Birthing Dakota - Part 3: Zen is In
So last we left off with Dolores Umbridge rolling me to my room in L&D (labor and delivery) after completely disregarding the option given to us to decide if we even wanted to be induced at that time. However, we were ready to meet our baby girl so we decided to go for it… we're all caught up!
So we get to the room I change into my chic hospital gown and try to get as settled in as possible. It was cute enough for a military hospital. The room was spacious and had a modest couch, tv, and a big window that let in natural light and had great views of the stars at night; it would be our home til our baby girl arrived. The nurse came in to hook me up to all the things while the doctors introduced themselves. The A-team of Attendings and Residents explained to me exactly how the induction process was to go and what I could likely expect. At this point I’m hearing everything they’re saying and I’m processing as best I could and trying to recall everything I learned from birthing class. I'm fully understanding everything and I know what they're saying, but internally I'm bouncing off the fucking walls. Like holy shit is this really happening right now?!
My wife, Dana (for those that don’t know), called our friends who'd agreed to watch our pets to let them know that we were being induced. Because we'd had a previous trip to the ER that resulted in us going back home, we opted to only bring our clothes thinking this situation would be the same. We only brought the essentials, but we’d left some of what we wanted to make it as pleasant an experience as possible, back home. So that meant Dana had to leave to get the comfy items and my snack stash, 'cause you bet your sweet ass I was going to snack!
When Dana left it hit me that I’m actually in labor, and I’ll be having my baby soon. I tried to still myself amid the chaos around me with the staff getting the room set up and the nurses making sure the right information was on the board as we'd gotten admitted right around shift change. Centering myself for a moment, I talked to my baby and said “whatever will be, will be, just get to Mama safely” and after that a calm unlike any other came over me. Even though I was alone and scared out of my mind, because the increased mortality rate for black mothers was never far from my mind, I was kind of okay.
I created the perfect L&D playlist with some chill vibey songs and lo-if beats for the occasion, so I put it on and just Zen’d out. I highly recommend a L&D playlist 10 out of fucking 10, bro! Sitting in the room and having those moments to myself while being hooked up to everything, feeling the contractions, and being completely alone really made me hate COVID's entire existence. I imagined my labor experience being so different. I wanted to be able to have my tribe be with us making sure Dana had support as well for when she started feeling overwhelmed with it all as well. Dana hates seeing me in any kind of pain, so a support person for her would've been ideal, it's what we both wanted. I wanted to be surrounded by love, warmth, and laughter.
Yet here I was, once again, feeling myself being robbed of a special moment that I needed at such a crucial time. All the while the contractions were contraction-ing and my pelvis was still separated with nothing they could actually do about it. Luckily, they gave me something for the pain which helped greatly, but I still was walking like I was straight out of Shady Pines. It took Dana about an hour to get back because she had to love on our fur babies and remind them they weren’t randomly abandoned and left to fend for themselves. We cared.
She finally makes it back, gets settled onto the uncomfortable couch, and starts doing her homework, when The A-team come in and announce that they'd need to check my cervix to see where I was; she immediately dropped every thing and held my hand ‘cause she knew. So real quick, can we talking about the cervix check for a second?! That is the most uncomfortable shit! It dead ass felt like being fisted by Hagrid, like sheesh, bro! Also, it seems like male doctors have a completely different understanding of what the fuck gentle is because their gentle is the equivalent of putting a cotton ball on the end of a sledge-hammer before going ape! You gotta watch them, ‘cause you can’t just breathe your way through that shit when the Hagrid-hands are involved.
After being checked I had made it two 2 cm dilated, we were well on our way but still had to get all the way to ten centimeters. Laboring is a lot of waiting and with the induction one of the drugs they gave to help me dilate had me sleeping, no lie, in 4-hour increments. It was definitely easy to pass the time. When I was awake, I relaxed and focused on my playlist, it had a lot of Alex Isley and Jhene Aiko, it was exactly what I needed, and the staff as well. Every time the nurses came in to check on me they commented on how good and calm it felt in my room. At one point my nurse and a few others were just hanging out in my room talking story and vibing with my wife and I. They even shared a laugh with us when I started doing my brows because I refused to have my baby meet me brow-less.
For the most part, I was eating the contractions and could barely feel them. When they did eventually intensify it wasn't super awful, impressive given my waters had been broken and that’s on my high ass Fibromyalgia pain tolerance. However, with only being a few centimeters dilated I knew that low-pain situation had a shelf-life. I stayed Zen didn't get too excited while maintaining steady breathing, my nurse, Riley, was so proud and impressed with me. For some reason, that vote of confidence from her, really helped me feel more confident in my ability to labor. She was only a little older than me, but I saw her in those moments as a surrogate mom, cheering me on and keeping me motivated. When Dana would get sleep, it would be me and her on the ball rocking doing all the things. I have to give a shout out to the amazing labor and delivery nurses who worked during COVID. See, not only are they care providers they became surrogate family members in lieu of not being able to have your tribe allowed in the delivery room. She even got excited and prayed that Dakota would be born on our anniversary because she thought it was such a cute story, we faught about this! Her bubbly energy blended perfectly with the Zen I was trying to create and I appreciated that immensely. She understood the assignment and fully committed.
