Thursday, August 12, 2004

Tristan's Birth Story

Tristan Ian; born October 20, 1982; Orlando, Florida
9 pounds 4 ounces, 21 inches long


I was unmarried and 20 years old, but hanging out with the kids' dad.

When I found out what I was pregnant (my boyfriend [bf] and I used three-way calling to hear the results from the clinic), my mom cried and asked me to schedule an abortion. I declined.

My bf came over and brought me a box of Chips Ahoy and a gallon of milk; I polished them off in no time. I had just lost 70 pounds riding my bike to Subway (where we worked) and starving... I wasn't going to starve anymore.

I gained so much weight during the pregnancy, the doctors kept telling me how horrible my birth was going to be. I was on Medicaid and about 6 months along, I learned that the hospital where I was going to deliver didn't allow the fathers in unless you were married... even if they had a certificate from a childbirth class. I changed hospitals. (Later I learned that the first hospital also still used scopolamine in labor! an amnesiac that fell out of favor in th 70's.)

Florida Hospital was much kinder and my former hubby and his mom worked there (in the kitchen) and everyone knew them, so it was really nice. They always gave me cookies. To this day, Florida Hospital (a 7th Day Adventist Hospital) still makes the best peanut butter cookies on the planet.

I was scheduled for a sono... very unusual at that time... because I was so big. When I saw the sono, I was horrified that my child was deformed, yet no one said anything! No phone calls later telling me to come in to discuss things... no "I'm so sorry, Miss Herrera." Nothing. I cried the entire rest of the pregnancy. Even if no one else saw it, I saw my kid's hand... all balled into a claw fist. I knew that alcohol and valium I took that one time deformed my kid. I was filled with guilt and remorse.

Not enough to quit smoking, however. I smoked throughout the pregnancy. I endured nasty looks, but it was nothing that a smoking pregnant woman would deal with today.

EPCOT at Disney World opened October 1, 1982, but mom got us tickets to a cast preview and we went the last day of September. I was so swollen and exhausted, I couldn't walk, so my bf got me a wheelchair and pushed me around. Those pictures are so sad! My eyes, nearly swollen shut... my ankles the size of someone else's thighs... so, so much water. Still, I smoked. I cut out salt like I was told to do... knew nothing of adding protein (but doubt I would have listened anyway).

On October 18, we went to a school presentation thingie and when we came home (bf and I were living with his parents by then... he was a mere 17!), I sat on the bed and kind of heard a pop, but no leaking. We had finished childbirth classes a few weeks earlier and they suggested lying down to see if moving the head a little would let some water out if the membranes had ruptured. Lying down, sitting up, lying down again... nothing. We went to bed.

Childbirth class was amazing! 100 couples in the auditorium of Florida Hospital South. All of us with pillows and the women with eager faces... the guys, not happy to be there so late on a school night. A Lamaze teacher (RN) showed us all the ways to be great patients on L&D. She let us know when to ask for meds (epidurals were not an option back then), ways to roll over with monitors on, making sure we had plenty of ice chips... and bring your socks 'cuz it can get cold up there! When you have your episiotomy, you will have a shot of novacaine (they still used that then! it's lidocaine, now). You will have 30 minutes of Bonding Time if you and the baby are fine.

We had guest speakers. One was an anesthesiologist who talked about cesareans. I barely paid attention. Same as with the La Leche League leader... I can't recall what I was thinking, but it was probably something along the lines of: yawn How hard can this be?

We made no friends in class; it was simply too large! I'm sure I asked questions (I tend to do that) and that probably alienated some folks, but I just remember faceless bodies in that class... tired and cranky. Hard to believe those babies inside the bellies are almost 22 now!

When we took a tour of the hospital, I paid close attention... straining to hear others in labor... fascinated that babies were coming out of vaginas right behind the nearly-sheer curtains. (I didn't think about the DR they were moved to.) We were shown the Birthing Room... a freshly painted, beautiful, cozy room that hid the equipment behind cupboards. A double bed! We all oo'd and ah'd... and a stereo with cassette player! I heard comments from nurses around the corner that snickered saying only doctor's wives got to use that room, they didn't know why any of us ever got shown it except bragging. I shot my hand up and asked if Medicaid women got to use it. Oh, sorry... cash pay only. I was, once again, shown my place. (Cash pay would certainly limit the use of the room, too, eh?)

Then we saw the Labor Rooms... a bank of rooms, side by side, cubicle-sized... open doorways, covered by that sheer curtain. The bed was THE focus of the tiny space, but we can bring a chair or cot in for your Coach! A monitor (archaic by today's standards) was nearly a quarter the size of the bed against the wall and it was a requirement to be monitored throughout labor... in bed. Shaving was required. An enema, required. Nothing by mouth after admission (really, once you knew you were in labor!), required. I didn't question any of these rituals. I had yet to find my Birth Power!

