Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey day, Chicken nights

Hi. So remember how I ended my last post with "See you guys later, I'm going to get some sleep now!"

AHAHAHAHAHA. No. That is not what happened. Chickens did, in fact, quiet down long enough for me to snuggle into the chair in Mia's room and drift off for approximately four seconds. Then the crying started again, and then it got louder, and then it turned into crying mixed with barks, yelps and howls. By the time he had reached five and a half hours of this suffering, I couldn't take it anymore. I called the ER vet, who said we should bring him in. We didn't know whether he was in pain or just really pissed off about being in a cage and, you know, paralyzed. But regardless of the reason, healing requires rest, and he was clearly not getting that.

So for the second time in a week, we packed up the baby and the dog in the middle of the night and drove to the hospital. We arrived at around 4 a.m., and they said they'd like to admit him until the following afternoon. They wanted to monitor him, run some tests, and shoot him full of potent drugs. They told us to go home and go to bed. Of course, the moment I closed my eyes, the baby was wide awake and demanding her breakfast. Sal managed a couple hours of sleep before waking up to run the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, where Mia and I watched him cross the finish line of his first 10K.

After Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws' house, we returned to the hospital to get Chickens. They still weren't sure whether his distress was because of pain or sadness and frustration, but likely it was a great deal of both. So they replaced the pain-medication patch on his skin (which had worn off the day before) and injected him with some kind of super-painkiller. He was pretty well stoned out of his gourd. They also sent us home with a bottle of sedatives to keep him calm inside his cage.

It was a really good night. He was feeling so free of pain that he even showed a few brief flashes of his old, lovable Chickenbone personality. When we put some dry dog food in his cage, for the first time since all this began he gobbled it down. (Though the drug patch gives him the munchies when first administered - seriously.) And did I ever tell you how one of his favorite things is to get himself all wrapped up in a blanket from head to toe, like a little burrito? Well, even with his useless back legs flopping around behind him, he started nudging the blankets in his cage with his nose and teeth, and we watched incredulously as he somehow pulled one over his body. It was unbelievable. It was like seeing OUR Chickens again.

Then we all collapsed into bed and had an incredibly peaceful, uneventful night. And how I wish we could have strung two such nights together, but last night the crying began again after my 2 a.m. date with Mia. It wasn't as shrill as it was on The Very Bad Night, but it was enough to tear my heart into pieces as we laid there listening to him. (Luckily, I didn't break down crying myself because I'M TOO TIRED TO CRY! Silver linings, you guys. Silver linings.)

The crying went on for about 10 minutes before we got up to give him more pain medicine, but even that is an ordeal because his appetite is crap. He doesn't want treats, and he ESPECIALLY doesn't want treats with pills in them. Sometimes it can take more than an hour to coax him into eating something. But even after we got him to take his meds, he cried for an hour. This is an hour we spend busting our brains trying to troubleshoot the problem. Does the ticking clock above his cage in the bedroom irritate him? Is he cold? Does the fan bother him? Is he lonely? Our minds race trying to figure out how to help him. One thing we realized is that he rarely cries like this during the day, when his cage and his family are in the living room. So at 4 a.m., we got up and dragged the cage back out. We turned on the TV and hit the couches with blankets and pillows. He quieted down, and we all slept for about an hour before Mia woke up for a feeding. (I would whine more about not sleeping if I wasn't so relieved to finally be in the daytime again. Daytime is so, so much better than those endless nights.)

We just have to get to Monday. On Monday we get the staples taken out, and Chickens can stop wearing the big collar. He HATES the collar. Check out how he glares at us when we put it on him!

