There isn’t all that much to say about Clare’s actual birth. It’s really the months leading up to it and the days following that make any kind of story at all. That said, be warned that this is really, really long.
When we found out we were pregnant again, we started looking for the next best thing to a home birth, because we didn’t think that there was a midwife nearby who would take us. So we looked into the new birthing center at Oschner in Baton Rouge, (actually, we looked at it before we found out we were pregnant…but who’s counting?) and it all looked pretty good. So we had a couple of appointments there, figuring that it was very close to Craig’s parents’ house, and only a tiny bit further from our house than we had to drive for Samantha’s birth.
In October, Veronica pointed me to the Louisiana Natural Birth Meetup group, which happened to be having a meeting in about a week, at which the guest speaker was a local midwife. I saw on one of the chat boards that she *might* be able to do a VBAC homebirth, so went to the meetup. Craig waited for something like three hours for me in the car, but at the end I talked to Emmy, and she agreed to check with her back-up OB to see if this was possible. Loooong story short, “Dr. Lap” at Touro checked me out, and we were on the way to a birth at our house. Horray!
We had two meetings with Emmy, and we really liked her and loved that we didn’t have to spend any more hours in the doctor’s office. I thought God had a great plan for this one, since I met Emmy on the anniversary of Dad’s death, and then we got OB approval at almost the same time that I started labor with Lucy four years prior. These had to be signs that we were meant for a homebirth!
God had a plan, but not the one I had in mind. I think he used Veronica and Emmy to bring me to Dr. Lap, so that when I started bleeding a couple of days before Christmas, we didn’t have to go to Baton Rouge, or to a closer doctor we had never met (although we didn’t get our own doctor at the hospital that time, but at least we were able to work with her for the rest of the pregnancy), and we had a doctor who preferred to avoid C-sections and to do what she could to make her patients birth experiences as good as possible.
At any rate, we spend two days in the hospital after the bleeding incident, and then I went on bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy with a diagnosis of placenta previa – our baby couldn’t get out because the placenta was in the way.
So we spent a month or so praying desperately for the placenta to move so we could avoid surgery, but it didn’t budge. We scheduled the C-section for February 4, which was almost 38 weeks and was a good bit longer than any of the other OBs we talked to would have been willing to wait. We knew “Baby Oscar” was a good size from the ultrasounds, but we wanted to give her as long as we could inside the womb.
The placenta had its own plans, of course, and I started bleeding again around 3:30 the morning of February 1. Craig had fallen asleep in the girls’ bed, so I called him from the bathroom and we put on clothes, woke up my mom, grabbed our bags (which fortunately I had packed earlier in the week, because I was far from convinced I’d make it all the way to Friday) and headed for Touro.
Craig dropped me off at the door, and I walked to the elevators, and onto the Labor and Delivery floor. They asked if I was Mrs. Baker as I walked up, and had me sign the three important papers, and we were off to the prep room. The bleeding had not gotten worse, in fact I’m not sure that it hadn’t stopped again, so there wasn’t too much of a hurry.
I’d started shivering as soon as we walked out the door at home, since it was really damp and I hadn’t really dressed warmly enough. That kept going right through the spinal, until the covered my top half up with blankets right before the surgery. In the pre-/post-op room, I got to put on the hospital gown, have the IV and God-knows-what-else put in, I think there was blood work drawn, I’m not sure. I had to drink the “stomach acid neutralizer”, which is disgusting to drink, and just as disgusting when you throw it up. There must have been 5 nurses in the 8×5 room, all doing different things and telling me different things at once. Craig came in and put on his sterile gear, and we rolled down the hall to the OR. It was like walking (rolling) onto a lit stage – so bright! They wouldn’t let Craig come in until after the anestisia was done, which I didn’t understand, but at least they didn’t forget him this time (like Lakeside did!).
I shivered through all this, which I’m sure was a combination of cold, nerves, and lack of sleep/food. The nurse had to hold me still so he could do the spinal. The anestheisoligst told me to “Hold still,” and I said, “I’m trying!” But that was all done at last, and they went through all the curtain hanging (I forgot how HUGE it is), arm stretching, pinching to check the progress of the spinal, etc.
Craig came in, and the anestheisoligst told me that they had just poked me with a very sharp instrument and I hadn’t flinched, so they were ready. Meanwhile, although it couldn’t have been while Craig was there, so I’m not sure if it was before he came or after he went off to the side with Clare, I was busy getting very nauseous, and losing my voice, which I can’t account for at all, with no one with in hearing distance to help and nothing I could do for myself. The anestesia nurse, Alice, was actually very, very sweet. She answered my questions and helped while I was throwing up, which is particularly unpleasant when you’re stuck flat on your back.
