Monday, March 26, 2007

The Shriek of the Phoenix

At the ninth month mark, I still had four remaining weeks of bloat, GERD, swollen limbs, carpal and carsal tunnel syndrome, and had already gained over 45 pounds. My feet, ankles, ass, legs, and belly had swelled to marshmallow meat. At 4’11”, and over 156 pounds, I felt enormous. In order to leave the house, it took me fifteen minutes to don the one pair of shoes that still fit me, and supported my weight, my 12 yr. old steel-toe Doc Marten saddle shoes, which I had completely stretched out five years ago.

On Saturday, February 24th, I could barely muster the energy to shower. Despite my physical limitations, I felt compelled to clean my bathroom from top to bottom, which I had not been bothered to perform nor give a shit about for several months, and by proxy, the task had been bequeathed to Kevin, who had been fulfilling it dutifully (see notes on how to get your man to clean the bathroom well enough to suit your standards, section four)

The following day, Kevin and I went to BabiesRUs, on the advice of Parents magazine’s checklist of necessary items every first-time parent must buy before their baby is born. By the time we arrived, I was so tired I needed to lie down. I spent the next hour hopping from foot to foot, complaining and looking for anything I could sit on that wouldn’t break. When we returned home, I began compulsively organizing Phoenix’s dresser, and compiled a list of thank you notes to write, for his presents, while Kevin made dinner. We ate and watched Finding Nemo. Kevin passed out. The movie ended, I cleaned up the kitchen, and returned to compulsively organizing and compiling. Then, I packed my hospital bag. At one thirty, I sat down at my desk, and reread my thesis. I combined and recombined parts and bits of stems and cells and organisms from previous poems, letting the form present itself on the page, as it were, with each new poem, from the superimposition of words crowding into and onto one another, to links of spiraling text, which spawned, finally, a conch of sorts. It was two thirty a.m. I dragged my ass to bed. At 6:22 a.m. I watered my bed:

Me: Ughhh

Kevin: Did your water break?

(Cut to my feet in a puddle, as Gypsy our cat walks around in it, wide eyed.)

Kevin: (lifting head from pillow)

Who should I call first, the doctor or your mother?

We arrived at Alta Bates, and were brought into triage, which is essentially labor purgatory. There was some confusion as to whether my water had indeed broken, as several nurses disagreed about the viscosity of my amniotic fluid. We were there for four hours, during which time seven other women were admitted due to rupture of membranes (some prematurely, like me) to the two nurses on duty. We found out later it had been a full moon. They took pity on me, though and let me eat. I asked my mom for a roast-beef-and mozzarella hero from Whole Foods, and wolfed it down in a minute and a half. It would be my last meal until Wednesday morning.

At 11 a.m., they declared that I was in early labor and had me committed, I mean, admitted me to the hospital. A nurse showed us to our suite, which featured a Jacuzzi and television. I turned to face her, grinning and she said: “Of course, you should not use the Jacuzzi, because you ruptured your membranes, and you will want to prevent infection.” Fuck. The first words out of my mouth at the registration desk had been: I want a room with a Jacuzzi. After all, this was Alta Bates’ main attraction. This was what Kevin and I had heard countless childbirth instructors boast about. Most unfortunately, no Jacuzzi also meant no water birth. Which meant no Kumbaya natural-pain-relief. So much for my attempt at hypno-birthing.

For the rest of the afternoon, the three of us sat around pretending we were in some hotel room, on vacation. My contractions had all but disappeared, and had not been consistent since I had arrived at the hospital. At 3 p.m. my ob. (Dr. Yvette Gentry) called in to request a dilation check. One and a half centimeters. At 6 p.m. she prescribed Cervadyl. The first dose was administered at 7 p.m., and was to be monitored for twelve hours. At 7 a.m. I was still only two centimeters dilated. Inevitably, they prescribed Pitocin, to speed up the contractions.

After one hour, I was experiencing regular, strong contractions. By 1:30 p.m. I was in excruciating pain. At 2:30 p.m. I asked for an epidural. At 3:30 the nurse on duty, Jennifer Spahr, casually billowed into the room and asked if we had found her pager. No mention of whether the anesthesiologist was on his way. No mention, either, of the Jello and grape juice (which I had found out from her intern earlier that morning that I could eat) she had been promising me, since 11 a.m. This was when my mother went on the warpath, and chased another nurse down the corridor, to find out what the hell was going on. Apparently, Dr. Gentry had informed the nurse that they could not administer an epidural until I was at least four centimeters dilated. No explanation was given. Nor had they bothered to check my dilation since seven that morning.

I sat doubled over in agony while Kevin and my mother argued with just about everyone. It was now 4:30 p.m., over two hours since I had requested pain relief. The new nurse on duty, Jen offered me Fentanyl. I did not want to take it but I felt like I had no choice. Whereas I had had zero hesitation in asking for an Epidural, I felt that I did not know enough about this drug to take it, especially since I have a history of epilepsy. However, the contractions had become so acute that I wondered how I was going to make it through. It felt like I was trying to separate my upper half from my lower half and neither would budge.

The Fentanyl lasted for 45 minutes, during which time I drowsily slumbered, all the while hearing everything that went on in the room. What a shitty drug. It renders you useless for 45 minutes, and then you have to wait another 45 minutes before taking it again. I was desperate, and no longer gave a fuck. At this point I was just buying time until the candyman came in his white lab coat, to shoot up my spine. I continued to take Fentanyl until 8 p.m. when Dr. Gentry’s associate, Dr Chan showed up to insert an I.U.P.C. (intrauterine pressure catheter), in order to determine how intense my contractions were. Because this hadn’t occurred to anyone sooner. The results came back, and suddenly, the nurses and doctors began to pay attention. Apparently, my contractions had been inhumanly intense, from what Jen, the nurse told us. Around 9:30 the anesthesiologist finally shows up and gives me an Epidural. Sweet, sweet candy.

I was much nicer to everyone. Things seemed to calm down. There was no mention as to the next step; we assumed there was to be more waiting. I told my mom to go home, and get some sleep. Around 11:30 Jen comes in to tell us that Dr. Sandhu (whom I have never heard of) will be calling to discuss the need for a c-section. (What? I thought we were waiting for my cervix to dilate; why the hell didn’t someone suggest this earlier? I’ve been suffering all fucking day) Suddenly, alarms are going off, the phone’s ringing, and Kevin’s packing all our stuff while still in his pj’s. Dr. Sandhu calls from the road to tell me that “she’s coming to get me.” Hallelujah. She swoops in like Athena’s goddamn owl[1], and reassures me that everything will be fine. She is my queen; she is my light; she is Dr. Sandhu. They gave me a stronger dose of the Epidural and morphine (I’ve never taken this many drugs in my life, I’m starting to like it), they put me behind a green curtain, and fifteen minutes later, Phoenix was born. Belligerent and wailing.

Our son, the brave little bugger, spent two weeks and one day, in the NICU, during which time he broke many nurse’s hearts and learned how to feed and grow on his own. He is my hero. He is home.

Phoenix James Carr

Gestational age: between 34 and 36 weeks

12:36 a.m. February 28, 2007.

[1] There is, actually a reason for this reference to the Greek goddess, which makes for an intriguing story. Perhaps some day, over tea?


me said...

It just occurred to me that, coincidentally, today is Phoenix's projected due date.

Harvey Rabbit said...

What an awesome story! Very vivid. Thank you for sharing it!

minnie said...

i found your blog from tribe.
congratz on the birth!
how're things with a newborn? good ad crazy?