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    Coach’s View of Labor and Delivery

    It’s been more than seven weeks since A went into labor, and I’m still having a hard time attempting to put my thoughts and feelings into words. It feels like it was years ago in a world very different from our lives today. My memory is fading but the key events are burned into my mind and hopefully won’t fade. But just in case, here are my memories and thoughts on our Labor and Delivery. My hope is that this post will trigger memories and emotions for many years to come. Maybe one day G will read these posts and get a glimpse into the mind of his parents.

    The memories that really have been burned into my mind are:

    • A has an extremely high tolerance for pain — much higher than I ever expected.
    • I had a constant Fear that something would go wrong. A was depending on me to make the decisions necessary (if needed) to protect her and G.
    • It’s frustrating watching someone you love go through intense pain without truly being able to stop it!
    • The pace of labor felt much faster than I expected. There wasn’t any ‘down’ time to regroup or rest for either of us. The minutes between contractions just started to run together until hours and hours had passed.

    I’m thankful to the generations of fathers and doctors before us that pushed to allow fathers in the delivery room. I can’t imagine sitting in a waiting area for hours waiting to find out about my wife and child. I was given the chance not only to be present but to be an active participant. Using Dr. Bradley’s term of “Coach” is a close description, but I felt more like a Player-Coach with active participation in the process. I was by A’s side through each step of the way.

    Now for the story (Warning: I tell stories in a very linear fashion, so be prepared for a long post)

    After the contractions started while we were at lunch on Thursday Aug 28th, we went back home, and I had several conference calls for work. I checked in with A between each call and she seemed pretty composed, alert, and had a good handle on monitoring the contractions. I had left my phone with her to use for contraction timing (Contraction Timer for Palm OS). I expected this early stage to last for many hours, possibly into the evening and night time.

    When I finished up my last call and went back to check on A about 4 pm, I was shocked to find her downstairs (the house was pretty warm and it was cooler downstairs) lying in the middle of the floor stripped down with a fan blowing directly on her. My heart immediately dropped as I ran downstairs to check on her. It was clear this early stage wasn’t lasting long and that we’d likely already moved into the next stage of labor.

    I left her to continue laboring while I scrambled to get our stuff ready and in the car to head to the hospital. I expected we would have several hours for this stage but I’m glad I had a checklist to work from because my mind was a wreck. I walked back and forth from room to room, up and down the stairs, to the car back to the house. I felt like a disorganized crazy person. All the while checking on A, filling her water bottle, rubbing her back, checking on the contraction timing. As I loaded stuff in the car I recalled someone telling me that you won’t need half the stuff you take to the hospital; you just don’t know which half it is until it’s over.

    After what felt like far too much time to get our stuff together and the car loaded, it was time to call the doc and report on our contraction timing – it was time to head to the hospital! Holy crap, this was moving fast!

    After checking into the hospital and getting to the room, the nurses started the registration and initial checks to make sure we were going to stay there. I knew we were staying – we knew the steps of labor and A was very in tune with her body. We intentionally tried not to go to the hospital too early.

    I think I’m pretty good at reading body language and I found myself watching the nurses closely to understand what they were and weren’t telling us. I also was paying close attention to the monitors during the entire process.

    After the first reading of the fetal heart rate I noticed that G’s heart rate dropped during a contraction — it wasn’t too bad but it was noticeable. When I saw the drop, I turned to see if the nurse’s face would tell me something – a look of concern, shock, a smile. She seemed a bit surprised that I had caught it. The heart rate drop made the nurse ask to keep the fetal monitor on even though we had asked not to have continuous monitoring. I was fine with this and A wasn’t in a position to have any disagreements – it hit me that my role as Coach put me squarely in the driver’s seat for this trip or at least the first line of defense. I was prepared for this role, but the importance was brought to the forefront at this time.

    In order to get to the spirit of our request for non-continuous fetal monitoring, I asked the nurse to turn down the volume of the monitoring so A didn’t have any indication of what the monitor was doing. She didn’t need to have any additional inputs to cause concern. Her only focus was on productive contractions and pain management.

    The minutes of each contraction morphed into hours and hours. I didn’t even realize that the sun had set until I couldn’t see in the room. My body was telling me to feed it, but I couldn’t even think about satisfying the need. I had brought some snacks and eventually grabbed a handful of crackers. The pace felt fast because there wasn’t any real downtime between contractions. I really thought G was going to grace us before midnight – the beginning just went by so fast that I thought for sure it was going to continue at the rapid pace.

    Then it felt like we hit a wall. I could tell A was getting tired…exhausted really. She was looking for confirmation that she was still making progress. After another check from the nurse that told her her dilation was the same as before, I could tell she was disappointed. It was time for an attempt at a pep talk – just reassurance that this wasn’t a race and that it wasn’t a reflection of a poor performance. G was setting this schedule and we could only go along with the pace he was setting. If it was time for a pause, then we just needed to go along with it. Unfortunately, during this time the contractions stayed at the same pace — long and not much time between them. So while we may have hit a plateau, there was no rest for A.

