AKA “the part where I lost my freaking mind”.
Also – before we get to the nitty gritty, remember the recent hoopla over the guy who took selfies while his wife was delivering? Let’s just say he wasn’t the first.
I was 7 cm dilated when I got to triage, and probably about the same when they wheeled me up to a delivery room since the stress of transferring to hospital slowed things down a bit. All my months of denial about birth, and hours of denial about labor made me forget all my Bradley training and pretty much everything I knew about labor and birth, so I pretty much rocked up like one of those women who mistake an 8 month nausea-filled gestation complete with intestinal punches and kicks for “the effects of holiday eating” (and I’m really concerned about how they eat on holidays). Naive, confused and completely fecking useless.
Oh, addendum: before leaving the triage room I stated “I want an epidural”.
We arrive in delivery at about 3 am and the contractions are picking up steam in terms of pain. Having slowed a bit for the jaunt to hospital (an oft-observed phenomenon) they luckily got nice and regular (read: sucky and regular) when we settled in. The nurse started preparing an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep and fluid for the epidural.
Then my OB arrived. She apprised the situation. She uttered the words “but I thought she didn’t want an epidural?” and with -I swear – a sort of disappointed look responded to “she’s changed her mind” with a shrug and an “OK then”. I wanted to punch her, really hard (even though I love her really). The only thing that saved her pretty face and my jail-free life was the knowledge that she’d be poking around the business end of my body soon, and hey, I try to be nice to people who end up there, whatever their reason is.
I gritted my teeth and told her that I couldn’t deal with the pain after all. My OB’s path to redemption began when she looked at my nurses and told them to help me with the pain. She offered me a bath which I declined mid-contraction in tears and so she suggested a yoga ball. This gave me pause. Wes said “she’s the yoga ball queen” so as a contraction ended I bitterly conceded “ok, that maybe sounds good”.
I’ll confess: it was darn good. She then got the nurse to put counter pressure on my back with the contraction and I entered his blissful phase where the contractions were pretty bearable and I got glorious pain free (completely fucking pain free) breaks for a minute or so in between but was high on the endorphins. And all with my OB was forgiven. Happy times.
That glorious state lasted for ooohh… 10 minutes at the most and then transition started. The contractions got stronger until I was flopped over the bed from my yoga ball begging my OB to look at the contraction monitor and tell me the contraction was on its way down. At some point I think they situated Wes opposite me and got him to be reassuring… Unfortunately at that point I felt intense nausea and started shriek “I’m going to vomit” and retch at his crotch. He bore it well but later confessed he was horrified. The nurses did sweet things like ask me if I liked my hair tied up, and when I said yes, they did so. They really tried to help with small comforts.
At about 3.20 I looked down and saw fluid everywhere and felt totally humiliated by it for some reason. I miserably said “I think my water broke” and the nurse looked down and said “yes” then looked at the OB and said “light meconium staining” and I remember feeling truly miserable as I thought through the pain “I am sitting, helplessly bouncing around in body fluid and poo while crying – this is the worst thing ever”.
My water breaking signaled another increase in contraction intensity and a lack of break between them such that one would start before true other ended. I think I truly lost my mind slightly because I remember the OB reminding me to breathe and I didn’t even realize I wasn’t. I also remember the pain ripping angry yells from my body at the peaks. I was lucky – transition lasted only about 15 minutes for me. I guess it was obvious to my experienced OB that I had passed through that because after 15 minutes she looked at me and very calmly said “Alexis, do you feel constant pressure yet?”. I tried to figure it out… I thought that if the pain would just recede a little I could figure out if and where and when I was feeling “pressure”. But the pain was just unending and intense and I gave up and felt useless not being able help, and said in tears “I don’t even know”.
My team was super nice about my pathetic-ness and just gave me space to do my thing; they never questioned or pushed me or intervened to assess me. They seemed to truly trust me and my body which on some level was reassuring and must have been calming because a few minutes later I looked at them with terrified eyes and said “I need to push”. Followed by “actually, thinking about it, I think I’ve been pushing for a while”.
