Last week while I was picking Kyle up from pre-school I asked his Vietnamese teacher, Miss Becky how he was doing. We have been working with both of his teachers on helping Kyle learn among other things why kicking the other children even if you are “just playing a game” is not appropriate. Miss Becky responded, “He is a busy body.” Perplexed for a moment by her answer, as she continued to explain herself I understood. With English being her second language and all double meanings aside, Miss Becky literally meant that he is a busy body, a body in motion, a body that never stops, willful, strong, exuberant…
Prologue: I don’t expect anyone to know what my new OBGYN told me on my first appointment when I was pregnant with Eli which was held back from me when Kyle was born. “Moments after birth your first child had an APGAR score of one. Do you know what this means? I assume he is dead right?” “No, Kyle is alive. What does an APGAR score of one mean?” I say as the hormonal downpour begins. “Remember a baby is scored when they are first born. Ten is the highest they can get. They are scored on color, reflex, respiration, movement and pulse. If you score three or less a resuscitation team is called in.” I am heaving at this point. She continues, “Your son was born dead. See his chart. He was not breathing and his heart was not beating.”
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Kyle and Beth December 21, 1999
I know that Kyle’s labor and delivery were horrible. I know that when the nurse perceived that I was too out of it to understand, she said, inches from my face, “As her husband, you will have to make certain decisions about which of her organs you want to donate.” Kyle, on the other hand, was a trooper, his heart beat consistently and beat strong the entire twenty-four hours of active labor in the hospital and then entire forty-eight hours of labor before that. He is tenacious. He is willful. These personality traits get him in trouble. Yet, I believe these same personality traits are the reason he is alive.
Sure I may be dramatic. What mother wouldn’t be when it comes to her child? Others don’t have and obviously it is impossible for them to have the same experience that we do with Kyle or Eli. It’s the bonding thing. And through my pregnancy, his birth and over time I have bonded with my son. And as his mother I am in love with Kyle’s exuberance, his sweetness, his intuitiveness and his strength.
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Kyle at our town home in Virginia, November 2000
The Story: April 19, 1999. While strapped onto a board after we totaled our two month old car the nurse said to me before sending me off to x ray, “Could you be pregnant?” “No way.” I responded. “I have the worst PMS.” Thankfully she persisted and made me take a pregnancy test.
December 21, 2003
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Kyle three weeks old at his first doctor’s appointment
Kyle was ten days late. He would have been two weeks late on Christmas. I had been contracting over the weekend (early labor for 48 hours), and was scheduled for an induction on December 20. Because he was so late and I was re-absorbing amniotic fluid I was first in line for an induction. We went to the hospital at 6:30AM. I got checked in, changed into my hospital gown, and was in my room BY 7AM. Nancy, the nurse-mid-wife checked me and broke my water at 7:30AM. Before Nancy broke my water the nurse hooked me up to some monitors, and an IV with the strep B antibiotic. They had the pitocin (a hormone used to make you contract) hooked up and ready to crank on at the midwife’s order. The nurses monitored my contractions, took my blood pressure, and did all the usual tasks. Nancy wanted to see if by breaking my water the contractions would become regular and help me progress into active labor. Nancy came into the room with a knitting needle type instrument used for rupturing the amniotic sac. It didn’t hurt when she ruptured it. It just felt warm and gushed. There was little blood. She wanted to see if by doing this my contractions became regular and close together, a real sign of true labor. Immediately after she broke my water she changed her mind and said, “let’s start the pitocin. Let’s get this thing going.”At first the Pitocin was turned up all the way. Then they turned it up and down depending on the intensity of my contractions. The morning at the hospital seemed very much how I imagined child birth would be, and it all felt extremely normal. I had all my props, or “comfort measures,” as my birthing instructor called them: snacks for Dave, a birthing ball, some music, and our engagement photo. I was going to do this unmedicated if it killed me. Yes, it was painful, very painful, almost unbearably painful, but with Davy and Mom’s support I was handling it.
