Thursday, September 30, 2010

{one year ago}


One year ago, i woke up to my first morning as Connor's mom. I remember it all so clearly. By 'clearly,' of course, I mean that I recall various non-sequential snippets as seen through the fog of a morphine-induced haze. But, still, I remember it. My soul remembers the parts my brain can't re-process a year later.

I was lying in my hospital bed. Brand-new CP was swaddled in his footprint flannel blanket, dozing in the isolette to my left. Shawn was passed out on the daddy couch to my right, snoring away. Before dawn, Connor woke up, crying. Given that I had an abdomen full of staples, there was no way I could get out of bed to pick him up. Enter the dutiful partner. Who was still snoring. Could he not hear our baby crying? I wondered. I prompted him with a few subtle calls of "Shawn.... Shawn...Shawn....Shawn...SHAWN!!!!!" And nothing. "HEY GET UP OUR BABY IS CRYING!" I shouted with an effort that threatened to rupture some stitches. Still snoring. Then he stopped snoring, but didn't wake up. I was fairly certain he had died. Panicked, I threw the only projectile I could reach--the TV remote-- directly at his head. No reaction. So, my 7 hour-old baby was crying, and I appeared to have a dead husband. The day was getting off to a rocky start.

After 5 entire minutes of provoking him from Sleep/Death, Shawn finally awoke. Of course, I greeted him with something sweet and caring, along the lines of "what the hell is wrong with you???" to which he replied "I'm tired." I genuinely hope that one day {a long long long time from now} when I'm dead and God & St. Peter have set me up in my own personal heavenly home-theater to re-watch the entire tape of my life, I get a nice zoom-in on my face at that moment. I'm sure it was nothing but a kindly mask of compassion and understanding. Because, after all, Shawn had just physically endured 48 hours of forced hunger and thirst, 36 hours of labor, 2 failed epidurals, and a major surgery. Oh wait, no. That was me. Get up and get that baby.

Not that I didn't understand why he was so tired. When we both woke up bright and early two days earlier, Shawn and I were electrified by the notion that we would be meeting Connor. That Day. Or a little bit later, as it turned out.

Since I was ten days overdue and Connor showed absolutely no interest in changing residence, I was scheduled for an induction on Monday morning, September 28, 2009. I was under doctor's orders not to eat after 4 a.m. Monday morning. So, of course I set my alarm for 4 a.m. to get in one last meal. But, when 4 a.m. rolled around, I thought "eh, I'm not really hungry." And went back to bed. Now, I'm not big on regrets. In all my 29 years on this earth, I can count my regrets on two fingers. This is one of them. Sometimes I feel an actual physical urge to time-travel back to that 4 a.m. wake-up and scream to my unsuspecting self: GO EAT A HAMBURGER RIGHT NOW!!! But, alas, no such self-apparition from the future appeared to me that morning, so...regret it is.

On the way to the hospital, I was entirely pre-occupied by my fear of getting an IV. I've never been good with needles. During routine blood draws I usually throw such a fit that the phlebotomist gives me a Sesame Street band-aid afterwards and asks if I want a sticker {yes, i do, thank you.]. So, I decided my only option was to fake it 'til I make it-- I was going to nonchalantly PRETEND that I was completely impervious to the gut-wrenching fear and nausea brought on by needles. And, to my great shock, it worked. Now, the thing about being hugely pregnant in the summer is that it's quite easy to entirely lose track of things like your ankles, wrists, and fingers. The formerly delicate, bony joints get lost in a swell of puffy pregnancy bloat. So, the nurses tried about 6 times to find a vein in my sausage hands, to no avail, before finally calling in "the expert," who succeeded on her second try. All the while they were digging around, I was cool as a cucumber and everyone keep saying "wow, you're so tough! look at you!" Now, I'm almost positive these people changed their opinion of me about 30 hours later, but we'll get to that.

For the first couple of hours, I just waited for the induction agent to start some dilation. My nurse suggested using a foley bulb to augment dilation. I cannot believe I actually agreed to this, but I did. I sincerely hope that Mr. Foley {and yes, I am positive the inventor had to be a man} is currently writhing in eternal torment, having a Foley bulb applied perpetually to his own nether regions.

After the foley bulb, the nurse increased the dose of Pitocin to strengthen my contractions. Not too long afterwards {like maybe 15 seconds} I requested the epidural. I was delivering Connor at the region's premier women's teaching hospital, so I was prepared to meet some nursing students, residents, etc. during my labor. However, I made it clear from the start that I don't want anyone coming near my spine with a 10 inch needle unless he or she is a board-certified anesthesiologist. With 30 years' experience. And Harvard Med credentials. So, of course, Magee sent me a girl wearing a bandana who appeared to be 12 years old. She explained that she was some sort of nursing technical student and would be "assisting" the doctor with my epidural. Holding still in a cross-legged position during these contractions was challenging, but no big deal. The epidural went in without a hitch, Shawn didn't faint at the sight of it, and all seemed well. Within a few minutes, everything below my waist was comfortably numb. Shawn and I settled in for an evening of waiting and relaxing.

