Thursday, January 31, 2013

Grayson's Birth Story


So the last few days have been unlike anything I've ever experienced before.

Of course, I knew I'd always remember the day our baby was born - how could you not, right?

But it certainly didn't happen at all like how I was expecting.

It all started last Wednesday night. Jennifer had been having contractions off and on for the past couple of weeks, and each day brought new signs that convinced us labor would begin any day. After many "false starts," we knew it was finally time when her water broke around 10pm.

I'll spare you the details, but no, it wasn't like it is in the movies -- our couch was spared.

We had been waiting for a sign like that for weeks, so there really wasn't much to do when it finally happened. Very calmly (with restrained excitement, that is), we got up and started wrapping up the few loose ends that were left -- packing up the toiletry bag, finishing up that last load of laundry, doing the dishes, etc. We had been diligent about keeping the house picked up, so there wasn't much left to do, and it was nice to know we'd be coming home to a clean house.

Even though her water had broken around 10, contractions didn't start until 10:45. Initially they were coming about every 8 1/2 minutes and they weren't too strong, so we decided to head to bed and rest up as much as possible (which was not at all).

For weeks I was thinking that I was ready. We had read all the books, and we had practiced everything we wanted to do (we were following the Bradley Method). We decided not to do the classes, but we felt prepared still. We already knew how to support each other, and the books gave me the tools I needed to help her keep her focus during labor so she could manage the contractions and help her body work with them rather than against them.

But when the time came, I felt a little unprepared. I knew exactly what was supposed to happen, and the process of things, and how she might feel, and how I might feel -- all of those things. But as it was happening I couldn't help but freak out a little. I think it was mostly because I had never been through something like this before.

But we just started doing what we had been practicing, and things were going well; we settled in for what was to come.

Just after midnight things started to change; they started coming a little faster, and they were getting stronger. Since this is Jennifer's second baby, and since her first labor was relatively quick at 8 hours, the doctor told us to go in when she had strong contractions for an hour. I was thinking things would sort of drag on for a while, but no sooner did the clock hit one and her contractions went from 8 to 10 minutes apart down to 4 and 3 minutes apart.

Yep, it was time to go.

Without really thinking about it, we loaded up the car and woke B up. We had been warning him that he might have to get up in the middle of the night, and he was totally okay with that (honestly, I think he was eager to do it), but now that it was actually time his response was "are you kidding me??"

The drive in was pretty much everything I expected it to be. I was pushing the speed a little, and Jen was fussing at me about that, but she was staying on top of the contractions and we made it to the hospital without incident.
Side-note: The Bradley Method is all about having the husband be the birthing coach -- that is, it was my job to help guide her through each contraction and to tend to her needs throughout the entire labor. But Jen being who she is, she remained calm and focused throughout the majority of her labor. Of course, I was still there and supportive, but she was absolutely more self-reliant than I was prepared for.
By the time we finally got checked-in (around 1:45am), she was at 4cm and 90% effaced. The contractions were still consistently coming about every 3 minutes, and they were tough but she was handling them well. The worst part about it was that she was strapped into the bed so she could be monitored, which prevented me from rubbing and applying counter-pressure to her back.

Just when things were starting to get bad, and Jen was needing to get up and move, we were transferred out of triage and into a room where she was able to be off the monitor for a while. She bounced on the exercise ball some, which really helped relieve the pressure in her back and hips, but it was difficult for me to push on her back while she was on the ball. When the ball wasn't helping much anymore, she stood up and leaned against a counter in the room. This was the best position for me since she had something to hold her up as I pushed against her. If it gives you any indication as to how strong the contractions were, I was putting my entire weight into her back -- my arms were shaking from how hard I was pushing -- and it was just barely taking the edge off.

We made it through a few more contractions like that when suddenly she said she was going to be sick and started vomiting everywhere. I knew the pain was intense because I could see it in her face and her body language, but I didn't realize just how bad it was until that moment.

I was scared, but I sure as hell wasn't going to let her see that.

Based on everything we had read, I would have sworn she was nearing transition -- the period from 7 to 10 centimeters where the pain is the most intense. If that were true, we'd be nearing the finish line, and she would soon be ready for pushing.

