I went to this checkup Thursday of last week. I had actually been back to see the doctor one week after I had Brandon because I was having so much pain. That one-week visit was pretty uneventful. She just assured me everything I was feeling was normal and to expect a rougher recovery because I labored for so long before my section. She also changed my pain medication from Tylox to Dilaudid.
The four-week visit was a little more eventful. Imagine my surprise when I got in the examination room and the nurse told me to change into the pap smear outfit. I gave David a WTF? look because I really did not want to have a pap smear. I am not exactly sure what I thought he might do about it. The nurse left the room and he helped me change into the stupid gown and sheet.
The doctor came in and checked out my incision. She said it looked good and there were no signs of infection, although I could have done without her fooling around with it. She could have just used her EYES. Then I had to lie flat for her to push on my belly. As soon as she started that nonsense, I broke out into a sweat because my belly was very tender and I could feel that there was something bulbous (what a word!) she was pushing on. I think as a general rule you never want the word “bulbous” used to describe something in your tummy. She told me I had a hematoma and it would go away on its own but that it was definitely adding to my pain. She gave me another prescription for the Dilaudid and told me to keep a heating pad on my belly.
After that, she kindly told me she would spare me the pap smear because I had experienced enough discomfort for the day. What a relief! I still don’t understand why that was even part of the plan in the first place. I mean, that’s borderline assault, trying to pap smear (yeah, I just used pap smear as a verb) someone four weeks after giving birth. I think my cervix has been through quite enough, thank you.
We talked for a while after that and she answered a lot of my questions. But then she had a question for me: what did I want to do about birth control? Uh, lady, I have a hematoma in my belly, a sensitive incision on my lower abdomen, my boobs are leaking milk, I’m still having some postpartum bleeding, horrible hemorrhoids, a floppy gut, not to mention a newborn at home–I think all of those combined are the most powerful birth control I’ve ever experienced. What kind of crazy person does she think I am? I told her we could wait on the birth control. It’s not likely that I am going to be overcome with passion anytime soon.
So that was that. She sent me down for a blood test and urine sample (I had gotten a UTI around week 3 but refused to go in to give a urine sample so they prescribed me antibiotics over the phone). She ordered the blood test to see if I had any sort of internal infection along with the hematoma. The results of both were normal, so that was a relief.
She wants to see me next week to check on the hematoma (more belly pushing) and to finally give me that pap smear.
You know what I was great at? Being pregnant. Compared to what comes after labor and delivery, being pregnant was a breeze. Sure, I had a little nausea in the beginning. I had days where I was uncomfortable and had terrible heartburn. I got sick of peeing all the time. But it was manageable. I was simultaneously grossed out/fascinated by what my body was up to during those months. I loved feeling my baby kick. I read the books, took the classes and felt pretty confident about everything. Of course I felt scared at times, but overall it wasn’t bad. But then came the fallout. My labor experience sucked. But once it was over, I hoped the worst was over. Boy, was I wrong. Because guess what? The hospital sends you home when you have never felt worse in your life and they send you home with a newborn.
And this brings me to breastfeeding. Before I had my baby, I had decided I would breastfeed. And I had decided those first few weeks, I would breastfeed round the clock, on demand. I would look just like those moms in my breastfeeding book: lovingly looking at my newborn as I nursed him on a cloud of pillows. When I heard about people using formula instead of breastfeeding their baby, I’d internally shake my head, thinking, “How hard is it to breastfeed? It’s natural. It’s an instinct.” Well, not for everyone. I lasted 12 days.
In the hospital, breastfeeding wasn’t so bad. I was so out of it most of the time. And there was always a midwife, nurse or lactation consultant grabbing my boob and positioning it correctly in my baby’s mouth. My baby latched, albeit not always correctly. Pretty soon my boobs looked as if I had been nursing a family of raccoons. Angry, fully grown raccoons. I did not look like the ladies in my breastfeeding book. I looked terrified every time I put my baby to my breast. Then the intense pain would hit. Pretty soon, I dreaded seeing my baby get that hungry look on his face. I wanted to run and hide every time I noticed his telltale hunger signs. I was tired, my boobs were bleeding and I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby at all. I mostly felt tired and resentful toward him. Not good. Things still didn’t improve even after a visit to the lactation consultant a week after I gave birth.
