Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Inadvertent Natural Birth & Other Adventures in Labor

The contractions weren't regular, but they were long and so painful it was all I could do to breathe.

"When can I get an epidural?" I asked the triage nurse last Wednesday morning as I awaited my daughter's birth.

The response: There probably isn't time.

"Oh, noooooo," I wailed, one of the handful of things I remember very vividly from the next few hours.

But the story really starts the night before, at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, when I thought I felt my first contraction. Sure enough, they kept on coming, and three hours later, when they were two to three minutes apart, we headed to the hospital.

The triage rooms were full, and two or three other women besides myself were waiting as well. I sat in the hallway for an hour or so. The pain was bad but not excruciating. And besides, there were distractions. A woman gave birth in a car near the hospital while we were waiting, and mother and baby were rushed by.

Finally, I was checked, but the news was disappointing. I wasn't far enough along to be admitted. Go home, they said, and come back when the contractions are unbearable and regular.

We arrived back home shortly after 5 a.m. Some five hours later we were back at the hospital.

That's when the real fun began.

When I was checked this time, the news was different. I was ready to give birth. Now.

A few things stick out -- mostly snippets of conversation -- over the next two hours leading to Edith's birth. I needed to get to a birthing room, but they were all occupied. Where could I go? When? I needed an IV -- was there time to connect it right then? A newbie seemed to do the honors and had trouble; Paul said she kept sticking and resticking my arm, something I barely felt at the time.

An oxygen mask was put over my mouth and nose; the baby's heart rate was dropping. My doctor arrived, turning around on the way to the office when she was told I was ready to go. She seemed surprised -- maybe shocked -- that things happened so quickly.

I don't know how much time had passed, but there were still no birthing rooms available. (I learned that this was partly the fault of Hurricane Sandy, which caused three hospitals to close and diverted mothers-to-be to my hospital.) No time to spare. My bed was rolled to one of the hospital's operating rooms.

In two hours, I went from being admitted to having a baby.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple, especially with no pain medication. Suffice it to say that we have a perfect daughter.

Even after the delivery, the labor and maternity ward wasn't in my future. The recovery rooms were all occupied, so my shared room was in the pediatrics section. Over the next 48 hours I got a crash course in being a mom before we were discharged on Friday.

I know women who have had much scarier births than I had, and I know others who have had much easier. Even still, the rush and confusion of it all takes my breath away -- from first contraction to baby's birth was only 13 hours. I'm still remembering bits and gathering pieces from Paul. And each day I'm thankful for our healthy baby girl. I still can't believe she's ours.

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