Two Frogs
Adam Charles Gunderloy
Born August 14, 2000 11:55PM
8 lb. 4.5 oz.
21.5 inches
Boy, best-laid plans. I don't know how many births, if any, go exactly according to plan, but I'd be willing to guess "not many". There are just so many things beyond your control that have a direct effect on the birthing experience. When Mike and I first started taking birthing classes, we defined what our ideal birth would be like -- natural start to labor (no induction), most of labor happening at home, no pain medications, no episiotomy, etc. We wanted to be Mother and Father Earth. Lucky for us, those classes also force you to take a look at the possibility (probability?) that things will deviate from your Perfect Plan. We considered every aspect of birthing and decided which things we just could not compromise on. Then we looked at everything else and mentally ranked its importance to us. We found that the only thing that really mattered was a healthy baby and a healthy mom, and that the thing we most wanted to avoid was a C-section.

I started having contractions on July 15th. Actually, I'd been having Braxton-Hicks contractions before that, but on the 15th of July they were coming strong and regular enough to time. I labored that whole weekend. They never got regular, though, and they never got stronger. I had bouts of labor like that off and on throughout July, and a few in early August. Once, they came so regularly (although not very strongly) that we went to the hospital. They stopped cold when we got to the labor and delivery room. Maybe they were scared out of me. :)

Oddly enough, August showed a slowdown in laboring. Mike and I had stopped keeping a record of them, and they clearly hadn't gotten much stronger than when they first started. To be honest, I was growing tired of reporting starting and stopping times for contractions that I thought weren't going anywhere. The last month of pregnancy, as is typical, was abject misery. I gained, over the course of my pregnancy, 48 pounds - almost as much as I had lost in the previous year and a half. My feet and back ached almost constantly, and I had grown clumsy and awkward. The last two weeks, my blood pressure shot up (climbing to 152/100) and I began having other symptoms of pre-eclampsia - headaches, nausea, mild swelling. Our due date (August 4th) came and went. So it went that, on August 14th, our doctor suggested that he thought it was "time". Time to induce. Strike one item off the Perfect Plan. I was inclined to agree (so was Mike), so we trotted over to the hospital (adjoined to the doctor's office, so it was a one-minute stroll) and got checked into the L&D room. I was actually excited; we were going to see the baby soon.

I got changed and gave a urine sample, then settled into the bed. A nurse came around with the phlebotomist and they drew some blood and got me hooked up to the fetal heart and contraction monitors. They need a "baseline" of 30 minutes before they administer an induction. In that 30 minutes, I had one contraction that I didn't feel. Then, Tammy showed up. Tammy is the head OB nurse for our hospital, and she was there for my delivery. She administered the first dose of Cytotek - an oral prostaglandin. You hold it in your cheek and let it dissolve. It's supposed to ripen your cervix (I came into the induction at 70% effacement, 1 cm dilation, and -2/-1 station) and start contractions. It started a few, although not many, and not very regular or strong. Some time later (I had absolutely no concept of what times any of these things happened, by the way) she gave me a second dosage, twice as large as the first. The contractions came back again, a little more regularly, not really much stronger. We had a doctor's visit somewhere in here, and he authorized a third dose, as large as the second. More contractions, still not very strong.

By the time the third dose had dissolved, it was late afternoon (6-ish?) and I was only dilated to 3 cm, and only 80% effaced. That was very discouraging. The doctor said he thought we should switch to Pitocin, which is easier to regulate than Cytotek. Of course, we knew that Pit-contractions are much stronger and harder to handle than the ones I had experienced so far, and that using Pitocin ups your chances of having other interventions, so our Perfect Plan had precluded it. We told the doctor we wanted to talk it over. We walked around for 30 minutes, talking about our options. We decided that we'd see how dilated I was after walking. If being ambulatory helped me dilate, we wanted to ask for more Cytotek and the ability to walk around the hospital to try to bring on contractions. If not, we would go with the Pitocin. We got back to the room and told our nurse (the doc was getting dinner, as it was looking to be a long night for him) our plans. She checked me - no change. So, an IV was started. Strike Two. Contractions came nine minutes later. These were not your garden variety, come-as-you-are easy contractions, either. For one thing, they did not build. They slammed into you like a freight train, ran you over, rolled you into the dirt, and left you for dead. OK, so that sounds a bit dramatic, but that's what they feel like. They also came much more rapidly than the others. I kept telling myself, "They have to hurt to work."

