Oral Hygiene Queen

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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Roo's Birth Story, Part II

[Read part one first.]

I started having contractions at midnight on Saturday, and by about 2:30 AM, they were regular and getting strong. I tried to rest for awhile, but as I felt my contractions get strong and regular, I got out of bed to labor in a less painful position, and also to get some things done before labor really got intense.

I labored alone in the mostly-dark house for much of the night. I lay down next to my Old Man for brief spells to try to rest up a bit, but I knew I wouldn’t be going back to sleep. My contractions were already too painful, and I was much too excited. I decided not to wake my Old Man to tell him I was in labor because I knew once he knew, he wouldn’t be able to sleep, and I figured it would be better for him to be somewhat well rested. Some time in the wee hours, however, I accidentally woke him up trying to unjam the printer while printing up our “people to call” list. (Given that I was almost a week past my due date, you might think I’d’ve had all of these little things done already. But no.) He called to me, asking if everything was OK, and I came in and told him that I was in labor, but encouraged him to stay in bed and try to get some more sleep. I said I’d let him know if things started getting intense. Soon after that I called Rae (the amazing doula who shepherded me through O’s birth) on her cell and got her voice mail. I left her a message. Then I sat down at my computer and wrote a very quick blog post, during which I had to pause to have a contraction.

Laboring on my own in a dim and sleeping house was surprisingly lovely. It was quiet and peaceful, and I felt a contented excitement, savoring this bit of solitary time before the impending rush of crucial teamwork I knew was coming. My contractions were manageable, and I rode them out in various positions – bending over table-pose-style, on all fours on a yoga mat, or squat-sitting on a big therapy ball. Catface was my only company; she followed me closely wherever I went, clearly aware that there was something momentous in the works.

After an hour or two of laboring and puttering between contractions, I went back to bed to get some rest. My contractions were 8-10 minutes apart and getting stronger. I had been a little bit bummed by the midnight start time, partly because of the no-sleep issue but mostly because it seemed to preclude Kristy being our midwife. She’d given me her cell number and her home number, and all but said “call me when you go into labor,” but I certainly wasn’t going to call her before 8 AM on her day off. But as I lay there in bed, dozing lightly between contractions, and the hour neared 4 AM, it began to seem like calling her at 8:00 might turn out to be an option.

I called Rae the doula’s cell again at about 4:30 AM and she picked up. We talked about my contractions, and she suggested I go back to bed and try to rest as much as possible until they got closer together. So I went back to bed and rested, sometimes sleeping lightly for five or ten minutes between contractions. O. came from his bed to ours during this time, and my Old Man told him that I was starting to have the baby. “Does that mean the baby will be born today?” O. asked, and I said “Yes, probably. What do you think of that?” and he said “Good.”

Around 7:00 AM, we all got out of bed and the day began. I ate oatmeal between contractions. My Old Man and O. got breakfast, and O. began playing on the floor. It was a bright, beautiful day and everything felt positive and charged with happy anticipation. At one point O. came up to me as I was eating and, between contractions, we talked about labor, what was happening and why it hurt. I explained that the contractions squeeze the baby downward so she can come out, and I mentioned that before long she would come out through my vagina. O then made this observation: “It would be really hurting if men could have babies,” (thoughtful pause) “through their butts.”

I called Rae around 8 AM. She was taking her kids to Hebrew school at 9:00 and said she’d be over right after. Mom called and said she’d be over to take charge of O. after she and my stepdad looked at some furniture at a yard sale on the east side of town. That was fine with me, since nothing seemed urgent at that point. I also called Kristy the miracle midwife to let her know I was in labor. She asked about the timing of my contractions and said she was taking her sons to church and would be back around 11 AM. I took a shower at 8:45, not so much for theraputic purposes, but because I was due for one and god knew when I’d get to take one again.

Rae came over some time between 9:30 and 10:00 AM. I labored in various positions with Rae’s coaching. My Old Man puttered around and read the newspaper (or tried – later he said he’d been too nervous to actually concentrate). My mom came by and got O to bring him over to the playground for a bit. At about 10:30 Rae needed to go home briefly (she had gotten her period – it was a festival of womanly events), and my Old Man hung out with me while I labored. This was a nice chance for him to step into a central role for awhile, which he would do again later when I was pushing the baby out. It was then he admitted how nervous he felt. I was still mainly excited, not really nervous. Rae had been writing down the timing of my contractions, and my Old Man took this over for a bit and generally soothed and encouraged me during contractions.

