Yohannon (yohannon) wrote,

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Cultivating Lilly, Part The Third

Okay, I've been avoiding this for days now, but if I'm ever to get past a lot of the tension... First, it bears repeating now more than ever:

WARNING: Anything placed behind an LJ Cut means that it's going to contain information that may squick, nauseate, or just plain freak some people out. The fact that I hardly ever LJ cut should be a clue that I have a damn good reason to cut it.

Even if you thought the last entry wasn't that bad, there might be things that happened later that pushes some peoples buttons. You have been forewarned.

So, when we last visited this tale, dcatt was caving on the whole epidural thing.

I was of a seriously mixed mind on it. First and foremost I desperately wanted her pain to stop, as it wasn't doing her or the baby any good. However, there was the fact that I was fully aware of what an epidural was, and couldn't help but flash back to that fucked up spinal tap that left me flat on my back and vomiting for 9 days when I was 16. Let me tell you, that sort of agony leaves a hell of an impression, even 25 years later. I also knew she felt it was a failure of a sort, something that we all tried to dissuade.

Bottom line: The whole "nobility of pain" is bullshit. It's one thing when there is no choice, or the alternative is worse than the pain. But if you can stop it, why wouldn't you? Facing it is one thing - forcing oneself to suffer for no real reason other than some sort of mano a mano confrontation with your own sensations is the worst form of vanity, a conceit that can be ill afforded in most cases.

But that's just my opinion, based on my own relationship with pain, which (as many who know me will attest to) is a bit on the dysfunctional side.

By the time the anesthesiologist came in she was completely over it. She was exhausted, and realized that if she was going to be able to face whatever was to come, she needed her strength.

Speaking of the anesthesiologist, his name was Seamus O'Malley. I was so startled I had to ask him if that's what I actually heard, and he laughed. It was just so damn IRISH, and considering that Catt and I are both predominately of emerald isle lineage it was almost a sign. In a way, it really was, considering what happened next.

I knew how this was going to go, and made certain I was the one holding her shoulders as they rolled her to one side, looking in her eyes. Her eyes bulged a bit when he administered the local, which about made me weep, because even with the local it STILL is one of the most unpleasant feelings known to human kind to have a needle stuck into your spine.

And it was.

He tested the epidural, and all seemed fine... until Catt freaked out, saying she was feeling a crackling across her forehead, which made her sit up... and then she screamed.

I got her to focus on me, getting her breath back, and she said her head was pounding. Dr. O'Malley was noticeably concerned, and asked her to lie down again. I sent up a very odd silent prayer about then: "Please Goddess, let it still hurt when she lies flat".

She listened. It did.

Those of you in the know already understand. As was finally determined, it turned out that he had gone perhaps a millimeter too far with the needle (if that) and had partly spinal blocked her. The crackling sound had been some air bubbles, and his concern was that she might have developed a spinal headache, but those usually took 24 hours to come on. They also go away when you lie flat, or at least diminish to a level that's only at the level of the worst migraine you've ever had, and thus would be tolerable.

So says the man who spent 9 days completely and utterly flat on his back.

Thus the prayer.

So at this point we have massive birth plan deviation. Her water had been broken manually for the internal baby monitor, an epidural had been applied, and she was being given Pitocin to help stimulate the contractions, which were finally starting to look more and more like labor. With her water broken the clock starts on a C section, but with the batter contractions, things are looking up...

Until all hell broke loose.

To be honest, I think I lost a few minutes somewhere. We were talking one moment, and then there was sudden influx of nurses and (more frightening) Doctors.


Have I said enough nice things about the medical personnel of Banner Desert? They were, with one and a half exceptions, some of the nicest, most informative, dedicated people I had ever dealt with in the profession. Ever.

The half exception was this one nurse whose name escapes me, who at first seemed to rub us the wrong way. There was something about her that reminded me of the woman Peter becomes engaged to, Miss "Top Drawer" snob, in "Aunt Mame" (the only true version with Rosalind Russell, of course!). However, she turned out to be alright, and redeemed herself. The SINGLE exception was this obnoxious, obviously old school medical type who treated us like laboratory subjects who were too uppity. We'll be meeting her a bit later.


The baby's heart rate had gone from a fairly normal 140-160 beats per minute to a scary 60-70. This happened during a particularly strong contraction, so theories abounded. Very quickly they decided that the lack of fluid cushioning the child was causing trouble, so they brought in yet another tube into Catt's poor abuse vaginal area, specifically to infuse the womb with artificial amniotic fluid. Baby's heart-rate returned to normal, father's heart rate was a near match.