My birthing instructor Vivian Giles and a few of my friends had recommended using a doula. A doula is a birthing facilitator. The word doula comes from a Greek word meaning to serve. Doulas are trained birthing coaches usually with no medical background. However, often doulas train to be midwives. After doing some research and being completely clueless as first time parents, Dave and I decided we should try our luck with one. Because we took our birthing classes in Provo and because most of my friends who recommended using a doula lived in Provo, we were at a loss for finding a Salt Lake City doula. We found one, Kelly Anderson, so we called her and she came by three times for her recommended get to know you sessions. Kelly said she wanted to make sure we communicated up front so that we didn’t have awkward moments at the hospital. I was glad she said this. I liked that she was clearing the air. She showed me some birthing exercises, showed us pictures of the families she had doula’ed for and asked us if we had any questions or concerns. Our main concern was that Kelly would understand her role. We were extremely clear that we wanted her there for support, meaning we wanted her to hang in the background, and be there to help Dave and Mom help me if they needed. As clueless as we were we did not know what to expect so we were (over planning) planning for everything .
The Friday before Kyle was born I went to my Nurse-midwives office. They wanted to see if they could stimulate labor and also thought because I was ten days overdue that I should have an ultrasound to see if the baby was ok. Sure enough upon viewing the ultrasound they found that I was re-absorbing the amniotic fluid. This pregnancy was over. They scheduled me for an induction that Monday.
I called Kelly the doula the night before I went to the hospital and told her that I was going to LDS hospital in the morning for an induction. Kelly had called me during the week, but I wasn’t good about responding. I was avoiding her because I was having second thoughts about using her. I had already given her a down payment and because she was going through a divorce my over sense of responsibility kicked in and I decided to use her in spite of my doubts. She was leaving Tuesday the 21st for the holidays and I was hoping that I could let her off the hook. I didn’t want to be stressed by her stress if the birth was taking too long. Oh, I should have listened to my feelings. Being the huge caretaker, I didn’t.
Kelly showed up at the hospital around 10:00AM. If I didn’t feel completely obligated to her at this point and if I wasn’t already in labor I would have called her and told her not to come. You see I had nothing to worry about. Dave was amazing and Mom was awesome. They both worked so well to help me get through the labor. At this point, Kelly was excessive.
I was in a weird mental state during labor. Instead of swearing and screaming at the top of my lungs like I pictured, I was very quiet, somewhat calm, and an extraordinary accommodator. Instead of making myself the center of attention, I wanted to make sure Kelly was ok. I knew she was recently divorced, it was the holidays and I wanted to her to have a good experience. I didn’t have the energy or focus to deal with any kind of noise or aggression. I tried to listen to her advice and tried to involve her. Shortly, she was wearing on my nerves. Contractions were so painful I needed my energy to focus on just getting through the pain. “Breathe breathe breathe.” I would feel one coming on and breathe. Dave was my Savior. I held on to him and somehow his energy would pull me through. Mom moved around the room in a calm comforting way. She knows me and knew how to move to my rhythm. She is my Mom. Kelly on the other hand was hurt that we weren’t using her as much. We had it down without her. She needed us, but we did not need her. Finally Dave and I went to walk the halls so I could get away from her. The irony was hilarious. You are told this is your day, instead it was all about our doula. It was nice to move. Mom followed us around with the video camera. I could sense Mom was uncomfortable with Kelly, but she didn’t say anything. I wish she would have. Also the accommodator and people pleaser, she didn’t want to upset me. Mom visited with Nancy, the midwife and just tired to be helpful. Unlike Kelly, Nancy was calm and very laid back. She sat in the room unobtrusively, and was there in case I had the baby and to make sure I was ok.
