Saturday, December 18, 2010
From moment one, I wanted a natural birth. No drugs, no interventions, no doctors and NO HOSPITAL. A full on tree hugging, green, fuzzy, give birth in the woods while unicorns unite in a birthing circle of wondrous rainbows gleaming from all the creatures of the earth culminating in a beam of light spiritual experience I could hold in my heart of hearts forever. Over the summer, I mentioned to FB a story I read where a woman leaned on a walking stick throughout her birth. It made me think of wizards and lasers. FB immediately went on a vision quest into the Burgundy woods, found a sapling tree, cut it down and hand carved me my very own 7 foot long birthing stick, varnished and everything. It was beautiful and I was Gandolf. I practiced spinning it on the lawn while chanting...."BRING FORTH THE SPAAAAAAAAAAWN!" (insert lightning bolts)
And thus I sailed through the second trimester, feeling like a million wizard bucks until around the 7th month of pregnancy when I began to feel severe pelvic pain if I moved. As in, moved at ALL. My midwife and the sonogram confirmed that my baby was, in fact, a rather LARGE one and was currently in a posterior position (head down but turned around the wrong way) and therefore pressing on my pelvis. Whatever, I thought. I'm American with German and Dutch roots and I have size 11 feet and I am POWERFUL. None of the men in my family dip below the 6 foot tall mark and besides, I am NINJA. And a WIZARD. I am a NINJA WIZARD. And if anyone could turn this baby around, I COULD. Duh. Talk began of "he might be a 10 pounder" and even though I began to have serious issues making it up and down the 104 steps to our apartment nor could I walk more than a block without searing pain in my groin, or even turn over in bed without crying out....undeterred I marched on, knowing in my heart that I could, in fact, get this big baby out naturally.
No one could tell me any different.
I spent months reading copious amounts of natural birthing books, doing yoga and practicing deep breathing. I bought the Hypnobirth CD series and taught myself to self hypnotize every day...I followed Ina May Gaskin's guides to the letter, got into my spiritual place early on, talked to my baby every day about what a magical birth he and I would take on together in a field of wild poppy dreams of greatness. After watching The Business Of Being Born, I decided I wanted to home birth but was finally deterred by the fact that we live in a tiny 7th floor walk up with no room for a yoga mat to be spread out, much less a birthing pool and a midwife and some unicorns. In the end, I found a birthing center in Paris with a pro-natural team of midwives and OB/GYNS (WAY harder than I thought it would be to find) and decided that was about as close to the woods I was going to get. C'est la vie. So even though I would end up giving birth in the hospital/clinic they worked out of, at least I trusted the process would still be drug and intervention free. I would just bring my birthing stick and my cape to the hospital, exclaim "PREPARE THE ROOOOOOM!" (insert more lightning bolts) close my eyes and go to the Inner Earth place in my mind. To top it all off, a few weeks before giving birth, I was sent this birth video of a theatrical natural birth complete white curtains and candlelight, ancient songs, poetry in multiple languages and a couple of cats hanging out in the foreground. RIGHTEOUS! I added candles to my hospital bag and wondered where I could rent some cats.
My fairytale birth was WELL on its way.
Then December 7th came.
For most of the pregnancy, I had been obsessed with this date, I knew something would happen on the 7th. In the week leading up to it I started to have practice contractions and felt a sense of excitement looming in the near distance. I vigorously cleaned the apartment over and over, I cooked enough vegetable curry to feed an army and spent hours rolling back and forth on my newly purchased birthing ball telling the baby to turn his fat butt over while watching shitty American TV shows and ignoring the fact I could barely move from the pelvic pain. He was near......and so, as my eyes popped open on the 7th, I knew immediately that I was in early labor. The contractions were still mild enough to do housework throughout but I sensed a pattern starting. I skyped with NY friends and family all day and each time a contraction came, I laughed through it with a giddy feeling of FINALLY this show was on the road. FB and I watched movies all night and as the contractions got stronger throughout the night, I tried to get some sleep as I knew it would be tomorrow. He's coming tomorrow. BRING FORTH THE SPAAAAAAAAAWN!! (CHOOCHOO! lightning bolts)
After a rather sleepless night, I woke up in the middle of a painful contraction that wrapped around my back like a vice. Whoa. Um.....THAT was uh....intense. I tried to sit up in bed but the pain was too enormous and for the first time, I got scared. What happened to those nice funny little contractions of yesterday that made me laugh and dream of rainbows and ponies? Oh no....did I get this all wrong? Do I have no idea what is in store for me? WHERE ARE THE RAINBOWS???!!!! WHERE ARE THE FRICKIN' PONIIIIIIIES?!!!!!!! Okokokokokokokokokokok....I calmed myself down and decided to settle in for what would be a very. long. day.