But when they checked her at 4am, she was only at 5cm.


Two hours of the most intense pain I've ever seen, all for one centimeter??

They strapped her back down to monitor the baby again for 20 minutes and that was the breaking point. Without me pushing on her back, the contractions were so bad she was literally trying to crawl out of her skin.

I did what I knew I needed to and just kept coaching her -- telling her she could do it and checking on her in between the contractions -- but it was all just too much. They were too strong and they were coming too fast. In between contractions she asked for an epidural, and I knew it was necessary. She fought as long as she could, but the speed and intensity with which things happened was just too much for her to handle.
Talking about it together later, we both said that if she was at least 7cm we would have held off on the epidural for at least a few more contractions just to see. But to think that things would still get harder than they were, there was just no way.
She finally got the epidural around 4:30, and within 20 minutes she was already at 8cm.

Her body was finally able to relax, and began working with the contractions instead of against them. After maybe another 15 minutes, she was fully dilated and ready to push.

Her doctor, however, wasn't. We had to wait around for probably 30 minutes or so before she arrived.

That time waiting was weird. I felt like she had literally just been through hell, and yet there we were, sitting around, talking and making jokes -- it was like a completely different world.

It certainly didn't feel like we were about to have a baby.

When the doctor was close, they started setting everything up -- roller carts with instruments, warming lamps to get the blankets warmed up, additional nursing staff on hand to assist...

Yep, still didn't feel like we were about to have a baby.

Then the doctor walked in, wearing a pink fleece and scrubs, I think, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail -- certainly not what they portray in the movies.

And then she began pushing.

It took a few contractions for us to get into a good rhythm. We could see on the monitor when the contractions were coming (and Jen could feel the pressure), and Jen would do three big pushes with each one. It definitely wasn't how we had envisioned everything to go, but we were at peace with it.

It really was the best thing for both of them.

At one point the doctor had to turn his head a little because it wasn't lining up properly and Jen was having trouble (of course, I apologized for my big head...), but once we got past that things went pretty quick.

Before I knew it, his head was out.

As if that night hadn't been crazy enough -- that moment was absolutely surreal. I can't think of a better way to put it. I didn't get emotional like I was expecting; instead, I was in complete disbelief.

How was this tiny person suddenly here?
How could his head be so big??

A few seconds later, his entire body was out.

I thought he'd be so much smaller!
He's so tiny!
I thought he'd be bigger!
He's so wrinkly!
His fingers are so long!

Time seemed to stop as I stood there looking at him -- completely oblivious to everything around me.

They had me cut the cord, and it was then that I realized we didn't delay the cord clamping.

For a moment I had a mini panic-attack. Everything seemed to be going so wrong.

But then I looked at him, and he looked so perfect, and when I talked to him he immediately stopped crying and started looking around for me, and I realized that we really hadn't screwed up at all. Things were different from the plan, but different isn't necessarily bad.

After a little skin to skin time with mommy, they took him away and cleaned him up and weighed him before bringing him back for some more skin to skin time.

Our little guy was born at 6:15am on January 24th, after 39 weeks and 3 days gestation. He weighed in at 7lbs 4.4oz, was 20 inches long, and his apgar scores were 9 and 9.

He was completely perfect.

I feel like I've joined a secret society or something. And I feel like I was so ignorant about birth before.

Scratch that -- I was so ignorant about birth before. And I absolutely have a deeper respect for all mothers out there.

The reality of it all is still hitting me a week later.

It probably didn't help that we were up for around 40 hours, let alone everything we had been through.

I know there will never be words to tell Jennifer just how much I appreciate her, and how amazed I am at what she went through. The crazy part of it all is that she's handing everything better than I am, and she's the one who did all the work!

We've been adjusting to home life really well. The first night was a little rough, but I just keep reminding myself that it's a learning experience and I need to cut myself some slack. And I'm so lucky to have such a supportive partner; not only does she remind me to not be so hard on myself, she also lets me figure things out on my own. And of course, she's always there to help when I need her.

I have so many pictures I want to share, so I'm going to try to go through them and put them up soon, so be on the lookout for those. Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. It's always so cool to read/hear a birth story from dad's POV! So happy for you & Jen!


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