Thursday, January 2, 2014

Part 1: The Labor

I've been waiting to tell the story of the labor and birth of our beautifully awesome baby, and now that we're two weeks out and I'm suffering some of the interesting after-effects of having given birth, I figured now is a good of time as any, right? 

After the crazy-bananas snowstorm that hit Israel and buried Neve Daniel in foot upon foot of snow, we were fairly snowed-in and unable to get out. I was hoping every day that the baby would hold out until things were a bit better, but the roads into and out of Neve Daniel and the Gush in general were slowly being opened and closed on a daily basis thanks to thick sheets of ice and dangerous driving conditions after dark. 

On Tuesday morning, December 17, I was lazying about in bed because, let's be honest, there wasn't much to do once I did get out of bed other than work. We couldn't go anywhere still, mostly because (despite our cars being unburied), the roads in the morning were still too icy to manage. I ran through my usual morning routine, checking my email, Timehop, Twitter, Flipboard and finally decided to roll out of bed around 9:30 a.m. It was then that I realized something strange was going on, so I sat up in bed and, well, I felt like I had lost control of my bowels. Waddling my way to the bathroom, I realized that my water had broken, so I called out to Mr. T, saying, "Honey ... I think my water broke ..." 

He came running and we decided that we needed a game plan. The moment I walked out of the bathroom I got hit with the first contraction, which stopped me in my tracks. I'd been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for months, but this one was absolutely debilitating. My water broke and the real contractions hit me like a ton of bricks. They began coming about every 6-10 minutes. 

With the roads being shut down around 4 p.m. daily, I knew that with my water breaking I had about 24-48 hours for the baby to show up. We decided to pack up the go-back with a few final things and head out because the sun had come out and, despite seeing on the local email list that two buses and a police vehicle had stalled in front of our building, we figured we could make it. We got to the stop of the stairs and told a few neighbors our plans, to which their reply was "NO WAY." Neighbors got on the horn with the local ambulance and before I knew it I was in the back of one racing down the 60 past the huge backup of traffic because of the bad roads. 

We'd picked up a midwife on the way and she was monitoring my contractions and blood pressure as I was thrown around in the back of the ambulance while holding on for dear life. The poor woman had to keep shoving me back on the stretcher because once we hit Jerusalem, the road to the hospital was through neighborhoods with gobs of roundabouts. Luckily, the trip was short and we arrived to Hadassah Ein Kerem in no time flat. 

I was dropped off in the maternity area where they put on a monitor and attempted to start tracking my contractions. The funny thing was, the contractions I was experiencing appeared to not be showing up on the monitor, but because my water had broken (which they confirmed), they admitted me, put a port in my arm for future fluids, and admitted me to the hospital. After some back and forth I was sent to a room, a monitor was put on my stomach, and I was set to wait out the contractions until I was actually dilated enough for someone to care. 

The next several hours were slow, painful, and frustrating. Despite constant contractions about five minutes apart that were painful and debilitating, my body wasn't responding in kind with any sort of dilation. My doula showed up and slept in a chair overnight, and Mr. T ran for food and fell asleep in another chair in the small room. I didn't sleep a wink Tuesday night because of the pain, and I fell more and more frustrated that despite water breaking and contractions nothing was happening. 

By Wednesday morning, they were concerned that I wasn't dilating at all (I'd been sitting at 1 cm for nearly 24 hours), so they moved me downstairs, put me back on a monitor, and began exploring the options to get things moving. The doctors were concerned because there were decelerations in the baby's heartbeat, so it seemed like we were going to accelerate the process to make sure baby was okay, but in the end what happened was an more waiting. Slowly but surely I dilated a bit more, but it was going at half-a-centimeter every three hours. 

Worried about the baby, mid-day on Wednesday, they decided to do something called an amnio infusion because it had been more than 24 hours since my water had broken. Unfortunately, this didn't seem to help. 

Eventually, they decided to throw petocin at me, which accelerates the process, but I wasn't given an epidural or any type of pain killer. They quickly ramped up the levels of petocin and had me standing up, to the point where my doula and Mr. T were holding me up and I was crying with a pain that I've never experienced in my life. Concerned about the baby's heartbeat and the fact that I was having crazy contractions that, again, weren't showing up on the monitor, they cut the petocin and gave me an epidural -- at last. Unfortunately the epidural went wonky and they had to do it a few times before it took, which I think eventually resulted in some post-delivery pain and swelling because of a pinched nerve, the pain of which I'm still coping with today. They put me back on the petocin and I spent the next several hours incredibly comfortable thanks to the epidural. 

Late on Wednesday they finally moved me into a labor/delivery room, despite the fact that the baby wasn't dropping and my dilation had stalled. It was late, I was tired, I hadn't slept, and the epidural was starting to wane despite the constant flow of medication. The doctor started trying other things like pushing, changing how I was positioned, and still, the baby's decelerations and my own painful contractions were sending us nowhere. 

