Contractions began about 6:00 am Tuesday (4/11/06) morning. I had been deathly ill with a wicked cold for three days, which I now understand as part of my little Ryo's plan for coming into life...hard to scream when you're exhausted and full of mucous.
, immediately, that I was in labor. Not that I acknowledged this, even to myself at the time, but the knowing was definitely there.
Told my husband I was in a bit of pain, but that he should still go to work for a few hours, as planned. Rode out the discomfort with public television, a heating pad, and rocking/position changes until the intensity came to a serious head around 12:00-ish. I had called my husband around 10 to let him know I thought he should come home, but being Mr. Non-Punctuality meant it took him two hours. By that time I was deliriously miserable, butt naked, hands and knees on the bedroom floor (much to the shock of my poor grandmother who found me in said state groaning unintelligibly) as that was the only way I could begin to manage.
So he walks in to find my head in my grandma's lap and my bare booty in the air, sounding like death on a stick (and feeling it). He asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said no.
He helped me cope by running me a bath, bringing me the heating pad if I asked and trying to nap with me between contractions. He did great, and put no pressure on me whatsoever, though I knew he was pretty freaked out.
OH THE PAIN. I was so completely unprepared for the PAIN. It was beyond comprehension. Couldn't explain it for a trillion bucks. It's...it's...pure torture. Nothing helped beyond a certain point. NOTHING. I felt like the world was ending and it was ending on my watch and the desperation I felt as each wave intensified shocked me. For the rest of my life, any injuries or sicknesses I suffer will be utterly relative to birth. It's the ultimate, and in the end what broke me.
After nearly 10 hours, I wimped out. Transition (hindsight) did me in and I began to beg for an ambulance and pain medication. My grandmother reassured my husband I could endure a car ride, looked me straight in the eye and said "It's only going to get worse...get in the car and drive to the hospital. You can do it. You have to." I told her I was scared, and she said she understood, but that "The pain is going to get worse, so you need to prepare." Honesty has never been so brutal, or so true.
We packed my 'In Case of Hospital' bag in the truck and made the 20 minute drive. When the contractions hit I grabbed the door bar and rolled forward and rocked sideways. Longest 20 minutes that could've been longer being so close to rush hour.
At 4:00pm we arrived at the hospital. My husband parked and sprinted inside for a wheelchair. I fell into it and agonized over the notion I was about to be put in stranger's hands at my most vulnerable. Control was lost and in this absolute state of weakness I knew I was subject to anything. It hurt deeply.
From the moment I set foot in the exam room, everything became 'neccessary'. Two unbearable vaginal exams, two IVs (the first of which blew, due to my steadfast refusal to be supine) and artificially ruptured membranes. In this respect, my husband did as suspected and did not advocate on my behalf. I was left to object feebly with an openly hostile nurse who told me if I wanted a homebirth I should've hired a midwife to help me (as if UC were written across my forehead). "We have to give you an IV. It's hospital policy. We need to be able to give you medication in case the baby needs it. You have to have one. Of course, you CAN refuse any treatment you want, but we won't be able to give you pain medication without one (which they didn't end up giving me anyway...I refused an epidural and they refused to give me Demerol...small favors)" and on and on and and on.
I was asked pointless question after pointless question and snapped at if I didn't respond quickly or to their liking. "How much did you weigh before you got pregnant?" "Did you have a glucose test?" "When was your last period?" "Do you take drugs?" (kanji tattoo on my arm to thank for that one) "Why do you keep flipping onto your hands and knees? You're being difficult!" "Oh now you've done it, you've blown your IV, I worked really hard to get that in for you, we'll have to get ___ to do one in your other hand" (as blood is pouring out of my right hand like water) "If you'd had X test we wouldn't have to give you penicillin, but you didn't so we have to make sure the baby doesn't get an infection" "You must be on your back with your knees up to push so the doctor can catch your baby, get on your back!"
