Catherine’s Birth Story
On Monday morning, May 7, I took Nathaniel to school as usual and then went to the store to get orange juice and oatmeal to make a few things for the freezer. The orange juice was to be mixed with liquid calcium to drink while in labor and the oatmeal was for granola bars and baked oatmeal to take the hospital since they don’t provide any food. When I got home I made up the orange juice and put it in the freezer, but I never did use the oatmeal until after we got home from the hospital. Even though I’d been out for about 45 minutes and I had gone to the bathroom right before I left, I ran to the bathroom when I got home…but didn’t quite make it. Glad that it happened at home, I changed clothes and started working on a few more projects that I wanted to get done before the baby came, hopefully not until Saturday.
I’d been so busy working, and was getting lots of work, that I kept putting off the important, yet time consuming things like sewing clothes, making some blankets and making stuff for the freezer. (Although I didn’t need to do that last one since my mother-in-law will be here to cook for me all month long!) So I had finally decided Monday was the day to stop taking on any more writing assignments until my to-do list was complete. So as I was working on stuff, I felt more water come out and realized that my water had probably broken, and, after another change of clothes and a quick check on Google, decided that it had indeed broken–something I’d never really experienced before. With Nathaniel, the doctor broke my water at the hospital just before he was born. I realized that I needed more feminine products and should pick up some bread and sausage so I could just make a simple lunch for Santiago. I wasn’t planning to eat much, if anything, since I remember vomiting in the last few hours of labor with Nathaniel. So I headed to another store, a 10 minute walk away, to get those things.
Around 10 a.m. I messaged Santiago asking him to call me if he had time. Since it was Monday I wasn’t sure if he’d be free, but usually the are done drawing blood by then and are just working on processing it in the lab. He called right away and I told him what was going on. I still wasn’t having contractions, so I told him we could wait until he was done working. He called the doctor and she said to come in then. I said that I still had stuff to do and since I wasn’t in any pain, we should wait until after lunch. He agreed but said we should go to his parents house for lunch. I unpacked and then repacked the bags, glad that I’d already started working on them. I took my orange juice out of the freezer as well as the muffins that I’d made the week before. I got the fridge cleaned out, took the baby’s clothes out of storage, got out my hospital records and other “official” documents that they might want as proof of who I was and for the birth certificate, cash and the bank card (to get cash since you have to pay upon arrival and we didn’t have very much on hand). I charged my phone and synced my iPod so I’d have music and pod-casts to listen to while at the hospital, though I doubted they’d allow me to have it with if I was anywhere but my room. At least I’d have it for however many days they made me stay there.
At lunch my mother-in-law kept insisting I eat more…I said I wasn’t hungry and finally told Santiago that I didn’t want to vomit like last time, and if I did, I didn’t want it to be too bad. She finally left me to eat as I wanted. We went home and I put Nathaniel down for his nap and slept a little bit too. Still no contractions. Santiago went to a meeting and then called me to tell me that his mom was coming over to watch Nathaniel and that he’d be home, with a taxi, in a few minutes. It was about 3 p.m. and I was glad that it was sunny and that he wasn’t telling me “we’ll go to the hospital when the rain stops” as he did the night Nathaniel was born (in his defense, this was partly because the doctor he called had said that it still could be a day or two until the baby was born).
