His Birth Story

When I had texted one of my friends that our bundle of joy had arrived one of the things she said was to make sure you write down his birth story because in the days, months, and years to follow you’ll get caught up in the day to day and easily forget the details. There seemed to be so much drama and stress regarding the that day that today I find it hard to believe but if I’ve learned anything in the last 6 days of being a parent it’s listen to those that have gone before you. I’m learning that is one of the golden rules of parenting that are founded in absolute truth. Things like “sleep when the baby sleeps” are fundamentals I wished had followed more devotedly.

The story of my sons birth actually starts the day before. For the entire week leading up to his birth my wife and I had said each day “can you believe this is our last [insert day of the week] as a couple? This time next week we’ll be a family.” We were being induced two weeks early because of blood pressure concerns so we knew the day he would arrive. While it relieved some of the pressure of not knowing when it also added the stress of having a deadline to get everything done we wanted to get done before the baby arrived. My wife and I who are notorious procrastinators joked when 9 months earlier that we would be vacuuming and putting up curtains the night before we gave birth. That “joke” turned out to be more of a prophecy. We were indeed doing last minute shopping and preparation hours before we were supposed to report to the hospital. As a result we only got about 2 1/2 hours of sleep before we started the inducement. So to any readers soon expecting Be sure to get done early!

We showed up at the hospital at 0600 and reported to labor and delivery and and assigned LDR (labor and deliver room) and introduced to the nurses who would be working with us throughout the day. While I was finishing the admission paperwork downstairs my wife commented to the nurse how scared she was and the nurse sat down and gave her a great speech letting her know that today “there is no dignity” and not to be worried about things. That was some of the best advice my wife could have received. She is both Norwegian and very self conscious. I knew the raw truth and ugliness (for lack of a better word) was going to be very hard on her. She primps and meticulously grooms for even the most minor doctors appointments, she refuses to let anyone come inside the house unless it can pass a white glove inspection first, and she’s threatened to destroy my phone if I didn’t delete any unflattering pictures. She’s always thinking of what people will see and say. It’s not a vanity thing though. I think it is a pride and cultural thing. She had told me that her biggest concern about labor was not that she was going to physically be in pain and put through the ringer but that she was probably going to poop on herself during the push stage of labor. THAT was the scary thing for her. Not pushing a child through a very narrow exit, or having major surgery (if we had a c section) but that someone was going to see and smell her poop. God bless that nurse for giving her that advice though. My wife didn’t complain during the entire day about being poked, prodded, or examined by a room full of people.

The original plan from her doctor is that we would induce the labor, give it all day, and if she wasn’t fully dilated or the baby hadn’t fully dropped by around 1900 he would do a c section. When we were first set up one of the nurses said our doctor was an early riser and we would likely see him before 0800-0900 and he would probably break her water then. We knew. By 1100 that wasn’t going to be the case. Closer to 1400 the nurse started preparing for the doctor’s arrival. She laid out gloves and some instruments and commented the doctor liked things a certain way. I jokingly asked if our doctor was a diva and got less joking reply that he wasn’t a diva but did like things a particular way. I immediately got the impression that our doctor wasn’t very well liked by the nurses. Surprising to us since he had always seemed to have a great bedside manner with us and the nurses at his practice seemed to get along with him.

My suspicions about the labor being boring for me were fairly accurate. After pacing the room for the first hour we were there and looking at all the devices and the nurses volunteering to show me what some of the monitors showed I talked for a lot with my wife. Both of us excited and still I disbelief this was actually happening. Once they had administered the drug to start the inducement and her contractions started getting stronger the boredom started creeping in. Now before you wag your finger at me and tell me what an insensitive narcissistic ahole I am let me explain. I mean, yes, I am an insensitive narcissistic ahole but in this case it’s not entirely my fault. My wife is one of those people who, like me, don’t like to be touched, spoken to, or otherwise engaged when in pain. Our breed has a tendency to act like a sick or injured dog when in pain. We want to crawl under the porch and be left alone. When she had a painful contraction I would have liked nothing better than to loving stroke her hair, whisper in ear what a great job she was doing, and look at her with pained loving gazes wishing I could ease her pain. Instead, as is often the case, the most common phrases she threw me were “STOP Talking!” and “don’t touch me!”. I guess if I truly was narcissistic or more thin skinned it would have phased me and I would have pouted being hurt she had rejected my attempts to make her feel better. I would have thrown myself into the chair sobbing petulant tears and gasping “why won’t you let me help you! Can’t you see how empathetic and caring I am?!?!”. Instead I get it. Actually being a little insensitive and programmed the same way I actually appreciate it.