For these purposes I had made three birthing music mixes:
1. FOLK/GET SPIRITUAL
2. WORLD/GET INTERNATIONAL PRIMAL
3. U.S. of A. /GET FULL ON DANCE PARTY
I switched back and forth between these three mixes all day while trying to go into myself and become some semblance of Zen. But it was getting harder and harder. Despite my efforts over the weeks, the baby had refused to turn and I was now in full back labor which can best be described as this...think of the spot at the bottom of your spine where all those sensitive nerve endings meet up. Now think of it like a giant gong with a bullseye in the center that a vindictive ogre with a sledge hammer hits as hard as he can every 30 minutes, then 20, then 10, then 5, then 4 etc. Then imagine the pain radiating around your entire body like a giant wave each time that brings you literally to your knees and takes your breath away. Stand up. Repeat. Nerves. Vindictive ogre. Sledgehammer. Knees. And on and on and on....on a hot tip from my massage therapist friend, FB started applying counter-pressure on my sacrum during each contraction and for a while it all seemed doable.....especially when the aforementioned scientist husband graphed a contraction chart in real time while carefully timing out each one...I seriously love this man, WHO DOES THIS???!
But then the snow came.
First a dusting, then heavier and heavier until the afternoon where it became clear it was not stopping anytime soon and this was, in fact, a full on snowstorm (I found out later this was the first one of this magnitude in Paris in 25 years). When they shut down the buses and the trains at rush hour, I knew we were in trouble as our clinic was across town. Paris is not like NY where you can get a car service or taxi any day, any time, any weather. Paris is Paris. She shuts down at the first sign of trouble and leaves you to hang on your own. As I had been previously warned about NOT calling an ambulance service or the fire department should I be in labor due to 45 minute paperwork processes, untrained drivers, unnecessary episiotomies and the biggest fact that they would only bring you to nearest hospital, not the one I was registered at across town....we thought if we waited until after rush hour we might have a better chance at getting a taxi. At 10:00PM I could take no more. My midwife awaited our arrival at the center and FB began the taxi cab calls.
His face said it all after the first call.
Not one company picked up the phone.
My list of carefully put together numbers yielded 0.
Think about the unicorns, the ponies and the rainbows.
What would a ninja wizard do?
We decided to just grab the delivery room bag and get out of the apartment, make our way to the main boulevard and try and find a cab there. I knew if I was moving, I could ward off the labor. I put my mind in "TRY HARDER" mode, shut down my labor as best I could, got my coat and shoes on and headed out into the snow. For me, this was actually the easiest part of the night, trudging through the ice and snow 1/2 mile up to the taxi stand in St. Germain des Prés. I had to stop a few times to go through a contraction but the icy air felt good on my face and at least we were MOVING towards the hospital. Everything was doable again. Until.....
THE TAXICAB FIASCO A.K.A. PEOPLE ACTUALLY DO SUCK
As we got to the taxi stand, my heart lifted a bit as there were people waiting. FB explained that I was in labor and could I please have the next cab. No one said yes or no, they just ignored us. Thanks friendly people of the 6th arrondissement! (insert massive eye roll) After waiting a few minutes, I spied a cab letting people out across the street outside the famous Café de Flore and told FB to run for it. I ran across the street after him holding my giant belly yelling (in French) "I'M IN LABOR, I'M IN LABOR!! PLEASE GIVE ME THAT CAB!!" I arrived just in time to have two young men cut in front of me, get in the cab, slam the door shut and give me the "too bad for you" shrug as the cab sped off.