So I finally made the decision. Broken down, exhausted and at the end of my rope, I told David to give the baby some formula because my boobs were so sore, I didn’t even want to try pumping until they healed. The first few days of formula were hard on me. The guilt consumed me. I cried and cried. But things eventually got better. No one from the La Leche League came to arrest me. I looked at my sweet boy with his bottle and felt so relieved. David told me I seemed so much happier. And I felt happier.
I began pumping, little by little. I called the lactation consultant who has been so helpful. I cried on the phone to her about how I felt like a bad mother. She didn’t judge me for quitting. She was so supportive and told me all the things I could do to try to increase my production. One of the things that meant the most to me that she told me was that I had to do what was best for me and my baby. And if breastfeeding was making me that miserable, then I was making the right decision because my happiness was what was most important.
Brandon still gets formula, as pumping isn’t as efficient as I would like it to be. I pump a lot, with little reward. I am happy that he gets a few bottles of breast milk per day, but I know I can’t keep up pumping all day for too long. I keep reminding myself that once I decide to quit, he will be fine. Formula wouldn’t be on the shelves if it were bad for our babies. And I know lots of people who weren’t breastfed that are wonderful people, despite the books wanting you to believe that your kid will turn out to be a real asshole if you don’t breastfeed.
I know lots of people who have soldiered through the hard days of breastfeeding. I admire them for that. And I truly wish I had been able to do the same. But I know myself, and the emotional toll was getting to be too much. As for the people who have zero problem breastfeeding and don’t experience any hardship, congrats to the 2 percent of you out there. Excuse me, 1 percent. The other 1 percent have what I call “baby amnesia” and recall all things related to having a baby fondly. These are the people who could have had an episiotomy from top to bottom, delivered their baby sideways and still claim they had an easy childbirth. Anyway, I have to think breastfeeding is a challenge for most because there are numerous books comprised of hundreds of pages on the subject, classes on how to breastfeed and actual jobs as lactation consultants. If it were that easy, I don’t think there would be so much guidance out there on how to do it right.
As for Brandon, he is thriving and happy. He still looks at me differently than he looks at anyone else–he knows I am his mama. And we bond every day, despite my decision to not breastfeed him. So no matter what anyone thinks of me for quitting breastfeeding, my most important critic is that little boy and he seems just fine with my choice.
Agreeing on a boy name was hard. We had decided forever ago, even before I was pregnant, that we would name a boy James. Later on, I decided against that and eventually conceded to it being a middle name for a boy. So that left us with the need for a first name. While we had no idea what we were having, we still had a feeling throughout most of my pregnancy that we were having a boy. I thought it was because I wanted a little boy so badly. Anyway, I would look everywhere for boy names–even in credits of tv shows, movies, etc. Nowhere was off limits–I just needed to hear one I really liked and then get David to agree to it!
Very early in my pregnancy, I wanted to listen to the song “Read My Mind” by the Killers all the time. It put me in such a good mood. It was like I craved that song. I could listen to it over and over (this continued throughout my pregnancy). In the car one day, on the way home from a doctor’s appointment, as I replayed the song for the zillionth time, it hit me: Brandon. Brandon Flowers is not only the lead singer of the Killers, but he wrote the song as well. I called David and told him the name and the rest is history.
Throughout my pregnancy, I would put my iPhone on my belly and play this song to my growing baby on a regular basis. One of the first nights Brandon was home, I played this song for him and sang along to it. He instantly calmed down and seemed to really be listening to it. I like to think he remembered the five zillion times he heard it in the womb. I still play it for him and sing it to him almost every day.
And that’s how our boy came to be named Brandon. And how this song officially became my favorite song.
