April 19, 2013 by Dadinator
When The Lad was born I wrote a blog post on my LiveJournal. Yes I have a LiveJournal. If you don’t know what a LiveJournal is I am not surprised. But I digress.
The Wife is about half way through this pregnancy. I read over this post and decided I would post it here. It is long and it doesn’t hold back on detail, so reader discretion is advised.
I wish to preface this post by saying something. Every story you’ve ever heard about birth is true. Even the contradictory ones are true. All of it. It is beautiful, terrifying, horrific, amazing, smelly, gory, exhausting, energising, powerful, strange, natural, a freak-show harrowing and many many more things.
It is also, if you’re the one in the room, the one experience in your life that will make you feel completely and utterly hopeless and useless. But you know you couldn’t handle being anywhere else.
Our story begins on the morning of Thursday October 13th. That happens to be my mother’s birthday. When The Wife awoke, she felt her normal blend of pregnancy aches and pains. She was sore as usual, I don’t know if it felt any different. She’d been getting short period pain style cramps for days now. They weren’t regular, and they weren’t doing anything.
When she went to the bathroom she discovered some blood. The “Bloody Show” or “mucus plug” they call it in the trade. It’s a good sign that things have/are about to start up. She realised the cramps she had been feeling this morning were actually contractions, and reported to me with a blend of excitement and anxiety. On advice from a friend she got me to help her put on the TENS machine then and there, rather than waiting. It’s an electrical impulse generator thingy used in pain management. It’s a godsend to some women, and for others it doesn’t do jack. It appeared to be helping Chris in the early stages though.
We were booked in to see the hospital folk that day anyway for a check up, so The Wife called to see if she should still bother, or just wait it out. They said ‘yeah, come in’, so we did. She was monitored, checked and sent home. Something had started, but it wasn’t established labour yet, so off we went back home to rest, wait, keep calm and carry on.
It was hard to keep calm. Every time there was a noise from The Wife my heart skipped a beat, and if too long passed between noises I would start to worry even more. It was bizarre. We were warned that this mode of labour could go on for 2-3 days. No idea how women sleep if it does, but there it is….
So the day came and went. I don’t remember much about it actually…. We ate regularly, I took care of The Wife as much as I could, and tried to furiously bash out a 2000 word lit review for History, which I needed to get in before things went pear shaped. Fortunately I got the essay done and explained that it probably needed more proofing and editing, but wife in labour….
We timed contractions, frequency and duration. We had been told that once they were 5 minutes apart or so it was time to come in in child birth education, and late that night it reached that stage. So we went in, at about midnight.
We drove in, with our bags and everything. The Wife went into the hospital via the emergency department. We were seen quickly, but had to stay in ED for quite a while as she was assessed. She was allowed to get gas (Nitrous Oxide) for the pain.
Let me tell you about the gas. The Wife offered it to me at one stage in ED saying “You should try some, it’s really really good!”. She told me about old university parties where people had used it recreationally. So all things considered the two of us were having a jolly good time. It certainly helped the pain and it kept me entertained. At one stage The Wife was convinced they’d gotten her records confused with another patient (because the midwife had 4 patients on the go, and was talking about all of them at various stages to various people). She also wanted to know why Rachel was there (again the midwife was discussing another patient called Rachel, and she was convinced it was her ex-housemate who’s name was Rachel). Ah gas. Much much fun….
Anyway, upon examination, the ED midwife was certain things were going. We were told that her cervix was fully effaced and dilated to 3 centimetres, her membranes and ruptured (waters broken) and it was time to get her upstairs ASAP. So up she went. The Wife told me on the way up that she was planning on asking for an epidural. I told her that seemed pretty reasonable to me, and that if it was what she wanted I would do whatever I needed to do to make sure it happened. She asked if it made her less of a woman to ask for it, to which I replied “God no, and how do you think I have any right to judge anyway?’
Another examination by one of the doctors upstairs contradicted the one mentioned above. The cervix had in fact barely dilated at all, and that “Active Labour” hadn’t started yet, this was still the “latent phase”. Of course contractions had been getting steadily more intense and more painful. The Wife was at the point where the gas was not just a fun time, but needed for pain relief. Given that the membranes had ruptured, we were on a clock. We were told that she’d be booked in for an induction on Saturday morning if nothing had progressed by that stage. There are risks if they let it go on too long once waters are broken…. Also at this stage it’s worth pointing out that epidurals are not administered till labour is established. So The wife’s labour had progressed enough to cause pain but not enough to give her access to stronger pain relief.
We were sent home. At about 5am in the morning. On zero sleep. The Wife was given panadine forte, and told to do her best to get some rest and come back when the pain got worse.
So we went home.
And tried to rest.
And the pain got worse….
We lasted about 3.5 hours at home. I got about 4 15 minute snoozes. And every time I nodded off I wanted to punch myself in the face for being so weak and useless as to leave my wife alone at a time like this. She didn’t sleep at all. She was exhausted. And the pains kept on building. We left to go back to the hospital at about 9am. That car trip was hard (and the ones before had been hard enough, or so I thought).