I awoke after a few hours, feeling somewhat damp and couldn't figure out if my water had broken or not. I told bf we needed to head in to be checked. Bf was used to being awakened in the middle of the night to fetch me stuff. I ate my weight (and it was considerable!) in Bomb Pops, frozen Snickers, Sno-Cones, and Slurpees (I was pregnant in 9-month long Florida summer).

Off we go to the hospital where, in triage, they use one of those paper thingies to see if your water was broken or not (Ph paper... now I know what it is). Mine was.

I was admitted and excited as all get out that I was gonna have a baby!! WOW! I changed out of my clothes into a too-tight johnny (gown) and hopped into the bed, got m'self a shave and enema (humiliating), hooked up to the monitors, got some fluids in once the IV got going, a BP cuff permanently around my upper arm, and then the pitocin was started. I laid semi-inclined on the hospital gurney-like bed (very narrow for my fat butt) and watched the clock. I was no centimeters dilated and not effaced much at all that they could tell. I was 9 days post-dates.

Time passes, contractions begin... shoo doggie, they hurt! I got a shot of Demerol at 3 cm and another one several hours later at 4 cm. That was all the medication I had, though, because I think I kind of got into the flow of things. Huffing and puffing way too early (according to the books), but it helped.

Bf held my hand with every contraction. It got late, he got tired. Somewhere along the way, they brought in a cot for him and he slept (fucker!). He said I was sleeping through contractions, but I didn't believe him. He said he "listened" for the click click of the monitor as it began registering the contraction (these were the old time monitors that had pen-like arms that squiggled ink onto the papers... like what you see them measuring earthquakes with) and he would be there... holding my hand. I moaned. A lot.

I never considered getting up. Never considered anything but being there and doing what they said to do. I never thought about why I was there; a reminder might have been good. I remember, everytime I opened my eyes, seeing the clock... moving in slow motion. I was alone.

Except when vag exam time came... every hour on the hour. Membranes ruptured? So what! Different nurses (I saw three shifts) almost every time. People in and out of the curtain... emptying trash... listening as other women moaned, screamed, were wheeled by, nurses laughing, making jokes, plans for their days, talking about the kids... endless silence in my own room but the clicking of the monitor and my moans during my own bodyquakes.

Once, near the end, a bevy of nurses fly into the room and start yelling at me to turn over! Then to get on my hands and knees! Confused, I follow their screaming orders, not having a clue what is going on. Cord! Cord! I hear. And just as suddenly, once I am on my left side, I watch them leave without another word.

The next party trick becomes Magnesium Sulphate. Too much weight. Blood Pressure is high. Might feel sleepy. I can barely decipher the words. I know that my doula and midwifery clients who have had Mag Sulphate feel like they were run over by a truck, but I don't recall any difference at all (might have, just don't remember). Perhaps I was already feeling squished on the asphalt?

Oh, now I'm 10? Those magical numbers we have been waiting for!! Time to push. I'd wanted to push since I was 6cm and had to blow for MANY hours (my mind says, "fucking hours"). At one point, bf shot some Binaca in my mouth and I nearly sliced his head off with my tongue and dagger eyeballs; he didn't do that again.

I begin being coached to push... upside down beetle (cockroach) position... legs held back, cunt in the air, the whole world looking down at my woo woo to see how productive I am. I am mortified that I feel poop oozing out. Oh, you had an enema, there's nothing there. Bullshit. (No, Barbshit.)

Then, the worst of the worst of the WHOLE experience. I had been pushing for maybe 20 minutes and my MOTHER decides she wants to come and say hi. My MOTHER. I am gutteral and no one gets that I do NOT want her seeing me like this. I convey I want a sheet and BEG them to make her leave when the contraction comes.

My family is not a naked family. I saw my sister naked for the first time on a topless dance floor. My family doesn't talk about anything Down There. To be pushing out my yoni AND my poop and have my MOTHER in the room? Oh my god; impossible.

She came in... says she has been in the hall listening as I worked so hard. Can I die right now?! People can HEAR me?!

A contraction sweeps over me and I begin pushing again and somehow get bf to get my mother OUT of the labor room.

I guess I pushed fine and after 90 minutes, I was wheeled into the Delivery Room. Everyone was bright in greenish-blue scrubs. I was away from the offending hallway where my mom could hear me. I had a little hat thing on and booties. Bf was gowned, hatted, bootied, AND masked! They all masked back then (you should see the archaic pictures). I remember looking at the clock and thinking, Oh, I will have this baby before General Hospital is over! What a weirdo.