Scary Chickens! Anyway. Let's end this on a positive note. I'm afraid to think about this too much, because I don't want to get my hopes up, and I'm trying to brace for the worst. But when we were at the ER on Thursday morning, the vet did a little diagnostic test by propping up Chickenbone's back end so he'd stand on all fours. When they did this a week ago, his legs flopped down like a rag doll. But this time, he stood on his own for maybe 10 seconds. Which is AN ETERNITY in paralyzed-dog-land. It means he is getting a little bit of tone back in his muscles. Sal and I also wonder if his increased pain in the past few days doesn't mean he's regaining some sensation back there. Maybe we're just kidding ourselves, but sometimes for sanity's sake, we just need to indulge in a minute or two of hoping.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Better late than never

I started this post about Mia's first few weeks at home awhile ago, but then I got sidetracked. Gee, wonder why! Might as well finish it now, while I'm sitting here in the dark listening to the dog sob in his cage. It has been a very, very long night. Chickenbone's crying - the most mournful, soul-wrenching weeping I have ever heard in my life - has been going on for almost two hours nonstop. Why can't the little guy just go to sleep, pleasepleaseplease?!

I think Sal finally fell asleep after I gave him some earplugs - he is running his first 10K in the morning and needs rest. I can't enjoy the same solution since I need to hear Mia when she wakes up for her feeding. I tried to sleep in the chair in her room, but I can still hear Chickens crying, and it's so upsetting. I'm wide awake right now. You know how everyone is always warning new parents about that moment when they are so sleep-deprived they could die, and the baby won't stop howling, and they can actually feel their mind coming apart into little tiny pieces? I think I'm experiencing that feeling right now. And my daughter is sound asleep. God.

But anyway. Let's cheer up for a moment and look at some pictures.

Mia had a touch of jaundice when she was born, so they sent us home from the hospital with something called a "Bili blanket," which isn't nearly as cute as it sounds. In fact, it's not even a blanket. It's a flat piece of plastic connected to a big heavy hose and a loud machine that lights up the plastic and helps get rid of the bilirubins in Mia's blood. She had to lay on it 24-7 without clothes on for the first four days at home. I personally would have screamed bloody murder, but she was a trooper.

This is Mia yawning. She is a champion yawner - each one lasts like a full minute, start to finish. They are endlessly entertaining.

Chickenbone and Mia get along famously. He was a little bit WTF when we first brought her home, and he spent that whole first night following us around barking incredulously. But the novelty of it wore off. He loves giving her big kisses on her face and hands, and he likes to snuggle with her and mom or dad on the couch.

Mia's first bath! I was sad to wash her because I was afraid that scrumptious baby scent would go away. Turns out it grows right back.

Mia and her dad, who adored each other from the start. I love this picture so much I can barely stand to look at it right now. I can't believe it was taken a mere two weeks ago. WHEN LIFE WITH A NEWBORN WAS SO EASY!

OK, I just gave Chickens another pain pill, and I sat by his cage and scratched his ears until it started to kick in. I don't hear him anymore, and it has been a good five minutes or so, so maybe he finally fell asleep. I'll take advantage and try to close my eyes for a few minutes, since Mia will be awake and hungry in an hour or two. Hope I don't fall asleep into my turkey dinner tomorrow, but if I do, I hope my face lands somewhere near the gravy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unhappy pup

Well, Chickens came home yesterday from the hospital where he had emergency back surgery. But things are tough. He's extremely sad, pissed off and afraid. And who can blame him? He's locked in a cage, he's wearing one of those giant collars, he can't feel his legs, and he has a long gash in his back that has been stapled shut. We spent much of last night with one baby or the other bawling their face off, often both at once. Today's goal is for mom and dad to remain as positive as possible, even if we have to fake it. I think our stress is noticeable by both Mia and Chickenbone, and we'll all have a better time of it if we can somehow put on a smile and pretend this isn't the most difficult thing our little family has ever been through.

Things will be a bit better, we think, when the staples are removed in a week and he can lose the giant collar. Until then, we're taking it one hour at a time.

Thanks so very much for the kind thoughts and prayers. Chickens is such a loveable little guy and it makes us feel better to know that he has friends out there rooting him on.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pulling for Chickens

I have a terrible thing to report. On Saturday morning at around 4 a.m., we had to take our little Chickenbone to the animal ER with a back injury. A serious one.