I’ve sat down several times to write the story of Brandon’s birth because I think I need to just get it out in order to move on a bit and also because so many of my friends have asked me to blog about this. Needless to say, I usually get upset just thinking about the whole ordeal and abandon posting about it. As usual, I’m going to be pretty explicit and honest, so here goes (please bear in mind I might be fuzzy on some details–it was a long couple of days, but I’m going to tell everything the best I remember it)…
I went into labor early in the evening of March 19, probably around 7 p.m. I didn’t really pay any attention to my contractions at first because I’d been having contractions off and on for over a month. At 41 weeks, I figured I would be pregnant forever. As far as answering the question, “What did you do to induce labor?”, well, nothing. I was 41 weeks pregnant. I think it was just time. David did make me some guacamole but that’s not unusual. I had a glass of wine. We did have sex (I was trying to induce with that–it’s not like I was feeling particulary frisky). But I had already started contracting before all of those things. We went to bed but my contractions were getting stronger and closer together. They were starting to take my breath away at times and that’s when I knew this was probably the real deal. I called my doula and we planned to meet at the hospital. By this time it was probably around 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
On the way to the hospital, I was nervous, excited and tense all at the same time. David and I got there and there was practically no one in labor and delivery. It was very calm. I went to the triage area and that’s where the first truly painful thing occurred. As I’ve mentioned, I never once let my midwives check my cervix for dilation during pregnancy. So I had no idea what to expect when the nurse checked me. Sweet jesus. I nearly came off that table when she checked me. I was very surprised at how much that hurt! I can’t believe that people actually want to be checked once a week toward the end of their pregnancies. Yikes. She declared me 4-5 cm with a “tissue-thin” cervix. They admitted me and took me to the delivery room. I was still in good spirits despite the assault on my cervix.
Once I was in the big labor and delivery suite, a nurse was assigned to put in my IV. She got on my right side and David sat on my left, holding my hand because he knows how much I hate the IV part. He told her what arm had good veins (even I don’t remember which one it is–god, he is a great husband!). She started telling me what she was doing and I asked her to please not give me a play-by-play because it would make me sick. I told her to just do it. I looked at David and tried to be serene. The nurse proceeded to give me a play-by-play and I felt kind of nauseated. I saw David watching what she was doing and he had a funny look on his face. Before he could get the words, “Don’t look” out, I looked. The IV was in but I’m not quite sure what she had done because there was blood everywhere–on my gown, on my arm, on the bed. Again, despite this, I remained in good spirits. I tattled on the girl to my doula (I knew I could not have anyone around who gave me play-by-plays of grody stuff they were doing to me) and she talked to the midwife and I didn’t see that nurse really after that. Hopefully she was sent to practice giving an IV without requiring the patient to have a blood transfusion afterward.
As the day progressed, things were good. I labored. I laughed. I got in the birthing tub. I bounced on the birthing ball. I listened to my iPod and sang songs. Did my contractions hurt? Yes. But they weren’t anything I couldn’t handle. I was so excited about meeting my baby. But things slowed down later in the day when I was in the birthing tub. I was only about 5 cm, not very far from where I was when I arrived many hours before. My midwife gave me a shot of Stadol with Phenergan to help me sleep so I could get up and try some things to help move my labor along in the morning. I was still upbeat, thinking once I’d regained some strength, I’d be ready to get the show on the road. They hooked me up to the monitors so they could keep an eye on my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat, and I dozed off.
Things started to take a downward turn later that evening. I called the nurse to help me to the bathroom (they required me to because of the shot they gave me) and as she was helping me back into bed, one of the machines started beeping and she started moving around one of the monitors on my belly and had a worried look on her face. She pushed a button and called for help. She sounded so worried and that’s when I got nervous. A bunch of nurses came running in and were doing all this different stuff–giving me oxygen, moving me around, checking my cervix, and no one would stop and tell me what was going on. Everything was beeping. David woke up during all this and I felt so bad because I could tell he was scared too. Turns out the nurse couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat and once they finally did, it had dropped significantly. They managed to get me in a position to where the baby’s heartbeat resumed beating normally.
The next morning, despite the events of the night before, I was still positive. Everyone was assuring me that I would have my baby by the end of the day. They brought me a breast pump for me to use to try to intensify my contractions (which I was still having–they just weren’t doing much). I had been using the breast pump for maybe 10 minutes when a repeat of the night before with the baby’s heartbeat happened again. The midwife said my contractions were too intense for the baby. My contractions were lasting 120 seconds and ideally they should have been 60-90 seconds. We also found out after he was born that the cord was around his neck, so poor Brandon was being squeezed way too tight and long with every contraction I had.
