Several posts from my former blog–which I deleted in haste–can be found
***If you have a copy of Postpartum Oppression, please let me know.***
Birth Story:I woke up slowly on the morning of August 3, 2004, wrapped in the cozy, hazy state between wakefulness and sleep. Rocking back and forth like an inverted beetle trying to right itself, I finally rolled out of bed, and stubbed my toe on the corner of nightstand.
My pajama bottoms felt damp, so I began to limp-waddle-limp-waddle towards the toilet. If you’ve ever been heavily pregnant in the height of summer, you understand how normal it is to wonder if you’ve wet yourself again or if you simply need to invest in a better air conditioner.
My ancient Maine Coon cat wove a perilous path between my cankles as I lowered myself to the toilet. I peed … and peed … and peed … and suddenly realized that I could not stop peeing. Still peeing, I threw a few more pairs of underwear into my bag, downed a piece of toast and set off for the hospital.
My pregnancy was uneventful, except for the fact that I managed to pack on close to 100 pounds while simultaneously regurgitating almost everything I put into my mouth. One of my primary concerns was how heavy my son would be at birth. 11 pounds, 12 pounds, 13 pounds– even 14 pounds were numbers tossed out by midwives.
“Don’t worry. Your body knows what to do.”
I choked back my fear and tried to focus instead on the orgasmic birth experiences described in Ina May Gaskin’s natural childbirth guides. If I had to throw up several times a day for almost 40 weeks and give birth to a toddler, then I sure as hell was going to have the same beautiful birth experience as the woman whose face was contorted with pleasure as her baby crowned. Oh yes! Bring it!
I paced the hospital hallways for several hours, trying to convince my uterus to contract. Eventually I snuck out side to play hooky from labor with unspoken permission of the midwife on duty.
It was surreal walking through Cambridge in the 100-degree heat, clutching my husband as we made our way to the air-conditioned bliss of a local diner. James ordered beer and a burger, while I nursed a cranberry juice and bit my lip as my contractions suddenly intensified.
We sat in the diner for a while, talking, although I cannot remember the actual conversation. James stood up to visit the men’s room and our baby-faced waiter came over to check on us.
“Would you like a beer too, Miss?”
I casually fingered my hospital bracelet and replied
“A beer sounds wonderful, but I’m pregnant. You should probably bring my husband another round though, since I’m in labor. He’s going to need it.”
The poor waiter stumbled back in shock as I tried to reassure him that I was not going to birth my baby in the diner. Soon, most of the staff — and a few of the customers from surrounding tables — crowded around our table; the women sharing birth stories, tales of sleepless nights, all smiling that smug, knowing smile that I now recognize for the secret mommy handshake of the damned.
We paid our check, and purchased a soft green rattle for our soon-to-be born son from the toy store next to the diner, and limp-waddle-limped back to the hospital.
The midwife on duty instructed me to change into a hospital gown and relax on the folding hospital bed. She flipped the remote to an episode of Dr. Phil, and as part of a laboring patient hazing ritual, reached over and sharply tweaked my left nipple. At least she brought me dinner–chicken broth and raspberry gelatin– first.
I reclined in my room for the rest of the afternoon, feigning nonchalance while I continued to stimulate my nipples,and eventually agreeing to Pitocin in hopes of restarting my stalled contractions. Several doses of Pitocin later, my labor had failed to progress and Cytotec, the veterinarian’s drug of choice, hung over my head as an alternative to a c-section.
15 minutes after the Cytotec hit my system, I sat writhing on the toilet visualizing tender flower petals opening towards the sun.
“Give me my fucking drugs and give them to me now! “
An anesthesiologist wearing a cap of Grateful Dead inspired teddy bears peeked in the doorway and announced last call for the epidural.
Several jabs of the needle later, I was comfortably numb. Soon I was fully dilated and ready to push. I pushed. And pooped. And pushed. And puked.
Hours later an impossibly young nurse told me to stop making so much noise. (May she someday be blessed with colicky triplets who do not sleep through the night until well past their third birthday!) The midwife turned down the lights and told me to get some sleep. James went home to take a shower and tend to our dog. I hated him for his freedom to do so.
At sunrise I began to push again. And poop. And puke. I was delirious when I felt a small scrape against my spine. The midwives cheered. I pooped again. And then…. nothing.
Feverish and exhausted, I began hallucinating rabbits bounding across fields of neon Easter grass, and wondered when I was going to die. A doctor arrived, took one look at the ravaged area south of my equator, and barked
The anesthesiologist topped off the epidural until I was unaware of my body below my collarbone. Initially the absence of sensation was blissful, but as my bed was wheeled down the hallway to surgery, I panicked and realized
“Oh shit! I cannot run away. I’m stuck. I have to do this. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”
Somehow during my six hours of pushing, the idea of a baby emerging from some part of my body began to seem like a big, silly joke.
“You’re not pregnant after all. Sorry, our mistake. Go home and have a nice nap now.”
I apologized profusely as it took several orderlies and a slippery tarp to transfer my substantial bulk to the operating table, and affix me with Velcro cuffs to the cross. A nurse turned on a local radio station, or I began to hallucinate more strongly.
The fetal vertex was wedged deeply in my pelvis. As the surgeons rummaged around in my exposed abdomen, struggling to dislodge my son’s head, I vomited again and thought
“Hey. Stop tugging on my sweater. You’ll stretch it out.”
Suddenly I heard a baby cry and my husband announced “Oh, Karrie. He has five little fingers, and five little toes.” I panicked.
Only FIVE? But I followed Dr Brewer’s pregnancy diet, and the Breyer’s diet for added nutritional insurance. How could my son have entered the world with only five fingers and five toes?
James and Max left me, crucified, as one of the two blood-splattered surgeons came around to say hello.
“It’s nice to meet you in person now that I’ve seen your intestines. You’ve lost a lot of blood, but that may just be because you’re venous, or maybe you’re just a bleeder.”
The operating team continued discussing the Beatles Abbey Road album and arguing over whether Paul faked his own demise. While they finished stapling me back together, I puked again.
A couple of hours and a patient-controlled morphine pump later, I was in recovery with a hyena latched firmly to my breast. As the epidural wore off, I felt wet again. This time I knew it was not urine. It was blood. I was hemorrhaging. Hands were shoved where hands should not go. My son was taken to the nursery.
“We’re going to give you another dose of Cytotec to try and stop the bleeding. If that doesn’t work, we may have to operate again.”
“Oh, and I’m sorry, but we have to deliver the Cytotec by jamming it into your butt.”
I shrugged and pushed my pump for another hit.