New Perspective

*J’s and my wedding anniversary was June 7th, and for my gift this year he wrote out his version of Henry’s birth story – which I’ve been asking for since Henry was born.  I finally got it, and it’s the best gift ever.  Here is J’s account of Henry’s birth. 

Let’s turn the clocks back one year, to the day.  And I say that because I really think this marked the beginning of the end (so to speak) of Amanda’s pregnancy.  I was at school, trying frantically to finish up my end of the year checklist early so I could be home with Manda and start putting the finishing touches and pre-baby preparations.  We were setup for graduation (it looked like it was going to be uncharacteristically nice and comfortable on the field that evening) and I was diligently working in my office tying up loose ends.  That’s when I got the call from Manda that she was NOT feeling good, needed to get to the midwife NOW and could not drive.  So, I ran (quite literally if I recall) up to my principal to explain the situation.  She was incredibly gracious, told me to get out of here and take care of my family, they would handle graduation.

So, I ran home, picked up Amanda and drove to the Midwife.  After getting a once over there, we were sent to the hospital with the message ringing in our ears, “it may be time to go ahead and get that little guy out of there.”  So, we sat at the hospital with a mix of fear, excitement and anticipation.  In the end, they decided it was not time for us to meet C Minor yet, he would be better off cooking for a few more weeks.  We were sent home from the hospital, but Manda was now strictly on a modified bed rest order from our Midwife.  And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we spent our Fourth Wedding Anniversary.

The next two weeks or so were actually pretty fun.  Since Manda was essentially confined to the house, we spent a lot of time watching movies, hanging out and talking about how great it was going to be to finally meet C Minor.  With the help of friends and family (Kat and Eric literally helped us get the house cleaner than it has ever or will ever be again), we got all the final preparations made to the house.  We were as ready as we could be.  And over this time, we went back and forth to the Midwife, each time being told, “Well, everything looks okay.  Come back in another 2-3 days, we’ll check again, and I think we’ll likely induce then.”  So, before almost every midwife appointment, we’d load our “Go Bag” in the car (along with the other new baby / hospital essentials) and drive into Greensboro.  And every time we’d drive back home, unpack the car, and head back to the couch.  But finally, we had the final midwife appointment.  Friday, June 22nd, we were told would be the day to check into the hospital for the induction.

I know Manda really wanted to go into labor naturally, but there is something exciting about the anticipation of the countdown.  Every night, we went to bed knowing that in X more nights, we’d be going to sleep with a new member of our family.  The anticipation was insane!  The night before the 22nd, we bent the rules a little bit and went out with our friend Annalisa downtown at Natty Greene’s.  We then decided to go to one of our favorite places in the world, Green Valley Grill, for dessert (and well, bourbon for me).  That night almost escalated into an episode of How I Met Your Mother because of these events, but, well…  That kids is another story.

Now, let me tell you about how I met my son.  The day finally came, and we packed up the car and drove into GSO.  We had been trained about the proper drop off / sign in procedures weeks before in our Birthing Class, but it was surreal to actually do it.  Seeing my beautiful nine month pregnant wife walk through those big glass doors before I went to park the car, it seemed unreal that we were finally there at the moment.

Well, not finally there…  We were finally in the damn waiting room.  For what felt like an eternity.  I swear, the seasons were changing outside by the time were finally got a room.  And for the record, TMZ is AWFUL television. Just awful…

Anyway, I digress.  It would turn out that we picked an unusually busy night to have our baby, because all the rooms were full!!  In retrospect, at least we didn’t have to use a manger or anything, but again, that would be another story…  So, the room they finally moved us to was large, spacious, private (at the end of the hall), but missing many instruments and gadgets.  This meant that occasionally over the next 36 hours, the nurses or Midwife would need something, and someone would have to fetch it from another room.  We set-up for the night (that folding couch, while it looks comfy, really isn’t), they inserted a balloon into Amanda to get her dilated and kickstart the process and then essentially left us to hang out in the room.  We hadn’t eaten dinner yet and it was almost 9, so we ordered a quick meal from the hospital cafeteria and ate it while watching the episode of The Office when Pam gives birth.  You know, to set the mood.

