My Labor Story (complete with Q & A)

I talked about it, I wrote about it, I griped about it. I feared for the day and lamented the day. I had anxiety everyday for the past two months over it and imagined the worst-case scenario with every article I read about it.

Then finally, on April 30th, I lived through it. “It” being actually giving birth – me, the person who has had the recurring anxiety dream since I was a teenager that I all of a sudden go into labor without previously knowing I was pregnant. No joke, I spent years haunted by this dream so you can imagine what the thought of giving birth did to me in real life.

This is not the labor you've heard about....

At first I didn’t want to believe I was going into labor, but the pain, which felt like taking a brutal hit with a baseball bat right to my lower back was different from all the other pains I had experienced in the last two months of pregnancy. Still, my attitude was “sit and keep watch.” The reality was that I didn’t want to be going into labor. First of all, it was nighttime and if there was ANYTHING I had repeatedly hoped for was to go into labor during the day. You know, so I could count on a full night’s sleep and proceed with energy the following day for the labor portion of the agenda. The mere thought of being up all night in pain just made me want to crawl into bed and sleep. And that’s exactly what I did. After a long, hot shower – where yet again I was met with a debilitating pain I can now recognize as contractions – I crawled into bed and decided that this wasn’t labor, but instead, false labor known as Braxton Hicks contractions.

Yes my good people, I tried to Jedi-mind trick myself into thinking that I was NOT going into labor. This mind over matter exercise I was putting into practice was destined to fail, of course. I was obviously in labor and as much as I tried to carry on with my evening as if there was nothing to see here, this baby was RSVP-ing her appearance to the outside world in a matter of hours.

And speaking of … one always hears these cray cray stories about women being in labor for a million and a half hours. To the unknowing mind, this sounds like one is doing the stuff seen on tv the entire time – i.e. pushing and sweating and hurting for 30+ hours. The reality is that labor involves the ENTIRE process of giving birth, and the pushing, sweating part, is a small fraction of the process. Also, it’s not bloody and it’s not painful (that is, if you have a lifesaver called an epidural.) Don’t get me wrong, before the epidural I was in the most painful state of my life. I didn’t realize that something could hurt that much. I always used to wonder: “What do contractions feel like?” and I’ve read answers that state “like really bad menstrual cramps.” UM – WRONG!!! It’s like really bad menstrual cramps times 5,000. No, times a million. Then imagine a baseball bat being involved, hitting you right where it hurts most – and hard! And it’s not just your lower stomach but also your entire torso! It’s a sharp pain that starts either in your abs and immediately grabs your back, or vice versa. In any case, your back is involved which makes it ridiculously difficult to “walk it off” as many sites tend to suggest. You can barely stand up straight, let alone walk it off. I also tried to breathe through it but that was a joke as well. Whoever suggested either of those as possible solutions to the pain was clearly a Birkenstock-wearing, hippy.

In any case, my labor story started off like this and continued on until 5:56 am when the little pygmy hippo made her debut out here. Between the time elapsed with the details above and the actual time of birth, a total of 10 hours passed. Of these 10 hours, 5 were spent in complete and total, utter and relentless, pain. For all those who are interested, I’d really like to address some true-to-life questions about how it all went down between the Jedi-mind trick, the contractions and the actual birth. To do so, I think the best way would be via a Q&A of the top questions I’ve been asked about the whole ordeal. If there’s one thing I won’t do is sugarcoat it so here it is, in all its gutsy glory.

My Labor Story Q & A:

Q. Does your water really “break?” Because that sounds gross.
A. I don’t know if your water will break but mine didn’t “break” … it kind of just sprung a leak. Since tampons are forbidden during this time, I had to bust out the woman diapers – I mean, the maxi pads – which was all kinds of gross. But in short, no, I didn’t all of a sudden gush the new Niagra Falls from in between my legs. It just felt like I had my period – and I was 12 again, with a big ol’ pad to weather the storm.

