Friday, January 9, 2015

Alex's Birth Pt 2: Leaving for the Hospital

Prequel time!! Mom read my first installment and noted that I forgot to include the fact that she and I went to get massages the Friday before the baby came. That was all Jon. For my birthday, he found a place that is certified and well known for their prenatal massages (although they can obviously do normal ones, too), and my prenatal birthday massage was so great (read: I could walk like a human being again - miraculous) that we snagged another one for my mom to thank her for coming out. And I couldn't let her go by herself, now, could I? Not at 40weeks-1day! So we went and it was soooo nice and really fun. It was my mom’s first professional massage! (I say it like I’m so experienced – it was my third, and my birthday one was just my second. But still, she loved it and I loved it and I loved that she loved it.)

Back to August 4th. When Jon got my text that he should come home, it was so out of the blue that he wasn’t sure what kind of urgency I was trying to communicate. We got that cleared up and within five minutes, he was on his way. Once we got home, Mom got the laundry out of the dryers and we made a list of last-minute things to gather.

Labor’s Real Trauma: Calling Ahead to the Hospitals

In the car on the way back to the apartment, I decided to call the hospitals ahead, like everyone had told us to do all along. Specifically, I called the San Leandro and Oakland hospitals to find out whether they had available beds. Both hospitals were really weird to talk to, which was strange because I had called both Labor & Delivery departments before (mostly in the arduous search for hospital tours, which seem to be scarce these days) and had good customer service experiences.

First, I called Oakland, and the person I talked to sounded really confused that I was calling. I think she said they had one bed available, maybe? I didn’t keep good notes on that call. I think it finally ended with me saying, “OK, the only reason I called was to find out if you can take me in an hour, but apparently you don’t know, so forget it.” (I might have been nicer than that?) I have a chipper phone voice that I tend to use for businessy calls no matter how I’m feeling, so maybe I should nix that for next time …

Then, I called San Leandro, and that phone experience was really annoying. I called the L&D department, explained my situation, and asked how many beds they had available. Everyone seemed really confused. I opened with my dilation and contraction lengths and the fact that my clinician had just told me that I was in active labor and to head to the hospital. Then I said, “I live on the peninsula, which is important for you to know because I’m coming from a little ways away, but I’ve been doing my prenatal care in [city whose clinic uses the San Leandro hospital],” and explained everything (see the italics in my previous post). Recognizing that mine was perhaps not the most common situation, I was careful to be very clear, but all I got was, like, audible ellipses. The lady finally seemed like she kind of understood what was going on and said, “Oh, ok, who’s your doctor?” I told her, and her voice totally changed: “Oh, okay! Hang on, let me go tell them that and we’ll get it figured out.” So she put me on hold and I waited awhile, and then someone came back on the phone and said, “Hello, San Leandro Labor and Delivery.” Like they’re just answering the phone for the first time! Are you kidding me?? 

So now, here’s this brand new person who has no idea what’s going on, and I have to explain it all again. She kept asking me questions that seemed irrelevant to me, and when she got confused, she would just ask which hospital my doctor was affiliated with. (Answer: YOU. A THOUSAND TIMES, YOU.) After some pressing, the woman on the phone finally answered my question with, “Well, we have three beds, but we have two people in triage that we assume are going to take two of them, so technically we have one bed but you should really go to the hospital that’s associated with where you’ve been being treated for your prenatal care.” (YOUUUUUUU) My mom probably saw my eye roll from across the room - I felt like they were trying to communicate with me in some sort of code without coming out and saying something they could get sued for. I was pretty fed up with not being able to get a straight answer from anybody, so I just said thanks for the help and hung up. Two wasted phone calls to get no information from anybody. I kept feeling like maybe they weren’t taking me seriously  (like maybe they thought I wasn't really in labor) because I sounded calm and civil and wasn’t screaming at anybody.

Later, after Alex was born and a few hours before discharge, a hospital administrator came around to our hospital room asking for feedback on our experience. We brought this up, and she explained that they aren’t supposed to directly answer a question like, “How many beds do you have, do you have room for me?” We were supposed to just let them know that I was in labor and would be coming in, and if they didn’t have enough beds, it’s their job to call around and find the next closest available place and send me there. They’re triaging you over the phone at the same time, and they aren’t supposed to say “we don’t have room for you, sorry,” because that can panic people. They’re supposed to say, “We’re a little tight right now, go to x place instead,” or something like that. Either way, the issue was that we wanted to make that decision ourselves, the L&D people aren’t trained for that. Every doctor and midwife and staff member we dealt with seemed really cool with our plan up until the moment we made those phone calls. Guess everybody needs to be on the same page.

Getting Ready to Go: Yes, Makeup

Jon got home and I finally just decided to get off the phone and focus on getting ready for the hospital. That was an adventure, too. Everybody seems to say that first labors are so long, and most people I know seem to know they’re in labor and then have time to shower and sleep and watch movies while they wait to head to the hospital, so I had completely been planning on that. I mean, my hospital bag was mostly packed and everything, but mentally I thought I would have more down time to chill and get prepared. Perhaps if I'd have realized what was happening earlier.

