Thursday, July 09, 2009

now i can call him fred: the birth story

Sixteen, going on seventeen days old. Fred Harrison David Rowley. Here he is on Day One:

Stats at birth:

Entrance into world on Monday, 6/22/09, 3:48 p.m.
20 inches long.
8 lbs 4 ounces...wide.
Apgar* scores of 8 and 9

*Score measuring general robustness of baby, administered once and then again in disbelief. Is he really that awesomely robust?? Yes, and then some.

Story time.

I awake Sunday night/Monday morning at around 3:30 from my tiny, two-hour sleep. Braxton Hicks contractions* are afoot, as they have been for a good while towards the end of this pregnancy, but these ones have a spark about them, a feeling of show time. I get up and noodle around on the internet. I get a message from an old friend I hadn't been in contact with for fifteen years, and I'm so delighted by this that the Braxton Hicks contractions change out of their rehearsal clothes and put on their real costumes and also cross off the "Braxton Hicks" from their dressing room doors. I call the doctor around 4:30 and describe what's going on, and she says we ought to head on over to the hospital.

*These are contractions that happen throughout a good portion of a pregnancy, sort of like practice contractions. On the American Idol finale during the year Finn was born, Taylor Hicks and Toni Braxton performed a duet. I couldn't believe it and I'm still mad that they didn't form a band called "The Braxton Hicks Contraction".

Team Fred's Birth consists of myself, Dave, my dear friend Elizabeth and whoever happens to be on call at Swedish that day. (Hey, wait. Last you knew about it, you blog readers, I was going to have a c-section. Well, some things happened and I changed my mind and a nice lady took out my cerclage stitch and the c-section was cancelled.) I was hoping beyond hope that the aforementioned nice lady would be on call that day, and she WAS. Dr. Susan Harvey. Cool Hand Luke! The first good news of so many good newses of the day.

Elizabeth comes to get us, we go to triage, iv/blood draw, blah blah, and then we are shipped off to our room, where we meet our second good news of the day: our nurse, Ms. Tracy Sharp. Oh, Tracy. Oh, sister. She's bossy and pushy and all business but in the best way, a kind way. She ascertains that we're trying for a vaginal birth, now, as opposed to the repeat c-section. Nurse Tracy lets us know that if a baby CAN be born outta there, SHE can MAKE IT be born outta there. If SHE can NOT make it be born outta there, IT can NOT be born outta there. Nurse Tracy apparently makes it a point of pride with herself that this baby will leave through the traditional exit, but she tells me that I will have to be putty in her hands all day long. She gets to flip me around and move me here and there and I have to do whatever she says. As I do not have the conviction that I can make a baby do anything in particular at all in regards to its being born, I gladly throw myself at her mercy. All day long, I am all "HOW HIGH?!" before she can even get the "Jump" out.

One of my annoying personal qualities is a sort of Zelig* phenomenon wherein I inadvertently mirror the energy of any person I am in contact with for more than five minutes. (I eventually had to stop seeing this one particular hairstylist because she was this loud, obnoxious, Texan party girl and I couldn't stand myself whenever I had an appointment with her. I was all, HA HA, OH MY GOD, I KNOW! Old ladies who live in the apartment beneath you and are just trying to sleep while you have loud parties are total bitches who deserve to have cruel practical jokes played on them for months on end! TOTALLY! Also, I think I will not schedule my next haircut just now, thanks. I will slink away with my cute hair and never return.) Also, I can be a bit of an ass-kisser. These are not positive traits but it appears that I was born with them just for this very day! Just like Owen Meany and his crazy voice, my Zeliggy ass-kissing would bloom into great purposefulness on one pivotal day, this day of Fred's birth. I would have Nurse Tracy on my side. I would zigzag back and forth between ass-kissing and mirroring all day long. Doulas? I agree! They're totally stupid! I know! We hired one, but we fired her because we suddenly realized that they're totally stupid and against everything good! You feel that way, too? I feel that way, too! We want to bring our placenta home, though. I mean, no, we don't! Of COURSE you can move my leg that way. Also, you're really pretty. And a saint!

