And, no. My memory hasn't returned since giving birth. It may be gone forever.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012:
The first time I noticed anything was slightly amiss or had the thought "Gee, I wonder if that was a contraction" was at lunch with Mimi and Jessie at the Dallas Museum of Art after seeing the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit. Mimi had joked earlier that the exhibit was weird enough to induce labor. Guess she was right. The projected (and sometimes talking or singing) faces on the mannequins were definitely interesting, as were the accessories made out of hair. Or maybe it was just all the cone boobs and corsets that made Banner think that life on outside was worth exploring.
In any event, I had reached a point in my pregnancy where I assumed I would never go into labor naturally, and had started believing that my son would be born sometime on Friday, January 6th following a scheduled induction.
(If we had gotten to choose Banner's birthday for him, Trevor and I had decided on Epiphany. We figured it was only appropriate since our kiddo wasn't having an "epiphany" about coming out on his own.)
As the afternoon wore on, the "Gee, I wonder if that was a contraction" thoughts continued, but I wasn't convinced it was labor at all. It was, however, enough of a nuisance to make me feel like I was sick to my stomach, and I decided against going out to dinner with family. So, my last evening at home sans kiddo was spent lounging on the couch with Trevor watching episodes of Showtime's Spartacus on Netflix.
My last meal.
The contractions continued to get more intense and rhythmic, but I didn't tell anyone (Trevor included) because I was preoccupied with the idea of crying the labor version of wolf and getting everyone all excited about nothing. So, I showered, brushed my teeth and got ready for bed around 10 PM even though I was significantly uncomfortable by that point.
I am good at denial, y'all.
Since the pain seemed worse when I was in lying in bed, I put off trying to actually sleep. Instead I did a load of laundry and putzed around the house in my PJs. Finally, though, I convinced myself to try to get some shut eye. I fully expected the pain to subside, to fall asleep soundly and wake up wondering what I was so concerned about the following morning.
Except the pain didn't go away. If anything it started to get worse.
So, I did what any reasonable person would do: I got on my iPhone and googled "what does labor feel like", and read several articles that made it sound like what I was experiencing (rhythmic pain and pressure in the lower abdomen that radiated around around to my back and spine) were just signs of false labor. Real labor pains are (apparently) felt higher up in the abdomen. Mine were more like really bad menstrual cramps.
Disclaimer: It is entirely possible that I chose to only indulge in articles that backed up my theory I was experiencing absolutely nothing. Which is part of the reason why I need to stop trying to diagnose myself over the internet. I was nearly 42 weeks pregnant and had convinced myself that I wasn't really in labor when I was actually having full blown contractions.
Which just goes to show that you can convince yourself of anything if you put your mind to it. Ask me. I am an expert.
But - just in case I was wrong - I downloaded an app on my iPhone to track the length and time between "the pains". On average they were 2 to 3 minutes apart and lasted 46 seconds.
Wednesday, January 4th, 2012:
I finally made the decision to call my doctor at 12:01 AM. But not because I had changed my mind about being in labor. I called because I started to feel concerned that something might be wrong, and I wanted the doctor to tell me that it was all nothing and to try to get some sleep.
Plus, since the pains had started, I couldn't remember feeling the baby move.
The doctor on-call was paged and returned my call at 12:07. And wouldn't you know that it was Dr. Cervix. Because why not? There are four or five doctors at my practice, and the night I go into labor it had to be him.
Dr. Cervix was obviously roused from a sound sleep and seemed limited in his ability to comprehend the English language. I told him what I was experiencing and he thought it *might* be contractions, but not to get too excited because it was my first pregnancy and it could go on for quite some time. Even stop. He told me to call back when my contractions lasted for a minute every five minutes for an hour, and then we could talk about going to the hospital.
Which, if you are keeping track, means that I needed my contractions to actually slooooooow down. I later learned that this typically isn't possible.
The moon as seen from my bedroom window the night Banner was born.
