The REAL good stuff–Alaine

(Cross posted at Tomas blog)

There was this perfect moment the morning Alaine was born.  The labor was over.  The snow was falling.  And I looked over into the isolette that had been sitting empty for 36 hours and saw this beautiful baby, wide-eyed, round head, pink cheeks.  Perfection.  A few moments later, she was laid on my chest and I was wholly overwhelmed with love.

I didn’t believe throughout my entire pregnancy that it could be real.  That I could really have a perfect little person growing inside of me.  Our miscarriage last year shook my confidence, and then the discovery of Tomas and the myriad of other ‘not quite right’ health issues that cropped up only shook me more.  The only time that I truly waited with excited expectation was during and immediately following ultra-sounds.  The rest of the time a large part of me was in a state of protective ambivalence.  If I didn’t think about what was at stake, or at least if I didn’t fully grasp the reality of it, maybe if I lost it, it wouldn’t hurt so much.

As we prepared more and more for the birth of baby, taking precautions that startled me and made me face the reality that this pregnancy was unique and that this labor and delivery would have to be too, made me feel more secure in some ways, and more frightened in others.

And then there was our luck that ran through to the end.

We were scheduled to go in to begin the induction on Monday the 22nd.  I got myself as mentally ready as I could for that, and when Monday dawned, I had on my game face.

Then it started snowing….  And snowing….  And snowing.  It didn’t stop.  We read weather reports.  We watched news.  I called my doctor and asked what to do.  The first answer I got surprised me:  Just wait til next week.  Next WEEK?!  Didn’t we have a PLAN here?  I wasn’t sure where my doctor was coming from.  We’d had this plan the whole time—Induce early.  IT was a plan that I had to work pretty hard to wrap my head around as I got used to the ‘wait and go late’ process with Carolyn and Abigail.

When I was finally able to speak to my doctor I was relieved that she told me that they wanted to get me in as soon as it was safe.  The plans and the reasoning behind them hadn’t changed, but our physical safety on the road to Seattle was also being taken into account.  She said if we found a window, to come in.

Tuesday it was clear and cold.   By the afternoon, even the unpracticed methodology of the state of Washington’s DOT was able to clear the roads enough for us to feel ok about going in.  So we did.

On the way, Andy noticed the steering wheel was pulling to the left.  When we got to the parking garage we saw that we had an extremely underinflated tire.

That’s right.  We basically got a flat tire on the way to the hospital.

We went to the cafeteria to eat some really bad cafeteria food once we got there to give L&D a chance to get ready for us and then we were admitted to our room.  All of the stress got to me at that point.  The room didn’t feel right.  My gown didn’t fit right.  Nothing felt comfortable and I knew I was going to be there for a while and I sobbed.   Andy got me put back together and I got my head back in the game, but there for a second, I was beside myself.

The induction….  The induction was awful.  Maybe I’m a weenie, though having gone through two previous births with no meds at all, I don’t think so.  But it was awful.  They placed the medication that was supposed to help my cervix ripen and almost immediately I was in pain.  I also started having contractions.  I had them all night the first night.  I was able to breathe through them, but there was no denying that they hurt and they most certainly FELT like labor to me.  I had them all day the next day and then on into the evening before it was officially deemed that I was ‘in early labor.’  The whole first 24 hours, I was convinced I was going to be sent home.  I wasn’t making progress (I keep thinking, “I never make progress, how will we know if this is any different than my other ‘early labor processes.”).  I asked question after question of nurses and doctors about whether my body could do this given the way it normally labors.  I relied on the gentle counsel of the labor and delivery nurses who took care of me—and all of them were superb.  They listened to my anxieties and reassured me over and over and over again.  But mostly.  It just hurt.  And it didn’t feel like it hurt for a purpose since this question of ‘this might not work and we might send her home’ still lingered.

The evening after the 2nd dose of Cervidil was placed things started to pick up.  When I finally decided to be checked I was at 2 centimeters and all of a sudden people started talking as if I was having a baby in the immediate future and not just in shades of vague possibility.  I was told I could have the epidural placed soon.  People started placing bets on when I’d deliver.  It was go time.  And THAT…  THAT was the best pain medicine in the world.  I mentally shifted from the place I’d been in since weeks before the induction of not being able to see past the beginning of the labor, to imagining meeting my baby in a matter of hours.

