Little V Makes Her Entrance

Little V was born on September 2, 2017 after 30 hours of labor on Labor Day weekend (ha!). I say 30, which includes only the labor that required concerted physical and mental effort, but I was having contractions since Monday and she wasn’t born until Saturday morning. The total number of hours is only useful for satisfying morbid curiosity.

I noticed a friend on Facebook had a recent home birth. She posted about her 45 hour labor, which she counted from first contraction until delivery. Well, if I did that I could literally claim like 100 hours of labor. In sharing her birth story on Instagram, she was glowingly positive but felt the prolonged labor altered her plans and her mindset such that she felt deprived of the experience of falling in instant love with her son. Apparently other women with negative labor and delivery experiences report feeling similarly robbed, but I’m not the type for falling in love at first sight anyway so I can’t say I relate.

When I left off my last post, I had seen the doc in the morning at 2 cm dilated and 80 percent effaced, and my contractions had started to speed up on Thursday night, probably in part as a result of the membrane sweep. By 11:59 p.m., they started to become seriously painful enough to be the real thing, and we started our Hypnobirthing skills, exercises, meditations, and tools. I felt most of the contractions in my low back/sacral area, which has been a completely new sensation for me, as I’ve never had any significant back pain my entire life! Until contractions started, low back pain was something totally foreign to me, and the sensations of being hammered in the tailbone were quite awful. Husband was totally amazing with pressing on my back at the right times, reminding me to eat, and lightly massaging my back. After about 3 hours, the contractions were coming faster than the 5-1-1 rule, and we went to the the hospital around 3:00 a.m.

The hospital ride was uncomfortable to say the least, and I tried to continue breathing and moving on all fours in the backseat during the 25 minute ride. Unfortunately, when we got to the hospital, we were surprised to find I was still only 2 cm dilated, despite the intensifying contractions and hours of seeming progress. They sent me home, and advised me to try and sleep. I declined Ambien, as at this point, I was tired enough, but my major problem was pain. I have never needed help sleeping, as I am a champion sleeper.

At home, I tried to put my champion sleeping skills to work. I took a couple of Tylenol PM and we “slept” in 5-minute chunks between contractions until the late morning. Husband had equally poor sleep because he was amazing enough to wake up every few minutes to massage my back. Not wanting to risk being sent home from the hospital again, we continued the home labor activities until late afternoon and returned to the hospital around 4:30 p.m.

The good news was by the time we went to the hospital for round two, I was 7 cm dilated. My water had not broken yet and the midwife observed I had a bulging amniotic sac. The bad news was I stayed at 7 cm for literally eight more hours. I think I probably stopped keeping track of the time at this point, as it was too devastating. The midwife explained the bulging sac may be blocking the baby’s head from descending, and suggested the option of breaking the water to allow things to speed up. We considered it and in the mean time, Husband motivated me and walked me around the hall twice, and helped me breathe through some contractions on the birthing ball. There didn’t appear to be much change after these efforts and we decided to go ahead with breaking the water 1-2 hours later. The pace did pick up indeed, along with the severity of contractions.

Yet, the bumps in the road were not over for us. I pushed for 2-3 hours (who’s counting?), in different positions, including squatting, on all fours, on my side, with a squat bar and Rebozo. I ended up pushing the traditional way and could not help but constantly feel like I could not take much more. I found comfort in growling like an animal to control my breath (but my throat hurt the whole next day).

After being encouraged that I was “very close” and just a “few” pushes away (and boy, did I need the motivation at this point!), Baby V was born at 6:00 a.m. Again, I don’t know about “instant love” but it was a very overwhelming, exciting, and incredible feeling when I saw her emerge from my body. I baked a little hooman! Holy shit! As soon as they placed her on my chest, it was just as a friend had told me – all the pain and discomfort leading up to it became negligible.

I previously thought having a whole baby come out of my vagina was going to be the most painful and difficult part, but as it was happening, I observed it mostly felt like an uncomfortable stretching that slightly burned. It was the contractions that continued to be totally killer. Maybe I got lucky and had a baby with a smaller head. I didn’t tear, but had some mild uterine bleeding and received some Pitocin and Cytotec. Afterwards, our nurse, who by now was accustomed to me refusing all kinds of meds, came by to persuade me to take pain medications. To her relief, I did not put up any resistance to a some Ibuprofen.

Honestly, these were some of the most miserable hours of my life, but they were met with great reward. After this experience, I’m also fairly convinced Husband is the best husband in the world.

 

The Waiting Game

I’m on day 2 of week 40. Home stretch. At least, hopefully. I really don’t want her to be too late, but if she does not come by her due date, I’m working from home until she does. All my friends’ babies (all five of them) this year came early. Although there are only 5 days until my due date, according to this neato labor probability calculator, the odds of me giving birth by my due date is a mere 20.34 percent. The odds of me giving birth by week 42 is actually not that high either, at 85.03 percent! Ugh! I barely feel capable of making it through this week, much less 3 more.