The OB told me to get on the bed and the thought of actually balancing and putting weight on my legs was like someone asking me fly so I declared I couldn’t do it. I looked at the resident who was evidently going to actually deliver the girl and said in a measured and dangerous tone: “my epidural?”. I swear j have never seen a doctor look so scared and she mutely shook her head. That was it. I wailed “I can’t do this” as the nurses hoiked me onto the bed. Half way up I yelled out “oh, ring of fire! Ring of fire“. My nice OB said no stirrups or anything like that, just to let me get into my own position. Basically a glorious hands off approach.
Left to my own devices my body really did take over and push with the contractions at the end of transition. My mind had nothing to do with this… My body was pushing and wailing and screaming through contractions and I was completely unaware of it… It all seemed to be on autopilot and I truly felt like an animal. A couple of minutes after getting on the bed, when my OB said “try to use your energy to push down not yell out” it brought me to my senses more. I realized that I had not even realized I was yelling and needed to pull it together a but. The contractions had more or less gone and the pain was gone. So I did what any reasonable person would do at this point when faced with the prospect of reopening the door to pain and took a deep breath, looked the staff In their eyes and calmly, but firmly, re-iterated
“I can’t do this”
Everyone joined in this team effort to convince me I could. I was highly skeptical until my OB told me that I could, because I basically already had. Caroline was almost out – she had been pushed most of the way on the ball, and was now crowning. I should have known that from my “ring of fire” yelps, but my reason had gone. Gone. Even the crowning didn’t move me – it was when my OB said “she’s blonde” (I responded “blonde? Really? Like her brother?”) that it became real to me – my daughter was here and she had hair like her brother.
So I pushed. And pushed. Probably only 3 pushes or so, but it hurt. It really hurt – the contractions were like the most intense I-might-pass-out type pain. The pushing was nowhere near as painful but just deeply unpleasant – I felt like my intestines were going to fall out of my butt hole. Seriously. Like I was going to turn inside out. The level of pain was bearable… The unpleasantness held it back. My OB could tell I was holding back and put two fingers in me and pressed down stretching my entrance. I got quite cross and said “you’re hurting me!” And she said triumphantly “yes! Now push past that pain” which helped – a lot. I could focus on an area and push beyond it. A couple of pushes and I asked if I could have a break to breathe… They said yes…. Then as I started up again, the other super helpful thing my OB said was “when you get her out all this pain will go” which was a good motivator. A few more painful pushes and the nurses looked excited and said “yes! She’s here”. Her head was half way out! I asked for another break…
At this point. All the pain really really stopped. I mean, I’m not going to claim that it was comfortable having half a baby’s head out of me, but it wasn’t painful. And it was nearly 4 am and I was tired and it really did cross my mind that I just wouldn’t start pushing again. I’d nap. Have a snack. Maybe start again tomorrow. Maybe.
My team began to get a bit nervous as their wailing gnashing banshee sat there serenely peaceful, doing nothing. For all the world as if she was about to settle in with netflix and some wine… Apart from the baby half hanging out of her. They made all sorts of encouraging noises (it got to the stage where even the non-medical staff such as the clean-up lady give me huge thumbs up of encouragement). I just half closed my eyes and felt peaceful. Eventually it crossed my mind that this might not be too good for my baby and that galvanized me into one last push… And out she came. Caroline was here.
The pain did indeed immediately end. The pediatric team had been called because of the meconium staining, but Caroline came out roaring and my OB said “as she’s crying can I hand her over?” (Love my OB!). They pediatric team obviously said yes and a sticky, gooey, poo-ey Caroline was laid on my chest while they suctioned her and did a clean up right there on my chest. I had an itty bitty first degree tear sewed up and just looked at my daughter. She was here!
So, a week ago today we were packing up to leave New Orleans. Baby wrangled into car seat? Check. 60 lb Bernese / Mountain Dog settled in front seat? Check. Hyperactive yet terrified accidental urinator of a chiweenie wrestled into the floor space as if an oiled hot dog was being stuffed into a small bottle neck? Check. WE ARE READY! Until Wes let out the fatal words:
“I really wish I had got a donut from the breakfast room for the road”.
I offered to go get a donut, he declined, I offered again, he resisted, I insisted, he said fine. Done.