From this point on, things get a little fuzzy in my memory. I remember that things like reading magazines and listening to CD's no longer held the attraction for me that they did with the earlier contractions. All I could do was try to hold on for the next one. Deep breathing got to be pretty ineffective, too, so the nurse taught me the He-he-he-whooo method of breathing. That helped for awhile. At some point, the focal point I had brought in (a stuffed beaver named Herman) was no longer good enough. I needed a light source to focus on. I demanded that a light be turned on that I could see. Mike turned on the examination lamp and it became my focal point throughout the rest of the labor. To be more precise, a tiny little dot in the center of the light became my focal point. Don't ask me why; it just did.

The doctor showed back up some time in the middle of all this and saw that I was progressing. He went to work on some charts, and the next time I saw him he was in scrubs and wondered if I wanted my water to be broken (I think I had only dilated to 4 or 5). I said yes. Strike Three. The contractions started coming even harder. It got to the point where I couldn't really make out much of anything anyone was saying unless they said it right in my face over and over. I can't really give you a progression of how things went at this point, because it's all a jumble. I can only tell you the snatches that I remember, and I have no idea in what order they occurred. The only thing I'm sure about is that at 6 cm I asked for an epidural. OK, I didn't ask for an epidural. I think I said something like, "Get me an epidural." Mike had been advised beforehand to double-check to make sure it's what I really wanted if I ever asked for it, so he did. It was. Strike Four. The doctor said he wanted to put a scalp electrode on the baby to monitor his heart. We had been having trouble getting his heartbeat monitored all day; he was (and is) a very wiggly baby, and administration of an epidural was going to make heart monitoring impossible. I agreed. Strike Five. The anesthesiologist lived in a house right behind the hospital, so I thought it would only be a few minutes before he showed up. Maybe it was. It felt like hours. He finally got there, and they had me sit on the side of the bed. The contractions were so hard I thought my body was going to split in two. Then he told me I had to sit absolutely still "for a few minutes". I couldn't believe it - there weren't 10 seconds between contractions!! That meant I'd have to sit still through SEVERAL contractions. Perfectly still. I got very scared.

I tried to sit still, and just as he was swabbing my back, a contraction came on. I knew he wasn't at the needle point yet, so I told him I had to move. I don't know how I was moving, but I do know that it involved a lot of rocking and writhing and throwing my head back and forth. I got through that contraction and tried to get still. Just as he was about to start, another one came on. "I have to move, here's another one." He said, "OK, but this is the last one. If you move after this, I won't be able to do it." Absolute terror seized me when he said this. He just COULDN'T leave. I knew it would be damn near impossible to sit still through having the epidural put in, but the thought of going through the rest of the contractions and the pushing with no relief was unbearable. So I ended up sitting through about 4 contractions, yelling and crying and sobbing and panicking, but not moving. Mike later told me that it took him 3 tries to get the catheter threaded (apparently there's something unusual about one of my vertebrae) which is why it took so long. Anyway, they got it in and checked my cervix - 9 1/2 centimeters!! The epidural was not yet having an effect, so I was feeling everything. I felt .. pain. Searing, ripping, pressing, gripping, mind-numbing pain.

Everyone was talking to me at once, and no one was intelligible. Mike was to my left, the doctor at my feet, and Tammy to my right (she moved around a lot, though, so I'm not sure how long she was there). Everyone wanted me to breathe, but all I could do was scream about how much it hurt. I know I said I can't do it. I know I said I can't push. I know Mike (or Tammy, or somebody) said to breathe. I know I wasn't breathing. Then somebody sucker-punched me; they said, "Breathe for the baby. Breathe once for the baby." I think it was Mike. So I took a gasp and went back to screaming. Somebody said "Good." Then somebody said breathe for the baby again. Even in the midst of all that pain, I remember thinking they were cheating by using the baby as leverage, but that they were right, too. So I breathed. Once. I couldn't breathe more than once at a time. He-he-he-whooo had long since fallen by the wayside and was replaced by wailing.