Since I couldn’t help her and she had already told me there would be no music or TV I spent most of the day to myself responding to work emails, posting dilation updates to Facebook, and playing Tower Defense. The only downside is I know the nurses thought I was a gigantic ahole because they would come in to find her curled up in contraction pain, sweating, and almost in tears and I was sitting off to myself working on my iPad. Several of my coworkers actually told me I shouldn’t be replying to emails and should be focused of other things going on today. I didn’t have have the heart to tell them I was giving my wife exactly what she needed. The ability to get through her pain without being annoyed with my attempts to help her.

Once her contractions got to a certain intensity she didn’t have any qualms about requesting the epidural. The thought of having a needle injected directly into your spine can be daunting but I guess compared to the slowly increasing pains of the contractions a little poke isn’t too terrible. Apparently it’s effective because once the medication kicked in my wife said she wanted to kiss whoever invented the epidural.

Around 1300 the doctor came in and broke her water and confirmed she was still around 3-4 cm. The doctor’s prediction was dead on that her water was going to be quarts and not teaspoons because sure enough as soon there was a gushing noise when they broke it. From the time that he broke her water our race against the clock to get her fully dilated and to get the baby to drop was on.

We had inferred from the nurses off hand comments that the doctor may have have been suggesting a c-section by 1900 because it fit his schedule and prevented him from having to be at the hospital late into the night. It was nothing they said directly but when we shared that our preference was for a vaginal delivery they got determined to make at happen. It felt like it was us and the nurses racing together against the doctor’s c-section deadline. We appreciated how hard they worked to fulfill our wishes. They started moving my wife from position to position in order to try and speed up the process. As the hours progressed her contractions and surprisingly her pain increased. When my wife complained about the pain they shared how the epidural works based on gravity and the change in positions may have reduced the full effectiveness of the epidural. They told her all she was really feeling was pressure and that she probably wasn’t actually feeling the pain of the contractions.

My wife was making great progress and dilating almost an additional centimeter per hour. The doctor came back in at around 1830 and saw that she was at 9 cm though the nurses said she was at a full 10 cm. He said he another patient in the next room and would do there -section first then do ours. He felt like despite her dilation the baby wasn’t dropping the way he should. The nurses were excited and even more determined to get the baby to drop. By this time my wife was in a tremendous amount pain. She was lying on her side with trying to bring her knees up to her chest. She was still being told it wasn’t really pain and was just contractions.

About an hour later the nurses were proud to announce she was fully dilated at 10 cm and had her do a practice push. The could feel the baby’s head and he was dropping fast. When the doctor returned though he said she at 9 1/2 and the baby had gone back up. He was recommending an immediate c-section because if the baby had dropped then gone back up there was probably something preventing the baby from dropping. “Or you can give it more time” chimed in one of the nurses. The doctor’s head spun around like it was on a trip wire. “Maybe you should check with the doctor first” the doctor snapped. ” The nurse who was facing us but had her back to the doctor replied “Well you did tell them you could do the c-section or give them more time.” The doctor left the room to talk to the anesthesiologist about the c-section. “You don’t have to do what he says” the nurse told us.

My wife and I looked at each other puzzled and unsure. We were trapped in this struggle between the nurses who wanted to give us the vaginal delivery we had hoped for and the doctor who seemed to be pushing a c-section because it seemed easier for him. We were left alone for a few minutes and we hurriedly talked trying to figure out what the heck we should do. Listen to the nurses who seemed to have our desires at heart or listen to the doctor who had gotten us through when we almost had a miscarriage. We chose reluctantly to follow the doctors advice. Each of us for different reasons. My wife later admitted she was just in so much pay she wanted it to be over. She just couldn’t take it anymore and new the c-section would end her pain within 10-15 minutes. I opted for the doctor’s choice because he had been with us through the entire pregnancy, did not our medical history more fully, and because I knew that 2-20 more hours of delivery didn’t guarantee we wouldn’t still wind up having to have a c-section.

As they rolled her out to prepare her for the c-section I couldn’t help feel like we had caved and tossed out what we really wanted (vaginal delivery) because we were somehow bullied into it by the doctor whose real agenda was to get home at a decent hour. They got me into surgical scrubs so I could be in the delivery room. I was already angry at myself for caving and angry at the doctor for pushing his own agenda. The took me outside the operating room and sat me at the end of a long dead end hallway in a solitary chair. It looked like a scene from a movie.