Naked as my first birthday, out of my mind with pain and fear, a husband who bailed on standing up for me, and it was ALL ABOUT THEM. I didn't have the presence to get angry at the time but the more I think about it the pissier I get. It was my body! My baby! My birth! Yet I was given no choices, no options, and no support. I was abandoned and scolded like an imbecile. I was told to be a good girl and push like this and breathe like that and do as the good doctor says or she'll be mad or won't like you or won't 'help' you.
It was insane. These people acted as if my being in pain and afraid was a personal insult to them, a rude inconvenience. I was expected to endure this incredibly intense and terrifying thing silent as a lamb, compliant as a kitten, and all the while calmly able to hold a polite, business-like conversation about my own body in which I was expected to hand my well-being and safety and that of my child to perfect f*cking strangers without a wimper of protest. I don't understand why not wanting to be hurt and to feel safe and cared for and something of compassion is so damned unreasonable. I was hurting! I was scared! And everyone in that room aside from my husband was a woman. It was a coldness I have never felt and hope to never feel again.
He came out vaginally, a healthy and screaming 7 lbs 10 ounces. He came out FAST. The urge to push was crazy involuntary. He wouldn't latch for about 24 hours, but once he got the idea (with the assistance of two truly kick-ass LC's, both of whom were obvious and out hardcore lactivists) he nursed like a pro. And his daddy held back my hair and held my hand and helped me push that horrid artifical stirrup way and cried with joy at seeing his son's face. He did the best he knew how, and overall he did help. He's just overly respectful of authority, which I don't have the heart to resent him for. We're all ourselves.
It all would've been different if I'd just been strong enough to hang those last 2 hours. But I wasn't. I wasn't strong enough. I needed support. I needed someone stronger to help me. My will was broken. I paid for it. I regret it. Even though I made it through drug free and uncut (save the hour and a half vaginal stitching marathon I was subjected to. No perennial tears, but 50 stinkin' stitches. Despite my objection. As my new baby sat in the corner with his daddy. I just wanted to hold him...). Even though my son was not circumcised or vaccinated (though I think he was given a Vit K shot, I discovered a band-aid under his bootie at one point...) or fed anything other than his mother's milk (the best thing about that hospital was it's militant dedication to breastfeeding, rare and wonderful). Even though in the end I was glad for the advice from some of the nurses and the mental break of Ryo being in the nursery and all the loving family and friends that came to visit.
I wanted at the end of my one-time rollercoaster pregnancy ride to be able to say I did it all on my own. But I can't say that, and I can't go back. This was my one shot. I failed. My baby is beautiful and healthy and strong and has changed my life and brought me closer to my husband and family but it could've been even better if I'd just sucked it up. I was overconfident, and understaffed. I will always wish otherwise.
Still, my Ryo...my absolutely gorgeous little angel milky sweet face is here. And I know he got me sick to keep me tired so I wouldn't scream and make the pain worse (only screamed with hands in my vaginal canal and once with one of my very last pushes) and so I could be hazy enough mentally not to be too traumatized by the nurses (he knew I'd wuss out I guess, and he loves me anyway
Ryo Lee Barrantes, born 5:58pm. Making a real woman of me. A full-of-milk bone-tired spacey-brained mami. Where no mami ever was before.
These past 5 days have been at turns nightmares of psychotic fear and sleeplessness and frustration and hesitation and weirdness defying description and yet amazing. I am without ability to define who I am anymore. Total overhaul. I am new because he is new and he needs me like I've never been needed. Isn't that frightening when you understand that, really get it for the first time? This tiny helpless being depends on you to survive. What a TRIP.
What a responsibility. How can life not change? How can people look at themselves in the mirror, look into their child's face and see anything at all of what they saw of the world before?
I messed up but he makes up for all of it. He makes up for me. He is a part of me. Part of his Dad. His own part. He made me understand my dad as human, my grandma as human, my stepmother as human, my own mother and cousin and the family I'd hated my whole life as human, my worldview as tunnel vision. Things make sense that never would have.
Thanks for listening. I'll still enjoy reading here the heroic tales of those who can and have done what I was not able to. UC remains central to my experience of birth in many ways, though it was not to be for me.
Thanks to all who offered advice and support and hugs. Sleep well (those who are able to at the moment