Continued from Part I, recap: I was at Saint John’s. I had the dreaded Hep lock in place and they were monitoring the baby for 45 minutes before starting the Pitocen drip.
I tried to be vertical and move as much as I could during those pre-Pit 45 minutes but every time I’d squat on the bed or get on all fours, the monitor would shift and Molly would have to come in a reset everything. Everyone said I could move around as much as I pleased but every time I did, alarms would go off and the nurse would have to come back in. It’s so much easier for them if you just stay put in bed but I continued to move as much as I could. When my time was up she hooked me up to the IV with the lowest dose of Pitocen. Soon after, my contractions got stronger and closer together but they were bearable. I wheeled the IV stand into the bathroom as many times as I could and I’d linger there because I knew sitting on the toilet was a good labor and birth position.
About an hour later the contractions were getting bad. Stronger, longer and closer together. Alan looked at the Pitocen drip monitor and it read 5mg now instead of the 1mg I started with. No wonder the pain was so much worse! Molly said it automatically upped the dose every 30 minutes. She checked me and I was 6cm. This was the lowest point in my labor. I just felt bummed out. This wasn’t my birth plan to be hooked up to a baby monitor at all times and be hooked up to an IV and be in so much pain. I was now practically crying through my contractions they hurt so bad. I thought I’d be walking the halls, getting down on the floor, squatting and moving to alleviate the pain, not stuck in a bed.
Alan was being a rock star though. He did all the massage moves Ruth, the doula had taught him through every contraction and it helped a lot. I hadn’t ruled out getting an epidural but I wanted to see how long I could go without it. Alan reasoned with me that I was already bed bound, I might as well be comfortable. I told Molly about the negative experience I had with the anesthesiologist the first time around – how brusque he was with me and how my legs were immediately dead and how much I hated that numb sensation or lack of sensation.
She said I was in luck because her favorite anesthesiologist, Dr. Goh was there tonight. Alan perked up and said he was the one who was there for his knee surgery and agreed he was awesome. She said he’s available now but there’s a bunch of ladies giving birth tonight so that may not be the case in 20 minutes. I know nurses often say stuff like this to hurry the decision along, because everyone is more comfortable when the laboring mother is pain free and less vocal but I was now having back to back contractions and shivering and shaking uncontrollably in between. I was in transition, I think, but I made the split second decision to go for it. “Okay I want the epidural” and Dr. Goh came right in.
Right away the experience was totally different from last time. The doctor was calm, very friendly and positive. I had several contractions while he was talking to me and he kept saying what a great job I was doing. He said administering an epidural is an art and I should be able to feel and move my legs the whole time. The whole thing went smoothly despite my violent contractions. I was scared he was going to miss because of my shaking but he remained calm and steady. The worst of it was the little numbing shot before the big one. The pain relief was almost instant and the mood lifted right away. He said, “Can you move your legs?” I could. I even kicked one up in the air, “See?!” I felt relieved, elated, even chatty. I asked if I could walk in a pinch, like in an earthquake? No! I asked if he’d ever given an epidural during an earthquake? No but he was about to put in an IV when the San Fransisco earthquake hit in ’89.
I felt great. Alan commented that it was a whole different me. I turned on the TV. I started texting people. Molly’s shift had ended at 11pm so she came in and wished me luck and said goodbye. She also said the next nurse, Tammie would keep me laughing the whole time, so don’t worry. I figured I’d have the baby by morning so I tried to rest. I remembered last time that after I got the epidural they let me sleep for hours. Not this time. Dr. Gonzalez came in about 30 minutes later to check me. “You’re ready, Girl.” She started putting on her scrubs and they wheeled in a metal table. “Like now?” I said, sort of in shock. I thought I’d have more down time. “Yeah, like now.”
It was all happening so fast – well, after two days of maybe contractions and waiting around. Tammie was as funny and awesome as promised. She coached me before show time. She said, “You know how in the movies everyone is carrying on and hollering at the mom to PUSH!!? Well, I don’t do that.” she said calmly. “I’m going to talk just like this and I’ll tell you to push, just like this. Yelling doesn’t get the baby out any faster.” I was relieved. That was another thing I didn’t like about Shep’s birth – everybody screaming at me!
