Drugs, not hugs!

Welcome to the world, Maddux Elise Phillips!

Doubtless, given my failure to post an update after my last entry, you are left wondering whether the big event finally arrived. The answer, of course, is yes.

I did make it to that highly anticipated pedicure — and not a moment too soon!

That other highly anticipated event — the grand debut of the wee one — was getting ready to happen, to my great and unending denial. My contractions had been four minutes apart since Tuesday night and by the time I made it to the salon on Thursday morning, they’d been clocked at two minutes apart. But since they weren’t any more painful than period cramps, I decided there was no way possible that I was in transition labor. (I was right, but I was in early labor).

I left the salon with toenails painted a lovely shade of ‘Suzi Sells Sushi by the Seashore’ (that’s OPI-ese for peachy pink) and drove home through my two-minutes-apart contractions. On arriving home, I was informed that the pedicure package should have included a paraffin dip, so I scheduled that for 2:15 and begged the contractions not to get any harder. Lucky for me, my uterus obeyed me until I returned home with warm, soft feet and joined Chris in the office.

At some point while timing my contractions, I realized that they were still two minutes apart and were now at least as painful as period cramps. I also realized that we live 40 minutes from the hospital and that Chris would not appreciate my giving birth a) on the office futon or b) in the Nissan. (I probably wouldn’t have appreciated those options either, as Chris is not licensed to practice medicine or administer anesthesia.)

Since Dr. Goncalves was the on-call physician that day at the hospital, his receptionist told me to go to Labour and Delivery and have Dr. G check me out. When we got to the hospital about 3:45, we discovered that another highly anticipated event had occurred without our knowing. While I waited in the examination room, Chris headed downstairs to check me into the hospital and was told I needed a new hospital card that had my MSP number on it. Yes, my health-care coverage application has apparently been approved, and, like the pedicure, I got it just in time.

Unfortunately, while everything else was falling into place in a timely manner, my cervix was not so cooperative. Despite my having had regular contractions for nearly two solid days, and close regular contractions for about 16 hours, I was still a mere 2 cm dilated at 5 p.m.

Our little daughter’s heart rate, which had been a very predictable 145 or so at nearly every prenatal visit from week 12 on, had been up in the 160s for much of the time since I’d been admitted, dipping lower during those stressful contractions. The nurses determined that I was in labor, but it was still early labor. However, because of the distance between our home in Peachland and the hospital in Penticton, combined with the fact that it was my first baby and we couldn’t predict how quickly labor might progress, Dr. Goncalves made the call to admit me sooner rather than later.

I walked around laboring blissfully for awhile, filled with a mixture of anticipation and disbelief. When Dr. G arrived at the hospital, I was certain I’d be at least 4 cm. Alas, while the contractions had gotten harder and remained two minutes apart, my stubborn cervix had not budged a millimeter in the past two hours.

With me getting tired and frustrated and the baby remaining stressed, Dr. Goncalves and I decided that it was time to speed things up. At 6:45, he broke my water, and immediately things began to progress. My contractions now felt like what I’d expected from labor, and I was finally able to use my breathing techniques in earnest. Pretty soon, it became impossible to walk or stand ‘ but when Dr. G checked me about 9 p.m., I was dilated only 3 cm. And our obstinate little girl was facing forward rather than to my spine, which meant that I was enjoying what is known as back labor and that it would only get worse unless we managed to get her to turn around.

At some point while I was bent over the top of the bed on hands and knees in a most undignified effort to corral our wee daughter into an appropriate position, the contractions went from pretty bad to unbearable. My plan had been to deliver with no medications but the epidural, but since I hadn’t reached 4 cm there was no hope of getting one any time soon. So I scrapped my original plan and huffed Entenox as if my life depended on it. Pretty soon, I was informed that I still wasn’t dilating, and since there was no way I could stand, let alone walk the halls, I straddled the world’s most uncomfortable chair — which I suspect was brought in directly from my first-grade music classroom — in order to let gravity work its magic. Apparently it worked because within minutes I was begging for an epidural (which, as you may recall, I was not able yet to have). A friend from prenatal class brought lavender oil and massaged my ankles, which made the contractions bearable, and when I was told that I did not actually need the C-section I was begging for, I agreed to be given more drugs. The way I anticipated the insertion of the IV and its soothing dose of Fentanyl has convinced me that it would be a very bad idea indeed for me to ever try heroin.

The details of labor after the administration of Fentanyl are a bit hazy (only partly owing to the narcotics). It is difficult to look at the clock or listen to the nurses when one is simultaneously hyperventilating and screaming one’s head off. At some point I hit 4 cm and left the labor room for my epidural. When they checked me again before actually inserting the catheter, I had dilated to 6-7 cm and was feeling the urge to push during contractions (don’t worry — I didn’t!). By 11 p.m., when the catheter was in and I had stopped screaming, I was at 7-8 cm.

I don’t know how it feels in normal labor, but let me just say that, when you are having rapid back labor, epidurals do NOT result in feelings of mere pressure rather than pain. They simply make the pain such that you can breathe through it without yelling maniacally and frightening people walking past the maternity wing. Unfortunately, Chris’ 11-year-old cousin Becca was within earshot and is now planning never to have children.

An hour after my epidural, I was fully dilated and ready to push our daughter out of her not-so-comfy home. An hour and fifteen minutes or so later (and after our wee one’s “stupid melon head” was roundly condemned), Maddux Elise entered the world sideways at 1:21 a.m. May 6. It seems she had rotated 45 degrees in the birth canal, which might explain why pushing was the least back-labor-heavy part of the night.

Maddi was born weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches. She’s been eating like a champ and has already nearly gained back the 7 ounces she lost the day after being born. Much thanks to Maddi’s Nana, who helped me through most of my contractions, and to Auntie Kathy who provided support, compresses and prayers, and especially to Chris, who — unlike the dad in the childbirth video we watched in prenatal class — did everything right! And of course, big ups to Dr. G, the wonderful nurses and, last but not least, the anesthetist.

Sadly, what they say about the best laid plans is true. I planned to have a drug-free delivery with the option of an epidural if I really needed one, and I pretty well drained the pharmacy. And while I was so excited to get my pedicure, my entire labor was spent with slipper socks covering my pretty nails.

Despite these little disappointments — and the horrid back labor — I am so happy to finally have my baby daughter in my arms. Chris and I have been home with Maddi for two days now and, while we fear we will never sleep again, we are enjoying our little girl immensely!

Pictures of the labor and delivery are available in Chris’ photo gallery.

And now — you knew it was coming — my final preggie pic at Week 39.7!

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