I really wanted a shower. I knew that labor would likely be long and disgusting, and then I still wouldn’t be able to shower right away afterward. Because of this, I really wanted to be as clean as possible at the beginning of the process. Mom and Jon were putting the finishing touches on my hospital bags, and I decided I did have time to get that shower before we left, so I hopped in. It was a lot harder than I expected, because things were getting worse really fast. I would wash my hair and then have to brace against the wall of the shower for a contraction. Then I would rinse my hair as quickly as I could and get conditioner in so it could set while I braced against the wall for another contraction. Don't even get me started on shaving my legs ... it was a bit tumultuous. Then, I did my hair and makeup (also a little tumultuous) while Mom got some food together and Jon made the bed and packed his own bag.

Because I’ve gotten some flack for this, a quick note about the hair and makeup. Yes, I flipped my head down, shaved my legs, and curly-dried my hair with a diffuser and put on makeup and earrings while my contractions were three minutes apart. (I actually meant to take off the earrings during labor, but apparently THAT was too much trouble – they never bothered me enough that I ever got around to it.) Here’s why.

In high school, I remember a lot of kids asking the teachers if we could wear pajamas to the SAT/ACT and AP tests. The answer was yes, but one teacher suggested that many people do better on big things like that if they “dress for success,” so to speak. The idea is that, if you feel your best, you’ll perform your best. Well, I feel the most confident when I’ve gotten “ready for the day,” so here on the cusp of my first child’s birth, I’m about to go into the most intense work I’ve ever done. I wanted to feel ready! (Plus, there are going to be pictures! Haha.) Would I do it again? Absolutely. I planned ahead to do the curly hair thing, which worked out perfectly because it’s a hairstyle that more or less can last days without feeling or looking greasy. I might take my earrings off next time and maybe nix the eyeliner. But other than that, I LOVED being able to feel just a little edge of extra preparedness, like I had taken the time to “get ready” for my time at the hospital, and I really loved not feeling desperate for a shower the whole time I was there. (For the record, Jon thinks I'm hardcore for the shaving thing. Haha.)

OK, so when we get in the car in a minute, which hospital are we going to actually drive to?

At this point, Jon called the Santa Clara hospital to see if they had room for us, and they said, “come on in.” (REALLY? That’s IT?*) We were still debating over the Oakland v. Santa Clara thing while I finished my makeup and made sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I was so back and forth on this decision – in between contractions, I was totally fine and I was thinking, welllll, we’re not at rush hour quite yet and I really would like to get to Oakland … but then during contractions, I’d be struggling to breathe through them and basically demanding we go to Santa Clara so I could get drugs sooner rather than later. Then the contraction would end and I’d be wondering if I was being ridiculous and maybe we could make it to Oakland after all. Tentatively, I decided maybe we’d better head to Santa Clara, and Jon wanted me to be really sure about giving up on the Oakland option because he knew I had really wanted that. He didn’t want me to make a decision I would regret if the pain was manageable and it was worth it to me. In the end, though, I decided that while I wasn’t worried about getting to the hospital before the baby came (I was sure we weren’t THAT close), the contractions were getting way, way worse really, really quickly, and while I thought I could make it in my current condition, I was worried about my pain trajectory and where it would go over the next hour. So we decided that Santa Clara was going to be our choice, and we all three were happy with that.

*I was pretty annoyed at first that the phone people were so chill with Jon while they gave me such a headache. People say that the husband is a better person to call, which at first annoyed me because, what, do they listen to him and trust him more because he isn’t in labor? My frame of mind was totally fine when I called. Then, though, I realized that Jon and I had different goals and were asking different questions with our phone calls – I wanted specific information to make my own decision, and when Jon called, he just wanting to make sure they’d let us in. Jon was asking the question they’re trained to answer, and their response was, “If she’s in labor, just come on in and we’ll make it work.”  Looking back, it seems like it might have been better to call my 1st choice place and just say, "I'm coming in, okay?" and then if they said they didn't have room and chose a second place for me, I could politely decline and make the next phone call.


  1. I told Sam what you wrote about dressing for success and he said "Dress for the baby you want, not the baby you're having."

  2. Woah. I am SO glad I've never had the hospital problems you had! I see what you mean about asking the question they're used to vs. asking the question you wanted answered. I've never asked if they had room, never even occurred to me that they wouldn't! Besides the fact that all 3 times (soon to be four) my doctor/midwife only worked at one hospital so I only really had one option. But besides that, nurses NEVER believe what you say. I've only had one nurse, among who knows how many, actually believe what I said during labor. Yet I have been 100% correct every time. Especially on my third go around. You'd think that we know a LITTLE something about our own bodies, yes?

  3. I know the feeling about the "in between" contractions thing at that phase of labor... one second it's like, "killmenowIcantstandup!" and then you're taking out the garbage and chatting and then it's like "holycrapwhyamIstillathome!!" ... kinda odd how long that can go on, isn't it??

  4. eagerly awaiting the next installment...