Wednesday, March 28, 2007
In the weeks before birth, midwives encourage you to write down your “birth plan”; a sheet of instructions, detailing what you’d like in the way of pain relief, how many people you’d like in the delivery room, whether or not you’d like to stand on your head for the actual delivery, etc. Dutifully, I wrote down a two page missive that basically boiled down to the following: “I’d like to do the whole thing drug free, deliver in a birthing pool and have my husband cut the cord. Oh yeah, and PLEASE DON’T CUT ME OPEN.”
To say that my birth plan went out the window is a colossal understatement. My birth plan tied sheets together, went out the window, caught a cab to the airport and spent the weekend losing money at The Sahara and getting hammered on free cocktails.
You may have been able to infer some of my experience from my embedded reporting from inside the antenatal ward, but here’s the shortened version, minus the bits I’m still trying to forget about. And yeah. There were some of those bits.
Sunday- We arrive at 11 on the antenatal ward and are promptly left to our own devices by the severely overstretched staff. Around 2, I receive my first dose of Prostin, a compound that is meant to open the cervix. Due to the fact that there seems to be some sort of baby gridlock occurring down in the L&D department, I do NOT receive a second dose lest I actually go into true labor. I discover that contractions are NOT any fun around 2 in the morning, after Mr. DD was forced to go home. These bouts of painful internal gymnastics have no discernable effect whatsoever in the moving-the-Prawn-along stakes.
Monday- By morning, the contractions have entirely worn off and I receive one of approximately 57 painful pelvic examinations by a doctor with fingers like cucumbers who is less than gentle. (You know why health authorities have to beg women to come in for bi-annual pap smears? Cause it’s just no fun having someone all up in your bid’ness. Especially someone who has no bid’ness of their own.) At 9, I get my second dose of Prostin which does pretty much more of the same; lots of contractions that bend me in half and do nothing but irritate the Prawn as it is disturbing her beauty sleep. Mr. DD brings me sustenance; Cadbury’s Eclairs, Ritz Crackers and Lucozade Sport drinks. That night, I discover the joys of Pefiden- a lovely little drug that doesn’t actually take away pain, but makes it possible to wallow in your own brain fog in the moments in between.
Tuesday- By this time, I’m starting to get pissed off with my daily routine of contractions that did nothing. I mean, really, enough already with this labor shit, this baby is LONG overdue so WHY THE HELL HAS MY UTERUS NOT GOTTEN THE MEMO?
Around about 5pm, I am FINALLY wheeled down to L&D to get the party started courtesy of water breakage and Oxytocin drip. After being informed by the friendly (but somewhat clumsy in the field of putting in a hand peg, as you can see) midwife in the delivery suite that I was going to be there awhile before anything started happening, I consented to one of many things that I was dead set against; an epidural. But after the initial bout of heebie jeebies about having a needle inserted into my spine, once it started working, I was ready to put on a little pleated skirt and wave pom poms in hearty support of Team Numbness.
However, by about 9am, it was obvious that every attempt to flush out the Prawn had failed and the dreaded words “c-section” were uttered. Definitely not the outcome I was hoping for. I am NOT good with surgery. “Can you put me out?” I asked.
“No, we don’t like to do that. The anaesthetic isn’t good for the baby. You’re going to have to be awake.”
Needless to say that I could have used a cup of tea or something before the knives were sharpened, but literally 10 minutes after having the news broken to me, I found myself strapped down to a table with a large screen in front of my face, my husband in scrubs sitting next to my head, looking stricken and some masked strangers doing dire things out of my line of sight.
I heard her before I saw her. A gurgly cry.
They told me she was a girl. They handed her to Mr. DD, who showed her to me. He cried. I would have too, but someone was yanking on my diaphragm and it seemed a poor idea to try to use it. I heard the nurses saying what a beautiful baby she was.
While blissful numbness had kept all sensations from below my waist from troubling me up until this point, rather suddenly, I regained some of it, unfortunately, while a large hole in my lower abdomen was being sewed together. I informed my tormentors of this fact by yelling, repeatedly, “I CAN FEEL THAT!!!” until the anaesthesiologist mercifully administered a general anaesthetic and I lapsed into unconsciousness.
Here is where I need to process. Two more days on the wards followed that I would sincerely like to forget about. In the old days, following a birth, the hospital had a nursery where babies went at night so that exhausted mothers could get some much needed rest. Nowadays, “rooming in” is all the craze, but whoever decided that women who have just experienced major, traumatic surgery should also have to spend the night looking after a newborn DESPITE the fact that they are, in fact, unable to get out of bed due to various medical apparatus attached to them AND surrounded by other women with newborns, should be repeatedly kicked in the head and then set on fire.
At any rate, I put my foot down and insisted on a Friday discharge rather than a Saturday one and blessedly left with the Rock Star and the Prawn to start our lives at a family back at our cozy little flat.
