Warning: This post contains gory details.
Last Monday, I was checked into the hospital and given some kind of insert to get the party started as I was going on two full weeks late with no sign of labor whatsoever. In case you're wondering how this stuff works, there are three options (that I was told about) as far as inducing labor. There's a kind of gel they use to soften up the cervix or a kind of teeny tiny tea bag they can insert that slowly lets out some kind of drug over a 24 hour period. These are the two "light" options they like to use when it's clear that the body isn't ready to go into labor on its own quite yet. If you go in and you're already somewhat on your way, then they give you the "drip" that everyone our parents' age seems to have had. They made it pretty clear to me that they would take this thing in steps, and not to get my hopes up too high, as this light approach may not work right away, if at all.
That was at 1pm. I was monitored for 20 minutes before being induced and then for two hours after (which is torture for a hyper type like myself!). This means they put two big belts on you holding two monitors on the belly: one which measures contractions and the other which registers baby heartbeat. Then they give you a game show buzzer and you have to click it when
10pm. I started to get some "real" contractions-- the kind which, in theory, are supposed to help dilate your cervix. WRONG: They monitored me AGAIN and told met that they were not regular enough and therefore I was not in labor. They also did a visit and found that I was still at square one as far as dilation.
12am. I go to the bathroom and that little insert falls out. I go to the nurse to tell her. She basically says "too bad" and says I will have to wait until the 24 hour period is over (so until 1pm) and then they would start the process over. She said contractions would stop probably. I was almost happy because then I could get some sleep. Which I did. Until...
BAM! 3:15am. Major pain. Not one but TWO contractions in a row every couple of minutes. OUCH! I go to the nurse and ask for some pain relief (like HELP! DRUG ME!!!! Forget this EARTH MOTHER CRAP!). She says "no, signora. not until you're in LABOR and you are CLEARLY NOT in LABOR" and sends me back to my room where the girl next to me is in false labor and has been WISHING for a contraction since 9pm. Now she has to put up with my breath of fire yoga breathing which DOES NOT WORK, my getting up and pacing the hall (another girl doing the same and in misery as well), my going to the bathroom every five minutes (just for something to do), my plunking on the bed again, tossing turning, trying not to complain, etc. etc.)...nurse tries to pretend I'm not there, look busy every time I pass her office and look in longingly like a junky looking for a fix. She knows she can't help me. There is one doctor on duty at this hour and he has to cover three departments. Who knows if there is an anesthesiologist around, and if there is he/she is probably tending to some REAL pain issue.
6am It's a decent hour right? SMS to Cristian asking for our friend D's number. He is an anesthesiologist at the hospital. 6:05 SMS to D in English. HELP! I NEED YOU! my room number. He answers (but not fast enough for me to see it) I'M COMING! He warned me about the anti-pain relief environment of this place...
7am I can hear a new shift coming on. I know there's now a doctor JUST FOR US. He's getting the info from last night from the nurse (who is on her way out). I'm hoping he doesn't KNOW about me yet. I tell him I think I need a visit. He doesn't answer (clearly busy). They're discussing how there are too many people in labor, there's no room for anyone upstairs or down in delivery. People are in labor in the hallway down there. I tell nurse I'm going to wait in the bathroom. I go to the bathroom and fill it with blood. I think that I'm dying of a hemorage (it's actually my water breaking) and go BACK to the doctor to tell them that I have now filled up the toilet with live blood. Doctor says, ok. Will visit with you in a minute, signora. I say I will wait in the bathroom, that I'm feeling like pushing, actually.
7:15 Nurse comes to get me in the bathroom for my visit. I pop up on the table. Doctor visits me and says "ah. Completely dilated! Signora, do not open your legs anymore until you get to the delivery room". He sends for a wheelchair and a very fast person to drive me down to delivery (which is full of birthin' ladies, by the way). They ask me for Cristian's number. I punch it in on my cell and the nurse calls him and says. "Mr. Meng, please come fast. Your wife is in the delivery room"
7:30 Cristian arrives. But who cares (I am no longer effectively communicating with the outside world. He will later describe me as being "somewhere else".). My midwife's name is Elena. I love her. She understands me. She coaches me. She lets me do whatever is comfortable for me. She is kind and gentle and wonderful. There is a room for us, the lights are dim, it is very comfortable and new-agey. Like a private clinic somewhere. A great place to have a baby.
8:43 Sugar is born and is plopped onto my stomach and covered up with a fleece blanket. Cristian gets to make the announcement that it's a girl. The doctor and midwife ask what this baby will be called and I say "Eva Margaret" (it was between that and Natalia (his grandma's name) Margaret. I went for the short choice).
