Although I choose not to celebrate birthdays, I will sit and recollect how on this day, exactly three years ago, my first and only child was born. I've come to notice that I have never shared my birth story of Dahlia. I think this is a fitting opportunity to do so.
February 6th 2008
I wake up early that morning to a text from a friend I'd met in childbirth education classes, Fleur, that she had just given birth to a beautiful son, Joey. We both had the same EDD and were both first time mothers. I was very happy to hear she had finally popped. I was 41 weeks exactly and although I was eager to meet Dahlia, I wasn't worried about going over 40 weeks.
I had my last routine midwifery appointment that morning, and this time my mother came along. The midwife said everything looked perfect and that hopefully she would not see me next week again. She then asked if she could strip my membranes to "get things moving along". I didn't know much about induction back then but I figured that at 41 weeks, it sounded ok to help things along. She did a vaginal exam and told me I was 1 cm dilated but that the baby had not dropped yet. She stripped my membranes and bode me farewell.
Over the past few weeks, my blood pressure had steadily been rising to an uncomfortable level. From the beginning of the pregnancy I had an unusual amount of proteins in my urine but my blood pressure was always fine. So when my blood pressure went higher and higher, it preoccupied my midwife. At that same last appointment she had me draw some blood before we did the vaginal exam. After the appointment was over, she said that she would call with the results only if they were troublesome. Bless her soul, she was so calm all throughout my pregnancy and she never ever made me worry.
Later that afternoon, to our displeasure, we got a call from the midwife. She said that the results of the blood test showed a high amount of proteins and that she was handing me over to the care of my gynecologist. She instructed us to go to the hospital for monitoring and care. I was nervous. I was excited, but nervous because she sounded serious. But.. there we all went, packed up the bags, and left. I was 19 years old.
We got to the hospital and they monitored me for what seemed like an eternity. The fetal heart rate monitor showed no signs of distress but it was registering some major contractions, of which I felt none. From that moment on, I didn't trust that monitor with measuring my contractions.
They sent me to my room and I was to stay in the hospital until I gave birth. That sucked big time. I was admitted on a Wednesday. Thursday rolled around with no action, and then Friday as well. Because it was the weekend, I would be taken care of by the gynecologist on call, Dr. H. On Friday night, Dr. H was making the rounds, and before he could slip out of the room without even speaking to me, I called him over. "Dr H!" I exclaimed. "What about me? Is everything looking ok?" He picked up my chart and said with the slightest emotion, "Ah yes, well, if you don't go into labor by Monday, we'll induce you" I thought to myself "INDUCE?! ARE YOU NUTS?!" Well... Dahlia must have heard him because that night, labor started.
Saturday, foreday morning, 1:30 AM February 9th 2008
I woke up to pee for the millionth time, and while on the toilet it hit me. Pain hit me. I knew this was it. There was no trace of doubt left. I got up, and instinct took over. I had attended the most natural childbirth education classes on the island but my reading was limited to "What to expect when you're expecting" and "FitPregnancy" so I just did what I thought was natural to do. Walk around. From the very beginning my contractions were regular, every 3-4 minutes, lasting 30 seconds. They weren't dreadfully painful but it did take my concentration. In between them, it was as if nothing was going on. At some point in time, after begging the nurses to put me on the monitor, that stupid machine registered very very little. I knew then for sure, I couldn't trust that contraption. The nurses urged me to go rest because I would tire myself out before the real action began. So like a little puppy, I obediently walked back to my bed and rested. It was much more uncomfortable on the bed but I stayed there.
Saturday morning, 10 am February 9th 2008
My mother comes to visit me in hospital and the contractions are still going strong. I'm able to talk in between them normally, but have to focus on breathing and relaxing myself during them. We were all excited because it was finally happening. the whole day I had visitors and we sat and talked and laughed. They laughed at me quite a bit because I would be telling them something and then all of a sudden I tell them to "SHUSH!" and close my eyes and start my deep inhaling and exhaling, and then it was over and I picked up right where I left off. It was a real trip to see that now that I look back. I handled the contractions very well, so well that many of the nurses didn't even know or believe I was in much pain so they didn't really pay too much attention to me. I thought this was scandalous back then, but now that I think about, they did good just letting me be to labor on my own without disturbing me. Thank you L&D ward nurses
Saturday Night, 9 pm February 9th 2008
With contractions still at 3-4 minutes having labored the whole day, I was pretty tired. The nurse walked in and asked me if I wanted something to relieve the pain. Naively I said ok. I knew she wasn't giving me an epidural because they aren't that common in Aruba, and you have to pay big money for them. I had no clue what on earth she was going to give me, but I didn't think anything of it. She brought this huge needle and gave me a shot in my thigh that made the muscle contract like hell. I asked her what it was and she just told me that it would help me sleep. Boy, was she right. That stuff knocked.me.out. I was in a haze and all I could recollect is walking up in the middle of the night for contractions that were really strong. For the rest, I was snoozing like a baby.
Sunday morning, February 10th 2008
Sunday came and went by with the same tune as Saturday. My parents visited, we talked, had fun and waited anxiously to see when this baby would come. That night, the nurses again offered me the pain relief. Bear in mind that I not once uttered the words "Give me something against the pain please", I never even hinted at it. They came to me offering it, but I also didn't turn it down. So that night, I got another dose of Demerol. I honestly think it built up in my system because I became even groggier and if I woke up that night, it had felt like a dream, so surreal.