I could not believe what had just happened.
I stood there stunned for a second but then survival mode kicked back in.
I get it.
People SUCK here.
We moved a bit down the street towards the metro and started discussing whether I could make the 45 minute trip with a change of stations as I spied another cab coming up the small side street next to the café. It was free.
"RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!!!" I shouted to FB who took off after it.
I sprinted waddled after him and my eyes widened in horror as I saw three women in their 50s who had been waiting at the taxi stand across the street ALSO sprinting for it. These women KNEW I was in labor and they SAW me running for it and STILL, they went for it anyway. They beat us to the cab and got in. At that point, something in me snapped. Something primal and bigger than myself. That cab was MINE and those bitches were going to GET THE HELL OUT OF IT. NOW. I can safely say this is the first act of maternal love I acted on, where NOTHING in the world could have stopped me from getting my baby safely to the hospital. IN. THAT. TAXI. As I approached the cab, I threw myself on the back door and started pounding, screaming and crying as loud as I could (in French) "I AM IN LABOR! I NEED THIS CAB!! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?? WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE YOU???!!! REALLY???? REALLY??!!! YOU ARE SAYING NOOO??? I AM IN LABOR!!! I AM A PREGNANT WOMAN IN LABOOOOR!!!!!" It was Oscar worthy and it caused the kind of public scene and humiliation I had hoped for. The women finally BEGRUDGINGLY opened the door and proceeded to argue with us saying "Just call the firemen!! Why should WE get out of the cab?? It's not what taxis are FOR!", etc. etc. As if THIS weren't enough, we then had to talk the taxi cab driver into TAKING us to the hospital as she started arguing that she didn't want problems, didn't want me to give birth in the back of her cab, etc. After FB pleaded with her and she was satisfied I wouldn't "cause any problems", we were allowed in and FINALLY took off for the hospital.
(I will take a small pause outside of my usual KFD banter here....honestly, I can't find anything funny or witty to say about this incident because two weeks later it STILL angers me to the core and brings me to near tears to think about that night as I cannot imagine ANY situation whatsoever that I would NOT let a woman in labor take a taxi at night during a snowstorm....none. The fact that I found TWO sets of people within minutes of each other who had no problems doing this makes it really hard for me not to question the quality of people in this area or make huge generalizations about Parisians. I will try and do neither but suffice it to say, we are moving to Montreuil in February and no one could be happier to say au revoir to tourist central Paris than me). OK back to it....
Upon arrival, the baby's heart rate was checked, all was good. Then I was checked. Fully effaced but only 1.5 cm dilated and baby is still posterior. My heart sunk a bit but I convinced myself that it was because of the taxi fiasco and I must have managed to shut my labor down completely. So, we were left to continue laboring and I focused on opening up. I was safe now, no more traveling and I could really go into myself and make it happen. The contractions started back up heavy and though we were both exhausted and I had not really eaten all day, we continued the cycle of Nerves. Sledghammer. Counterpressure. Knees. Repeat....
3 1/2 cm dilated. YES! Progress. But baby is not turning. At this point, my midwife gives me the best advice so far. "The pain is bigger than you. You are fighting it through each contraction, try and let go into it." And so I changed my mindset. FB laid on the floor and took a nap and I laid on the bed and let myself go into the pain. These few hours I will never forget...truly transcending pain, it was as if I was floating above myself and the more I let go, the deeper the experience became, my only thoughts were holding hands with my baby and walking him into this world safely. It felt as though I had spent just a few minutes but also an eternity in this state when I finally looked up at the clock.