They take Eva away for literally 2 minutes to weigh her. Just enough time for me to change tables so that I can get two stitches. They plop Eva back on my tummy with the blanket, finish up that job, put me back on the flat bed and leave the three of us alone for 2 full hours. In that time Eva finds the breast on her own (I had read these first couple of hours were pretty important and now I'm convinced as we had no problems later latching on) and is completely alert. Does not cry once. The midwife and doctor say she had a "tranquil" birth and that not all babies cry when they're born. Eva was obviously not feeling too stressed. That's good.
When that time is up, they take Eva up to the nursery to get cleaned up and checked thoroughly by the pediatrician (they also check at birth and let you keep the baby only if he or she is not in any kind of danger). I get wheeled up to my new room in a different department (three beds to a room instead of the two bed wing I was in the night before, which is reserved for people getting induced or who have had c-sections and need extra TLC). We wait for Eva to come back.
Cristian gets impatient and goes to the nursery to see what the hold-up is. They say it is because they had to WASH HER HAIR because there was so much of it. They normally make you wait for the baby to get delivered to your room but let Cristian have her because with that head of hair, and with that nose, it was OBVIOUSLY his child. He brings Eva Margaret back into our room where she is left 24/7 until I get let out two days later. The women from the nursery pass by every couple of hours, even during the night, to check on all of the babies and moms and to give breast feeding tips, check to make sure you're doing it right, and help you understand why the baby is crying. You can also go to them with your baby anytime day or night to ask for advice about anything and they are WONDERFUL. I wanted to take those ladies home with me!
While in the hospital, the babies had all diapers and clothes provided, which rocked, and we had a changing table in our room, but we could have her changed in the nursery as much as we wanted (I took full advantage! In fact, what a bummer when Eva got home and had to deal with my clumsiness changing her clothes when she was used to professionals!!)
The hospital food was GREAT. I ordered mashed potatoes every day and for every meal. In fact I loved everything about the hospital (I didn't even mind not having a bathroom in my room, which was the case after Eva was born without complications because they put us in the old part of the hospital and you share a bathroom with most of the hallway).
The only thing I didn't like was the fact that people from outside the hospital did not respect visiting hours. There are two specific times (2-4:30 and 7-8:30) when people can come (one at a time: HA!!). I think the only person who respected this was Cristian, so I saw him less than anyone else. The first night I was in the hospital, the gal in the middle bed (there were three beds in our room) had, I'm not kidding, 10 (!!) guests in our room until 10pm (and she had given birth, a 12-hour ordeal, at 7pm!! I don't know what her husband was thinking by not kicking those people out!). The next day, a steady flow of guests started coming in at about 12:00 (lunchtime) and always like 5 or 6 people at a time. At one point a nurse had to come in and kick people out because our room was overheating so bad from the extra body heat and it wasn't good for the babies! During actual visiting hours, between my guests and guests of the other two, at one point there were something like 25 extra people in our room. It was awful. The girl in the middle bed had a good explanation for all these people. She told me that she told everyone to come to the hospital, that way she wouldn't have to have them in her house. After seeing the behavior of her people, I definitely understood why...
A cool tradition. People here don't bring you flowers. They bring you JUNK FOOD! Great! I got chocolates, cookies, all kinds of goodies. Maybe you're supposed to share them with your other guests once you get home (I have been doing that, too, but I spend more time eating them myself).
The other cool tradition is the big bows (pink or blue) that the father hangs up (had our florist make them) in key places to tell everyone that the baby was born. There was one on the antenna of our car (blew off yesterday on the highway), on the main door to our condo downstairs, one on our apartment door, three at work (colleagues took care of these), and one on the grandma's house (she had bought one blue and one pink just to be sure and hung up the pink one as soon as she got the news).
When it was time to get demitted (I was hoping to leave the day after the birth but they made me stay two days) they consider the mother's health, the baby's health and (oddly but understandably) whether the mom is breast feeding with the idea that moms who do this need extra support and counselling (for as "natural" as it's supposed to be, you really do need lots of help at first).
Eva and I got the green light and got home early Thursday afternoon.
BTW, another interesting thing they do at this hospital. If you tell them you have a dog, they will give you the baby's first blanket so you can take it home to your dog. Luna slept on Eva's (still sleeps on it) and didn't even get up to sniff her when she got home. The first night, every time Eva cried, Luna got up and sat down right in front of us as to say "I'm with you, Sister."