Around 2 in the morning, I started to feel pain again. Around 3 in the morning, I was convinced something had gone awry with the epidural, so I paged the nurse. She seemed to think I was overreacting. Over the next 15 hours, I kept paging people, telling them that this epidural was not working. People kept thinking I was overreacting. A parade of anesthesiologists came in, looked at the dosage, increased it... all to no avail. Meanwhile, CP's heart rate kept dipping due to the max dosage of Pitocin coursing through me and squeezing him unrelentlessly. The doctors placed a monitor on his head, and we were continuously worried about him. Meanwhile, dilation continued, very very slowly. For much of this time, I was writhing in bed, while Shawn did his best to remind me to "breathe." {p.s., dear reader: lamaze classes are a waste of time}. Finally around 5 or 6 p.m., some genius board-certified Harvard-credentialed anesthesiologist actually looked at the epidural site, and declared "oh, it fell out." The epidural had been pumping all the medicine into my sheets for hours.

At this point, I was 32 hours into labor, 8 cm dilated, on the maximum dose of the devil's own Pitocin, starving and thirsty, in transition, with no epidural. I totally lost my mind. It didn't hurt any more than it had 2 minutes earlier; after all, nothing had changed. However, I could not believe that after starving me, wearing me down for a day and a half, and amplifying the pain x1000 with pitocin, these doctors were going to have me finish the job au naturel. So, I started screaming. Various combinations of the word "no" and every swear word I have ever heard, along with a generous and hearty repetition of "I CANNOT DO THIS!" Surely, other women in labor heard me and had panic attacks. Probably people in other ZIP codes heard me and had panic attacks. I was inconsolable in my pain, which was fueled now by sheer rage. It was probably the kind of extended outburst that you don't see much outside of a psych ward. A dozen people were in my room. One kind nurse tried to assure me that I could do this because "you've already come this far!" I told her, to her face, that she was full of shit, and that I could not be pacified by such meaningless platitudes.

Anesthesiology was called to attempt a second epidural. The girl with the bandana walked two steps into my room before I screamed "not you! get the hell out of here!" Regardless, the second epidural never fully took. At this point, it had been 24 hours since my water broke, and the window for safe delivery was pretty much closed although I was still not fully dilated and Connor's head was not fully engaged. A new OB {thank God} finally came on shift, and she advised us that a c-Section was our best option at this point. I tearfully agreed, and though I was scared of having my first surgery, I mostly felt relieved.

Once we decided to have a c-Section, things kicked into high gear as people started prepping me for surgery, and handing out scrubs to Shawn. When I got to the OR, the doctors actually wanted me to transfer myself from the gurney to the surgical table. I was like "wait, are you kidding? You just gave me a spinal & i can't feel anything below my chest. You're going to have to un-beach this whale on your own, guys."

After I was numbed up & Shawn was sitting at my head, I heard a little Connor cry, in no time at all. He was born Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 8:52 p.m., weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring 22 inches long. He sounded like a baby kitten. The nurses wrapped him up & handed him to Shawn. I caught a glimpse of his puffy little newborn face, but had a hard time focusing, since a doctor was standing at my head, jabbing pain meds and anti-nausea drugs into my chest at 1 minute intervals. At the end of the surgery, the doctors asked if I wanted to hold Connor as they wheeled me back to my room. I couldn't feel my arms yet, so I didn't trust myself to hold onto such precious cargo.

When I arrived in the recovery room, I demanded some grape juice. I have never been so thirsty in my entire life. The nurse told me that I couldn't have any liquids for several hours, in case it made me nauseous. I think I started laughing like a hyena at that point, in my drugged-up haze. After all this, I'd take the risk of throwing up, thank you very much. Get me the juice. I demanded approximately 22 dixie-cup juice refills in a row, before regaining enough strength to finally hold baby Connor in my arms for the first time. I don't remember what I said, or how long I held him. I only remember a sense of sheer amazement, that this was the little guy I had gotten to know over the last 9 months. Here he was, blinking his bold dark eyes at me, rooting around with his tongue, taking the world in one long glance at a time.

A year later, the amazement hasn't worn off. It still washes over me in waves at a time. When I see my handsome 30 pound nugget walking down the hallway grinning from ear to ear and tugging on his birthday balloons, I can hardly believe this is the same baby who had monitors glued to his scalp just a year ago.

We're still amazed, still very tired, and still very much in love with our little Connor. What a great year it's been.

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