This post will be TMI, you have been warned.
Introduction to the Background
What follows are the long-winded persona recap of how our beautiful daughter came into this world. You may not find it interesting, and that is all right. Perhaps this recollection is written more for Steph & I and our new daughter (years from now). It is as frank and honest and details how our daughter came into this world.
Background to the Preludes
Steph had a picture-perfect pregnancy. No morning sickness at all. Little or no complications (other than being tired, short-winded and hungry) to speak of. A minor concern regarding platelet levels. Typical but well-managed concerns regarding RH factors and Group B Strep, etc etc. Sure, during the first ultrasound, there were some abnormalities (our little Pantoufle didn’t look like was going to be born a goalie).
If anything, our biggest worry was completing a major home renovation in time for Red (with help) to move a 9 month pregnant wife and still leave time in the day for nesting (e.g. setup of all the baby furniture and fixtures).
While we were seriously hoping for a Halloween baby, she decided to be stubborn and make us wait. Well, she was worth the wait!
Prelude to the Prelude
It all started sometime around midnight…. to mom they felt like a few simple practice contractions. I was upstairs taking care of some additional work and such and finally came down around 1am. When I saw that Steph was still awake, I new that these were too strong and too regular to be basic practice contractions — this was the real deal.
Until around dawn, Steph would hop out of bed every 8 – 10 minutes and do some pretty intense breathing while simultaneously hunching over. I managed to get about 3 hours of sleep that night (Steph got none) and the next morning the contractions were in the 5-6 minute range. We had a good breakfast of french toast and sausage (possibly our last meal for quite some time). Around 9:30, the contractions seemed to be hitting the every 4-5 minute time frame and Steph no longer had the luxury or time to go back into the bedroom and get some privacy for her “discomfort”. We called in the the Ob-Gyn office for a “labor check” and were in the office shortly after 10am. (Sounds easy, but every try walking a couple of hundred yards up towards the Ob-Gyn office while labor pains are progressing).
Sadly, all that work and only 1cm — they sent us home and told Steph to keep at it and call at the end of the day if things had stopped or picked up.
Throughout lunch and all afternoon, we tried to watch some TV to get Steph’s mind off of things. This involved routinely hitting the pause button on the Tivo and then hitting the “lap” button on the iPhone stopwatch app. With the aid of the stopwatch, Steph went through contractions every 5 minutes for the better part of 4 hours. By around 4:30pm, we felt it was time to call in and get another “labor check” done. Surely, something had happened by this point.
So, we end up grabbing all of our pre-packed bags and driving to the hospital. Once again, sounds easier than it is to drive a contracting moaning woman and then make her walk a hundred yards to get to reception desk. With my hands full and Steph moaning, I am forced to fill out some silly H1N1 notepad of paper saying that we are not sneezing and not going to infect everybody.
The nurse escorts into one of the private birthing rooms and they have Steph strip down completely. At that point, we wait for 10 minutes and then they come back and hook Steph up to the fetal and contraction monitors. Steph is still contracting every 3-5 minutes and after another long 10 minute wait it is time for the L&D handshake.
Steph was still “a loose 1 cm” according to the abrupt nurse on staff. Steph requested pain medication (request being a nice way of saying pleaded/demanded). They got ready to go get Steph a little morphine for the pain.
When the short-tempered nurse came back with the dose of morphine (which she jabbed into Steph’s thigh) she chided us for essentially “wasting her time” by not recognizing “early labor” versus “active labor”. We pleaded innocent, what part about 8+ hours of 5 minute contractions did they not understand? What part of 3 minute intervals did we get wrong. The horrible nurse seemed to doubt our ability to count and I threatened to bust out my iPhone and show her the endless hours of lap counting contraction timings.
We asked the nurse to tell us in no uncertain terms what metrics we should use for a return visit to the hospital. Since contraction timing is clearly bogus, and I don’t know how to check cervix dilation, what do we wait for. As if the nurse didn’t hear us, she basically told us to “go away”. It sounded like we need to keep away until (a) Steph’s water broke or (b) Steph was in so much pain she requested a bullet to the head.
I’m pretty convinced the morphine that they gave Steph was a placebo. She crunched in labor pain the entire car ride home and claimed to only be a little bit sleepy. We got home sometime around 8pm (having missed dinner) and Steph decided she would try to go to the bedroom and lie down and “rest”. Checking in on her around 8:15, I tried to also lie down but we were in the “don’t come near me” stage of labor.
And so, having only gotten 3 hours of sleep in the last 36 hours, I went upstairs to try to get some shuteye. I set my alarm needlessly, for less than an hour later, I was awoken by the moans that filled the house.