But at last Clare was born, and shuttled over to the side for her examination. She was making noise, although not screaming, as soon as she came out. Her apgars were 9 and 9. I had asked the OB ahead of time if I could hold her immediately, but I guess I should have asked the nurses instead, and Craig apparently didn’t think of it, and I didn’t have anyone to ask, not that I really thought of asking, so I didn’t get to see her until she was all bundled up after the examination, and the she and Craig went to the nursery for whatever else they did. I got to hold her in the post-op room.
The closing-up took a while, and afterwards I found out why. Although I had a healthy, large baby (for her age), my tissues were “oozy” and looked “malnourished”, which made sewing everything up more difficult, plus that everything where they were working was full of extra blood vessels because of the incision’s proximity to the placenta. In other words, my recovery after the surgery would have to be extra careful to keep from having trouble with the incisions and stitches. Plus I needed to up my protein (we had an entertaining conversation about vegetarianism and non-dairy milks – me flat on my back and she in her full surgical garb) and be vigilant about not bending at the waist. (Can I tell you how hard that is, despite 5 years of Bradley training influence and practicing squatting, with two small children and Craig leaving things on the floor?) Then it was back to the pre-/post-op room.
Craig was there with Clare (as yet unnamed), and I got to hold her and try and nurse her for the first time. She latched like a pro! That was a real relief, after the nightmare getting started breastfeeding with Lucy, and the more minor difficulties I had with Samantha. She ate for a few minutes, and I held her for a while, and then my spinal started to wear off. They hadn’t given me the pain killer (or cramp reducer, or whatever it was) that they would normally give in the OR because I was bleeding so much during the surgery. They had put on a binder (big, fairly rigid girdle) to help with the pain and put pressure on the incision. Unfortunately, the binder was way too tight, and was causing pain just under my ribs. When I told the nurses about that pain, they didn’t think the binder could be the problem and started trying to think of something else. Meanwhile, the spinal was wearing off and I had no pain killers entering my system. And I had pictocin in my IV, so my uterus was clamping up at full force. So as I started asking about all this pain, they started thinking something else was wrong, and I ended up having my unanestitised, newly cut-up, cramping uterus mashed on by the resident to see if there were any clots causing the pain. There were not. I was not a pretty picture at this point.
Finally, I asked about the pain killers, and somebody put together the pieces that I hurt because there was nothing to stop me from hurting! (Dr. Lap may have been the one to do this, I remember they had called her, but I was not really in a state of mind to notice exactly what was going on.) They stopped the pictocin (I think) and hooked up the pain killers to the IV, with the button for me to push, and I think I pushed it about five times in the first minute or two.
Once things calmed down again, two nurses rolled me through what seemed like miles of hospital to the post-partum rooms, with Craig rolling Clare in her bassinet in hot pursuit. The highlight was when they warned me they were going to have to pick up some speed to make it up a ramp – the whole thing ended up being like a roller coaster ride.
The food I was offered in recovery was dissapointing, to say the least. Lemon jello, lemon ice, beef broth. Corn syrup, fake flavoring, gelitan, zero nutrition of any sort. And since I had just recently finshed throwing up in the OR, super sweet anything was not appetizing. I managed to drink about half the beef broth – over the course of a couple of hours.
[This is where I got back to writing this – 3 1/2 months later.] I was feeling fairly good at this point, all things considered, but apparently I over did it a bit with the pain meds. I also had a run in with a random pediatric nurse when I disturbed her schedule by refusing to let her examine the baby until Craig came back to the room. Apparently that went on my charts. 🙂 My mom and the girls came to visit in the morning, and they were all very excited to finally meet the baby. I napped off and on, and Justin and Theresa came to visit later. By then I was struggling against the drugs to stay awake, and starting to realize that no matter how much drug-induced sleep I had, I wasn’t getting any more rested.
Next I started getting really “loopy”. I don’t know what else to call it, but I was tired and couldn’t focus, my speech was slurring, those kinds of things. And I started getting nauseous again, and throwing up everything (what little it was) that I tried to eat. By the evening I had stopped pushing the button, and was starting to feel a little better. We also found out that evening that my blood count was way down. They knew I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery, but either it was much more than they thought, or I just wasn’t making more very fast. The OB said the way the pattern works, I hadn’t hit bottom yet, but I would, and I would have to have a transfusion. So I could either do it that evening, or wait until things were worse in the morning and do it then. We opted for the evening, but if I had known that it meant a nurse would be checking on me every 5, then 10, then 15, then 30 minutes for the next eight hours or so, I might have opted to do it in the daylight.
