I can't believe that my little girl is already three weeks old! Time really flies. I had thought that the first three weeks would be hard, and in some ways they were, but they were also absolutely wonderful. We're not getting much sleep in La Casa Lower, but we're having more fun than I ever could have imagined.
Even though I'd read book after book about caring for a newborn, I still found myself completely clueless when she came home. We had several false alarms (e.g., Oh no! She has diarrhea! She must be sick! Oh, wait, never mind. The poop of breastfed newborns is supposed to be watery. Oh no! She's on the boob all day long! She must not be getting enough milk. Oh, right, cluster feeding), but she's shown remarkable patience with her idiot parents. She's feeding like a champ, prolifically producing poop, and giving us enough adoring glances to make us completely melt.
Anyway, before too much time passes, I thought I should post the story of the birth. In the interest of honesty, I should admit that I wrote out the story shortly after the birth. I just didn't get around to posting it here until today. It's amazing how hard it can be to find a free minute.
The birth was really difficult, but ended up being wonderful, kind of like this whole journey has been so far. I started having occasional contractions and my mucus plug passed on Saturday, November 17. Then at midnight, a few huge blood clots came out. That freaked me out, so we went to Labor & Delivery (my doctor had told me a zillion times that if something happened, don't try to phone her, just go to L & D). They said it was OK, so we were back home by 2 am. I woke up at 4 with some stronger contractions. Then at 7 am Sunday, my amniotic sac broke in the middle of a contraction, so we were off to L & D again.
When I got there, they checked me out quickly, then put me into a room, and did all kinds of things to me, including putting me on an IV and a fetal monitor. Nobody really spoke much English (and I don't really speak Korean yet at all), but nothing that they did surprised me too much, since my doctor (who does speak fabulous English) had told me to expect the IV, monitor, etc. The one weird thing was that they offered me an epidural right away. Not only did that seem odd given that I wasn't in too much pain at that point, but also because I was only dilated to 1 cm, and my doctor had told me that she doesn't allow epidurals before 4 cm. I told them I wanted to make that decision later, and they pushed a bit, saying that it takes anaesthesiology a while to come, so I should at least get the port put in right away. I refused.
Then they pretty much left us alone in our room. Within an hour or so, the contractions were fast, furious, and really painful. I also felt horribly dehydrated, but they wouldn't let me drink anything, telling me that the IV was hydrating me. They kept coming and turning up the IV, but I kept feeling worse and worse. About four hours later, my cervix still hadn't dilated at all, but I was pretty much in agony. The pain really freaked me out, because I hadn't expected early labor to be so bad. Given that active labor is supposed to be much worse, I realized that I wasn't going to be a happy camper at all without pain relief, and asked for the epidural port to be put in. To my surprise, when the guy came and put it in, they turned it on right away. When I asked why they allowed it even though I was nowhere near 4 cm, they said "for induction patients we allow epidurals right away". I said "oh, you're going to induce me"? And the doctor on call (still not my doctor) said "we put you on pitocin right when you arrived. You've been on it for five hours". To her credit, she was pretty embarrassed that she had neglected to mention that little detail! No wonder the contractions were so much worse than I had ever imagined in early labor.
About half an hour after the anaesthesiologists left, the epidural started to work. For a while, all was wonderful. I could still feel the contractions, but they were completely bearable. Then a few minutes later, they took my temperature and said that I had a fever.
They put ice packs around me, and took my temperature again every few minutes for many hours. After a few hours, the doctor on call said that it was probably because I was dehydrated, and FINALLY turned up the fluids and let me have a few sips of water. The fever stayed high until morning, though, which was so scary, since I was afraid it would hurt the baby. It was also worrisome since my water had been broken for several hours at this point, so even though they had me on antibiotics, there was a real risk of infection. This whole time, I'd been on the fetal monitor, which was pretty miserable, since it only worked when I was flat on my back, which was of course the most painful position. However, I could handle it with the epidural. After about two-three blissful hours on the epidural (I wasn't keeping track of time), the doctor came in again looking worried. She said that the fetal heartbeat and movements weren't looking good, and that she thought that the epidural was to blame. So, she shut the epidural off again. (I was still only at about 2 cm at this point). Within 30 minutes, I was once again writhing (still 2 cm). Later that night, they turned down the pitocin a bit to give me a break, but I still didn't get any sleep at all, and was an absolute wreck by morning. At about 6 am (about 22 hours after they started the induction), they cranked the pitocin back up again (still 2 cm). Soon after, my doctor arrived. I talked her into trying the epidural again, but again, the baby responded badly, so they had to turn it off. At this point, I was just about ready to give up. Honestly, if she had offered me a c-section, I would have said yes. But she didn't offer it (bless her), and instead told me that I was now at 5 cm, and that she expected that I would be able to push within 2 hours. That was a huge relief. After 24 hours, I knew I could handle 2 more. I just knew I couldn't handle 12. Anyway, by about 10 am or so, I was allowed to push. That part was amazing. I know it's weird to say this, but I really loved the experience (although I don't want to do it again for a while). I have never felt such intense focus, and for once, my body seemed to know what to do. Even though there were about a million doctors and nurses running around me, the only people in the universe were me, the baby, and Mystery, who was holding my hand. The doctor told me that this was the part that I had to actually DO rather than just experiencing. She said that the speed of the delivery would depend on how well I pushed, and that I had to be active, and not just wait it out. So, I pushed with everything I had.
She was out within 30 minutes of pushing (with an episiotomy AND a tear), 27.5 hours after my water broke. I didn't feel the episiotomy or the tear at the time, but I did feel her coming out, which was amazing. Mystery was bawling, and I was just stunned. They put this gorgeous little thing on my chest right after she came out (and let dh cut the cord), and she immediately opened her eyes and looked at me. At that moment my life changed forever. They let me hold her for a second, then took her away to clean her off. They then gave her back to me swaddled so I could let her try to latch on while she still had that reflex right after the birth. It was only then that I realized that I didn't know the sex yet! My doctor has known for months, so I guess it just didn't occur to her that she should say "it's a girl!" The first time I held her, when she was still naked, it didn't even occur to me to look. Nothing mattered but that she was healthy and I loved her. I guess I was a pretty loyal team green member!
So, the rough part was that I was afraid throughout much of the labor, because of the fever and the baby's unsteady heartbeat, and that I ended up having an anaesthesia-free labor and delivery (which I had wanted to try, but wasn't particularly a goal for me), but one with an extra side of pain, thanks to the pitocin). But, in the end, it was absolutely wonderful, and worth every bit of the pain. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but even if I never get to do it again, I'll continue to thank my lucky stars for this amazing experience.