Yesterday, December 15th marked my three year “birth”-day. I have officially been a mother for three years. And more importantly, well not really, I have been able to regale those who care (and those who don’t) with my first birth story, for as many years. It was a du-hu-oozy. So I’ve pulled out my pregnancy journal/picture book, refraining from posting the 20 pictures I took of me (one every two weeks) during my pregnancy with Madeline, and will consolidate the 26 page birth account written on those pages.
Just go with me, here. Or skip to the end where I start pushing. There’s something about hospitals or being half naked in front of people that brings out the comedian in me, so there’s some quality stuff near then end!
Madeline’s due date was December 6, 2002 which means we were prepared for impending labour starting November 15 — my dad’s birthday. And we only started thinking that because he mentioned that he thought the baby could be born on his birthday. Well, move ahead AN ENTIRE MONTH to my dad’s dad‘s birthday, and you have our first child’s actual birthday. We did not name our daughter Ole, however, after my deceased grandfather with whom she shares her special day.
The labour started two days before that on Friday, December 13th when I let my aunt feel my belly during what I thought was going to be a Braxton Hicks contraction, but I said, “hmm… that felt different than usual.” The night before I’d been up every hour to go to the bathroom, an increase from my usual 2-3 times. But on Friday night I was up every 20 minutes. Finally at 3:00am, Marc said “maybe you’re having contractions”. And that is where we start the labour clock, 3:00am Saturday, December 14, 2002.
So, while my husband snoozed (though, before you harp on him, I told him he could, and he woke up and rubbed my back whenever I needed it) I had bad menstrual-type crampy contractions every 10 minutes from 3:00 am to 10:00am. Picture me, the all to prepared mom-to-be with my Getting Ready for Baby book on my pillow, a pencil in one hand, and my watch in the other — sleeping for 8 minutes between the contractions, awake for the contraction, writing down the exact time it occurred and starring the slightly more painful ones, and then back to sleep.
Because we were already 8 days overdue, we were scheduled for a non-stress test at the hospital so we decided to go for that just to see what was going on. A nurse that I’ve known all my life was there to do the test and I was 100% effaced and 2-3 cm. Because it wasn’t busy there, my doctor said we could stay if we wanted to, so we did. I had no interest in going home and then having to make the ride back when I was in major pain.
However, things remained unchanged for TEN hours! That was ten looong hours of laying in a hospital bed, listening to music, playing cribbage, trying to sleep. Marc was bored out of his mind. I mean, at least I had a contraction every 8 minutes to break up the monotony of it all!! Around 5pm or so, Marc started getting hungry and wanted to go and get some supper. I said “why don’t my parents bring you something, because I’d really like to see them.”
And thus began what no husband should ever do to his wife — disagree with her over a minor point, when she is 14 hours into the process of birthing his first child. You see, the labour was supposed to be “our” thing and we had agreed that we didn’t want anyone else there. But, we had been bored all day. I didn’t want Marc to leave me to get supper. And I needed a distraction, my mom to massage my back, and my dad to pray. It’s not like they were going to stay around for the blood and gore… just a little while to make the time go faster.
Well, I eventually won. And rightly so! Marc got some Arby’s out of the deal. I got a back massage. Dad prayed. And the shift changed and a nurse finally came to check out my progress. I got hooked up to the monitor and the pain started getting worse. Marc and dad kept themselves entertained by comparing what the machine said to what I said… “you know, that one sounded worse, but it wasn’t as bad on the monitor.” That was marginally irritating.
But the nurse who had just started her shift, Carol, said I was about 6-7 cm, so she said I could get settled in a delivery room. My parents left. I got to the delivery room and was advised that getting into the tub would make me more comfortable. I put on a tank top (because, you can see my top half and you can see my bottom half, too, but you don’t need to see them both at the same time!!) and got in there. And this is where the passage of time gets skewed. When I recounted the birth a week after she was born, I said “And then I got in the tub for about 20 minutes or something”. Actually I was in the tub for over an hour, and Marc read to me from the Psalms while I was in there.
After I got out, around 9pm, Carol gave me some phentanol and that made me feel SO MUCH better for a long time. Eventually, however, my bag of water which had been Bulging (and yes, that is an intentional capital B) for hours, got to me and the pain got worse. Carol tried THREE times to break my water to relieve the pressure. Eventually I asked if one of them didn’t just have a crochet hook in their purse to do the trick.