Holy OUCH!! via nysora.com

Q. What does the epidural feel like? Does it really NOT hurt because I call bullshit!
A. Let’s get one thing straight – the actual insertion of the epidural hurt like a MOTHERFUCKER. Like seriously, I burst into tears. I wasn’t sure if the contractions hurt more or if that ginormous whatever-you-call-it being inserted between two discs in my spine hurt more. It wasn’t just a prick, wham, bam – pain is gone in two seconds type of thing either. It hurt, then it hurt some more, then it REALLY hurt, then I thought I’d pass out from the hurt and just for shits and giggles, it hurt one last time. And then all of a sudden ….nothing. Bliss. Heaven on Earth. Zen. In.the.zone. Call it what you will, all of a sudden after 5 hours of intense pain and then 10 minutes of spinal cord pain – no pain. Ahhhhh, the almighty epidural. Trust me when I tell you that despite the pain of it going in, the relief you feel afterward is SO worth it. And no, seriously, you don’t feel the pain of the contractions.

Q. You pushed a 6 pound baby out of your va-jay-jay… tell the truth – are you a disfigured mess down there or what?
A. Oh the vaginal birth … good for quick healing, bad for your post-baby sex life? On the contrary, my dear friend! That is, if you have a doctor like the one I had who made sure that after all was said and done, I was neatly put “back in my place” so to speak. I didn’t know it before, but birth is a sure way to leave your inhibitions at the door. What I mean is that there is NO ONE – NO ONE – within a 10-foot radius of you, who doesn’t take a gander at your hoo-ha at some point or another throughout the ordeal. Most of these people will take a gander repeatedly throughout the three days you’re in the hospital (clinica). It gets to the point where you just spread eagle for anyone who walks through the door, just to save time. All this is normal, of course. What I found to be off-your-rocker strange is the fact that EVERYONE wanted to see the stitches of the episiotomy … and what’s more, they wanted to see them because it was my doctor who had performed the procedure – they all agreed, he does “fantastic” work. Never before, and probably never again, have I had so many people oooh and ahhh in splendor at my nether region. Amidst the bloated middle, disheveled hair, makeup-less face and swollen feet, I could rest assured that my hoo-ha was left in top-notch condition. Thank you, Dr. Alcalde! I salute you.

Q. Holy shit!! You had an episiotomy???!!! What the hell?
A. Yeah, I know, crazy. And no, I wasn’t expecting it and no, the doctor didn’t tell me about it until right AS HE WAS PERFORMING it. However, I didn’t feel anything (all hail the mighty epidural) as it occurred and so, it would be a lie to tell you that it hurt. What DID hurt was the healing!! OMG it hurt. I couldn’t sit straight for about 5 days and the first few days were awful! But at that point, the baby was out, I was in recovery and apparently my hoo-ha was looking spectacular – what was the point in complaining?

Q. Is the post birth bleeding “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” style?
A. Good Lord, where did you hear that? Actually, yes and no. The first few days it is … then it’s not. Then it’s like a normal heavy period that eventually gets lighter. You’ll survive. I did.

Larger than life. via Wikipedia.org

Q. So that means you have to wear those “Stay Puft Marshmallow Man” pads that the hospital gives you?
A. Yeah and they suck. It’s like you’re walking around with a throw pillow between your legs. I wasn’t a fan and I don’t think you will be either. You’ll feel better knowing that by the time I left the hospital, I didn’t need the throw pillow pads anymore so you just have to suck it up for a few days.

Q. So you gave birth to an actual human being – do you now have feelings of self-entitlement? Are you all “I am woman, hear me roar” now?
A. Listen buddy, I’m not sure I like your attitude! But since you asked, no, I don’t feel entitled just because I’m able to make a person and pop her out. Yes, when I think about how crazy it is that a woman’s body knows exactly what to do, how to do it and when to do it, I find it downright miraculous. But after the fact, when the baby is out and you’re faced with actually having to care for it, your ass is kicked from here to Albuquerque in such a way, that any feelings of smugness quickly fade. In fact, it’s the worst “standing-naked-in-front-of-the-classroom” equivalent because you are vulnerable, have no idea what you’re doing and all of a sudden realize you’re faced with the greatest challenge (and opportunity) in your life. There is no smugness to be had when all you feel is, quite simply, humbled. Scared and humbled.