So, the Prawn? She IS beautiful. We’re getting to know eachother.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
But here she is. Totally worth it.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Wren Ivy Rose, born 10:29am by cesarean section after heroic Rockmama labour endeavors failed to convince The Prawn that there was life outside the womb. The big-eyed, cooing bundle weighed in at 8lbs 10.5oz. Mother and baby both doing wonderfully.
Pictures to follow once Daddio here has regained the ability to see in straight lines. Need. Sleep.
Monday, March 19, 2007
I usually start travelogues before heading off on holiday rather than while being, for all intents and purposes, confined to barracks. But I suppose having a baby is a little like going on an extended, life long trip, so I figure I can use the same approach.
Why it didn’t occur to me that I’d be rooming on a ward, I have no idea. I’d been spoiled by my last trip to hospital, paid for by my private health insurance. The rooms there were rather more like posh hotel rooms, albeit occupied with crash carts, which most posh hotels HAVE, but not necessarily en suite. Not only that, but my window looked out on a beautifully landscaped courtyard peppered with flowers.
Arriving on the antenatal ward today was a vaguely rude awakening as I was ushered into a dimly lit ward containing 3 other women in various stages of gestation.
A hospital ward is like the crappiest ever sleepover- The college roommates that you didn’t choose or even get to fill in a form stating likes/dislikes for. Wards are a mish mash of strangers, all dealing with contagious and embarrassing problems best dealt with in private, but forced to deal with them instead from behind the relatively ineffective privacy of ugly curtains. (The ones surrounding my particular personal space portray local scenes from the Aylesbury Vale including the statue of Lord Buckingham, the lions in front of the court house and the “blue leanie”, a building that was once the home of a financial management company that rather famously went broke and lost a lot of people’s pensions.)
My ward mates consist of a 40 something second time mother in for what I believe was an ECV, (the procedure used to turn a breech baby in utero) a young first time mother who’s spent most of the day looking like she was thinking of ways to kill herself and, perhaps, most abrasively, a VERY young mother on her fourth child from a third father. Yes, she’s exactly who you think she is. Yes, she has Sky television and takes holidays to Majorca on my dime. And if she doesn’t stop playing with her noisy “virtual pet” in the next five minutes, I’m going to throw it and her out the fucking window.
I didn’t quite know WHAT to expect upon my arrival, but within 40 minutes or so (a record pace, I feel) I was seen by a midwife, covered in goo and strapped to a machine that monitored the Prawn’s vitals. Since my particular ward room is at the end of a dark hallway, midwives tend to forget about us, so I was pleased that I had the forethought to use the loo BEFORE being strapped down.
For those of you who would rather NOT read this next bit, look away NOW. (There will be rather a lot of bits like this. There is little dignity in childbirth.)
The fun thing about labor induction is that the first stage involves a Prostoglandin pessary, and everyone knows where THAT goes. Unfortunately, this also involves an internal examination, which brought involuntary tears to my eyes and made me yelp. Curse these stupid curtains, it’s not really the done thing to yell blasphemies on a Mothering Sunday on a labor ward, but sometimes there’s very little you can do.
So far, I’m of the opinion that although HAVING a baby won’t necessarily be boring, WAITING to have one is bloody tedious. I’ve spent the day silently chastising the Prawn for his/her laziness and forcing us to drag him/her out kicking and screaming as well as gently cajoling him/her with promises of sweets and Playstations. Neither approach seems to be working all that well, but the Prostin, I’m pleased to say, seems to be doing what it’s supposed to and has lead to unmistakable tightenings in the depths. Nothing too painful yet, but a sign of things to come.
Mr DD has been performing his duties admirably- shuttling bits and pieces around, picking up things I’ve forgotten and couldn’t possibly spend the night in the hospital without (Cadbury’s Eclairs, Ritz crackers and my laptop) and of course, the mandatory hand holding and joke cracking, to keep me sane.
The ward is deathly quiet at this hour. My one remaining wardmate (the first time mother) is snoring peacefully after being given a dose of codine. The other two were discharged and I must say that I was more than happy to see the back of the Tamagotchi-wielding chavette the next curtain over.
So, yeah. Labor.
Due to the fact that roughly every pregnant woman in the Aylesbury Vale chose this afternoon to drop their sprogs, my induction, which began this afternoon, was put on hold. For several hours, I was fairly convinced that the second Prostin pessary was NOT going to be necessary, as I was turning various shades of red trying to breathe through fairly steady contractions. However, not wishing to have ANOTHER woman in serious labor on their hands, my second dose of Prostin was put off, so I find myself sitting here in the dark with rapidly waning contractions, having to start the whole process all over tomorrow. Very frustrating. I sent Mr. DD home to get some sleep, although the rather lovely midwife one duty was more than happy to let him stay past visiting hours. I would prefer to have him awake during the actual delivery.
