Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Welcome Baby: The Birth of Ashley Marie
I tried to write at least a few times during this pregnancy--just to let readers know I'm still alive. But I felt a fraud doing daily posts because I was terrified of exercise during pregnancy. There really was no basis for this fear; in fact my doctor encouraged me to take up jogging or biking. I still couldn't shake the thought that exercise would hurt my baby--so no, I've had no regular exercise during the past nine months. But I only gained 20 pounds--a HUGE improvement from the 60+ pounds I gained with my first child. I think the minimal weight gain was due to intense nausea turning me off to food--especially sweets--and a feverish need to clean my house. So it is rather funny to me that the story of the birth of my second child starts, and ends, with exercise.
I woke up on Saturday March 5th around 7:30 in an especially sour mood. Just a few days earlier I learned from my doctor that my cervix was not ripe for a safe induction on Monday March 7th as we had planned. I faced one more week of waiting, not sleeping, and daily stretch marks (I’m serious--I got a new stretch mark around my belly button every day during the last week of my pregnancy--I started naming them). I stomped in the living room with a terrible bed-head nest of hair and proclaimed "I'm going running in the mountain--I want this baby OUT!!" You can imagine the surprise on my husband's face after my nine-month avoidance of any sort of exertion. "Ok, be safe," he said. I squeezed my monster boobs into the nearest sports bra, pulled on some ragged blue-flower PJ shorts, and my husband’s XL "Dr. Bicuspid" T-shirt. With water bottle in hand and cell phone stuffed snugly next to my right breast I zoomed out the door.
You can imagine how incredible I must have looked to passersby, some of whom actually slowed down in their cars to get a good look at the bouncing pregnant blob. “Is that Lady pregnant and RUNNING?” their eyes seemed to ask, I didn’t care—I had the determination and fury of a hormone-crazed cow ready to give birth! But let me explain something. I wasn’t really in a MOUNTAIN; they are big hills a few blocks from my house with an array of dirty, steep trails. I jogged for 90 minutes and peed four times in the wilderness. Baby was not ready but something definitely changed because the entire week following my Swollen-Belly-Jogathon I suffered MAJOR on and off contractions. I was pleased to learn the next Wednesday at my doctor’s appointment that my cervix had thinned and dilated to a nice 2.5. When Doctor said I could be induced on Monday March 14, I lay there on the slab thingy, half naked, spread eagle clapping and cheering. The nurse wasn’t sure how to respond to my outburst and smiled awkwardly. Fast forward a few days to Friday March 11.
I didn’t sleep at all the night previous and contractions were coming every five minutes. At 8:00 a.m. Friday morning I went to the Hospital. The Doctor on call checked me and I was still a 2.5 but contracting regularly. She said I could go home or walk around the hospital for two hours and come back to see if anything had changed; I had to be a 4 to stay at the hospital. I chose the second option and since our house is only two blocks from the hospital I snuck home. I told my daughter that we were going to run around together. She was surprised and delighted that her sedentary mom suddenly had the strength to play a hearty chasing game. I ran at home for about 30 minutes then ran back to the hospital for fear that some straggling nurse would catch me playing hooky. I ran every stair on the hospital grounds, and circled the building face red, sweaty, and heaving. Smiles and knowing glances were not embarrassing to me, rather encouraging. Like the people were saying, “Yeah lady, you go and get that baby out!!” Despite my gladiator effort, Doctor sent me home. I walked back in our house looking and smelling like a swollen carcass and my husband said, “No baby huh?” I smiled and replied, “No, but I got a wicked workout!” It was time for a shower.