We kept setting milestones to hit and if we hit those milestones, we'd keep going toward a natural birth. I was committed to having the baby the natural way for many reasons, so I kept going along with it, despite the stress on my own body and the baby. 

Around 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, everyone was asleep, there were screaming women giving birth (turns out I was in the high-risk delivery area), and I was davening. I'd been davening with every milestone, begging HaShem to help move the delivery along, to help me give birth to the baby naturally and quickly, to deliver a healthy baby quickly. The doctor came in at one point and the dilation had jumped to nearly 10 and he asked, "Have you been davening?" 

But the baby wasn't dropping. My cervix was stubborn. The baby was in stasis. 

We kept going. 

Finally, a little after 5 a.m. Thursday, the head doctor finally came in and said we had to do a c-section. It wasn't an option, there were no other choices. Paperwork came flying at my face, a nurse demanded all of my jewelry (including my nose ring that I never take out), a rough explanation of what would happen was given to me, and through it all I was being torn up on the inside. 

They took me into the operating room, where I was thrown on the operating slab and, as I sat there trying to hold back so many tears that I'd cried over nearly two days, I was cleaned and prepped and made sure that my epidural was working and in no time flat I was being wrenched open and could feel the pressure of everything happening in my abdomen. Mr. T was allowed to join me shortly after the surgery started, and I was so disoriented I lay still. Stretching and pulling, it was if I felt everything all at once. My mouth went dry, my lips went dry, I felt cold. This was my first surgery -- ever. This was my first hospital stay -- ever. This was my first exposure to birth and medicine -- ever. And I was horrified. 

At nearly a quarter to 6 a.m., I heard a "mazal tov" from the doctor and fell confused. I turned to Mr. T and began crying, "He hasn't cried, the baby hasn't cried, why isn't he crying?" He looked over toward where they had the baby and said they were cleaning him. Just then a doctor came over and asked if I'd been taking any depression medication, to which I said no, and he shuffled off back to the baby. Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, there was a quiet, muffled, forced cry. Just one. A single squeal. I said again, "What's wrong? Why is he struggling so much?" to Mr. T. He kept watching. I felt helpless, unable to see anything, unable to move, unable to do anything but cry and worry. 

Then a few more cries came and tears flooded from my eyes. Something about his oxygen. Something about needing to monitor him for 24 hours. Then there he was, held near my face, I couldn't reach out to touch him, I couldn't hold him, I couldn't even kiss him. Mr. T, frustrated, asked the nurse to hold the baby closer to my face, so I kissed him, and those few seconds were all I had with my baby ... for the next six hours. 

The baby was shipped off, Mr. T was torn whether to stay with me or go with the baby to the nursery, and I was being sent to "recovery." I asked him not to leave me, so he came with me to recovery, where I was positioned next to a man vomiting or coughing up phlegm every five seconds and a host of beds with the elderly tied to dozens of tubes unable to move. I was told I'd be there for two hours and then moved upstairs to the maternity ward where I would see my baby. I couldn't move my legs, I was crying, I didn't know what was going on with my baby, I'd just been ripped open and sewed back shut, I was helpless, confused, frustrated, and tired. 

And I was in that horrible recovery ward for the next five hours because they couldn't make space for me. After more than 43 hours of labor and an emergency c-section, my baby's first meal was formula, my baby's first hours were in a large nursery surrounded by screaming babies, my baby's first hours were not filled with the touch of his mother or father, and me? 

I felt like a complete failure. 

The rest of the story ... forthcoming. 


  1. First births can be especially difficult. But at least getting pregnant wasn't a problem.
    In the 1970's here in Israel they didn't let us have our babies, even perfectly healthy, no complications ones for the first 24 hours. It was believed that the babies shouldn't eat for that long in order to prevent jaundice. I remember finally getting my first born and not having a clue how to feed her, but I eventually figured it out. And in those days we had no company during labor, birth etc. And visiting hours were severely limited.
    Enjoy your sweet baby in good health, happiness and many more.

  2. I had a similar story - without the ice and ambulance ride. But the broken water, no progression, let's scare her into back labour with little dilation. Add into that my firm belief that they asked everyone in the hallway with long fingers to come have a poke up me to see if the baby had dropped.

    I had had a premonition that it would a c-section. The doctor and I had agreed it was possibly for the safety of the surgical team that I not be conscious during the procedure. I have friends who have had many c-sections and the stories of listening to dr chit chat while they sew you up... not for me. Turns out it was a true emergency. Thank god they had taken my glasses and i couldn't see the details of the people hovering over me with scalpels. The had a 5 minute window to get in and out and they were ready to go.

    Bonding to you child does not take place in some magical 30 seconds after birth.

    Being a mother starts and ends with putting your child's safety and health first.

    With yours following a very close second.

    If bonding only occurred in those few first brief moments how do explain relationships made through choice and welded with love?

