Violet's Birth Story: Before Delivery

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I think I'm finally ready to tell Violet's birth story. Her delivery itself was fairly anti-climatic. As expected, we had no real choice but to give birth to her via C-section since she never budged from breech position and the surgical team was efficient, calm, and capable. But, the rest of her story is really unusual.

It actually all started on April 24, a Thursday, when I did a lot of walking after my Bumps and Babes group, a weekly gathering of international moms at a coffee shop in downtown Suzhou. I got a little thirsty and probably dehydrated, but my muscles felt pretty good doing about 5 km of walking through the morning and afternoon. Thursday night however, I started feeling a sharp pain in my lower back on the left side. It went away on Friday, but came back with a vengeance on Friday night. By Saturday morning, I knew I needed to skip my second chiropractic visit in Shanghai and go to the hospital to see what was wrong.

Joint baby shower the Wednesday before I started feeling crappy 

The Kowloon VIP clinic (with English speaking nurses) only had hours on Saturday from 8 AM through noon. I also knew that there was no OB in the clinic on Saturdays, so I was hopeful the nurses would do their best to help me, and we arrived at 7:50 with no appointment and crossed our fingers they wouldn’t be too busy. They let me see the general practitioner first, who then recommended I go to get an ultrasound on both my kidneys and the baby. I was crossing my fingers that it was simply a urinary tract infection (*snort, like a UTI is sunshine and rainbows and not at all a very uncomfortable medical problem) and they would give me some sort of medicine and let me go home. Not the case at all. The ultrasound showed the baby was fine, but didn't show anything in my kidneys and then nurse decided to take me to the urologist to find out more. True to Chinese medicine, and their views of what can be done during pregnancy, the urologist recommended nothing be done, that a kidney stone, if it was that, should pass on its own in a few short days and is quite common during late pregnancy. We also didn't have any real idea of whether or not anything was happening as far as my cervix was concerned or if perhaps this was an early sign of labor. They recommended since no OB was at the VIP clinic that day, that I should admit myself to the hospital to see an OB in the L&D department. I agreed, but unfortunately the A Squad wasn't in during weekends, nor was my regular doctor. So, I got placed into a double occupancy room and was told that since my kid was still presenting breech and the head was likely lodged up next to the placenta, preventing her from turning (new news to me, thanks top-notch communication!) they wouldn't likely send me home. Because if (BIG IF) I went into labor at home and it required a 25 minute cab ride late at night to get in for emergency, and if the cord dropped out, we'd all be in a lot of trouble really quickly. And, as a foreigner, they didn't want to take any chances of putting me and my little nugget in harm's way.

So, there I was, being told by nervous weekend doctors that my mystery medical condition around my kidney would likely necessitate getting my baby out ASAP. Because Braxton Hicks contractions and a softening cervix (finally got an OB exam!) but no dilation means labor must be imminent. No. You may not remove my baby the same day I'm admitted for kidney pain (not contractions! kidney pain!) because you're all freaked about a white lady who is hurting on your watch. I know what I signed up for in having a baby and a pre-emptive C-section by the B Squad is not it.

Saturday night we held off the medical community in our double occupancy room and Rob slept on the hardest, most 1950's metal fold-out conversion chair known to man. I can't thank my lucky stars enough that during our trip to Beijing we connected with a really wonderful dog boarding facility that does pick-ups and many walks and snuggle time. So, my main concern of how to manage Miles’ care for a week was totally handled. He is my first baby, after all. By Sunday at lunchtime, a single room had opened up and you'd better believe we jumped at the chance to upgrade. Thank goodness we did, because we'd be there a loooong time.

Want to guess how many refills of that water tank we went through trying to flush out my kidney stone? 

My kidney stone kept me up most of Thursday night, almost all of Friday night, and, with the exception of a combined 2 1/4 hours of sleep, Saturday night was a bust. I spent the night on hands and knees, arching my back to try to relieve and stretch out some of the pressure, hopeful that the stone would flush itself out with the movement and the massive amounts of water I was drinking. Also, the kidney pain was enormous if I laid on my back or side, and I was so nauseated, I couldn't stand to eat anything. By Sunday afternoon, I was really weak, exhausted, and a weird mix of feeling defeated and resigned to the possibility of having our regular doctor deliver our tiny one by C-section first thing Monday, and hopeful that we could hold off longer.

Feeling shittier by the day. With bruises all over my arms from failed IV attempts.