So, following doctor's orders, I went back to bed. Sleep was impossible because the pain was uncomfortable and frequent, but I still didn't bother to wake Trevor because he had complained of a headache earlier in the evening, and I figured - labor or not - we had hours to go and he needed his rest. He DID hear me come back into the bedroom, though, and rolled over and asked if I was okay. I told him that I there was a small chance that I might be in labor.
I got no response from the far side of the bed.
At 1:02 AM I decided to text my mom for support. Here is the transcription of that conversation:
Me: "U awake?"
Grammy Pammy: "Yeah..."
Me: "Called doc on call and it was effing doctor cervix. And I've decided he's an a$$ who is possibly the worst listener in the world."
GP: "What's going on"
Me: "I don't think he understands English"
Me: "I've been having these stupid pains since lunch but they've been getting pretty bad lately"
GP: "Ok...do you think it's labor...Have you told trev...have you been timing?"
Me: "They last about 45 seconds to a minute every 4ish minutes. Can't sleep and they are getting worse. No tried to tell trev but he is sleeping. He didn't even react."
GP: "You wake him up (trev) & go to hospital now...!"
Me: "Didn't tell anyone earlier bc it wasn't bad and figured I might be making it up"
GP: "You may be in labor...this is nothing to fool around with..."
Me: "Doctor cervix said they needed to be a minute consistently every 5 minutes for an hour. I don't wanna go in if it is nothing."
GP: "Baby needs monitoring...Don't be silly...Let the hospital send you home...so what!"
Me: "He was more concerned that I didn't do my kick count than anything else. But I didn't do it bc this other thing that was going on and baby has only moved intermittently since it began"
GP: "...the thing is sweetie, that you need to monitor the baby for any stress...don't worry if they tell you it's nuthin...go to hospital & let them tell you...You are too late in this game to play around...its not likely nothing...You gotta think of the baby now....better to be safe than sorry...labor is different for every new mom & if the baby is in any stress you need to know now!"
Me: "But it will prob stop or something or I'll get there and they will tell me it is indigestion. And even if it is real isn't it supposed to last for hours and hours and water is supposed to break and whatnot?"
GP: "Are you kiddin me!?!? How likely is that you...10+ mos preg...have indigestion???"
Me: "I've seen movies. U just want a grandkid yesterday. How do you know it is real? And I'd have to wake up trev. He had a headache"
GP: "My water NEVER broke w/out help from the dr...what do I have to do to get you to wake up trev & go to hospital? Geez! Wake up Trev! Or I will send an ambulance to ur house"
Me: "Shouldn't I wait for the contractions to be consistently a minute in length???"
GP: "Are you kidding me!?!!?!...pleez! No! Go to hospital!"
Me: "Ur being irrational. U were in labor with me for a day and a half and u didn't go to the hospital right away. Dad had a dinner party. I know the story"
GP: "Then call me! Or I'm going to get in the car & come get you right now...Ok, that's it...I'm call 911 & sending them to ur house"
Me: "Noooo. Calm down. Don't make me sad I texted u. I don't need an ambulance"
GP: "You are killing me...And possibly ur own baby...Go to the hospital! Wake up Trevor...NOW! Something could be wrong...& every second you delay could be putting thor at risk...You need to listen to ur body...especially if it is not. Please go to the hospital! Now! Just the fact that it is not 'text book' make me think something could be wrong..."
And this would be the text that finally got me to wake Trevor up at 1:53 AM. But not because I was ready to come clean about the whole labor thing. No, no. I woke him up to ask him to call my mother and talk her off of Mount Crazy. Which in hindsight must have been pretty confusing for Trevor since he had no idea anything was going on at all. He found out about everything: possible contractions, my phone call to the doctor, etc. from my hysterical mother at nearly two in the morning.
(To be fair, I was in labor and too stubborn to be rational.)
We left for the hospital around 2 AM. I almost refused to take my partially packed hospital bag (yeah, I never finished packing. I am fabulous that way), because I didn't think I'd need it yet and we'd be home in a couple of hours. This is how we ended up at the hospital without things like toiletries, cameras, anything for the baby or the blasted car seat.