It all peaked with Kelly when I was in the Jacuzzi tub going through contractions. My birthing room just happened to have a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. Dave was in the room with me and I was feeling like I needed some privacy. It was so wonderful being in the bathroom with him alone away from the nurses, the hospital atmosphere, being poked, prodded and mostly away from Kelly. Kelly came in to see how I was. Even though I was beginning a very painful contraction, of course I was polite. At this point I had been in labor for several hours. All of a sudden this medical aide came into my private bathroom and began to engage Kelly. Kelly had gone into the nurse’s break room without permission. Kelly and the aide began angrily discussing the situation. If I wasn’t at the peak of a contraction I would have told them both to get the hell out of there. Kelly was aggressive with the staff and aggressive with me. She talked too much about her ex husband and she kept hugging and kissing me. If she had stopped for a minute to do her job she would have noticed that no one else around me was hugging, kissing or even touching me. I was in so much pain I could hardly stand any stimulus, especially no hugging from a stranger. Thank goodness Kelly had to leave at 10PM for her flight. I wish I had the strength or the courage to tell her to leave much earlier. Mom didn’t want to stress me out, but I knew she wanted her out of there too. Dave was too focused on me to really notice. I chalk it up to being first time parents and not knowing what was right or wrong. My friends assure me that I just had bizarre luck. Bizarre, that is how Kyle’s birth went.
Back to my story: I was hooked up to pitocin. Dave and I worked with the big green birth ball, those big rubber balls commonly used for physical therapy. I lay in my hospital bed. I did any and everything to get through the contractions. A nurse would come in every so often and take my vitals.
The day pressed on and Mom was beginning to realize she was going to miss the Nutcracker. My niece was dancing in the Nutcracker that night. My Mom had her tickets for weeks and we didn’t think it would be a problem because Kyle was due two weeks earlier.
When I was in the tub I had been laboring for about eight hours. Nancy suggested I get some pain medication. Before I even came to the hospital I had been laboring through the weekend. She said if I didn’t get pain management I would not make it through the birth. She could see I was exhausted and needed more support. During my labor thus far, nurses were monitoring Kyle. His heart rate was consistently steady and strong. He was my little trooper. Earlier in the day they were having a hard time getting an accurate read of my contractions. Nancy suggested they use and internal contraction monitor. One more thing to hook up. At this point, we decided to do the epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and explained everything to me. We decided to go with the walking epidural so I could ease into the temporary paralysis. He told me that some people react to this type of epidural and that they tend to itch really bad. He said if that happens just to page him and he would come and give me some Benadryl.
Dave and Mom held me steady while the anesthesiologist inserted the medicine into my spinal chord. Once I was situated Dave went to grab something to eat. We had been going all day and he really needed a break. I was fine. I had plenty of people watching over me. I began to itch uncontrollably. Mom paged the anesthesiologist. He came and talked to me. I think he gave me Benadryl. He left. Then my throat started tightening up. I began to panic. I was having a hard time breathing. I started sobbing. I was so exhausted. Mom ran and found someone to find the anesthesiologist. He came back and asked me what was going on. I was having a severe allergic reaction to the drug. He immediately gave me Narcan, which reversed the effects of the epidural. Then he gave me the regular standard epidural. At some point a nurse inserted a catheter because now I would be immobilized.
Almost immediately after getting the second epidural I started vomiting green bile. I was puking into a bedpan. It was so disgusting. I started sobbing some more. I was a temporary wreck. I think I even gave Kelly a hug at this point. I needed comforting. Mom and Dave were so concerned. They tried to just follow my lead. We were in such uncharted territory that my lead was very shaky.
I tried to rest, but vomiting got the best of me. I remember lying there sweating and feeling dehydrated, then I would have to turn and gag. Davy stood there and held my hand. The only thing I wanted was for someone to hold my hand. I didn’t want any one to even talk to me. Through the night I would silently panic if someone wasn’t holding my hand. I would reach out and grab whoever’s hand was next to mine.
During this time when Mom definitely realized she would not be able to go to the Nutcracker she called the theater and burst into tears. She said, “My daughter is having a baby and I can not make it tonight.” The theater said, “No problem. We’ll exchange your tickets for tomorrow.” Mom was much better.