Also at that point, the pain meds that I had cheerfully foregone the other two times around were sounding pretty darned good.

The delightfully Austrian anesthesiologist was on call that night and he was the one who’d taken my case on initially.  He and his resident—a guy with a scraggly beard who lit up when he heard Andy was in the Navy, and spent the time it took him to place the epidural swapping sea stories with Andy—put that part of the plan in place and I came to find that I rather liked the epidural.  It sure beat the 24 hours of pain and contractions I’d had up to that point.  It was also one of the key ingredients of the plan drawn up by my fabulous and amazing doctor.  Epidural = less pain and stress for Mommy = hopefully suppressing any hormonal surges that Tomas might get kicked into from those factors as well as making it more likely that I could labor without pushing (another factor in hopefully keeping Tomas neutralized).

I actually slept on and off for a few hours after I got the epidural.  I could still feel the contractions, but they didn’t hurt, and for the first time in the whole process I could and did relax.  When I woke up, I looked outside at the snow that was falling and piling up and mused at what a beautiful (early) Thanksgiving morning it was.

Things didn’t pick up super quickly, and in fact, my contractions actually started getting further apart rather than closer together, so they upped the pitocin that they’d started when it was decided that it was ‘go’ time.  I was worried that we were headed backwards and got agitated about my progress and started fretting about different possibilities.  I was checked again and was at 4 cm.  It was hypothesized that maybe this time I would labor ‘like normal’ without the super-fast progress that I normally experience, but the doctor  also reported that my bag of waters was ‘bulging’ and that once that broke things might speed up.  Sure enough, she left and with the next contraction I felt pressure and then my water broke.  In the time it took for the doctor to make it back to check on me again, I’d progressed to 6 cm and the nurse said, “20 minutes from 4-6—if you do that 2 more times, you’ll be complete in 40 minutes.

And that was when I showed them all that I was serious about my labors progressing quickly after a certain point.  Much less than 40 minutes had gone by when I knew I was fully dilated and when I was having to suppress the urge to push.  The chief resident commented, “So THIS is what all the hype was about—You weren’t kidding about going fast!!!”  My team was READY though and in seconds the room was full.

And I do mean full.

My nurse, who’d been staying pretty close for most of the ‘go time’ scenario was soon joined by another  nurse and the resident who’d been checking on me all along, as well as the chief resident, and at times the attending on call (my incredible and amazing doctor was being paged like crazy at this point).  Two pediatricians came in, along with a nurse for baby.  Way back in the back of the room, Austrian Epidural guy and Navy doctor Epidural guy casually lounged around.  Catching sight of them caught me off guard a couple of times as I would puzzle through why they were there and remember that it was because I had a crazy tumor and they were there in case of a hypertensive crisis.

Throughout this time, my nurse—who was absolutely incredible, by the way—was talking me through the contractions that I was having and helping me to resist the urge to push.  In case you were wondering, NOT pushing during labor is, in my humble opinion MUCH HARDER than pushing ever was for me.   I was also given one more really special, eleventh-hour cocktail of drugs to keep me as pain free and relaxed as possible.

Finally my doctor slid into the room, and the party really got started.  I was directed through a couple of tiny pushes.  I remember hearing the chief resident comment on how strong my uterus was and feeling a little proud.  And then he got the forceps and with the help of the resident who’d been with me all night, they delivered Alaine.  I could feel her moving right to the end and could feel her move down with each contraction which was really cool considering I could feel those sensations but without pain.

She was born, and there was a lusty cry, and I was done and she was here.  The beautiful moment of seeing her perfect little body laying under the lights in the warmer came to pass and she was placed on my chest.

I’d worried for months that because of my ‘protective ambivalence’ and my focus on addressing Tomas, and just all of the emotions and twists and turns we’ve been through in these last nine months, that I wouldn’t feel that rush of love immediately.  I worried that she would feel foreign and I would feel detached and those things would break my heart.

That didn’t happen though.   I was and am swept up in rapture and delight at this beautiful little creature.  Her name means ‘little rock’ and she has been that.  She is a steady point of joy for me.  I am so very glad that she is here and that we’re beginning the amazing journey of life with three exquisite daughters.  She IS real.  The joy of her being is every bit as real and consuming as the scary and hard things have been up to this point.  I’m relieved to find as much reality in the good and pure and wonderful which encompass her joining our family, as there has been in the hard and scary and unknown.  She is real and substantial and I love her.

