Shikha’s Birth Story

It was just another Friday night at my prenatal yoga class. I hadn’t been to class in a few weeks and was once again surprised at how limited my stamina and range of motion had become. As the class progressed, however, I became more relaxed and comfortable. So comfortable in fact that about ten minutes before the end of class (6:35 pm), I felt a gush of fluid and immediately thought, “Wow, I relaxed so well that I peed my pants!” I knew it was possible for pregnant women to lose control of their bladders, but I had never experienced such a thing. I quietly left the room and headed for the bathroom to tidy myself up. I returned with the intent of getting my things and leaving but saw that class was ending and everyone was in their final resting positions. So, I rejoined the class. Five minutes later, more fluid came gushing and my first thought was, “Thank goodness I’m wearing black pants.” I picked up my things, said a curt goodbye to my friend, and headed straight for the bathroom to re-tidy myself. By now I realized something was amiss. My goal was to get home (about a 2 minute drive) and figure out what was going on. Walked out of the bathroom – gush – up one floor in the elevator – gush – waddled half way to the building door (i.e. 5 steps) – gush. This plan was not going to work. Could it be that my water broke? Back down the elevator – gush – and straight to the front desk of the gym where my yoga instructor was still standing. I asked her what it felt like when your water breaks, figuring she’d know having had a couple of children herself. I described what I was experiencing and, with her hand on my shoulder and a light in her eyes, she kindly informed me that I was having a baby!

I think I am a relatively smart person and have been known to be exceedingly calm in stressful, emergency situations. I had written down Dr. Cap’s 4-1-1 rule and added his phone number to my cell phone; hubby and I had just taken the hospital tour so we knew where to go; and all of the hospital admission forms we already filled out. So, I figured I would be prepared for when “the time” came. However, in that moment, every thought left my brain. I stared blankly back at my yoga instructor. “Really?? But it’s five weeks early!” She smiled, agreed that it was a bit early, but that it was ok. I was so overwhelmed that I thought I would cry. Tears of joy, excitement, and nervousness. She reassured me that everything was ok and told me I was going to be a mommy. I took a moment to calm down and then searched my brain. Nothing. “What do I do now?” She told me to call the doctor. Right, I have his number in my phone. Where the heck did I store it?? You spell Capetanakis with a C, right??? Couldn’t find it. (Turns out that it was under D for “Dr. Capetanakis”…go figure!) But I had his card (which I almost gave away earlier that day!) in my wallet. As I was dialing, I realized something. “Should I call my husband?” At this point I think my yoga instructor was going to burst out laughing. “Yes, that would be a good idea.” Taking a breath, I tried to focus. Right, first call the doctor. After leaving a message with his answering service, my phone rang. It was my husband. Wait…didn’t I just leave a message for my doctor? Why is my husband returning the call?? I was so confused; my brain could not wrap itself around the coincidence! I answered and immediately told him that my water broke. Clearly I had caught him off guard. “Oh,” was all he could muster. (Turns out he was at the grocery store looking for TimTams. He must have had a hard week at work if he was shopping for chocolate.)

Everything finally registered and he came to pick me up from the gym. When we got home, I headed for the shower while hubby put together the hospital bag. (Putting together the hospital bag was one of our planned projects for the coming weekend, along with assembling the baby swing, researching breast pumps, and getting the house cleaned.) Then I just had to put away the laundry and tidy up the bedrooms. My brain had started functioning a bit making a list of the things we needed to do. Luckily, in the short

time we were home, I got calls from both massage parlors about the prenatal massage appointments I had made/requested earlier that day. I kindly informed them that I won’t be keeping the appointments seeing as how my water just broke. (This seems to be an acceptable excuse to break appointments!) An hour later we headed out of the house and went to the drug store. I had to buy slippers for the hospital. No luck; they didn’t have my size. Then we drove to our friends’ place to pick up their fancy camera because I had to have quality pictures. And finally, to the hospital.

It was now 9:30pm. After finishing the final paper work, the nurse confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid and was already 4 cm dilated. Dr. Cap called to congratulate me and told me he would “let me labor for a while” and see me in the morning. WHAT?!?! How long was this baby birthing going to take? This guy may be a doctor, and he may have just passed his boards, but in my mind there was no way it should take that long to have a baby, right? (Well, it turned out that he did know what he was talking about.) So, hubby and I were moved to a labor/delivery room where I would “labor for a while.”