I don’t think I ever felt so alone and helpless as I did waiting for them to call me into the operating room. At least in the delivery room I had been able to see everything being done to my wife and distract myself with the gadgets, wires, lights, and beeps. I watched the doctors and nurses at the other end of the hallway scrubbing up and going in and out of the operating room. But I sat alone at the end of the hallway with only my thoughts and worries. My very dangerous thoughts. I was already angry with myself for caving and agreeing to the c-section, angry for the doctor for all the months he had feigned care, angry at the nurses for putting my wife and I in a position to have to choose between them and the doctor, angry that after 11 hours of labor we were still having a c-section, angry that this wasn’t turning out the way I had pictured it. Just plain angry.

In my head I ran through what would I would do if something happened to my wife or my child because of the doctor’s own self interest. He probably gets paid more for c-sections I thought. I know myself and I know when I get scared or I think someone I love is in danger it only comes out as anger. There is a line in Wuthering Heights that says (paraphrasing) that nothing makes a man more cruel than fear. If something happened to them I was imagining unleashing a scene that would make Quentin Tarantino queasy. There wouldn’t be a soul left alive. They would all pay if she or the baby were hurt so they could get a bigger paycheck. When I get in this kind of funky mood I turn off all my other emotions. I become utterly cold and stoic. It’s a quiet cold type of withdrawn rage. I assure you it’s all posturing. I’ve never been violent with people. There’s just something about the thought of it and that shutting off all my emotions that calms me when I’m frightened. It’s like I stop being human. If I’m not human I can’t be scared. I’m sure that makes me sound nuts and no one understands it. I hardly do myself.

They finally called me and when I enter they’ve just begun the procedure. I intentionally avoid looking at the bottom of my wife and what they’re doing. I join her behind the curtain they have draped over her neck. My heart broke for her when I see the fear and sadness in her eyes. She’s scared without question but I recognize the other look in her eyes. She feels like she’s let me down. We didn’t want a c-section and it’s totally my fault is what I read. My heart aches because despite all logic and despite all of this being almost completely beyond her control. Logically she knows that too but there are times when I see a 7 year old girl in my wife’s soul so desperately trying to do the right thing and being crushed when she can’t. I stroke her hair as if to say I know you tried. I wasn’t disappointed about the c-section and I certainly wasn’t disappointed in her.

We made small talk while they were doing the work behind the curtain and she shared how relieved she was that she wasn’t in pain anymore. While we were talking we heard a momentary cry and our eyes locked as the corner our mouths curled up into a smile and almost in unison we said “Was that……?”. Just a moment later we heard a longer continuous cry and and she said “That’s your son.” It was indeed my son. I watched as they vigorously rubbed the baby down and tested its reflexes. My wife kept telling me to go to him but I couldn’t leave her. I just couldn’t. We had been worked so hard and so long together to get to this point that I just couldn’t turn my back on her as they were trying to put her organs back in place. I wanted to savior this moment with her. I was ecstatic that I had a son. Ecstatic that he appeared to be healthy. But before I had a son I had a wife and I just couldn’t abandon her to run off with my new playmate.

I did though eventually take a few steps and get handed my bright and shining boy. I took him over to her and held him up to her head. She smiled with tears in her eyes and said “hey little one.” His eyes popped open. He knew her voice and wanted his mother. They told us they had to take baby to the other room while they finished closing my wife up. My wife again told me to go with him and that he shouldn’t be alone but I didn’t want to leave her. I felt awful leaving her there but she insisted. “He needs to have someone there that loves him. Don’t worry about me.” Reluctantly I conceded.

In the other room I started the process of learning who my son is. Measurements, more tests, etc. which was apparently 45 minutes but only felt like a few seconds. Soon my wife joined us and we wept as she held him for the first time. So begins our road as parents.

A couple of things to note. Our son was faced wrong side up in the uterus. The umbilical cord was also wrapped around his neck. We would never have been able to do a vaginal delivery safely. The doctor was right. I can only thank God that we listened to him when he said he felt something was preventing the baby from dropping. The pain my wife was in was not pressure nor gravity interfering with her epidural. The epidural had come out when we were changing positions to speed up the dilation. My wife had gone through hours of unnecessary pain because the nurses had refused to believe her.

So what’s the point of this very long post? There really isn’t one. I just wanted to do what I could now to record the experience while it was still fresh in my mind. My father still recalls the details of the night I was born. I hope this post will be a reminder to me of one very long day in 2014.


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