how four became five

“So, your uterus tends to fall out….”  My doctor was standing in our hospital room in her pea coat the day after Jack was born and acted like she was discussing the weather.  No big deal she said just happens sometimes. 

Once again, after Jacks birth my body started to hemorrhage and my uterus, so I’m told, attempted to leave my body.  I guess even it had had enough; it was giving its two week notice.  Jack’s labor was the worst of both worlds for me, back labor like Lincoln’s and hemorrhaging like Stella’s.    Two out of three labors resulted in back labor.  Two out of three resulted in hemorrhaging.  I don’t like my odds. 

All pregnancies are miserable towards the end, but this one seemed especially so.  Perhaps it was all the unneeded  testing (going to the Doctors four times a week while balancing two toddler’s schedules and working full time was a stress ball), or the endless itching (couldn’t sleep AT ALL due to being so itchy!) or just being big and crabby and uncomfortable.  Either way, I was ready for it to be over. 

We went to bed at about 11:30pm Friday night.  I woke up around midnight itching again.  The night before I hadn’t fallen asleep until 3:30am due to the itching, I was tired and couldn’t believe that I was going to be up all night again.  But as I laid there I kept feeling slight back pains and small contractions.  It had been happening the last couple days so I wasn’t too excited but figured I would get up since I couldn’t sleep anyway and time them.  They were 20 min apart for an hour.  Then 10 min, then 8 min.  Not getting worse though, but I started to get a little excited.  I decided to take a shower and see if they went away, false labor should go away in the shower.  They didn’t!!  I was getting even more excited.  By this time it was about 2am.  After the shower I decided to lay down for a bit and while laying there the contractions tapered off and got further and further apart.  Now I was annoyed.  Since I still couldn’t sleep because of the itchiness I thought I’d get up again.  I sat in the living room for awhile, the contractions coming and going, not getting more regular but not leaving either.  I was confused.  Went to the bathroom, stood up and water started trickling out.  Again, just like with Lincoln’s birth I wasn’t sure if it was my water breaking or if I had just peed my pants.  You would think after three babies I would know for sure if I was having contractions or if my water broke.  But there I was, 38 weeks pregnant, standing in the bathroom, and trying to decipher if I had lost my last little bit of dignity by peeing in my own pants.  I decided it wasn’t pee.  By now it was almost 3am; I went and got Matt up and started to get dressed and our stuff together.  I called my mom to come sit with Lincoln and Stella.  She didn’t answer.  Matt was moving kind of slow, and I could feel the contractions starting to get tighter.  Suddenly I started to feel nervous and restless.  I just wanted to get to the hospital.  Wanted it over with.  Called my mom a couple more times and she was finally on her way.  She showed up so fast I swear she must have been sleeping in her car out front.  Matt was finally ready and we left.  It was stormy, rainy and windy and cold. 

I checked into triage at 3:42am.  I know the precise time because I was having contractions while signing the sheet and the nurse kept repeating it over and over.  Triage always sucks.  The rooms are SMALL and claustrophobic.  I just kept asking to get to a shower because the contractions were getting really really bad and the shower is usually the best way for me to deal with them.  Matt kept saying, “This reminds me a lot of Lincolns, really seems a lot like Lincoln’s birth”…I knew what he was referring too but didn’t want to think about it.  I had back labor with Lincoln and it was horrid.  I had actually spent most of this pregnancy scared to death of going through back labor again.  I spent the last few weeks doing special yoga moves to help prevent it. 

Back labor is no joke.  I was lucky enough to have experienced it twice.  Stella’s labor felt like mild period cramps compared to Lincoln and Jack’s labors.  During back labor it feels like someone is ripping the bones from your lower back, one by one, with a pair of pliers.  Simply cannot describe the hellish-ness of it.  It happens because the baby is facing the wrong direction and the hard part of their head is hitting the softest, most sensitive nerves in your lower back and spinal cord.  Sometimes the baby turns during labor and relieves back labor, sometimes they stay backward the whole way and are even delivered that way. 

The nurse said that she was going to go call Dr Gerdes and then get us to a room.  I was getting nervous, agitated.  They hadn’t put in an IV (which I knew I needed because of my hemorrhaging issues) or checked me.  They weren’t moving quickly enough for me, I just had this feeling of dread that I couldn’t shake.  We overheard the nurse talking to Dr Gerdes and heard her say, “oh…so I should treat her as high risk?  Is she a level one or level two?”  Matt looked at me and said, “What’s she talking about? Because of last time?”  I nodded.  Basically Gerdes was telling her that I almost bled to death last time and that this time all precautions must be in place.  Not a bad thing, but you don’t want to hear your Dr tell a nurse that you are at high risk for anything, especially high risk for bleeding to death.  The feeling of dread grew.

