We have an oyster: Saturday 9/29, Part 1

Today we continue with the birth story.

1:00 am
As contractions got longer and closer together, I realized there was something I could do about the pain and told the nurse I was ready for an epidural.

Me: I would like an epidural, please.
Nurse: Ok.
Me: How long will it take to kick in?
Nurse: It takes about 5 minutes to place, and 15 minutes for pain relief to start. Our anesthesiologists are really good, we just have to make sure there’s one around. And actually the one on duty now is next door at the moment.
Me: Yessssss. Bring it. Pump me up.
Anesthesiologist: Hello. Ready for an epidural?
Me: Hello. And oh yes.
Anesthesiologist: Ok, swing your feet over the side of the bed, sit up, lean forward, tuck your head down, and curl your back like a cat.
Me: Ok. Now this “curl like a cat” business…I’m only so foldable at the moment.
Anesthesiologist: You’re doing great.
The husband: Are you ok, baby?
Me: Mmmfnethkyu.
The husband: Good.
Anesthesiologist: Epidural placed, 1:18 am. Nurse, please record the time.

The husband helped me curl forward while the nurse held my head down and still and the anesthesiologist placed the epidural. It was news to me until a few days before that an epidural stays put during delivery. What I thought was a shot is actually a tiny little pliable needle that stays in your back and can have extra numbing power added to it as necessary, which would turn out to be absolutely crucial for me in the coming hours.

With the epidural placed and kicking in, I could no longer feel the contractions but could tell I was having one when I was suddenly short of breath. It was an interesting sensation and the husband and I watched the contractions register on the monitor when we weren’t sleeping through them. Shifting around in my bed became increasingly difficult as my entire lower body lost feeling and being checked by a nurse or ob to see how labor was progressing was quite the production. For me, that is.

Me: I’m like a mermaid on land! Heehee! Look, my legs are like a tail and I can’t move them!
The husband: Zzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzz.

2:30 am
With the epidural working, I was able to sleep pretty steadily.

Me: Hey, wake up.
The husband: Are you ok?!
Me: I think my water broke. Or I’m peeing the bed. Either way, I can’t move to find out.
The husband: I’ll call the nurse. <pages nurse desk>
Nurse: Hello?
Me: Hi. I think my water broke.
Nurse: Ok, I’ll send your nurse in.
Me: Ok, I’ll be here.
The husband: Are you in pain?
Me: No. It…tickles. It seriously feels like I’m piddling. How come I can feel this but can’t feel my legs enough to move them?
The husband: Good question.
Me: I’m glad they didn’t have to break my water. At least one thing is happening on its own with this labor!

Sure enough, my water had broken. On-duty ob 2 came to check me, a nurse came to change my piddle pad (little known fact: while piddle pads are typically used for house-breaking small dogs, these are also used under the business ends of in-labor women…although they’re probably officially not the same product, the result is the same), and the husband got me some more ice nuggets.

The Pitocin, which was by now cranked up to 18 because not much had happened in the seven hours of inducement, dripped along. The nurse placed a catheter and soon I was resting again.

7:00 am
Before she left, on-duty ob 2 checked me one more time and announced that I was at 8 centimeters and could probably begin pushing in about two hours. A baby by lunchtime, I thought! So I went back to sleep. The husband and his slippers did, too.

9:00 am
On-duty ob 3, a jovial middle-aged man who told me it was my lucky day because I was going to have a baby and his lucky day because he was going to get to deliver her, came to check me. I was still 8 centimeters dilated, but the little oyster was now at 0 station. A little more progress.

On-duty ob 3: Your baby is taking her time. If you start pushing now, you push for many hours. We have you labor down. I come back soon.
Me: Sounds good, thank you.
Nurse: Labor down means we’re going to wait for the baby to move further down the birth canal before we have you push. Otherwise, like he said, you’ll be pushing for hours. We’ll let gravity help. Let’s sit you up straighter.

10:30 am
Me: Excuse me, but I can feel the contractions again. Is my epidural wearing off?
Nurse: Possibly. How much pain are you in, 1-10?
Me: 8. And I don’t feel good.
Nurse: I’ll call the anesthesiologist.

During my entire stay, my temperature and blood pressure, along with the oyster’s heart rate, were monitored constantly.

The anesthesiologist added power to the epidural and the nurse took my temp again. Oddly, it was up. Also oddly, I started shaking uncontrollably. The effectiveness of the epidural came and went, depending on how I was angled. Sitting up straighter to help me labor down seemed to dilute the pain-killing effects so that was a double-edged sword.

