Burritos Make For A Healthy Baby!
OK, that legendary Labor Salad from Caioti Pizza Cafe must have done the trick, because my water broke almost exactly 12 hours after eating it. I had an induction looming on the evening of Monday, April 23, and was way too nervous to sleep the night before. So Teddy and I stayed up watching TV until 3 am. We weren't in bed more than an hour when the baby kicked me hard in the pelvis and we both heard a distinct pop sound that vibrated through my entire body. A few minutes later, I sat up to use the bathroom and warm water gushed out between my legs. Immediately, I knew that my water had broken. I suddenly regretted not going to bed earlier. We both realized we had a long day and night ahead of us, and not a single hour of sleep to sustain us.
We arrived at the hospital at 6 am and the maternity ward was a zoo. There was a rush of pregnant women in triage and the waiting room was packed with bored, impatient friends and relations with deflating Mylar balloons. I was lucky to even land a bed in triage, where I was checked for dilation by harried nurses -- only 2 centimeters and hooked up to contraction and fetal monitors for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, I continued to lose more and more water and soaked through the various towels placed between my legs. My contractions were beginning, but they weren't very strong or productive so the doctor decided to start me on a low dose pitocin drip to get my labor moving. It was explained that since my water had broken, I had a 24-hour "safe" window before the threat of infection set in, so it was in my best interest to have this baby ASAP or else I could be laboring for days. So ironically, I ended up having an induced labor anyhow despite all my hopes of avoiding it.
Hours passed and my contractions picked up, but still weren't painful. The nurse turned up the pitocin several times until my contractions suddenly started coming on hard and fast, only two to three minutes apart around noon. I desperately tried the Lamaze breathing, tried yoga breathing, hell, I even tried not to breathe, hoping I would just asphyxiate, but nothing relieved the unrelenting pain of those unnaturally excruciating pitocin-induced contractions. Soon, I was writhing and whimpering with pain. This was the kind of torturous pain where you would admit to just about anything and turn in just about anyone, if only to make it go away. Since I still wasn't dilating very much, I was given an IV drip of Fentanyl to take the edge off the pain until I could receive an epidural. The Fentanyl didn't do much for me and the next two hours were a delirium of pain until I was checked again and measured at 4 cm -- sufficiently open-sesame'd enough to get the epidural. If I had ever had any qualms about getting an epidural before this point, I can't remember what they were. At that moment, you could have stuck that needle in my eyeball and I still would have begged for it. Once the epidural kicked in the anesthesiologist became my new bestest friend. I could see my contractions peaking to frightening heights on the monitor yet I didn't feel anything.
A couple of hours passed blissfully and I managed to dilate to a full 8 centimeters in that short period of time. Apparently, being able to relax a little really helped me progress. Since I was getting close, I was given another "pushing dose" of epidural that was supposed to last another two hours. As luck would have it, by the time that dose ran out, I was fully dilated and ready to push and it was too late to give me anything more for the pain for fear it would interfere with my pushing. To my surprise, the pain wasn't nearly as bad as it was when I had my pitocin drip and pushing down relieved it. Teddy and a nurse held my legs back as I spent the next grueling hour and a half pushing. I was running a temperature, so Teddy tried to keep me cool by plastering a wet washcloth on my head between contractions. The doctor was puzzled by my lack of progress since I seemed to have sufficient room in my pelvis from side to side -- something he verified by putting his enormous hand into my already traumatized vagina -- and my pushes were strong. But on further investigation he frowned and asked me if I'd ever broken my tailbone because it was protruding. I had no memory of fracturing my tailbone and could only moan and shrug in response. I was pretty much inarticulate with pain and exhaustion by this point.
After a few more tries, my doc began to suspect that the baby's head was getting stuck on my protruding tailbone and he gave me the option to keep trying in the hopes that I could push the baby past this obstruction or get the c-section. After 15 hours of hard labor, no sleep, no food or water for over 24 hours, a fever and pushing for over an hour without any rest, my ass was officially kicked. The room became a flurry of activity as I was prepped for surgery and wheeled into the operating room. The anesthesiologist on duty was my savior. As he injected more epidural into my line, he calmly explained everything I could expect to feel during the surgery. He promised me solemnly I wouldn't feel any pain, but I would feel pressure on my chest when they pulled the baby out. He seemed to anticipate all my fears and I didn't even have time to be scared. Sure enough that morphine in the epidural worked its magic and I couldn't feel my arms or anything from the chest down. I began to get the shakes in a major way, my teeth started to chatter and my entire body was racked with spasms. The doctor assured me this was normal and due to a flood of hormones coursing through my body.
Once the epidural kicked in full force, I became totally sleepy and disoriented. The next few minutes were a hazy dream. I remember Teddy standing next to me and holding my numb hand as I shuddered uncontrollably on the operating table. I fought to stay awake and alert because I wanted to be conscious when the baby was born. I stared at the countless bags of fluids dripping into my IV line -- the saline, the antibiotics, the anti-nausea medicine and who knows what else. Just as I began to drift off, I felt someone pushing on my chest, a tugging sensation, and then the anesthesiologist cried out, "Oh look, it's a cute one!" I jolted wide-awake when I realized that my baby had been born. His urgent cries filled the air and hot tears of relief flooded down my face. Teddy squeezed my hand and stood by my side, telling me everything that was happening since I couldn't see. They cleaned him off, suctioned him and put him on the scale. Teddy said, "You're not going to believe this but he's 9 pounds and 1 ounce!" Groggily I responded, "You've gotta be kidding me." Everyone in the operating room laughed and my doctor said, "Well that could explain why he was getting stuck on your tailbone." Finally, my baby was brought over to me and I looked into his eyes for the first time. His eyes were wet with tears and his face was red and scrunched with crying. Since my arms were numb, all I could do was raise my head and kiss his chubby face and say hello.
He instantly stopped crying, as if he recognized my voice and just stared at me solemnly. I couldn't believe that I was finally face to face with my son. All too soon, he was whisked away to the nursery and I was wheeled to the recovery room for an hour and a half until I regained feeling and movement in my legs. I wasn't allowed to nurse until it was clear that I wasn't going to drop the baby. It wasn't until two hours later that I was finally able to hold Jonah in my arms and nurse him for the first time. I spent the next four days in the hospital getting to know him and recovering from my c-section. And this is where my pregnancy journal comes to an end. I could go on and on about the postpartum recovery -- I had no idea that recovery from a c-section would be so painful. Every time I got out of bed, laughed, sneezed or coughed, I felt like I was being disemboweled. I am nursing so frequently that I wander around the house topless with my painfully engorged, milk-producing breasts hanging out like some native cover girl for "National Geographic." The sleep deprivation combined with the post-surgical recovery is a real killer. But I am a total convert to the cult of parenthood. I'm sorry to disappoint, but for once I have nothing cutting, sarcastic or biting to say. Every day I look at him and I feel like the ultimate alchemist. But instead of transforming base metals into gold, I've transformed hundreds of bean burritos into this amazing little person. What a feat -- input = junk food, output = baby! Even the most jaded person can't help but be humbled by this biological miracle -- and I am, every day.