When Rae returned, she and I went out for a walk, which was one of the highlights of my labor. The day was superb, and it felt wonderful to be out. I found that walking through my contractions was a good thing. It hurt less than standing still, and felt more productive to be moving (which Rae averred was the case). It was hard the first couple of walking contractions, but I quickly got the hang of taking slow steps while breathing deeply through a contraction. I learned, though, that it’s dangerous to walk around my neighborhood with Rae the doula while you’re in labor because she knows everyone and stops to chat. In addition to various passing conversations, she had a lengthy talk with a friend of hers working in his yard, Rae asking him in great detail what he was planting and making general conversation. Finally I just began to walk on because standing around listening to other peoples’ small talk is not something I do when I’m in labor! But, thankfully, Rae took my cue and moved on with me.

When we got back from our walk, a bit after noon, my contractions stalled, though I’d been having good, strong ones the whole time we were out. Rae and I were both concerned (I remember thinking “This is too familiar” – that had been an issue during my labor with O, and I didn’t want to repeat the marathonesque aspect of that labor). We called Kristy and she said “just keep me posted.” Luckily around 1:00 PM my contractions kicked back in, coming evenly every 4-6 minutes, and strong. We called Kristy again and Rae joked that my uterus heard her talking about its slack performance and stepped up to show us all. Kristy offered to do a manual exam at her house (two blocks from our house) to give us more information about whether/when to go to the hospital.

So Rae, my Old Man, and I walked over to Kristy’s (and found her in the process of washing the exterior of her house, a project she abandoned to join the progress of my labor). My Old Man played with Kristy’s two sons in the living room, while we went into the guest room, where I got naked and Kristy got her gloves on. She checked my cervix, which was 6 cm dilated and “very mushy,” and she said that if she broke my bag of waters, she imagined I’d be fully dilated and ready to push within two hours. Was I ready to go to the hospital? I said yes, very psyched that Kristy would be attending the birth of our second baby.

So, while my Old Man and I drove to the hospital, our midwife dropped her kids off at a neighbor’s and rode her bike there. Our doula rode her bike there and met us outside the parking garage. (Where I had a mild contraction on the bumpy car ride up to the top and a gnarly long one walking to the elevator.) Rae led us up to our room on the 10th floor, where we had an amazing view of the nearby lake and surrounding park. Kristy was already prepping the water birth tub in our room. The mood was warm, comfortable, and altogether positive, with the sun lighting up the room.

Kristy fitted me up with EKG-type thingies and various monitoring devices. I sat on a therapy ball and rocked through my contractions, and in between my Old Man got me my “energy drink” to sip from and gave me some pita chips. I got up on the bed so that Kristy could break my water. She snagged the bag with the knitting-hook device, and out it rushed. The amniotic fluid was clear – good news. (It meant that the baby was not showing signs of distress.) The tub was ready by then, so I got in, and as I labored in the water, the labor and delivery nurse, Sharon, asked me a bunch of questions to get my paperwork out of the way.

I had really loved laboring in the Jacuzzi when I was having O, but I was finding the birthing tub harder to manage because it was so big and I was so floaty; I was having trouble finding a good position where I didn’t feel like I was bobbing around. I needed to feel anchored to be able to really manage my contractions, which had gotten stronger since Kristy broke my water. Before long, I landed on a position that worked: kneeling with my feet together and my forearms on the seat of the tub, sometimes switching to sitting “criss-cross applesauce” style on the floor of the tub. Rae, Matt, and Kristy were all gathered around the sides of the tub.

Kristy asked me if we had music. I had actually put together a labor mix that my Old Man burned for me entitled “This Woman’s Work,” after the first and last songs (the first Maxwell’s cover and the last Kate Bush’s original). As the CD was nearing the last song, I opened my eyes and my mom was right there, having left a napping O. with his grandpa.

Kristy said pushing time was near and asked if I wanted to be checked internally before I began pushing. That would have required me getting out of the water, but at that point I still thought I might want to push sidelying on the bed, since that was how I birthed O. I said, yes, I wanted to be checked. But as my contractions continued, I began to feel this strong pressure on my rectum. I’m not sure how I phrased it, but I basically told Kristy I felt like I needed to push out a turd, and she told me to go ahead and try to push it out, that it was no problem.