And that, my friend, is where you find yourself immediately after giving birth. But that’s a story for another day.

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End of the road

I’ve been consumed with doctor’s appointments this week and visits to the clinica (hospital) for one thing or another. Why? I guess there comes a moment in some pregnancies where the woman’s body just says “peace out” or “get this ball of baby out of here because it’s literally cramping my style.” This is what seems to be happening with me and as a result, my doctor has turned the hourglass over on this journey called pregnancy.

Like sands in the hourglass .... via 411onsoaps.com

And when I say hourglass, I mean that the days are numbered. By that I mean either tomorrow, Thursday, or next Monday, at the latest. Are you getting what I’m telling you? It means that by THIS TIME NEXT WEEK I’LL BE A MOM. Let’s ponder that for a second….

When one first embarks on this journey (again, if you’re like me), you spend a bit of time trying to wrap your mind around the fact that you’re now one of those women who breeds. You spend an equal amount of time trying to come to terms with the fact that you can no longer enjoy the glass of wine that made all lousy days bearable. Just when you need that glass of vino most, all of a sudden it’s one of the biggest no-no’s around. That and caffeine. Just like that, your morning and evening drinks are no longer applicable to your body’s new role of “baby making.”

After that initial shock and disbelief, what happened with me is that I just kind of “forgot” that I was pregnant. I use the term “forgot” quite loosely because the reality is that I took care of myself, signed up for all kinds of preggo lady newsletters, downloaded apps on my phone, went to all the necessary appointments, took all the necessary tests (pin cushion, anyone?) and took all the required vitamins (and we’re not talking the Flintstones anymore) expected of a mom-to-be. I took on the role of pregnant lady like I would take on any other responsibility and I did it as completely as possible. So what do I mean by “forgot?” I mean that I didn’t go all agro crazy about the baby. In fact it was during this time that G and I took our fabu vacation to Southeast Asia. This was followed by the craziest three months at work where I literally ate, breathed and slept all things work. In short, I didn’t buy baby things, or think about baby names or decorate the bedroom or even imagine in the slightest what the baby would be like. I wasn’t consumed at all and kind of took an “out of sight, out of mind” stance to it all.

This was a fine and dandy strategy until riiiiiiight around January of this year when we moved from our first apartment together to the one we’re in now, a move motivated exclusively by the arrival of this bundle. But even during this time, the reality of the pregnancy and the baby didn’t really, truly, sit in. I mean, sure, we all of a sudden had a physical space for the baby by way of an actual room, but up until a month ago, said room was really a storage area where G kept his tools. Even Obi wasn’t too sure what to make of that room and decided that it was the perfect place to poop on the newly rolled out carpet – hey, when in doubt use it as a bathroom.

I guess that the real “culprit” as to why I haven’t really registered this pregnancy as perhaps a “normal” woman would is that I’ve thankfully felt fine throughout the entire ordeal. It really wasn’t until about 3 weeks ago that I started to feel horrible (thank goodness for government backed maternity leave) and since I worked until the very last day the Chilean government and my employer would allow me to work, my mind was on other things: things I know, things I’m familiar with, things I’m good at. In between of course I read everything under the sun (“What to Expect When You’re not Sure What to Expect,” “What to Expect of Yourself When You’re Expecting to Blow It,” “What to Expect of a Baby with Expectations,” “When Expecting is not What you Expected Unabridged version” “Low Expectations, High Expectations and Baby in Between” etc, etc, what have you) and in reading found out way too much information about va-jay-jays, secretions, stretching and tearing and pooping when you least expect it. So what I’m saying here is this: I prepared as best I could but in reality, I prepared as if I were going into a final exam at the end of the nine months where I’d be tested on all things studied.