I kept complaining about the heat and asked everyone to check the thermostat. The second shift midwife, Ida, said in fact the thermostat was broken and that it was completely turned off. She put a request in for someone to come and fix the thermostat. Finally I got someone to open the window. Now along with the music of my vomiting we had the accompanying deafening roar of the landing and taking off of the life flight helicopter every 30 minutes outside of my window. I was also feeling so dehydrated.
I had been dehydrated several times during my pregnancy. In fact, I had to go and get IV treatment three times because I couldn’t get my dehydration under control. Two of the times I was so dehydrated that they gave me four bags of iv fluid. Even though I had a lot on my plate I knew what it was like to be dehydrated. The nurses checked my lines and said everything was ok.
Several times the computer they were monitoring me from crashed. The hospital had a fancy Windows NT-based networked monitoring system. They had to switch to the old fashioned paper contraction monitor. They were reading my contractions and my contractions became erratic. Several hours later, Bryce, the nurse that saved the day more than once, realized that the contraction paper was loaded into the machine upside down. Before nurse Bryce came to my rescue, Ida, the midwife decided to turn the Pitocin on full bore to even out my “erratic” contractions.
Here I am still vomiting, sweating, covered in cool towels, helicopters landing and taking off. Davy is by my side and Mom is sitting back, coming to check on me at regular intervals. It is getting late in the evening and I don’t think I have any more to give. For several hours I was dilated only to four centimeters (out of at least ten centimeters that a baby needs to get out of).
The Pitocin cranked, I finally started to get close. I was at 9 almost ten centimeters. Ida suggested I dilate for another hour and then I could start pushing. I was washed over with joy. Dave sat with me, held my hand and made sure I was ok. Mom said he could come and rest while I rested, but he didn’t want to leave my side. I was more alarmed and more relieved. I knew my condition was serious, but I knew Davy was really there to make sure I would make it through this.
Ida came to check me and said, “You are back to an 8.” “What?” “You are back to an eight. I think we may be headed for a cesarean. Your cervix is infected and is beginning to swell.” I began sobbing. “I can’t take anymore. Explain this to me.” “We’ll give you a heavy antibiotic, Gentamicin, and then we’ll see if the swelling goes down. If it does you can start pushing. In the meantime I will call the surgeon and see what he has to say.”
Back to the dance: vomiting, helicopters landing, sweating (thermostat still broken), changing wash cloths on my head, contracting, Pitocin and now the additional antibiotic. Nurse Bryce came in to check on me and I was still complaining of dehydration. He was this burly blond man. He was so strong and so gentle to me. He was the first nurse of the day to treat me like a person. Thankfully, he was the last nurse to get me through the ordeal. He took the time to follow my IV and Pitocin lines. After several hours of being hooked to these machines he discovered that the line was ruptured behind my back and that the fluid and drugs that should have been going into my body had been just soaking into the mattress.
Ida talked to the surgeon who said, “if she is ready to push, let her push and let he try to have the baby vaginally.” I was ready to push and push I did. I had no strength. Mom was on one arm, Davy on the other. I had nurse Bryce and Ida at my legs. I pushed for and eternity which was just over an hour. They realized the baby was still coming transverse. Meaning he was coming out diagonally with his completely cranked to one side. He had been positioned transverse throughout my pregnancy. Every time I got the baby, then code-named Seymour, to move into the correct position with exercise, he would just work his way back to his transverse position. So it was no surprise that Kyle was in a transverse position.
Ida put her arm in me and physically tried to turn him into the correct position. He was far enough down the birth canal that she thought she could turn him. Then I pushed some more. I pushed and pushed and pushed. Bryce took a shot at turning Kyle. It didn’t work. Between contractions I vomited. The room was so hot. I also began shaking. I was shaking so hard my teeth started chattering. I couldn’t control my shaking. It was out of control. Ida and Bryce started chatting about finding someone who could turn Kyle. My epidural was beginning to wear off. Bryce suggested this big nurse I will call Brunhilde who was legendary for being able to get a baby move to the correct position. She came in and tried to turn Kyle. Somehow Kyle was pushed farther up the birth canal.
