Academic Leigh Speaking

A professor, four kids, and a crash course in work/life balance

Seamus’s Birth Story (Only Five Years Late) July 21, 2014

Seamus was six months old when I started this blog, so I never wrote about his birth. He’s been asking lots of questions about birth, and we had explained to him that a baby gives off signs when it’s ready to be born, and then the muscles in the uterus squeeze hard, and then finally the baby comes out through the cervix and vagina. He’s seen some pictures in a book called It’s Not the Stork! that a friend loaned us. I recommend that book. Then I guess he asked what happened if the baby doesn’t come out like that. Patrick (or someone) explained that then they cut the mother open to get the baby. He, of course, wanted to know how he got here. This story is a little graphic, long, and boring. If you knew me then, you’ve probably heard me tell it more times than you really wanted to hear, so feel free to skip this post. It has no new information about the new baby.

In April 2009, I was two weeks from my due date (and even then I wasn’t too attached because I knew that most first time moms were late), when I became pretty convinced that the body was losing all control over itself. One Saturday, April 25th, Patrick was off at a meeting for work, and I was trying to finish a paper for a class, but I couldn’t really concentrate, and I was having mild contractions. When he got home, we went for a walk, and the contractions increased to 5 minutes apart; at that point I was also pretty sure that I was leaking amniotic fluid. We called, and the amniotic fluid thing made the OB Triage nurse tell me to come on in.

We went in at 1:00 on a Saturday, not really sure what was about to happen. But they checked the fluid, found my chart, took my blood pressure, and started freaking out on me right then and there. There were a lot of “unknowns” because the office where I had been receiving prenatal care had rescheduled my 37 week appointment from Friday to Monday. I had no idea I was GBS positive, they hadn’t checked my blood pressure in 2 weeks, etc. I was immediately hooked to a pitocin drip, penicillin IV, and send to a room in Labor and Delivery to wait for the contractions to speed up. Meanwhile, I asked to not have the continuous electronic fetal monitoring, but they said they had to when I had the pitocin. That wasn’t what I had heard earlier. They also put a blood pressure cuff on me designed to take the blood pressure every 15 minutes, regardless of whether I was having a contraction or not, standing or not, being told upsetting information or not. That the BP was all over the place meant they started a Magnesium Sulfate drip, again without really consulting me.

(I learned a lot from this experience, especially that when they say something like “Your blood pressure is high, and we need to start giving you magnesium which will make you feel hot and itchy, but will keep your BP from injuring your baby” you can say “No I don’t want that” and then sign a paper. Because now I would ask, “What else does this mean for me?” To which I found out later magnesium meant: I had to stay in bed, the drug makes babies really sleepy for the first 24 hours and they won’t hardly nurse, and it didn’t do anything to lower my blood pressure.) This is why for Gilbert’s birth, I was so grateful for the midwife who said, “I can break your water, and he might come faster, but if I do, we’ll have to monitor with EFM, what do you think?” and was totally relaxed when I said no.

I felt like a pin cushion. They kept coming in to do exams without asking, to “read” the monitor, and to tell me to quit turning around in the bed to use the bedpan because it was messing with the monitors. I had refused a catheter with the magnesium, because WHY on earth would you have one of those if you didn’t have to? At 11:30 pm, I asked for an epidural. I was okay with the pain, but everything happening was too much. I slept, sort of. There’s a picture of me from this particular hour, and I look dead. (Luckily Patrick and I can laugh about this picture now, but it’s a bitter kind of laughter.)

The next morning things were a little better. The shift changed and the new people were refreshed or something. At 11:30 am, I was ready to start pushing. They inserted an internal contraction monitor (knowing now what I know, I can’t believe they did this on a GBS positive person), and we wasted an hour of pushing time with me arguing with them about when my contractions were coming. I could feel the wave and pressure with the epidural, but not really pain. The nurse and doctor said, looking at the monitor, “You’re not having a contraction.” I said, “YES I AM!” The nurse would feel my belly, “Oh, yeah, she is.” The doctor, “Okay push.” And we’d have lost a minute of productive pushing time. Also, Patrick was holding a leg and a tech was holding the other leg. Patrick would let me push hard with my leg on his chest, so I could get some traction. The tech held my leg like it was a wet linguini noodle. After 40 minutes of this, I said, “This isn’t working. Somebody, turn the epidural off and take it out.” The new midwife on call was in the room, recognized that I was completely serious, and made that happen for me. She also saw that I had a lot of control over my lower body, but not enough to effectively change positions on my own. She came over and turned me on my side. Now both my legs were on Patrick’s chest, the feeling started coming back immediately, and it started progressing much more smoothly. At some point, I heard someone say, “She’s getting tired.” Whatever, I redoubled my efforts, and finally, finally I was able to see a head in the mirror, feel the baby’s head and little hand coming out alongside his head, and know the end was in sight.

After he slipped out, they took him  to the other side of the room, and Patrick went with him. I didn’t get to hold him right away, because they were delivering the placenta. This is the grossest part–(The nurse removed the catheter bag, emptied it, and reattached it. She also adjusted the catheter. The bag immediately filled with a liter and a half of liquid. She looked shocked, raised her eyebrows at the doctor, unhooked it, and went and dumped it again. I pushed a baby out past a severely distended bladder because somebody didn’t hook it up right. And because they thought I was dehydrated, they kept turning up the IV…I can’t even).

Breastfeeding was a challenge because he was so sleepy from the magnesium. I’m pretty sure the whole experience shocked and exhausted him as much as it did me. He’d nurse, but not for very long, and they kept “checking his sugars” (again, something I will never allow in the future), but they were fine. A Lactation Consultant came in on Monday to help, and she reassured me that teenagers always have plenty of milk. I was 29 at the time, but I guess I’m glad to know that. Anyway, Seamus did fine. We put him on a scale, I fed him for his usual 3 minutes, we put him back on the scale, and he’d gained 3 ounces. At three days old. When his stomach was the size of a walnut. He was fine. I wish I hadn’t worried so much about it.

When he asks me about his birth, right now I just tell him, “You were so excited to get here that you kicked a hole in your water bag two weeks early. You taught us to be prepared!” He likes that story and has been telling everyone who asks about the baby that when he was born, he kicked a hole in his water bag. Gilbert’s story is here. And the aftermath is here. I’ll post new baby’s story sometime after he gets here, but before he’s five!

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