This is Lucine's birth story and I'm sticking to it.
Oh sure, I may go a little James Frey here and there, but this is how I remember it happening. I just have to type fast, while I have this break from the amazing shitting machine. You may want to hit print on the ol' computer, because this could take a while. She is my last baby, after all, so I need to document every last detail, if for no other reason than I need to give my brain a challenge. (Who am I kidding? Opening a jar of pickles on the amount of sleep I've had is challenging enough!)
The Thursday before I gave birth, I lay awake in the middle of the night contracting. Nothing regular, nothing unbearable, but something. We had dropped by the homeopath's office earlier, where she had prescribed a remedy to encourage things along. "I could have given you this remedy last Sunday," my homey quipped, "But I had a full week booked." Hardy-har.
While I tried to breathe through the bouts of crampy pain that night, I had a vision. I saw HER, eyes shut, in fetal position with a hand by her face, suspended in my womb. She had hair and it looked darkish. Not as much hair as Nate, but hair. I could picture her floating down into the birth canal. And though I tried to fight it, I felt it was a SHE.
On Friday, August 24, I went for my regularly scheduled visit with my OB. He gave me a fisting -- er, I mean pelvic exam -- and told me I was 3 cm dilated. A whole farking week and I'd gained only a centimetre. Oh well, it was still further than I'd gotten with Nate at the same point and though no one was acting like I was in labour, I was convinced the baby would make an appearance that weekend.
Friday evening my contractions were all over the place: 8 minutes, then 3, then 7, then six, back to 10, etc. I made the Dog read me my horrorscope and something about it frightened me.
An improvement is always possible but perfection is never attainable. Reduce the element of pressure and urgency in a troublesome situation and you will manage to sort things out satisfactorily. You can fix a great deal today, but you can't fix everything.I took it as a bad omen and began to fret that I was putting myself and the baby in harm's way. That something was not going to go as planned. The homey talked me off the ledge and decided to make a house call to watch me progress and figure out how to make them more consistent. With her help we got to a 10 minute, 5 minute, 10 minute, 5 minute pattern. Still no good. She figured out what the remedy was, prescribed and then went to have an espresso up the street.
By around 8 pm I was at a more regular every 5 minutes. I started to get nervous and asked to go to the hospital, even though I had been totally content to labour at home to that point. The doctor had told me that I should come in at every 7 to 8 minutes apart so that they could monitor me in the off chance (less than 2%) that my c-section scar could rupture. So we grabbed the bag and drove off.
I was admitted right away into a GIANT room. Unfortunately, it was at the end of the hall, so the air conditioning didn't circulate properly -- absofuckinglutely freezing. I figured that would be OK while I was pushing and sweating and all that, so we just dealt. Plus it was the last available room. When they checked me I was still only 3 cm, but my membranes were "bulging". My waters hadn't broken, though they were close, but the resident threatened to break them. Not ideal in my books. Aha, perhaps this was what the horoscope was referring to. I asked if I could walk around to see if I could get myself to 4 cm and encourage the baby to come down further and burst the membranes. They were quite busy and agreed to let me give it a try.
So the Dog and I wandered around the hospital, listening to the encouraging screams of other unmedicated women ("Oh my God! I'm going to fucking die!") We laughed a lot and did some vlogging (which he hasn't posted yet) and then were ordered back to our room when we passed the nurses' station.
At this point, our nurse was checking in on us every 30 minutes or so. I was trying to make it clear to her that I'd like to avoid drugs if possible and though she seemed disinterested, she sort of worked in our favour. The resident came in to break my water. I asked if it was necessary. She said it was standard practice. I still don't think they needed to do it, but when she said that it wouldn't hurt and it would help get things going, I gave in. It was almost midnight and I figured I'd let this be the thing I gave in to.
The resident took out something similar to a knitting needle and inserted it. I felt a couple pokey jabs and then, much like popping a blister on your foot, I felt the warm liquid release. It was simultaneously pleasurable and yet made the contractions kick into high gear. Ah yes, now I remember why I begged for the epidural last time. Little did I know that this was nothing.
When the resident started mumbling about Pitocin, I started to freak out. Pitocin, for those who don't know, is a synthetic hormone that augments a labour. It's supposed to mimic Oxytocin, the love hormone that occurs naturally in humans and is a big stimulus during labour and delivery. If you are attempting a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesearean) a Pitocin drip increases your chance of rupture to around 30%. Me no rikey. I personally believe that no matter what they say, the epidural combined with the Pitocin is what's making babies' heartbeats irregular and sending so many women into the OR.
Anyway, the Dog said the homey had offered to come join us and it would take her 25 minutes to get there. I said I was ready for her. I needed an advocate in this hospital full of bossy women who were acting like I didn't know what my body could handle. My homey is a strong woman and doesn't take shit from anyone. I needed her on my side, even it meant that I wouldn't be getting new windows this fall ($$$).