Shaking, vomiting and in great pain I continued to push. Ida went to call the surgeon to see what we should do. What I didn’t connect at that moment was that the surgeon was home in bed. It was the middle of the night. My epidural was wearing off. And for the first time in almost twenty hours I raised my voice, “Where is he? Why isn’t he here? My epidural is wearing off.” Ida said, “Well, he has to come from home.” The perinatologist finally arrived. He went to try and turn Kyle. He said, “That baby is so far up that forceps wouldn’t even get him out. You can push for several more hours and I don’t think anything will happen. I think you need a c-section.”
Dave chimed in, “What does that mean?” Ida took that as I wanted to push some more. After over three hours of pushing and twenty-four hours of active labor I had had enough. I mustered every inch of strength and focus and emphatically pleaded, “No. I want a c-section.”
They called the anesthesiologist. It was a different one than before. He was a tall thin grandfatherly type man. He had me look at him and focus on what was happening. I was going into shock He assured me it would be ok. I was scared about having another spinal block and choking on my vomit. I was also worried about my uncontrolled shaking.
Dave and Mom were gowned up. Usually in these situations it is the baby that causes the greatest concern. Kyle was being monitored and doing great. His heart beat strong and consistently. I wasn’t so great. Earlier in the evening a nurse came in and had me sign papers about donating my organs and had to explain to us what would happen if I died. She thought I was too out of it to understand as she stood there and told Dave which of my organs he could donate. Now Dave and knew we were looking death in the face. Not that we were going to lose our baby. No, he was so strong we thought we were going to lose me. We didn’t say anything to each other, but we both knew what we were thinking. Dave would not, absolutely would not leave my side.
Because I was going into shock, I was rushed into the operating room. Kyle was still fighting. The doctor explained things. I didn’t know what was going on. The awesome anesthesiologist made me focus on his fingers as he explained the procedure. He said he would make sure I was ok. Dave held one hand, Ida the other. The anesthesiologist held my face down and physically controlled my chattering jaw, which chattered so intensely I chipped my front tooth. My legs were strapped down on the other end. I continued to vomit. The anesthesiologist would lift my head and turn it into the bedpan so I could vomit and so I wouldn’t choke. I wish I knew his name. Mom stood behind us. Nurse Bryce was in the room.
The birth didn’t take long. Kyle was born. I wasn’t aware that he wasn’t breathing and showed little sign of life. I just knew I couldn’t hear him cry. You are always supposed to hear your baby cry when its born. I think everyone was in shock. He had done so well and I think he hung on as long as he needed to. They rushed him to an adjacent room to revive him, and my mother followed. Much later she would tearfully recount how they flung him around like a rag doll saying, “Kyle breathe, breathe.” And in seconds a resuscitation team was paged to his room. Our boy was fighting. He wanted to live. They got his heart beating and my Mom heard Kyle take his first breath.
Dave stayed with me. He wanted to be with me in case anything happened. I have never seen Dave so worried. They brought Kyle to me. I have never seen such a beautiful newborn. He had a big bump on the top side of his head from pushing his head into my cervix for so many hours. Sadly I was so spent that I literally could not hold him. Someone set him in my arms and supported him. I was shaking to hard. Mom went with the nurses and Kyle while they did tests on him. All those instruments and hands prodding me had given him an infection and he had a high fever, but he was ok.
I went into a room. Nurse Bryce stayed with me and filled out his paperwork at my bed. I thought it was incredibly thoughtful that he stayed with me. I didn’t want to be alone. Dave went to see his new little boy. Nurse Bryce told me that the thermostat wasn’t broken. He had realized during the end that it was just turned all the way up not all the way down. Ida had looked at it incorrectly. Of course I was dehydrated. It was nearly 100 degrees in my room, and my IV had been leaking into the bed. Bryce made sure I was ok. I shook for another hour and was moved to my room.
I was with my baby. I had a baby. Kyle was beautiful and strong. We made it.