At this point, the midwife recommended starting me on a small amount of pitocin to help me progress and even out my contractions. Of course, they would have to continuously monitor me to make sure the baby was doing okay. I really did not want the pitocin but I agreed because it seemed there was no other option–Brandon was being so stubborn. So they started the pitocin. And oh jesus. Once the pitocin really started kicking in, things got real. Real fucking painful. And here is where things get really fuzzy for me because I entered what I now term “the zone”–I couldn’t focus on anyone or anything but the awful pain. I remember I was in the birthing tub and the contractions were getting unbelievably hard to take. I was screaming even though my doula tried to help me breathe through them. I tried so hard but nothing took away that pain. This part of my labor lasted for a while. It seemed I was in all this pain but getting nowhere.
You know how there is “fight or flight” response? Well, I think my body chose “flight” because for an extremely pregnant (at this point over 41 weeks), naked girl, I was surprisingly agile. I truly remember feeling as if I could outrun this pain somehow. I could not stop moving around. But nothing stopped it. The contractions were coming one after the other and I felt like I was going to throw up because the pain was so bad. I wish I could properly describe it. It felt like someone was electrocuting me from the inside or maybe putting a live wire directly up my behind. The pressure was unreal. I begged and cried for them to turn off the pitocin. I’m not sure if they ever did. I begged and cried to everyone for an epidural. “Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease” is all I could say between my contractions. But David and my doula knew not to give me the epidural unless I said the code word we had decided upon many months ago. See, my doula said at some point during labor, many women who want natural childbirth beg for an epidural but that she makes them pick a code word or term that only the dad and doula know to show they absolutely mean business. As much as I was begging and hurting, I hadn’t said the code yet. By the way, she encouraged me to pick a code that was something I really hated.
After I got out of the birthing tub, I made it to the bathroom. I think at this point my water broke on the floor of the bathroom but I was only vaguely aware of this because I was peeing too. Yes, on the floor. I guarantee if you’re in labor, you won’t care if you pee on the floor. My awful contractions were getting worse and worse, something I did not think possible. And then I was in the floor in my own pee and blood, screaming. I remember having a moment of clarity because it struck me as funny that I yelled “I can feel everything!” and I remembered that Katherine Heigl’s character in Knocked Up yelled that exact phrase when she was giving birth. Of course, it didn’t make me laugh but it was a weird thing for me to remember. But it was true. I could feel EVERYTHING. I couldn’t stand it any longer. And it was there, on the bathroom floor, in my most undignified moment to date, that I screamed “GWYNETH PALTROW!!!!” My doula and David asked if I was sure. And I screamed that, yes, I was sure, and to get me the epidural NOW (I had abandoned my polite demeanor somewhere around 7 cm). I had labored up to 8.5 cm on my own and I wanted the pain to stop. I had yelled the dreaded code.
David told me later they did try to stall the epidural because the doula, midwife and the nurse were so sure I was about to start pushing–they said it definitely seemed that I was in the transition phase of labor and had been laboring at that level for so long that it seemed pushing was imminent. But it wasn’t. And I’m glad I broke down and got the epidural because pushing was NOT imminent. I would have kept laboring at that level and gotten nowhere and probably ended up under general anesthesia for my c-section.
The anesthesiologist and his gang eventually arrived. Things got dicey when they told me I had to be completely still for him to administer the epidural. Keep in mind I was having contractions that were literally putting me in the floor. As he readied the needle and I slumped forward, he asked me about my thoracotomy scar. I remember telling him I did not want to talk about it–why was he trying to chit-chat with a clearly deranged, laboring woman?? I don’t know how, but I managed to stay still. And I waited for the pain to be relieved. And once it was, I rested. Baby was still having a bit of a tough time so they put me on oxygen again and turned me on my side. They told me I could rest and keep contracting and she would come back later to check me.