The two factors to make the decision were: is the baby's estimated birth weight and lung function good? And what's the possibility of this stone passing and giving me some relief? Because three days of no sleep to speak of and a light meal once a day wasn't serving my body well, which meant kiddo wasn't getting the in-utero benefit either. But, I was miserable and, as someone with a really high pain tolerance, I was pissed about feeling defeated but resigned, and even a little bit at peace, to have the C-section first thing Monday. My constipated, nauseated, exhausted body needed a reprieve. Real bad.

We finally got some answers first thing Monday morning- a sweet young OB and my regular doctor finally slowed down and combed through my charts and ultrasounds and recalculated my possible conception date.

Oh, that's another quick story- I'd been on the NuvaRing for years and years (starting using it when it first came out and they were selling it for $5 a pop.) and with my tiny body, was using it on a 5 week cycle rather than 4 weeks since the hormone, even at it's low dose, was better suited to allowing me to stretch out my periods. TMI? Don't care. Anyway, we had one cycle after I stopped using it last summer where we didn't get pregnant and, instead of my last-10-years’ 35 day normal hormone-induced cycle, it stretched out to 42 days. So, what is my own personal norm? 35 on hormones? 42? 48? I don't know, and so my due date ranged from May 15-May 30... meaning I was hanging out in the hospital at what was anywhere from week 35.5 (which was too early for comfort for giving birth) to week 37 (and the baby would have been pretty much fine by anyone's standards). Okay, onward.

So, we all finally concluded that we were now at the beginning of 36 weeks, not into 37 weeks. But, the estimated birthweight would likely be okay per the ultrasound notes (estimated around 2650 grams the week before) and her lungs were noted to be developed enough. Not that I'd ever know that, my ultrasound notes were all in Chinese and not translated. Oh, well. We decided that scheduling the C-section didn't make sense right away and I should try to see how long I could hold out with the pain. 10 days (IN THE HOSPITAL- NO GOING HOME!) of waiting and letting the little one bake was the goal.

I quickly started to realize that we weren't going to make it 10 days. I was given 4 attempted IV lines to administer some sort of pain medication (why I had to wait until mid-afternoon on Monday to try some sort of pain management rather than pregnant-lady toughing it out, I don't know), one of which was inserted way wrong on the side of my wrist, which nicked a nerve and bloated my forearm with "the stronger, 'spicy' version of the IV drug." Super. My kidney hurt, but that effing IV ordeal was absolutely traumatizing. I don’t hate needles, but I sobbed into my friend’s shoulder for over 20 minutes while I tried to calm down and process what just happened to the nerves in my right hand. It literally felt like I had blades shooting out from my knuckles, Wolverine style, when the wrist nerves got hit with the needle. And it didn't even provide any relief. Neither did the two shots of something else administered in my rump, so that was a bust. Add on two more nights of sleeplessness and insane kidney pain (made a thousand times worse by being asked to lay very still on my very sore kidney for 30-40 minutes 6 or more times a day to do fetal heart monitoring on a breech and wiggling baby, usually at night when it was the most unbearable and when the bitchiest nurses were around. Or rather not around enough to pay any attention to the fact that the baby wiggled out of position and, surprise, surprise, the monitors weren't appropriately placed. It's 2 am, what else do you have going on? It sure would have been nice to not have 25 minute monitoring sessions/torture double in length because the night teams couldn't be troubled to stay and keep the monitors in proper position. Also super traumatizing.). By Tuesday afternoon, I was feeling pretty mentally, emotionally, and physically borken (it takes a LOT to wear me down) and Rob and I decided my body had enough and this baby wasn't being kept any healthier inside since I wasn't able to eat. We agreed to the 8 am slot on Wednesday, April 30 to meet our little one.

Final Bump photo. With 12 day old polish, spider veins, Chinese-y flannel hospital pajamas, and my 4th IV line. It was the "size of needle they use for kids." And was the only one that didn't hurt like a sonofableep.

I know this sounds like the world's most tragic birth story, and it was probably more absurd than what would have gone down than if we'd been in the States, but we just did our best to hang tough and keep positive attitudes until our kiddo arrived. I really am okay and SO happy to have my little peanut out in the big bad world with us to smooch on and snuggle. I've been craving kids for my entire adult life and she's a gift, but darnit if I didn't get a little more than I bargained for by giving birth in China.

Check out Part 2 and Part 3!


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