When I was checked again I had progressed to four cm. I thought they were going to give me the epidural at this point. They'd already weighed me down with the damn IV and I guessed that the spinal tap was next. Those were my doctor's orders after all. I had moved onto all fours on the bed. Changing positions was soothing. I tried to keep my bum down so that the baby would move into position. This is how my homey found me. With my ass out to the world, writhing around doggy style.
At this point, there were multiple emergencies going on. Suddenly, it seemed no one was around to help us. This ended up working in our favour. I laboured standing up for hours. Hanging onto the Dog, while he whispered lovely things in my ear. Behind his head was a chart with smiley faces that were supposed to show how painful things were getting. I remember wanting to punch each and every face on the chart. There was no one around to administer the epidural, so we ended up going through the worst part of the labour with no drugs. That's right -- no drugs.
Believe me, I wasn't actually trying to be a hero. I DID want to put off getting the epidural because of my previous experience with it. But by the time my contractions were going off the charts, I was BEGGING for the drugs. A person who is not contracting would be at zero on the monitor. An average contraction during labour, one that is painful but still somewhat tolerable, is around 30 to 40 on the monitor.
"This thing goes up to 100," the Dog said, "No one gets up to 100, do they?"
"Nah..." my homey replied, "If you got to 100, your head would blow off."
I got to 113. Without drugs.
I had a 5 minute contraction at 70. With no drugs.
If we didn't have Zahava there to help us, I don't know what we would have done. We were terrified as it was. She stepped in right away and coached us through the toughest moments. She kept popping remedies in my mouth according to what was happening, what I was feeling. She massaged my back while I desperately clung to Jan, braying like an animal. She told me which contractions deserved more of my energy. She encouraged me when I was losing steam. She called me on it when I wasn't really breathing in. She kept my husband sane and focussed on me. I encourage anyone to get some sort of labour support person to help navigate the hospital system and keep them on track with their birth goals. I can't thank her enough for being there for us.
As the night and the contractions grew longer, the appearances by our nurse became more infrequent. Each time she came in, her discontent with her situation had grown. "I'm the only one running the whole floor honey. Everyone else is in the OR. All these babies are misbehaving tonight. Yours is the only one on the floor that seems happy."
"Please, please, PLEASE can I have something for the pain? I just need a break!" The contractions were coming one over the other and I barely had time to catch my breath.
"Sorry honey, I'm the only one here and I can't give you anything without an order from the doc. And like I said, everyone is in the OR."
Needless to say, that didn't go over too well. We begged her to check my cervix to see how far I'd progressed. I'd been in transition for three fucking hours. The nurse refused. "It's not nice to stick your fingers in someone's vagina once her water has broken." Say wha? But she did manage to get me a shot of Demerol in the ass. It did fuck all for the pain, but it made me stoned enough to get some rest in between contractions. By the time the resident came in to check me it was about 4 am and I was 9.5 cm dilated. You have to get to 10 to push.
"OK, we can give you the epidural now."
Are you kidding me? At that point I had minor leg shivers from the Demerol. Zahava/my homey reminded me of the shivers I got with the epidural. "You're almost there," she coached, "If you don't get the epidural this baby could be out in an hour."
That was all the encouragement I needed. "Fuck it. Let's just do it."
At that point the contractions changed. Suddenly the pressure made me feel like I had to push. And frankly, the pushing was a relief compared to the contractions. With each push, the warm gush of amniotic fluid soothing my sore body, I felt the baby was closer. The nurse changed her tune and became the dream nurse. I found comfort in the strangest things. She was overweight and pushing my foot into her folds was so appealing while I tried to push this hard body out of me.
Someone suggested a mirror. I said no at first, thinking I'd be freaked out. But the more Jan said he could see the top of the head, the more curious I got. The mirror came out. It was very apparent from the get-go that my nether regions had been much neglected and that perhaps I should have considered a trip to the sugaring salon in the weeks preceeding the event. Ah well. No time for vanity now. The baby was there! Right there! Gooey white vernix covering its head!
The thing about watching is this -- while seeing how close you are to the finish line encourages you to push harder, seeing what is happening to your beloved bits is quite another. Like who knew my dear vagina could get so big? Who knew that there was so much to my perineum? It's not a part of the body I've spent much time inspecting. And what in God's name is happening to my asshole?
"That's not your blood," my gentle husband's voice whispered in my ear. He had seen my distraught face in the mirror and knew I that I was holding back on the pushing, trying to keep my pleasure centre in tact. Oh man, my husband was fantastic. Each time I had to push, he mimicked the pushing with every muscle in his body in an effort to coach me. "Dad! Relax! You're going to get hemorrhoids pushing like that!" It made me laugh, though he says I wasn't laughing on the outside.
