Thursday, May 29, 2014
The Birth of Iris Eve: Part Four
Photo by Leah Naomi Photography
When we reached the hospital the pain was so intense inside of me I couldn't stand up. I was quickly put in a wheelchair and ushered up to the Labor and Delivery unit. For the entire ride I closed my eyes and didn't open them until I was in the birthing room putting on a gown.
I was calm. Peaceful. Grateful. But the contractions were sending me into unashamed screaming. The nurse attending to me quickly worked around me and asked if I felt ready to push.
"No, I just want relief. It hurts so badly." I said.
"The anesthesiologist is next door," she said, "I can have him come here next and give you an epidural."
"It's not too late?" I asked.
"No, I think we still have time," she replied working like a whirling dervish around the room--poking my skin for IVs, wrapping bracelets around my wrists, and checking me for progress.
"You're about a 7-8," she announced looking up at the ceiling as she felt inside me. "We're putting you on oxygen for the baby's sake."
A mask was produced and I dutifully put it on.
She added. "And this baby has hair."
I'm sure there were conversations about us at the nurses station--this weird unassisted homebirthing couple that just rolled through the doors with a stuck, overdue baby and a mother who screamed prayers every time she contracted--but nobody said anything about it. I felt like no one cared what our birth plans were, at this point safety was priority. I couldn't have been more relieved.
The minute the anesthesiologist opened the door I could see in him salvation. The contractions were coming fast now and each of them sent me deeper into desperation. It only took a few minutes before the needle in my back sent the message of numbness to my muscles. I want to hug this man for bringing the good news.
And then, things just slowed way down. I was given watermelon-flavored ice chips to chew and Christopher had some Lorna Dunes--the only cookie in the world that tastes better in the hospital or at the local blood drive.
"So, it's after midnight," Christopher said, "you really are going to have this baby on March 8th."
"I know," I said, feeling especially proud of myself and relishing in the vanishing anxiety that a contraction wasn't going to come and kick me from behind again. "And it's Steve's birthday. So I think we should name her Iris Eve--Eve for the last three letters in his name."
Steve is my oldest brother, and one of my favorite people on this planet. He's been a good brother to me and the love he has for my children is very endearing and sweet. I liked the idea of Iris having the same name and birthday of her uncle. That's a pretty unique story.
"Well, just because you were right about the date doesn't mean you're right about the gender," Christopher teased me.
Then the doctor came in. Doc of the Day they call him because I didn't have a doctor of my own to call, I just got the one that was on duty. He was short and talked with a high voice and did his work like he was flipping steak on the barbecue. Ho hum.
"So, yep. This baby is stuck," he announced with a sigh, feeling around in my uterus. "But this is your fourth baby? I think we won't have a problem. But we might. I mean, you do have solid birthing hips."
And shut up now.
"So, why don't we...see how we are in a little bit. Baby seems to be ok."
Ho hum. Flipping a burger. And such.
The north side of our room was a wall of windows and we could see the lights of our town out in the darkness. We both fell asleep for awhile, trying to ignore constant beepings and blippings and the squeezing noise of the blood pressure monitor around my bicep.
A few hours later the nurse came into tell me I was ready to start pushing. The epidural had considerably slowed down my labor which was great, because it gave the baby time to move and now things were ready. Except, though the baby had moved down, she was turned sideways--somewhere between posterior and anterior.
And that's when the doctor came in wielding what looked like a long weapon wrapped in a blue, velvety casing. Like a swordsmen he unveiled the contents--two thin metal objects--and with the palm of his hand, rubbed the fine steel up and down until it almost sparkled.
"So, I need to turn your baby. Not only is the baby stuck I think there might be some shoulder issues. And these," he said looking at them and touching them like they were elvish forceps from middle earth, "are going to do the job.
But to me they looked like salad tongs and I thought, Now he's going to make salad to go with the barbecue.
"Look. It's either I use these," insert more admiring looks from doctor to forceps "or I wheel you into the OR and we have a c-section. You choose."
I decided right then I was going to show that doctor what a valiant birther I was. I wasn't going to let him threaten me. No sir, Mr. Doc of the Day. Not today.
"You watch," I said to him, "I'll have this baby out in two pushes."
"Ok" Ho hum.