At the hospital we went to the building where they deliver babies, but were then sent over to the clinic area. I think that the nurse checked to see if I was dilated, as she stuck her hand inside me…ouch!…but never said anything as to what she learned from doing this. Then they checked the baby’s heart rate and said it was slow, so sent me back to the other building to be hooked up to a monitor. I laid on my back for about half an hour and tried reading a magazine and watched the nurse multi-task by playing solitaire while watching the reading of the baby’s heart rate! Finally towards the end she said that it seemed like contractions were starting. Then they allowed Santiago to come in and he said they’d start an IV to get labor to progress. I asked him to get me some water, and since the other woman that had been in the room left, they let him stay with me until he got hungry and wanted to go get some food. It was around 5 p.m. and they said there was a cafeteria in another building so he went to eat, I said I’d wait until after the baby was born to eat, and then he also went to the store to get pads for the bed, baby wipes and other things the nurses said we needed. I already had baby wipes, but hadn’t remember that we needed the bed pads or the super-thick diaper-like pads and paper towels for me. Of course I did have my own pads which should have been sufficient, but he didn’t realize this and like a good man, he obeyed the nurses orders to get those things for me. He also got chocolate which ended up being more for him than me…but I know where he hides it 🙂
Just before he left, I felt the contractions starting and then he told me they were going to give me some medicine to put me to sleep. I’m still not sure on the reasoning for this, it doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe they expected this would take a long time and I should get some sleep while I could? Anyway, contractions steadily got stronger and I never did fall asleep. At one point Santiago was let back in the room, but only until another woman came in to be monitored (she didn’t stay too long as she was going to be having a c-section and later was sent to the second floor, where they do c-sections). At one point I came close to crying due to the pain but it never seemed as painful as with Nathaniel. The doctors and nurses that had been in the room went home as it was now 6 p.m. and a new doctor showed up and just sat at a table writing, presumably on our charts, and once put her hand inside me, but said nothing. Finally I asked if I could go to the bathroom. She asked what I needed to do and then summoned Santiago to bring my bowl to the room. I was glad that I’d remembered to bring one, although it was a tiny one that I usually use for washing my face. (I hadn’t brought the larger ones for washing diapers since I planned to use disposables while in the hospital.) She helped me squat and do my thing, gave it to Santiago, who had to take it to the first floor as that’s the only men’s bathroom in the building, and then I went returned to lying on my back. Actually after giving birth, the most pain that remained was from the three hours of lying on my back.
The contractions kept getting stronger, but the whole time they were always about a minute apart, and I finally it got to the point where I wanted to push. I vividly remember that part from Nathaniel’s birth. With him, I was still at home at that point and not quite sure how I was going to get down five flights of stairs and survive the fifteen minute drive to the hospital without actually giving birth to him. Finally around 7:20 or so, the doctor summoned the nurse and they led me into the delivery room and helped me up onto the bed. They weren’t happy about my lack of cooperation. I didn’t want to continue lying down, flat on my back, with my legs up in the stirrups. Finally the nurse raised the bed up so I was slightly sitting up, but not much. She then helped the doctor into her scrubs and brought in a big garbage and placed it at the foot of the bed. They didn’t like how I was positioned, apparently I was raising my butt, which I wasn’t supposed to do, and so the nurse kept repeating herself, thinking i didn’t understand her. Though I doubt I understood every word, I knew her meaning full well and tried to tell her that, but it was difficult to do what she wanted. By the looks of her, it’s probably been fifteen years or so since she gave birth, so I imagine she forgot just how difficult it can be. She also didn’t like how I was breathing. Apparently, as with most things here, there’s only one “right” way to do it and, again, I wasn’t adhering to that way, not that I knew what it was to begin with. I felt just fine when I was pushing, but tried to do as she said just so she’d be quiet. At one point Santiago tried to come in the room and they freaked out and shooed him away as fast as they could, as though he had no right to be there. Well, according to the hospital rules, as a man, he didn’t have the right to be there. But I was the only one in the room. I asked them why they wouldn’t let him in, but they chose not to respond. I’m not sure how long I pushed, but according to the clock on the wall, Catherine was born within fifteen minutes of me being in the room. I thought she was born at 7:45, but the time listed on her birth certificate is 7:55, so they must use a different clock than the one that’s on the wall. Still, it didn’t take too long and for that, I was very glad.
Almost immediately, she started crying and I asked if it was a boy or girl. The nurse went out and brought in blankets, which although I recognized them as ours, it didn’t fully register with me that I had not packed them. When I left home, Nathaniel had been napping under one of them! I assumed the nurse was cleaning the baby and I saw her wrap Catherine up and write on some papers. I asked when I’d get to hold and feed her and she said that the bed was too small (it was very narrow) and that if I held her I might drop her! She said I’d get the baby after the doctor put in the stitches. I don’t remember them doing an episiotomy and I’d told the doctor I didn’t want one, so it must have torn on its own. I didn’t see Catherine again until I was back in the room and had to take her away from grandma and aunt. I thought I heard the doctor say that she was putting in just two stitches, but it took a good ten minutes or more, so either she said that to make me feel better or I didn’t hear correctly. That part really hurt (no meds to numb the area or anything!) and I immediately began to dread going back to have them taken out. (It wasn’t until we came home and I asked Santiago when I would need to go back to get them taken out and he said that they were the disovleable kind. That made me very happy!)