Since Catt was now dilated to 5-6 CM's, they also theorized that the baby shifted downward and (in the doctor's words) stepped on the umbilical cord. Which led me to quip "trust a child of mine to be late AND clumsy, yet manage to avoid permanent damage".

It should be noted that my sense of humor at this point was extremely dark and inappropriate, which I had warned everyone of up front. Lack of sleep eventually diminishes, then outright destroys my public filtering. Thus, when someone described the replacement amniotic fluid as "Gatorade without the coloring and flavor" I started to crack up, managing to gasp out something about harvesting amniotic fluid as all natural gatorade, marketed under the brand name "Wombjuice™".

It WAS a lot funnier at the time.

At this point Catt looked as if she were about to give birth to a Borg -- which, btw, none of the medical staff got... I guess not many trekkies become doctors. Which is ironic, if you think of all the "Damnit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a concubine!" style jokes they had in the original series.

So, the contractions seemed to taper off a bit after that, though they were still regular and strong. That's about when obnoxious nurse came on board, with her steely persona that made Nurse Ratchet look like the life of the bachelor party.

I wonder if she realizes how close she came to being bitch slapped by a very, VERY tired New Yorker pushed way past his limits of terror, yet forced to keep it cool for someone in an even more vulnerable position?

It happened when Catt's temperature started to go up, right after they had discovered merconium leaking from Catt's vaginal area. Merconium, for those who don't know, is essentially baby shit mixed with womb juice. In other words, the baby, already past due, had taken a crap, and was now essentially swimming in it. That's when the fourth bag was plugged in, IV antibiotics this time. Child birth at this point was so far from natural, I was already steeling myself for what had to be an inevitable C-Section, as was Catt.

The rise in temp was therefore of serious concern, so they had some blood pulled to test. About 30 minutes later in walks in with yet ANOTHER bag of, what I could see, was of Magnesium Sulfate. Without saying a word, she started to get ready to plug it in.

I don't think so.

Catt, Shawna and myself were already at the bed, demanding to know what it was she was about to add into an already complicated mix. Her reply? "It's medicine."


That was as close as I came to snapping the entire time. Catt later said she was prepared to crimp the line, if necessary, but it shouldn't have even been something she had to think about. When we pushed her for more info, she said, "It's magnesium sulfate". Again with the period. Well, duh, miss congeniality, we can fucking READ. Why were you about to pump it into Catt without telling us, especially since Mag Sulfate is often used to PREVENT CONTRACTIONS?

We had to tell HER that before she admitted that the tests had come back, and based on liver and kidney function Catt had...


I was standing at the foot of the bed, and felt my face drain of every drop of blood. Catt had a history of seizures when she was younger, which is why she suspected something was up when she saw what was in the bag. The only reason the nurse was permitted to live was that she didn't actually hook Catt up until a Doctor came in to tell us what was going on, though at that point we pretty much already knew.

The Mag Sulfate was to prevent Catt from seizing from eclampsia, and there was still a fading hope that the Pitocin would still do the job. However, they were finally talking in terms of when, and not if, the C Section would occur. Catt's main concern was for the baby, and not adherence to a birthing plan that was now a pleasant fantasy -- if you can call natural childbirth "pleasant". Okay, compared to what was happening, it was.

I had a window of opportunity around 6:30 to get some food. When I got back, we mysteriously had a new nurse. All the other shifts lasted for 12 hours -- after only 6 we got Denise, whose first name will always be with me. She was the best of all the nurses, most of home I can't say enough nice things about. Shawna, Catt and another friend, Laurie (? I'm a bit vague on the name... Catt, please correct me!) were all convinced that my death glare at Obnoxious Nurse's departing back after the "it's medicine" incident had manifested a new nurse. I was willing to take what the universe was giving, which turned out to be even more than I thought.

She made sure I had my scrubs at the ready, and I took a quick shower in the suite bathroom (I wasn't going to great my daughter looking and smelling like I had been up for the better part of 60 hours) and braced myself for facing yet another major hospital phobia.

Remember Dr. O'Malley's "mistake"? Well, the anesthesiologist on duty that night had been fully briefed, and came in to make sure that the "partial spinal" would be up to the task of keeping Catt pain free while, to be blunt, being cut open. It turns out it was a perfect mistake, so instead of having to endure ANOTHER bit of spinal fun, Catt was good to go. Seamus, you truly have the lock of the irish after all.

