George Wise Cropper
June 24, 2015, 11:08 a.m.
7 lbs, 4 oz
I don’t write short birth stories. Settle in, get comfy.
Monday, June 22nd, I went in to Dr. B. for my 39 week check-up. I was between 2-3 cm and not much else, but I knew the baby had dropped a bit and the good doctor called delivery ‘imminent.’ Then he dropped the news that he would be out of town Friday-Sunday (due date Monday). My anesthesiologist brother was going to be out of town as well. I knew someone else could do my epidural, but I really felt anxious about Dr. Binette not being there for the delivery. I had established a system where labor and delivery were concerned, and I didn’t want to lose that feeling of control. I wanted my same doctors and same routine. (I had been induced with children 2, 3, and 4, because of my tendency to dilate without contractions toward the end of the third trimester and my pattern of extremely quick labor. I always wanted to avoid having a baby on my kitchen floor.) So even though it felt a bit early to induce, and I didn’t have any terrible pain like I did at that point with Carter and Clara, I decided on an induction on Wednesday.
I spent Tuesday feeling anxious about the delivery, and psychotically organizing the house. I didn’t bother to shower, and only forced myself to eat when I was shaking with hunger. I spent hours in my Mexican muumuu and bed head, frantically sorting through kids’ messy bedrooms, disheveled bookshelves, and other random unimportant tasks that felt monumentally important to a hormonal woman who was preparing to bring baby #5 home to the nest. I wish I could say that panic didn’t cause me to be uptight with my children. There were some ugly moments, which I regretted bitterly as Taylor reminded me in a text that a happy nest was more important than a tidy one. By dinner time I had calmed down and finished preparing. Taylor suggested we take the children to dinner, which sounded perfect in every way. We went to Si Casa Flores, the Mexican restaurant we frequent because they are darling and friendly even when our ginormous family is loud and messy. Plus, they have the best chips and salsa, so total no brainer. You couldn’t have scripted a better evening. The children were darling– not one moment of embarrassment or contention. We ordered them each a piña colada (though Carter kept mistakenly calling his an enchilada), and I nursed a coke (duh). It was so fun to watch them order politely and gobble up their favorite food while placing bets on how much Georgie would weigh. I was so pleased that Carter didn’t spend half the time trying to crawl under the table and that Clara could sit in a big chair and eat with perfect manners. It was one of those golden moments, when all of the labor of parenting feels like its paying off. When all of your children are loving on each other and you feel like YES! IT’S ALL WORTH IT! HAVING A BIG FAMILY IS THE BEST! We zipped home and Taylor gave the boys much needed haircuts, just in time for them to be picked up by Grammy and Grampy for a sleepover (we would be checking in early at the hospital). As we loaded all the kids and their backpacks into the suburban, I stood on the porch in the hot sun and waved until they drove out of sight, missing them already.
Wednesday morning I woke up nervous. I feel like the more children I have depending on me, the more tender I feel about my mortality, and nothing makes me think more terrible, fearful thoughts than an overload of hormones. I sat on my bed and looked up at the print my friend, Lisa designed for my Iron Pillar post. I thought about how God had fortified me in the most emotionally trying pregnancy I’d ever experienced, and knew I had to choose to cast aside my fear and trust Him.
Taylor and I checked in to the hospital at 6 a.m. My first nurse, Robbi, was at the very end of her shift. We recognized her from one of our prior births. (One of the sweet things about delivering several babies in the same hospital is that half of the nurses there remembered us! Of course we are fairly memorable– no one has five kids in Southern Oregon…) Dr. B. waltzed in wearing an athletic shirt tucked into his slacks. “What? No bow tie?” I asked. He explained how he’d had an emergency C-section and couldn’t get back to sleep, so went for his early morning swim, and his shirts were about to be picked up at the dry-cleaners. “So you haven’t been to bed?” I asked. “Do you need a Red Bull?” (Joking around with Dr. B. might be my favorite thing.)
Dr. B. starts induction with a Cytotec tablet. When the first tablet accidentally got crushed to smithereens Robbi suggested we roll it up and I could snort it. I laughed, but felt grateful a new nurse was about to come on shift. I didn’t really feel up for a joker. Then the doctor shoved up the tablet, which felt approximately horrible. He also checked me and declared me ‘two and long,’ which was SO discouraging. (I started labor with Roger at a contraction-free 5, after all!) I started to regret choosing to be induced this early and had the sinking feeling this was going to take all day. Another nurse came in to put in my IV, botching the left (ouch) and getting a good one on the right. Thanks to the Cytotec, I started to contract a bit, basically like mild menstrual cramps. At 7:15 the new nurse came in–Julie. We recognized each other from four years ago when Carter was born. She’d been in Robbi’s place then–checking me in and then going off shift. She is bright and warm and someone I connect with so easily. I was thrilled she would be my nurse. We spent the morning going through all of the questions and setting up monitors and chatting and laughing. Around 7:30 Dr. B. came in to ‘swish around the Cytotec’ which was uncomfy to say the least. As the contractions progressed Julie helped me get a monitor that would work for me to stand up and walk around, a simple thing that was obviously available but no nurse had ever offered to me before. At some point I got back in bed and closed my eyes. I felt really sleepy and devoid of energy. At least once I declared, “I really don’t feel like pushing a baby out today.”
