I don’t have a Dear Avery-month 60 letter to post today. I’m too busy making pancakes, cinnamon applesauce and eventually (I hope) a cup of coffee, because after all it’s my birthing day too, right? So while I’m doing that, why don’t you have a little read of Avery’s birth story, the sequel. After she was born I wrote out her whole, dramatic, nail biting story for the record. I know it by heart, every word of that post. Two years after her birth I attended a doula training that changed everything for me. I rewrote that birth story (my instructor called it “weaving the tale”) and I have to say I like the new version better. I don’t want to discount the drama, and the shock, and the utter sadness of that day 5 years ago. It was a hard day.
But history is written by the winners, and I won. I came out of that rough day with a bay girl, and I came out of that first round of declarations of “no more babies, it’s too dangerous” with a bouncing almost 10 pound baby boy almost three years later. Last night I dreamed that we were considering another one.
And so I give you, Avery’s birth story, Take 2. This version is a first pass unedited post from August 2006, and I haven’t read it since. Be gentle, internet editors.
It’s time for me to re-tell this story. Finally.
I waited a long time after giving birth the first time before I was ready to be pregnant again! Han was 8 when we started talking about it. It’s Karen’s fault. Jack was so incredibly cute that after we babysat him a few times I had to have one. It took a while to convince M I was serious.
We conceived on Christmas Eve, and 2 weeks later I was in Florida, calling M at dark-thirty California time to exclaim, “baby!”
Everything went so fast! Before long I was reminded in excruciating detail why I never wanted to be pregnant again. I’m not one of those glowing, bouncy pregnant women. Maybe next time I will be. But this pregnancy found me very often in bed watching Prime Time in the Daytime with a heating pad on my back. We still managed to take Bradley Classes and read about 5 cubic tons of material and research on homebirth. I must admit that I was afraid of labor, given my extreme wimpiness with the aches and pains of pregnancy. But then we did the ice exercise in Bradley class and I knew I could totally rock labor after that.
At 29 weeks I went to the ER on our way out of Cali headed for FL, just because I wanted them to tell me what I was feeling was gas and not ctx. Well it was ctx so I had to spend 6 hours in L&D hooked up to monitors and getting doses of Trib. I was ordered bed rest for the duration. But really, who does that? I did take it very easy though. No lifting, lots of lying down.
So we moved to Florida. I had made one friend who turned out to be a lifesaver in every sense of the word. If she hadn’t had stopped by to cart me off to consignments stores and haircuts and lunches I’d have gone insane. As it turns out she was pregnant, rents birth tubs, lives 2 miles from me, and was planning her second homebirth with the midwife I had chosen (off the internet!) when I was in LA. I was all set to rent one of her birth tubs and totally have a baby in my grandmother’s bathroom! Everywhere I went people were shocked that I had so far to go. “Oh my GOD!” they would cry, “Are you having TWINS?”. Uh, word to the wise. Stop after “When are you due?” because anything you say other than “cool! Good luck!” after that is going to be bad. But um, I suppose I was pretty big and for sure I felt like it was time.
Things got weird at 34 weeks when I measured 38 weeks. My MW ordered an ultrasound to determine the cause of the huge gain from 34 to 38 in 10 days, but I never made it to the Ultrasound appointment, which was scheduled for August 16.
I remember being at a family birthday party the week before A was born and my cousin who is a Dr. said, “there is no way you’re going to 40 weeks.” Then the Monday before she was born we were in K mart and the clerk said the same thing (I was already very tired of the rude remarks about how huge I was, but this was said in a more gentle way)- to which I replied, “God I hope you’re right.” She put her hand on my stomach (with my permission) and said a little prayer for the health of the baby. Looking back I think that Baby had things under control for a while there. She teamed up with my body and grew! And grew and grew. OK, so only 7 of the 48 pounds I gained were baby. But still.
On Wednesday, August 11, I was on the phone with a client for a virtual meeting, cause I’m tech like that, when my body sent me a signal. “DANGER! DANGER!” I read it as “Holy shit, OUCH!”. I knew I wasn’t in labor, but my body set off the alarms that eventually made me stop questioning myself and everyone else and say “take me to the hospital, something is not right”. I puked all over my new friend’s van on the ride over. Multiple times. Later, I learned that adrenaline was surging, sending the signal to my brain that something was Not Right.
At the hospital, the staff swarmed in and did what they do: They Handled It. They hooked me up. They helped me move when I had to pee into a cup. They cleaned up puke. They took me seriously. My body, my BABY, was sending up a flare and they were there to respond.
In the meantime, my contractions were like 1 minute apart for a looong time. No dilatation. Evidently the stress on my body started them. The nurses wanted me to let them give me Terbutaline to slow them down, and I said no fucking way. Let the baby come. We had some arguments about that. I still wouldn’t take it. I think they let my pain medicine run out on purpose after that to be mean. In the end, after some phone calls with the midwife’s office, I took the Juice. The morphine kept me from losing my shit.
Poor Michael! It was his first week of school! Day 5 at his brand new job. I called my mom at school, told her I was at the hospital but probably not having a baby, and to wait to give Michael the message until school let out. When he called, I was in between morphine doses, and I might have been a little gruff when I told him to come on over.
I guess Michael got there around 4, in time to meet Dr. Frost for the first time. Dr. Bobby, as I like to call him, is a tall drink of water around 36 years old. Dr. Bobby had theories! He wanted to run more tests. He said it was a mystery, but we would figure things out. He answered our questions, and he indulged us when we called our Midwife’s backup OB to ask her to transfer us to Jax. The team was on the case, in the meantime! They were running lab work; they were doing ultrasounds to look for kidney stones or an abruption. Nothing showed up, but Dr. Bobby had a hunch. He ordered more lab work.
