Sunday, November 18, 2007

Baby Hank Is Born!

On Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 1:49 pm Henry Raymond Wagner burst into this world following 4 hours and 49 minutes of labor.

The long story begins a few days before then, early in the morning the Saturday before, when I woke up to what I thought were contractions. We even went as far as to have our doula come over to assist, because we really thought this was it, and it seemed that things were moving swiftly. But by 4 a.m. the contractions had stopped completely, and we chalked it up to false labor caused by dehydration – par for the course seeing as I had still been vomiting that day, and the ‘episode’ was in fact inspired by a bout of nausea at 12:30 a.m. during which I threw out my upper back (as an aside, I remember thinking at that time that if labor pains were going to be that far up my back an epidural, if needed, would have to be started in my neck!).

The next evening we made a visit to labor and delivery so I could get IV fluids – I can’t believe that was the first time during my pregnancy that I went in for fluids! I felt like a new woman the next day, and Henry and I were able to get the last of the baby errands accomplished, and the last of the organizing finished. I spent the next couple of days cleaning and putting things away, and I was hell bent on finishing reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”.

On Tuesday morning I refused to get out of bed until I had turned the last page. I knew that that morning I had to take a shower, finish cleaning the bathroom, clean out the refrigerator, and go to Whole Foods to pick up some things that our doula suggested we have on hand for early labor and recovery. I got through the shower and cleaning the bathroom. At about 11:15 I had just about finished cleaning out the refrigerator when I felt a gush, thought maybe I had wet my pants, and then another much larger gush, which made me realize instantly that my water had broken! Immediately I was seized with a surge of adrenaline the likes of which I have never experienced. I called Henry at work and said “It’s time! My water broke!” I called Treesa, my doula. I called my parents. And then I waited.

Henry made his way home after stopping at Whole Foods – he was laden down with rootbeer and comfort foods, and was nervous and excited as I was too. But nothing was happening. Every so often I’d leak more fluids, but contractions never came. Late in the afternoon I started bleeding bright red blood. We called Treesa to ask her about the bleeding and she suggested we go to labor and delivery to rule out any complications. There were still no contractions, but off to L&D we went.

At L&D they put me on monitors and everything looked fine. The midwife who worked with us, Adele, ruled out any complications and also agreed that although my water had broken, I wasn’t technically in labor yet. We discussed the pros and cons of staying at the hospital or going home. Even though we had everything with us that we needed for the hospital stay, we elected to go home. I had really hoped for a fully natural childbirth, and we knew that if we stayed that night, they would likely want to induce As Soon As Possible due to hospital policies concerning the length of time that had passed since my water had broken, and I felt like I still hadn’t given my labor enough of a chance to get started.

Before we could leave, though the OB/GYN on call had to come read me a riot act about all the bad things that could happen if I left, and warn me that I was Leaving Against Medical Advice, and made me sign all kinds of waivers. When we finally walked out the door I wasn’t sure what to think, but I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to die (which was one of the possible outcomes the doctor had mentioned in her diatribe).

We got home around ten and on Treesa’s advice decided not to try any natural induction methods, and just get some sleep instead. I had a hard time though because every now and then a contraction would wake me up, but they never got regular. At 5:00 a.m. I woke Henry up and said “We’ve got to go back to the hospital”. Even though my labor still hadn’t gotten under way, I had reached the limit of my comfort zone, and I couldn’t wait any longer.

At labor and delivery they were waiting for us, so we skipped triage and were taken right to a labor room. I saw Adele, who was about to finish her shift, as we arrived, and said to her “we’re back”. She came to our room to talk with us about the next steps. She helped me decide that a low dose of pitocin would be the right thing to do. We made a few phone calls to family, checked in with Treesa who was on her way (and also helped me feel a lot better about the decision to use pitocin), and then I spent a little time adjusting to the change in plans and getting comfortable with it (I admit, I was feeling a little disappointed about deciding to use the pitocin, and I was terrified that it was going to lead to a string of interventions ending in an emergency c-section, and this all took some getting used to).

At 9:00 a.m. they started the pitocin. I was happy to find that one of our nurses was Jennifer, the same nurse who helped me with the IV fluids a couple of nights before. She and the other nurse (also Jennifer) were both terrific and made me feel really comfortable. The midwife who would actually be attending the delivery, Lorraine, was wonderful from the get go, and also made me feel good about my decision to use the pitocin. Treesa arrived just as the pitocin was starting to work, and she and Henry made an amazing team right from the start. The labor pains were strong to start with and Henry and Treesa worked together to help me be as comfortable as I could be for as long as possible. At some point my parents showed up. My dad went out to the waiting room pretty quickly, but my mom wound up staying for the entire labor and delivery, something that I am very happy about.