I did, however, manage to wear Trevor's THOR t-shirt.
And, yes, I argued with my husband most of the way to Baylor because I thought everyone (mainly him and my mother) was overreacting. I had spoken with a medical professional and he had told me that I didn't need to do anything until the pains were five minutes apart. Who cares if mine were every minute and a half or two minutes? I even refused to let Trevor drop me off at Labor and Delivery. I insisted that we park in the garage like everyone else and walk. Trevor wanted to bring in my bags, but I also shot that down. They were in the car. If we ended up needing them, Trevor could always get them later.
So, yeah. Maybe in hindsight I was being a tad difficult. But in all honesty, the pain really wasn't that bad. Granted, I couldn't sleep through it but it was manageable. I remember thinking it couldn't be real labor because that was really supposed to hurt badly. I could easily breathe through what I was experiencing.
I'd pay for that thinking later on.
Smiling through the contractions.
We arrived at the hospital around 2:15 AM, and - much to my surprise - were admitted pretty quickly. At 2:30 I had my first internal exam and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. At the time, my contractions were a minute or two apart, but I was only dilated about 3 centimeters and 80% effaced. I assumed it was shaping up to be a long night, even with the contractions coming so close together. The nurse made it sound like my spazzing uterus could be caused by dehydration, and hooked me up to an IV.
The only "bad" news we received after getting checked in was that Doctor Cervix would be the one delivering my baby unless Thor decided to stay put until 7 AM. The mere thought nearly had me in tears, which is silly since I am sure he is a completely competent doctor (assuming someone woke him up and force fed him caffeine so he could function and speak coherently). The nurse, though, noticed my distress and panicked expression and came back into the room a little while later to report that my doctor was actually already at Baylor and asleep in one of the other rooms. Apparently, he was inducing one of his patients that night and doctors aren't allowed to leave the hospital during the process in case something goes wrong.
Considering how this whole birth story turns out, this was an amazing stroke of luck. I don't even want to think about what might have happened if my doctor hadn't been there already or if we had had to wait for Dr. Cervix to arrive.
The next hour and a half was spent breathing through contractions while Trevor worked on getting the kit so the baby's cord blood could be collected for storage. I was still committed to trying to have the baby naturally and without pain medication (especially since I already had to have antibiotics administered intravenously to treat the Group B Strep). Despite the frequent contractions, the labor pains were still tolerable - mainly because they came in waves. Yes, the peaks were uncomfortable, but I had a break in between them. Knowing they weren't going to last forever made them relatively easy to breathe through, and I was feeling confident in my ability to handle the pain.
At 4 AM, my doctor walked through the door to check me out himself. I was never so happy to see the man in my life. He announced that I was 3.5 centimeters dilated, and broke my water.
And that is when things got really interesting.
My amniotic fluid wasn't clear, but bright red. My doctor actually described it as being the color of "port wine". This, I quickly learned, is never a good sign and meant that my placenta had ruptured. My chances of having a vaginal delivery all but evaporated at that very moment.
Still, both my doctor and I were hopeful that I could avoid a c-section. The baby was handling the stress well (although an electrode was inserted vaginally and stuck on his head to more closely monitor his vital signs), and everyone was hopeful that everything would remain as stable as possible.
Things started moving very quickly after my water broke. The most noticeable for me was the fact that I no longer had any breaks between contractions. Looking back on it, my body was doing everything in its power to get the baby out as quickly as possible. But, at the time, it was nothing short of terrifying. Not to mention agonizing. For me, the pain no longer had peaks and valleys. I could no longer breathe through them. It just kept getting worse and worse - one building on another without a moment of relief. Then the nausea set in. I remember thinking that I could deal with the pain or the nausea, but both together was torture. Still, I refused the epidural until my doctor more or less insisted that I have one. Since my chances of having to have an emergency c-section were skyrocketing (I was still bleeding), he wanted me to already be numb from the waist down to avoid having to gas me if the need arose suddenly.
