Dawn of an Empire

Before some moments from Roman’s birth story become exaggerated while others wither on the fields of memory, I want to capture the story as I know it now.

The doctor scheduled Jenny for induction at exactly 41 weeks, and that had a calming effect on us. Instead of hoping that every passing day would be the one, we had a deadline and focused on making final preparations. When the day finally came, with Elena safe at her grandparents’ house, we ate a hearty breakfast and headed off to the hospital, checking in a few minutes before our scheduled 8:00 am arrival time. A staff member showed us to our room and shortly afterwards we met our nurses. There were two of them because one was in training and still needed a mentor to help her follow the proper procedures. Confidentiality laws prohibited them from telling us much about what was going on outside our room, but we did learn that it was shaping up to be a busy day in the maternity ward.

After Jenny answered lots of questions for the hospital’s paperwork, the nurse finally hooked her up to an IV drip and the labor-inducing drug Pitocin, so that we could get the show on the road. Twenty minutes later, the mentor nurse came in and noticed that the Pitocin was not hooked to the main IV line, so she attached it and things got started for real. The trainee nurse was so chatty that it became at times awkward, which was amplified by the fact that she was clearly completing her tasks more slowly and with less precision than a trained nurse would.

Our doctor came in to discuss our plans and expectations. She said that all the signs pointed to Roman not being as large as Elena so conditions were favorable for a trial of labor. Along with that, she explained the risks of shoulder dystocia and reminded us that she would have no qualms about whisking Jenny into the operating room if she deemed it necessary. After a quick check of the progress, she headed out to her other patients–according to the nurses, she was the busiest doctor in the ward.

By the time we reached mid-morning the stretches of time when we were on our own grew longer and longer. Jenny was managing the pain well, we watched some cable TV, and I slowly worked my way through my snacks and lunch. The trainee nurse seemed amused at my regular snacking, but her mentor commended me for taking measures to keep my strength up so I wouldn’t faint later. One inconvenience of being induced is that it requires constant monitoring. Even though she would have liked to spend some time walking or just standing, she could only do so for short stretches without causing a nurse or technician to hurry in and check on things.

Morning turned into afternoon as Jenny’s contractions became more regular and intense. By mid-afternoon, we started to indicate that she would like to have an epidural, but it wasn’t until some time later that her doctor could check that the labor had progressed enough to allow for the epidural. After that was taken care of, the anesthesiologist started his work. Jenny needed to assume a sitting position for the procedure to take place, but the pain of contractions made that quite hard. I continued to hold her hand during contractions, as I had throughout, but later on I was asked to leave the room or at least sit in the corning. I soon understood why; the sight of a bloody-handed doctor coupled with the idea of needles being stuck directly into Jenny’s spinal column was enough to make me queasy and scared.

We told the anesthesiologist about the problems with the procedure during Jenny’s labor with Elena. He explained that there’s sometimes a false loss of resistance, making it seem like the line is in place when it isn’t. I think that it helped to tell him about the previous experience, because he said that he felt the loss of resistance but kept going until he was sure that everything was in the proper place. I have only the vaguest idea of what he was actually doing, so if any doctor reads this and it doesn’t make sense, the fault is entirely mine. The doctor had a warm bedside manner, which has not always been our experience with anesthesiologists.

With the epidural working well, Jenny was able to relax and even fell asleep for a while. I got some dinner at the in-hospital Subway and made some phone calls to report progress. Our doctor came back for another exam and broke Jenny’s water. The nursing shift changed, and we met our very competent night nurse. The epidural stopped working, but only in one small region; however, the increased Pitocin dosage meant that the pain exceeded its previous levels, even though it was isolated to that one spot. I again loaned Jenny my hand to squeeze with every contraction. It took some time for us to convince the nurse that Jenny’s pain had returned, but when the anesthesiologist finally came back in he was happy to give her an extra dose of medicine to calm things down–he was surprised that Jenny had gone on so long after it got bad again.

After the epidural was working again, we enjoyed another hour or two of rest. Jenny and I both slept at least a little bit while her body worked on the baby and night fell. At about 11:15 Jenny was starting to feel pressure, and when the nurse took a look it was clear that Roman was ready–his hair was already visible. The doctor hurried in, Jenny started pushing, and less than fifteen minutes later we had a baby; Jenny pushed like a champ. It isn’t very often that a nine and a half pound newborn will be described as tiny, but in this circumstance it made sense. The doctor seemed quite happy with how Roman came out: easily, and with a minimum of maneuvering. There were only three or four medical personnel in the room–at the peak of Elena’s delivery we must have had ten people helping out. Before I knew what was happening, Roman was lying on Jenny’s stomach and the doctor handed me scissors so I could cut the umbilical cord.


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