Did I mention that the 2-hour old morphine shot must clearly have been a placebo.
For the next 2 1/2 hours, Steph enjoyed the moaning pain of labor every 3 minutes (longest span was 4-5 and the shorter clusters were 2 apart). Most of this time was spent cross-legged on the bed with me trying to stay awake and give her a back massage. Occasionally, Steph would nod off during the 1 minute break between contractions and then awaken in even worse state.
It turns out that breath control for pain management only works if you start ahead of the contraction or very early in the contraction. Waking up at the peak of a contraction completely caught Steph off-gaurd and made “pain management” impossible.
Another thing that did not work was lying on her side. However, after 2 hours in cross-legged or on all fours, Steph was running out of energy. Side-lying just made things even more painful and was a last-ditch effort to last a little longer.
The “good news” in all this, is that her contractions were so regular that I was able to give Steph 1 minute of sleep and then watch my stopwatch and provide a quick “get ready the next one is coming” warning. This would wake Steph up enough to begin her breathing and mostly manage the intense pain.
After midnight at some point, a mere 24 hours into the process with 12 hours of 5-minute spacing and more than 3 hours of intense 3-minute spacing, Steph looked at me and said “that’s it, I cannot take it anymore, please call”.
I called the after hour number and gave them the information and was promised a call back from a physician shortly. 30 LONG MINUTES (that’s 10 contractions) LATER WE HAD NOT RECEIVED A CALL BACK! Finally, I picked up the phone and started to dial — only to be interrupted by an inbound call from the on-call doctor.
We explained the contraction timing and the pain and that we had already been rejected twice by doctors. We simply did not want to come in one more time and get rejected. The doctor promised us that they would hold Steph this time for sure.
Getting to the Car
The next 10 minutes are in grave detail, because it turns out that getting a heavily contracting woman to the car is nearly impossible. Here’s what we did.
First, we waited for a contraction and then tried to put some clothes on Steph. Oh wait, did I forget to mention that a tired and laboring woman really really cannot handle having clothes on her body? We found an ugly and very loose skirt and some socks and shoes. This process took 2 or 3 contractions to get through.
Second, Red ran out to the car with the bags and shoved them in there and came back for Steph just in time for the next contraction. Then, Steph stood up and we got another contraction in without falling to the floor.
And it was GO-time.
We quickly (slowly shuffled) our way to the front door. Not quick enough, by the time we got out the front door and had it locked, Steph was contracting on the front porch. Ouch. This gave us the next span of time to barely make it all the way across the street (our ass**** neighbor across the street can’t seem to park his care in front of his own house) while simultaneously having a contraction.
So there we are shortly after 12:30 and I manage to wedge Steph (moaning loudly for the block to hear) into the passenger seat, but she won’t swivel and put on her seat belt.
Another contraction, and then another (moaning at midnight, great for the neighborhood) and then Steph looks at me and says something neither one of us will forget nor will we share to broadly. Just as we are about to act on that, the ***hole neighbor opens his front door to figure out what the moaning noise is. I shout in his direction “don’t worry she’s just laboring” and he shuts his door.
Enough is enough, so I pick up Steph’s legs and swivel her into the car and close the door. A long (10 minute = 3-4 contractions) drive to the hospital and park in the after hours lot.
We begin walking up towards the entry way when Steph gets hit by a good one and ends up leaning over a garbage can for support and moaning.
Some dude in the parking lot sees us and shouts at me that we should get a wheelchair for her, and lo-and-behold there is one sitting in the bushes nearby. He is kind enough to go and get the chair and help us seat Steph in it. (Thanks, Dude!!!) This enables me to wheel her the last 20 yards to the entrance.
Once again, the nursing station makes me fill out some silly H1N1 contagion form while Steph leans over their counter and moans in pain. They inform us that all of their private rooms are full (busy night in the L&D ward) and we are escorted into the surgery recovery room where we have a small bit of space to drop our 4 bags.
The nurse (Janice, super nice) hooks Steph up to the contraction and fetal chart meter. Super cool, I can see that Steph’s contractions are indeed 2-3 minutes apart and OFF THE CHART! (Seriously, she had the thing pegged). Steph asked the really important question “When can I get an epidural”, and the nurse told Steph she could get a shot of fenegan <sp?>.
The “good” news is that this time the L&D handshake revealed that Steph had made it to 5cm!! Halfway!!
At this point we are around 1:00AM and the nurse has gotten an IV situated (amazing job on a woman writing in pain). My hand is like ground meat from the Steph-squeezing. Pantoufle (codename for the baby) is hanging in there with a 150-180 hbpm rate. Steph was busy dancing around on the bed and moaning.