Not wanting to chance having to miss the birth of my first born, I gave in and agreed to the epidural at 4:30 AM. Despite the anesthesia, I could still feel a lot of pain and pressure. The only thing that truly seemed to disappear was the nausea, which I was grateful for.
At 5:00, I was 5 centimeters dilated, and at 5:10, I was catheterized. Or as Trevor wrote in his notes from that night: "decaphader". Which I am assuming is a little like a decathlon with a more urinary focus.
During this time, the baby had two or three "episodes" where his heart rate plummeted and suddenly the room was crowded with doctors and nurses talking in medical code and looking very concerned. One of these took place when Trevor decided to go to the bathroom that was attached to the delivery room. No one was in the room when he closed the door, but by the time he flushed and walked back out, the room was a buzz with activity. Luckily, all these episodes resolved themselves quickly and no intervention was needed. Still, you realize very quickly in a hospital that one or two people in a room at a time equals good. More than that equals PROBLEM.
It was all very scary.
At 5:30, two things happened almost simultaneously. The first was that I was suddenly fully dilated. That's right: I dilated 5 centimeters in less then half an hour. The second was another baby heart rate episode. This one was more severe than all the other ones combined, and didn't immediately rebound. Suddenly, alarms were going off, people were swarming the hospital room and my doctor started telling everyone to prepare for surgery. STAT.
I've watched enough ER in my lifetime to know that the word "STAT" is not a good thing.
Neither is it when your normally laid back doctor has visible sweat on his brow and is yelling that, "We need to get this baby out NOW!"
Trevor was ordered to leave the room and change into scrubs.
They started to move me, but then something else changed. It was just me, my doctor and one nurse at that point. My doctor suddenly shoved my legs apart, yelled the nurse to grab one and for me to grab the other. However, since I had the epidural, I couldn't feel my legs, much less move them. So the nurse had to hand me my left leg (which incidentally is VERY heavy and terribly awkward to manipulate when completely numb), and then the doctor started yelling for me to push.
I did my best, but while trying, I dropped my leg. I think I got two pushes in before the doctor announced that the baby was still too high to be delivered. Even at the end, Thor refused to drop.
Then, apparently, I started to bleed heavily and the baby's heart rate dropped to below sixty, and we were out the door and rolling into surgery.
I was terrified and the only thing I could think of to do was to recite the Lord's Prayer over and over again in my head.
My memories of the next few minutes are in flashes. I remember Trevor in scrubs next to the gurney as they rolled me into the room. He winked at me and smiled like everything was A-Okay. I remember my mother flying into the room, and chanting "My baby! My baby!" as she stroked my head. I remember them picking me up and moving me to the operating table and feeling temporarily like I was going to fall on the floor (not because they almost dropped me, but because they didn't have the luxury of taking their time and moving me gently). I remember that they didn't have time to put up a curtain to shield what was going on from Trevor and my mother, and I can recall their wide eyes and bloodless faces as they tried to focus on me instead of what was going on below my waist. I remember the absolute chaos in the room as the doctors and nurses ran around in a frenzy. I remember shaking uncontrollably (from medication and rapid loss of blood), and my arms being pulled out to either side like I was being crucified. I remember how stressed my doctor looked which made me start to cry, because that was the first moment I realized how serious the situation was. He is normally so calm and relaxed. I had never seen him so tense. I was suddenly terrified that I would loose the baby.
I had no idea until much, much later that they were also worried that they might lose me.
Despite being numb, I still could feel a lot of discomfort and pressure. And I could feel them pushing and pulling my body in ways that made me think I was being ripped apart from the inside. I remember feeling faint and light headed and having time speed up and slow down somehow simultaneously.
Then, at 5:46 a shrill cry filled the air as Banner breathed his first breath and screamed his way into the world.
Trevor ran to watch them do whatever they do to babies when they are first born, and no sound was sweeter than the sounds of his sobs and the nurses declaring him to be absolutely perfect despite the heart rate episodes and trauma of the last several hours.
