So, given that all I can think about lately is labor - previous labors, going into labor, other peoples' labors, the old Cosby Show episode where Cliff delivers a submarine sandwich and a soda, you name it, I decided maybe it would help ease my mind to write about each of the boys' births. (Probably not, but on the off chance that you're actually interested....??) I guess really, this post is more for me than for you (I'm just selfish that way), and it's long. Indulge me.
Disclaimer: considering this is an entire post dedicated to labor and the birthing of a baby, TMI is pretty much a given. Consider yourself warned.
I didn't go into labor with Kayden. My doctors were concerned about Kayden's size and the fact that I was carrying enough fluid to buoy a bathtub full of toy sailboats, so they scheduled me to be induced. I was ridiculously uncomfortable; I'd gained 52 pounds, and Kayden's feet had found a permanent resting place up inside my rib cage. He didn't drop until the day I was induced, he was so long.
Emotionally, I was all over the place. (So for a woman 40-weeks pregnant who has never delivered a baby, pretty normal.) My parents had flown up a few days early, thinking I may go into labor on my own. I didn't. Literally on the way to the hospital, we dropped my dad off at the airport so he could get back to Texas and back to work. That was upsetting to say the least. Kyler, mom and I went and got something to eat, and headed to the hospital. (I was admitted the night before the induction, and given a cervical gel in the hopes I'd go into labor on my own overnight.) I did and Kayden slid right on out no problem. End of story.
Haha. Don't I wish. Then again, that wouldn't give me much of a story to tell, would it?
The Pitocin drip was started around 7am the next morning via the IV. Actually, I'm surprised the nurse was even able to get the IV in, I was jittering so much from pure nervous anxiety. This wasn't the route Kyler and I had wanted for our baby; we had hoped for a labor as intervention-free as possible. Unfortunately, my body just wasn't reacting well to the shock of a first pregnancy, and I was borderline toxemic. Looking back, I'm not really surprised. I was driving nearly 3 hours round trip to and from work each day, spending all day on my feet teaching a class with a few incredibly challenging students, and taking a graduate class. And despite my efforts to have Kyler stand up and shake the doctor's hand when he/she entered the room during those last pre-natal appointments (you know, so his 6'6" stature was taken into account here - Kyler weighed 10 1/2 pounds at birth), they were still concerned about Kayden's size. So, several weeks of non-stress tests, a couple of extra ultrasounds, and one too many high-blood pressure readings later, we went ahead with the induction.
Around 9am, Dr. R came in and broke my water. This was terrifying, (maybe because she accidentally neglected to tell me that is what she was doing...) and I had no clue that the rivers of amniotic fluid that just kept flowing out of me were not completely normal. There was so much of it, the Pitocin-induced contractions were doing absolutely nothing, and I was relatively comfortable. With the fluid out of the way, it was game on for those contractions, and I mean right away.
You know those "cleansing breaths" they instruct you to take in childbirthing classes and books? I tried to take them, really I did. I am a good student, and darnit, I was going to do this labor and delivery thing right. Geez. I didn't have time for a cleansing breath. After two labors, I've come to find out that my contractions are pretty hard and fast anyway, so with the Pitocin figured in there, that little ticker tape (you know, the telemetry strip) was pretty much just a bunch of plateaus. I'd feel the contraction coming, and it would peak. Right then. Then I'd have all of about 20 seconds before the fun started again. Hard and fast.
I should mention here that Kyler was incredible through everything. We had come prepared with just about everything suggested to help me manage the pain. Around 11am, we decided to pop in a video to try and distract me. We chose one of our favorite FRIENDS episodes; do you know "The One With the Jellyfish"? Oh my, SO funny.
Problem was, my contractions were so hard by this point that laughing actually hurt. Which made watching this episode like double torture. Then add in the fact that my labor coach couldn't stop laughing himself to coach me through contractions, and you have a recipe for a very grumpy laboring woman. Not pretty. So we ditched that idea.
Four hours later, I'd made it to 8cm without an epidural. Another doctor from my OB office came in, and gently and respectfully told me he was concerned about the baby's size (particularly his head) and heart rate, and I don't remember much of everything he said, but I do remember hearing the words "emergency c-section".
Where is that anesthesiologist? Sign me up. I did not want a c-section unless absolutely medically necessary. That much I was sure of.
Once I'd actually decided I wanted the epidural, it (naturally) took FOREVER for them to get in there and get it in. (Apparently some lady next door was having trouble, that much our ears told us...) While the anesthesiologist was prepping me and that ridiculously large needle she was going to insert into my spine (shudder), Kyler shifted from one foot to the other. This apparently made (the very petite assistant who was about half of Kyler's size) very nervous, and she immediately said to him, "Are you SURE you are okay? I cannot catch you." Guess it's pretty par for the course for husbands to faint while they put the epidural in - that's encouraging.
After they got the epidural in, it took about 30 minutes to get it "working" correctly. It took well in one leg, but not the other, and would "shift" back and forth as they adjusted it. Eventually, they had me so pumped full of anesthetic I couldn't feel anything. At all. Which was a huge reason why I hadn't wanted one in the first place.
Maybe I should take a minute to clarify something before half of the women reading this close the window on my blog and never read it again (and if you are a man reading this, kudos to you for making it this far!) I don't have anything against women who walk into the delivery room and get an epidural right away - your body, your prerogative, your choice. And I don't look down on you or think I'm superwoman for "making it" further than you did before I "caved/wimped out/gave in." I don't view it this way at all. It would be foolish of me not to recognize (and respect) that every woman's labor experience and wishes for that labor experience are distinctly different.