I went back to the breakfast room and eyed the pile of soft, moist ring donuts, each topped with a glistening coat of icing. “Man” said the devil in me “those sure look good… I’ll bet one of those would be delicious on the road trip”. The angel said,
“You won’t eat it. You always collect piles of sweet stuff for road trips, take a small bite of each and leave the rest to fester in the new car. Wes’ new car. That he loves so much”. The devil needled me,
“Maybe this time you will. Maybe this will be different to the other 31 years of your life, and this time you’ll eat the donut”
“You never eat the donut, Lekki. It’s just more of the crap you collect. Do you really think you’ll eat the donut?”.
My pulse raced and beats of sweat collected on my brow. Could I commit to the donut? Could I be the pig in the breakfast, and not the chicken? I have had a lot of commitment in my life recently: a marriage, a baby, a house… did that make me better at committing to things? Or did it just use up my commitment power? Did I really like donuts, or just the idea of donuts? Was my life ready for a donut? Conscious of Wes sitting at the side of the road growing ever more impatient I hastily grabbed 2 delicious ring donuts and headed to the car.
Wes’ face fell when I said “the other donut is for me”.
“Do you want it now?”.
“Are you sure? Are you actually going to eat the donut? The trash can is right there”.
And there is was: the glorious get-out clause. The voice of reason. The excuse for a donut-free life and the thing that was most likely to make me dig my heels in and say “Yes! I want the donut. Leave my donut alone. Later on in the journey I will want the donut! Put in on the dashboard [unspoken: where you will have to defend it from earnest for the whole journey] and I’ll eat it later”. Pause. “It’s my donut! I want it! I’ll want something sweet later! I’m not throwing it away”.
And so we started the journey… my donut precariously placed on the dashboard, the grease slowly soaking through the thin layer of tissue it was balanced on… Wes’ donut safely in his stomach.
11 O’clock hit, and I was hungry. “Donut?” said Wes hopefully.
“Ummmm…. no…. too early for a donut. I usually have a sweet treat at 3. I’ll eat it then”. And I bought some chex mix.
At 12 we stopped for gas. “Shall I throw the donut away?”
“No, I might want it later”.
1.30 lunch time: “Shall I put the donut in the bin?”
“No! Leave my donut”.
And on we journeyed. At 3 pm I began to giggle uncontrollably.
“It’s just… it’s just… I don’t think I am going to eat the donut after all. You can just chuck it out when we get home.”
Wes scowled and stared very hard at the road ahead.
That was the end of the donut.
Or so I thought.
When I came to check my emails later that night, this is what I found:
Ho ho. Very amusing. I ignored the donut.
Until the next day when I went to brush my teeth.
Then there was a pause. A pause of three glorious donut-free days when it appeared on my stamp shelf:
This is no good. You can’t force a donut into someone’s life. They have to be ready for a donut. Ready to accept the donut for what it is. Ready to welcome the donut.
I am not dealing with the donut.
Now we have a stand-off. I will probably give in and do the only sensible thing:
Go out and buy a box of donuts and eat them. One-by-one. And leave this donut in the box. On Wes’ desk. With the note “Saved you a donut. Wife x”.
Wes & I went on our first date! We met online on January 28th, 2010. We were both members of Plentyoffish.com (yes really). Wes made first contact, but I was being picky about who I responded to after receiving over 30 new emails a day. So, although he had a cute pic:
he also mentioned that he was ex-infantry. While I thought that was admirable, I wasn’t sure I would have anything on common with a soldier; I was sure he would be tired with the fact that I can be a touch, er… dramatic… cring hysterically every time a spider comes near me, and a touch er… superficial, with a very long running hair obsession However, Wes had taken the time to actually write something thoughtful, rather than just the usual “Hi, how are you?” initial contact.
I remember him commenting that the change from London to Alabama must have been huge, and asking me how that was. It was sweet, and thoughtful. I felt that if someone had taken the time to write something personal and well thought out, the least I could do was respond.
We traded many emails, often running to 3 or 4 pages, and after 3 days decided to talk by Skype, to, as Wes put it, make sure he wasn’t a ‘bald troll’. We had a lot of fun emailing and Skyping; Wes was laid back and made me laugh; we quickly fell into in-jokes.
