My So-Called Delivery, part I


I’ve been wanting to write about my experience with labor, and not just to freak you out- promise.

Let’s just get the length of it out of the way right at the start, okay? Maybe you remember from my last post, but if not? 41 hours. It took 41 hours from when I was admitted to when Baby man made his appearance.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what you’re in for. Also, let it be stated for the record that I would drive myself to the hospital and do it all again exactly the same way like five minutes ago if I had to. I’m addicted to this kid.

But, okay. I had a fun, easy pregnancy until about about week 26 when I had the GTT (glucose tolerance test); it turns out I had a pretty bitching (read: intense. I failed with a 350. You need under 140 to pass) case of gestational diabetes. I needed two kinds of insulin twice a day to control my blood sugar. Then at about 30 weeks I was sent to the hospital with high blood pressure. I ended up being admitted twice that weekend and then put on bed rest.

The bed rest really helped. My blood pressure came down, and Westley and I went back to hoping we could wait until I was 39 weeks to deliver. Each week I saw the perinatologist (high risk doctor) for ultrasounds and non-stress tests. The non-stress tests were, perhaps surprisingly, stressful; at my perinatologist’s office, there was a special, separate room where up to four pregnant women could recline, hooked up to monitors that tracked baby movement and any contractions. Usually we played on our phones, the sound of several fetal heartbeats (along with the occasional fetal gymnastics- their movement like bursts of thunder) our weird soundtrack.

It was always awkward to catch another woman’s eye. We’d smile, maybe murmur “is this your first?”

Non-stress tests and ultrasounds are to make sure the fetus is okay, even though mom is having whatever trouble – gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, twins… Baby man always was, except when he was asleep (he’s still a great sleeper), so the perinatologist would place a little blow horn (scout’s honor) to my belly and blow it to wake him up. This resulted in dramatic fetal movement that sounded something like a a series of firecrackers going off in a tin mailbox. Poor kid- I’ve been freaking him out since before he was born.

Anyway! So we were at the perinatologist’s and it seemed he was going to let me stay pregnant. My gestational diabetes was well controlled with insulin, I was feeling great (haha! Rather, as great as a 37 week and four days pregnant person can feel [if you don’t know how that feels, imagine you’ve swallowed several 20 pound bags of cement and it’s hardened inside you. It hurts to stand. It hurts to sit down. People stare at your swollen cement belly]), but no! Nope! He took my blood pressure right before we were to leave and it was scary high. I don’t quite remember, but maybe 190/95. Something dangerous.

So, just like that, I was sent to the hospital to be induced. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not eat breakfast even though you’ve been waiting to eat at the doctor’s office for over two hours and you are pregnant and starving and on insulin.

And of course, once at the hospital I was not allowed to eat. They gave me ice chips, those most empty of calorie brittle little respites. My blood sugar crashed three times. It didn’t get super low, maybe into the 60’s? But being trapped in my bed made it all the worse.

Not exaggerating the trapped thing. When I got to the hospital, they started an IV (successfully, finally, on the fifth or sixth try) with saline and magnesium sulfate so that I wouldn’t have a seizure. This also meant I got a catheter, which the nurse inserted too far (I know this because when my ob adjusted it over 30 hours later because it was still bothering me even after the epidural, she told me as much). So, stuck. Trapped. I was strapped to that bed for days.

The first day they gave me Cervidil to soften my cervix. I was having contractions, but they weren’t too bad. That night I asked for pain meds so I could sleep. They gave me Stadol, which transformed the delivery room into a strange and eerie place. Kind of like a funhouse/slaughterhouse, so scary, but also cool in a terrifying way. 

Every few hours I had blood drawn to make sure the magnesium wasn’t poisoning me. It certainly felt that way- it makes one queasy, disoriented, and tired. It also gave me double vision eventually. Days later when all was finished, my arms were covered in bruises from these checks.

The next morning they started me on Pitocin. It was okay- I’d been worried about it because I’d heard that it makes contractions much more painful. It did suck, but you know what really made things breathtakingly painful? My water breaking. There’s an odd experience. It’s like magnificently pissing yourself. Times fifteen. Or fifty. 

After that, the pain got very, very intense. I realized that I had never, actually, experienced pain before. I had had no idea what pain could be. I imagined myself in a bubble, traveling through the air and then underwater. The pain was iridescent colors and sounds. It was who I was.

Then I got an epidural. It was 3:00pmish. I’d been in the hospital for 28 hours.

And the pain vanished, like the anesthesiologist hit an off switch. I think I started floating gently three inches from the bed (kept from rising to the ceiling by the IV, the catheter, my own delirium), but getting the epidural was a frightening experience. The anesthesiologist warned me of the potential dire side effects. I weighed the possibility of spinal injury against the pain. Pain won. 

Also? When he had the needle pressing into my spine he said “don’t move like that again. You must be absolutely still,” I had two reactions. 1) WTF does he mean I moved AGAIN? 2) What if I jumped up and started dancing? 

Neither reaction was particularly helpful.

I’ll pick up from here next week. This has been exhausting for us all, yeah? I have to tell you how it ended (spoiler alert: c-section) and what songs Westley played on his guitar to distract me from my misery. Yeah- he brought his guitar and made the whole thing about ten hundred thousand times better. At least.

But he’s cool like that.



Anxiety (postpartum and otherwise)

courtneys pic

The picture above is of me when I was, oh, four months pregnant. Westley and I played a dear friend’s birthday show and it was more fun than a pregnant lady is supposed to have (I should know – so many people told me so many things I should do or not do while pregnant).

I love this picture. It was taken before all the scary pregnancy stuff happened – before the gestational diabetes and mild preeclampsia, the early contractions, the bed rest, the insulin injections, hospitalizations, blood pressure checks, and then, of course, before 41 hours of labor.