When she came back later to check me, I was at 9.5 cm. But there was a problem. The baby’s head was asynclitic, which means it was cockeyed, basically. And this was not good. The midwife tried everything. Putting her hand up there to see if she could reposition him. She even had me push for a bit to see if that would help reposition him. Nothing was working. It was late Monday night by this time. I had been trying to have this baby for nearly two days. I think at one point she used the internal fetal monitor to check on Brandon and that’s when I knew for sure where all this hard work was headed.
She told David before she told me. When she came to tell me, she looked like she was about to cry. And I did cry. Everyone looked so sad, worried and exhausted. And I felt the same way.
The nurse anesthetist from earlier came back in and everyone began to prep me for surgery. I cried and cried. I told David we should have gotten a dog instead. I made him promise me we would get another dog. And I told him I would never ever have another baby. I told the nurse anesthetist “no play-by-plays!” and the minute we got in the operating room and the anesthesiologist and ob tried to tell me what they were each doing she was like, “No no no!! Just do what you have to do. Don’t tell her.” And they followed her instructions, thank god. I barely remember anything specific. I was so exhausted and so doped up. Every time I told them I felt a certain way (nauseous, anxious, etc.), they put in something different in my IV.
And then Brandon was born, hollering his face off. That baby really didn’t want to leave his little nook inside me. I remember feeling so relieved that he was here. They told me he was fine and I cried some more. I told David to go look at him and my doula stayed with me and held my hand while they put me back together again.
In the days following, every single nurse, midwife, lactation consultant, etc., who came into my hospital room talked with me about my delivery. They had all heard my story and were so supportive and many of them shared their own stories. A few of them had even had similar disappointments. I remember one of my midwives telling David and me she understood how disappointed we both were but that we were lucky because my labor was the type that back in olden days would have resulted in him losing me or baby or both. David told me later too that my doula even said it was one of the hardest labors she’s witnessed. Only me, right? Ha. Nothing is ever easy with me. David always tells me I have the worst luck. Even during the labor, he would hold my hand and every time I was told something bad or that things weren’t progressing, he would say, “I just wish you could catch a break.”
I know some people think c-sections are “easy” or “no big deal.” Good for them. Personally, it was the last thing I wanted. I had really worked hard to plan my labor and birth. Because I am such a squeamish person, I felt like knowing what I was getting myself into and doing it in a way I felt comfortable would be best. I knew there would be things that would come up that changed my plan–that’s why I agreed to the pitocin. My mind was pretty open as far as most things. I never imagined I would end up having to have surgery and then hurting for weeks afterward. The one thing the nurses, doctors, my doula, the midwives and even my own husband keep reminding me of is that it’s okay to be sad about the way everything happened that day. Luckily, I do have some friends who went through similar situations and it has been so good for me to talk to them about it. I know I am lucky to have my healthy, beautiful baby. I just wish the happiest day of my life hadn’t also been one of the worst days of my life.
As for me “catching a break,” well, David’s right. I don’t have the best luck. Since he’s known me, I’ve gotten laid off from two different jobs, my favorite cat died, a crazy man tried to break in our house while I was alone, my car got stolen out of our driveway…while I was at home…during the daytime, and the list goes on and on. Here’s what I figure–I do catch breaks, but only big ones. Up until March 21, the biggest break I’d caught was meeting and marrying the most wonderful man I’ve ever met. But at 11:32 p.m. on March 21, I caught my other big break–my beautiful, healthy, perfect Brandon was born safe and sound. So I’ll take my shitty luck as long as I keep having these pretty wonderful big things occur every so often.
Biggest regret regarding my birthing experience? Not eating all that guacamole David made the night I went into labor. Holy cow, that was hands-down the best guacamole he’s ever made. And it just sat all alone in the fridge, spoiling, while I was at the hospital. Other than that, no regrets. Let’s just say that, at age 32, I’m not exactly shocked anymore when things don’t go my way.
After two days of laboring, Brandon James Castille was brought into this world via C-section Monday, March 21, 2011 at 11:32 p.m. C-section, you ask? Yes, but more on that in another post. To hold you over until that post, read my birth plan and imagine the opposite of everything I wanted to happen. That gives you a pretty good idea of how things went down. Anyway, our sweet little boy weighed 8 lb, 5 oz and was 21.5 inches long on his birthday.