My recollection of how things went from about 10 a.m. on gets pretty fuzzy, pretty fast. I know that at some point they turned the pitocin from a 2 to a 4 to a 6 and then back to a 2. I know that I detested the sensation of the monitors strapped around my abdomen and begged during each contraction to have them removed, as they sat right on the spot in my back that hurt the most during each contraction. I remember Henry and Treesa helping me to breathe each time the pain got to be too much. I remember projectile vomiting when contracting on my hands and knees. I remember being in the bathroom with Treesa and asking her if I was delirious and her telling me in a comforting way that I was just in labor and helping me get back in my body and back with my breath as the strength of the contractions continued to skyrocket and the pain became more and more unimaginable and indescribable. I remember being so surprised by how the contractions felt. I remember asking Treesa when I was going to start feeling empowered, like the women in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I also remember telling Treesa that Ina May could shove her book up her ass. I remember my friend Beth coming by with lunch for Henry and yelling that she couldn’t come in. I remember feeling like everything was spiraling so far beyond my grasp, and the terror that came with that. I remember saying to Treesa “I think I’m having a panic attack” during one of the worst contractions, Treesa placing a finger on my forehead and instructing me to open my eyes, look at her, and breath. I did, and it worked.

At about this time I also remember being told I was at 5 cm dilation and thinking there was no way I could make it to 10 if it was only going to get more intense from there. I asked Treesa to talk to me about an epidural, and hearing my mom ask if there was just some drug we could use to take the edge off instead. We decided to use fentanyl, and within seconds of the drip starting I was able to get a break for the first time in my labor. For the next 15 minutes I rode the contractions, which were coming with more intensity and velocity, but nearly slept between each one. And then all of a sudden I had to push in a way I’ve never had to push before, and I could not wait.

Henry tells me that the nurses and Lorraine sprang into action to get ready for the actual delivery. Someone did an internal exam to verify that I was in fact ready to push, but I was already crowning. Treesa took the camera and she and Lorraine coached me through the pushing. Henry had one of my legs and my mother had the other. I pushed through about 12 contractions and Hank was born, wiggling and purple, and just about the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. Henry discovered the sex and announced it was a boy as Hank cuddled and wiggled and hiccupped on my chest. The time was 1:49 p.m. He weighed 9 lbs 13.6 oz, and was 22.75 inches long.

I’d had some tearing, so as Lorraine stitched me up we got to know Hank who was so warm and squishy on my chest. Everything had happened so fast that I hadn’t even been able to take off my bra, so one of the nurses cut it off so we could be skin to skin and Hank could search out my nipple and eat for the first time. My mom told me during this time that as the baby was crowning all she could think was how big its head was. She also said Lorraine sort of massaged it into a cone as it was coming out, making the delivery easier (you’d never know this from looking at him – his head is a round as can be). They had offered me a mirror during the pushing, but I refused it, knowing I wouldn’t have the ability to concentrate on pushing if I’d had the distraction of watching the baby crown (so I reached down to touch his head instead, which felt like a water balloon). Lorraine worked the placenta out and showed it to us – it was huge! No wonder I’d been so sick for so long!

It has been a few days and I have been feeling so relieved that the entire experience – from pregnancy to delivery – is over. Simultaneously I’ve also felt so grateful for the people who helped me survive the experience. We returned to the hospital yesterday for Hank’s two-day check up, and just driving up to the parking garage I felt a surge of emotion – relief that I was not coming to make another pregnancy related visit, love for the child in the car seat next to me, gratitude for my extraordinarily loving and kind husband, thankfulness for my entire family. Tears were pouring out of my eyes. This whole thing has been such a ride that it has been hard for me to express what it feels to be at the end of it. I find it equally impossible to express what it feels like to be at the beginning of the rest of it.


dee said...

Dear Henry and Sara your story is beautiful and amazing. God bless you all. You should have your stor published by Redbook or Womans Day. Love to you all Dee Hancock

Susan Jeffries said...

what a wonderful story. thank you for sharing such a special time in your life.

Carla said...

Congratulations Sara, Henry and baby Hank! I am so happy for you all. Take care and come to visit me sometime!
Dr. Carla Wicks