Birth Story, Part II

My sister had her baby last Thursday. According to a report by Ringo, the blogging dog, she went to the hospital at 4:30 pm, and the baby was out by 6:30 pm. By contrast, at 5:00 pm on the day that Elena was born we had been at the hospital for more than nine hours, and had several more to go. To pick up where I left off, I eventually woke from my nap. Among the snacks I brought to the hospital was a package of generic Oreos, and after eating a few of those I was wired up and ready to go again.
Jenny woke up too, and realized that her labor pains were coming back–somehow, the epidural was wearing off. She noticed this because, when rolled to one side, the other side would hurt; when she had the nurse roll her over, the pain switched. A new anesthesiologist had started his shift, and came in to try to figure things out. He upped the dosage a little more, but it had little effect. He assured us that a properly working epidural would cause Jenny to feel no pain at all, and we agreed to his proposal of more aggressive measures.
At first, he said that he wanted to make the epidural “reveal itself,” so he injected a new combination of drugs; if the epidural was in place and effective, this new medication should have immediately relieved the pain. It didn’t, but it had the side effect of causing Jenny to shiver and shake almost uncontrollably. The anesthesiologist told us that this was a known side effect, that Jenny shouldn’t try to resist it, and that it would eventually pass. I don’t think the nurse heard this, but that part comes later.
All of this took time, and before we knew it evening was upon us. I forget the exact chronology, but at some point Dr. Cherry came to check on Jenny. She apologized that she wouldn’t be able to stay, since she had to go home and take care of her own children. Her colleague Dr. Lockey was on call for the rest of the evening, and she would take care of the delivery.
Near the same time, the anesthesiologist administered a new epidural. It started to work, but never really took full effect. Even if it was working to a certain extent, the shaking induced by the previous medicine ensured that Jenny was not relaxed. I could tell she was still in pain by the tightness with which she gripped my hand during each passing contraction. While I was focused on Jenny, the labor continued ever faster–they told us that once she was dilated to a certain point, things would pick up speed, and they certainly did.
As the final stage of labor was imminent, our nurse gave us instructions. She was our second or third nurse–we had been there through at least one shift change–and seemed much stricter than the previous nurses. Because of that, I tried to insert myself between her and Jenny as much as possible. For one thing, I wanted to appear confident and competent in the hopes that the nurse would soften up. For another, I wanted Jenny to focus on my (hopefully) kind and helpful approach, and tune out the mean nurse. Here’s an example of how strict she was: whenever Jenny made any sounds while pushing, the nurse told her that any noise was wasted energy that should have gone to pushing. She just kept telling Jenny to push harder and harder; but when all was said and done, Jenny had a comparatively short pushing period, all the more surprising because of Elena’s size.
My small part in the process played to two of my natural strengths: coaching, and counting to ten. I try to steer away from comparisons between childbirth and sports (rowing in particular), but during the moments between contractions, I tried every trick in the book to help Jenny relax, recover, and prepare for the next contraction.
For some reason, the nurse waited a long time to call the doctor–she kept telling Jenny to push hard, so that we could “show off” when the doctor came. It almost seemed that she wanted to deliver the baby herself! However, the doctor stopped by, just making her rounds, and asked if Jenny was getting close to the final stage of labor. The nurse surprised the doctor by reporting that the baby was almost out. Although the doctor didn’t seem to approve of this, there wasn’t time to waste with a discussion of the finer points of when she should have been called. Instead, she called in a delivery crew of several more nurses and attendants. They reconfigured the bed, and pulled a huge, bright spotlight down from the ceiling.
At some point, they told me to count to fifteen on each contraction, instead of ten. I tried to count a little bit faster, so that it came out to less than one and a half times as long. I stayed up with Jenny for most of the time, but did take a few looks when they said that Elena’s head was visible. At no time did I feel that I was in danger of passing out.
Jenny would probably say that the labor felt like it had gone on forever, but I was surprised with how quickly time passed; I focused on getting from one contraction to the next.
Then, all of a sudden, Elena’s head was out. The rest of her didn’t follow quite as quickly as they had hoped, because her shoulder got a little bit stuck. The doctor and nurses addressed the situation quickly, and seconds later they placed Elena on Jenny’s stomach.
My first thought was: “There’s no way that baby fit inside Jenny’s tummy.” Needless to say, everyone was amazed by Elena’s size. At first, they said “she must be at least ten pounds,” but after her official weight came in at 11 pounds, 6 ounces, their amazement grew. They called Jenny a superhero. Jenny was not in much of a mental state to listen, because the doctor was still taking care of the post-birth procedures, many of which involved pushing on her stomach, which seemed just as painful as parts of the labor. I was still by Jenny’s side, but the nurses called me over to take a look at Elena, and hold her for a little bit before they took her off to the nursery. The activity in the room eventually died down as the staff cleaned things up and headed off to their other responsibilities. And then came the moment of peace and quiet.



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2 responses to “Birth Story, Part II

  1. Amy Parson

    Looks like the blessing was a lot of fun! Sad I wasn’t there. Hope all went well. Tell Jenny she looks super skinny! Cute hair too. Thanks for all the details on the birth. Love reading all about it.

  2. Anita

    Yikes!!! Katina was born at that hospital and the epidural situation was a nightmare!! I think I would have hurt your nurse. But your sweetie is super cute!!!! Congrats!

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