*Great Woody Allen movie. His character, Zelig, morphs *but exactly* into whomever he's with. If he's talking to a psychiatrist, he becomes a psychiatrist. If he's talking to an old Chinese man, he physically turns into an old Chinese man. If you haven't seen this movie, rent it now and then come back and read the rest of this post later.

Dr. Harvey broke my water around 8 in the morning, and then we didn't see her until later in the day. (I have changed tense. I might do it again. It's late.) For a while, Dave and I walked the halls of the childbirth wing with our iv tree and me very large in my hospital gown and little hospital socks, waiting for labor to intensify, feeling like a a couple about to give birth in a Hollywood movie. Oh, honey. A baby! Stroll, stroll. Pause. Ouch. Resume stroll. Oh, honey. A baby! Stroll, stroll. Switch direction.

Nurse Tracy said that I was progressing really well, and that I could have an epidural any time I wanted, but the longer I could hold out, the better the chances to avoid a c-section. I couldn't believe that I had arrived at the point where I could have an epidural already! Glorious! So do-able, so far! We strolled some more, and then the contractions got more powerful, and Tracy steered me to a rocking chair, which...good. Very good. Elizabeth had gone to seek coffee and breakfast, and when she returned I was heading into the most serious contractions I would have to feel all day.

I put myself down a little, earlier in the post, talking about my Zeligness and asskissomania. Here's where I give myself a dose of the opposite. I am incredibly, incredibly good in difficult, hospitally situations. I do say so myself. Elizabeth said I was like a Jedi during contractions...and I WAS. I WAS like a Jedi. The pain would kick in and I would get very quiet and peaceful and root myself to some solid place within. All stillness, all acceptance. Very strong-feeling. Eventually, the pain was enough that I didn't want any more like it, and I gave the word for the epidural. The anesthesiologist arrived in her hat with cupcakes all over it, and administered the epidural. Did I flinch? I did not. Did I stay perfectly still, even during contractions? You know that I did. When a person came into the room to ask me a question, did I hold a calm finger up during her question and say, "Just a moment. I'm going to have a contraction right now, " and assume my silent, meditative contraction pose, and then did I peacefully open my eyes and address her question? Friend, I did. Nurse Tracy talked me up to the nurse who filled in for her during lunch. "She is awesome," said difficult-to-impress Tracy to lunchtime Deirdre, "She NEVER COMPLAINS." She bade Deirdre treat me right, and Deirdre did.

After the epidural, I had to lie in a funny position for a good while in order that Fred might change positions. He was facing the wrong way, sunny-side-up, and Tracy knew the trick to convince him to move. I lay on my side with the uppermost leg curled up toward my chest, shaking and shaking from the epidural, and Fred worked away for a couple of hours to reorient himself. (Small hero. Helpful wonderbubble.) I had a fever. There was a cool washcloth. I knew when contractions were happening, but they didn't bother me. I slept a little. Everything progressed beautifully. Fred turned and descended, I dilated and thinned, all at a steady clip. At 2:00 pm, Fred and I arrived at our places. I was at 10 centimeters, he was down at the entrance to the exit. We were ready to push.

Clever Tracy. Before we began pushing, she turned off my epidural without telling me. She wanted me to be able to feel what was going on in order to be able to push effectively, but she also wanted me to stay relaxed and avoid internal freakouts about pain levels. So she just quietly turned things off. I love you, Tracy.

Dave was stationed at my left knee, Elizabeth at my right. The pushing began.

