Saturday, March 05, 2005

Well, the Baby Is Sleeping and I Am Not...

Must be time for an update.

Yep, Thomas Dixon Nicol, or Tommy as we're calling him currently, was born on Fat Tuesday--Feb 8, 2005. He was a respectable 8 pounds even and 20.5 inches long. He was born with abundant fair hair and dark blue eyes--although eye color won't be permanent until he's 9 months or so. He appears to have my lips and nose and eyelids--strange, yes. He has Rick's ears, hands, feet and hairline--high widow's peaks. Somebody else's chin entirely. Looks like he might have one dimple on his right cheek. Thoroughly a very attractive baby, if I may say so. There are lots of new pictures on our site and my dad's site. At three weeks his looks are changing rapidly. He looks, well, less like a baby. Or as Rick puts it, less monkey, more human.

My labor and delivery were as close to being as effortless as something called "labor and delivery" could be. Although my due date was the 19th, I went for what turned out to be my last prenatal appointment on February the 3rd. My doctor told me that I was "80, 2 and +2" (80 percent effaced, 2 centimeters dilated, head in well on its way down) and that I would be lucky to make it to my next weekly appointment. I was pretty excited to hear that, as I was beginning to be incredibly uncomfortable at work, and was worried I would bite the head off of the next customer who asked when I was due: "Are you still here?"

The following Tuesday I worked the a.m. rush. Started feeling a little funky around 10ish--a little crampy, a little out of breath. I felt a little bit of a trickle when I sneezed, so I thought maybe my water had broken. When I called my NP, Rosa, she asked me a bunch of questions and then said, "Well, you're probably in labor. Go home, take a shower, and come on in to the office and we'll check you out."

She seemed pretty laid back for talking to a woman possibly in labor. I went home, called Rick, jumped in the shower, and grabbed my overnight bag and the baby carrier just in case.

When I got to my doctor's office, they did a quick exam and told me they were pretty sure my water hadn't broken. But they gave me these Ph strips--they looked like the ones we tested the Ph balance for the diswasher at the coffee shop--told me to stick them in my underwear, and go for a walk, have some lunch, and come back in an hour. Rick had arrived by then, wide-eyed and breathless, so I figured it would be a good idea to go to the Sharpe Edge so he could get a beer.

I didn't have much of an appetite at lunch, and I kept having little pangs that were more intense than my usual Braxton-Hicks. We toasted--Rick with his Guinness, and me with my root beer--our (possibly) last lunch together without a baby.

Back at they doctor's office, the stips had turned blue! Evidence of amniotic fluid. They did another quick exam, however, and still could not detect a rupture. They decided to hook my belly up to the machine that tracts contration patterns. It's similar to a seismograph: it's little needly pen draws the intensity of the contaction as it occurs. Low and behold, there was a definite pattern, and as I was watching the machine, I could feel them as they happened. "Oh, THAT'S a contraction? Now I know."

After about 20 minutes hooked up to the machine, my NP Rosa came in and said, "Yep, you're contractions are about six minutes apart and pretty intense. I'm going to call your doctor in and see what she wants to do."

Up until this point, I hadn't made a decision about pain management. But I figured if these were "pretty intense" and I had barely noticed them, maybe I would just skip that epidural and go au natural.

After reviewing my contraction patterns, my doctor told me that I was definitely in labor, but in order for her to admit me into the hospital, my contractions needed to progress to three minutes apart, or my membranes needed to rupture. She said, "We can do one of two things. I can send you home, where you can wait for either of these scenarios to occur, or I can break your water now."

I knew (from the 4500 episodes of "Birth Day" that I had watched to prepare myself for this day) that rupturing my membranes should immediately intensify and hasten my labor. Since I was having minimal pain, and was excited to see the baby, I opted for her to break my water.

During the 2547 episode of "Birth Day" I had learned that rupturing the membranes was a fairly easy procedure. The doctor inserts a long plastic hook (similar to a crochet hook, I am told), and nicks the amniotic bag to expel the fluid. My doctor did just this, and the Adriatic Sea came out. Apres crochet, la deluge. I half expected the kid to shoot out in raingear and waders. I was relieved I hadn't opted to go home and have this occur on my kitchen floor. Or, worse, at the Coffee Tree. Because, by God, if I didn't have that baby today, Bill WOULD make me go back to work.

So, my NP and Rick mopped up after me. And "mopped" is not meant to be an exaggerated or humorous word choice, just very descriptive. It took about twelve bath towels--and I don't know where they got bath towels at my doctor's office--to dry the floor enough for me to step off of the examining table without slipping. As I stood up I felt, well, drained. And generally disoriented. I could feel that the baby had dropped a lot lower, and while this should have made my breathing easier, I was breathless.

My doctor asked me if I wanted the orderlies to come with a wheelchair, or if I wanted to walk up. The admissions desk was two floors up on the next wing, how bad could it be to walk? They stuffed my panties ('cause, you see, you KEEP LEAKING after they break your water--that's the thing they don't tell you) with extra large sanitary napkins and sent me waddling on my way.

In the elevator, I had my first REAL contraction. I am told that every woman experiences labor pain differently. Some women get it all in the back, some all in the front. My labor pains were something like this: excruciating tightness in my belly, like when you wrap a rubber band around your pinky until it turns purple; continual back cramping similar to having one's kidneys squeezed in a vice; and unbearable pressure on my pubic bone, which, true to the cliche, really did feel like someone pushing an 8-pound bowling ball out my who-ha. I grabbed the elevator railing with one hand and Rick with the other. "Are you alright?" he asked. "Ow ow ow ow!" was my response.

We made it to admissions and the nurses worked quickly to get me assigned to a room and changed into my hospital gown. They asked if I needed and I said, calmly "I think I would like an epidural."