This problem actually began a couple weeks ago when we noticed him acting sluggish and sad. We suspected he was feeling depressed about the baby, but when he yelped at being touched on his back or being held, we knew it was a medical problem. We took him to the vet, and an X-ray revealed a compressed disc in his spine. This is evidently a common problem with dogs shaped like Chickens - he has a long dachshund spinal column, but a stubby, thick torso that probably comes from his pug background. Chihuahuas are also known for having this problem, and he's a little of that, too. Genetics were not on his side. The vet gave us muscle relaxers and pain medication and sent him home.

He appeared to improve over the next week, even though he couldn't break one habit that surely made the whole situation worse: Chickens loves to jump off things. The sofa. The bed. The stairs in the back yard. Making matters worse, we have had dozens and dozens of friends and relatives here over the past month. People make Chickens absolutely giddy, so when visitors come, he climbs onto the couch arm to greet them - getting higher up, you see, improves his chances of getting a nice pat on the head. And then of course he leaps gleefully into the air like a little reindeer, before landing with a plunk on the ground.

Well, two nights ago I got up to feed Mia at around 2:30 a.m., and when I came into her room, Chickens was just standing there in the dark. One look at him and I knew something was wrong. While I changed Mia's diaper, I tried to get him to wag his tail at me by talking to him, but he just stood there. So I woke up Sal. Soon we realized that Chickens wasn't moving his back left leg. He was trembling, and he was arching his back and sticking his nose in the air. His eyes were wide, and he looked completely freaked out. We drove him to the ER where they told us his leg was paralyzed, and that the situation could get much worse unless he has a surgical procedure to remove the bad disc. An expensive and invasive spinal surgery seemed like it should be the last resort to us, and the vet said we could also just admit him and see if confinement and medicine could help his back improve on its own. We went that route, but when I returned yesterday morning at around 11, I could tell he was getting worse. The vet said he was now paralyzed in both back legs. He wasn't urinating on his own, and his poops were just falling out because he had lost bowel control. We gave the green light on the surgery, which happened yesterday afternoon.

The surgeon said there is a 50 percent chance Chickens will remain paralyzed in his back legs for the rest of his life. We simply won't know for many, many weeks. The surgery went OK, though we still have a couple more days before we are out of the woods on severe complications from that. We should be able to bring him home tomorrow, where he will begin a very long recovery period.

We are pretty devastated here today. Even though there are three of us here, the house feels empty without his little nails clicking on the hardwood floors and his slobbery kisses waking us up in the morning. Walking or not, we just want him to come home.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The rest of the story

Um, you guys? I am at a coffee shop. For the first time in two and a half weeks, I am ALONE. With a computer, a piece of carrot cake, a steamed milk and a lovely view. Time to pick up where I left off.

You'll recall that I spent the day before Mia was born trying to get my labor started, using acupuncture, an herbal labor tincture, lots of walking, and a deep-dish pizza loaded with pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, Canadian bacon and linguica. I wolfed down quite a bit of that spicy pie, enough that when my stomach began to hurt at around 10 p.m., I figured I had too much to eat. I told Sal I was going to lay down. During the next two hours, my "gas pains" kept waking me up, but I was so tired I drifted back to sleep every time.

But at around midnight, it had grown too painful to ignore, so I got out of bed. Sal woke up and asked what I was doing. I told him I couldn't sleep, but not to worry about me! No sirree! I said was just going to read for a little bit and then I'd go back to sleep.

Then I went into the baby's room and sat on my birthing ball. A birthing ball is essentially just a big exercise ball, and I had been sitting one one for weeks while watching TV. It was more comfortable than hefting my big ol' body on and off the couch, but more important, it alleviates back pain and supposedly helps your pelvic joints widen, allowing the baby to descend more easily into the birth canal. I'm not entirely sure that worked for me, but I was 2 centimeters dilated the day before my due date, so who knows?