At 9:30 all the action began. Brian (my brother the anesthesiologist) came in to give me my epidural. Shortly thereafter Dr. Binette broke my water, which got things going real quick–like always. (Clara was born about 45 minutes after breaking my water.) Next Julie put in my catheter, and I knew immediately that the epidural wasn’t working. It felt like a bladder infection–that merciless burning pain. This really upset me. About six years ago I struggled for almost a year with chronic UTI’s. I cried to Taylor, “I can feel the catheter! It feels like a UTI! Remember I used to say I’d rather be in labor than have a UTI? Now I have both at once!” The combo of the burning catheter and progressing contractions was a doozy. Julie called Brian back to administer more drugs, but they never caught up. Apparently, if someone’s labor progresses as quickly as mine did, sometimes the drugs just can’t catch up with the pain, which is what we believe happened in this case. When Brian came back in he pumped me so full of drugs that I should have been able to have a C-Section, but they never caught up! (The mystery of this is still driving my brother insane. In fifteen years he’s had one imperfect epidural–mine. I find the irony hilarious.) My memory of all of these events isn’t extremely clear, but at some point in all of this they administered pitocin, which really packs a punch. Suddenly it became clear to me that I was going to deliver this baby unmedicated. And still I bemoaned to Taylor through tears, “I never wanted to do it this way! I don’t have anything to prove! I’m not a warrior woman!” In a matter of minutes, my contractions were intensely painful and right on top of each other. They were deep in my back. At one point the nurse explained that the baby was face up, and that explained the back pain. I moaned loudly and tried to breathe through them. I lay on my side and clutched the bed rails or Taylor’s hands as I cried through each contraction. Taylor was a darling. He held my hands, brought me drinks, put savex on my lips, kissed my neck, and was a calm, consistent presence reminding me that I was strong, and was not alone. He helped me remember to breathe and instilled confidence in me.
I moaned louder and louder with each contraction and felt like I could hardly catch my breath. I kept apologizing for being so vocal, which I’m sure Nurse Julie found hilarious–like a labor and delivery nurse has never heard some moaning before! At my next check, I was a 6. A 6?! I felt devastated. How was I only at a 6? How could I keep this up for 4 more centimeters? But. In classic Hall form (my sisters and I inherited our mother’s insane child bearing genes), there were only 3 contractions left.
The first of the final contractions was so intense and long that my moaning turned to wailing. I closed my eyes and gripped the bed and screamed and screamed. (You know in movies when there are ridiculous birth scenes? The type of highly dramatized scene with a woman screaming her lungs out? And you roll your eyes and think ‘that’s not even how it is?’ Well, that was me.) (Insert laughing/crying emoji here.) Taylor says he knew something had changed with that contraction. As the next one started, I felt the babies head engage and I screamed, “He’s coming!” At this point in the narrative, everything diverges. In my world, the only thing happening was a giant baby head coming out of me and I could do nothing but close my eyes and scream through the pain. Taylor describes a frenetic delivery room. Nurse Julie paged Dr. B. on the computer. It said, “ROOM 4 NOW!!!!!!!” As they watched the doctor sprint across the street from his office, Julie threw on some sterile gloves–apparently she thought she might be catching Baby Georgie. Out in the hallway there was some commotion over the infant warmer. It had been set up and ready to come in to my room but someone took it for a different delivery room, so some nurses frantically prepared another. This all happened in just a couple of minutes. The final contraction came right on top of the last. I could feel everything in a quick, intense motion. Head, shoulders, body. Hot, burning pain. I didn’t push. Not even a little. And there he was. I still had my eyes clothes and as I lay there sobbing, Taylor had to tell me to open my eyes and look at Georgie. There he was, sobbing like his mother, pink as can be, a head of dark hair just like the rest of them. Dr. B. put him on my chest. We cried together. For the pain, the relief, the joy.
The moment the placenta was delivered I felt 100% relief. It was astonishing. It was incredible to lie there and hold my tiny baby and be so quickly delivered from the intensity of that pain. Taylor wiped the gothic tear-streaked mascara off my face. The peace of the moment was a stark contrast to the intensity, noise, and pain of the moment before. The doctor apologized that I couldn’t deliver pain-free. I didn’t really care. It was over. As I have reflected on it more and more, the strangest phenomenon about it is that I was simultaneously more present and less present than with medicated deliveries. On the one hand, I was totally out of it–unaware of everyone and everything around me. On the other hand, I was completely present within my own body. The pain brought a certain awareness and presentness that is unparalleled. Taylor loved the unmedicated experience. He says he loved the excitement and intensity and watching me conquer something he knew I could do. In the end, I would say I loved it, too. It taught me that I can do hard things even when I’m not desirous to or prepared to.
The first few days with a newborn are exhausting and difficult, but they are sacred in every way. After my most dark and challenging pregnancy, I felt relieved both body and spirit, and inexpressibly grateful to be holding and feeding our baby boy. I’m not sure why, perhaps because I am more comfortable in my ‘mother’ skin now than I have ever been, I had a stronger sense than ever before that my baby knew me. When I held him I felt him relax and settle into my arms…Hello, Mother. I’m George.