Enter Lenny:

22.8.10

There's a very big part of me that would just love to gloss over this part of Lenny's story. The end of the pregnancy and the beginning of her time "on the outside".  It's messy and full of bodily fluids and emotion.  It would be so much easier to just say, "yeah...had the baby...really happy with her..." which, you know, I did and we are.  That said, sitting here with her on her 6th day of life, on what was supposed to be her due date is making me realize I should really tell this part of her story.  Because it is, in some way or another, going to colour the rest of her story.  Or at least how I see it.  SO if you want to avoid the bodily fluids and the emotion know that I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND and stop reading now.  The rest of you?  Buckle up, it's a long one.  

Let's get on with the Bloody Show!

Last Saturday marked the 39th week of the pregnancy.  It was also my friends Sarah and Ron's wedding day.  I had been hoping that Lenny would hang in there so we could make it to the wedding and she did.  It was such a treat to share in Ron and Sarah's day and to hang out with our friends, especially knowing that this would probably be our last pre-baby night out.  It was a truly wonderful wedding.

The Robeau and I with our dear friend Hutch pre-ceremony

Ron and Sarah exchange their vows

I had been feeling great all day leading up to the wedding and was completely energized by the time we got there.  Then, at the reception I started to experience some classic symptoms of what our midwife had told us to watch out for as "pre-labour".  The appearance of the aforementioned bloody show and some old school, "I forgot what these felt like" period style cramps.  Nothing to cause any concern, just an indication that she'd probably be arriving sooner rather than later.  It could still be a matter of days, or weeks even.  But there was light at the end of the tunnel, which was a very nice feeling indeed.  That night I slept better than I had in weeks.  A solid, restorative, deep sleep.

Sunday morning at 9am when I sat up to get up and go to the bathroom I felt what can only be described as a glug of liquid, umm, release itself from me.  And that's when the questions started.  Had I just peed myself or had my water broken?  It was a slow leak, that I couldn't stop or control but it wasn't clear like amniotic fluid should be, nor was it tinged with brown or green the way amniotic fluid containing meconium would be, it was sort of yellow, the colour of straw.  After about an hour of this I called our midwife who suggested I try a few things and track the progress of the leak.  She came over two hours later to check things out.  Turns out my water had broken and it was the colour it was because there had been meconium, but that it had likely happened a couple of weeks ago when the baby turned herself around to the head down position.  Old meconium is less dangerous than new meconium which can cause the baby difficulty breathing post-birth because it is so sticky and is quite dangerous if inhaled.  That said, old meconium is no treat either.  We were now on a clock - the baby had to be delivered within the next 24 hours.

We had to head to the hospital right away and induce labour.  "Meconium babies" need to be monitored closely during labour so I would be confined to bed with a fetal monitor and a contraction monitor strapped to my belly and an IV dispensing Pitocin into my arm. That sounds like fun, doesn't it?  After talking it over with our midwife we decided to get the epidural early.  My blood pressure, while not yet high, had started to "trend upward" and an epidural could help lower that.  Also, being strapped in and not able to move to help cope with the pain of medically augmented contractions seemed like a very, very good reason to get the pain medication asap.  We started the Pitocin (after taking over an hour to get the IV in, I have notoriously hard to find veins) and it took effect right away.  The contractions were uncomforatble, but totally manageable at this point.  This is when we met the world's most awkward anesthesiologist.  You might think that your anesthesiologist was more awkward than mine, but I promise you, that is not the case.  Having the epidural administered was a complete drag.  It was more painful and scary than any of the contractions up until that point, but what can you do?  It took effect right away, leaving my lower half totally numb...and my blood pressure dangerously low.