Here's what I imagined via Babble Blogs: Strollerderby

Except, now I know that this isn’t really going to go down like I thought (and by that I mean “read”) it would.
I hope I’m not alone in revealing that BEFORE this whole preggo ordeal I imagined birth to be like in the movies: blood, screaming, gooey, disgusting mess and total unexpected craziness. In the movies, the water breaks, the lady starts with her blood curdling screams, we fast forward to a sterile, cold birthing room, blood splattered walls, more screaming and then a slimy baby popping out from the hoo-ha. In fact it would seem that the first part of my experience isn’t going to catch me off guard at all. I had these visions that I’d be walking around the grocery store and then SPLASH!! – said water breaking and everyone around me slipping and sliding to avoid a gross encounter. I imagined having to call G detailing how “far apart” the contractions were coming and subsequently speeding down the highway so as not to pop a baby out in a car down by the river.

I know that this preggo journey is going to be over either tomorrow or, at the latest, Monday. I feel like I’ve had a total of one month to mentally prepare for this and, OF COURSE, I don’t feel prepared. I should feel like I’ve had months and months to prepare but because of my own idiosyncrasy, I didn’t afford myself this luxury of time. But then again, who’s to say that I didn’t actually do myself a favor? I mean, birth and having a baby isn’t something that one can “study” or “train” for. In fact, nine times out of ten, each time I read something, I end up freaking out or imagining a worst case scenario version of whatever I happened to have just read. What I mean by all this is, had I afforded myself the time to marinate on the pending momdom that’s fast approaching me, I would have ended up more neurotic than I already am. Despite this, I know that sitting on this side of pregnancy, a day will come when I’m on the OTHER side (i.e. with baby outside) and I’ll think back to this period and kick myself for not having known better. Even now I know that I should have embraced it more, but in the moment I just couldn’t.

And so, where do I stand given that possibly tomorrow (or Monday at the latest) a baby (A BABY!!!) that’s been a-cookin’ for the past 9+ months will make its debut? Yes, I’m scared – there’s just no way around that. However, I can’t say I’m not armed with information. If there’s something that I’ve been doing it’s reading every single day about every single possible topic related to pregnancy, newborns, bringing home baby, pooping and all that’s in between. If I were to be tested on this matter, I’d pass with flying colors, win a spanking brand new baby and a year’s supply of Turtle Wax 5-in-1 Fresh Shine Protectant. Pass me the Scantron, my #2 pencil is sharpened!

I seriously can’t believe that this period of my life is almost over. I’m not gung-ho-happy-to-be-preggo lady but it’s a time in my life that will never happen again – kind of how I view my wedding. I’m glad I have pictures of that so I can look back and remember “Oh yeah” about all the details. And speaking of pictures, throughout this pregnancy I never really shared any pictures of my pygmy hippo-ness … well, for the sake of posterity, here are a few:

6.5 months

7.5 months

9 months (with my numba one stunna)

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First trip to the clinica in 2010

What new year would be complete without a trip to the urgent care clinic?

This post will be short and brief and is only intended to give mad props to Clinica Santa Maria since I had quite a pleasant experience there from 11 p.m. to approximately 1 a.m. as I was waiting for test results and medication to snap me out of my state of misery.

Going to the urgent care clinic is never supposed to be comfortable and pleasant by the mere nature of the word “urgent.” But somehow this clinic pulled it off and trust me, it was daunting enough to deal with my issue in a “foreign” country. I spent all day debating about what to do … for whatever reason, everything in Santiago either seems harder than it needs to be or is made harder because I create all kinds of ‘what-if’ worst-case scenarios in my head. G and I actually got into a quasi-fight over this exact thing because it was making me hesitate to go to the clinic in the first place. Ultimately he won that argument, I went, I saw, I was impressed and I was made whole again (thanks to $40 USD worth of 500 mg antibiotics.)

Well, now 2010 can officially begin, folks!

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