We eventually settled in for the night, excited for the morning to arrive.  The nurses gave Amanda something to help her sleep…  Lucky her.  Nurses came in periodically throughout the night, to check on her progress.  Now, to this day, I can not for the life of me figure out how Amanda managed to sleep though all this.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s always been a fairly heavy sleeper, but I mean really?  I feel like that sort of invasion of personal space would wake anyone up, regardless of the drugs.  But she did, slept like a champ; which is good because she was gonna need her strength.  I, on the other hand, woke up every time someone entered the room.  So, add this to the fact that the bed (and I’m being fairly generous calling it a bed) was really not all that comfortable, I did not sleep very well that night.

But, the night did pass and around 5:30am we were woken up and told it was time to break her water.  For me, this was super exciting, because it meant labor was going to officially begin!  It’s worth noting here that we were really planning on Amanda having those O’Brien woman genes, and like three hours from the starting line to baby.  So, in my mind, it meant that in just a few short hours, we’d be finally holding our son in our arms.  I was so so stoked!!  Now, dear readers…  Life, being what it is, rarely works out as you expect it to.  And on that note, I feel it’s worth mentioning this.  Birth plans are lovely things, but they are like lesson plans.  You can spend all of the time in the world planning out every little detail, but you have got to be prepared on a moments notice to set all that aside and play it by ear, because the situation is sometimes just beyond your control.

So, after the balloon fell out and her water was broken, Amanda was in labor.  She’d be having Braxton Hicks contractions for sometime, so she had an idea of what to expect.  From what she said, the beginning stages were not too bad.  She was fairly dilated, her contracts were regular-ish (though not close together yet), it looked like everything was on track (and still going mostly according to plan).  So, being that I like to have things setup and orderly, I had set-up stuff in the delivery room: iPhone plugged in to play Pandora (started off the day with Amanda’s 90s alternative rock station), the encouragement shrine (ultrasound picture, onesie, Black Boss beer), snacks in with our luggage, etc.  I was doing everything I could to be ready and helpful.  Not long after labor officially started, Kenny (our doula) arrived excited and ready to go!  She then began to put together and fill the birthing pool for the later stages of the labor (all according to plan).

We’d been told often that keeping moving was really important to help labor move along quickly, and Amanda wanted to be able to be on her feet and moving around for as long as she was able.  So we walked the halls.  A lot.  They were fairly empty, because they like to keep the delivery area pretty secluded so the expecting parents, doctors and nurses can all focus on the very important tasks at hand.  So, we wandered the halls, making a big square around the area near the delivery room.  Manda brought a cup of water with her (they stress the importance of hydration a LOT during delivery) and she would sip while we walked.  In these early stages, it was really very chill.  It was just like walking around like we had for months (in order to help keep Manda / Baby C healthy with the gestational diabetes).  We would talk, mostly about how excited we were to finally be at this stage.  When she had a contraction, she would stop and lean on me until it had passed.  Manda started saying as we walked that she was feeling pretty good, that labor didn’t really seem so bad and that it didn’t look like we’d be in for much more challenges before we got to meet C Minor (seriously, everything that a mother-to-be could possibly have to go through on the path of pregnancy, Amanda had to face it).  We figured at this point, a nice, quick delivery seemed like the reward for such a difficult pregnancy.

At one point while we were walking, we turned the corner and almost walked into my grandmother.  Turns out half my family came by to see how things were going.  I honestly think they may have been fully expecting to be able to meet the newest C by this point.  They stayed for a few minutes to say hi, wish us well, but thankfully respected our space enough to say goodbye.  My Mom said they would be in the waiting room, and I told her that wasn’t necessary, it was likely to still be a little while before the birth.  She seemed a little surprised, but I assured her that we’d let them know in more than enough time to get to the hospital if it was going to happen anytime soon.