The Pitocin had to be turned off right away and the anesthesiologist spent the next couple of hours injecting some sort of narcotic into my IV line to help bring my blood pressure back up.  Eventually we stabilized my pressure through a combination of medication and having me lie on my left side, which became very painful after a while. The absolute best part about this portion of the day was that what had started as a lovely sun shower outside evolved into a thunderstorm, knocking out the power in the hospital room no less than SIX TIMES.  The generator always kicked in almost immediately but it suddenly made me feel like I was giving birth on the set of M*A*S*H.

Once that ordeal was rectified we turned the Pitocin back on to try and kick start the labour.  It worked, the contractions were making themselves known, but unfortunately the epidural had stopped working.  Oh, it was still on, but I could now feel everything. Truth be told, this wasn't the worst thing in the world.  I was glad to feel that my body was working the way it should be, it was just unpleasant that I was stuck lying on my left side and strapped to all those machines.  The contractions were strong, but they were short and after hours of this we had made very little progress.  I was dilating at a very slow rate and now, the baby's heart rate had started to decelerate with every contraction.  Apparently this isn't uncommon later in labour, but at this point I was only dilated to about 3 cm and it could be an indication that she was in distress.  After consulting with the OB on call we decided to give it another couple of hours and if things didn't progress at a more rapid rate we would opt for the C Section.  They now inserted a fetal heart monitor into the baby's scalp to get a better idea of what her heart was doing.  A couple of hours later we had dilated to about 5 cm and the baby, who was still showing signs of distress hadn't moved any further down the birth canal (she was still at -1 station).  A C Section at this point wasn't just inevitable it felt like the right thing to do.

Seventeen hours after first inducing labour I was being wheeled down the hall (getting knocked into walls and nurses stations all the way) to the Operating Room.  To say I was apprehensive would be the understatement of a lifetime.  Meanwhile, the Robeau, who had been by my side for the whole seventeen hours (and at every appointment for the 9 months leading up to this day) was held behind to get into his scrubs while they prepped me for surgery.  The OR was bustling and full of people, but I never felt more alone. After a while they brought him into the room, where he had a full view of the incision that they had already started to make in my abdomen.  Lucky guy.  Once they took him around to the other side of the sheet that was supposed to obscure the view of the carnage he said I looked like Sean Penn at the end of Dead Man Walking, arms strapped down, needles sticking out of my veins.  At this point I was on morphine and sucking on pure oxygen and feeling quite disconnected from the experience.  It was the worst kind of high.

And this is where it gets hard to talk about.

I could feel them tugging and pressing and pulling on my body for what felt like an eternity and then, over the din of the machines and the clanging of metal instruments I heard someone on the other side of that sheet say, "cord, three times" and then things just kept going they way they were.  A couple of minutes later the OB sticks her head over the sheet and says, "you have a beautiful baby girl, we're just going to clean her up", but instead of hearing her cry we hear two voices in unison chanting "ONE, TWO, THREE, BREATH...ONE, TWO, THREE, BREATH".  At that moment time stood still, the room started to spin and all I remember screaming through my oxygen mask was "no...no...no" over and over again.  After trying so hard to hold it together all day I thought we were going to lose her before we even had her and I lost my composure, hell, for a moment I lost my mind.  The Robeau was doing everything he could to keep me calm, telling me they were professionals and they were taking care of her and everything would be fine.  Even then, as high and as terrified as a I was I knew he was holding it together for my sake and I was so profoundly grateful to have a man who could set aside his own fears in that moment to try and help me get through what was, without a doubt the worst moment of both of our lives.

Finally, we heard her cry.  Our midwife came around to make sure the Robeau would be ready to hold her once she was cleaned up and when I got reassurance from her that the baby was indeed fine (despite having the cord wrapped around her neck three times, having new and old meconium and needing a vacuum to be delivered) I gave in to the drugs and the shock and spent the next 45 minutes or so while they stitched me up and moved me into recovery blacked out.

Eileen Agnes "Lenny" Clayton just after birth.  In addition to everything else, our midwife takes nice photos!