Anyway, so I was on the ball and trying to read a book. Only the "gas pains" kept disrupting my train of thought. I decided to start timing them. My logic was that if they came at a regular pace, it MIGHT be contractions. If not ... gas!

Well, somewhere in the next hour or so I grew frustrated because I couldn't keep track of the clock and the pain at the same time. The cramps were coming two to five minutes apart, and they didn't seem regular at all. I figured I must be doing something wrong. So at 2 a.m., I woke up Sal. Told him I needed him to come time the pain, because I couldn't figure out what was going on. I dragged my ball out to the living room, and Sal plopped down on the couch with a watch. He also put on a DVD of "The West Wing." I'm not sure why I need to mention that, maybe because it's my last vivid memory for awhile.

So Sal started trying to figure out the timing, only this also goes terribly, because I kept forgetting to tell him when the pain began. Or when it ended. Or anything useful whatsoever. I believe there were maybe two times I remembered to say something, and both times the duration was around two minutes. So we called the hospital, which basically said, "Uh, yeah, you are IN LABOR, dumbass. So you might think about popping in for a visit tonight."

At this point things get a little frantic. For Sal. Who realized well before I did that This Is It. He began running around the house collecting the various things we would need to take to the hospital. We had our bags packed already, but he needed to grab stuff like cell phone chargers, the laptop and camera, birthing ball, etc. Me, I jumped into the shower because it seemed very, very important that I shave my armpits before having a baby. By this time I knew I was having real contractions, because a few times in the shower I had to stop what I was doing and cling to the wall to get through them. After I got dressed I sat on the ball again until we were ready to get in the car. We arrived at the hospital at 3:30 a.m.

I don't really remember the ride to the hospital, where I arrived dizzy with pain. But I definitely remember the woman who greeted us in the ER. As she pushed my wheelchair toward the elevator, she chirped, "Don't worry, honey! Once you get the epidural, you'll be JUST FINE!" I was not capable of responding, but Sal, who knew I would burn with fury at such a comment, said, "Actually, we are hoping to do this without the medication." Nurse goes, "Oh. Well. Good luck with that!"

She was one in a series of hospital folk who would royally piss me off in the next hour or two. Like the sing-songy receptionist at Labor and Delivery, who heard me gasp at Sal to give me a water bottle. She clucked her tongue and said, "Now, you aren't supposed to be having waa-terrrr!" God, I would have loved to see her try to take it away from me. And for the record, the nurses let me have as much water and juice as I wanted, so maybe the freaking secretary ought to button it up with the medical advice, hmm? Then, because all the L&D rooms were occupied or being cleaned, we were put into a small, stuffy observation room. And in came this timid little med student who fired off a hundred pointless questions, including this gem as I huffed through a particularly nasty contraction: "So, um ... Are you in any pain tonight?" I don't even remember my response, but I hope it knocked him a good one in the nuts.

Two more things happened in that horrid little room. One, a doctor came in to check me, and I was already 5 centimeters dilated. Cool. Halfway there! Two, we learned that, evidently, when Amy Pizarro is in labor, she prefers that her body remain UNTOUCHED BY EVEN THE TINIEST STITCH OF CLOTHING. The only reason I can even admit this is now is that it felt so out of my hands. I mean, it's not like I sat there thinking, "Gee, this hospital gown is a real bummer. I shall decide to remove it from my person!" No, I simply was covered up one minute, and the next, whoosh! I was naked. Naked as a jaybird. Except for the stupid fetal monitors strapped across my belly, but hooooo boy, guess what happened next! The crazed pregnant lady ripped those off, too! With a flourish! I was just so incredibly hot and uncomfortable that this was simply the only way things could be.

Also around this time, Kathy, my doula, had arrived. Which was really good for poor Sal, who learned that Amy in labor also does not care for people touching her, or talking to her, or anything else we had practiced in our birthing prep class. He'd try to touch my shoulder, and I'd shrug him off. He did my breathing with me - something that was so sweet and helpful in class - and I told him to stop. I had no idea I'd be so distracted by that, and I think it was freaking him out to see me in such awful pain AND to realize how little he could do to help me.