I’m a Bad American

I have a confession to make.  If you know me in person you might find it to be quite a shocking confession (or maybe you won’t).  And you can judge me for it if you want to or consider me selfish or unpatriotic.  That’s fine. 

I didn’t vote yesterday.

It’s the first time in a long time that I didn’t fill out a ballot in November.

My ballot came.  I looked at it and got immediately overwhelmed about all the people and policies I didn’t know.  I put it away to think about later.

In the meantime I dealt with doctors appointments and new curve balls (hernias and high risk classifications and what not).  I worried about the whens and whys and hows of the surgery coming up to get rid of the ‘thing in my neck.’   I struggled to get my laundry done weekly (I have a mounatin of that sitting behind me as I type, as a matter of fact).  I got my kids to and from school which a lot of days seemed like the only real productive thing I was capable of doing.  I’ve gone to doctor’s appointments two hours away and adjusted to changes in the game plan and played with Dr. Google to pass time.  I’ve played with the girls and read to the girls and blocked out chunks of time where I said, “I may not get anything else done today but right now we’re spending time together.” 

I never got the ballot back out.  In fact….  It kind of disappeared.

My husband and I don’t ever NOT vote.  It just doesn’t happen.  Our first really, really big fight back when we were just friends and hadn’t made the mental leap to the ‘more than friends’ category was about whether or not I would register.  If I remember right I think I HAD registered or was in the process of doing so but said something off-handed about not doing so and he was so personally offended by the idea of someone not caring enough to vote that he got really angry.  We made up when I assured him that I had registered and would vote and that I did understand that it was an a great privelege and a duty to do so.

I wrote editorials about voting for our college newspaper (this despite the fact that I was accused at that time of ‘not having opinions’).  When a ‘registration purge’ and administrative quirk of my moving from one side of the campus to the other got my registration voided from the system I realized with a fury what a privelege it was to make my opinions heard. 

I believe in the power of raising up my own small voice.  I do.  I still do.  And I believe in the power and the privelege that are ours on election day.

This was midterm election and so…  it was important. 

But life bore down on me this year in a way that made it difficult to focus outside of our main priorities.  Maybe that’s selfish of me.  Maybe that shows what a small thinker I am that I don’t have the foresight to take on the bigger picture in the face of my own trials.  I was not heroic yesterday.   

I have been pruning obligations from my to do list for a while.  I didn’t exactly mean to prune this one.  But in doing so this is what I found out: 

People still got elected yesterday.  People are still mad about who got elected and who is running the country.  People are still certain that things are going the wrong direction and that as a result of the people who DID vote yesterday we’re all going to heck in a handbasket.

The sun still rose this morning.  It’s a gorgeous mid to late autumn day here, in fact.  And even for those people who are sure that we/you/they all made the wrong choices yesterday, life will go on pretty much as normal.  Our country will go on with resiliencey whether or not I raise my voice, and whether or not people are happy about it.  Part of me does feel incredibly cynical and jaded about watching the cycle continue and watching the polarization increase.   Part of me feels relieved that though I ‘don’t have the right to complain’ for the next two years or so, I also don’t have to feel the in appropriate guilt that I always do policitically about the choices I make on those ballots.

I won’t not vote again.  I do consider it to be a privelege and a duty.  My Mom taught me the importance of our political system.  My husband taught me what an honor it is to do one’s duty.

But this is one more way that I can see that my own importance is really so very small.  This is one more way that I see that the things that we allow to make our blood to boil might be smaller potatoes than we think in the long run.  When I’m staring down a tumor and surgeries and a baby coming in the midst of it all things that normally seem earth-shattering to me just suddenly don’t. 

Maybe whether or not Washington State has an income tax really is ultimately more important than whether or not this tumor gets cut out of my neck and whether or not this baby gets here safely or not.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m really just ragingly selfish.

But even if THAT is the case, those choices have been made, the ads and phone calls will finally cease and my focus, I feel, has stayed on exactly the things that it needed to be on this week. 

Once the dust settles around here, I’ll make it a point to pay better attention, and tune in to the political pros and cons of the people for whom I can vote next time around.  THAT  ballot won’t get lost in the shuffle.  I’ll continue to affirm the importance of making one’s opinion heard and being part of the political process.

But I refuse to feel bad about not participating in this election in the middle of my rapidly spinning world.  It’s just guilt I don’t need.