It is a widely-held opinion that few places in the world are as depressing as hospitals. Like the sick-houses of centuries past, these largely unlovely buildings are a refuge for the infirm, a reminder of one’s own susceptibility to any of a million accidents and ailments. And yet, it was in the depths of a local hospital that I experienced one of the most profoundly joyous events of my life, an event the memory of which never fails to fill me with love and hope.
Let’s rewind a bit.
It wasn’t long until Christmas. Night had fallen just a few hours prior, signaling the end of Hanukkah. A season of celebration was in full swing, and so it was that D and I were visiting with dear friends. At this point, D was nine months and four days pregnant, in defiance of over three weeks’ worth of “any day now” pronouncements by the doctors. Games were played, good food was enjoyed, and the air was filled with music and laughter.
It was in the midst of this, at around 8:30, that D took up pencil and paper and developed an intense interest in the clock. What she was feeling now was in sharp contrast to the Braxton-Hicks false alarms of the past few weeks. This was more pronounced, more acute. Smiles flitted from face to face as it became obvious what exactly she was timing. Could this be it?
Nevertheless, the soiree drew to a close with no particular regularity in the times yet. The drive home yielded a few more numbers for the pencil to mark, and the preparations for going to bed did likewise.
I had been sleeping in the next room, such that my oft-lamented propensity for snoring would not deprive D of much-needed sleep. And so it was that I slept as D shuffled down the hallway to the bathroom, confirming the news to which I would awake minutes later: her water had broken.
Let me jump out of the story for a moment; I would like to mention to any readers currently childless that there are very few pieces of news which can bring one from “deep slumber” to “fully alert and on one’s feet” quite as fast as hearing that one’s child is announcing his imminent arrival.
The news which so set me afire was delivered at 4:12 on the morning of December 13th, 2007. And like a motion picture cliche, the flurry of activity that followed took us through the collection of our necessary belongings and across town to the hospital, where we arrived at 4:58. Forty-six minutes. I may never have moved so fast, and may never again.
In the Triage room came the fluid check (sure enough, that’s amniotic fluid, your water has broken!); the cervix check (you’re at 5 centimeters, coming along nicely); and we again heard the little heartbeat on the monitor, heard the little feet kick at the sensors with uncanny accuracy. The contractions were not yet regular, but since the water had broken, D was admitted.
And so, here we were. It was time. Calls were made to our nearest and dearest. D’s Mom set out from Ithaca to Rochester, and our local friends likewise converged upon us.
The birth team being present two hours later, little had changed. After the initial race, the pace had backed off and we settled in, waiting to see when it would happen. To help move things along, D took showers, walked laps with us around the birth center, and any other suggestion provided by the ever-helpful staff. Ten o’clock came and went, as did eleven. At this point, D’s OB/GYN paid us a visit and performed another check. Six centimeters. I would say as slow as molasses, but even the most sluggardly molasses on a cold day can cover a centimeter in six hours.
Options were discussed. Doing this with as little chemical assistance as possible had been our plan, and as such when the dreaded P-word was first mentioned, the idea was rejected. If this could happen without a Pitocin drip, then we wanted to let it. So it was decided that we would wait a while longer for there to be progress. We could not wait too long after the water breaking, but we could give it a little while. So we waited.
And we waited.
At around 2:30, we decided with some regret and trepidation that perhaps the Pitocin would be a good idea after all. Of course, this meant being hooked up to an IV drip, so no further walking around the birth center. None of this being what we had imagined and hoped for. Nevertheless, while this development muted it to an extent, my excitement was still building.
The Pitocin was given at the lowest dose first, with tiny increases every 15 minutes. It took some time, to be sure, but it seemed to be getting the job done. The contractions grew closer, and more regular. Each so often – though infrequently enough to minimize any risk – there would be another examination, and the numbers grew – this far dilated, that far effaced. The hours crept on.
It was getting late in the day, and the contractions were starting to hurt more. To take the edge off the pain and allow D to get some sleep, the nurses put some Nubain in the IV. And so there was sleep.
At 9:30, perhaps a little later, D told me, “I have to push now.” As had been described in our birthing class, this was an urge both imperious and imperative, a compulsion which could not and would not be gainsaid. At that point, she was at nine centimeters, so close and yet so far. The last centimeter came soon, though, and I stepped out to the nurses’ station and told them simply, “It’s time.” In they rushed for one last check – yep, most definitely time.
The doctor joined us to see D through the culmination of nine months of preparation. Pushing began, and I had my first glimpses of my little boy’s head.
From here on, much of the experience was simply so wondrous as to defy verbal description, even by an author far greater than myself. I will, however, do my best. Knowing that we could see something seemed to help D bear down and give her renewed strength for the pushing. She asked if the baby had hair, a question we could now answer with an emphatic yes. I think, over the course of her pushing, she asked this question several times – perhaps also for the same inspiration.
For 45 minutes she pushed. Only briefly did she surrender to the difficulty and say “I can’t do this”, and with the reassurance of her team and the onset of the next contraction, she continued pushing.
At this point, one of the nurses handed me a pair of latex gloves so that I could catch the baby. My hands covered, I made ready to do just that, and then held D’s foot briefly to help her stay in position. So, of course, out came a second set of gloves and a rather sheepish expression on my face. This time, I relinquished foot-holding duty and focused solely on being ready to catch the baby.
At last his head was out, and it was time for the final push. With a noise I could not possibly describe – but “splorch” comes fairly close – out he came into my waiting hands, greeted by a sea of beaming smiles and no small number of tears. Next came the cutting of the cord. I viewed this with a great deal of trepidation – for nine months, this cord had given my baby life and sustenance, and now I was being asked to sever it, for ever. Nonetheless, I comforted myself with the thought that there are almost seven billion people out there who have been detached from their mothers in just such a fashion, and they seem to be doing pretty well. So. Snip. 10:46, just over 26 hours after D had started timing.
And with that, it was done – he was washed clean and measured and weighed, and I got to see him again. All of the names we had considered for him flew through my head at this point, and one settled upon him, seeming just right. He will henceforth be referred to in this blog as L.
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