That evening Craig slept in the pull-out chair-bed, and I tried desperately to get comfortable between status checks. One very patient nurse spent a good half hour trying to help me find a comfortable position to sleep in, because my back hurt so much and I was sure there was a position that would take the pressure off. I didn’t dare go back on the pain meds, so by morning (I think) I was functioning on just the anti-cramping medication. Anyway, we figured out later that I couldn’t get comfortable because I was reacting to the spinal anesthesia. This was just the beginning.
Somehow we made it through the night, although I don’t remember much besides Craig sleeping through almost all of the nurse visits and there being a lot of nurse visits. At 5:30 AM, while I was actually sleeping, all the lights in the room flashed on and the resident walked in, talking rather loudly. Clare was sleeping on my chest, and he informed me that he needed to check my incision, so I scooted her up a bit. He said he was taking something off, and I thought he meant the binder, but he ripped the dressings (and that is a lot of tape) free, which was quite a shock. Remember, no pain meds at this point, but maybe that was why he didn’t seem to expect it to bother me. He then proceeded more mashing on my belly to make sure everything was getting back to the right size, which was, again, outrageously painful. Somehow in the process Clare woke up, so when he left we were back to trying to soothe her. I was not happy about the visit.
That day the pediatric nurses decided that Clare might have jaundice, and talked us into having her heel stuck to check if it was too bad or not. It was fine, but we’re still trying to get that bill worked out with the insurance. The baby nurses in general were a little bit of a pain. They either didn’t tell us much of anything, since they figured we had it all figured out after two babies, or they told us everything like we couldn’t figure anything out for ourselves. And when we asked questions, like about the jaundice, they tended to get quite hostile. Which surprised me, because Touro is the sort of place that people who tend to ask questions try to go.
There was one exception the the frustrating pediatric nurses, which was a teaching nurse who came in with three students while my mom was rocking Clare. She walked in and turned to the students and said something to the effect of, “When you see a baby sleeping like this, she’s so cozy. We’re not going to do anything that will disturb this baby.” And she directed the students to check temperature, and pulse, and whatever else they check without moving her from mom’s arms or disturbing her at all. I was really impressed, and wished all the employees there took that kind of care!
Most of that day is a real blur. I know I must have slept, and I ate the not-too-good hospital food, and Clare was a good baby as far as we could tell. I didn’t get up much, since the Dr. had warned me to take it extra, extra easy. I don’t remember that night at all, except that we had a very cheerful nurse, and I got large chunks of sleep somehow, and Craig slept on the pull out with it properly pulled out, instead of in a half-chair sort of position.
I felt pretty good the third day, and was planning to go home. I had breakfast and a shower, and was waiting around for all the hoops you have to jump through to leave, and a lady came in and mopped. It was really surreal. By lunch time, I was back to nauseous and my head was throbbing. And my back itched, which seemed strange. No one from the hospital paid much attention or really asked how I was doing; in fact, the nurse who went over the discharge paperwork with me didn’t seem to notice that I was focusing on pain and sickness, not her. They also managed to lose track of our placenta, which we had asked to be kept. Needless to say, we didn’t go back later that week to try and get it.
At any rate, I fought through how awful I felt, because I didn’t want to spend another night there, and I really wanted to be home and see Lucy and Samantha and no more nurses. They were (and still are!) so excited to see Baby Clare at home. I hate that they weren’t there for the birth like Lucy was for Samantha’s, but there wasn’t anything to be done about it.
So we tried to rest and such, and I kept feeling so bad that we went back to the OB’s office the next day. I had a huge rash on my back, I was constipated, and it felt like my head was underwater – everything sounded far away, but loud noises were amplified. My back still hurt and my neck was so stiff I couldn’t stand to move my head. Well, we determined that the rash was from the hospital bed (open backed gown), the head/back/neck pain was a side effect of the spinal anesthesia, and that some Milk of Magnesia would fix the other problem right up. And everything did get better, except that it took a good week for the buzzing in my head and neck pain to settle out. I’d be reading, feeding Clare, sitting on the couch, and realize that I had to sleep, now, and that usually took care of it. Thank God Mom was there to help, or I don’t know how we would have made it through that first week or two.
So I’m still very sore (nearly 4 months out now) at the incision site, but otherwise feeling almost normal now. My OB had 3 C-sections herself (now there’s a story somebody should write down!) and she said each one takes longer to recover from, and she’s not sure she’s done healing from the third, even though it was 8 or so years ago. I have mostly come to terms with it, although I don’t think I’ll ever be happy about it all. But Clare is beautiful, and HUGE, and I’m much happier to be here with her than for both of us to have bled to death. It sounds harsh, even to me, but that seems to be the only thing that keeps it all in perspective for me.
So there it is, finally. The story of Clare Anah’s entrance into the world.