    Frankly, the most annoying part of the whole experience was this c-section support group that kept trying to get me to join them. Looked them up. Really people, if you are so scarred that five years later you claim that haven't "properly bonded" to your child and can afford the time to attend this group... you have problems beyond what I can understand. I would rather spend that time just doing stuff with my kiddo.

    It all faded into memory, as all birth stories do. My time was taken up with the wondrous miracle that there was a new person in my life. How had she never been there before. And wasn't modern technology wonderful that she and I were both alive and healthy.

    And the kid? She's 24 now. Brave, strong, kind and I am oh so proud of her.

    and ya, she's got my face tattooed on her leg.

    everyday was and is a new adventure

  3. As a mother my heart goes out to you. I am so sorry you had such difficulty giving birth. It is said that one reason we continue to have more children is that we forget about the pain of childbirth. When you were delayed in relating your personal experience with it to us, I had the thought that you might already be forgetting it. Now that I read each detail of your ordeal I see that the pain is still fresh in your mind. I just want to give you a big hug and rock you in my arms! May you recover quickly and completely! You have entered into the unique realm of parenthood. Like most of us, you will be learning the lessons of it along the way.. sometimes easily and sometimes not. You will do the best you can as a mother and when you know better, you will do better. Since the rewards are so vast as you watch your child grow, you will eventually forget most of the pain of this birth. You will become too busy to focus on these past, painful memories. You will recover and you will flourish. Meantime, tell your story to us because we care to hear it because we care about you. Then try to set about to live fully in the present with your sweet family and revel in gratitude. Blessings to you! Be well!

  4. I'm sorry it was so difficult, but relieved that both of you are healthy. We would do well to remember that in the not-so-distant past, not all women and babies survived the ordeal of birth. Happy that both you and baby Asher are around to tell the tale.

  5. I'm so so sorry this happened to you. Those people at the hospital who kept you from your baby were wrong, wrong, wrong. Wishing you much health and healing to come...

  6. First, congratulations on your baby! May he be a blessing upon you all your life. I come from the other end of the delivery spectrum, in fact the extreme other end, having my first in 4 hours from first contraction. Of course, that first contraction was a full minute long, and was followed by friends at 3 minute intervals. ;) I understand your feeling of somehow having failed. But what was your failure? So you did not have the labor and delivery held in highest esteem culturally. It is not something you chose, not something you failed to do. I would have been screaming for that c-section 20 hours earlier, not trying to avert it. You have succeeded in having a healthy baby as a high-risk mother, as all women 30 and over having a first baby are considered to be medically. You win. You succeeded.

  7. As first time mothers, we are taught to read every how-to book, go to birthing classes and draw up "The Plan" of how our labor and birth will go. Just when we think we know exactly what to do, how and why, the baby, our body and Hashem send us down a different path. But you still did it! You are a champion!!! Look at the beautiful miracle you brought into the world despite the pain, the fright and the trauma.That is the greatest success of all! Sending you hugs of support and love to help you work through the memory of the experience and wishing you and your husband much joy and nachat from Asher Yitzhak. You're going to be a great mom.Take your time.

  8. Thanks for the kind and supportive words. As I wrote this post I cried. I still cry thinking about it. Heck, I'm starting to cry writing this comment as my baby sits asleep in front of me. I can't help but feel like I let him down. I hope those feelings go away and that the pain of it all dissipates and I grow to desire more children. It's all so vivid for me still.

  9. I only HOPE that I end up with your strength in the aftermath of it all :)

  10. Getting to the point of accepting that I didn't fail is the goal here, so thank you for the supportive words!

  11. Oh the times they have a'changed! I'm amazed at what your experience was like ... maybe I shouldn't kvetch? I've said many times since AY was born that if this is what I get for having an easy time getting pregnant and an easy pregnancy, next time around I pray that it's a miserable pregnancy and an easy labor.

  12. Very true. I suspect if this were 50-60 years ago things would not have gone so well. I'm thankful for that.

  13. You can't afford the "luxury" of a miserable pregnancy with another to care for. Better hope that labor is easier or a planned C section.

  14. That is how it happened the 2nd time around for me- horrible pregnancy (hyper emesis+anxiety ugh= easy labor) . I'm scared to find out what a 3rd pregnancy might bring. I spent most of the first trimester on the couch moaning while my son watched endless marathons of Shalom Sesame.

    Ultimately what it comes down to, is you did it. Whether you did it the old fashioned way or the kid came out the emergency exit, you DID it, you are a mom! I'm not saying the birth experience doesn't matter, but what i'm saying is, OWN the fact that you are a complete bad *ss no matter how the baby came out. And the fact that you experienced something not so pleasant, the fact that you had a surgical birth means you were willing to sacrifice your own happiness for the little guy. One of my closest friends says "birth is pass fail. Birth: you end up with a human baby, fail: you give birth to a litter of kittens. You did good mamma.