I hated when Riley had to go at shift change, but luckily the next nurse on shift was Kimberly and they were besties so they ended up giving updates on my progress and pass encouraging messages through each other to me. We loved them! The contractions begin to intensify around 4 centimeters dilated, we had reached over 24 hours of active labor, and I decided that it's a good time to get an epidural. I didn't want to wait until the contractions were actually kicking my ass, and run risk of having to wait for the anesthesiologist to get there and end up missing my window to get it all together. Best decision! The epidural process went smoothly and I started to feel the medication kicking in, such a strange feeling. The closest I can get to describing it is like when your foot falls asleep but without the static feeling after you move it for the first time. It’s literally like muting a body part. I asked for the lowest dose so I still had a little bit of motor control left and the doctor supported my decision. However, what I later learned was that in some rare cases some women basically eat the epidural medication and still have quite a bit of feeling. Hi! That was me and I wasn't troubled by this because the same thing happened to my mom when she had me, that is, until the nurse on shift informed me that she'd have to insert a fucking catheter.
I'm sure any person that's had to do this shuddered when I mentioned the catheter, and I feel you! That was the single most traumatic experience of my labor process, it was worse than my contractions. As I type this, I'm brought to tears thinking of the experience. See the epidural had, at that point, numbed only my right side fully so I still had a considerable amount of feeling. The nurse had to insert the catheter into the urethra because I wouldn’t be able to get up and go to the bathroom with the epidural meds doing their thing. The first time--yes, it took several attempts-- it was so painful that I cried actual tears, I lost all my zen, and damn-near jumped off of the table. For my pain tolerance, death would’ve been better than experiencing that. The nurse paged the anesthesiologist to come back when she realized I could still feel everything she was doing, but time wasn't on her side or mine.
See, she knew that with the constant fluids I was getting, and my right side already being numb, she had to get this catheter in before an accident occurred. She understood my hesitation in not wanting to do it again, and felt awful, but she had to get it done. We gave it one last go and she just went for it to try and get it in one fell swoop, and she finally did. Afterwards, I wept in Dana's arms. So far in this whole process I had felt so empowered, so sure, and so confident and, in a single moment, it was all gone.
Dana had been taking periodic smoke breaks just to blow off steam ame I totally understood and respect her need to leave. After that whole ordeal she definitely needed to take one, and it was the longest she’d left me alone the entire time. I later learned she was using those as crying breaks as well, so that she could be supportive and 100% focused while she was in the room with me. However, I felt so fragile and I could still feel the pain and alone in that cold room I cried harder than I think I ever had in my life. My playlist was no longer working and I couldn't find my zen. I was in shock, in pain, and needing a to be held.
Hours later, after the anesthesiologist had been back in to up my dose, it was time for another cervical check. After the catheter fiasco Dana was on super high alert and was right by side mugging the fuck out of the doctors to make sure, they weren't causing me any more pain. To my surprise, the catheter nurse, who wasn't Kim or Riley, had gone home and Riley returned with the doctor for the check this time. Dr. R, we'll call him, was having a hard time checking me because every time he moved his hand further in, I'd tense up so much he couldn’t go any further. He inquired about my pain and then checked the catheter. He discovered that, in the nurses attempt to get it in without having to do a fourth attempt at placement, she‘d jammed the catheter in way too far. I understood why she did what she did so I wasn’t mad, but being so vulnerable and raw already, I was so overcome with emotions that I was crying all over again.
It was a combination of finally having relief after hours of discomfort, and feeling dejected because I knew something was off, but I felt like I wasn't being listened to when I mentioned how much pain I was having in the first place. I wasn’t listened to and I realized that, as much as I hated it, I was indeed another statistic. To make matters worse, my labor had stalled and after almost ten hours I was still only at four centimeters. We decided to wait another 8 hours, trying another round of medication to help me dilate and if it didn't work, we’d discuss other options.
It took what felt like forever, but I finally calmed down and got my smile back. On my playlist I listened to Jhene’s ‘Trigger Protection Mantra’ incessantly to recreate safe space, and sis definitely understood the assignment with that one. I was finally back in my Zen. I was laughing and joking with Riley again, and enjoying her singing my praises and telling me how well I was doing and how I handled the catheter thing so gracefully. I was laboring the best I could and I could still feel Smalls in there moving around and doing the most. I was feeling good again; feeling optimistic. Being a spirit communicator, I felt my ancestral mothers move in close after that traumatic experience and was comforted by that as well. Everything was going well, until I stopped feeling Smalls move.
I told Riley she wasn’t moving around as much and that the last time I checked the monitor (something I did periodically to see how my baby girl was coping) I could tell her heart rate was dipping. She confirmed what I thought and the doctors made their way back in to check me. I’m sure you’ve put it together by now, that I had not progressed much at all.
I went from 4 cm to 4.5 cm in 8 hours, so Dr. R mentioned that I am progressing, albeit slowly, and that at this point I could try more meds, but with her heart rate dipping having a c-section would be the safest option and I opted for the c-section. I skipped quite a few plot point for the sake of time, but I’d been laboring in hospital for 48 whole black ass hours! I was done! I wanted her out, I wanted to hold my baby, I wanted to know that my experiences weren’t in vain and that she was perfectly healthy. Dana woke up just in time to hear the word c-section, we were quickly briefed, and as the panic began to set in on her face, I was wheeled away…
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