When we got in we were sent straight upstairs this time so she could be checked out again. By chance, we got Nova. The midwife we’d seen for our very first hospital appointment. And she actually recognised us, which was lovely. I probably didn’t notice the loveliness at the time…. She went about her business, told The Wife things hadn’t progressed (in spite of the pain, the effort etc…), but that this time they weren’t going to send her home, there was no point (and it didn’t work the first time). So she said she’d give us a small, private dark room to help us rest. She also organised a big fat syringe of pethidine to give The Wife a realistic chance of actually resting.
And she did rest. She went quiet. She was on the gas the whole time as well… She fell asleep shortly after the injection, with the gas puffer still in her mouth. It was about 10am at this stage (I think) I noticed when contractions came because her breathing would get more intense, and the gas machine would make this distinctive rattling noise. Then it would subside as she dropped back into sleep and breathed instead through her nose.
I had zero sense of time in that room, but there was a clock. At about 2pm I realised I hadn’t eaten all day. The Wife certainly wasn’t going anywhere, I had no idea how much longer this had to run, so I went for something to eat. I woofed down lunch like a ravenous rabid wolf. I inhaled it so I could get my sorry butt back in there. And I did. I filled the time telling The Wife stories about the kittens, I gave her water when I thought she might need it, I stroked her, I held her hand and I tried like hell to make myself useful. Sometimes the gas nozzle would fall out of chris’ mouth, so I popped it back in. Sometimes the TENS machine button would fall from her hand, so I’d press it for her. And through the pethidine induced haze things were still happening. Eventually I started timing contractions again. And I realised they were only a minute apart, and going for nearly 2 minutes each. This was much more intense than before. So on we went.
We had been brief visited by a doctor earlier, and she looked over the chart, told us that things were under control and the midwives were going to run the show. The Wife doesn’t remember her at all (Tanya was here name). Then I think it was at about 4pm that the midwife came in to check up on us again. There was another inspection. And lo, The Wife was dilating. She was at 5cm already. 1/2 way to full dilation. The rest and the pain relief, the peace and quiet of that room and done their work. It was going to begin.
Suddenly she was in labour labour. It had been about 35 hours so far of this ‘pre-labour’ crap, but now it was going. The pace of things shifted, as did the sense of urgency that staff had around her.
I’d heard stories about swearing and anger and fury and punches and death grips from women in labour. I was ready for it. I had braced myself, ready to be called whatever The Wife cared to call me. I was cool with it, she’d earned that right.
I was not ready for what actually happened. She shut down all communication. She wouldn’t speak, she responded in monosyllables and grunts. She expressed no annoyance, no anger it was just clear that she wanted to get away, wanted it to be over and was focusing simply on lasting through the contractions.
We were moved back into a full birthing suite and The Wife was offered a bath to help her manage the pain till an epidural could be organised. The bath was run, being a full birthing bath it was going to take 20-30 minutes to fill up so we had to keep ourselves occupied. The epidural was 1-2 hours away, simply because it was a busy night and there were only so many anesthetists on hand.
Anyway we started to move to the room and The Wife had to brace herself against a contraction in the corridor on the way. She set herself up in the bathroom while the bath was being run, changing between standing positions, leaning positions and sitting on the toilet. At this stage she told the midwives that she was feeling an urge to push. She was told not to do it yet, it was too early to push and to try to breath through it. She did her best, her absolute best to follow that instruction.
In the end she never got in the bath. Her labour progressed. She was still non-communicative and still using the gas to breath through things. Still grimaced, exhausted and in great pain. What she (and the midwives and myself) did not know was that her body was taking things at a gallop rather than a trot.
While the bath was being set up and filled etc, she asked/begged for an epidural several more times. A request had been put in. There was nothing they could do to speed things up. But she was getting closer to the front of the queue. By the time the anesthetist was free (probably about 6pm), and at the door the midwives had realised something. The baby was coming. He had dropped, the cervix was at 10cm, and his head started to move into launching position. She was now too far along for the epidural. “Active Labour” which normally takes 8+ hours for 1st time mums had taken The Wife about 2 hours. Worth noting that when this news was related to her, it was the one time she got angry. Here’s what I can remember of the conversation:
“I want the Epidural”
“I think it might be too late darling” said Kath the midwife.
“Because your baby’s coming now, you’re ready”
She was justifiably unimpressed. Her body was just too efficient for modern medicine….
Anyway we moved away from the bathroom on to a mat they’d set up next to the bed. She was still taking the gas, but the midwife was encouraging her to lay off it between contractions. They did another exam to see where the baby was. It was coming. The head was making its move. There was concern he was a posterior lie, with his back against The Wife’s spine. That sucks. It hurts more and is higher risk. However, they kept checking and it turned out he was the right way around. It also happens to be the way I came our of my own mother….
They talked The Wife into climbing/dragged her onto the bed and set her up. She was up on her knees, leaning against the top of the bed (it was tilted up all the way like a bead head almost). The contractions kept on coming, they hadn’t let up at all.