And with that they readied my numbed legs into position and as soon as the nurse saw my body contracting on the monitor they told me to push. And I pushed. I looked Christopher and I thought about how we had done this together before, just the two of us, like it was no big deal. I pushed as a team of NICU nurses came through the door and stationed themselves at the cradle on the far side of the room. I pushed as a half-dozen crew of hospital staff came rolling into to help. I pushed remembering this was exactly the scene I saw in a vision as we prayed together in my freshly-painted silver room just hours earlier. And I pushed as the sun started to peak over the Wasatch Mountains turning the gray, snow-washed Timpanogos into a pink spectacle of lording grandeur.
And as I pushed, the doctor shoved those salad tongs into my body and twisted and pulled, twisted and pulled like he was tossing the world's most intricate salad. And as my mask fed me oxygen, I pushed and I worried about the impact this would have on my body, because it didn't look good. Not good at all. And I thought of how horridly painful it would've been had I not had an epidural. I looked at Chup who was clearly drained from surrendering his job over to a room of professionals and I wanted him to know how much I loved him. Because he would do anything in the world for me.
"I see a head," he said to me looking at me with a hint of worry and a taste of hope.
"One more push." I said into my mask to a room that was too busy to hear.
And again, when the nurse told me to I pushed, and the doctor tossed, and out came a pink, slippery baby decorated in meconium.
I heard a nurse ask, "What's the gender Dad?"
But I kept saying. "I'm no longer pregnant! I'm no longer pregnant! I AM NO LONGER PREGNANT!" I just wanted someone to congratulate me for that fact in and of itself.
And then, Christopher's voice snapped me back into the present.
"A girl," he said. And the Doc of the Day had the cord ready for his chopping.
"Can't we wait to cut?" I said feeling suddenly rushed and panicky. Everything was happening so fast.
"I've got to get her over to the NICU team," he said through his mask with my-steaks-are-burning urgency.
"I can't hold her?"
"In a minute," he replied, "I've got to get her over there." He pointed with his chin, while holding my baby and offering the cord to Christopher which frankly, seemed a little silly, seeing how he delivered my last baby without breaking a sweat. I mean, what's a cord cut at this point? Just a ceremonial let-daddy-in-on-some-action.
But the cord was cut and my baby was ushered over to a team of nurses onto a cradle I couldn't see.
"Please go over and be with her," I asked Chup. "I'm fine."
Well, fine except for the awful feeling of helplessness. I fell in love with my baby as I heard suction noises in between raspy cries, and fought the urge to run to her with my slouchy numbed legs and save her somehow. Even though I knew--and was acutely grateful for--those nurses were there to make sure my daughter was completely healthy and entirely safe.
"Well, how about this," said the doctor looking at the aftermath in my birthing canal, "you didn't even tear. Not one scratch."
Was he proud of himself or me? I couldn't tell.
"You could have a lot more babies you know. The way you just did what you did."
Again, compliment? I don't know.
Then a nurse came to me and said, "She's a really big baby, way to go!"
But even though I stretched my neck and sat up as high as I could on that pedestal of a bed, I couldn't see her and I wanted to see her in the worst way.
I did see, however, the Doc of the Day in the opposite corner speaking to a cleaning tech about how to best handle the forceps. It looked like he was asking a valet to park his very expensive car. But for all of his regrettable bedside manners, I felt a lot of love for him. I was very grateful he helped my baby come out of my body safely. And I had to hand it to him, he could toss a pretty clean salad with elvish swords.
The NICU nurses worked silently, and the other hospital staff disappeared, the monitors were shut down and the lights were dimmed. All I could hear was the scream of my baby I couldn't help. And then, I watched as the NICU team finished up, left the room and closed the door.
Christopher brought the baby over to me.
"Iris Eve," I said her name over and over and I reached for her. My Iris Eve. She had stopped crying and looked around like we had just thrown her the best surprise party. She was beautiful. Pink, puffy cheeks and blond hair. She was nearly nine pounds and I loved all of her.
She reminded me of a queen. A royal birth. All births are, really. But this time I felt like I was in the presence of someone regal. And beautiful.
Then when she was safely in my arms, and Christopher was able to breathe away the separation of expectation and reality, we sat and watched the sun finish its job of turning our sleepy valley into the borderland colors of late winter and early spring, bringing with it a shy blue sky, remembering to paint the very last corners of the jagged, fabled top of Timpanogos with a soft, icy pink.