Well, that of course was my urge to push out my baby. Amazing how similar it feels to needing to take a big and urgent dump. But much more intense, of course, and with the waves of urgency traveling throughout my laboring core. So, I just did what felt right, and pushed into that rectal itch, and soon Kristy was saying “I can see the baby’s head crowning!” So, forget about the exam, it was time to have the baby, and I was going to push in the water. Decision made.

Here, for the first and only time during my labor with my baby girl, I felt trepidation. Until this point, there was no anxiety or fear, and I felt completely on top of my labor. When I had O, I was able – with great effort and focus – to remain relaxed through most of my contractions, but toward the end (and especially after my water broke), I felt like the pain was slipping beyond my grasp. Rather than me riding my contractions, I felt like my contractions were riding me, and I was out of control. In this second labor, no contraction ever really got the best of me, even though they got progressively more painful. Partly this was because I was more experienced and confident, and as a result I was more willing to try different positions rather than clinging to the one that worked best for me. Also, there was this moment while I was still at home, as my contractions were getting more intense, that I had a serious talk with myself, consciously adjusting my attitude toward this pain, willing myself for this one day to approach pain in a more distanced, philosophical way. I still had to work through each contraction, but there was never a question of losing my grip.

But now, facing the prospect of pushing this baby out – the idea of pain being philosophical and trying to experience it from a distance, I knew none of that applied. I had done this once before, and I knew that the pain of pushing was a whole other animal than the pain of contractions. Contractions are essentially a very intense ache, extremely painful, yes, but still a form of aching. Pushing is fire, cutting, a searing, sharp sort of pain. I remembered how painful it was during O’s birth, and I was openly afraid to go through it again. When I began pushing with O, I had no idea what I was getting into, and it required so much effort to push that big egg-shaped head out of my profoundly unstretched vagina, I had to lock into an inward focus so tight, there was no room for fear. Now, I knew exactly what I was getting into, and my focus was much more diffuse, in part because I was floating rather than on a solid bed, as I had been with O, braced on all sides by my support team. I spoke my fear out loud, saying “I’m afraid to push.” And I truly was afraid. In fact, for a moment I really felt like No, I can't do this. It's too hard. It's too scary. There I was, naked and scrabbling around in a big tub of warm water, looking for something to grab onto.

Next time: I find something to grab onto, Roo is born, all's blissful for five minutes, then a crisis that ends with a scary woman punching me in the stomach.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Happy birthday, Roo!

Since I didn't get a chance to finish your birth story today, as I intended, time will stand still on this blog and it will officially be September 16th until I get you born in black and white (or in black and tan, as it were). Hopefully that will be soon.

Stay tuned...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Roo's Birth Story, Part I

On Friday, September 7th I had a midwife appointment with Kristy, the miracle-working midwife who delivered O. We hoped fervently that she would be on duty to deliver our baby girl when the time came. But since there are five midwives in the Midwife practice at our hospital, and since Kristy had a chunk of time-off coming up soon, the odds of having her attend the birth seemed slim. Kristy examined me and said I was about three centimeters dilated. Then she gave me her cell phone number, something that is not common practice for our midwives. She stopped short of saying “call me when you go into labor,” but that seemed to be the implication. I left the office feeling like a high school girl who’s just been asked to the library by the hot Senior she’s been dreaming about: Is this a date? I hope this is a date.

A big pregnant week went by with no action, aside from losing little bits of my mucus plug. (Appetizing!) Friday, September 15th I had an appointment with Jen, a very capable midwife with a somewhat terse and chilly bedside manner. At the start of my appointment, Jen had introduced me to a midwife-in-training, Sophie, and asked if I minded if she performed my exam. I said that was fine, and Sophie palpitated my belly and did the audio sonogram thing to listen to the heartbeat, then stepped back while I talked to Jen. At this point, I was five days past my due date and quite hot for my baby to be born. I asked Jen to strip my membrane in the hope that it might help get labor started (and if you’re unfamiliar with membrane-stripping as a form of natural labor induction, read on for the gory details). Jen turned to Sophie and said “would you like to strip the membrane?” Sophie looked a bit taken aback but said “sure.” I thought to myself “With all due respect to the importance of training young medical professionals, there is no fucking way I'm letting a trainee strip my membrane!” I knew it would be uncomfortable, but more importantly, there was a risk of breaking the bag of waters, thus potentially creating the need to actually induce labor, something I hoped to avoid. I wanted this procedure done by someone with as much experience as possible. I was just about to speak up and be the difficult patient, insisting that Jen perform the procedure, when Jen asked Sophie if she had ever done this. “No,” she said, and when Jen said “Why don’t you let me do this one, then,” Sophie looked as relieved as I felt.