Suddenly, everything changed. There was still pressure, and the epidural hadn't been in more than 30 minutes so I felt pain, but I felt like I was about to have a bowel movement all over the table. Someone moved the bottom part of the bed away and told me I was dilated to 10 and ready to push. I remember wailing, "I CAN'T push, I CAN'T push, I CAN'T push... I HAVE to push, I CAN'T push..." over and over again. I never needed to do and wanted NOT to do something so badly in my life. Then everything faded away. All I could see was the doctor, and all I could hear was his voice. I couldn't hear the heart monitors or Mike or Tammy or even myself. I heard Dr. P say in this really calm, soothing voice, "Dana? Dana, you're going to have to push. When a contraction comes, I want you to take a deep breath and blow it out. Then I want you to take another breath and push. Push to a count of, say, 7 or 10, then blow the air out. Take another breath right away and push again. See if you can get 3 pushes from each contraction." I have no idea why this part is so clear, but it definitely is. I said I would. Then Mike was back, and Tammy was back.

A contraction came on, and I was back to "I can't, I can't, I have to". When "I have to" came, I pushed. It hurt SO bad, but felt good, too. I pushed to 7. I counted in my head, so I don't know if 7 was really 7 or not. I couldn't really hear much outside of my head. After the first push, the doctor said he could see the head. Mike said he could, too. Tammy held up the mirror for me as I pushed, and I could see him being pushed out. I could see his hair, and see that he was covered in blood. Seeing his head really gave me the last bit of incentive I needed to get him out. At some point, the doctor advised me to "push through the pain". That was a good way to describe it, and so I did. After the second or third contraction, I reached down and felt his head. It was so SOFT. I told Mike to touch it. He did. The doctor told me that I was going to tear, and that he wanted to perform a small episiotomy. I said fine. Strike Six. I think it was at this point, or shortly after, that Mike hit the floor. Whether from standing too long, or from sitting in the low rolly-chair thingies, or from reaching to touch the head, Mike's back went out. This has happened a few times in the past, and while always inconvenient, this is the worst possible time it could have happened. I saw him crumple out of the corner of my eye, and I turned to look at him. I knew right away that it was his back, and told him to go sit in a chair or I'd worry about him and not be able to push. He said it was his baby, too, and that he wasn't going to miss it. A contraction was coming, so I didn't argue. He struggled back to a standing position, and I went back to pushing. Two contractions later, I finally got the head out. The doctor asked for a small push, I think to get his chin out so he could suction him. I gave what I thought was a small push, and suddenly the doctor had a baby in his arms. A really wet, squirmy, wiggly baby. I couldn't believe it. My eyes about popped out of my head. He looked so BIG. I expected him to look small to me, but he didn't; he looked enormous.

Dr. P suctioned him, and I pulled my hospital gown off of my belly. He put the baby on my belly and I grabbed onto him. Tammy had a blanket and started rubbing him. Somewhere around this time, Mike went to go sit in a chair, but didn't stay there for long. Adam finally started crying, and it was the sweetest sound I've ever heard. I just talked to him, telling him how sweet and special and loved he was, and Tammy rubbed him with the blanket. I tried to nuzzle him against my breast, but he wasn't interested.. yet. Before I knew it, Mike was at my side again, cutting the cord. "It's just like rubber," I remember the doctor saying. Then I turned Adam over to Tammy so she could do all of the things she needed to do - weigh, measure, footprint, Apgar scores (9 and 9, by the way), PKU, eye drops, dress, swaddle, etc. The doctor started stitching up my episiotomy (I later learned it was a midline epi) and a small tear I had. I didn't feel a thing; I was too engrossed in watching what was happening to the baby. The doctor asked for permission to numb the area with Lidocaine, and I gave it. Strike Seven. I didn't even feel the needle. Something about having just given birth gave me a whole new definition of "pain".

Finally, the baby was done being looked over, and I was stitched up. I sat up to nurse, and got Adam latched on reasonably quickly. He nursed for an hour, without stopping. It was amazing. Tammy went about cleaning the room, and Mike started moving things into the recovery room. I don't know where the doctor went. While he was moving things, Mike's back went completely out again (I learned all of this later). The doctor helped Mike to a bed the nurses wheeled into the recovery room with mine, and prescribed basically the same painkillers I was to get later for the episiotomy. Tammy got the room clean, and it was time to move me over to the recovery room (right next door), so she asked me to get into a wheelchair. I unlatched Adam and got into the chair. She wheeled me into the recovery room, and I saw Mike laid out. It was then I realized how bad his back injury was, and how tough our next few days were going to be. As soon as I got into the bed, I tried nursing Adam again, just to see if he might not want more. He did; he nursed for another hour on the other side, then we just sort of settled down into the business of getting to know our baby and recovering from his birth.
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Frog photograph in the header of this site taken by 8UGS