So for me, not being able to feel anything was a definite negative. Turns out, my gut instinct about this was dead on, but more on that later. When the epidural was finally "straightened out," I had an opportunity to rest for about 30 minutes as I dilated the remaining 1/2cm to 10cm.
Then the fun was underway! Just for the record, when I began, I knew pushing was not going to be easy. And at the time (not so much now, after two kids and one on the way) I had some pretty kickin' abdominal muscles. However, Kayden's head was huge. HUGE. As in, when he finally crowned, my doctor thought he was going to weigh around 11 pounds, judging by the size of his head. So not small.
It bears mentioning that sometime during this pushing extravaganza, my father-in-law walked into the delivery room. Well, not all the way in. Thankfully, my mother-in-law (also a former maternity nurse and one of my labor coaches) had the presence of mind to spare him the embarrassment (because at that point, you know, all modesty has flown out the window and down the street, and I could've cared less who was in there...well, okay, a previous boyfriend or my 7th grade English teacher may have been a little awkward, or really awkward, but you get the idea. I just wanted that baby out.) To my father-in-law's credit, he figured surely his grandson had arrived by now, and when he asked at the nurses' station, they ushered him right in!
After about an hour of pushing, my I-don't-want-the-epidural-to-cause-me-not-to-be-able-to-feel-a-darn-thing fears were realized. I couldn't feel a darn thing. Consequently, I had no muscle memory, and when the nurse or anyone would say, "Great job! Push just like that again!" I would, and the look on their faces would say, "Hmmm...not so much." And around and around we went. Sometime during all of this, I asked for a mirror, thinking the visual would help motivate me to get the little stinker out. Instead, I asked them to take it away after they told me for the umpteenth time, "There's his head! He's almost here!" Liars - the whole lot of them. All I saw was, well....how about I spare you those particular details.
Over three hours later, Kayden was born. The rest of my labor experience was - amazingly - intervention free (no episiotomy, no forceps, no vacuum extraction). He weighed in at 8lbs. 7oz. and was 23 inches long. His feet were so big, the footprints on the little card they give you actually covered the whole thing up, including the words "left" and "right." (Aside: Not much has changed. At barely three years old, Kayden's foot measures an 11 1/2, which is the same size as his five-year-old friends...) And sooo skinny! Almost 8 1/2 pounds spread out over all that length (particularly with a head as big as his!) looked pretty darn small, actually. We cuddled right away for a few minutes, and then he was cleaned up, measured, scored (I have no clue what his Apgars were, but he was pink and screaming quite robustly, so no doubt they were great), stamped, and LoJack-ed (given an ankle bracelet with a microchip in it, so alarms would sound if someone left the birthing center with him). Afterwards, I happily (well, clumsily...who really knows what the heck they're doing the first time, anyway?) nursed him for a bit before the rest of the family descended upon the L&D room.
But Kayden's birth story isn't quite over. See, something quite significant happened during all of that pushing that we didn't find out about until days later. This being my first delivery, and having had a very strong epidural, no one really thought twice when I couldn't walk for several hours afterwards. And no one really said anything when I still couldn't walk the next day. In fact, it wasn't until the end of the day following Kayden's birth, when we attended the mandatory hospital discharge seminar, that realization set in that something was very wrong. I showed up in a wheelchair, which - again - I thought was normal, until everyone else arrived walking and appearing just fine. I pretty much still felt like I'd been hit by a truck, and I could not really move my legs. Upon returning to my room, we started asking some questions.
After several consultations with anesthesiologists and physical therapists, it was determined that somewhere during those three long hours of pushing, caught in just the right spot between Kayden's enormous (adorable) head and my pelvic bone, was the femoral nerve in my right leg, and it was damaged. One doctor described it like a damaged phone cable: the plastic casing was stretched out from those hours of pressure, and the little wires on the inside had snapped.
What followed was actually a bit comical. Physical therapists would visit and ask me to do this exercise or that one, and I would fail miserably. I would try with all my might to engage the muscles in that leg, and it would (depending on the exercise) flop like it was made of jelly against the bed, or it simply wouldn't move at all. I remember sitting with my legs hanging over the side of the bed, and the PT asking me to extend my right leg (as in a leg lift). After a few seconds, she repeated her request, as if I hadn't heard her. I laughed. I was trying, and my leg was just sitting there, ignoring me as I implored it to move, please.
So, we made it home, and our "new normal" simply included both an infant son and his now-handicapped mother. I was so stubborn at first, trying to walk everywhere and proceed as if nothing was wrong. One evening, during the week my mom was still here, I was standing in the nursery while she changed Kayden's diaper, and I just fell over. THUD. My leg simply buckled underneath me and I toppled over like a wobbly tower of Jenga blocks. It became clear in that instant that I couldn't carry Kayden, for fear of falling with him, so we worked out a system. Kyler would carry me downstairs in the morning, and I'd put Kayden in a rolling bassinet, using it kind of like a walker throughout the day to get to the bathroom and kitchen if needed. We spent the next six weeks or so in this fashion, either on the floor or couch playing and doing PT exercises, and just getting to know one another. Looking back, I am so thankful for the time I was essentially forced to slow down. It was a humbling and extremely valuable experience that is now part of my testimony. Maybe I'll blog about that sometime.
After about six weeks, I was strong enough to be dismissed from formal physical therapy and continue the exercises at home. I began driving again when Kayden was about two months old, the same time I felt confident and strong enough to carry him around the house in the Baby Bjorn without fear of spontaneously falling. Somewhere between six and seven months later, I realized I felt "normal" again.
And that's when we found out about Cameron.