I myself am also going to attempt to get some shut eye before the Prawn makes his or her big entrance.
It’s hard to get any true sleep on a hospital ward, unless, of course, you are drugged, which, let’s face it, is the best way to be in a hospital. My wardmate, the other first time mum, sounds rather like she is in urgent need of some of said medication. I think she’s pretty much praying for a c-section at this point in time. (I would too if I’d been in labor for 48 hours) I feel like I ought to try to be of some comfort as it’s outside visiting hours, but I think she might be beyond the tea and sympathy stage.
I got a fair amount of sleep, for which I am grateful. It would not have happened without Armando, my trusty body pillow that Mr DD graciously brought me from home. I’m not entirely sure that you’re supposed to bring outside bedding into a hospital, but I was damned if I was going to spend the night propped up by 16 dozen sticky, hospital issue pillows, crinkling quietly to themselves and requiring rearrangement every time I shifted slightly.
There seem to be a massive army of midwives occupying the ward at the moment, however, it still seems to take a short ice age to get one of them to notice you. I spent an hour longer strapped to the Prawn Detector this morning than was actually necessary. Although I am quite happy to sit and listen to my offspring’s heartbeat, I am aware that it is actually a little grating for others in the vicinity.
Again, those squeamish individuals might want to look away NOW.
My second internal exam was not much more of a party than the first. I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that I am only dialated 1 cm. For those unfamiliar with the concept of cervical dialation, for a baby to be born, the cervix must be dialated 10 cm. Anyone who has spent the night being woken by strong back contractions will be understandably disappointed to find that this was all for naught and that you are no closer to your goal than before. It also doesn’t help to have midwives constantly telling you what a big baby you’re expecting. And how it’s facing the wrong direction. Yes, I am aware of the size of the baby, thank you. It has been parked squarely on my bladder for the last 9 months. The spectre of a caesarean section looms rather menacingly in my immediate future.
Although I did not expect to, I actually am rather envious of my wardmate now that the midwife has announced that she is, in fact dilated to 7 cm and ready to go down to the delivery suite. However, it drives home the point how much further I have to go and how much more pain I have to look forward to. My only hope is that I proceed far quicker than my unfortunate wardmate.
Now, if I can just attract someone’s attention so that I can get unstrapped from this unholy apparatus to take a shower….
Further update from Mr DD:
Our heroine has now had (or was about to have) a THIRD pessary imported into the opening of PrawnLair in an attempt to lure him/her out. Things seem to be intensifying somewhat. Rockmama was last seen grimacing whilst bouncing up and down on one of those exercise ball things. Having been sent home once again to get some sleep, it's now 11:25pm and I'm getting text messages that would seem to point towards a potentially early return to the hospital.
Catching mitt at the ready.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Freaking out a little. Excited. Absolutely shitting myself. That's how it's supposed to go, right?
I just want to thank all of you ladies for your support on this journey. It's meant a lot to have it, especially from those of you who are still on the journey. Through my fear about what's to come, there is, of course, the memory of what Mr. DD and I have been through over the past 3 years to get to this point and my gratitude is overwhelming. It's my huge hope that I get to share your joy with you as well.
Fear not, I shall return soon with stories from the trenches.
Wish me luck.
Friday, March 16, 2007
I tried a new tack this morning. Loud music. The “Branch Davidian” tactic, if you will. My “Rawk” mix on iTunes consists of a fair amount of crunchy guitar and big hair, so it was my hope that the Prawn would either surrender and come out with his/her hands up or think, “Those are some banging tunes! I’m going to get me some of that!” Sadly, neither AC/DC, Skid Row, Metallica nor Led Zeppelin seem to have had any effect whatsoever. It is beginning to become clear that the Prawn is probably not going to arrive of his/her own volition.
Sunday at 11, I’m scheduled to check into Stoke Mandeville to begin induction. It’s not really the birth that I had hoped for, to be honest, but I have my concerns about the size of the Prawn and the longer this goes on, the less chance that our over-zealous, cut-happy medical system will allow me to go the natural route rather than opt to perform a sunroof exit. Although I’ve heard the virtues of the later extolled by those who’s children have weighed in at over 8 pounds, being anesthetised, catheterized, cut open and prone for days after the birth of my first child doesn’t particularly appeal. Of course, I’m not totally against the procedure if it becomes necessary, but I’m hoping that it won’t come to that.
Sigh. If “Poison’ by Alice Cooper can’t get the Prawn out, I don’t know what will.
Monday, March 12, 2007
For the same reason it's hard to see yourself gaining weight or developing new lines on your face, it is equally difficult to see the progression of a bump. I didn't personally think that it was POSSIBLE for me to get much bigger than illustrated in this photo. However, I was entirely wrong. Through the magic of Skype, my mother captured another photo of The Belly during our weekly chat last night.