I remember my mother joining Trevor to get a first look at the baby, which was just beyond my range of sight still lying on the operating table. I heard laughter and Trevor ran back over to tell me that Banner was fine, healthy, definitely had his chin and had just peed all over the nurses while on the exam table.
That's my boy.
First picture of father and son.
After they cleaned him all up, Trevor got to hold him and brought him over by the side of my head to say "Hi". Because of the way I was on the table, it was hard for me to get a good look at him. But I said, "Hi, Baby" as I strained to look in his general direction to my left. Banner had been making noise, but when I spoke to him he got very quiet. My mom and Trevor later told me that he stopped struggling and calmly stared in my direction the moment he heard my voice.
It seemed to take forever for the doctors and nurses to stop messing with me. I heard things like, "We need to get a good look at the placenta", and a whole host of other comments about the amount of blood in my uterus.
I remember how strong it smelled it when they cauterized some part of my anatomy in an effort to stop the bleeding. Had they been unable to control it quickly, the next step would have apparently been an emergency hysterectomy.
Thank goodness it never got that far.
The technical term for what had happened is called placental abruption. I don't know much about it other than it is apparently pretty rare condition where the placenta starts to prematurely break away from the uterine wall. It occurs in 1% of pregnancies worldwide, and is a significant contributor to maternal mortality. My doctor told me he hadn't seen a case as severe as mine in over a decade. When they pulled my baby out, he was literally swimming in a pool of my blood. Or as my doctor put it, "a big, ole bottle of red wine".
(I have no idea what was up with him and his vino references last week. And, no. I'll probably never look at a glass of red wine in the same way again.)
I had none of the risk factors commonly associated with a placenta abruption, but my doctor hypothesized that it may have been caused because I was overdue and things like my placenta were starting to (for lack of a better word or phrase) "go bad". It also might explain why my baby was smaller than everyone thought he would be (although a 7 pound, 3 ounce kiddo is by no means considered "small"). No one knows when the bleeding started or what caused my placenta to start tearing away prematurely, but things like the frequent (tetanic) uterine contractions with little or no break were a classic sign that something was going very wrong.
Basically, had I been living on the prairie 150 years ago, both Banner and I would have died in childbirth.
All in all, we were very lucky. I don't want to think about what might have happened if my doctor hadn't already been at the hospital that evening inducing another patient, or if I had listened to Dr. Cervix and put off leaving home until my contractions miraculously slowed to five minutes apart. I truly believe God was looking out for me and Banner that night.
I lost nearly two liters of blood. For days I didn't think that was a very big of a deal. After all, I rationalized, I donate blood all the time. Until my brother explained the difference to me between a pint and a liter. Apparently, the average adult has five liters of blood in their body, and losing two liters can be fatal. It is probably a good thing I was never very good at subjects like biology or anatomy/physiology. In times of crisis, ignorance is a fabulous self preservation tool.
Waiting to meet the newest member of the family.
Following the delivery, the nurse that had been monitoring my progress since check in told me that baby Banner and I were the cause of her two newest gray hairs. And, over the course of my hospital stay, I had a variety of people - from nurses, to doctors to the anesthesiologist who performed my epidural and monitored me during the surgery - come to visit and check on us and remind me just how lucky baby Banner and I were to both survive. I may have not grasped the severity of the situation at the time, but I do now and feel forever in debt to the doctors and nurses who literally saved both our lives early last Wednesday morning.
Hanging with the B-Man...
After the surgery was over and I was all stitched back together, I was rolled into recovery for an hour and a half before being sent up to room 722. Baby Banner got to ride on my chest, and the trip to recovery was the first time I got to hold him.
And then there were three.
And in case there was ever any doubt, he looks just like Trevor. If he didn't have my blood type I'm not sure I'd be believe I had anything to do with it other than (obviously) carrying the little guy for nine (or ten) months.
Welcome to the world, baby boy.