I had researched (i.e. Googled) what a contraction felt like. Supposedly it is intense pain that starts up near the top of the belly and can travel all the way down the thighs. The sensations I was experiencing were in my lower back and hardly qualified as menstrual cramps. They were getting progressively stronger but were by no measure “intense” or even obtrusive. A few hours into the night my hubby was starting to fall apart from exhaustion. I suggested that we both try to get some sleep.

Labor is an interesting thing. My body was going through a set of new and complex experiences. I was feeling contractions for a baby that was aligning itself to be born. At the same time I still had a big, hard belly with a baby kicking away on the inside as usual, which made it hard to imagine that this baby was coming out. I was extremely tired having missed my afternoon nap that day; but, sleeping was out of the question, not just due to the achiness in my lower back, but also due to the thoughts buzzing around in my head. The biggest issue was how hungry I was. The hospital folks wouldn’t feed me while I was in labor, even after telling them how I had missed my dinner. They did, however, give me a sympathetic smile, but it didn’t stop the growling.

With all that I was experiencing, I expected to feel different, but I didn’t. I still felt like me. I had a real need to keep things as normal as possible, which was a big reason for telling my husband to get some sleep. I wanted to be lying in the darkness and listening to his snores. (Let me take this opportunity to say that if anyone who designs hospital delivery rooms is reading this story, please make the beds large enough for my husband to lie down next to me.) In the morning I told him to get himself some breakfast because I wanted to watch him eat. Then we sat down together and watched trash tv shows that I love. (Thank goodness there was a marathon of Real Housewives of Atlanta!) I think watching him keep to a somewhat normal routine made all the new things I was experiencing less overwhelming. I mean, a contraction can’t be that strange of a thing if it happens while hubby eats his eggs, right?

Labor was not nearly as difficult as I had expected it to be. The important thing was just to keep moving and, of course, have plenty of distractions. Sometime after midnight, hubby and I went for a walk around the hospital, which wasn’t as interesting I’d hoped. The most exciting thing we did was counted all of the water coolers we spotted…2. We, of course, got scolded by the nurses for leaving the birth pavilion. After returning to the room I took a hot shower, which I could have stood under forever. I was primed for a nap, but sleep was out of the question. So it was lights out and wakeful resting, listening to hubby’s snores and thinking about baby. Come morning I was excited about my breakfast tray, that is, until it showed up: chicken broth, orange Jello, cranberry juice, apple juice, and tea. I downed that broth so fast that hubby started laughing at me over his toast.

There are two things about labor that are absolutely terrible. First is the IV line. I hate it. I don’t use the word “hate” very often, but I’m using it here. I have an irrational apprehension when it comes to IVs. Plus, it was a complete nuisance lugging that stand around every time I needed to go to the bathroom, take a walk, or bounce on the ball. Ugh. The second terrible thing is the monitor. Well, it’s two monitors, one for the baby’s heart beat and one to record contractions. The heart rate monitor was difficult to place because of baby’s position. Every time I moved a tiny bit, the signal would disappear and a nurse would pop into my room and fidget with the device. This would happen a few times every hour, which completely disrupted the rest I was trying to get during the night. Eventually they sent in a nurse who was apparently the master of monitor adjustment. This individual spent a good 30 minutes fidgeting with the pieces on my belly, forcing me to lie on my back in bed at a time when my contractions were particularly strong. What insanity!! I told her that I was very uncomfortable, but she insisted I stay on my back. I let her continue until she was satisfied. Just when she left the room I fidgeted ever so slightly and, obviously, lost the heart rate signal. Now I couldn’t have cared less for the nurses’ efforts and their need to have the heart rate recorded (apparently a minimum of 20 minutes out of every hour). I immediately got out of bed and started bouncing on the exercise ball using my right hand to support myself with the foot of the bed and my left hand to hold the heart rate monitor in place. Two minutes later, when the nurse showed up again, I had already found the heart beat and told her I’d just hold the device to my belly for 20 minutes. I think the scowl on my face forced her to let me be. As for the contraction recorder, it never worked. But that didn’t stop the nurses from trying to adjust it on my belly! Eventually they gave up on that one and handed me a small wand with a blue button at the tip that I was to press every time I felt a contraction. Asking a pregnant woman who is in the middle of a strong contraction to find the little wand (which slipped and was dangling over the side of the bed somewhere) to press the little blue button is stupid. The closest I came to following those instructions was to call out “Blue button! Blue button!” every time I had a contraction. Hubby took over the actual pressing of it.

