Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Roan Reuel's Birth Story

(Note: My husband was in Wales during the birth of our second son, which explains his absence.  We Skyped as soon as we could afterwards, but my mother was my attendant during the birth.)

It was about 4:45 am, and there was a gush like a waterfall.  Where the heck was all that hiding?  So I sat in the bath, told my folks, felt a few contractions that went away, went back to sleep for several hours, and my mom was like . . . we better go in, just to make sure Baby is okay.  I felt some weak, irregular contractions.  There was a second gush, and I wager that's why the baby was measuring so big.

We tried to three times to drive to the hospital before getting very far.  First, my father's car was making a treacherous noise.  So we doubled back around.  My father sent us on, telling us not to worry about it.  The noise got worse.  So we took a detour to our trusty mechanic's.  He is an island man who runs his shop off of the abbey's property.  He has one of those mouths always on the verge of laughter and a generosity of spirit that staggers.  His rates are fantastic and his loyalty even better.  So we feel we can show up any time and are pretty confident that he'll find room for us in an emergency.  As we cruised up and rolled the window down on the passenger's side, we let him know what was up.

"Oh, my God!" he said, in Trinidadian accents.  His smile split his face it was so broad.  "I can't believe it.  You're in labor?  You're so calm!"

I brought him a hearty helping of entertainment that day, as  he went on that I had always had such a laid back personality.  He gave us one of his loaner cars and we were at last on our way.

I arrived at the hospital, filled out paperwork, etc.  They wanted to induce me, of course; because like last time, my baby was in no hurry to come out.

That takes hours, first they take you to triage to listen to the baby's heartbeat, then they prep you with a big bag of IV fluids (???), then they hook you up to the Pitocin.   My platelets were just shy of the minimum level to get an epidural, 101.  100 is the cut off.  Normal platelets are three-hundred something. 

Then the anesthesiologist came in and wasn't happy with the IV because it was too small.   If there was an emergency, he said, they'd need a bigger needle.  So he stuck me four more times trying to find a vein, and oh my gosh it hurt!   I still had this massive blue-black bruise in the inside of my right arm two weeks later.   Then he gave up and shared with me that if I were ever in a real emergency, like ambulance/ER, they'd have to go right to the neck in my vein, no messing around.  Eep!  (My girlfriend, whose mother is a nurse, told me he was exaggerating and that there is always someone in the hospital who they can call on who is a whizz with small veins.)  He was from Nigeria, very handsome and soothing-sounding, and he wanted to get me epidural-ed up pretty quick, but the midwife was kind enough to consider my personal empowerment during labor and chased him away, firmly but professionally.
So then the contractions got quite painful.  I don't think they're worse on Pitocin, but the progress is a lot faster than natural labor, which may make it seem more painful.  Experienced moms, is that the case?  Anyway, I asked for the epidural, and the anesthesiologist had me lean forward against my mom and plunged the needle into my spine--at which point, my right leg immediately seized up, and it felt soooooo much more painful than when I had it with Afon.   They lowered me back down, and I don't think the pain ever went away completely.   I remember the anesthesiologist making a comment about how I could still move my legs too well.  But I don't know why they didn't do anything about it.  

The contractions got worse and worse until they were ready to have me push, but Roan was not facing the way they wanted him to be, so they made me go on my side, first one, then the other, to try to push him out.   He wouldn't come.   No progress at all, and each time, his blood pressure shot up. He was happier when I lay flat on my back. 

Then I heard them start talking about prepping for a C-section.  Now, during this time, I was pretty fairly screaming, and I told my mom I was dying, and everyone had to keep telling me to calm down and stop screaming and remember to breathe.  It was about that time I started asking for a priest. They were like, "You're not dying," but I kept asking.  I asked if they could somehow pull the baby out, and they said they'd only do that as a last option.

"Mommy, why does it hurt so much?"

"Because God was really, really mad at Eve."

They ordered a STAT C-seciton, which means, like, NOW.   So my mom couldn't come in with me.