Monday Morning 10 am February 11th 2008
I was so glad for Monday to reach because it meant that my rocking female ob/gyn was gonna show up, Dr. M. She came in, she asked to do a vaginal exam, which I was more than happy to oblige and announced that I was 5 cm dilated. Boy was I happy to hear those days of laboring weren't for nothing. At this point in time, I had been laboring since the beginning of Saturday, which had been a total of 56 and a half hours. Once they announced that I was 5 cm, things started moving. I was put into the Labor and delivery room, which was a cold, sterile room with dark blue tiles and the farthest feeling from comfort. My dad hopped on to the recliner and fell asleep to the point of snoring. My mom looked at him and asked him if he was planning on staying in the L&D room for the birth, and of course my dad was all like' hell no', so my mom then informed my dad that he would then have to leave the room according to hospital protocol, which he did.
Because of having received so much pain medication, I was woozy, and my labor had also slowed. The contractions that were once 3-4 minutes apart when I had no medication in my system, slowed to 10 minutes apart. So after administering more wooz-juice, they also gave me pitocin to speed it up (can anyone say oxymoron?). Dr. M told me she would break my waters, and when she did (which was btw, one of the worst feelings ever) the water was green and murky, but Dahlia's heart rate never showed any compromise so I never worried. They then put an internal fetal heart rate monitor on Dahlia's head, strapped me down with monitors and said , see you later. I couldn't get off the bed and the contractions were starting to get so strong because of the pitocin. The demerol made me so woozy that I would be awake for the intense contractions and then fall back into a deep sleep. It was surreal, nothing felt real. The contractions were like waves, some crashing into me, just when one was subsiding. I must admit that, although the contractions were sometimes too difficult to bear, there was only one time that I thought to myself, "o.k this needs to be over, I want a cesarean to get this pain to stop NOW!" I remember hushing my mom or ex-partner, to be able to concentrate on the contractions. I remember the room become hot, so I needed someone to fan me. And then, I remember the urge to bear down. Although I was young, I had read enough of the process and I never doubted what stage I was in when it was happening. When I got the urge to bear down, I told my mom to call the nurses right away. They told me to wait. "WAIT?! are you nuts?! I need to push, my body is telling me to push, I can't stop this feeling!" They nurses came, checked me, I was at 10 cm and they gave me the green light to do something my body had already signaled me to do. So I started pushing. I hated that they wanted to coach me, but I did my best to follow their instructions while still following my urges. I pushed, I pushed, I pushed. Eventually Dr. M got there and she took over. There I was , sprawled out on my back like a stranded beetle. It was a little after 4 and Dahlia's head was visible. I guess the doctor thought she looked too big, so she informed me she was going to perform an episiotomy, after she said that, I reminded her that I wanted Dahlia on my chest right away to breastfeed her. In my haze, I agreed to the episiotomy. I was like a test subject that said yes to everything. It was a scary feeling, now that I think about it. She numbed the area with a big needle of local anesthetic, and snipped it. Boy was that a strange sensation. No pain, but it was super weird. I was cut and after a few pushes, at 5:10 pm, Dahlia was born. All I could hear was my mom snicker and cry at the birth of her first grandchild. Dahlia's birth father cut the cord, and ten minutes after, he took off and left. That's a whole other story.
5:40 pm February 11th 2008
Trying to get Dahlia to breastfeed was difficult. She showed no interest, and I now understand it was because she was incredibly groggy from so much pain medication. Her Apgar score was 9 the first time, and 10 the second time. She responded, she just wasn't that into my breast. Great. My mom told me that as Dahlia was being born, a gush of blood shot out. That freaked me out. After I reveled in Dahlia's fatness, they took her to be weighed and "cleaned" and it was time to get the placenta out. I hate L&D rooms, everything is so rush rush, like a fast food joint. Get your order, and get out. I don't remember the contractions for the placenta, but what I will never forget is the sensation of the smooth, slick and slippery afterbirth sliding out of my vagina on to the bed. They didn't show it to me, nor was I interested back then, in looking at it. I was pretty squeamish, and even refused the mirror they offered me to be able to see her crowning. I was then stitched up, and my happy meal (Dahlia) was handed over to me, and we were rolled up to the maternity ward.
Up on the maternity ward, friends and family visited and after all was calm I settled in to get down to the business of breastfeeding. Over the next few weeks, we struggled with a bad latch, bad advice, cracked bleeding nipples,flat nippleds and, a pesky preference for the nipple shield, but at the same time, my love affair with breastfeeding began and eventually, with help and a loooooot of perseverance, we kept at it, and breastfeeding became amazing. I went on to exclusively breastfeed Dahlia for six months, working full time. We bed-shared, and I took her everywhere I went. When Dahlia was a year and a few months, and started to take interest in the world around her, I mistook her new found love (now everything else besides my breasts) for signs of weaning and slowly but surely, she weaned. I don't remember the last time I breastfed her, which is sad, but at least, even though I had wanted to go for much longer, it was not taken away from her abruptly.
Dahlia is today three years old and when she lays in my arms at night, she'll sometimes ask for mum mums, which I gladly oblige her with. She suckles for a few seconds and then smiles and says she's done. I've grown a lot since her birth and I've learned so much from what I've been through, both good and bad. My experiences with a hospital birth setting have lead me to choose a homebirth for the next child, and to breastfeed until she is truly ready to move on. I do regret the choices I've made during the labor of my daughter, because it complicated things, and could have made things worse, but I have learned from them, learned the truth about them and I'm determined to avoid that path the second time around.