Anyway, the flaw with the Demerol is that it made me too stoned to really have the energy to push. It made baby so stoned, she didn't really give a flying fuck whether she came out or not. So I pushed for TWO hours. The on-call staff OB came in for the last 30 minutes or so. She just walked in and proceeded to stuff a towel up my asshole. I stopped pushing.
"Um, hi. Do you really need to be touching my rectum? Because I don't really know you and I just have this thing about people touching my bumhole. Maybe you could introduce yourself first, take me for a coffee? At least slip me some roofies! You're going a bit fast for me. Thanks."
I now know that this maneuver was a preventative measure to keep my asshole from tearing in two. So I'm rather grateful. But at that moment I kinda wanted to kill her. Then she coached me to "Push. Push. Stop." To pace my pushing so that I wouldn't tear too much. And for tat I kinda love her.
I finally managed to get head out and I thought, "Wow! That's the baby. Not so big. That wasn't so bad." Except I had about 3.768 seconds to think that this was all of it, because suddenly they are screaming PUSHPUSHPUSH! And there is more. Shoulders, a body, legs, feet... holy shit! That's gonna leave a mark. But then it starts to cry. Nate never cried, poor baby, so this was so new! A baby! Out in the world, crying on its own. The birth I always wanted!
"What have we got here?" The doctor pried open the legs, "Dad?"
"It's a GIRL!" Jan announced as he began to laugh and cry at the same time. I think even Zahava got a little emotional. Me? I was a little stunned from just pushing a baby out my vajuj and someone had just thrust this squelching, white chocolate covered goo ball onto my hospital gown. Oh my God. I looked at her face and experienced what I never thought possible: Love at first sight. A girl. My girl. "Hello Lucine."
"Nadine, look at the skyline," I remember someone (Zahava?) saying. It was dawn and the sun was coming up over the skyscrapers. Over the city I love. It was perfect. I wept a bit as they took my girl to weigh her, etc. I looked over at her on the scale and saw a swollen pink vagina and wept at the sight of it. 6 lbs, 9 oz. Apgar 9 and 9. (Poor wee Nate scored a 3 out of 10.)
I grabbed Zahava's hand to thank her. I am forever in her debt for her support that night. She promised me she would help me have this baby the way I wanted and she kept her word. I am still astounded at her strength, her knowledge, her power. The doctor referred to Lady Z as Jan's mother, which pissed her off since there is no way she could be Jan's mother. "Oh, sorry," the doctor apologized, "I just assumed she was family."
"She is now!" we replied. We didn't really make her role clear to the hospital staff. We just referred to her as our labour coach. And they were very impressed with her (they had no idea she was popping me remedies all night, mind you) -- the crazy nurse even shook her hand and said, "Wow, you're really great. You should come work here!" To which Zahava just laughed sarcastically. Heh.
At this point, while I birthed the placenta (Yes, I asked to see it. No, I didn't take it home to bury it in the backyard, but I considered it.) and got stitched up, I started to add everything together in true Scarb style. Birth story I wanted? Well, save for the pain and the stitches, YES. Born on the due date? YUP! GIRL? YIPPEE! Fuuuuuuuck.
In that moment I realized that this was the first and only time this girl would give me what I want. That she would challenge me for the rest of my life. That will be the cost of having this moment. And in that moment, I promised to take whatever she dished with patience and grace, because for the life I'd given her, she had also given me a new one.
Then the crazies set in a bit as I did some numerology. 3 sixes in her birth stats (time and weight) and 3 nines in her birth stats, which are really just upside down sixes. I quietly checked behind her ears for the Omen. Nope. Phew. Then I added up her birth date and got a perfect 7, my lucky number, which I took as a sign to cancel out the sixes. In my post-partum insanity over the next few days, I finally ruled out the running theories that a) she might be the anti-Christ, and b) that she might be a hermaphrodite. (Finished Middlesex BTW and I LOVED it! It did make me double check for a particularly long clitoris though.)
So Lucine, whose name means "moon" in Armenian, was born at dawn but got the nighttime name I've loved for so long. She has brought a bright light to the darkness in my head and so it fits. Seta is my mother's name. It means "silk" in Italian, and is possibly the most common Armenian woman's name of her generation. It feels good to give my daughter my mother's name, like a small token of thanks now that I understand her struggles.
I will try to write more in the coming days, about all that I've learned and relearned in less than two weeks. To be brief at the end of this long story (Why start now?) let's just say the experience has been a positive one so far and my family is richer for having known little Lucy-loo already.
Thank you for all your wonderful messages of support and congratulations. I wish I could personally respond to each and every one of you, but right now I can barely get to the bathroom when I need to, so bear with me. Just know that your kindness is appreciated and does not go unnoticed. I could not have achieved this without all of you rooting for me. So from the bottom of our brimming hearts, thank you.