Nurse: You’re running a temperature.
Me: Oh. I don’t feel good.
Nurse: I’ll be right back. <returns with another nurse>
Nurse 2: How are you doing?
Me: My body hurts and I can’t stop shaking.
Nurse 2: When did your water break?
Me: 2:30 this morning.
Nurse: The doctor is having her labor down. The anesthesiologist just upped the epidural.
Me: I don’t feel good.
Nurse 2: Are you going to throw up?
Me: No. I ache all over and I’m having really bad heartburn.
Nurse: I’ll get you some Pepcid.

11:00 am
The Pepcid didn’t help, my fever was climbing, the pain was getting worse, I couldn’t stop shaking, and I was still pregnant.

Me: I can feel the contractions again.
Nurse 2: <pages anesthesiologist> How much pain are you in?
Me: 9. And the heartburn is really bad!
Nurse: I think she needs to start pushing.
Nurse 2: On-duty ob 3 is delivering next door. We need to call his back up.
Me: I can’t breathe. I feel like she’s trying to come out of my chest.
Nurse: Her fever is still up. She needs to push.
Anesthesiologist: Hi. The fever is burning off the epidural, that’s why it’s not lasting. I’m going to increase it again.
Nurse 2: I’m going to hold this leg and your husband is going to hold your other leg. When I say push, I’m going to start counting to 10 and you’re going to push as hard as you can until I get to 10.
Me: Ok.
Anesthesiologist: Why is she shaking?
Nurse: Her water broke at 2:30 this morning, we think there’s a small infection.
Me: I’m infected?
Nurse: It can happen if your water breaks and you go a few hours before pushing.
Anesthesiologist: The pain in her ribs is strange. I don’t think it’s heartburn. Are you sure there’s no rupture?
Nurse 2: Very unlikely.
Anesthesiologist: She shouldn’t be shaking like that. You should check for a rupture.

11:30 am
On-duty ob 4, backup for 3, arrived. She was no-nonsense and I was told to keep pushing, keep pushing, deep breath, keep pushing, push again. I pushed and I pushed and I breathed and I breathed and the “heartburn” got worse and spread to my lower left abdomen. I pushed for an hour. No progress.

Me: If I push again, I’m going to throw up.
On-duty ob 4: We’ll change your position but you have to keep pushing.
Me: I can’t. I can’t! She’s never coming out.
Nurse: Her fever is still up and the baby’s heart rate is increasing.
Me: I really can’t push. I can’t. I just can’t.
Nurse: I think she’s rupturing.
Me: <starts crying>
The husband: Hey baby, you’ll be ok. They’re taking good care of you. I’m right here.
Me: <still crying>
On-duty ob 4: How long has she been complaining of the pain and fever?
Nurse: About two hours. She’s had three rounds with the epidural but the crying is new.
On-duty ob 4: No option then. <to me> You need to have a c-section. This baby needs to come out now.
Me: <bawling>
The husband: I’m right here with you, they’re going to bring our baby out! You’re going to be great!
Me: <still bawling> But I don’t want one!
The husband: Are you scared?
Me: <still bawling> Yes!
The husband: You’re so brave. We need to do what’s best for you and for our little girl. They’re going to take such good care of you and I’ll stay with you. <hugs my head>
Me: <bawling harder> Nothing is going right!

1:00 pm
Moving from my rolling hospital bed to the operating table was very hard, physically, since I was weak, numb, tired and no longer feeling like a mermaid. On to the table I went, up went the blue sheet to shield me and the husband from the operation, out went my arms crucifixion-style on side tables, and in came the husband, dressed in what the nurses called a bunny suit–white scrubs and a hat.

I remember the anesthesiologist tinkering with the epidural some more. Nurses wetting cotton balls and running them up my sides and belly, telling me to say when I could feel the cold; when I was sufficiently numb, they applied some disinfectant. The ob asking why they chose the disinfectant that takes three minutes to dry because “we need to get moving on this.” Lots of pressure on my belly. The husband sat by my head. I think he held my hand. The nurse at my head leaning over my face and telling me she had a c-section on this same table 11 months earlier and I’d be fine. She had brown eyes.

1:24 pm
The husband: She’s here! Our daughter is here! She’s out, baby!
Me: Why isn’t she crying? Why isn’t she crying? Why isn’t she crying?
<oyster lets out a wail>
The husband: from from me to the warming table, back to me> She’s beautiful! She’s here! Our daughter is here!

Then I passed out. Later in the evening I saw the pictures a nurse and the husband had taken of the little oyster getting all cleaned up and wiped down. She looked so big! At 8 lbs. 12 oz. and 21 3/4 inches long, she was pretty big for a newborn. Her hair was curly (I was so excited she had some!) and she did not look pleased to be out.

