Saturday, October 20, 2007

Prelude to a thank you note

This entry spans three days, October 20, 21, and 22, 2007.

As I write this, daughter Willow and husband Brent are sleeping soundly, at 11:33 pm on the eve of Willow's first birthday party. This blog has been up for months, formatted beautifully by Brent with my style choices, and this is my first official entry.

I am filled with gratitude for my life as it is and the wonderful people in it. Last year, a few days from today, Willow Laurann Curtis was born. When I was told I had to go to the hospital for her birth, I was terrified. I don't like hospitals and had planned a home birth to be attended by a naturopathic doctor and midwife, my husband, and a few close friends. Instead my blood pressure rose and we had to go in to get my labor moving and protect me and the baby. As it turned out, our head nurse that night had done her residency at the Farm in Tennessee, a commune where women had their babies at home under the supervision of a country doctor. Our personal nurse was in midwifery school, and was given pretty much free reign to care for us her way. She was in the room the entire time, administering petocin and magnesium but otherwise allowing me and my loved ones to help bring Willow into the world ourselves. Willow's vitals were good and other than my blood pressure I was fine, so I was given monitors that strapped to my body so I could remain mobile and use the birthing tub as I wished. My husband and friends kept me on track and kept the doctors honest, helping me make the moment to moment decisions as things unfolded.

At one point a resident, who was our primary doctor at the hospital, suggested that perhaps "kiddo" may be too big to come through the birth canal and wanted to put a monitor inside me that would connect to Willow's head and actually measure the force of the contractions. By that point I was ready to do anything, but I heard "cesarean" in the sub-text of what she said. Also, my gut reaction when she said the baby would perhaps not fit through the birth canal was "bullshit". Anyway, I nodded my head at the doctor, but the nurse who had been with us the entire time standing behind the doctor and insistently shaking her head. At that point my friends told me to let the doctor know I would need to think about it, which I did. After the doctor left, our nurse told us that if I had that type of monitor on I would no longer be mobile. She also said that it looked to her as if my labor was progressing, since my cervix had dialated about 3 centimeters in a few hours. As far as I was concerned not being mobile was a deal breaker and thus I declined the intervention. Even at that time I could see the dominoes falling toward a c-section, and am so grateful I had a well informed nurse and friends who had the capacity to help me make decisions in a time when all I could focus on was the sensation that my entire torso was on fire. When the nurse told the doctor of my decision, she also told her she thought the labor was progressing well and that it was an unnecessary intervention. The doctor checked with her superior, another resident, who actually agreed with the nurse... and the doctor, incredibly, apologized to the nurse in front of us for her eagerness to intervene.

The hours of that night went on, and on, and on... and finally, sometime after day break, Willow's head appeared. Of course I thought at the time that she would be right on her way in moments, but from the time her head appeared until she was born was at least 45 minutes, maybe longer. That was the longest moment for me, as I was exhausted by that point and still a little fearful of more intervention. Someone held up a mirror for me to look at her head, and my god I almost broke down. It was the grossest thing I've ever seen, and looked like an open brain emerging from between my legs. I remembered something about that in my childbirth education class, and everyone in the room assured me that was how she should look, but when it happens in the moment it is really shocking.

I kept waiting for the urge to push I had been told about in our childbirth class, but I never actually got that... I never did want to push, my instinct was to simply relax and allow Willow to come out. I felt an incredible heaviness after she crowned and was really moving down the birth canal, as if I were expelling a bowling ball, but that only made me want to relax more, not push. But push I did... as I was instructed by the doctors and less so the nurse, though I know she was anxious for Willow to be born... the whole staff was at that point, as their shift had ended at 7 am and they had been with us all night, and they really wanted to see her. I pushed as hard as I could, and that was excruciating. Not painfully so, but absolutely my last bit of energy was going out. Then, finally, I felt something like my legs cracking apart, not in a painful way at all but I could feel my hip joints release as if each side of my lower body could be set on either side of the room, and then a sensation like a wiggly fish thrashing between my legs, slippery and very wiggly, and Willow entered the world.

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