I didn’t anticipate meeting Wes for several weeks, but he said he would like to take me out for Valentines Day. However, as Valentines Day is somewhat pressured, we agreed to go for a date first, a hike at Oak Mountain with his dog the day before: February 13th.
Wes traveled the 10-hour drive from North Carolina, and I sent him a mix-CD, some homemade brownies, and some roasted rosemary and sea salt almonds I made for the journey. On the day Wes texted me and said he was here and could be meet up an hour early? I refused! I was still painting my nails and styling my hair and had a thick face mask on. I think it annoyed him, but come on. Girls: You can’t show up an hour early for a first date, right? We’re all still trying to lose 10 lbs in that time!
So, we met at the right time, outside my apartment. It was a really cold, snowy day. I saw Wes pull up and somehow lost my footing and fell over. I stood up… but fell over again. And again. Wes tried to catch up and kept asking if I was OK. Sure I was, I just fall over a lot I explained. Looking somewhat confused and alarmed Wes handed over some cuttings he had potted for me and I trotted them upstairs.
Wes also bought me an Alabama football baseball cap. A very exclusive and hard to find Alabama baseball cap. Which I looked at and enthusiastically, but blankly said “Wow! Cool!”. Wes said “It is for Alabama!”
“No! The football team!”
“Oh. I see. I like it anyway.”
Cue Wes trying to explain how hard these were to get, without making a big deal out of it.
Patience. He had the patience of a Saint.
We drove to Oak Mountain, picking up salad boxes at V Richards (a local health foods store) on the way. I got my neuroses out in the open immediately and explained I was super picky about eating and didn’t eat many carbohydrates. Or much fat. I watched in horror and Wes’ version of ‘salad’ seemed to be constructed of 90% mayonnaise and was placed on a lot of fried bread 🙂
We had a great hike at Oak Mountain. Yes, I continued to fall over several times, including headlong down a hill – arms outstretched in front of me. We chatted for several hours, had a lot of fun, and had our first kiss 🙂
Afterwards we picked up BBQ and ‘Old School’ on DVD and went back to mine. We chatted and chatted, and when it was time for Wes to leave (2 am I think), we realised we had forgotten to watch the DVD. It was a good sign 🙂
And that was it. He went home, and returned with 13 beautiful red roses the next day, taking me out to Silvertron Cafe. He returned to North Carolina on the 15th, and I wouldn’t see him for 10 more weeks.
Did I know Wes was ‘the one’ then? Not at all! I know when I did know that – while I was on a 6-day wilderness hike at Isle Royale in Michigan. But, I had no idea after our first date. Wes says he did, but not me.
I remember that Wes was funny, good at making conversation and seemed to have many interests, or at least, the capacity to be interested in many things. I have a very low boredom threshold, like to get into a lot of things, and am happier when I can share those things with someone special; Wes seemed interested in whatever I had to share.
More than that, what I saw and knew then, was Wes’ good heart. He was extraordinarily gentle in his approach. He was faithful, and loved God. He had a good heart, he knew what honesty was and pursued it. He respected family as something important, and when push came to shove, would put family first, before his own needs. I saw in his a carer, a people pleaser, a good father. I knew he was someone who would protect those close to him.
People often wonder how Wes & I ended up together; we are certainly very different on the surface. And I won’t say that we have not faced severe challenges in the past 3 years! But, on the very deepest level, we share a lot. We believe in God, we love God, and we both want to put our lives in His hands. We both value family, and protect those we love above all else. But while I am flighty and temperamental, Wes is very steady. He finds it hard – and sometimes tiring – to keep up with my endless activities and emotions, I know. But he tries. And he my rock. He is my safe base from which I can be myself, and from which I can take risks and explore everything I love. He is the one who reminds me, from time to time, of my priorities, what is important and what I mustn’t lose sight of in the endless pursuit of novelty and excitement.
We’re a good pair. An unusual, but a good pair. We actively work at our relationship, and have worked through some really tough times. But, I know that that helps me grow and develop. And, everytime we overcome a challenge, it really does make us stronger. I believe the foundations that we are laying now take work because they are very deep and will indeed, last our lifetimes.