It felt like an eternity of time between them rolling me out of the delivery room into the operating room.  The last thing I said to my mom was, "Pray for me," and I was saying "Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy," over and over again.  They rolled me down the hall and I could see a surreal reflection of myself on the ceiling in something metal.  Every time I had a contraction, I'd whip my head back and forth and reach out like a crazy person and twist my legs.  I was a regular Gollum, pawing and begging.  They took forever to prep for surgery, and I kept asking where the anesthesiologist was. 

"I want to go to sleep," I said. 

 I must have asked four times, and the fourth time, I said, with the best pathetic smile I could manage, "Is he really coming, or are you all just telling me he's coming." 

 Because, like, I knew I was asking every 30 seconds or less. 

 "No, he's really coming." 

In a second, they kept saying. 

I suspect they didn't know the timing, they were just telling me that to shut me up!  

When the anasthesiologist finally came in, I reached my arm out to him and weakly tugged his short sleeve, brushing his arm with my fingertips, and he looked at me, a little bit startled.  

The midwife said, "She wants to go to sleep." 

I pawed a few more people, squeezed the midwife's hand, and told the nurse that if anything happened to me or the baby, would she please call a priest? and she said she would. 

Then I ceased to exist.

When I existed again, it was in scraps of distant conversation and a sensation of moving.  They were saying things like, "wisdom teeth" (the only other operation I've had) and "only one blood clot."  I had to move off of the stretcher onto a bed, I think, or maybe that was before, or later, and the male nurse in the recovery room was saying something to someone else about how his daughter had moved back in with them, and that she was "preggers," weird choice of words.  He didn't seem worried at all, that's why it stood out to me, my dad would have been so disapproving.  Funny what you remember when you're only barely conscious.

When I tried to talk, my voice came out hoarse; I could barely speak.  (Later, I was told they shoved a tube down my throat to get oxygen into me during surgery.)

"Was it a boy or a girl?"

"A boy, I think.   Let me check."  In and out, he was talking to someone.   "Yes, a boy."

I was disappointed for a few seconds, then was made to move, I think--or they let me go back on my side (I was there before? they seemed to intuit that I had a preference)--and then I asked how much he weighed, and the nurse said at first 7 lbs 8 oz (which was wrong because Roan was exactly 6 lbs 8 oz, like Afon).

Then I appeared in a different room, and my mom came out of my peripheral vision to the left, and she said, "Oh, Christie, he's so cute." And they rolled him up in his bassinet and put me in his arms and I thought he looked so much like Afon!
It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my entire life, but you know I would still have done it if I'd known.   With a lot less grace than Jesus in the Garden, though!  I'm so glad we don't know the future!

For many days after, I thought back on those last minutes, when I was begging to go to sleep and reaching out to any kind soul that would touch me.  I can't explain what it was like, except to say that in those minutes I loved each and every one of those doctors and nurses in the operating room with me.   I was totally dependent on them, like a child, and I could barely grasp that they were there to help me, that they were going to look after me.  It must be what a dog feels for its master or a baby for its mother, just complete, reckless, total love and gratefulness.   I'll never even see those people again, but I'm still in awe that we would do this for each other.  I was suffering, and they helped me.

I choose not to know the sex of my babies, so as to have something to look forward to, though in both instances, and especially this one, all else is extinguished from my brain but pain and primal concentration.  The name I held onto for a girl was Elsbeth--don't worry, I've been assured many times over that it was a good thing this never came to pass, though I stand by it stubbornly--but the names for boys have always been more difficult for me to settle on.  The gendered names of my babies change often throughout pregnancy, but a few days before his birth, I'd fluttered around the name Roan, and had it in my mind during labor, as I had Afon's, so that when he was presented to me, I thought Roan.  An Irish name meaning "little redhead."

My sister suggested the middle name Reuel ("friend of God" in Hebrew), after Tolkien, and after John's hearty approval, I announced his arrival to our little world.


  1. What an amazing story! What a courageous mother you are! Thank you for sharing your experience... and how you came up with Roan's name (I was just wondering that).

    1. Sara, thank you for saying that! I don't think of myself as courageous, but I've been reminded to give myself some credit from time to time. It's not in my nature!

      I overthink the naming process, but at least my children won't be confused with their classmates, LOL!


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