't look the same, it didn't work properly.  I just wanted to go home and curl up in a warm bed in Mr. Geek's arms with our baby in mine.  He wrapped me in a towel and held me close, just as he had a couple of days ago as we danced our way through labor.

"Your body is amazing," he told me.  "You just did something incredible- and incredibly hard.  You've got to give yourself time to recover, it won't happen over night.  It's going to be okay- I'm going to help you."

I calmed down, and eventually he left me alone to try and make things work again.  The shower helped some- I was able to pee!  Thank heavens!- but apparently not enough, as the nurses were not satisfied with the amount.  They threatened me with the dreaded catheter again but, eventually, I was finally able to fill the damn measuring cup.  The only thing standing between me and discharge papers now was the h&h levels in my blood.

Chief slept for 3 whole hours in a row that night- and would have slept longer, but a nurse came in just before 4 in the morning, turning on all the lights, to take blood from me.  A few hours later, the results were in- I was good to go!  My doctor told me to keep taking my pre-natal vitamins, an iron supplement, ibuprofen for the pain, and a stool softener and/or laxative- because, yeah, there was something else I hadn't done yet... I wasn't allowed to drive for a whole week, and I was to come in for a check-up at 6 weeks.  Time to go home!

photo via my mom
 And so ends the story part of the birth story.  Tomorrow I'm going to do a brief run-down of what went "wrong"- or at least what we would do differently if we could do it over again.  I realize today's portion of the story went into over-share territory, but I thought it was important to talk about this stuff- nobody ever tells you that you might not be able to pee after you give birth!  I may not have felt so helpless had I known ahead of time what recovery would entail, so I hope this information is helpful to some other new mom out there.

How long was your labor?  Did you run into any hiccups during your recovery?

Much love,
The Geeks

Read our lessons learned here


  1. Im pretty sure they finally called it almost 700 mL of blood loss cuz they gave you w unigs of 400 each. And they doctor called you in the L&D room cuz you got the blood almost immediately (within 30 min or so) when we got to the recovery room

    1. (you definitely typed that on your phone because yay typos! lol) Yeeeeah like I said, I'm a little hazy on the specifics. I finally realized why I thought I got the phone call in the recovery room- I called my dad in the recovery room before they gave me the blood, and I explained everything that was explained to me. So yeah, I had a phone call in the recovery room to talk about blood...just not with the doctor!

  2. I'm so glad you shared your story!

  3. Lovely birth story! I'm glad the blood transfusion helped.

    1. Me too! I'm not sure I'd have gotten out of bed without it...