Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A child is born...

Fair warning: This post will include mention of various bodily fluids, needles, tubes, vacuums possibly being attached to heads, and hospital food. I will paraphrase my brother who, after the birth of his first kid, said: If everyone knew prior to pregnancy what child birth actually involved, the human race would have died off thousands of years ago. Read at your own risk.

This is the story of the birth of my daughter.

March 30th: the due date. The day came and went as any does. My wife, Leanne, had yet to feel any contractions and was handling pregnancy quite well. She was still going to the gym almost every day and working out, usually eliciting frightened stares from the person on the elliptical next to her. She had been having trouble sleeping for about a month, but other than that, she felt great. Everything was telling us that our baby was in for an extended stay.

The next day we had a Doctor’s appointment. When we set the appointment a month prior, we laughed that we would never be there. It was after the due date! We are on a schedule here! Ha. At the appointment the doctor set a date for induction, about a week later. We had a finish line.

But for some reason, my wife really didn’t want to be induced. She spent the next few days searching for various home remedies to induce pregnancy. Exercise, sex, evening primrose oil, pressure points, massage, castor oil, spicy food, Italian food, Thai food, long walks after dinner. In the real world, doctors really don’t know why labor starts. They know what hormone triggers labor, but don’t really know why that hormone is delivered at one time rather than another. (If you are a medical researcher, get on this.) So really, you can eat trays of eggplant parm, squeeze your thumb joint all day and walk from here to Timbuktu, but probably doesn’t make much of a difference. A few days after our due date and my wife had yet to feel a contraction or have any signs of labor. Then one day, probably Saturday, April 4th, we were walking around a museum at Harvard when my wife lost her mucus plug. Yup, I just said mucus plug. And provided a link to learn MORE about said plug. Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning, either, cause it is right there in the first line. This was exciting at the time, until we went and googled mucus plug and found (after quickly skirting by a bunch of really nasty pictures) that once you lose your mucus plug you can give birth in hours or in weeks. With no other signs of labor, we were starting to think weeks.

Then on Monday night we are sitting watching television. It had been a normal day. Leanne and I both went to work. Leanne even went for the gym. Almost a week past our due date, we were just trying to avoid thinking how we weren’t in labor yet. But Leanne started to get a little concerned about, well, leaking. Leaking can be normal, especially after losing your plug. Heck, pregnant women pee themselves. Leanne had been leaking a little fluid since the incident in the museum. But it was a small amount. This was a little more. So we decided to it was probably best to call the doctor. This was the first time we had to call the doctor for anything, and it was already almost 9:00 PM, so we debated for a while. We also knew what they were going to say, come in and we will see if your water has broken. In the back of our mind, we knew that calling meant we were admitting that were really having a baby. It was really happening.

Sure enough, they asked us to go to the hospital, and told us to bring our things in case we had to stay. So I went and got the bag that had been packed for at least two weeks.

-Do you have ipod?
-Clothes for the baby?
-Holy shit, we are having a baby.

The labor and delivery wing was like a ghost town. I expected commotion, screaming women, someone yelling for boiling water and newspaper -- something more exciting than five nurses sitting around talking and one doctor looking like she was checking her facebook status. Needless to say, they got us into a room and started testing the fluid.

-Well, it is amniotic fluid, the doctor said. When did your water break?
-Ummm, well. Not sure. Could have been Saturday.
-Saturday? Okay, well, we normally like to deliver babies about 24-48 hours after your water breaks. So this could have been an hour ago or it could have been almost 60 hours ago. So we are going to induce you.

Now, we already had an induction scheduled for Wednesday, but hearing those words was like being drop-kicked in the face by reality. But, induction is not a quick process. Leanne’s body was not really ready to give birth. She was only dilated about a centimeter. Again, for the dad’s out there who don’t have a uterus or a cervix. Think of the uterus as a big, muscular balloon. The cervix is the opening to the balloon. It needs to open to 10cm to get the baby out. So a single centimeter wasn’t going to help. So first, they needed to administer a drug that would cause cervical ripening. Easily one of the more disgusting phrases used during the birth process. The drug would take about 12 hours to work. Since it was 10:00 PM they would put us in a room and then check on us in the morning.

