When we last left our heroine, she was coping with “Active” labor at Swedish Hospital. (Though it’s called “Swedish,“ do not think of this. Or this.) This is where things really start moving as the body gears up for birth. Kit was dealing with it well using a bit of water therapy, music, and breathing.
This went on for a number of hours in a gradual build. Then it got TOUGH. The contractions were really painful, they were closer together, she felt both too hot and too cold, and she could not find a comfortable position.
What this was, looking back on it, was “Transitional” labor. This is the stage where the baby drops down through the pelvis and gets in place right against the cervix. It’s the incredibly painful part.
The funny thing is that Active labor blends into it; there’s no cue or sudden change to indicate you’re in Transition. And last time her dilation was checked, she had a little way to go. So from her perspective, she had a few hours of this ahead of her yet. Not a happy kitty.
The (Almost) Epidural
The pain and the thought that it would last that much longer were too much. The contractions were coming so close together that she couldn’t recover and really collect herself to brace for the next one. Then there was a monster of a contraction that hit her.
She used her panic word: “Burma!” (I’ll leave it to the Python fans -- Kevin J, I’m looking at you -- to work out the choice of code word there.)
I turned to the nurse and said, “She wants an epidural now. Get it started, please.” The nurse stepped into the hall and called for the anesthesiologist.
It took four minutes (which, in labor terms, is 9.3 hours) for the anesthesiologist to get to the room. He was an older, stern-faced gentleman with a germanic accent. He held a wrapped bundle on a tray in front of him while he looked around the room, as if there were some question about who the patient was. (Hint: the woman on the bed groaning and gasping.)
“Ah, I’ll need you to sit up so I can reach your back.”
He placed his tray on the bedside stand and unfolded the work cloth. He unpacked and arranged his tools on the tray. While he meticulously prepared the cotton swab, my wife levered herself upright with Trey and I on either shoulder.
“Now, I’ll just disinfect the area. This won’t hurt,” he said. At this point, as demonstrated by the eye-bulging contraction that hit her, I don’t think Kit was terribly worried about the pain from the needle. In fact, I’m not sure she would’ve noticed if he’d just plunged it straight in right then.
“Just once more to cleanse it,” he said in his crisp accent as he glacially retrieved another bit of cotton from his tray.
Kit acknowledged by making a sound somewhat like a wounded hippo surfacing in a pool, bellowing and blowing. She flopped down onto her side on the bed.
The anesthesiologist straightened his back and gave her a stern look. “I’m afraid I can’t really do it from that angle. You’ll need to sit up.”
“Too late,” she gasped.
He looked at me, as if confused about why someone would suddenly refuse his professional ministrations.
“Never mind,” I told him. I turned to talk to the nurse but she, cognizant of how quickly things were moving now, was already in the hall calling for the doctor.
The nurse was back in seconds. She told Kit, “Don’t push yet.”
“There’s the head!”
Now, I want to pause and note that I’ve read several books about childbirth at this point. (Out of the six or so my wife pushed toward me.) And I distinctly recall that one of them talked about this stage of labor, Delivery.
It said that as the baby moves into the birth canal, the head will ease forward, becoming visible at the height of the push and then retreating slightly. Each contraction edges the baby gently forward, so as not to stress the baby or mother’s body. The head is followed, a few contractions later, by one arm and shoulder. Then the remainder of the baby arrives.
That is very much not what happened.
Kit was a champ and her body had finally cottoned on to the fact that it was high time to give birth and there was no sense in dawdling.
The very next push after the head had first crowned, Charlotte was delivered. She rocketed out, accompanied by the gush of fluids and semi-solids that accompany a baby, and landed on the bedsheet.
The doctor arrived slightly after Charlotte did. He did not waste any time. He got Lottie picked up, cleaned off, shown to the parents, and tested.
Then there was the placenta, a wonder of biology that you should not look at too closely right after eating.
Lottie got some skin time with mommy, in between measurements and testings and labelings. She snuggled and cried. After Timothy’s respiratory complications (pneumothoraxis, that being the latinate-so-you-don’t-panic-the-parents term for a collapsed lung) it was actually quite a relief to hear her cry.
A short while later, they did start giving her extra oxygen because her lungs weren’t developed to full efficiency. I covered those details in the other post.
Kit recovered and had a big celebratory meal. Trey was nice enough to get it from the hospital cafeteria which has café hours during the day, take-out window hours during the night, and pokey room delivery only from 5am to 7am. Yes, Kit fell into that window with a 4:54 birth. (I think it’s 4:53 officially but one of the nurses said 4:54 to me and it stuck in my head.) So she did finally get a bowl of Cheerios and strawberries, though. Trey and I got yogurt and a blueberry muffin and two cups of Earl Gray tea that we forgot to brew since we were celebrating deliriously. :D