Nurse Denise wanted to know if I wanted to bring a camera into the OR. My initial response was shock -- "To photograph WHAT?!" She pointed out that, while there were those who actually VIDEOTAPED the operation itself, that usually it was just a "baby's first picture" thing. And she agreed that those who video taped the actual even were... odd. Personally, folks, that's not something I can imagine wanting to re-visit later.

When the time came, just about 9PM, all I could do was go on automatic. Since my camera was still at Catt's place (remember, we had gone to the hospital for pain management, so why would I lug that with me?), so I borrowed Shawna's camera. When the time came to move everything out toward the recovery area and OR, somehow she would up holding the camera. A nice OR person asked me about the camera, fortunately, so the world got to see yours truly in blue scrubs, a mask, and those blue booties pulled over Z-Coil sandals (which, BTW, were remarkably well recognized by name by several staffers. Somehow that wasn't too surprising.) as I ran gingerly (the traction little booties give is next to frictionless) over to the recovery room to retrieve it from a chagrined Shawna.

Running back was harder. I was actually running to see someone get cut open. In a hospital OR. The only thing that would have made it scarier was if it was me, still fully conscious, being cut open.

The OR team was amazing. You could tell they had worked together for a long time. It reminded me a bit like a master juggling act, like the Flying Kamarzov Brothers. After watching them work for a few minutes while the anesthesiologist prepped Catt, I was allowed to sit and hold Catt's hand. I leaned in and told her "You can trust these people".

You have no idea what an astonishing statement that was for me to make, unless you know just how much dis-trust I have for the entire medical profession I have.

The sharp eyed might have noticed the music I listed for Lilly's birth announcement, "Dancing Queen". That's because the OR team had "Abba's Greatest Hits" in the player, and that was the song playing when she was being pulled from Catt's womb. Someone said "Does daddy want to see?" and, without thinking about what I was doing, I stood up and looked over the drape.

I expected to see Lilly, sure. What I didn't expect was to see that only her head had emerged, looking for all the world like it was permanently attached to the underside of Catt's belly. Catt's asking for updates, and just as I'm trying to parse what I was seeing into words, I hear a tense "Well look at this, we have one loop...two..." I sat down after seeing something I really didn't want to see.

Strangely enough, it wasn't the C-Section that freaked me out. To be honest, I expected something a lot gorier. I suspect being an avid fan of CSI has raised the bar a bit on my gore tolerance. What freaked me was the fact that they were unwrapping what looked like the umbilical cord from around Lilly's neck, which didn't make sense, as there was no indication of that on any of the ultrasounds, at least up to the weeks before the birth.

Later it was confirmed: Somehow my little spinner had managed to twist her cord not just once, but twice around her neck. I suspect that's the real reason for the heartbeat slowdown after that last big shift -- she basically indulged in a little umbilical bungee jumping.

So the picture of her I am using as an icon for these posts were taken right after they cleared her lungs out (she had swallowed a bit, poor thing), which is why her face is so red. It's also why she's complaining so much.

So I walked her upstairs with the nurses to NICU for some continuing care (just to be safe), and took some more pics of her being weighed and such. I ran the results downstairs, but only after I called Roni and my Mom with the news that my daughter had her dad's long toed feet. My mom made me almost lose it by telling me she was proud of me.

Folks, I don't feel like I did anything particularly praiseworthy. In fact, I feel that I did the least I could do. If that's notable, then it reflects very poorly on men as a gender more than well on my actions.

I got downstairs just as everyone was about to head up to see the baby, and checked in with Catt. She was about what you'd expect after having something removed from her belly on major pain-killers. Denise was still hovering about, making sure she had everything she needed. I had to run upstairs so that Catt's parents, Shawna and Laurie got to see the baby, because the NICU nurses wouldn't tell them which one was Lilly without my permission. Not that they needed me to figure it out -- they had already heard me bemoan the whole toes thing, and were able to spot Lilly based on that.

When I got back downstairs, the recovery room was eerily empty of everyone except Catt. Apparently there was a delay in getting a room for post-natal recovery. Denise actually wound up having to send the Recovery housekeepers to postnatal to get the room ready. When the room was FINALLY ready, she wheeled Catt up to NICU first, where Mom and baby were finally able to look one another in the eyes...

The rest is trivial. We got Catt situated in her room, Marnie (another friend) gave me a ride back to Catt's apartment, where I got the pics online and posted the birth announcement. Shawna's husband, Robert, had provided me with a little something to unwind with, and has earned a permanent place on my "good" list by making sure it was good enough to knock me on my ass for the next 8 hours.

And now....
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