I've started getting "those looks" from people in the street. The "are you sure you should be out walking around like that?" looks. The "are you sure you're not carrying twins?" looks. " The "surely you should be ensconced in a bed eating bon bons somewhere, patiently awaiting the arrival of your offspring and not troubling the public with your freakish appearance." looks. And don't get me started on stepping into an elevator. People will plaster themselves against the far wall just in case I go off like a ton of C4.
The Prawn is now 4 days late. I have developed a case of PEP, (although, in the US, I believe it's called PUPPS) which is an agonizing rash that spreads up stretch marks, making the sufferer wish that they could quit their jobs and devote themselves to scratching full time. (Luckily for me, I bite my nails, so I can't do much damage.) This makes it difficult to sleep and wear clothes, both of which things I find unfortunately necessary at present.
I keep telling the Prawn to come out. That it's a beautiful English Spring day and it'd be a shame if they missed it. That I've got milk and cookies. That I'll let him/her throw up on me to their heart's content. But to no avail.
Prawn watch continues....
Thursday, March 08, 2007
According to statistics, only 5% of babies are born on their actual due date. Mr. DD was also horrified to discover that there are actually a fairly high percentage that are born in the 44th week of pregnancy. That’s an extra MONTH of being knocked up. Gah.
The Prawn, however, will not be allowed to linger that long in Chateau de Womb. Although I’m having my blood pressure checked every other day now, the consultant at the hospital was happy enough to let me go for 10 days past my due date, just to see if things could get a natural jump start. So, should the Prawn still be fashionably late, I have an induction booked for the 18th of March; ironically, British Mother’s Day. I’m not hugely keen on the idea of induction, but neither am I keen on waddling, shortness of breath, swollen feet and doing shots of antacid.
In the meantime, I shall be giving some old wives remedies a try- hot chillis and curries, raspberry leaf tea, Evening Primrose Oil, shagging, walking around a lot….although I shall be stopping short of Castor Oil, which is the digestive equivalent of pouring Mr. Muscle down a drain. While I am anxious to meet my offspring, I would rather not have to spend several hours in the can with debilitating intestinal spasms before doing so. (That’s how Castor Oil works, apparently. It’s hoped that the uterus will see all of the gleeful cramping of the digestive system and go, “Oo! Oo! Me too!” Nuts to that.)
So, we’ll have to see what the next week brings!
Monday, March 05, 2007
My blood pressure over the past few weeks, while not dangerously high, has been steadily creeping up, accompanied by my extremities doing their best hot-air balloon impressions. At my last hospital-based midwife appointment, I was told that if I should experience any sudden swelling, I shouldn’t fool around, but head straight to L&D. Of course, Sunday morning, I awoke to find that both of my feet AND my hands were pufftastically large, so, after not a lot of soul searching, Mr. DD and I headed to the hospital, with everything packed in the trunk of the car, but fully expecting to be sent straight home.
Sunday afternoon was boasting some truly craptacular weather-cold rain and wind, namely, so by the time we made it inside, I was rather grumpy due to the fact that the cuffs of my jeans and socks were soaked right through. (Is anyone with me on the wet socks thing? Besides wet underwear, probably the least fun piece of clothing to endure a soaking.) After being shown to a bed in the observation room, I was reluctant to actually put my legs up on it for fear of mussing up the nice white sheets with my muddy jean cuffs and socks. Mr. DD, however, reminded me that of all the things that probably got on the sheets in the space of a week, mud was probably not going to be the worst of them.
Although Sundays are usually a quiet day on the wards, the place was packed. Maybe all the talk of a full moon’s effect on hospital admissions wasn’t as much a load of bupkis as I believed it to be, but almost every delivery room on the ward had it’s doors tightly closed, and the midwives, while very friendly, seemed to be spending a lot of time going from room to room looking for pieces of equipment that one would expect to be standard in EVERY delivery suite, like, for instance, thermometers and cotton balls. “Things must be pretty bad with the NHS if there aren’t enough thermometers to go around.” I observed.
At any rate, after being examined, poked, prodded, asked to pee in the obligatory too small cup and had waited the obligatory 3 hours during which various people poked their heads round the door, I was first told I was going to be kept in for observation and then, half an hour later, that I would be released. (My guess is, that due to the extremely full nature of L&D, the registrar didn’t want someone unnecessary cluttering up a bed.) This was actually okay by me, as I was damned if I was going to be spending the night in the hospital without my husband and my comfy bed if I WASN’T having a baby. Especially in a room as dreary as the “triage” which boasted little more entertainment other than profoundly grey walls and professional wall clock watching. My blood test obviously came back negative for pre-eclampsia, so I was released back into the soggy world with instructions to keep my feet up and come back Wednesday for more pokings and proddings.
The Prawn’s official due date is Thursday. Further updates as events warrant.