It was in the middle of this increasing pain (the transition stage where you have to really breath through things) that Marc found out that Carol had attended Caronport high school. And this is why I started saying “Ouch”, “Ow”, etc. during contractions — to get them to stop reminiscing about their alma mater and start paying attention to the woman in labour. At 12:12am Carol broke my water to which I replied, “God bless, Carol!” with a big sigh.
And at 12:30am on Sunday, I started pushing. And if I had started pushing in Prince Albert, I could have safely delivered my baby in Lloydminster. That’s right. I pushed for 2.5 hours!!!! (And after pretty much being up since Friday morning.) But through it all, I kept saying to myself “this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be” (at least until she started crowning). It took me forever to figure out how to push. The nurses would count to 10 every time, and usually when they got to “8” they’d say, “now there’s the good push”, so I’d push for a few extra seconds after they stopped counting. They gave me some pitocin because every third contraction wasn’t strong enough to do anything.
Finally, my doctor, Dr. Halyk (read: the best doctor in the history of humankind) arrived, around 2am. I had been asking and asking when he’d get there, thinking the baby would just slip out and he’d miss it. Nothing much changed when he got there, other than he and the nurses started chatting between contractions (something about Carol’s son breaking their toilet). I had my eyes closed the whole time and didn’t talk very much. I was extrememly focused. And I was also really exhausted — the hardest thing of it all was just having the will to push, once I started pushing it wasn’t that painful.
Eventually Donna, the scrub nurse, arrived as well. Donna admitted me to the hospital when I was born, she knew my folks, and apparently does not forget any baby that she’s delivered. So, because it was a quiet night, I had Donna on one leg, Carol on the other, the other nurse, Barb on my right side pushing me up, and Marc on my left, and Dr. Halyk right down the middle, where the doctor should be.
So, in the middle of all of these professionals my husband, soon to be a father for the first time, sat. Giving me sips of water. And not saying much. When the pain would get too much. I’d say “Marc, pray.” For the most part he would just bow his head and pray silently. This irritated me. And when I finally realized what he was doing, I said “Pray, Marc… out loud!!” And he did, quietly. Looking back, I guess I don’t blame him for not wanting to.
Then later, Barb was gone for a moment. She had been wiping my brow and I needed my brow wiped. So Marc did it. Except, he really just dropped the wet rag on my face. (He was feeling pretty useless by that point, I guess, surrounded by the pros.) So, Dixie, never too tired for a jab/joke, said “Did everyone see how pathetic that was?” (Poor Marc… but it makes a good story!)
So, finally the head is on it’s way and, as Dr. Halyk felt the need to point out, “lots of burning, lots of burning.” (Ya, I noticed.) Marc had been getting some peeks down below and saw that I was pretty stretched to the limit and there was just this tiny little head sticking out. So, he was more than amazed when a head with a 15.5 inch circumference was eventually pushed free, and the rest of the body shot out after (and why wouldn’t it, with a head like that clearing the way).
It was 8 pounds 12 ounces. It was 20.5 inches long. It was a girl. It was 2:59am, Sunday, December 15, 2002. And “it” was Madeline Jayne Vandersluys who is now 3 years old, 35 pounds, 38.5 inches tall, with a 20.5 inch head circumference.
But the fun does not end here. Because she was my first child, and because she had such a huge head, I had fourth degree tearing. There is no fifth degree. I got the worst. Honestly, I’m surprised my earlobe didn’t tear. It seemed like anything within any proximity to my nether regions was torn. I think Marc even got a few stitches.
So I was off to the OR once the specialist arrived. After having a pretty much natural birth (as the phentanol wore off long before she came out), I got a spinal to prepare me for the “repairing”. Marc had to wait outside and all he heard was my voice and then the doctors and nurses erupting into laughter on several different occasions. Like I said, these situations bring out my natural (and slightly inrreverant) comedian. Dr. Halyk was assisting the specialist who said to him “this girl should have had an episiotomy” (which Dr. Halyk does not do, and which I’m fine with). So I piped up “but somebody has principles!”
At one point my nose was itchy just inside my nostril. I asked Carol if she would scratch my nose. She scratched the top of it, and I said “no, kind of inside there.” She did it. I was a little embarrassed, until I remembered, that she had had her hands in some other, much more inappropriate places several times that evening.
Aaah, I love birth. For as painful as the recovery was and as long as the hours were waiting for her to arrive, I look back at it all as a magical sort of time. Probably because it’s all sort of a blur, except for all of those jabs at Marc and my doctor!