I'm not sure when we got moved to an actual L&D room, I think maybe it was close to 5 a.m. (They did convince me to wear a gown between rooms, but DON'T EVEN think I wouldn't have strolled right down that hallway in my birthday suit.) I immediately took off the gown and got into the shower, where Kathy began spraying me down with warm water. Meanwhile, Sal went to move the car from the holy-shit-please-help-us spot by the ER front doors to a real parking space, and to get my birthing ball. When he came back, I rested my legs by sitting on the ball in the shower. The sound and feel of the water were soothing to me, so this is how I spent most of the next hour. In the shower, being coached by Kathy to moan low and loud through each contraction.

A note about the low moan: This is something we practiced in my prenatal yoga class, and we all felt ridiculous doing it. It's embarrassing. We sounded like farm animals. But the reality is, the low moan for me was the very best way to work though the worst of the pain. The ha-hee-ha-hee breathing did help during the early parts, but that breathing doesn't work for shit when things get ugly. You need something far more powerful for your mind and body to focus on during the bad contractions, and for me that was moaning.

The next part is blurriest for me, but here's what I remember. At around 6, Kathy said I needed to move around a little more, so I got out of the shower. She and Sal dried me off, and we went to the bed, which I leaned on for awhile. At this point, I was in the very worst of the worst part of labor, known as "transition." I remember this funny diagram they showed us at our birthing class, with cartoon faces of a woman in each phase of labor. The transition face was crumpled up like a person who might be thinking, "Ow! That kind of hurts!" But real transition? Man. The truth is, it was the most terrifying pain I have ever felt in my life. The contractions rocked me. And they were piled one on top of the other, no break in the pain whatsoever. I was petrified. It felt like I was trying to outrun a monster, and every single time I thought I'd escaped, I'd feel it tapping me on the shoulder. Over and over again.

But do you want to know the weird thing? As much as it hurt, the pain wasn't the hardest part. The hardest part was trying not to totally lose my shit. The panic was so close, OH SO VERY CLOSE, and I knew if I lost my balance even a little, I'd nosedive into a sobbing, pleading, screeching hysteria. And I think keeping my senses focused on staying calm made the pain, which I couldn't do anything about anyway, somewhat of a secondary issue. I focused my mind and ears on the moan. I opened my eyes and tried to find Sal's face (which was 12 inches from mine, but it still took me forever to spot him). I clutched his hands. I moaned, and I moaned, and I moaned.

And then there was one contraction that ended differently than the others - I heard my moan turn into a strange, teeth-clenching grunt. Kathy whipped around and said, "Amy, are you pushing?" I couldn't answer. But with the next contraction I heard a bigger grunt, and Kathy told Sal to get someone to check me. They helped me onto the bed, and then I heard someone say I was 9 centimeters. Kathy helped me get back up and said one more really good contraction would probably get me that last centimeter, so she and Sal held me up and I clung to them both while I fought through another one. Then I was back on the bed, and another check put me at 10.

Next I remember a flurry of commotion. With transition behind me, things were becoming a bit clearer, and I was able to open my eyes and realize what was going on. There were cheerful people in masks, a light coming down from the ceiling, noisy stuff being wheeled in, and someone telling me not to push. This is funny, because the thing I discovered about pushing is, it's not really something you DO. You can certainly participate, but in my experience, pushing happens TO you. It's an urge that is out of your control and nearly impossible to rein in. So I ignored them and pushed anyway, but they got a bit more insistent - later I found out they were waiting for the doctor to arrive. So I huffed and puffed through one contraction without pushing, and then the doctor was there and I was given permission to push away. Sal was on my right, holding up my leg and foot, and Kathy did the same on the left. During each contraction, they held me by the shoulders, helping me curl up my body. The cheering and yells of "PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH!" were so loud, and the lights blazed down all of us, and it was such awesome, scary chaos.

