Thursday, April 17, 2008

Before I Forget: Rowena's Birth Story

It was Ikea's fault.

Darin and I took a fancy to the red dresser this Swedish mega-mall had advertised for almost $300. Crafty and frugal Darin decided to recreate it, only better, and for half the price. We bought the wood, red stain, and other supplies and headed to my dad's garage an hour south from our house. I, being 8 months pregnant and lazy, took advantage of Mom and Dad's cable and watched HGTV with Flava Flav's degenerate dating show as backup. Darin busied himself in the workshop like a man.

The next morning consisted of Mass with Mom and Pops followed by lattes with classic film as conversation. A perfect morning, in my opinion. We all headed up to my brother and sister-in-law's home to prepare for a baby's arrival. Long story short, they were planning to take care of a practically homeless 3-month old girl until further arrangements could be made for adoption to another family. We busily cleaned the kitchen while Mom went for a food run. Bad timing, Ma.

As I leaned over to remove a laptop from the table, I felt a warm gush of fluid escape from you-know-where. My first reaction? "Man, I got my period! Oh, wait." I held my legs together the best I could and hopped to the bathroom. I dropped my pants, held my breath, and looked. My next reaction? "OH S%#@! Um, Darin? Lili? Dad? My water broke." The just-cleaned bathroom was not so clean anymore, but my sis-in-law was wonderful and cleaned up my natural gumbo like a pro.

Me, terrified: "Lili? Am I having a miscarriage?"
Lili, steadily looking at me: "I don't know, Louise."
So glad I can now laugh at that moment.

There was a point when I was alone in the bathtub for what seemed like an hour. My family was running around making phone calls and collectively freaking, forgetting the exploding young woman in the bathtub. "I'm lonely and scared! Someone come talk to me!" Never happened until Darin came in (from calling the hospital and consulting the internet) and helped me dress. Lili supplied me with panties, sweats, and a huge bottle of Melaleuca all-purpose cleaner and we were off to the hospital.

We arrived at triage, my life completely changing before my eyes. I went up to the front desk and announced to the underage nurse, "My water broke. I am having a baby." She responded with an apathetic, "Name please?" I wanted to shake her shoulders and say, "I don't think you understand. My water broke. I am having a baby."

Another apathetic young woman who I barely remember took me to a room where Darin and I started watching Return of the King. Appropriate. I got strapped up with thingies that tracked my contractions and baby's heartbeat. The contractions felt just like menstrual cramps. I could handle it. It was 4 p.m. and I hadn't eaten anything that day save the vanilla latte after church. My worthless nurse (whom I will henceforth refer to as No-face) said that I could only have "clears"- Jello, juice, water. I ate the Jello with gusto and tried to relax. Mom and Dad were in the room and we were all having a relatively easy-going time. I don't think I really believed that I was having a baby. No-face came back in and informed me that her shift was over, so I was getting a new nurse. I gave No-face an enthusiastic good-bye. Enter Diana.

Without Diana, my birthing experience would not have happened. Rowena would still be in my womb, scratching up my uterine walls. Diana was a source of calm and happiness, invaluable qualities to a girl in my situation. She was about 50-odd years, with six children under her belt. She never-once blinked an eye when I yelled in pain when she checked my centimeter progress. She happily cleaned up my Jello-y vomit on the bathroom floor. (Now there was a dilemma. I was on the toilet... wondering what she would rather clean up on the floor. Poop or vomit? Poop or vomit??! I chose the latter, paying no attention to the garbage can next to me.)

There was a point when it was just Mom and Diana in the room. My contractions were getting more intense, and my future as mother was getting increasingly real. I began to cry.
"I can't do this. I am so scared. I really can't do it."
Diana took my hand and gently said, "You can do this. You can do anything."
That was somehow more encouraging than Mom's boisterous "Ready or not, you're gonna do it!" Good ol' Ma.