Meeting Dad

I remember waking up in recovery, shaking and chattering my teeth uncontrollably while I came down from the morphine.  The incision was very painful at this point and my mouth was so dry I could hardly close my mouth.  When the post-op nurse, who was impossibly beautiful, gave me a cup of ice I almost went all Double Rainbow guy about the wonder of that styrofoam cup of ice, but I couldn't stop shaking long enough to say anything but "bbbbrrrr" and "ow".

And then, about 90 minutes after she made her dramatic entrance, someone placed Lenny on my stomach and we finally got to meet.

I know you.
The craziest thing that happened now (and I wonder if I would have noticed this if I wasn't so high) was that as she lay they squirming around and kicking her legs her movements felt just like they did from the inside...only now they were on the outside. Trippy, no?

I'm only half joking when I say that after that birth I think I'm more at risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than I am Postpartum Depression.  It was an awful, frightening experience and it's going to be with us forever.  That said, we received wonderful, compassionate care and the right decisions were made to protect our baby. The outcome, no matter how we got there is nothing short of perfect.  It's my hope that her rocky beginning won't make us over protective parents or prone to spoiling her, but that knowing how close we came to losing her will serve to make us appreciate her all the more.  The first 6 days have been, despite all the roadblocks of recovery and the lack of sleep the happiest of our lives.  We are one lucky little family.


14 comments :

  1. what a way to start my sunday!
    thank you for sharing your birth story tracey. so scary! but such a good ending.
    you're my hero! welcome beautiful lenny!
    LOVE YOU! now let me go wipe the tears from my cheeks
    xxxxxxxxxxxx

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  2. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Tracy,
    Don't worry to much about how her birth will affect her. You will find, although it is a bit sad, the birth will fade quite a bit in your memory. I have whole periods during my day and a half of labour that our completely blank. I seriously don't remember anything, what happen next, where I was. It's good that you put it out there, warts and all. Sometimes moms just do the "it was the best moment of my life" thing because they are afraid they'll look like bad moms/unfeeling women if they admit that birth can be messy, shocking and even cause trauma at times. This does not diminish the birth of your child, to me it says, you will be a self aware mother. This is huge to your survival in the first year. Being self aware, realistic, honest and not sugar coating the confusing, often painful parts. Yes, there are wonderful, amazing times to come but like her birth it will be a roller coaster of contrasting emotions. You're both going to do wonderfully.

    Rebecca Dreiling

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  3. I have to stop crying long enough to say that...my anaesthetist was way worse than your anesthetist! He spent ovre a half hour in the middle of labour with the prodding and the poking and the How do they expect me to bend like this? - and they still didn't get it to work. Doctor later said "They gave you epidural?" I said "Yes, but it didn't work." Nurse said "They gave it to her!" In the middle of last stage the doctor looked at me and said "It didn't work, did it?" Stupid nurse!

    It was a long and frightening night for your loved ones. We are so grateful, so proud and so blessed for the lucky little family.

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  4. You are so incredibly beautiful. As if you looked that glowingly lovely after 17 hours of labour AND a scary c-section.

    Your story is scary, lovely, funny, heart-wrenching and just achingly beautiful. I feel privileged to have been able to read about it.

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  6. LJ Brackenbury said...
    I love you. It is important to remember the stories of how our children enter the world and I think it does impact us as parents to a certain extent.

    My boys stories are like a combination to Lenny's and I'm glad they will get a chance to all grow up together. With Sinclair, he was the one in distress but I was the one who almost died - 3 epidurals, a gp in the back of the room looking horrified at what the ob/gyn was doing. It does stay with you and yes, I am perhaps more protective of him. Kenzie was a planned c due to all the repairs from Sinclair and when they take your partner away to scrub them and start without them it is a terrifying all alone feeling.

    Tracey - I am so glad you have such an amazing supportive network of people around you and Jim. and I am so glad you and Lenny are both okay. Blessed to part of your lives....