We finally got into a room and I was given my official labor nurse.  She was a big African American woman named Lee and seemed like nothing could phase her.   Another nurse came in and put in the IV, she put it about four inches back from my wrist, so it wouldn’t bother me at all (again, they were already planning on me having the IV in for a couple days).  Then Lee, my nurse, checked me.  I was at a 5cm.  I wanted to cry.  The contractions were so horrible I thought for sure I’d be at an 8.  The pain was so bad I was shaking uncontrollably and my teeth were chattering, it was like my whole body was convulsing from the pain.  It felt like continuous transition phase.  She set up the shower for me to get in, it was 5 am.  Once in the shower things got a little better, but then the contractions started coming one on top of the other.  The intensity of the contractions paired with no sleep for two days and the hot water made me feel like I was going to pass out.  I told matt I needed to get out; I wanted to be checked again because I swore that from the strength of the contractions and how close they were that I had to be in transition.  I was at a 6 ½ cm.  I wanted to cry.  All I wanted to do was lie down in bed and cry.  But I couldn’t stand to be on my back (at this point both matt and I knew that it was back labor) and so I sat on the edge of the bed screaming.  Lee had left at this point and I just screamed and yelled though out every contraction. 

The next hour was weird.  Contractions never really got regular; they would hit one on top of the other for 10-15 min and then taper off for 15 min.  Matt said that I actually fell asleep a couple times during the long stretches.  He said it was like being stuck in a horror film, I would go from lying quietly to shooting straight up off the bed screaming and swearing in pain.  Because of the back labor I couldn’t stand to be on my back during a contraction so when they hit I’d do a type of back bridge move.  Lee saw that it was back labor and when the next contraction hit she had me lay on my side and started massaging my lower back, really really hard.  During the next contraction she flipped me over like a pancake and started massaging my back again.  I realized as I screamed what she was doing.  She was literally turning the baby from the outside.  After about 4 of those HORRID contractions I suddenly felt like something was being ripped from my body, I couldn’t control the urge to push. (Once she turned him he literally came flying out) Lee checked me really quick and said I was at a 9cm.  I thought to myself, ‘great let’s just do this then.’  I pushed Stella out at 8cm so I figured I was already ahead of the game.  They seemed to start moving in slow motion, I just felt like they didn’t understand the panic that I was in.  Dr Gerdes was getting set up and told Lee to give me a dose of Fetanyol.  Dr. Gerdes looked at me and said that there wasn’t an option for it, she was going to take some ‘precautions’ as she kept calling them in order to reduce my chances of hemorrhaging and she said that it would be so painful afterward it had to happen.  She told me she was going to inject the umbilical cord with a shot of picotin as soon as the baby came out in order for the uterus to start contracting immediately and hopefully to eliminate the bleeding that happened with Stella’s birth.  I actually felt a little hopeful about the dose of fentanyol and asked Lee if pushing would hurt less because she was putting it in.  She looked at me like she was telling me Santa wasn’t real and said, “oh, no.  I’m sorry Hun.  You didn’t get the epidural.  You will feel it all.  This is just going to help your cramping afterward.”  I kinda shrugged.  Whatever at this point.  Suddenly the feeling of someone being ripped from my body returned and everyone seemed to snap into action.  Lee grabbed my legs and started shouting at me.  Matt started shouting at me.  Dr Gerdes started shouting at me.  Suddenly I felt a whoosh and thought to myself, “holy shit! It’s over” I started laugh crying, I couldn’t believe it was over already.  I had started pushing at 6:38am and Jack was born at 6:42am.  I had gone from a 5cm to 10 cm in an hour and half.  The pushing burned again, just like with Lincolns but it was over so fast I didn’t even care.  I just kept saying, “I’m so glad it’s over.  I’m so glad it’s over.”  I’d look at matt and say, “It’s over! It’s over!!”  He’d just smile.  I felt euphoric. 

Then the fun started.  At first I thought I’d get away without hemorrhaging, everyone seemed to start cleaning up.  Then I felt that familiar gush and I saw the look on Dr Gerdes face.  She looked almost happy, like a kid who had been working on a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and finally found the last piece.  I think she liked the fact that she knew how to fix a problem, and was prepared for it.  She started to show Lee how to hold in my uterus, literally, which Lee did for the next 32 min until it would stay in on its own.  While Lee did that Dr Gerdes did something that felt equilvant to punching me repeatedly in the groin.   I’m still not sure what exactly they were doing but it must have worked because eventually the bleeding stopped and they seemed happy with their work.  Everyone was in a great mood, congratulating each other, thanking each other, hugging each other.  I’d never seen doctors and nurses so emotional before. 

The feeling of dread was gone.  It was replaced with a pinkish, wrinkly newborn who stared serenely up at me.  I knew he’d be mellow.  I remember laughing and thinking that everything I was worried about happened.  Back labor.  Bleeding.  I thought I could prevent back labor through yoga.  Dr Gerdes had her ‘precautions’ for the hemorrhaging.  We all try to control our fears one way or another and honestly when it comes down to it, we have no control.  Maybe that’s my biggest fear.  All we can do is get through it and congratulate each other when we pop out on the other side.   

Four became five at 6:42am Saturday March 19, 2011.  John Harrington weighed 8lbs 8ozs and was 21.25inches long.  He entered the world head on (literally-he tried to come out both shoulders at once), with a vengeance.  And is the most peaceful soul.  We will call him Jack.