It was a truly fun show. And I loved playing it, being pregnant, looking forward to all that was to be.

And then the scary stuff started. I’m in a much better place now, with baby man and Westley and myself, even, but I still have moments where I feel like I can’t breathe. The other day at a routine checkup my blood pressure was high. My blood pressure issues are supposed to be resolved, gone with the placenta. Friday my blood sugar was high after dinner. Then again on Sunday night, again Monday morning.

These numbers have so much power. They freeze my blood, pang through me like metal on metal on ice on metal. They invade me, rend me apart.

I’ve always been anxious. In fifth grade I waited every day for the fire alarm to go off. Head kind of bowed at my desk, fingernails digging into my arm. If I saw someone toss a cigarette butt out of their car window in the line to school, I’d say to myself something like: well, at least when the alarm goes off you’ll know why.

Eventually I get to the worst thoughts, the ones that will not stop. The ones that niggle at me like a mosquito in my ear or a torn cuticle or a blister on the back of my heel: who will take care of the baby if I die? Worse, what if the baby dies?

That last one is intolerable. It turns my blood to sound. I have to distract myself, focus on the moment. You know the thing, right? I think it’s: find five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can touch, two you can smell, one you can taste. It helps.

It really does, but anxiety is powerful. It circles back around. Comes in through another door. What happens if I die?

Well, of course Westley will take care of the baby. He’s a great father. I mean, I knew he’d be good at it, but he surprises me every day with his love for our little monster (and, actually, that’s a post for another day. The tentative title is “In Defense of Daddy”). So, fine. Westley would take care of the baby. And I’ve told him that he should re-marry, or at least re-date. Baby man needs as many caretakers as he can get (I’m greedy that way).

Where was I going with this? Do you ever feel it in your heart? That sinking feeling that everything you’re doing, everything you’ve done, it’s all for nothing because it’s all over now – that death is a shadow you’re about to slip into, a hidden missing tile in the floor. You will fall in an instant, as to sleep, and be erased.

Because a five month old can’t remember any of this, you know? And why do I do this to myself? When I was little, I’d stay awake nights, imagining what would happen when the time bomb went off. It was buried in the backyard, nailed beneath the floorboards. It was always about to go off.

Of course, it never did, and maybe that should tell me something, but if I’ve learned anything it’s only this: you never ever learn something for keeps. It’s not permanent. We’re in a constant state of learning and relearning and re-relearning and so on and so forth, amen.

Which brings me to the best thing about anxiety: its impermanence. Just like everything else in the world, it cannot last.

And I’m not anxious all or even most of the time, but it’s true-  anxiety has given me an abiding appreciation for every kiss, every touch, even every moment of despondency (how privileged we are that we can despair).

Breathe in. Every immaculate thing is in that breath. Breathe out. As is every horror. We don’t know anything, really. How exceedingly rare it is to be alive. How miraculous.

Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb

Hello, world.

Great, now I have “Cherry Bomb” stuck in my head. Can we start over?

“I’m your wild girl.”

Nope, not working. Okay, let’s try to move on from here, because actually, The Runaways and their 1976 song “Cherry Bomb” kind of apply. To the blog, I mean.

So, right, neither I, nor my husband, nor our son (the time traveling that would involve is making me light headed) were alive in 1976. I was born in 1980, Westley (that’s my husband, in case your sleuthing skills need work. Also, not his real name, but absolutely his level of dreamy [and yeah, it would make more sense to call him Jordan, but the whole Westley thing is kind of an inside Princess Bride joke (not any more!)]), Westley was born in 1979, and our son? Well, he’s 2015, but I digress.

Westley and I have argued (politely and then with increasing intensity) about which generation we belong to. He claims Generation X, the cool kids who listened to records of The Runaways in the 80’s and early 90’s- the kids who recognized Joan Jett’s influence on riot grrl music. Who were too cool to care that south Florida rendered the flannels tied around their waists completely absurd. Who rolled their eyes instead of smiling when meeting new people. Those kids.

Whereas I’m pretty sure we’re mostly Millennials (even though I may have had my own ridiculous flannel collection). We’re addicted to our cellphones, but mostly only in order to text, check the Internet, and play games. We’re optimistic. We’ll pause mid conversation to look something up online.

Apologies if my definitions seem simplistic. I’m assuming you have at least a modest level of familiarity with this shit.

Anyway! Then we learned of the Catalano Generation (from Jordan Catalano a la My So-Called Life). It’s a tiny generation snuggled between Gen  X  and the Millennials, composed of those born in the late seventies and early eighties, made up of people who grew up without cellphones, but then got one pretty young. People who most likely don’t have a landline now. Apparently we lack both the smug apathetic nature of the Xers and the special-snowflake narcissism of the Millennials. We’re both and neither. We’ve paged someone 143 , you know?

If my explanation is dissatisfying, you can google it or check out an article from Slate here, but for Westley and me, this moniker finally felt right. It fit like a worn-in pair of selvedge denim (don’t get me started on this topic. I’m not a fashion person, but Westley kind of is, so I, you know, pick things up).

Is that last sentence giving you the douche chills? Ugh, it is me, but I’m leaving it. That shit, while annoying, is apt.

So, here we are, two old af kids raising this new af baby. That’s what this blog is about. In case you were wondering.

“Hello daddy, hello mom/ I’m your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb.”

That’s our spawn, for sure. For realsies, even. He’s blown our entire world apart, but like any radical upheaval, he’s exposed a whole new reality. A Brave New World not at all dystopian; rather, baby man has evolved us. We’re leveling up, guys.

Which means the next boss stage is going to suck, eh?