Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's never what you think

My whole life I've heard stories about the magical wonderment of the day your child is born.  I've read articles written by new moms detailing the moment they fell in love with their baby as he laid on their chest, just seconds after the cord was cut.  I have watched countless episodes of baby shows, crying every time the baby was born, feeling so much emotion for the mothers and babies whose lives I watched for thirty minutes.  I had prepared a birth song list that would play behind us.  I had packed all new toiletries that smelled great and looked pretty for afterward.  I imagined that my son's birth would be filled with happy moments, some pain, and a roomful of family laughing and smiling, with cartoon bluebirds flying all around us. 

Danny's birth day was nothing like I had imagined.

As soon as we were admitted at midnight the night before, they had hooked me up to a fetal monitor.  We watched TV, slept, talked to family and such, all through the faint clippity-clop of Danny's heart beating.  My mother was especially interested in the fetal monitor.  She stared intently as my contractions synced with his vitals.  Prior to my epidural, she'd excitedly announce each contraction's arrival, because labor contractions are so difficult to detect on one's own.

......AAAAAAAAAHHHH...... and then there was the epidural. And the pain stopped.  With the epidural checked off my to-do list, I was already scripting the end to the most beautiful day of my life. Or so I thought.

Fourteen hours of overconfidence had passed when suddenly Danny's rhythm slowed down by about half.  All eyes in the room went immediately to the fetal monitor.  The one downside of watching the well-intentioned but well-edited baby shows on TLC is that they manage to give you just enough information to scare the crap out of you when a situation arises in your own labor.  'Late decellerations' is a phrase I'd heard just moments before countless c-sections on TV, but I knew very little about what it meant, other than the fact that it's is a sign of fetal distress.  After it continued for a few minutes, we tried turning me on one side, then the other.  His heartrate which should be around 150 didn't rise above 80.  My doctor said something about an Operating Room technician and within sixty seconds, ten masked doctors ran into the room.  Apparently, if you're already worried about your baby and you're hopped up on hormones -- both natural and synthetic -- the more worked up you get, the more your body will shake.  Karen stood by me, smiling and reassuring, while our mothers stood by trying to smile, listening very intently.  The masks began talk of an emergency c-section, my shaking turned into tears and the faces in the room were no longer smiling. 

After the the late decellerations were somewhat controlled, my labor was allowed to progress on its own, without the addition of a hormone that was strengthening my contractions.  Every hour or so, the doctors would check my progress and announce that we were a little bit closer to 10 centimeters.  Around 9pm, I felt a little uncomfortable, chalking it up to laying in a bed for almost a day.  Within ten minutes, I was in tears from the pain in my neck.  I figured that if they can stop the pain of labor, they could stop the pain of a neck spasm.  Apparently, that's not the case.  And, since it was the day for unexpected things, just as I was in the most pain I'd been in all day, it was time to push.  They had warned us that the baby was turned face up, which means that it takes more effort to deliver and can be more painful, but I still wasn't feeling much, except some pressure, so I pushed.  Karen held my right foot, my mother held my left foot, and people whose faces I could no longer see were counting to ten.  Imagine going through an hour of hard labor (back labor, at that) with a very painful neck spasm.  They also told me that I had developed a fever of 102*.  It wasn't fun, and it seemed endless, but I knew that the average first time mother pushes for 1-3 hours, so I figured that pain would stop -- even if it took three hours.  With my iPod on shuffle beside me, a somewhat inappropriate but terribly fitting song came on.  They checked my progress after a little over an hour of pushing, only to find that the baby had not descended AT ALL during that whole time.  Cue the tears again.  Now we were going to have a c-section and this time I didn't really mind.  Surely if they're doing a c-section, my neck will stop locking up or at least stop hurting.  Cue the sarcasm.

Karen told me afterward that she felt like she waited for much longer than the fifteen minutes it took them to prep me for surgery.  By the time she walked into the O.R., they had already begun operating, and she sat down by my head.  I was wide awake and probably more nervous for her than I was for myself.  It took them about ten minutes from the first cut before I heard him cry.  It sounded so much different than any other baby's cry that I had ever heard.  I remember thinking how beautiful his voice sounded, and I remember crying just like I did during the birth shows, but this time it was my own moment -- even if I didn't get there quite the way I figured I would.

We were taken back to our original delivery room to say hello to the grandparents who had been there for seventeen hours.  I can't imagine how they hung around that long; it seemed like a long day to me, but I was at least a little busy!  My mom said that watching me go through that day was harder than giving birth to me was.  They took turns holding Danny and took some pictures, and then left us to try to get some sleep after a long few days.

What happened next deserves its own post.  More to come...


  1. I'm sorry you didn't get the birth you imagined. Sounds like you were a trooper through all that labor.

    I love the pic, he is beautiful.

  2. Danny is precious! Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. That was so beautiful. No matter how it all happens, there is nothing greater than the phenomenon of life. Your two are going to be great parents!! He is so handsome!I can't wait to meet him.

  4. Hi there. I'm not sure where I first saw your blog but I remember that your due date was the same as ours. We have a 2 1/2 year old son named Daniel and a newborn little guy named Benjamin born on Dec. 17th. As I read your story I could very much empathize. Danny was born via e-emergency c-section in 2007 and although my partner Susanne tried her hardest with giving birth to Ben he got stuck too. Another unexpected c-section. Thankfully both are healthy and Su has healed beautifully. Our midwife talked a lot to us about not being afraid to grieve the loss of the birth we thought we'd have. We are just so grateful that both boys are okay and I just wanted to let you know how happy I was to see your beautiful son here too. The first few weeks are kind of a blur but then you get to your new normal. Anyway, congratulations! Danny is an awesome name by the way ;-) -Monica

  5. Wow, what an amazing story. The song cracked me up. And I think you have to pay the hospital extra and in advance for the cartoon bluebirds.

    It must have been hard to realize you weren't going to have the birth you'd imagined, but how wonderful that you had the moment with your beautiful son that you DID imagine. He is so incredibly gorgeous.

  6. Beautiful photos. Some of that really sounds like my labor. Let's compare notes when I finally post. You should be proud of yourself though.

  7. what a day! congrats on your beautiful son.

  8. Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.............................................

  9. Wow! Tough labor. Good thing babies are worth it. I know you have your hands full, but I'd love an update on baby Danny.


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