Friday, February 16, 2007

Baby Day: Part IV

In the recovery room, I entertain myself for a while by trying unsuccessfully to move my toes, which is tremendously irritating because I can feel them but they won't answer when I tell them to move. I then get morphine at some point, which causes me to lose the rest of the two-odd hours I'm in recovery. I come back to myself as I'm being wheeled down the hall into my own room, and my family is all there -- my mom, my brother, my sister and her family, G's parents and sister, my dearest friend. I was there for the birth of her child, and I tell her how glad I am that she's here for the birth of mine. They shoo everyone back out and get me settled in, and then I'm given a Coke to drink, the most delicious Coke ever. I never drink real Coke, can barely stand the taste after decades of drinking diet, but I'm ready to down a 12-pack of these. Later I will get a liquid-diet tray, broth and popsicles and more Coke, and I am so excited about it that I will make G take a picture of it.

The rest of the night is lost in a druggy haze, since I'm getting morphine shots every two hours or so -- the spinal is gone, and I'm hurting, though not unbearably. I don't think I ever really slept, or ever really woke up, except maybe just a little bit when the babies came back in. I know I nursed them pretty much all night, having G bring me whichever baby was awake and crying, but the only part of it that stuck with me is being frustrated because I couldn't remember which one had eaten off which side and when.

I was really committed to nursing them, as the one part of a "normal" birth experience I'd get to share, and I tried hard to prepare for it. I didn't take a breastfeeding class, what with the bedrest and all, but I went to La Leche League meetings during the pregnancy, and read several books, including the classic Mothering Multiples. I knew it was important to feed the baby(ies) whenever they expressed the first signs of hunger, for as long as they wanted, and for the first two days, that's exactly what I did. Every time a baby woke up, I had G diaper her and bring her to me; I would feed her until she fell back to sleep, and then move on to the next baby. I didn't get much waketime with them -- they seemed to sleep an awful lot, and if they weren't sleeping, someone was nursing.

Overall, though, I thought we were doing well. They lost some weight, and then some more weight, but they ate for long stretches and produced appropriate diapers, and they didn't seem discontented. I made G bring me a notebook and a travel alarm clock, and I faithfully logged each feeding's start time, length, side, and associated diaper contents. I didn't tandem-nurse yet, and football hold was the only thing I could get the hang of. I needlessly complicated matters by alternating sides at each feeding, because I was concerned about having an even milk supply; it took me a week or so to realize that swapping sides each day was sufficient and much simpler. I ignored the nurse who told me that nursing longer than 10 minutes per side would give me cracked nipples, because I knew that was a latch problem, and I thought our latches were OK. The lactation consultant who came to see me on Friday morning even told me that we looked like we had it pretty well together, and helped me experiment with tandem and with cross-cradle. My milk wasn't in yet, but I was less than 48 hours postpartum, and I wasn't worried. I was really starting to feel proud of myself for doing such a good job at this whole breastfeeding thing thus far.

That's why I was totally unprepared for Saturday morning, when they told me the babies had crossed the line to being in trouble.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Baby Day: Part III

Part II
Part I

[Apologies for the delay. We're house-hunting right now, and it has totally eaten up my life. Gah.]

It's funny, how some parts of the delivery itself are so clear in my mind, and others are so hazy.

One of the sharp things is the memory of the nurse announcing the time I entered the OR, 6:32 PM. It scared me a little bit, put me in mind of how TV doctors announce the time of death, and I think that's why I started to have second thoughts about the whole business. It was bright in the room, I was freezing, I kept having contractions, and G was waiting outside while I got the spinal. (He only decided to be in the OR in the last week or so of the pregnancy, and the spinal would have been completely beyond him.)

In that minute or two before the spinal went in, I actually considered calling the whole thing off, announcing I didn't want to have the babies today after all, and perhaps just not have them at all. Happily, before I could open my mouth, I remembered, oh, yes, I'm in labor, and I'm going to have them whether I like it or not. I'm sure every woman has that thought at some point before her child is born, but I didn't feel like I deserved to think it. Hadn't I been through infertility treatment to get here, fretted the whole pregnancy, and finally gotten to the point of begging to give birth?