The nurse puts the painkiller into Steph’s IV to “take the edge off”. Guess what — didn’t work, but it did manage to space the contractions back out to every 5 minutes (weird, huh?).
At this point, the nurse also administers the first of two penicillin drips that are required. We are informed that it would be bad for Pantoufle to show up in less than 4 hours at this point. It is now 2am and Steph had been laboring for 26 hours.
Sometime between 1:30 and 2:30am we go to meet with the dude that laboring woman love: the anesthesiologist. He was awaiting lab tests (Steph has low platelets and this can be a serious complication) and would end up getting pulled into an emergency C-section, so Steph was second in line and still writing in pain every 5 minutes (in spite of a second dose of that Fenegan stuff).
The “good news” is that one of the private rooms was opened up and we could be moved there for Steph to continue her efforts.
Sometime around 3:30am, the L&D handshake put Steph at 7cm dilated!!! Oh, and Steph was finally able to get her epidural. Compared to the 2 contractions she went through during the procedure, the procedure itself was painless. I’ve never seen her hold so still, actually. When asked, Steph actually says she only under went about 27 hours of labor…. because once the epidural took effect (around 4am), things got much much better.
From around 4am to around 7am, both Steph and I slept hard while her body continued to work — all pain masked by the epidural. Sure, we were woken up every 30 minutes by the nursing staff, but that extra 3 hours of rest was key. Remember, Steph’s labor started late and her last nap or wink of sleep was 6pm, 34 hours before!
Sometime around 7am that morning, another L&D handshake from our new nurse (Stephanie, a 4-foot tall woman with incredible talent) revealed that “you are at 10cm and we’ll be ready to push in about 15 minutes”. Our on-call doctor confirmed as well.
The Final Stretch
By around 7:30/7:45, the stirrups were in place and all sorts of prep work was complete (blue cloths, metal devices, pans, pots, sauciers, etc etc etc).
Time to push.
So, I failed to mention that there were all sorts of cool monitoring devices and chart recorders and we could actually watch and see that Steph was contracting before she even knew it. Not only that, the chart recorders for the L&D ward were all networked and the nurses could monitor the recorders on all 13 stations! You could see other rooms contracting and pushing and delivering. At one point we even (sadly) heard a Code White call (newborn not breathing) which was very quickly resolved as all the nurses dropped what they were doing and rushed to be on station.
Anyway — Stephanie (our 4 foot tall outstanding nurse) helped me lift Steph’s legs up and instruct Steph on how to push. Don’t worry ladies, the nurses can tell you exactly what you need to know and do it in the short time between contractions.
With every push, Stephanie helped stretch Steph out to avoid the dreaded episiotomy. Steph was a complete trooper and pushed hard. For you partners out there…..be ready for the smell of labor (or of maconium laden amniotic fluid), as this does not come through on any of the videos that they show you. Smells won’t bother you for long, as your focus narrows on the count-to-10 and intense effort of pushing.
The Actual Stretch
Within 30 minutes, the nurse told Steph “when you feel the next contraction, do NOT push — we need to go get the doctor now” and immediately paged the ward for the on-call physician. Dr. G showed up within a few minutes and the pushing resumed.
Wow…. at one point, the doctor had to tell Steph to actually slow down on her pushing. Needed to allow time for things to stretch out! It was all going to fast.
Within 15 minutes (45 minutes of total pushing), our beloved daughter was born. Dagny came out without a cone-head and Steph had (only?) type 2 lacerations and less than a dozen stitches. There was some worry regarding blood loss shortly after birth and a little bit of a rush to get Steph a shot to help the clotting (but nothing major enough to merit running and panic). That said, everybody was healthy!
Finale & First Chapter
There are some things that cannot be unseen, that is for sure. Delivery is not necessarily a pretty sight (or set of smells) while at the same time being profoundly beautiful (and relieving). The exhaustion makes the entire experience feel out-of-body (Steph would agree). In the end, everything is on auto-pilot and you do what the nurses tell you to do.
After 32+ hours of labor, our beautiful daughter came into this world at a reasonably sized 7lbs 11oz and 21″. She showed up with red hair (for now) and a pink complexion. It’s fitting that she showed up shortly after dawn, for we have chosen to name her Dagny (we give it the american pronunciation of “dag-knee”), from the Norse equating to “new day” or “dawn”. Her middle name, Renee, is effectively “renew”. Put together, we like to say: “Every Day is a New Day” and now the first chapter begins.