It was time to push. It had probably been time to push for a while…. So The Wife pushed. She pushed and pushed. She made all sorts of howls and screams and grunts and moans doing it. She tried to keep the noises deep and open (on advice from the midwife). I stood by her. Trying in my piddly little way to be of some aid, to be of some use to actually contribute to this process in front of me……
The pains kept on coming. Things kept on happening. There were smells and sounds and sights that I won’t ever forget or ever elaborate on to anyone. I don’t think I could actually describe them anyway if I wanted to…. The kept on shining a torch at her vagina looking for any sign of our son. And suddenly there was a head. He was crowning. For about the 5th time through this process. Tears welled up inside. I saw part of The Lad for the first time ever. This little patch of his scalp. There he was.
While I was lost in this moment, The Wife was in agony. Utter bloody agony. Covered in sweat, unable to open her eyes and sounding hoarser and hoarser with every grunt and moan. She looked tired. So very tired. I experienced a cliche that was related to me during one of our classes about a partners experience of birth. You’re there with your partner, and all you want to do is stop their suffering, you want so badly to be able to take that pain away. You want to be able to share it with them, to experience it instead of them or to just be able to do something. If, at that point, someone said that the pain would be reduced by me sawing off my leg and giving to her to bite down on, I would have done it in a second.
As she propped herself up on that bed, exhausted and taut she was so powerful. At that moment she could bend steel girders, demolish buildings, pull the sun down from the sky and run at the speed of light. There was nothing that woman could not do. I was awe struck. A gibbering idiot. A child watching on at grown ups managing the business of new life. So I gave The Wife my hand to squeeze, whispered in her ear and wished like hell there was something I could do to make it easier.
She kept going. The crown grew, and more of his head came into sight. It was around here that they took the gas away. She had to be aware and in control now…..
Then things changed again “Okay, that’s it, no more pushing now the head’s through” said the midwives,. At this point women should stop consciously pushing and let the contractions do their thing. Otherwise they risk an injury.
So she took the advice, fought the urge to push and then there was another contraction as more of him came out into the world. At this precise moment there was an odd lull. The contractions slowed again. I have no idea why The Wife’s uterus chose that moment to hu it pause. I guess it really hates her. But there it was. He was half in half out, and a good minute passed as we waited for the next contraction to hit. However the time passed and it did hit. And quick as lighting he was out.
What happened next was bizarre. I can barely remember the details of it. He was out. He was on the bed being rubbed vigorously with towels as the midwives started to look him over. I was there, the cord was clamped and I cut it myself. He was out and he was free. Apparently he did a pooh on the way out. These are the sorts of details I want spread around so they can come up on his 21st birthday.
At this point in time, the senior midwife (Andrea was her name) then turned to me, looked me right in the eye and said, “Can you press that button on the wall behind you please”. I turned. There was one button on the wall behind me. It said “Emergency” on it. “What you mean this one?” I said pointing. “Yes. I need you to press it now”.
Well time froze. It was a moment in time of dread. Utter utter dread. This I was not prepared for. This could not be happening. This is just the utter end of the universe. Then time started to move again. I pressed the button. 4 hospital people burst into the room seconds later. Took hector up and put him on a bench on the far side of the room. Chris was calling for him. She wanted to know why she couldn’t have him yet. She was distressed and so I was I. I went over to snoop at what the medicos were doing with my son.
Then one of them turned to me smiling and asked if I wanted a second cord cutting experience, to trim Hector’s end of the cord, and so I did. Then, as quick as they arrived they were gone. Our son was still there. He was fine. He was wrapped loosely in a blanked and plonked on Chris’ chest. I still don’t know if the emergency button thing was just routine, or if there were actually concerns. Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow. Anyway, we coped, we survived. He’s fine. That’s all that matters.
Midwives are goddesses (or gods, while it’s a mostly female profession, there are blokes who do it). I’d have a different view I’m sure if we’d copped bad ones, but I haven’t seen a bad one so far. Maybe I’m just lucky. Anyway when push came to shove, literally, they had to tell a woman in terrible pain what to do and what not to do. And somehow Chris didn’t take a swing at them, which is amazing. I am surprised that half of them don’t have black eyes or broken noses all the time….
Back to the story. next came the placenta. In contrast to The Lad’s dramatic and drawn out exit, it shot out of her like a canon ball. Something about placentas I didn’t know, they’re MASSIVE. They’re the size I imagine a human liver to be. We were offered a look at it and asked if we wanted to keep it. We said ‘Hell no, get it out of here please’, and that was that. Farewell placenta!
Chris earned the glowing praise of all midwifes for getting through active labour at such a speed. She also come through it with no tears, and barely a scratch. She’s done really really well.
So we got our son. He’s cool. He’s names Hector and he’s got a full head of hair. I get to hang out with them all day! Unfortunately I’m not allowed to stay in the hospital over night, which is very sad 😦 But I’m leaving to go there soon! Which is very happy!.