So, my legs are thrown wide apart into stirrups and I am strapped down in them. I have my hands free, but instructed to pull on the grips and NOT take my hands off them. Do NOT touch anything blue (can I tell you how many times I have used that stupid line!) because it is the Sterile Area (as if God made it and it can't be contaminated... puhlease).

Time for the episiotomy... novacaine... LOUD snip... snip again... big baby... snip again. My baby was coming out. I was pushing and my baby was coming out!

I watched in the mirror they had anchored to the wall. It was like watching myself on some reality show that didn't exist back then... but further away... muffled. It wasn't me; I couldn't feel.

My son (testicles!) was born and flipped over... everyone shouting, It's a boy! and then the cord was cut and he was taken to the warmer. A nurse took pictures for me to see later. He looked cranky. I shout out his name: Tristan Ian! and over and over, I hear how BIG he is... and when they weighed him (too fast), he was 9 pounds 4 ounces. Off to the Nursery to be poked you go, big boy.

I shook and shook as the doc sewed me up. The requisite Should I add a stitch for you? to my bf and he sat there kinda lost. He was escorted out to go tell the relatives and I laid there feeling bizarre with this needle going in and out of my vagina... an attempt at making it all better again.

I went back to the Labor Room for Bonding Time and Tristan was brought back. The pictures are priceless because I was SO obviously pre-eclamptic (my face a complete bubble), but I am beaming with pride! I nursed for 30 minutes before they took him away (no help. blessedly we caught on together quickly). Bf and I slept until we got moved to my room where cookies were waiting for me!

I didn't sit for over 6 weeks and went in twice to have my episiotomy looked it (it was oozing green), but everything was normal, I was told. Never mind the next door neighbor had had an epis and she was sitting flat on her butt in 2 days. I didn't understand. Way later, once I got my records, I found that I had had a mediolateral episiotomy that was extended into my thigh muscle. Gee, no wonder I couldn't sit, eh? Why no one explained that to me is beyond me.

Oh, and remember Tristan's deformed hand? No one explained to me that sonos (back then) saw bones, not the surrounding skin and his hand was clenched... but not deformed into a claw. When women come to me now and tell me how strange the sono looked, I explain the mechanics of them so they can "see" it better. Although, today's sonos are amazing! Back then, they were cursory... now, so detailed!

I didn't poop for about 5 days postpartum. I was drinking tons of water and taking my Ferrous-Sequals, but I could not poop. I was in so much pain one night, I called bf at work and made him leave to go buy 2 Fleets (I needed a colonic!) and bring them to me immediately. I sat on the toilet rocking for hours... struggling to poop out a cement truck.

I had pooped a tiny bit by the time bf got home, but did the Fleets... two at the same time... and then proceeded to just water the toilet. No help at all. I was sobbing and considering going to the hospital when, finally, a HUGE gigantic mass of poop jetted into the toilet. I was so relieved, I felt faint. Then, I looked in the toilet and it was filled with blood and poop. No wonder I felt faint! I bled for another few hours... peeing blood out my ass... not telling anyone because I did not want anyone going up there.

(I was diagnosed with a colonic tear after Meghann was born as it tore open again and it wouldn't stop bleeding for 2 days. I was scheduled for surgery, but MADE it stop bleeding because I did not want to have surgery 3 days postpartum after a homebirth! It tore once again after Aimee's birth, but this time, the blood collected inside and did require surgery to repair when Aimee was 3 months old. More on that in Aimee's story.)

Tristan and I spent a lot of time together getting to know each other. Nursing was great, although we didn't co-sleep (I didn't know the concept then); he slept in a drawer next to the bed. I wore inappropriate nursing clothes when we went out and often found myself in bathrooms with my dress hiked up under my chin. Once, we went to a play, and I sat in the hall on the floor listening to it as I nursed (why I didn't nurse in there... odd to me now). There is a picture of me, angrily nursing, because I had gotten all dressed up and couldn't even have one night to be out and not nurse. It's absurd to me now!

Bf and I got married when Tris was 2 months old (right before bf's 18th birthday) and my mom kept Tristan that day while I got ready, but was supposed to bring him to me to nurse before the wedding. Mom was late (always, ALWAYS is) and I had to get married with rocks on my chest and leaking onto my dress. I nursed the second I got to mom's house where the reception was, but then we went and honeymooned without Tristan at Disney World for a night. My poor breasts. I was drunk and leaning over the sink in the hotel room hand expressing while my new hubby snored his drunkeness off on the bed. I can't believe my ignorance back then!

I had pumped for Tristan, for my mom to feed him that night, but she said by 8pm, she was at the store getting him formula. I'm sure that helped his later allergy issues.

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