I look around; at our house, our dogs, our cats, our beautiful baby boy. If we can do that in 3 years, I say: bring on the next 30!!
So, at the princely hour of 1.17 am every day I breast feed Sam. I am all good with that part. I am less good with the following 2 am pump (admittedly it could probably be a 1.30 am pump if I didn’t always fall asleep). At first I thought I would work while pumping… didn’t happen. Then I thought I would email or blog… couldn’t happen. As it turns out, my sleepy and sleep-deprived brain is good for only one thing at that heinous time: looking up pretty things on the internet and obsessively ‘pintresting’ them.
Seriously, my previously neglected boards have exploded. My current pretty-thing-to-pin is scrapbook layouts. After much pinning, and a few trips to Jo Ann / Target where I collected papers and embellishments on clearance, eventually, I had pinned (and spent, goddamit) enough to actually decide to give it a go.
So without further ado, here is my very amateur, first pass at a scrapbook page:
It’s hard! I think the more you get and collect, the easier it is. I have learned that I will just have collect stuff as I go along, because it helped to cut up a lot of things – way more than I could use on one page – and just play around with layouts.
It’s not quite as creative or cute as the pins on my scrapbooking inspiration page, but there is beauty in simplicity, right? Whatever, it was a lot of fun to do. Which is really the point of it after all. And it goes well with my new Groovebook app.
Oh, and the main photo was taken on 13th February, 2010, which I have just realised is 2 years to the day that Firework was conceived. 🙂
Oh, and to help poor lost souls like me, I have even added a ‘pin it’ button to me blog. Fancy.
My hobbies? Hiking, playing piano, painting my nails, doing my hair and make-up, reading, crafts of any type, sewing, cooking, baking, decorating cupcakes, making cake pops, dressing Sam, running, camping, taking long baths, dining out, visiting new cities, bicycling (when my bike isn’t stolen… grrrr…), Liverpool FC, listening to new music, growing orchids, growing veggies, weight-lifting, shoes.
My Christmas presents?
Wes’ hobbies? Alabama football, guns and Diablo 3.
His Christmas presents?
There is a lesson here 😉
Even Sam did better as he has one more to come from us:
People SAY it is not about the presents… but they are the people with no… er… hobbies… 😉
What have you asked for for the holiday?
Sam’s birth really comes in three stages to me: the ‘last day‘, the induction and birth, and the post-partum aftermath. Although I was happy to share, in glorious details (too glorious for some?) the first two parts, I have decided not to blog in detail about the last bit. This is because:
(1) I don’t want to be another internet scare story;
(2) It is incredibly painful for my family, and some of my friends, to think about and thus they do not need a permanent reminder to pour over;
(3) I don’t think I have fully processed everything – for example, I still see pictures that haunt me or feel funny when someone writes ‘you nearly died in childbirth’, it’s as if it didn’t actually happen in my mind, at least, it still seems like a story someone told me.
So, in the spirit of positivity, I am not going to rehash the sorry tale (although any curious peeps are perfectly welcome to email me about it – I have a fairly blow-by-blow account I can forward on with no problem), but instead leave you with the thoughts that are in head, as I process the whole sorry tale:
(1) Dear God, I am glad I did not give birth in a birth center after all. Quite simply, I would not be here now. I now do not know where I stand on home / birth center births.
(2) Wes’ Aunt is a nurse, and is fairly sure that many hospitals in the US would not have been able to cope with the demands of a 10-unit blood transfusion. I ended up at Texas Children’s utterly by chance: they were about the only people who would take me as I moved state mid-pregnancy. I wonder if God was looking out for me at that time.
(3) I am ridiculously grateful I am a health nut. When we went in for the cervadil, as is standard procedure, I was monitored overnight. My temperature is 1 full degree lower than average, my reflexes are (literally) kick ass, and my heart rate drops so low in my sleep that the machines kept sounding alarms for the nurse to come as I had dropped into a Brady (below 50 beats per minute). These are all indicators of good health and our nurse commented “Why, you’re just going to live forever” [words that would later haunt Wes]. I suspect the speed of my recovery, and possibly my recovery itself, was due to a long relationship with weight-lifting, healthy eating and running. I really would urge all my readers to care for their health.