3 1/2 cm dilated. OMG. NO. Labor was stalling out and the baby was not only posterior but his head was not tucked to his chin but was instead straight so each contraction, his head was being pushed into my pelvic bone instead of my cervix. My heart sunk and I knew I was losing steam. I had been in unmedicated back labor since the previous day and I could not take much more of it. My midwife and I discuss the possible next step of an epidural and an oxytocin drip to make the contractions stronger in the hopes that it might make the baby turn. At the very suggestion of these medical processes, I felt nothing but doom and gloom and a sense of total failure....how could all my ponies and unicorns abandon me? I was a ninja wizard with no staff and no nunchucks and suddenly I felt very, very small. The pain of the next contraction plowed into me and I cried for the first time. My midwife was amazing at this point, talking me through it and then giving FB and I time to discuss our next steps and come to terms with it. We decided I would take the epidural as by numbing the pain a bit, it might give me more steam to keep laboring. Shivering and trying to stay calm, I got the epidural injection and the oxytocin drip. I knew the next step was the dreaded C section but I focused all my thoughts on the last chance of turning him around and making his head tuck. Pleeeeease baby, turn, pleeeeease. I will buy you twenty ponies if you do....
4 cm dilated and I am totally out of steam. The word "Ceasarean" is mentioned for the first time and I feel knives go into my soul. I did NO research whatsoever on C sections because I was THAT SURE I was NOT going to have one. I am deathly afraid of the knife and the thought of being awake during a surgery is enough to send my soul into a blood curdling scream. Tired, hungry, sick from the meds and distraught, I agreed to a C section and my OB/GYN began the preparations. The only thing that made me feel better was seeing FB in scrubs and calling him Dr. Boulé.
The surgery room. It feels about 0 degrees in here and I am naked and on the verge of a panic attack as they strap me to the table. My French is gone, looooong gone. While a dozen people hover around me speaking in tongues as far as I am concerned, I focus myself on not barfing in my own mouth or screaming...small victories with every passing moment. WHERE IS FB??? And why is this male nurse talking to me when I clearly have no idea what he is saying??? I make a mental note that I really DO NOT EVER want to be abducted by aliens because this is what it must feel like and frankly, I can't think of another situation that blows more, not even my 8th grade prom. FB arrives as they put up the paper curtain that hangs in my face so I can't see what they are about to do to me. He tries to make me feel better by telling me we are about to meet our son but I can't get my mind out of alien abductions. As the doctor feels around my abdomen, I realize...I CAN FEEL HIS HANDS. In my panic, I feebly say....help, I can feel that but hardly any sound comes out. He is feeling around more and it suddenly dawns on me.....I just walked off the anesthesia. When in a full panic, I have no doubt I could walk off horse tranquilizers and before I can say any more, I feel a sharp, searing pain in my belly that sends me jerking from the table as my voice regains itself in full force..."I CAN FUCKING FEEEEEEL THAT!!!!!!!OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!" and I let the full panic in. Suddenly, there is a mask on my face and I am being told to breathe deeply. I stare in horror into FB's eyes and breathe in and out and in and out.......alien abduction, alien abduction.....
A RECOVERY ROOM
I wake up. I see a few hospital staff wheeling in a small boy of 4 years old or so who is moaning in pain and no one I know in sight. My head is killing me and my abdomen is on fire. Where am I? Where is FB? Wait, WHERE IS MY BABY????? I try and get up to no avail and am told by a male nurse something in French but I can't understand...where is my baby??? I say over and over....they say something and leave me alone and I feel I am going to die...did something go terribly wrong?? What happened?
This is my official hell.
A nurse comes in to tell me that my midwife is on her way to me and that everything is fine. They wheel me down the hall, I am crying an ocean of tears the whole way until at last, I see FB and he is holding a crying baby.
OUR crying baby.
Zed Emile Boulé has made his way to us at last.
I see him for the first time and suddenly, nothing else matters to me in the world.
My son is here.
On my belly.
And he wants to eat.
I cry with FB.
I cry with Zed.
I just cry and cry and cry and cry until I laugh and hold him close to me and promise to always take care of him and feed him cheeseburgers.
I didn't get the natural birth I wanted. Not even close. I got a dubbed version of Rosemary's Baby with no subtitles. But I got Zed and he's a fat, happy healthy baby with blue eyes and a smile that slays me. And for that, I'd do it all over again a million trillion zillion times.
Because in the end, I AM a ninja wizard.
Welcome to the world, Zed.
We're gonna have fun.
That's a promise.