Almost there...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Delivering Athena

The baby is asleep in her bassinet. The in-laws are out getting dinner at El Sabroso. I've just had a fruity rum drink. All is right in the world.

Let's back up a bit shall we?

Two weeks ago, in a nearly cinematic quality event, Miss Athena Eleanor Woodbury arrived. I was making matzo ball soup, having given up on having a baby especially soon, planning to hit Friday Night Waltz later that evening, when suddenly my water broke. They tell you that it won't be like the movies. There won't be a sudden gush. There won't be a puddle.  But she had other ideas. She was still riding high (relatively) and when things gave out, she didn't plug the leak, and suddenly, my underwear, my tights, my pants, and the floor were covered in amniotic fluid. I waddled over to the toilet and told Erik to call Kaiser. Just a little freaked out, but ready. She was due officially on January 26th according to Kaiser, had been given a January 23rd due date by my OB/GYN, but was predicted for January 27th on the internet. It was the evening of Friday, January 27th, and things were kicking off. On the plus side, if she held out til 8 a.m., my OB/GYN would be on duty at Kaiser. Calling Kaiser led to a recommendation to be in around 9ish, depending on how things were going. I decided to take it easy, take a shower, get into some fresh clothes, wash the now saturated clothes, finish the episode of Warehouse 13 we were watching, and saunter in to the hospital around 9:30.

Meanwhile, the contractions that had been "Braxton-Hicks" style contractions were indeed getting stronger. Still, it was less bad than a bad menstrual cycle. They shuffled me into an observation room, asked me to pee in a cup, and took my blood pressure. Unfortunately, it was high, and the urine sample had +1 protein. This combination leads to folks being concerned about pre-eclampsia. They wanted to start me on a magnesium sulfate IV. They wanted to get a better sample though before proceeding. So, we moved on into a labor and delivery room since I had most assuredly broken my water and this all had to happen sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, contractions were coming quickly and getting more painful. By 1 a.m., I was no longer feeling especially patient and asked them to check how far along I was. The disappointing answer was, "About 4 cm." Oh god. Okay. So, all hope of super-speedy like Mom's delivery went out the door. I said, "I want drugs." We started with a little Fentenyl. That wasn't much help. Then the CRNA came to give me an epidural. That's when things went wrong. She wanted to raise the bed up to about four feet high, wanted me to bend over with my feet dangling and my arms forward, and then arch my back while sitting on the very edge of the bed. I was having real trouble doing what she asked because my belly was pushing against my thighs in the position she wanted. I asked to pull my legs out of the way. She said no. I tried putting my hands behind me to push down and get some leverage. That was unacceptable. I tried putting my feet on Erik's thighs. Nope, not okay. I tried bending over as hard as I could, but that wasn't good enough. Eventually, I was in tears, and she said, "Well, you know this is totally optional. If you can't do this, then you don't have to." She was impatient. I was frustrated. I'd watched videos online to get prepared for this, and all of them had the woman on her side. I asked about changing to that position and she said that I might end up paralyzed. Um... okay... So we sent her away, and I figured I'd practice the position she wanted and try to figure out how to do it and eventually it'd work out or I'd get through the rest of labor the old fashioned way and I wouldn't need it. We spent the next two hours struggling with a TENS unit, Fentenyl, and natural childbirth methods. The contractions were coming every two minutes and lasting for a minute, so there was very little time to rest and figure things out. Erik pressed into my hips, which gave enough relief to not completely fall apart, but I couldn't imagine us doing this for another 10-20 hours.

Luckily, our nurse, Catherine, was a saint. She spoke to the attending doc about the situation at some point in between helping me practice positions, helping me calm down and stop crying, and providing Fentenyl every hour or so. She explicitly said that she wanted me to be more comfortable by the time she left for the day. The attending stopped by and suggested getting another anesthetist, the attending anesthetist in fact. Catherine said that if she were doing this, Jason, the attending, would be the person she'd want. So they called him down and he came in and worked magic. I asked if I could put my knee up to make room for my belly. "No problem." I asked if I could put my foot on Erik for a little leverage. "Sure. That's fine." He spent a lot of time reassuring me that I was not doing it horribly wrong and that he was not going to paralyze me and that I was not going to mess him up as he did this. About this time, I realized what a bitch the other anesthetist had been. We should have told her to take a hike right off the bat and get someone in there who knows how to do their job. Oh well. Doesn't matter. What did end up happening was that Jason made it all better, and I was exhausted. It was nearly 6 a.m., and suddenly, the wracking pain of the last few hours was gone. I was asleep in no time at all.

