Birth Story, Part I

Six weeks have passed since our sweet little girl was born, and I hope that the baby amnesia has set in enough that I won’t include in this account any of the more gory details of Elena’s birth. At the same time, I think all the important parts of the story remain fresh in my mind. Here’s how it all happened:
As Jenny’s due date drew close, I made plans to have other graduate students cover my classes for a few days while I tended to my wife and baby. I had asked my office-mate, Kim, to coordinate things for me, and sent her an email with some information on Monday, February 9. At the end of the email, I commented that Jenny was showing no signs of labor and that I should be around to teach the following day. The next morning, I started my normal routine so that I would be able to leave at about 7:30 and arrive at school in time for my 8:30 class. Jenny got up shortly after me and started to get ready for work. At 7:15, I was in the bedroom when I heard her gasp in the kitchen, then say “Mark, I think my water broke!”
Spontaneous ruputure of the membranes (i.e. water breaking) only occurs in about ten percent of pregnancies, and Jenny’s water was dripping, not gushing, so it took her a few minutes to be sure that everything had started. Still, we leapt into action. She navigated to the bathroom so that she wouldn’t make too much of a mess, while I called the doctor’s office. They told us to head to the hospital, which we did shortly thereafter. First, though, I emailed Kim to tell her I had been wrong in the previous night’s email. I also called Jenny’s mom to let her know the process had begun, and collected our mostly-packed bags and the few other things that we wanted to take to the hospital.
All along we were glad that our hospital was only a short trip away, along the only major freeway in Austin that doesn’t suffer from terrible congestion during rush hour. We were doubly glad for that as we started our drive in the middle of the morning rush. Before we turned onto the freeway access road, we noticed a familiar car in the next lane; a friend from church who lived nearby was on her way to work. We contemplated honking and yelling at her to tell her where we were going, but decided that would just cause confusion, and left our windows up.
When we got to the hospital, a kind volunteer put Jenny in a wheelchair and took us up to the maternity ward, where they sent us to a labor and delivery room. We met several different nurses, and answered the same administrative questions several times, while they performed all the preparations, such as hooking Jenny up to the monitors and IV drip. At one point, when Jenny was worried about a long labor, a nurse promised us that the baby would be out that day, which at least put an upper limit on things. Little did we know that the nurse’s guarantee was because they were pumping Jenny full of drugs which would soon cause powerful and painful contractions. Dr. Cherry also came to visit us, but only stayed for a few minutes because she had other things to do and everything with Jenny was fine.
Eventually, things quieted down. We did have one visitor–Jenny’s brother John left work to come visit her. Together, we gave her a blessing that all would be well for her and the baby. After that, Jenny settled into the contractions, while I tried to remember everything I learned at our Lamaze class. Mostly, though, we just watched TV, including John and Kate Plus Eight, thankful that we weren’t having sextuplets.
By noon, Jenny’s contractions were extremely strong. I was watching the monitor, but nobody had told me that the monitor doesn’t accurately show the strength of the contractions, so I didn’t understand why she was in such pain when the monitor didn’t show big peaks. Only later did a nurse tell us that every time Jenny shifted, the monitor would get different readings; the only important part was the frequency of the peaks, not the amplitude. In any case, Jenny was ready for an epidural, and we called for the anesthesiologist.
Eventually, the doctor came in and put everything in place for the epidural. I could hardly watch as the needle went in her back, but the doctor reported that a small anomaly might have occurred, and he was worried that there would be negative effects if he immediately put her on a full dosage. He proposed a low initial dose, and said that he would come in to increase the dose until it eliminated the pain. At first, the low dose seemed to work, and Jenny was able to take a nap. I was also exhausted, and fell asleep in a chair next to her bed. Over the next few hours, I have only hazy memories of the doctor coming in a few times to check on her dose.
Lots of excitement remained ahead of us, but I’ll leave that for the next post.


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