Later in the evening the husband also told me that the nurse handed him the baby as soon as all her initial testing was done and they ushered my family out of the operating room. As they left, someone came in to get the anesthesiologist who told that person that they’d have to find someone else, he had a patient hemorrhaging on the table.

The husband said it was one of the scariest hours of his life, alone in the recovery room with his brand new baby, waiting for his wife who, last he heard, was bleeding out on an operating table. A year after a brain surgery that went 100% according to plan, we were having baby with absolutely nothing going right.

It turned out the anesthesiologist was correct a few hours earlier. I had a placental abruption, a complication that, ironically, considering Martha, affects about 1% of pregnancies. I lost 1200 ccs (40 oz.) of blood during delivery and woke up in recovery to a nurse telling me to breathe and breathe again. I just wanted to sleep. When she left, the husband had to stand next to me and remind me to breathe. Our new baby girl was snuggled into his chest, asleep like I wanted to be.


We go to the hospital: Friday 9/28

Now, who wants to hear the birth story?

As previously stated, the little oyster made her appearance on September 29. For anyone who was counting, she was due three days prior to that. Protein in my pee and excessive swelling in my feet the week she was due sent me first to the lab and then back to the ob’s office on Friday the 28th. At our 9 am appointment, my ob said the lab results were cause for concern, she had called the hospital and told them to expect us, and we could go over anytime in the late afternoon–they were quite busy that morning–to be induced. Oyster time.

Having been given the gift of time, the husband and I went out to lunch, got the husband a haircut, dropped Dietrich off at his sitter’s house, stopped by Barnes and Noble for some light hospital reading material*, and hit the road to have a baby. Our afternoon of laid-back preparation was the last time we controlled anything in the next 72 hours.

5:00 pm
Check in at the hospital was a breeze (note to expectant parents: pre-register at your hospital, if that’s an option) and we got to skip triage and go right to labor and delivery. We signed in at the desk and sat, giddy, in the plastic-upholstered chairs until the merry check-in nurse said, “Come with me, my children,” and led us to a lovely private L&D room. The husband immediately changed into his slippers (“I’m going to tell every new dad to take slippers to the hospital for delivery–this is great!”) while the merry check-in nurse fluffed my pillows and handed me a hospital gown and plastic bag for my own clothes. When I emerged from the bathroom in my standard-issue garb, the merry check-in nurse complimented me on my ability to put the gown on correctly–apparently too many people give free shows by putting the gowns on backwards–and tucked me into bed. I wiggled my feet into some hot pink socks the little sister had given me for post-Martha surgery and settled in.

On-duty ob 1: Hi!
Me: Hi!
On-duty ob 1: Dr. W (my ob) said you guys would be coming tonight. Ready to have a baby?
Me: Can I have dinner first?
The husband: Your body your choice, baby.
Me: Sorry, we make political jokes when we get nervous.
On-duty ob 1: Nice pink socks.
Me: Thanks. We bring the party with us.
On-duty ob 1: You guys are fun, I wish you had been here earlier.
Me: We heard there was no room in the inn earlier.
On-duty ob 1: That’s true, there wasn’t. Anyway, you can have dinner. Nothing but water or ice or popsicles after we start the Pitocin.
Me: Hokay.
The husband: Anything she should or shouldn’t have for dinner?
On-duty ob 1: No sushi, please. If we see it again, we prefer that we not see reincarnated raw fish.
The husband: Nice. Well, I’ll just dash downstairs in my trusty slippers and get some dinner for us.
On-duty ob 1: Nice.

6:00 pm
The husband and I split some pasta dish and a turkey sandwich for dinner. He was impressed with the food. I was distracted by the machine monitoring my contractions and those of the women in the rooms around me, all displayed on an eight-section screen next to my bed.

Somewhere in the middle of Apollo 13 and my first purple popsicle, Room 305 went into what I assume was active labor and began pushing. A smart woman preparing to have her own baby (not me) would have turned up the TV to drown out the horrifying screams of anguish but an idiot would mute the TV and stare at her husband in shock and awe. I don’t think I blinked for 9 minutes. Then the monitor for 305 shut off and we heard a baby crying. Holy cow.

7:00 pm
The nurse who was now taking care of me started the Pitocin drip and I was officially induced.