Jen then reached a gloved finger into my effaced and partly dilated cervix and made a vigorous circle, snagging the membrane attaching the bag of waters to my uterus and separating that area of membrane from the uterine wall. It hurt a lot, but I was already in the “ready for labor” mindset, and I just breathed and bore the pain (and the gross and uncanny feeling of something ripping within), which was easier knowing that this might well jump start the labor I was so ardently anticipating. After the initial pain was over, an ache remained in and around my cervix, which was now much more tender.

“If stripping the membrane works, it will work within about thirty-six hours,” Jen told me once I was out of the stirrups and sitting up. “Having intercourse will improve the chances of this procedure initiating labor, due to the high prostaglandin levels in semen.” I thanked her for the advice and told her I’d see what we could do, what with the four-year-old at home and other complications. This didn’t satisfy her. “I would really like to see you go home and have intercourse,” she said with straightfaced insistence. Okay, okay, doc! I’ll go have sex! I gave Jen an explicit assurance that the sex would happen, and she shook my hand and wished me luck.

We had our homework laid out in no uncertain terms: “Go have intercourse.” But my Old Man and I had a faculty meeting in the afternoon, so the sex had to wait. O was at my mom and stepdad’s place, so I called and said “can we pick up O. a little bit later?” Usually I’d give an explanation, but this time I decide to just make the bare request and only say “The Old Man and I need to have some hot, labor-inducing sex” if absolutely pressed. Luckily Mom just said “Sure! What time do you want to get him?” So we went home and had sex. The intimacy was nice, and it was even fairly sexy, despite my hugeness. But once the actual intercourse began, it was flat-out painful. That tender cervix did not enjoy the intrusion, and I was grimacing and bearing it and hoping my Old Man would… arrive. And, once I’d made it clear he didn’t need to wait for me (no way was I arriving in this particular circumstance), he did. Prostaglandins received.

Jen had said our window for success was thirty-six hours. My labor did not begin that evening, nor did it begin the next day. I was having regular Braxton-Hicks contractions, but no actual contractions. Saturday night at 10:00, with that thirty-six hour window about four hours from closing, my Old Man and I decided to have sex one more time. I got to bed about 11:00 PM, hoping things would get started before dawn. And things did.

(To be continued...)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Big, Pregnant Fridays

Or: Prelude to a Birth Story

A year ago at this time I was pregnant. Very pregnant.

I was due on September 10th, and because this was my second baby, I assumed she would probably be born before the due date. That was a mistake, because by the time the due date came, I was already antsy. Perhaps there was no avoiding that impatience. After the ten weeks of nausea subsided, my first pregnancy was basically pleasant and comfortable right up to the end. During this second pregnancy, I began carrying the baby very low about the beginning of my third trimester, and my perineum began to bulge uncomfortably and (I thought) rather alarmingly. Toward the end of August, I started getting charlie horses in my groin on a daily basis, and the itching that had begun on my belly some time before began to spread ‘til I felt itchy all over. By my due date, I was ready to have this baby, and had been for some time.

My impatience for labor to begin was heightened by the fact that, after a summer of leisure, I resumed teaching a couple of weeks before my due date. When O. was born in January of 2003, I taught ‘til a couple of weeks before his birth, giving me a bit of vacation before labor actually began. With Roo, I vacationed ‘til a couple of weeks before she was due to be born and then, on the verge of parturition, went back to teaching full-time. So, there I was: huge, waddling, impatient, and – accustomed to lazing around in the same pair of maternity capris and one of three well-worn tee-shirts – having to cover my swollen form with reasonably professional-looking clothing (different clothing each day!).

Not wanting to use up a day of my maternity leave before the baby actually came, I joked to my students and my fellow teachers that I planned to teach ‘til my water broke. As my due date passed without event and I kept having to get up every morning and drag my big-bellied self to school each day, I came to rue that joke. The smile on the face of the Number 10 bus driver got more nervous every day I mounted his bus for my ride to school. None of my colleagues seemed to have anything to say to me but “What are you doing here?” “You’re still pregnant?” and “When are you going to have that baby?” Fridays especially the jokes flew: “I hope we don’t see you Monday!” But I came back the first Monday after school started, and the second, and the third.

(To be continued…)