By now it was just after midnight, about 12:15. Dr. G had me slide down to the edge of the bed and they brought the back upright. I was encouraged that when I put my feet in the stirrups I could push against them and I could still feel my legs. My whole middle was numb so everyone was looking at the monitor to see when a contraction was coming. A few minutes later she said “Okay, here we go. Ready? Take a big breath and….push!” I did my best for 10 seconds then we took a break. “Good job” everyone said, “You’re doing great!” “Okay, here comes another one. Here we go…. push for 10, 9, 8, 7…” Dr. G and Tammie seemed pleased. Alan was helping hold my leg. “Again mama, let’s do it! Push for 10, 9, 8, 7, 6…” Then everyone started getting really excited. “Look down, Mom. There she is!”
“What? No way.” I didn’t believe it. I looked down and my baby’s head was already out! If you’ve given birth vaginally, you know the head is the hardest part! And I did it? Already? I was in such shock. The rest of the body slid right out. Then they put this screaming, purple, slimy thing on my chest as I delivered the placenta. I was scared to touch her. I wish I could say I was instantly in love with my beautiful daughter but both Alan and I thought she was a little scary looking at first. Her skin was dark purple and her faced was smushed up like a prune. They took her from me to clean her off. Alan cut the umbilical cord and in a few minutes her color changed to pink and her face started to relax. The nurse announced she was seven pounds, four ounces and nineteen inches long – a whole pound lighter than Shepard.
They put her on me again and she immediately started rooting and was nursing within minutes of coming out. Amazing. Dr. Gonzalez called the birth time, 12:26am. Three pushes in six minutes was all it took. I was in total shock for at least the next hour. I just could not believe she flew out that easily. I pushed and pushed and pushed and struggled and cried and screamed for two and a half hours with Shep! I knew this would be quicker but I was thinking it would be about an hour to get her out. Six minutes? What?
After that first hour they call “The Golden Hour” to get to know your baby, they wheeled me into the postpartum wing. I was suddenly unbearably exhausted. It was almost 2am by then but I knew my mom would still be up. I briefly recounted the birth story to her but felt like I was slurring my words with fatigue. That’s when she told me Oscar had died. My mom and Leigh had gone over to our house to feed Paco and check on Oscar. I had gotten one update in the evening that he was still breathing which made me feel awful. I just wanted him to let go. On their second trip over there they felt they couldn’t leave him so in gathering him up in a box and getting him in the car, he passed away on the short ride to the emergency vet. I think even in Oscar’s comatose state he was like, “Oh hell no.” and he surrendered. He died in the car.
Even though I expected it, this was not what I wanted to be hearing in my elated exhaustion after giving birth to my baby daughter. Now my pure joy was muddled with grief and deep guilt that I hadn’t acted Monday night when I still was in pre-labor. I loved Oscar very much. He was my first pet as an adult in New York City so he’s been with me through everything – boyfriends, break-ups, moving, marriage, pregnancy, baby. One of Shep’s first words was “Osky”. He lived with me in NYC, Toluca Lake, Santa Monica, Venice and finally Valley Village. My friend, Sarah said he probably felt like we needed to move on to the next chapter of our lives without him – like we wouldn’t be able to handle all of his care (all the meds and his constant peeing and pooing in the house to the point we had to isolate him in one room at night) with a newborn and a toddler to take care of. He left this world just as our baby girl was coming in. He was an awesome 7 lb beast with a big personality that had been fading into senility the last six months or so. No one needs to remind me that his was not the ideal death – It obviously didn’t go down the way I would’ve wanted and I miss him a lot.
After that, we settled into our room to get some much needed sleep. Alan on the bench, me in bed and Baby Girl Renshaw (we didn’t name her officially until Thursday afternoon) in the little bassinet. She let us sleep for a good four hours that first night. The best part was yet to come, when all the friends and family pour in to celebrate the new life. I wish I could do that part again and again. It’s just pure joy. She didn’t follow my perfect birth plan. Everybody knows I didn’t want Pitocen in my body but it wasn’t that bad. It’s what my doctor thought I should do to get my baby out safely and it just hurried her along to come out quicker. I’ll write more in the next post about introducing her big brother and the name and stuff. For now we have our little Bird who is just precious.