Our Amelia Bel is a week old today. What an incredible, exhausting, exhilarating, transforming, scary, and intensely joyous week it’s been (there, made myself cry. Happens a lot recently.) You’ll be hearing about Amelia a lot on this blog… variously referred to as Amelia, Bel, Babybel, Stinkerpoo, Lil’ Pooper, Twitterbird, Beester, KB, AB, the little girl, Monkey Jr, and Honey Pie.
Last Wednesday morning at 9:00 I had a my 40-week prenatal appointment. It was the day before my due date. The midwife said I was 1 centimeter dilated, and would I like to have my membranes stripped? Just the exam hurt so much that I said, no. After the exam I sat on the table and asked her what kind of labor wimp I was going to be. She patted me on the back (my midwife, Lori, is one of the profoundly Good Guys in this adventure) and we scheduled an induction for March 28, which would be 41 weeks and 4 days.
Before scheduling the appointment and leaving, I stopped in the clinic’s restroom. And had a contraction that almost floored me. I had heard that exams could cause a few contractions, so I rode it out, made my appointments, and drove myself home. And had another contraction as I pulled the car into our driveway.
And another ten minutes later. And two more seven minutes apart. Then there was a four minute gap. Then a three minute gap. After that, two minutes. I had about six that way–ones that I couldn’t walk or talk through–and Sparks left work to take me to the hospital. I was admitted to labor & delivery without going through triage first. The wheelchair ride to the L&D ward is a hazy but surreal memory–it went through the hospital’s coffee shop (moan! moan! moan!) and up ten stories in an elevator that stopped at EVERY floor along the way (moooooooan… moooooan…). Finally we got to my room, I managed to put my gown on and get on the bed, and I laid down. I couldn’t do anything else. Trying to sit or stand was unthinkable.
I asked for an epidural right away (so much for nine months of good intentions!) and since I was only two centimeters dilated at that time, was put at the end of the anesthesiologist’s cue. It took three hours for her to get to me, during which I moaned and panted and was only half aware of my surroundings. Once the epidural had taken and I was back in the space-time continuum the midwife on call did another exam… and I was at eight centimeters. I had been in transition, unmedicated. So I’m sort of a badass, even with the epidural.
Then things got exciting. Amelia was pinching on her cord, and I had to be turned from side to side several times to find a position that didn’t compromise her heart rate. I was also given a dose of terbutaline to slow my contractions so she could rest. Then my blood pressure crashed; over the next three hours I was given three doses of epinephrine and four liters of IV fluids to try to get it up. I lay on the bed and shivered, but I was so happy about the epidural, I didn’t mind. Finally it was decided that the terbutaline had stopped my labor altogether (still at eight!) and that my blood pressure, which had been hovering around 70/40 for three hours, was unacceptable. My epidural was turned off and they started giving me pitocin.
An hour later, the epidural was very nearly gone and my contractions were back full strength, but I still wasn’t dilating. Amelia was wedged in an awkward place, and was face up. Without a lot of position-changing on my part, she wasn’t going to come out… and her heart rate was dropping again with the strong contractions. Everyone in the room had had enough, including the midwife. It was decided that I was getting a c-section. I gratefully signed the consent form, and was taken to an OR.
Once in the OR it was decided that the fifteen or twenty minutes it would take to get my epidural back to full strength was an unacceptably long stretch of time, and that they were going to put me under general anesthesia (and honestly, my thoughts when I heard that were, total win! I really can’t imagine being awake for abdominal surgery). Poor Sparks, who had changed into scrubs, was told that he wouldn’t be allowed in the room. I was put under. At 7:49pm, Amelia Bel was born, and Sparks heard her crying from the hallway. We had a little girl. We just (making myself cry here, again) hadn’t seen her. Sparks followed her to the nursery while the surgeons put me back together.
I woke up about two hours later, and after another hour of shaking off the anesthesia, was taken to my recovery room and we were introduced to our little Twitterbird. Her poor face was smushed and marked up from having been wedged and squeezed so hard. She was extra-puffy from all the fluids we’d been given in labor. She had brown hair and newborn slate-blue eyes. She smelled of chocolate and vanilla and marshmallows and flowers. She cooed and twittered like a little bird. In spite of all the dire warnings from crunchy-granola natural childbirth and breastfeeding books, she had no trouble feeding from the very start, and we had no trouble adoring her. Neither of us were very big fans of babies, as it were, before she was born, but it’s true… when the baby is yours it is the most adorable, fascinating, and utterly perfect little creature you’ve ever met. Amelia has personality. She has charisma. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t want to hang out with her. She’s also pretty… no, she’s beautiful. We had the prettiest baby in the maternity ward, no questions asked.
We spent two and a half days recovering in the hospital, at which point we were chomping at the bit to get out and away from the constant stream of nurses, techs, volunteers, and doctors. We brought Amelia back to Low House at noon on Saturday, and here we have stayed except for one weigh-in with the pediatrician who, poor man, spends his life telling hormonal new mothers what’s wrong with their babies, and who indeed scared the bejeezus out of me by suggesting we supplement with formula until my milk came in, and one appointment with a lactation consultant when Amelia had a brief nursing strike.
To pediatricians: like I said, you spend your lives telling hormonal new mothers what’s wrong with their babies. I don’t envy you.
To obstetricians and midwives: I feel that, given my decision to take an epidural and my inability to change positions with or without it, you all did everything exactly right throughout the labor. I was with you all the way. Sometimes things just don’t happen according to Ina May, you know? My labor story may sound a little fraught and frightening, but there wasn’t a minute that I doubted your decisions or that everything was going to come out okay.
To nurses: you have a heck of a job. Thanks for making the painful and profoundly embarrassing recovery as minimally painful and embarrassing as possible.
To lactation consultants: bless you. I love you all. I can’t say enough good things about you, or express how profoundly grateful I am for your support this week. We absolutely wouldn’t be breastfeeding today without you, and I would be an emotional wreck. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
(There I go. Does anyone have a tissue?)