Sunday, 5am, I awaken to Lena moaning loudly. It’s never been this loud and tense. I pull myself up to look at her. “Is it time?”, I ask.
“Oh, it’s been going on all night.” she replies, eyes clenched, hands on her torso.
I slump out of bed and meander to the shower. It’s been a while since I’ve woken this early.
Downstairs, I make some eggs and a bagel with Toffuti cream cheese. It’s a filling breakfast that I will later be quite thankful for making. Lena only has a bagel.
Not long after we start timing the contractions, it’s obvious the time has come. We call our midwife and she agrees that we should meet at the birthing center at 7:30am.
“OK, let’s pack it all up.” Everything is already ready so their isn’t much to do but call people.
My mother becomes 15 again when she hears it’s time and rushes out the door of her house in California to start a 12 hour drive to meet us. Lena’s step-mother is flying in and her biological mom lives in Seattle and plans to meet us at the birthing center.
“It’s a 30 minute drive so we should leave now.” I gather up all the stuff, everything we will need for 24-48 hours. I feed the cats extra. We drive.
At the birthing center, things start slow. We put on some music and make Lena comfortable.
After about 5 hours, she’s gone from 4cm dilation to 4.5cm. I try to sooth the moment, “remember our classes? It starts slow, you’ll get up past 5 or 6 and then it’ll shoot up to 10 in only a couple of hours.”
Lena is not entirely convinced but she agrees anyway.
The labor continues. Lena’s step-mother arrives and soon my mother as well.
Many hours later, we get Lena up to 9cm, with only 1cm blocking the head from pushing its way into the birth canal–one little lip of a cervix, stubbornly holding the baby in.
At 7am Monday, 28 hours after the onset of labor, we face a decision. Lena is exhausted. She’s been pushing harder and working more than anyone could believe. The last cm is unmovable. Lena can barely even stand anymore.
We can try to continue and hope it works or we can go to Evergreen hospital down the road, get an epidural, some Pitocin and let Lena rest while the drugs do most of the work. Lena jumps on it (figuratively, she can’t jump worth beans at the moment). “Yes, I want the epidural. I can’t push anymore.”
At the hospital, I’m wary (and weary). The doctors are kind but I still don’t trust them off the bat.
The nurse asks us which shots we want to get and we tell her, “none”. We have it all arranged with our Pediatrician.
“Ok, do you want the Vitamin K?” she continues.
“No, we have that covered.” I sigh, “Basically, if you can just get the baby out and put it on mom’s chest, you guys are done.” The nurse laughs. She’s sympathetic to our plan.
They start telling us what we already knew they would say, “The epidural is on the way. We’ll start the Pitocin and you’ll have a couple of hours but if we don’t see progress, we will need to get the baby out through Cesarean.” We agree to try. We want to do this as naturally as possible. I’m tired. I need a nap. I lay down and about an hour and a half later, I wake up to the doctor’s voice. He’s telling Lena she has to make some progress. I get up and get the details. We need to have contractions that are 2-4 seconds apart and go up to 60 on the seismic scale. I tell Lena to take deep breaths and not to fall asleep. The graphs dip when she rests and get bigger when she breathes deep. I get excited after an hour of this. We are getting there. Some of the contractions are making the mark, others are still lagging a bit.
I get a little hungry and head down to the cafe to get a hard-boiled egg. When I return, the doctor is in the room, explaining how the C-section will go. I guess this means we didn’t make it. I’m disappointed in what appears to be a lack of faith in the progress being made. Every time I see this doctor, I’m walking in or waking up to the conversation already happening.
We consult our midwife (who has been with us the entire time) and she agrees, “we should have seen that last cm go away by now. With the Pitocin, they should have gotten some more progress.”
Before I know it, I’m putting on scrubs and heading into the operating room. It’s brighter than I imagined, not like in the doctor shows where they have special lights shining down at certain spots. The whole room is lit from the ceiling.
The anesthesiologist is very helpful, he directs me and Lena’s mother around the room to the place we can sit. I am right next to Lena, holding her arm and talking to her. Mel stands next to me, with a view of the operation. With Lena, I’m sitting behind the protective shield, with only a small window to peer out at the spot the baby will show up when they extract it. I tell them that I want to announce the gender because it’s a surprise. They are all excited. Surprises like this are uncommon these days.
The operation is quick. and before I expect it, I hear a cry and look up through the opening.
It takes me a second to realize that I was right. I had been starting to believe everyone else’s assurance that the baby is a boy–everyone to their own superstitions and old-tales. I stared for a second to make sure I didn’t announce the wrong gender, how embarrassing would that be?
“It’s Ilya! It’s a girl!”
Lena tears up and they usher me over to the heat table where they wrap Ilya up with bracelets and clean her up. The weigh her and prick her heel to test her blood. She’s 9lbs 3oz, which requires the extra glucose test. She thrashes around and cries loudly. I can’t do anything and feel terribly helpless, like Ilya. I still have my scrubs on, mask and all when they finally let me hold her. I bring her to Lena and they begin to cart her out. “OK, you’ll need to follow us, the baby is tagged to the mom.”
Alarms will go off if the proximity is broken.
I walk out, mask and hat over my head and my mother is standing outside. She doesn’t recognize me or hear me say, “we have to follow them” but I don’t pay attention. I’m staring down at my baby girl, trying to keep an eye on the bed being wheeled around in front of me.
We stayed at Evergreen for 2 nights, my mother and I taking nap shifts to watch the baby while Lena laid recovering from the operation. Evergreen was way better than we expected. They were continually apologetic for our situation, going against our birth plan, but all the while, they were more helpful than we could have hoped. Everything went perfectly. We have a perfect baby.
OK, that’s not nearly detailed enough but it’s the general story. 34 hours of labor, ending in a C-section, we wanted to go natural with a water birth but ended up trying every birthing option available.
Anyway, gotta go check up on on the wife and kid :)