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  7. Thanks for sharing Tracey. Think how this would have gone a century ago. Half of your issues may have prevented the happy outcome of healthy baby and mother. This was not an uncommon experience. While I have had friends who had c-sections who were left wondering if it was necessary. you will know that for you it was a life-saving procedure. My brother's daughter was expected to be delivered stillborn, and amazing staff gave me a gorgeous niece who just turned 15. When they brought her home at 3 weeks old, I remember the midwife settling mom and baby into bed together and whispering: 'okay, this is the start. This is her birthday, and we let go of the hospital and start your lives together.'

    Her traumatic entrance to this world wasn't a sweet baby story on TLC. And it did make her parents anxious for a couple of years. But then life just makes it hard to hold on to that, and the love and here and now take precedence.

    What you will remember is the feeling of her kicking on the outside, and that will be the transforming moment of your love being on the outside, focusing outward to your baby.

    I have a friend who had an emergency c-section a few MONTHS early. She turned the trauma into a shared story to share with her daughter. Every birthday, her daughter clamours for her birthday story, and once a year she tells the amazing adventure. You have written this down, and you will be able to share this with her, and she will love how her Daddy loved you, and how you felt when she was put on your tummy.

    Her minute-to minute needs will keep your improv instincts sharp - in the moment, eye contact, taking care of your partner. You are going through this with mindfulness, you are reflecting on the experience, and this is what will put it in the place of your family's whole story. Now, if you don't watch out, I'm gonna eat that yummy little baby!

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  8. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Dear Tracey, The Robeau and Lenny,

    Thank you for sharing this part of your story. Labour is such a personal experience, it is beautiful that you were able to express all of this!

    Congratulation on adding to your wonderful family and with any luck you will be sleeping through the night soon!

    The Bakers

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  9. Holy smokes! You've been to hell and back, welcome home!
    Amazing composition, beautifully written.
    Now I must gather myself, you got me all emotional, again!

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  10. jeez Tracey! you made me cry! speaking of fluids and emotions. i recently had emergency surgery myself, and reading your description of the fear and confusion...i was there with you...you really took me on that rollercoaster. and then you got a beautiful baby girl. a lucky family indeed. i truly wish you all of the best of everything.

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  11. Marilo10:28 PM

    Tracey, that was an amazing re-telling of what I know from experience must have been the scariest and most joyous moment of your life combined. Reading your words takes me back to the birth of Emma, my eldest. I want you to know that it is okay to feel anger and tears and moments of sheer terror. It is okay to feel overwhelmed by the emotions that will come. You are so blessed as is your little beautiful Lenny. You are a survivor as is she and that is something that you will always have, a shared bond with your daughter.

    There should be a book about giving birth for the first time, with all of the details and emotions laid out in truth, like you just did. When you write that book Tracey, I'd like to share my story as well. Reading and sharing stories like this makes one feel less alone in the world...

    Congratulations to you Tracey on becoming a mother. The journey is amazing!

    Love,

    Marilo

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  12. Ladies, I'm quite overwhelmed by all of your generous responses. I don't even know where to start, thank you.

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  13. What an experience, holy *#%&!!! I cannot tell you how happy I am for you, I am about in tears. Congratulations. What an amazing story and amazing family you have. Hope you are enjoying your Monday together! xoxoxo

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  14. Anonymous11:24 PM

    Tracey, thanks for sharing your story. What a terrifying experience. I'm so sorry Lenny (and all of you) went through it. Not only will you never forget it, i think you'll always carry with you the knowledge and reminder of the fragility of life. She's clearly a strong little girl who was meant to be here. A fighter!

    I wish you all only smooth sailing and a house filled with love and laughter.

    I think there's a photo & journalistic exhibition there. Keep photographing your beautiful new daughter (as if you'd stop, ha!). I'm so excited for you. (not Rainbow Guy excited though but almost)

    Mazel Tov!! Best wishes always,
    Paula

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