The contractions remained for the next two days and I maybe slept 5 hours the whole weekend. I learned what a REAL contraction felt like late Sunday March 13. “What does it feel like?” My husband asked as I was rolling on the ground. “It feels like the most intense diarrhea pain, but you can’t push poop out to make it go away.” I tried taking a bath, walking, rocking, everything until the pain finally pushed me to tears around 12:00 a.m. Monday March 14th. I woke my husband, asked him for a blessing, and drove myself to the hospital hours earlier than my scheduled induction. (I didn’t want to wake our little girl so I had my husband stay home. And I personally don’t like any company when I am in terrible pain, weird I know). I felt really silly walking up to labor and delivery moaning and groaning, but I couldn’t HELP it!! I got all signed in and braced myself against the wall during the worst contractions. At 1:00 a.m. I found myself once again half naked clapping and cheering out loud: Dr. Said I was almost a 4 and could stay. Then I demanded my epidural.
With my first daughter, I was induced and hooked up to the epidural at the same time. I had no experience dealing with the pain of contractions “You have to keep breathing,” the nurse said. And, “Slow, deep breaths, this one’s almost over.” But my favorite person of the whole evening was Dr. Tsang, the anesthesiologist. He came to my rescue at 2:30 am. The epidural was administered without incident and the relief left me very chatty. I asked the Doctor if his name was Chinese, indeed it was, and then I offered my single Chinese phrase, “I am American.” He laughed a little but was surprised by my correct tones (My big brother John, fluent in mandarin, helped me perfect this phrase a few years back). Dr. Tsang was born in Hong Kong and moved to the U.S. as a child and spoke Cantonese, Chinese, English, and a little High School Spanish. I also got to know the nurse. Her name was Gina and I found out she had gone through natural labor twice—I admired her courage. “Sorry I was such a baby. Thanks for being so patient,” I said. She responded, “You actually did really well for someone who has never felt labor pain and for being here alone and all. Good Job.” I gave myself a mental pat on the back.
From 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. I got a little nap, they gave me some low-dose pitocin to help me along, and I dilated to a 6. My doctor came in and congratulated me. “Sometimes the body almost anticipates an induction and starts labor on its own, it’s really strange, and I’ve seen it happen a lot,” He said. He broke my water and assured me that it wouldn’t be very long before we had our baby. There is nothing dignified about childbirth—it is sticky, icky, and there are a bunch of people crowded around your crotch. But the most embarrassing part of the whole thing, for me, is the water breaking—I have NO control, and it gushes. It makes me almost want to apologize—as if I farted in a crowded elevator. Then I remind myself that these people have seen this hundreds of times and know that I didn’t mean to spew amniotic fluid at them. At 8:15 the nurse said I should call my husband. He came to the hospital from school around 8:40 and had to leave a patient with someone else—good thing: Ashley was born at 9:45.
“Call me if you start to feel lots of pressure,” the nurse said. She came back a few minutes later and said, “How do you feel?” --“Like I have to poop a bowling ball, but good.” Another awkward smile. At 9:12 I was dilated to a 9.5. I started to get panicky when I could feel my legs losing their numbness, and I pressed the epidural button several times. I felt immense pressure around 9:30, and indeed I was at a 10. I could feel the head descending…more clicks to the epidural button. At 9:36 they set up everything for delivery and my feverish attempts to numb my lower regions were in vain—the epidural ran out. So I did my final exercise of the pregnancy—PUSH! Baby’s head crowned , I felt it, and screamed. I stopped for a minute because it hurt so bad then decided now was good a time as any to get this baby out, and the sooner the better. Two more pushes, and another hearty yelp and my little girl plopped on my lap at 9:45 a.m. messy, chubby, and healthy: 8 pounds 2 ounces. I’ve never been good at anything athletic, but apparently I’m an awesome pusher. I squeezed that girl out in a matter of minutes and between contractions. “You were screaming, it was like a movie,” my husband later said. “I know, it hurt, I FELT it!” He nodded and said, “Wow you are a champion; you pushed her out so fast.” I sat there a minute wondering why my physical gift had to be pushing out a baby instead of something more interesting and useful like swimming or sprinting, then I looked down at my pink, chubby, perfect baby and was very proud to be a gold-medal baby pusher.