(4) I am amazed at how much humans can rebuild a body. I was left as a kind of shell and it blows my mind how much blood, plasma, fluid etc the doctors could pump into me, and how much they could do to keep my body going: it was for a brief while, almost like I was a vessel and the ‘life’ was just happening artificially outside of me with machines and so on doing all the work. The gifts that Science has given us are incredible.
(5) That being said, I am also amazed at all the things Science / Medicine couldn’t do. After rebuilding as much as possible, and troubleshooting, the doctors just had to wait to see if my ‘body would take over’. Of course it did, but it took time. It was interesting to me to watch certain systems start working again and reminded me what an amazingly complex and phenomenal thing the human body is.
(6) I am clearly not at all used to ‘giving in’ to my body, when it wants to be weak. Every physical and mental challenge, I have just pushed through at taken my body to limits people did not think I was capable of: Tough Mudder? I’ll do it all. Grant due? I’ll work until 2 am every night and STILL train twice a day… I’ll recoup and recover later. This gave me a feeling of invincibility, and it has been hard learning I am not. The recovery was / is difficult… when I pushed it too hard (with ooooh, a trip to the grocery store), I got two infections. My anemia is bad enough that my heart is skipping beats / fluttering as it works extra heard to get oxygen around. Nothing to worry about, but serious signs that I have to be careful. I literally have had to bow down to my body holding me back, or watch it fail. It sucks to be reminded of my limitations, frailty, and human-ness.
Writing this out made me realise something hidden deep inside: I used to love my body, because it was so strong. Now I hate it because its weakness betrayed me, and still does, every day. I’ll get over it.
(7) The hardest thing of all – of all – is that Sam’s coming into this world was not met with joy. I still cry when I think of how he – as an innocent little baby – got his start. I came across a picture Wesley took of himself right after he was handed Sam:
It breaks my heart that there is no joy here, just sadness that no one could tell him if he would see his wife again. When he called my parents when I was out of OR he said “Well… you have a grandson” but because it was followed up with “but we don’t know if you’ll have a daughter” my parents did not celebrate. In fact, they did not tell anyone about Sam for a couple of days when I was in the clear.
Possibly what breaks my heart the most is that when I was out of the OR and regained consciousness, I was in a lot of pain. I literally yelled and writhed my way through the first night. The nurses asked if Sam should be taken to the nursery and although ‘no separation’ was drummed into me, I was so consumed by my own pain, and so inward looking, I just said “yes. Take him”. I hate that I did that. My head says it was necessary… my heart says I was not a good mother.
I also hate that I couldn’t really care for him initially. Sam was placed in my arms and I just held him passively – Wes did feeds and diaper changes, cuddled him, brought him to me. Wes placed him in my arms and I just held him passively. When most people are going home with their babies, I was considered too ill to be allowed to be alone with Sam and had to call a nurse to take him to the nursery if Wes went out (to get food or something). When I was out of ICU, we had a family photo shoot. Usually the Mum holds the baby and the Dad sits behind. I couldn’t really do this, as I could not get close enough to the camera while attached to IV lines, so the photographer said “OK, Dad come to the front, Mum can be in the background”. I wanted to cry as I felt this summed up Sam’s start in life: Mum a useless figure in the background. I worry that there is vital bonding time we’ll never get back.
Ultimately, the physical recovery was (and still is) tough. I have no immune system and still not enough red blood cells. I get infections easily, and I don’t beat them well. I have an extra layer to my tiredness, and my heart has an irregular beat (this will sort itself out!). But, though I hate that, and hate that I can’t just beat my body into submission, I get better and better every day and soon will be left with no visible traces of the ordeal. Emotionally, I think the wounds will take a bit longer to heal. That is where the scars will be.
On a happier note, it was of course all worth it, and if the Frazier-Wood’s can get through this OK, they can get through anything! Wes was amazing, and this was a bonding experience for us. There were happy times even in that first week, and there will be many more.
Now… back to blogging about happy topics. It’s advent, which means I have a whole lot of decorating and crafts to tell you about 🙂