When we’d have enough for walking for the time being, we’d head back into the room where Kenny (and usually our two very friendly nurses) were waiting.  Kenny would be timing the contractions, helping massage Amanda, move her around into different laboring positions; the goal was to keep her moving, and work Baby C lower and keep labor moving forward.  At some point in the morning, as things started to get more uncomfortable, Amanda got into the tub.  She seemed to really enjoy it.  It was like a giant, really fancy kiddy pool.  She’d hang over the sides to get through contractions, and then enjoy the warm water.  At this point, we still had the upbeat music playing, even the TV on HGTV (muted) in the background.  It was getting to be more work for her, but she still totally had it under control.

About six hours into labor, feeling like she was really making progress, Manda was checked by our AMAZING Midwife only to find that it was exactly the same as when the balloon had fallen out hours ago.  I was dumbfounded.  I seriously have no other way to describe it.  It seemed completely unbelievable to me.  I mean, we’d watched the movies and the shows, and we’d seem people struggle with labor.  But Manda had those O’Brien genes!!  I fully expected the Midwife to say, “alright, looks like we’re about ready to start pushing,” and we’d have all afternoon to spend with Baby C.  I could see Amanda was disparaged as well at the news (rightfully so, she was the one doing all the work), but Kenny and our Midwife encouraged us to remain positive and just keep working.

 This is about when, as they say, shit began to get REAL.  Amanda’s contractions were getting more intense, and it was obvious to see they were becoming downright painful.  Then, to add onto that, it looked like Baby C was turned sideways!  He had facing the right way for weeks, but now that it’s go time, he decides to be mischievous and turn.  We knew this was going to make the next stages continuingly difficult as we moved forward.  As her contractions got more painful, the Midwife and Kenny had her shifting to various positions, trying to reposition Baby C and take some pressure off her back.  They’d put pressure on her hips and massage her back.  At this point, I just tried to constantly maintain some kind of physical contact with Amanda and do whatever I could.  I made many trips to get ice (on one, I actually ran into a guy from our birthing class whose wife was in labor at the same time as Manda).  As the afternoon moved on, things continued to get more intense.  Before this, I could usually find ways to make Manda laugh; but we had passed that point by now.

The next time our Midwife checked Manda, there was still no change.  At this point, they wanted to start pitocin to try to speed things up.  This was on the list, but under the “under no circumstances use” category.  But, our Midwife felt that after so many hours of labor, since we weren’t getting anywhere this was the only option.  So, they started the pitocin.  The reason we didn’t want the labor to come to this point certainly came true soon afterwards.  With the drug in her system, her body went into contraction overdrive.  They just came back to back, with increased intensity.  By this point, she had gotten out of the birthing pool and was laboring on the bed.  She looked to be in agony.  Amanda then said the words I was dreading ever hearing, “I want the epidural.”

Now, according to plan, my job was to tell her, “no, remember, you don’t want this dear.”  Well, that’s all well and good on the planning stages.  Telling it to your wife, who is all but screaming in agony, and is exhausted from almost twelve hours of active labor, is definitely harder than we anticipated.  Kenny and I convinced her once to try to go without, because if she had the epidural, then there would be no water birth.  But it got to the point where finally we locked eyes, and she told me to give her the epidural.  There was no doubt, no hesitation.  She knew what she needed to keep moving forward, and I could tell.  So, they called the anesthesiologist, and Kenny packed up the pool.

For me, this was one of the worst parts.  My wife is behind me, in obvious pain and discomfort, and in walks a blonde viking in hospital scrubs.  He then proceeds to give me the hospital spiel about the epidural…  This is what I remember from it: “I’m going to stab your wife in the spine with this giant needle, and if it doesn’t paralyze her there’s a good chance it will alleviate the pain.  Please sign here.”  So, yeah, that was terrible.  All kidding aside though, this guy was a miracle worker.  He was extremely polite, friendly, and gentle with Amanda.  And best of all, he worked fast.  Now, it didn’t immediately solve all the problems, but it gave her a break that she really needed.  After almost thirteen hours, Amanda was finally able to rest.