By 10 a.m., we'd had a good rest and we figured we should check in with the staff. I'd been expecting to see Dr. Nguyen any time, but he hadn't popped in. Turns out, they were all waiting for us to wake up and say we were ready. He'd just been called in for a delivery, but should be out in the next 30-45 minutes. Okay, we'll wait. Unfortunately, 45 minutes stretched to two hours. When he arrived, we found what was expected - that labor had slowed with the epidural. He prescribed a little Pitocin to speed things along. I had been pretty set against Pitocin, but with the epidural, it just didn't matter as much. Things got moving again, and within a few hours, we were ready to go.

I don't know why, but when they told me the average length for the pushing phase was two hours, I just felt like I'd been slapped with a fish. Two hours? Really? I can't do this for two hours!!! So, I didn't. I did it for just about one hour. With Dr. Nguyen and a resident, Dr. Vivian Lei (no, really), delivering the little space alien at 5:18 p.m. on January 28th. They then sewed up my second degree tear (not so bad, but not great), I was once again intensely grateful for the epidural. I have been dutifully following Magenta's advice to "don't look" ever since. Eventually, weeks from now, I'll look at what is going on down there, but for right now, we just rinse, blot, and apply a new pad and don't look. It'll all be fine. Women do this all the time.

Meanwhile, there was this amazing, perfect little baby girl lying on my chest. She wasn't all gross. She wasn't shaped like a space alien. She wasn't red and wrinkly. She wasn't freaky and weird. She was looking at me, wondering what the hell just happened, and why was it so comparatively bright and cold. But really, mere minutes after delivery, she looked like a baby rather than what I'd been told to expect. She sat with me for an hour and a half before I gave her up to be weighed and measured and vaccinated and checked. She was perfect. She scored a 9 on both APGAR tests. She was 7 pounds, 12 ounces and 20 inches long. And with the sole exception of the unfortunate anesthetist, the whole experience had gone swimmingly well. The staff were amazing and I felt well-cared for and like I could have had any birth experience I'd wanted.

After a while, we called Kevin and Rachel and had them come by with our pending dinner order. After months of avoiding deli meats and sprouts, a sandwich from Erik's Deli Cafe was at the top of my list. They came by, bringing me a bucket of Diet Coke to go with it, and took a few pictures of our wee miss in her freshly minted glory. Then we moved across the hall just in time for my mom to arrive from Sacramento. Eventually, we settled in for the night with a little girl who wasn't ready to sleep just yet. She'd had an exciting day and just wanted to look around and be held. 

Weeks ago, Erik turned to me in bed and said, "I'm thinking Athena Eleanor." I said, "That's funny. I'm thinking Eleanor Athena." With a shrug and little else said, we knew we were close to deciding on a name. When she arrived, she was the picture of a fully-formed and somewhat magical creature. I decided that I'd gotten the One-Child Compromise, and gotten my wish for a girl, so if all Erik wanted was Athena as a first name rather than the middle name, then he could win that one. So, she became Athena Eleanor Woodbury the very next morning.


  • What a beautiful story! I'm glad that everything went (relatively) smoothly, and I hope to meet the young one sometime soon. :)

    By Blogger Molly, at 12:16 PM  

  • Ammy, I have never read your blog before but this one was forwarded to me. What an amazingly "detailed" description of your labor experience and Athena's grand entrance. Something that is never forgotten weather you write it down or not. It will always seem like "just yesterday". Sweetly awesome. So happy for you and Erik!!

    By Blogger Jo-Ann, at 12:56 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home