Once I was on IV morphine, I could ask for thoroughness. I could question the Doc about the tests and the medications and express my feeling that I’d rather transfer to another hospital than have a c-section. My Dr. was AMAZING. He knew. He had a hunch, and he felt strongly. But he listened to me say I wanted my own Doc. And he listened to me say his percentages of being right about the abruption weren’t enough for me and that I wanted some time. (That’s what the told us in Bradley Class! Ask for “some time!”) He gave me time, and he gave me a gentle nudge when he thought the time was up. He never berated me, and he expressed regret with me that I would miss out on my homebirth.
“You know Melanie, huh?” he said. “She’s really into homebirth too, isn’t she? I’m interested in Homebirth. Is that Rescue remedy? That’s really cool that you brought that with you! I’ve been reading about herbal and homeopathic medicine lately!”
The terbutaline wasn’t stopping contractions.. Why would it? DANGER! DANGER! My baby was calling. Still, to humor us, Dr. B said I could try one more dose. At this point, terb was my best friend! If the Terb worked, then no abruption and no C-section! While I was getting that next dose, someone came in with a C sec permission sheet. I was surprised and told her that we were doing some other stuff and that it might not be an abruption. She said Dr. B had ordered some tests and that he now felt like it was PA for sure. He did a blood test and found fetal blood mixed with my blood. When he got back, we discussed me going to another hospital so my backup OB could look at the case. He was so gentle when he told me that he didn’t think I would survive the trip. I trusted him now, and not in that way that you trust Drs because they Know So Much. I trusted him because he had taken the time to dig deep. And then he had taken the time to listen to me. He didn’t threaten me. He didn’t berate me or make me feel powerless! He listened to my body, my BABY, sending out signals, and he interpreted them for me. I knew the baby needed out. He knew the reason why, and he knew how she had to come out. He said to Michael, “We need to do a C Section, you can go ahead and call some people.” “When?” we asked. “Right now.” He had the team in place! They were ready to spring into action.
The anesthesiologist, Walter, came in to tell me the deal. He told M that he felt like it would be better if I went under a general instead of a spinal, and that meant Michael couldn’t be in the room. Suck. He told M to tell me he loved me and that we needed to go, now. M took a picture of me, still pretty hopped up on morphine, in my little shower cap. Secretly I was glad I was going to be asleep, and I was so glad I’d be meeting my baby soon!
My family descended on the hospital, along with Melanie who brought a cooler full of snacks for everyone. The baby nurse was my cousin’s childhood best friend, so she came out as soon as she could to give the A-OK. That hospital was probably positively vibrating with love that night! People were scared, especially Michael. I’m so glad that so much of my family was there to support him and Hannah and my parents.
Walter was great. He talked to me about what was going on. I was lying flat on my back in the OR which was really weird and painful because those bastards had turned off my morphine. The lights were so bright and I started to get a little scared. (Note to the medical profession: Sedatives BEFORE you strap people to the crucifixion board.) I panicked a little when they tied my arm to the table, and when speaking calmly to me didn’t get my attention or help me focus, Walter knew something was up. He put me under right away, and the team got to work. And then I was waking up, and my HORSE of a baby was in her travel box headed for the NICU.
Dude. This baby? Was 7 pounds and 7 ounces. This child, was PREPARED. This child needed no intervention! She was whisked away to the NICU where she spent a couple of days breathing strength and life into the ward.
I lost a lot of blood during surgery, but I had blood to spare, so I spent only one night in the ICU and I didn’t need a transfusion.
I had 2 days to heal before Avery came. By the time they released her, I was practically insane with longing. I didn’t know it could be so heart wrenching being away from your newborn! No need to worry about bonding-I bonded with that child before I ever saw her face.
Michael had to go back and forth between my hospital and the NICU. The school enveloped us with support. Parents he’d met only once sent us gifts. People made food. He was able to take sick days and focus totally on us.
Dr. Frost came to see me Thursday during the day to talk about the birth and check me out. He was kind of vague, said the operation was very scary for everyone in there, and that at one point he wasn’t sure they were going to be able to “bring me back”. Later when I heard the story from the baby nurse, I found that there were only a few seconds or a minute of crisis. And the team was ready for it. They had the tools, and I had the will. My body wasn’t going to let me down after everything we’d been through. Now I’m like, weren’t sure you could bring me back! Dude! You should have been worried I would sit up and grab that baby! I wasn’t going ANYWHERE!
When I saw Avery for the first time-well I’m not sure what I was thinking. I had painkillers on a pump. I do remember that she looked right at me, and beat her head into my breast. She knew exactly who I was and what she wanted, and she was home.
For 2 years I’ve retold this birth story, making sure not to leave out any detail. It was healing for me to tell it that way. I need to be validated. I needed to share my pain and to share the pain of others.
But recently I heard a Doula tell the story of a birth, a hospital birth that included a bathtub, a shower, a birth ball, 5 hours of pushing, and eventually a Cesarean that netted a 10-pound baby boy. And when she relayed how the mother was weaving her story, how powerful and awesome this mother felt about her birth-how this mother felt like she did everything right, and the whole experience was beautiful…That’s when I decided to re-weave my story. I decided to look at what DID go right. To finally see what my wonderful baby and my powerful amazing body did together-they worked together! Who knows how long the abruption was there. But this child! She was growing! She was getting ready. And when it was time? My body sent me the Message. And I (eventually) figured it out. My body told me what needed to happen and I listened. My body was in crisis on the operating table and my spirit listened. My baby had to go to the NICU and she remembered me when she came back. My body healed some while she was gone and when I met her again, I was able to hold and nurse her.