One week ago today I was sitting in a hospital bed awaiting the arrival of my youngest--a sweet daughter. Earlier the previous day the perinatologist had decided it was time. I was to be induced on Sunday but she felt we couldn't wait any longer. So, that Thursday afternoon I re-packed my bags and checked in at the hospital and anxiously waited. It was shortly after 1 pm. By 3 pm I was settled into a delivery room and they were pumping me full of labor inducing drugs.
I was scared. I didn't feel emotionally prepared for this and labor was very slow to come on. The contractions were there, but I wasn't dilating. Around 5 pm the nurse came in and told me the doctor wanted to go ahead and break my water. I started to panic and wanted to make sure there was an anesthesiologist available to give me an epidural. I've given birth 4 times prior and never had an epidural. This was my last child; labor was an awful experience pain-wise; I wanted to know what it was like without pain. Not too much to ask, I hoped--except that the last 2 times I'd given birth I was also supposed to have an epidural and by the time the anesthesiologist showed up it was too late.
The nurse said it was too soon for an epidural and I told her I felt it was too soon to break my water. The on-staff physician looked hesitant to break my water as well, but promised he would give it a try. I declined, and although it was what my doctor had ordered, I could tell they were both relieved. An hour later my doctor showed up, checked me and agreed: It was too early. Phew! I wasn't ready for this. Just that morning I thought I still had 3 more days! Give me time to catch myself, please!
I was a terrible patient.
By 8 pm things started progressing. I was dilated to a 2 and one of my doctor's associates was there to break my water. It wasn't so bad, and they even had the anesthesiologist on hand to give me my epidural, because they believed me when I promised them this show was going to move fast once my water was broke. I'd done this 4 times before, and my doctor agreed with me. He expected to be called in shortly after. In receiving my epidural I felt that I had won some sort of trophy. Finally, I would deliver pain-free!
By noon the next day (Friday) I was so tired of being in labor. Both of our families had been there the night before waiting, believing if they weren't there that night they were going to miss it. By midnight everyone had gone home tired and disappointed. I didn't sleep at all. So that day I took brief naps where I could (when there wasn't a nurse, tech, or doctor messing with me). By late afternoon the 24 hour labor was starting to take it's toll on me, and my body's resistance to the epidural was building up.
I had screwed up. I shouldn't have had the epidural procedure so early. I should have waited.
I told everyone I didn't want company because by now I was leaking fluids, had almost no sleep, hadn't had a shower and I was breaking emotionally. However, Cxdy's mom showed up anyway to sit in the waiting area. I told Cxdy to go ahead and bring her into the room because I couldn't stand the thought of her sitting out there alone.
By 4 pm I had dilated to a 5. At 6 pm I was still a 5. I was beginning to wonder if this was going to end in a c-section. If that's what it took to get it over with then I was for it because the pain was starting to get to me. My doctor let the staff know he was going to wait it out with me and told me he thought we'd see some action in the next couple of hours. The anesthesiologist had returned twice by this time to give me drugs to help with the immediate pain. Unfortunately, whatever he was shooting into my epidural tubing was only lasting about 15 minutes.
I was relieved to finally get some alone time when everyone went to eat dinner some time after 7 pm. I think I needed this, because as I relaxed the labor started coming on stronger. Shortly before 8 pm the nurse checked on me and was surprised to find I was dilated to an 8. She asked another nurse to call for the doctor, who had been hanging around waiting for me. She walked out and came back in and I heard her say something about the baby's heartbeat as she put an oxygen mask on my face.
Cxdy popped his head in to check on me and I broke down crying. I think I freaked him out because he looked scared, but the nurse re-assured him we were fine when she could see nothing was going to come out of my mouth. I was a pitiful pile of mess.
The anesthesiologist showed up again somewhere around this time offering me a new epidural. I told him there wasn't time and I wanted the quick fix again; but he argued back that it had only lasted 15 minutes for me before; to which I responded 15 was all I needed. He got me the quick fix against his better judgment.
The nurse was in the process of getting me to switch positions when a very strong contraction came on and I felt the baby slide down the birth canal. I asked her if it was possible to feel this and she couldn't say that it wasn't. I told her she had better check me again and she did. I asked her what my dilation was and she was surprised to tell me I was ready. Then it was my turn to scare her: I told her if she didn't get the doctor in here she was going to be delivering this baby herself. I could see in her face that she believed me as she picked up the phone to call for the doctor herself.
The doctor and a room full of other people were suddenly there and they pulled up the stirrups. By that time my body had gone numb as I had wanted, except that I couldn't even feel the pressure of the contractions anymore. I remembered reading of women pushing for hours because they couldn't feel their bodies (Oh, God! Please don't let that happen to me!).
The doctor told me to push. One long push and she was out. And she cried. And I fell in love.
I didn't think much about the Down syndrome while I was in labor, except knowing that I had accepted it. I don't remember who it was, but one of the hospital staff, a female, had come into my room and mentioned that Down syndrome was suspected. My response to her was: "We have accepted that she has Down syndrome." I was trying not to leave open any windows of hope. I didn't want to be disappointed.
She hasn't disappointed me.
Her pediatrician called me yesterday to let me know her karyotype had come back. It confirmed her diagnosis of trisomy 21. My response was, "Well, we knew that." But even as I stated it, it was somewhat hard to hear it. Was I still hoping for a different result even though all the signs tell me otherwise? She has the space between her toes, and I can see it in her eyes. Her dad says he sees it in her nose. And I can see it in her profile. The pediatrician told me during her first visit on Tuesday that both her humerus were short. And she has a minor heart issue. I knew she had Down syndrome, but I didn't want to hear it confirmed.
I look at her and I see how beautiful she is. Could she have been so pretty without that extra chromosome? Or would she have been even more beautiful? I just know that she is the most beautiful baby I've given birth, no offense to her siblings.
How can I love a baby so much that others would find repulsive? I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the statistics that tell the majority of parents wouldn't want her. Because she's amazing.
I don't hesitate to believe that I will happily be by her side all through her growing years, and then some. My biggest concern is who will look out for her when I'm gone.