About 20 mintues passed, and I was sitting on the edge of my bed, practicing my deep breathing. The nurses had gone to find the anesthesiologist, and I think Rick was moving the car into long-term parking. Alone for the first time, I was scared and in pain. The baby is really coming. Now. And it hurts. And--holy crap!--the BABY IS COMING! We...are...having...a....BABY. Today! I started to panic, which is really not a good thing to do when you are in labor, because it tends to make it hurt more.

By the time the nurses made it back in with the anesthesiologist, I was in tears. The lead nurse was fantastic and held on to me and made me focus on her and my breathing while they prepped my back. Rick still had not returned from parking the car--I think the garage was somewhere in Mongolia--but his fear of needles and blood probably would not have been much of a comfort during the epidural. Fortunately for me, my anesthesiologist was a true artist and had me tapped in a jiffy with nothing more than the "pinch and a burn" they advertise the epidural to be in all the mom-mags.

As the drugs took effect, the pain gradually diminished, until all I could feel was a squeezing in my uterus, and light pressure in my pelvis--similar to what I felt before they broke my water. I was glad; some women say they can't feel anything after an epidural, and that they feel removed from the birth experience. Or sometimes the epidural can actually slow down labor's progression, and they have to give you more drugs--pitocin--to speed it up. My attending nurse did a quick exam and told me that my contractions were now 2 minutes apart and regular, and that I was 100% effaced and about 7 centimeters dialated. I was progressing quickly. My anxieties removed, I relaxed in my new pain-free state and fell asleep. It was about 5 p.m.

I slept for two hours. When I woke up, I was feeling downright chipper, and Rick and I watched the Simpsons. Then the nurse told me I had visitors. Mom and Dad had arrived. Dad had called the Coffee Tree earlier to say hi, and when Gina answered, "She's not here. She...had to leave," he picked her up from work and they headed to West Penn.

Originally I had sat both sets of parents down and said that I didn't want anyone in the delivery room with me (except Rick), or even at the hospital while I was in labor. I felt that it was a private occassion, between me and my husband, and that we would have no idea how long I would be in labor. Our intentions were to call everyone after the baby had come. Well, that was out the window. But I was glad to see both of them. I was in a better state than I had imagined myself to be, thanks to the epidural. Plus, it gave Rick a chance to grab a sandwich and take a breather.

While my parents were visiting, however, I could feel my contractions intensifying. I could also feel my pelvis expanding--it's gross, but it crackles and pops like your neck does when you visit the chiropractor. The epidural is set on a slow drip, but they give you a little button to push that ups the dosage if your pain intensifies. I hit this like eight times in ten minutes. I wanted Rick to get back and my parents to leave, but I didn't want to be rude. (See, this is why I had the "No parents in the delivery room" plan. When people come to visit, whether at my house for a barbeque, or in my hospital room for a birthing, I feel like I need to be a hostess. )

But when Rick did return, I could be polite no more. "You guys need to go now. Rick you need to call the nurse."

The nurse checked my monitor and told me to tell her if I felt any increased pressure or the need to push.


"You feel increased pressure?"


"You feel like you need to push?"




The doctor was called, the nurses rushed in, and all of the sudden my quaint little hospital room with the country-casual decor turned into the Close Encounters mothership. Beeping machines came out of the cabinetry, giant stadium lights came out of the ceiling, and the door to what I thought was a closet opened and revealed a gleaming infant receiving room and incubator.

My bed was cracked in half: the lower portion dropped away and my legs were hoisted and strapped into stirrups. My lady parts were splayed out for the whole world to see, and my husband was beginning to turn various shades of green. And then white.

"Dad! Are you going to be OK?" one of the nurses threw Rick a stern yet cautious look.

"Yeah." He didn't sound too convincing, yet he wasn't crumpled on the floor, so all eyes were back on me.

"OK, Danielle," the doctor was pulling on latex gloves and kneeling on three-legged stool. "When you have your next contraction, I want you to push down into the back of your body. Like you are having a bowel movement."

Here's a fact. Having a baby is like taking a huge crap. No joke. You push exactly the same way. So joining all my other anxieties (is the baby going to be all right/am I going to be all right/ is Rick going to faint) is this new huge concern: Am I going to shit all over this hospital bed? It happens! Jenny McCarthy--she's famous! Kinda. She shit all over her bed. You can read about it in her book.

So I'm trying to push like I'm having a bowel movement without really having a bowel movement. I'm crumpled in a ball with Rick and a nurse pushing my legs toward me. Another nurse turned off the TV that was still blaring in the background, and for a moment I was miffed that I was missing a fresh episode of Gilmore Girls.

You push in sets of pushes. They're like reps at a Nautilus machine, only far more exhausting. Fortunately, my trainer was kind, and I only needed to do three sets of three.

After seventeen minutes and nine pushes, Thomas Dixon arrived. The doctor laid him on my belly, still wrinkled from his trip. His eyes, steely blue, were looking right at me, and his hand was in his mouth. The nurses checked for blisters. Hand sucking is a habit normally started in the womb. No blisters. And just a little bit of bruising. They all agreed that he was a perfect little boy.

The doctor asked Rick if he wanted to cut the cord. He had been brave through the pushing, but the cord was a little too much. So I cut it. It seemed right that I should release the one that had been attached to me for so long.

They wisked Tommy away to be weighed and measured. Rick followed to take some pictures but could only manage to stare at his son. The nurse reminded him, "You have to use the camera, Sweetie."

Once the baby was registered in the world, and we had the footprints to prove it, my room was transformed back to country-casual. Rick and I were left alone with the baby. Swaddled in his white waffle-textured receiving blanket, Tommy was all ours.

We'd done it. We were parents. Say hello to Mom and Dad.

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