They gave Leanne and Ambien to help her sleep. They gave me an easy chair. Apparently, labor and delivery was quiet because there was cervical ripening going on all over the place. The rooms were filled with women and their husbands sleeping while waiting for perfect ripeness. Therefore, they were out of cots. So I had an unrestful night sleeping on a chair, the floor, a different chair, on the 2 inches of free space next to my wife, the floor again, then back to the easy chair.

The next morning brought mixed results. The ripening agent apparently had helped, but it hadn’t done a lot. But the good news was that we were on the right path. So we had a choice. We could spend another 12 hours waiting and seeing if things kept progressing, or we could just start pumping Leanne full of piticon and get the show on the road. Now, we weren’t all that happy for Leanne to have pitocin, which is basically an artificial version of the hormone that triggers contractions. You see, pitocin makes contractions longer and stronger and makes them come quicker than natural contractions. There are some that think it is pretty bad stuff, for mom and baby. If we could have planned our birth, Leanne would have gone into labor on her own, but since her water had broken at some indeterminate length of time ago, we thought it best to move things along. So at about noon, after a quick shower and a bite to eat, on came the pitocin drip. Ladies and gentleman, start your engines.

It all started our great. We relaxed. We started watching a movie on a laptop. A few minutes later, my wife turns to me and says excitedly:
-Hey, I feel something. I think it is a contraction.
It is the first on she had felt and we were both excited. We smiled. Hugged. I stared at the little Richter scale that they had hooked up to her belly and was dazzled by the little bump that appeared. We soon found out was the wrong reaction to have. If we have a second baby, the reaction will be more like this: NOOOOOO!!!!!!

Sure enough, the next contraction was a little more pronounced.
-Oh yeah, definitely having contractions now, my wife would say.
Suddenly, neither of us were paying attention to the movie. The nurse came in to check and we still smiled and said everything was going fine. Leanne started to move around a little bit. We tried to remember all the things we learned in our childbirth class. She stood up and walked around. Twirled her hips around. She sat on a balance ball. I rubbed her back. The contractions started to get more intense. What was a little bump on the contraction Richter scale was now turning into a jagged mountain. Leanne stopped moving around and got into bed. First on her back and then onto her side. Soon, she asked for a bucket. The pain was too much and she started throwing up. It is at this point that every male in the United States would have pumped himself full of every drug known to man.

My wife had every intention of getting an epidural, but she wanted to see how far she could go. This is mainly because once you have the epidural, you are confined to bed and my wife’s version of hell is sitting still for eternity. So the more time she could spend on her feet, the better. But the pain had already downed her. She was curled up in fetal position, couldn't talk, and didn't want anyone to touch her. A nurse came in and finally whispered to her, like a dealer peddling drugs,
-You know, honey. You don’t have to do this. We can make this all go away.
My wife just nodded and said, in a low voice,
Twenty minutes later, at about two in the afternoon, the doctor arrived to give my wife the epidural. I had to leave the room, because apparently, they trust husbands in the delivery room when a baby is being born, but we wouldn’t want any distractions when a needle is involved.

So I went to the lobby, got some caffeine, made some phone calls. I thought of ways that I would comfort my wife when I got back. Hold her hand. Get her a cool washcloth for her forehead. Tell her how great she is doing. Maybe feed her some ice chips. The toughest woman I know was going through a rough patch, and I needed to be there for her.

Really, the drugs took care of that.

I came back up to labor and delivery and slowly walked in the room, where my wife was sitting up in bed…laughing. She looked at me.
-Hey! I can’t feel anything! This thing is awesome!
I looked over at the Richter scale monitor
-Leanne, you are having a gigantic contraction right now. You can’t feel that?
-What? Right now? No! Nothing! Can’t feel a thing! (Laugh. Chuckle. Guffaw)
She then called her mom to tell her excitedly that she was having a contraction.
-Yeah, right now. I know, can't feel a thing. No, I can tell cause there is a monitor attached to me that is going crazy. This stuff is great!
Looking back, had we known that we had about 14 hours ahead of us, that probably wouldn’t be the reaction either.

(As this is turning out to be the longest blog post ever…check back tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion. SPOILER ALERT: A baby is born)

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