Once she was done, I again asked when I could go back to my room and she said that the nurse would get a bed so they could take me back there. I said I just wanted to walk back there and she said that was not allowed. Since my room was closest to the delivery room, it would have been easier to just get off the delivery table and walk to the room rather than try to lift my legs up and over the stirrups of the table and then lift my body onto the rolling bed for the nurse to make her way through the double set of doors and try pushing it through a very narrow doorway and then get myself off of that bed and into the one in my room. That whole process took a good five minutes which seemed more like ten.
Finally settled in bed, I realized that my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were there and had brought two bags full of stuff like cloth diapers, blankets, baby clothes and brown sugar water since they assumed that we’d taken nothing with us. They said they were amazed that I’d packed almost everything I needed (they didn’t like that I planned to use disposable diapers while in the hospital). My sister-in-law had stopped to buy a bottle, box of formula and some glucose powder because for some reason most women here think that they can’t nurse for the first few days, if at all. Upon asking to hold the baby, I was finally given her and started to feed her. The doctor asked if I had milk and even though I knew there wasn’t a lot since the real milk doesn’t come in right away, I just told her that I did so that they’d leave me alone and let me try to feed the baby. Later a nurse came in and told me that I was nursing incorrectly. I bit my tongue and refrained from telling her that after nursing Nathaniel for two years, I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing. Catherine took to nursing much better than Nathaniel did and I asked Santiago to put away the formula box so that we wouldn’t get pressured to use it just in case a nurse did come to “see” (or rather, feel) if I did or didn’t have enough milk.
I realized that the nurse had done little more than just wipe Catherine’s body off and that there was all sorts of stuff and blood in her hair and in between her rolls of fat. We attempted to clean her off with a wash cloth and some hot water, obtained from the first floor water heater, but she didn’t really get cleaned until we got home. I too tried to wash off in the same way and was more successful, but I longed for a nice warm shower and was glad that I had showered in the morning. Later a nurse came in to disinfect the area where the stitches were and Santiago was asked to leave while my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and some other woman were all allowed to stay and watch. Awkward to say the least. Finally we convinced Santiago’s mom and sister that they didn’t need to stay any longer and that we could take care of the baby by ourselves. His mom had stayed with us both nights that I was in the hospital for Nathaniel, but this time I felt much better and didn’t feel like we needed any extra help.
Once they left, I cleaned off and changed my clothes and went to the bathroom. I was amazed at how good I felt despite the medicine and the stitches. I remember walking being very painful for days after Nathaniel was born. I was able to walk easily and even use the squatty potty without pain! This time I really felt like I could walk down those four flights of steps (we were on the third floor) and go home immediately. One doctor did say that we could go home the following afternoon, which I was very excited about. I finally ate some food around 9 and then we put Catherine to bed and tried to get some sleep ourselves. That did not happen. She screamed and cried most of the night, only sleeping while in bed with me from 3 a.m. on. It was a long night due to the crying, the hospital being really warm (once a nurse saw the window open and made us shut it) and there were mosquitoes flying around.
On Tuesday morning, Santiago’s mom and sister brought us food even though we’d said we could get food from the cafeteria, which we had already done. So we just saved it for lunch since it was now uncertain if they’d let us leave. Hospital regulations are that you stay three days for a natural birth and seven for a c-section. I suggested that Santiago tell the doctor that I had only been in one day for Nathaniel, though it really was two but a very the reason we were made to stay the second day was outrageous. Catherine slept, cried and ate on and off during the morning. Finally, late afternoon, a doctor said that we could go home and so Santiago called his sister to drive us home and he got busy filling out paperwork to get Catherine’s birth certificate. The person who entered the information used all lowercase letters and put a period after each name (catherine. chenyu. zhang.), so both kids have birth certificates where their names are somewhat incorrect. When that was all done we were allowed to leave and this time I got to carry the baby, rather than a knife, out of the hospital!
Nathaniel wasn’t home when we got there, but as soon as he arrived he started kissing Catherine and asked to hold her. Since it was now around 7, we got them ready for bed and put Catherine in the living room because we didn’t’ want her crying to wake Nathaniel. Again, she mostly cried until 3 a.m. and then slept pretty soundly. On Wednesday, we got her on a routine and she did well that night, only crying three times when she needed to eat. Now at almost two weeks, she’s mostly sleeping well at night, waking two or three times, and depending on who is around during the day, and how well they comply with our wishes on letting her sleep, and not holding her, when she’s tired, she’ll sleep a couple hours at a time a few times a day. She’s sleeping far more than Nathaniel, due to not being held and talked to all the time, which is really nice.
I don’t know how to rotate the photo…so just tilt your head a bit.