A nurse asked me if I wanted to touch the baby's head. My birth plan specifically said I did not want to do such a thing. But at this point in my labor, especially with the worst of the pain behind me, I was fascinated by everything that was going on. So I said yes, and they helped me reached down and HOLY SHIT THAT IS A HEAD. Then they asked if I wanted to see it in a mirror. Again, I said yes. I'm glad I did. It was so encouraging to see how close we were - even though they were telling me that my pushing was moving the baby out, it was hard for me to feel the progress. Then there were a couple more pushes, and I felt the baby slide out. Sal's beaming face leaned over close to mine, and he told me that we had a little girl.

The big moment!

Under that blanket is a slippery, bony little body wriggling on my stomach. I kept trying to see her face, but all I could see was the top of her tiny head, which was covered in dark wet hair.

They let Mia stay with me for more than an hour before taking her to be weighed, measured and washed off. Here we are after dad cut the umbilical cord, allowing me to pull her up to my chest.

After she was cleaned up, a nurse took two little hospital hats and cleverly cut and folded them into one hat with a pretty bow.

Our first family portrait!

Here we are on our way from the L&D room to our recovery room. It was so cool to be wheeled down the hallway while holding my new baby - everyone kept stopping to grin and say congratulations. We were like our very own parade!

And that was that! And as for natural childbirth, I'm just so happy I went for it, despite the overwhelming feeling that everyone thought I was crazy. I'm glad I trusted my body to figure this out without a medical tangle of drugs, tubes and monitors. Yes, it hurt like holy hell. But the bad parts were over SO fast. From our hospital arrival to baby, it took a little more than three hours. I pushed for 20 minutes. And about an hour after getting a few stitches for a small tear I never felt, I was up and about like the whole thing had never happened. I walked around. I took a shower. I devoured a huge pancake breakfast.

While I know an epidural woudn't necessarily have made any of this impossible, I firmly believe that a birth this fast and relatively easy would have been far less likely if I had gone the modern-medicine route. And now I'm just so incredibly grateful. It must be among the rarest experiences a person can have, trudging through the most excruciating pain I could imagine, and then watching that suffering become the most joyful memory of my life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A grand entrance

So! We had a baby. Let me tell you about that.

Mia didn't make her way into the world until Sunday morning, October 25. But the story actually began the Friday before, two days beyond my due date. While Sal and I were on a morning walk to Japantown - a walk during which we joked about what we'd do if my water broke - my water broke. And even though we were 45 minutes from home, on foot, with the dog, we didn't panic. We began to laugh.

I ducked into a coffee shop restroom to check out the situation, and I was surprised to see that there wasn't nearly as much fluid as I expected. It was more like I had mildly peed my pants, and it hadn't even touched my clothing. We decided to make our way home, where I picked up the phone to call my doula.

Now's probably a good time to mention that I was pretty determined to have a natural childbirth - no epidural or other pain medication, no pitocin to induce labor, none of the so-called "medical interventions" that are quite common in today's labor and delivery rooms. Lots of people think going natural is insane, especially for a first-time mom. In fact, it wasn't long before I stopped talking about it because I was tired of the chuckles or pats on the head from women who were like, "Mm-hmm, you give that a try, honey. We'll see how that goes." An epidural has just become part of the process, something most women don't even stop to think about, because why WOULDN'T you want one?

But the thing is, the epidural scared the shit out of me WAY, WAY more than contractions. Let's recall for a moment the last time someone jammed a needle into my spine. (If you don't feel like reading all that, a recap: I went to the ER with food poisoning, and the crackpot doctor decided he had to rule out spinal meningitis. Even though I KNEW it was food poisoning, I let him bully me into having a spinal tap. The consequence of not trusting my own judgment: I was knocked flat by a crippling weeklong headache, because the needle hole didn't heal properly and I didn't have enough spinal fluid to keep my brain from banging around in my skull. No joke. Oh, and it SO WAS NOT meningitis. Asshole.)