All right. So. Pushing. A baby. Out. Is not my idea. Of. A good time. First of all, it feels totally futile. No, first of all, what it feels like is doing situps wherein you're also not allowed to breathe and you're also making some kind of heroic physical effort at something you don't quite comprehend. You're directed to push down with this part here but also push the baby up towards the light, and whatever you're doing is great, really great, but you should also do it, like, five times harder, whatever the fuck it is you're doing, which you're not quite sure but it's really fucking hard already. Second of all, it feels futile. It doesn't feel like anyone is getting anywhere! And your loved ones (which now include your nurse) are telling you, "You're doing so great! He's moving!" And you're thinking, "Why are they saying that? Why are they lying to me?" And then they're like, "Ok, push! Push!" And you're thinking, "No shit?! I should push? Like I was going to do something else during this contraction? 'Hey, you guys, with this one I'm just going to do a great visualization! And with the next one, will you hand me that magazine?' Of course I'm going to fucking push, whatever that means, for whatever that's worth, which is NOTHING, not that you're ever going to level with me about that!" And then they're like, "Push harder! Harder, now!" And you're like, "THAT IS EASY FOR YOU TO SAY, MOTHERFUCKER. ALSO, HOW ARE YOU GAUGING HOW HARD I AM PUSHING?? DO I NOT APPEAR TO BE OPERATING AT MAXIMUM??!" And then Tracy says "Go!" which means "Take a deep breath and hold it and begin pushing" so you take a breath and then someone else says "Breathe!" and you breathe again but realize you already did that and you're supposed to be holding your breath and so you do this stutter breath and you have to figure out how to kick off into this round of pushing on this weird stutter breath, and you plan to speak up when your next little rest period comes up between contractions. Between contractions, all you want to do is breathe deeply and go limp. You have to give some notes, though, to your birth team, because you're all figuring out how to do this. You say, "Don't say 'breathe' after Tracey says 'go' because then I do a double breath," and your team is incredibly sweet and understanding and receives this note like a champ. Next rest period, you say, "Don't say 'push' so much." Next rest period, you say, "When you tell me not to arch my back but then tell me to push Fred UP, I get confused," and they say, "Cool, great, we don't do that any more." During the next rest period, they say, "His head is showing, do you want to feel it?" And you do, halfheartedly, and there it is, but whatever, you just want to breathe cool air and lie there like a dead fish. And during another rest period, they say, "Do you want me to get a mirror so you can see?" and the question seems so irrelevant and far-fetched, like, "Hey, there's this really neat documentary about spiders on right now, do you want to watch it?" No, I don't want to watch a documentary right now. I'm trying to have a baby. I don't even want to watch a documentary specifically about me, Tina Rowley, having a baby named Fred. I just want to have that baby. I have no time for these sideshows.

At one excellent, beautiful point, however, Tracy announces, "He's going to fit." He's going to fit. This is not going to be a c-section. This is the moment when we know it. I am going to have this baby the way nature intended. Lift, rush, lightness, amazement, joy. The c-section with Finn was terribly difficult, our meeting was delayed by a few hours and dimmed by medicated sleepiness, the recovery was slow and painful, and as a result my bonding with Finn was adversely affected for a while, and a fierce depression ensued. I felt useless, wanted to fall off the face of the earth. So, that, THAT, was not going to happen this time. Whatever did happen would not be that. It would be better, for sure, maybe good, maybe great. He's going to fit! (We later found out at that his head is in the 25th percentile, circumference-wise. My beloved small-head. My considerate bunny rabbit.)

At the most excellent point of all, Fred rounded the toughest corner of the exit and made his way to the light. His small, thoughtful head worked its way out. They call that bit "the ring of fire". Fire, no. Ring of OW, FUCKERS, yes. Fire is an exaggeration, though. But his head came out. Then Dr. Harvey was there and she pulled his body out. And then he was up where I could see him, in the light. A baby. Mine. Fred. Visible. Lit from within, sure, but definitely lit from without. Jaw drops. Tears of joy. 3:48 p.m. And then he was wiped off and wrapped in a blanket and then he was on my chest, warm and squirming, with his soft face and soft limbs and soft head, warm like a bread roll. (Bun in the oven is the perfect description of the thing. Bun out of oven.) Heat, weight, movement, sound, happiness. Can't convey.

Other things happened, fine things, good things, but nothing else matters. Fred is born. Stop typing now. The story is told. Maybe a few more details later, maybe not. Shh. Fred is here.