At 7 am on Saturday, Dr. Cap came by to see me. I had not dilated any further over the night and, as it had been 12 hours since my water broke, it was time to be induced. They started the Pitocin drip around 8 am. My contractions were beginning to get more intense but they were nothing I couldn’t bear. My biggest issue really was how tired I was. When I’m very tired, I tremble. And this is exactly what was happening now. With every contraction, I would shake severely with my teeth chattering. If only I could take a nap!! The greatest invention in the world for dealing with contractions, even when tired, is the big bouncy ball. Boy did I love to bounce on that thing! I wonder what the nurses thought every time they came into my room to find me sitting on that ball and my husband in my bed flipping tv channels. I figure it must be a fairly common sight.

A few hours later I was still less than 5 cm dilated. Sometime around noon, however, my contractions got severe. The intensity of the whole thing just shot right up! Hubby would press my lower back and help me get through them. After every contraction it would take another minute for my trembling to subside. Adding to the contractions and the exhaustion I became nauseous and started to dry heave.

Finally at 1 pm I asked for the epidural. I was surprised by a feeling of disappointment in myself for having asked for it, especially since I was not averse to the idea and had always planned to get one if I felt I needed it. I guess as much as I felt it was ok to get an epidural, I was hoping I could do without it. In hind sight, it was the right decision to make. I needed it because I was much too exhausted by this point. I was hoping that the epidural would give me a bit of rest so I’d have the energy to push when the time came. At 1:30 pm the epidural was administered. A handful of minutes later the anesthesiologist asked me if I felt better. No. Aren’t the contractions less intense? No. Is the pain gone though? Umm…putting it that way, yes, the pain was gone. But the pressure was super intense! A few minutes later I informed the nurse that my contractions were really, really strong. She checked and I was fully dilated!

Dr. Cap walked into the room and said, “Let’s have a baby!” What?? Just like that? After all I had just experienced up to that point, the atmosphere in the room when it was time to push felt very anticlimactic. Someone should have turned on the strobe lights and music, or at least struck a gong. Instead, the room went quiet. And we waited for a contraction. Surprisingly, while I was in the birthing position, I felt so much relief that I swear I could have fallen asleep right then. I think I said out loud that I could take a nap, but no one looked amused. OK fine, I’d do what they asked me to do: push.

At 2:33 pm, my daughter was born. I remember opening my eyes and looking at her yellow-irised, cross-eyed, screaming, dirty face while she was on my belly and thinking that was this was most beautiful face I had ever seen in my life. (I couldn’t believe she had orange eyes!!) I can still close my eyes today and see that face. It’s an image that is burned in me.

My little girl didn’t get to come home with me when I left the hospital. She was admitted to the NICU just after she was born and stayed there for 12 days, spending a week of that time at the Children’s Hospital. She had issues digesting her milk and needed some extra time developing her digestive tract. She also needed help maintaining her body temperature. I went to see her everyday and held her. We have tones of pictures of her in her incubator, hooked up to monitors, an IV, and with a feeding tube inserted in her nose. At the time, all I remember thinking was how beautiful she was. Now that she is home and growing big and strong, seeing pictures of those wires attached to her tiny body break my heart. I guess I just didn’t notice them then. Or maybe I just didn’t know her any other way. As she was, she was my baby and I loved her.

I always wondered if, when she was born, I’d have a gushing, motherly sentiment, some light bulb moment, or something of that sort. But there was nothing. I was still me, loved the same things, had the same beliefs. Only now there was a little girl in the picture. I will say this: now that she’s here, I can’t imagine how I ever felt complete without her. I remember saying how happy and content I was with life before my daughter was even an idea. But now…well, I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about then. This, now, is contentment.