I'm sure I could have tormented myself for hours, but then I was leaning over the L&D nurse and there was a needle in my back. The local anesthesia needle hurt, albeit not unbearably, but the spinal needle itself just felt, well, like there was something stuck in my back. The spinal had always been the thing I was the most afraid of -- a needle! in my spine! -- but the actuality of it wasn't bad at all. (I'm now even hoping I can get my knee surgery done under spinal, since I'm always really nauseous after general.)

I'm sure I got laid back down and got strapped to the table (another part I hadn't liked the idea of), but the next thing I remember is looking at the lights above the operating table. I'm hot and queasy, and the lights seem to be getting farther away and dimmer. I say, I'm going to be sick, can I have a basin, only I'm not sure any words come out. Certainly, the anesthesiologist isn't listening to me -- he's busy fussing around with my IV, and I think, well, serve him right if I yak on him. Then, all of a sudden, I'm feeling normal again, better than normal, like I could lift cars and climb mountains, and maybe fly if I really wanted to. He explains that my blood pressure's dropped, that the spinal went in too high, and that they've given me atropine to bring me back to normal.

The atropine is actually most of what I remember for the next little while. I've never felt anything like it before; it's sharp and crisp and powerful, not the fuzzy contentment of narcotics, and it occurs to me that's what cocaine must feel like. G's there all of a sudden, asks me how I'm doing, and I say, "Great!" Everyone keeps asking me this, and I keep telling them I'm great, and I'm not sure they believe me. The anesthesiologist is still fiddling with my arms, something about how my blood pressure's too high now, but I quit paying any attention because someone is trying to pull me off the table.

I don't realize this is because they've made the incision and are pulling Claire out until Dr. Dreamboat says to my brother, look how distended her uterus is, she's huge. Then, someone says, 6:53 PM, here she is. I don't hear her cry, and I ask if she's OK, but I'm not sure anyone hears this either. I see the baby go by, but it doesn't seem particularly rushed, so I decide she's fine, and anyway I'm being jerked around again. This jerking goes on for a long time, long enough for me to tell someone else that I'm still feeling great. Then there's a cry, and Katherine's born, and with that noise it all rushes in and I realize: she's here, she's here, our daughters are here. I turn my head to say this to G, but he's not there, he's gone with the babies.

This next bit gets really fuzzy, since as I find out later, I'm in the middle of losing a non-trivial amount of blood. I stop feeling great and start feeling really cold, and Dr. Dreamboat is saying to give me some Pitocin, and it's not working, give her some more. I catch the burning-meat smell at some point, and hope that they will hurry up and be done because I'm freezing. G comes back with the babies, and I get to see them for the first time, and I can't seem to say anything but "Wow".

He asks which is which, and I say that Baby A looks like a Katherine to me -- it's obvious that she is smaller and more delicately featured. He says, no, Claire's a better name for a petite little girl, and I look at them again and decide that he is right. Later that evening, I look at them and wonder if we should have gone the other way around, but the names are indelibly fixed in my head. In the next day or so, it becomes obvious that we've chosen wisely. Katherine's middle name is G's grandmother's maiden name, and she does seem to take after G somewhat, though not strongly. Claire's middle name is the same as mine (which is also the name I use), the maiden name of my father's mother, and the resemblance to my father is eerie.

I lose some time here, and then they're packing a warm blanket around me, and transferring me to a gurney. I can't make my legs work to help them, and I briefly feel conscious of how heavy I am. I'm in recovery now, and I finally get some ice chips, little chunks of heaven in a mouth that's been bone-dry throughout six hours of labor. I'm told that they're going to have to keep me here a bit because my blood pressure spiked so high, and I lost blood (about 1500 ccs, I later find out). It turns out that the cold is because they've been pumping IV fluids to stabilize me, which explains why all the warm blankets in the world don't seem to be enough.

The girls are brought in, and I nurse each of them in turn. It's the first time I've gotten to hold them, or really to even get a very good look at them, and I see how Claire has my dad's long fingers, and that Katherine still has vernix in her ear. The nurse helps me position each baby, and they seem to latch on and suck for a while. I say, that's how it works, isn't it, and she says yes, I've done well. Then they're being taken away again, to the transition nursery because they're not full-term, and I won't see them for four hours.