Diana finally asked that question. "Louise honey, have you given any thought to pain medication?"
I tried to look meditative and serious. "Oh well, I want to see if I can handle this... I would like to- Lord, let's be honest here. Yes. I definitely want an epidural!"
The pain was getting bad. I couldn't sit, or stand, or lay down. I stumbled around the room, repeating, "Dammit. Dammit." Poor Darin really didn't know what to do.

Fast forward, post-medication- about 10 p.m. I was able to take a 2-hour nap. It was the most beneficial sleep I have ever experienced. Not only did I get some stamina back, but I went from 3 centimeters to 10. The doctors were amazed at the progress and told me that I could start pushing whenever I felt like it. Even though the pain was virtually gone, I could feel every contraction. I gave some good pushes with Darin helping me up every time... "I see some hair!"... gave some half-assed pushes... "Sorry, I really didn't try that time"... felt the head crowning... "Don't push yet, Louise"... the doctors and nurses scrambled around the room retrieving stuff needed... "Okay, GO! Push!"... I pushed hard and felt a creature slide out.

Everyone crowded around the foot of the bed, talking and yelling excitedly. I fell back on my pillow, exhausted and utterly spent.
"What is it?!"
No one answered me...
"Hey! What is it!?"
Mom said, "It's a girl!!! What a dreamboat! What a dreamboat!"
"Is she okay?" I yelled.
Diana answered, "She's perfect."

Dr. T laid the naked little thing on my chest. She immediately stopped crying. She knew me. She looked up at my face. "She looks like me." I couldn't stop staring at the half-moons on her fingernails. Darin lay his head next to mine with tired tears in his eyes. I felt only one overwhelming sensation with this little baby girl in my arms: peace. That was one thing I wasn't expecting.

It was 2 a.m. and my little family was able to sleep for a few hours. Rowena slept in my arms. One of the doctors woke me a couple hours later and kindly told me, "Rowena has low blood sugar, so we are going to place her in the nursery for a few hours for testing." I answered too quickly, "Okay, fine. I understand." I didn't yet understand what to feel for this wee thing that just came out of me. I willingly gave her to the nurse. I figured I could use a few hours uninterrupted sleep. How does one sleep when something so immense and inexplicable just happened? I like lying to myself.

It was about 3 p.m. the next day and I still hadn't seen my daughter. Darin and my father had seen her earlier in the afternoon, but my stitches were fresh and my entire body throbbed with exhaustion and pain. Also? I was terrified... of my new life, believing that I would completely fail this new person. I suddenly had an intense desire to see Rowena. I limped with Darin to the nursery.

I looked around the room riddled with volunteer women rocking and feeding little babies. My eyes finally rested on a certain little red-faced furry newborn. An adorable one at that. A kind-faced woman held and fed her, happily chatting with another volunteer. My heart jumped to my throat. I needed to hold my baby. I wanted to sprint across the room and tear that little lass from the stranger's arms. Rowena was soon in my arms, peaceful and beautiful and perfect. I was a mother. I felt it in every bone and hair and painful stitch. My heart finally gave in and allowed me to love my daughter. It hurt, oh, how it hurt! The love a mother has for her child is so wonderful, yet so painful! The tears rolled down my face and wouldn't stop. I clutched her close to my aching body for an hour, just staring at her gorgeous face and half-moons on her fingernails. That hour seemed like a minute.

Rowena was a month early, so we didn't really have very many things for her. Her dresser was still in pieces in our car, the clothes that we did have were much too large (and still are!), and I had forgotten everything I read about childcare. (I still can't believe that hospitals just let you take the baby home.) Thank God for my mother. She supplied us with new blankets, dresses, and onesies and made dinner for us... brown rice and chicken. Sigh, that tasted so delicious after hospital food.

Being a mother has given me a new purpose in life. It is the most scary and awesome and crazy thing I have ever done. I didn't know that I could love something so much and so intensely. I am completely exhausted after writing this blog entry. I can't even tie in the first sentence with the last sentence. This'll have to do: