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 45 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.