Me: How fast does this stuff work?
Nurse: That depends. We have you on a very slow drip right now.
Me: How slow?
Nurse: It’s on 4 right now.
Me: How high does it go?
Nurse: Up to 30.
Me: Ah, ok. Are those air bubbles going to get in my bloodstream and kill me?
Nurse: No. If there’s too much air in the line, an alarm goes off.
Me: Hmm. They are getting closer to my veins and making me nervous.
Nurse: Do you want me to reset the IV?
Me: Yes, please. Hurry, they’re getting closer!
Nurse: They really won’t kill you. Those are small bubbles.
Me: Still.

The nurse detached the Pitocin line, tapped all the tiny air bubbles out of it, and plugged me back in. So far the worst pain I was in came from the IV placed in the back of my left hand. The nurse who placed it had come in, introduced herself, stuck a needle in my hand and taped it down, and I never saw her again. It really did hurt and I wasn’t going to risk dying of air bubbles while my whole left arm throbbed in pain.

And so the evening went on. I wasn’t uncomfortable and it was actually kind of fun to watch my contractions register on the monitor. It was even more fun to watch other women’s. The little oyster was on constant monitoring because I was being induced and she was doing great. The husband and I chatted, watched Apollo 13 again (which, interestingly, I had been wanting to watch for probably four weeks, for no apparent reason), and napped as we could until about 1 am when I decided the cramps-that-were-actually-contractions were only getting worse, I was starting to feel nauseous, and it was time for an epidural.

But we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

* I chose the latest Real Simple and a copy of J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy, which I returned for a full refund on our first non-medical trip out of the house. To my immense dismay, I found the book crude, rude, and not at all entertaining. I appreciated Rowling making that clear from the start, so that I didn’t have to read half the book to confirm my initial impression that the book was not worth my time. Consider this a review thereof.

Get while the gettin’s good

The little oyster could arrive any day and the husband and I are excited about that.

But we have enjoyed being a two-person-and-then-a-dog family for the last four years and we realize that we’ll be giving up some of what we’re used to in terms of flexibility, availability, and portability. Not sacrificing, but giving up. There’s a difference and I think the difference is attitude. So while it’s still just us, we have made it a point to get while the gettin’s good.

Last weekend, over Labor Day, two of my besties came to visit. The husband chauffeured us around the monuments at night so we didn’t have to find parking and walk a ton but for most of our daytime activities, it was just the girls, sans car seat, sans diaper bag, sans nursing breaks. We had a blast. The little oyster’s new toy holder, a one-of-a-kind piece found at Eastern Market last Saturday, was a gift from them.

This week the husband and I puttered around the apartment after work each night and once I even tried to go to bed at 8:00 just because I still can. Alas, my brain wasn’t on the same page as my body so I got up again at 9:30 and played with Dietrich until 11 when all of us were ready for bed.

Yesterday I slept in and went out to breakfast with some friends. Then I took a four-hour nap in the afternoon before the husband and I went out to meet some friends in Georgetown at 9:30 because we still can right now. The only planning ahead required is making sure there are enough Milkbones in the box to toss some to Dietrich while we lock the door behind us.

Unfortunately, being on my feet at our event last night set off a series of contractions and sciatica so bad that my leg hardly worked this morning and we skipped church while I parked myself as comfortably as possible in a living room chair.*

And now our afternoon takes us out to catch up with more friends. Catching up while sitting still, I’m hoping. I don’t need to stand up to cheer for the Eagles game anyway. The husband will be loud enough for all three of us. And the table next door, no doubt.

* When we moved out here, we sold or donated most of our household items, especially furniture. The shoebox didn’t have room for a couch and when we moved to the condo, I was between jobs so we didn’t want to drop the $$ on one, not knowing when I’d be working again and for how much. And now I have a great job, the oyster is imminent, and our new gray microsuede couch arrives at our door a week from Tuesday. We almost bought the lovely celadon green couch but then remembered that we have a black dog, so chose granite instead.


Pregnancy: My best frenemy

To begin, a haiku:

Pregnancy. You are
a tricky minx, your games are
mean. Two can play them.

Pregnancy is like a girlfriend you are really close with for a while, say 33 weeks, and then suddenly you realize she has been talking about you behind your back and what she needs is a high five in the face with a chair. But like a true frenemy you can’t shake pregnancy until she’s good and ready to be shook.

So if pregnancy thinks her last few weeks with me are all fun and games, I’m here to blow her cover. Pregnancy, if we were Facebook friends, I’d post pictures from your middle school sports tryouts and then I’d email pictures from your bachelorette party to your boss and then I’d shave words into your cat’s fur and post pictures of that. So there. Two can play this game.

There is an implication in some circles that pregnancy is the most wonderful time in a woman’s life and each second of it is to be cherished. I am thankful for my pregnancy and for the little oyster who should be here in FIVE WEEKS (!!) but I’m not going to pretend that gaining 40 lbs, losing 70% of your mobility and inadvertently peeing on your own hand when you use the bathroom should qualify as the best time in anyone’s life.