My point is, I could fly into a hyperventilating panic at the thought of dealing with such a side effect while having my newborn in my arms. Relatively speaking, contractions did not seem like that big a deal. And furthermore, do you know all the shit you have to be hooked up to if you have an epidural? Fetal monitors for the baby, who may or may not be distressed by the drugs; an IV for fluids; and a catheter since you can't go to the bathroom by yourself. Being tethered to a hospital bed like that sounds like pure torture to me.

I knew, though, that having a natural childbirth would require some additional effort on my part. So here's what I did to prepare:

- I hired a doula. If you don't know what a doula is - a lot of people don't - she is a birth coach, a woman who has a great big bag o' tricks to help you bring your baby into the world. She is there at the hospital just for you and your husband, as opposed to labor nurses who are tending to several patients at a time. Now that I have been through this experience, I think it's wrong that so many labor prep classes try to paint a picture where the husband is a qualified coach. I'm sorry, but I just don't believe a husband should be saddled with that kind of title. He should be there for support and love and ice chips and anything else his wife needs, but I don't think he should be expected to think clearly when his spouse is doubled over in writhing pain. Especially if he's never done this before, either. A doula is the clear head in the room who has done this hundreds of times before and is equipped with knowledge and experience and techniques that make the birthing process smoother for everyone.

- I did my homework. After reading this post by Heather Armstrong of Dooce, I picked up a copy of a book she read called "Your Best Birth," by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Reading it made me even more set on having a natural childbirth. The statistics regarding the "medicalization" of childbirth were stunning, and the scenario that particularly got to me was this: A woman is past her due date and the doctor wants to induce. Mom gets pitocin, which gets contractions rolling. But the drugs make the contractions far more powerful than they would be if they came on their own, so she is more likely to opt for the epidural. Only the epidural can slow the labor process, counteracting the pitocin. And too often this tug of war between the drugs leads to an unnecessary (but quite common) C-section. The book describes these things as a "cascade of interventions." I describe it as my worst nightmare.

- I took a six-week prenatal yoga class, where we spent a lot of time discussing a woman's options regarding childbirth. It amazed me that most of the women in my class didn't even know you COULD have a baby without medicine. So we spent a lot of time talking about options. About the fear of pain, and mental and physical coping techniques. Our instructor had given birth naturally to several babies, which gave me a lot of hope that I could do it, too. I could find so few real-life examples like this.

One more thing on this topic, just for the record: I don't feel judgmental of people who DO opt for the epidural. I know lots of women who had very rewarding, happy birthing experiences using pain medication. I just knew I wanted something different.

So anyway, I called my doula, Kathy, and told her I think my water broke but that it seemed like only a small amount. I said I was afraid to go to the hospital because I knew they would want to induce since I wasn't having contractions. She agreed. She said it sounded like I just had a leak, but that I needed to get myself into labor as quickly as possible. And as long as I could feel the baby move, this was something I could do at home.

Kathy suggested two things: acupuncture and an herbal labor tincture. I was skeptical but desperate, so I made an appointment for labor-inducing acupuncture on Saturday. Then we went and bought the labor tincture, a tiny bottle of rotten-smelling liquid that tastes like a cocktail of Jagermeister and motor oil. Awful, awful stuff. But every 30 minutes, as we spent Saturday walking around, seeing a movie, walking around some more, I dutifully closed my eyes and squeezed an eyedropperful into my mouth. We ended this long day by picking up a giant spicy, meaty pizza from Pizz'a Chicago. Spicy food - the granddaddy of labor-inducing old wives' tales.

And now I must tell you that it took me four and a half freaking days to write this post. I guess that's what happens when you only have five-minute bursts of time between this diaper and that diaper, this boob and that boob. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

So for now I'll pause the story, because my husband and daughter are all snuggled up on the couch and I'm missing out!

Amy is a moron who devotes an entire day to witchy labor-inducing home remedies, but later that evening firmly believes she just has a bad case of gas.