And just like the morning, I couldn’t.  Try as I might.  We turned the TV off, made sure the music was soft and soothing, turned most of the lights off.  Kenny and the nurses were talking softly, and she told me to sleep while I could (if only I could have taken her advice!).  I laid down on that incredibly uncomfortable couch (though, I’m sure it was more comfortable than being in labor) and failed to sleep.  I thought about Manda, I thought about what she was struggling through, I thought about how much more she’d have to go through before we got to hold our son.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep.  I tried to eat a little bit of crackers, but I don’t enjoy eating when I’m stressed, so I disregarded Kenny’s demands that I eat something.

Manda slept for awhile, until around 7:30, when our Midwife said it was finally time to start pushing.  “This is it!”  I thought to myself.  Certainly, now that we’re pushing, our little man would be here soon.  HA!!  Manda pushed, and pushed.  She changed positions, moving from side to side.  We had a new nurse by this point (shift change), who was firm but encouraging.  Kenny was on one side, I was on the other.  Helping to support her, hold a leg, help her focus or count, whatever we could do.  And our midwife was seriously elbow deep in my wife, trying to turn our stubborn son and coax him down the canal.  But he remained stubborn.  I’ll never forget this one moment, when our midwife looked at Amanda, and told her that she “really needed to focus, and really work now.  If you don’t, we’ll have no choice but to have a C-Section.”  She needed to hear this.  Our meticulously prepared birth plan had gone all but out the window, but THIS!  This last, and perhaps most important step she was unwilling to give up. She was going to have this baby not in a surgical room with some strange doctor, but here and now.

She worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, and she pushed and struggled with a strength that was almost superhuman (Wonder Woman has NOTHING on my wife). The nurse wheeled over a mirror (which, because of Up All Night, we decided we did NOT want to use) and the midwife said to use this, because you could see his head.  And she was right!!  With this to focus on, Amanda pushed a few more times, and then his head all but crowned… “Stop!”  Wait, what?!  What is this stop?  The nurses and midwife told Amanda to essentially hold it (like, the rest stop is in two more miles, just hold it) so they could set up everything for the final push.  Are you kidding me?!  Our son is right there!!  But, once they finally had everything set-up and prepared, we got the go ahead.  Amanda gave a final few pushes…

9:11pm on June 23, 2012, Henry Steven Michael was born.  And he was amazing.  He was really quiet and chill (almost unnervingly so)  when he was born, but they grabbed him and let him snuggle right away with Amanda. It was such a perfect little moment.  I swear, he just stared at us like he knew that this was where he was supposed to be, and it was where he was loved and belonged.  He was covered in blood and mess, but he was beautiful.  My wife had given birth to our son.  Once everything seemed to be going smoothly, I started spreading the word.  I texted Bethany (in Paris) and Christy, threw it on Facebook and Twitter, and went into the waiting room.  “I’m a Dad.”  It was like something from a TV show, so surreal.

My parents, Bubbi, and Matt came with me back to the room to meet Henry.  Everyone was instantly in love (I mean, how could you not be?).  We then opened the Black Boss, poured everyone a little glass, and toasted to the newest member of our family.  Through all this, Henry was cuddly and calm.  All the nurses just kept commenting on how chill he was.  We eventually left the delivery room to the Mommy / Baby room where we would spend the first night as a family of three.  By this point, it was almost 24 hours without any real food of sleep, so we were getting a little delirious.  Matt ran out and grabbed us some Cook Out (it was one of the best things we’d ever tasted) before we settled in.  That first night, was difficult, and at moments had me wondering, “Why didn’t I sleep more over the last 27 years,” but it was an amazing experience.  We were a family.  I had an amazing wife, and a beautiful baby son; I was the luckiest guy in the world.

From there, we spent two days in the hospital before going home and beginning the life of a Family of Three (plus a dog and three cats).  And my, there are some adventures there.  But well, that kids – as they say – is a different story entirely…

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