Some things that no one mentions about pregnancy before you become fast friends with her, and which she will use against you the longer you hang out with her:


Or not.

The weight gain is a given. The truly handicapped ability to do simple things like, um, move, is rarely mentioned. In order to simply turn over in the middle of the night, I must awaken and mentally calculate the trajectory that will beach me on my other side for the rest of the night. Is it easier to get a rolling start and go across the back to land on the other side? Should I inch into a table position on all fours and then unfold limb by limb into a recumbent position?

I take a breath, conduct my final calculations, wave to the judges and picture the end goal until, with much ado and absolutely no aplomb, I am able to execute the maneuver.

The simple act of picking something up off the ground is also a thing of the past. I figured this would be the case, but I didn’t figure that powering through and reaching down for that pile of briefing papers wafting cruelly to the floor in front of all the other Hill press secretaries would lead to a head rush so bad I can feel my heart beat in my eyeballs and be out of breath for ten minutes.


I get having to pee constantly. This wasn’t a surprise. The difficulty associated with heaving myself awkwardly out of bed in the middle of the night was entirely new, as any core muscles I used to have have atrophied and the only thing going for me is my ability to convert my potential energy into kinetic. As we all know, an object in motion tends to remain in motion and since I don’t even bother opening my eyes for my midnight loo runs, the dog has learned not to sleep in the hallway. The effort of said awkward heaving generally causes a contraction or two which makes the trip to the bathroom that much more crucial.


Ah HA, pregnancy! You thought you’d get me on this one but I, I read ahead in my pregnancy week-by-week book and I was on to your game. Which is why I laid in a stock of Frosted Mini Wheats and fiber gummies and have partaken of these delights religiously, often twice daily. I made it a personal goal to avoid this ‘symptom.’ And by personal goal, I mean I put avoiding hemorrhoids above weight control on my priorities list. This was one indignity pregnancy would not inflict! If I had purchased Mini Wheats stock, the husband and I could both retire. Hemorrhoid-less, thank you very much.


For someone whose hair was schizophrenic before pregnancy, you’d think adding hormones and subtracting sleep would have little impact on my coif. You would be wrong. My hair, which prior to pregnancy did whatever it wanted and I was ok with that, now does nothing anyone wants and looks on a daily basis like it’s having a panic attack. The glossy, thick locks that everyone crows about on behalf of pregnant women have skipped me. The last time my hair looked like normal-person hair was after the little sister (read: a professional) cut and styled it. If my hair was always puffy, I could deal. Always flat? Same thing. But my hair, despite vitamins and conditioner, will be doing one thing when I walk away from the bathroom mirror and have totally changed its mind in the time it takes me to find and put on flip flops. Hair, WTF.

On the plus side, my nails are strong and white, thanks in large part to my vitamins and steady diet of Mini Wheats and milk.

On the plus-sized side are my feet. I’m so glad someone invented circus tents pants so that I can hide my elephant paws under the guise of being professional at all times. The swollen feet and ankles are one of those things I thought I escaped. Then they seemed to realize they were supposed to be puffing up and to make up for their missed cue, are now working overtime to embarrass me and make lower extremity movement uncomfortable.


Pregnancy increases all bodily fluids, both in production and volume. My eyes are always leaking. My nose is always running. I’m always clearing my throat. The low-grade nosebleed I have had for weeks steps up the game now and then. And when all these things aren’t leaking out of my face, they are clogging things up so bad that I of necessity become a mouth-breather. Because that really helps a pregnant lady feel good about herself.


Or whatever the word is for being physically self-aware. Yeah, I’m still not there and this pregnancy is almost done. I still run my belly into the freezer chest at the store. I still smack myself with the door to the bathroom at work. I still bunt the husband into the hall closet when I think I can “just squeeze past ya” in the mornings on my way to the bathroom. I have managed not to resort to the pregnant waddle but other displays of gestational self-awareness are few and far between.

With all this said, I would like to make it clear that I’m grateful to have faced only indignities and no real medical issues with this pregnancy and the little oyster. Apart from being so tired I could cry (but I won’t because that would take energy), none of my complaints are anything out of the ordinary for a standard pregnancy. And with all THAT said, I do think it bears repeating that no one mentions these things when insisting that pregnancy is the best time of a woman’s life. Sure it is. A real gas, you might say. A real gas. Another thing they don’t mention.

To conclude, another haiku:

Pregnancy, full of
tricks. If we meet again, you
bring it on, you broad.