On the other hand, as impatient as I am getting, I’m also nervous about labor and birth. Maybe this is the mental dissonance that is causing me to lose sleep in the middle of the night.

My parents arrived over the weekend and I was showered with more cute baby clothes, pineapple cakes, organic snacks from my Aunt Sylvia (dried pineapple, dried guava, glutinous rice with dates, almond tea, etc.), and chicken soup from my Aunt Amber and Uncle Alfred. All the way from Taiwan. I’m very excited about these foods, which are supposed to be good for the postpartum period so at this point I’m excited to give birth just so I can start eating these things.

I’ve developed a bad sweet tooth. I was in an irritable mood the other day and self-medicated with a pineapple cake and strangely felt better immediately after eating it. This has never happened to me before with sweets. Maybe with a beer, but never desserts. People give alcohol a lot of shit, but drinking an IPA after a crappy day costs you 140 calories, and you get some antioxidants in the mix. Eating cookies/cakes/creme brulee costs a fuckload more calories, sugar, and fat. I hope this is a phenomenon limited to pregnancy because otherwise, it is extremely dangerous.

I had a relatively smooth third trimester for the most part, but first trimester seems to be repeating itself in these final days. I randomly feel nauseated during the day, and wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep for hours. I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday and could not sleep so I finished up some laundry.

Thoughts on Ignorance as a Cause of Post-Partum Depression

I am not a psychiatrist, a medical specialist, or even a scientist, but I have a sneaking suspicion that post-partum depression, while obviously a complex condition, is rooted at least in part in one phenomenon: distorted expectations from lack of sufficient and accurate information.

Likely owing to society’s desire to increase the population of humans, and general squeamishness and avoidance of gross subjects, most women are exposed to only a very topical and rosy view of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood throughout their lives leading up to the decision to reproduce. Everyone’s heard of “pregnancy glow.” On the other hand, things like pregnancy constipation, pregnancy constant flatulence, pregnancy insomnia, pregnancy leaking of urine, and pregnancy leaking of amniotic fluid are less frequently mentioned, if at all. After labor, everyone knows about the “bundle of joy,” but probably not the bundle of shit on the delivery table.

Unless a woman happens to keep company with a horde of brutally honest women who don’t mind sharing things like a desire to literally die during childbirth because of the horrible pain (thanks mom!); how badly their vaginas tore, got infected, then tore again; among other horrifying stories not fit for dinner conversation, a woman may find herself pregnant and learning these very real possibilities for the first time. Society wants you to think of the glow, not the farting, leaking, pain, tearing, and shitting, because if women carefully considered all these downsides, some undoubtedly would have second thoughts. It is true the more women know and contemplate the implications of these realities, the more careful they are going to be about their decision to reproduce, but this should not be a bad thing.

Again, I’m not a medical professional, but I speculate jumping into pregnancy imagining the glow and the rewards of motherhood, then being subsequently ambushed by a slew of physical ailments, followed by serious physical compromise or injury during labor, topped off with the reality of becoming responsible for a squirming, screaming, crying, shitting bundle of mess all while suffering sleep deprivation and possible problems with breastfeeding, is an easy recipe for depression.

This is exactly why all women should seek out all the relevant information, both positive and negative before deciding to have children. Having worked in the field of healthcare law for many years, I know the detailed and precise description of risks and complications, both common and rare, discussed with women before they have so much as an appendix removal, brow lift, or boob job. For almost all surgeries, no matter how minor, physicians will review risks, benefits, and alternatives, providing an overview of common complications, expected outcomes, and even some remote risks, such as death. They are required to do this for every procedure, even life-saving surgeries most people in their right mind would never refuse. The basic rationale behind this practice is that people should know what they are getting into, and that includes not only common and expected risks and outcomes, but at least an idea of remote and unlikely complications as well.

Yet, as it relates to reproduction, a completely elective choice in this day and age, women hear merely about “pregnancy glow,” “bundle of joy,” and perhaps vague references to fatigue and morning sickness before committing to something of significant medical, physical, and emotional impact not only for the next 9 months, but indeed, possibly for the next 18 years. With this in mind, it’s actually amazing more women do not suffer post-partum depression.

Of course, while society has a tendency to give women inaccurate impressions, women need to take responsibility for their own decisions. I doubt many women look into the full panoply of risks, complications, and outcomes associated with pregnancy, labor, and the post-partum period in great detail before deciding to become pregnant; I know I didn’t, and I am actually someone who really took my sweet time deciding to have children at all. I had cataloged in the back of my mind a collection of horror stories from honest women over the years, and went into this with an understanding of a lot of worst case scenarios, because that’s my personality. I figured if I could accept the possibility of these worst case scenarios, then I would not have any regrets, but as far as being actually informed, this is totally not sufficient, and I met with plenty of surprises upon finding myself pregnant.

As with most things in life, preparation is key, and I surmise the more women know, the more they can do to prepare emotionally and physically, and the less shock and disappointment they will experience, which in turn would reduce the likelihood of post-partum depression.