As most of you who know me know, my wife Sarah recently gave birth to our first child. It’s amazing how once you have a child you can suddenly and unconditionally love a tiny ball of fury that screams when you try to wipe the poop off his bum.
In this post, I thought I would document and comment on my experience with the birth of my son, which of course was mostly as an observer (thank Christ).
I will start off by saying that in the end everything worked out perfectly. Our son is happy and healthy. Everyone who helped us at the hospital was great, and by no means should anything I say be taken as a slight against the hospital or its staff.
Okay, so here we go…
The whole thing started on a Thursday. My wife was four days past due and she went to the doctor’s office for her weekly checkup. While there, the doctor informed her that, for a couple reasons, she would need to go directly to the hospital to either be induced immediately or within the next 24 hours. This was, of course, a little shocking given the pregnancy had gone great over the previous 40 weeks. Once at the hospital they gave her a blood test that would determine whether she needed to be induced that night or the next day. They told her it would take about an hour to get the results. After waiting about 3 hours or so, I asked my friend to take me to the hospital so I could wait with her. Also, if they were going to induce her, I wanted to be there.
In total, my wife waited about 5 hours before she got the results. They told her she could go home, but they would call in the next 24 hours to have her come back to be induced. So Sarah and I went home and watched the Lady Gaga Muppets Holiday Special. We both agree that there wasn’t enough Sweetums. And far too much Lady Gaga.
Anyway, we spent Friday waiting by the phone. To pass the time, we watched The Other Guys and 21 Jump Street (the Channing Tatum movie). Those movies are still awesome, even after a dozen views each. Eventually the hospital called and told my wife to come in at 5 PM to be induced. Dutifully, we both showed up when we were told and Sarah was then hooked up to a machine that monitored her contractions, the baby’s heartbeat and her own heartbeat. After (a long) 4 hours of waiting (due to the doctor’s being stuck down in the emergency room), we were told that my wife would be induced and that she was going to be admitted (as opposed to being induced and being sent home, which was apparently an option).
We made our way to the birthing room and waited for them to… do whatever you need to do to essentially force someone to go into labour. We had some time to kill so we decided to play cards. After losing 6 games of crazy eights in a row, I finally beat Sarah and then immediately retired as champion. It was a proud moment.
Ultimately, we had to wait another 3 hours for the induction process to start, which was upsetting, because (as I learned) it takes a really long time for the process to actually induce labour. It’s upsetting that we had to wait 7 hours before anything really happened, butI guess that’s how the system works.
So once the process began (I won’t get into the dirty details since they can be… unpleasant) we tried to get some rest, but it was hard with someone coming in every few minutes to either give us an update on what was going on or, in many cases, just to introduce themselves. It’s nice that all the nurses, residents, junior residents, and medical students take the time to introduce themselves, but when it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, it’s probably unnecessary.
Eventually my wife was put on an intravenous drip of oxytocin (which helps the labour process along), and around 1:30 PM on Saturday, one of the many doctors who introduced themselves checked to see how my wife was progressing. He determined she was 3-centimetres dilated and they could manually break her water.
Up until this point my wife was having contractions, but the only reason we knew this was because the monitor she was on said so. She couldn’t actually feel them. But that completely changed when they broke her water. Once that happened, she could feel every contraction. And from what I could tell, they hurt like a bitch. We had actually taken a course that taught us some ways to deal with contractions, but with the monitors and the IV that my wife was attached to it wasn’t possible to use the coping mechanisms we had learned. This was unfortunate because it wasn’t long before her contractions were 1-minute apart. When she got to this point, we figured that my wife had been progressing nicely and that it wouldn’t be too long before she had reached the all important 10-centimetre dilation.
Boy, were we wrong.
We (but mostly my wife) were disappointed to learn that she hadn’t made any progress and was still at 3-centimetres. Going into childbirth, the plan (which I did not contribute to at all) was to try to go through labour without getting an epidural. After feeling the pain of contractions 1-minute apart and knowing that there was still a long way to go, the plan was thrown out the window and an epidural was requested. This was probably the only part of the process that went quickly, with an anesthesiologist showing up only minutes after the request was made. The guy who performed the procedure was very nice, and both he and the nurse who happened to be responsible for us at that time did a very good job of explaining everything as it happened.
With the epidural in place, my wife felt much less pain and things started to move forward… very slowly.
We were optimistic when she dilated another centimetre right away, but it was pretty slow going after that. She was 3-centimetres around 7:30 PM Saturday and moved to 4-centimetres soon after. She continued to make progress throughout the night, albeit at a tortoise’s pace. Every hour or so, someone (often not the same someone) would come in to check Sarah’s progress and ask her to shift to her other side (apparently my son had a favourite side in the womb). When things would stall (which happened a few times), there would be the obligatory statements: “We’ll keep monitoring you, but if things don’t progress we’ll need to discuss a C-section. We’re not there yet, but I just want to give you a heads up that it’s a possibility. Now try to get some rest.” Sure. She’ll get right on that.
But ultimately a C-section wasn’t necessary, because at 12:22 PM on Sunday our little guy agreed to come out the old-fashioned way. Which, by the way, is nothing like it is on television. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be, but I had no idea how different. I think two or three different nurses encouraged my wife to push at different times, and the doctor who ultimately delivered our son was there at the start, then disappeared, then reappeared again at the end. At one point, I’m pretty sure my wife and I were alone in the room in the middle of the pushing. And when the time finally came for our son to come out, I made the conscious effort to not look down. And then I did. I will never forget what it looked like. I don’t want to get into it, but let’s say it reminded me of a scene in Total Recall where an important character is introduced. I’ll let you figure out what I’m talking about.
So, how did I feel about the entire process of bringing my son into the world? It was both wonderful and awful. I love the fact that I got to see a human being breathe his first breath, but at the same time, I have never felt so useless. From sitting in Triage chatting with Sarah, to watching her struggle with the pain of contractions, and then to the final stage where my wife actually delivered our son, I have never felt so useless and helpless at any point in my life. My wife felt so awful, and even with the class we took to manage the pain, there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I know my wife had the worst of it, but I really struggled watching her. It was hard to watch someone I love so much be in so much agony.
And the actual delivery part? Forget about it. Pain meds or no, I don’t know how anyone can do it.
What I do know, however, is that my wife is the strongest person I’ve ever met. She carried a little bundle of joy for more than 9 months and then managed to push him out after I don’t know how many hours of labour (when do you start counting when you’re induced?). I am so proud of her.
That’s it for this post. Next time I’ll talk a little bit about our little guy’s first few days of life. Spoilers: He poops a lot.