    Newsflash — if contractions are 4 minutes apart, 1.5-2 minutes long, add another 5-10 seconds after the contraction to be sure it’s done, another 10-15 seconds just to calm down, now you are left with 90 seconds are so to Relax — so much for the advice of trying to sleep between contractions.

    You’ve read about my slip and fall… it scared me. In a split second I ended up completely horizontal two feet off the floor and falling. I hit Hard. I was worried that I had injured myself and wouldn’t be able to stay with A. I was worried that my fall with distract her and cause her to experience more pain. I knew that she was worried too, and needed her to think I was just fine at a time when I had no idea if I was fine or not. I hit the nurse’s call button and stayed on the floor. I thought it was best to stay there instead of trying to stand up and A realizing that I was really hurt. After standing up and trying to get cleaned up, I was sore but didn’t feel bad. It turned out adrenaline kept the pain down. Hours later the stiffness and pain kicked in, but it was nothing compared to what A was enduring.

    After 90 minutes of natural attempts at more productive contractions, we decided to give the Pitocin a go. This meant we had to cross the hurdle of an IV. A has a fear of needles, has small veins that roll, and ALWAYS requests a pediatric needle. I had to execute on another of my critical Coach duties – make sure she had a pediatric needle! I made the request, and the nurse waited a second and then said, “Dad, can we talk?” as she motioned to the door. Oh no, what’s wrong? She tells me that a pediatric needle isn’t an option – if they need to give blood at any point, a pediatric needle isn’t large enough. I understood this, so I explained the small and rolling veins. She gave me a confident look and said she’d take care of it.

    As the nurse started to prep for the needle, A looks up and said “I need a pediatric needle.” My heart paused again, because if this didn’t go well, A would certainly wonder why I dropped the ball on the one thing she had reiterated over and over. I replied, “We’ve already talked about it.” So not a lie, but I held my breath when the nurse started the IV. It went great. I was also glad the nurse took the initiative afterwards to tell A about the needle and why.

    40 minutes into the round of Pitocin I watched the fetal heart rate and it progressively dropped as the contractions continued. The contractions were about the same pace, maybe a bit more frequent, and occasionally had double peaks. As soon the contractions stopped the heart rate jumped back up to the normal range around 130-140. But they started dropping to the 90s, then the 80s, then 70s, and even dropped into the 50s at one point for a very brief period. I knew this wasn’t working, but wasn’t about to say anything to A.

    The doc and the nurse came in again with serious looks on their faces. They asked A how things were going. She didn’t say anything since she was in the middle of a contraction. I gave them the hand sign and continued to help her through the contraction, but knew they were probably sitting there wondering “How do we tell her that her birth plan isn’t working out? How is she going to take this?” Just after the contraction was over, A pulls her head up and with her eyes still closed, blurts out “I think we need to cut him out of here!” The doc almost looked relieved, and confirmed with “I know that wasn’t our preferred plan, but that’s the best route.”

    I could tell by how forceful A made her statement that she was comfortable with this decision. I had taken a brief minute or two earlier to look up in the Bradley book about the transverse position and knew that this could end up a serious complication. I took one chance to ask A if she felt okay with the decision – I was more interested in how she answered me than what words came out. As soon as I got the confirmation and echoed it to the doc, the equipment rolled into the room. I’m sure it was already lined up in the hallway! Which told me there really wasn’t an option; this was what we needed to do! Things once again happened fast.

    For the first time in 10 hours my mind took a chance to process what was happening. I stood in the hallway outside the OR watching through the tiny window in the door as they prepped A for the procedure. I watched them prep for the anesthesia (several large needles were involved). I watched the nurses laying out all of the equipment. I watched the doc get scrubbed up and suited. I felt tears well up in my eyes and a rush of emotion fall over my shoulders – I had to fight it off because this was only just beginning.

    They finally waved me into the room, and I took my seat behind the curtain next to A’s head and held her hand.

    I watched what I could from the reflection in the door of the surgical cabinet. I picked up on a few comments between the doc and the nurses – like “Yep, there’s a wrap” – referring to a cord wrap around his neck, which may have been the cause of the drop in heart rate with each contraction. I also heard A snoring – she was so exhausted that she caught a few minutes of sleep as the procedure started.

    I stood up just as they were pulling G out. His head was the only part out and it was Smurf Blue and very cone shaped. They reached in and pulled the rest of his small body out and rushed him over to a table. As blood poured out of A, I remember thinking – I need to be there with him, but I need to be here with A too. Then the nurse called me over to G – and I gave A look and quickly went to his side.

    His blue color was fading and he was crying – all good things. He had a lot of fluid still in his nose and throat so they were suctioning it out, over and over. I’m glad I knew this was normal for c-section births. The trip down the birth canal usually squeezes out much of the fluid and with his detour; he still needed to get out the extra fluid. Without this knowledge I probably would have been freaking, so I just held his hand and keep talking to him.

    We got him swaddled up and then took him to A. She got a brief chance to see him and touch him. One of the nurses asked for my camera to take a picture. Camera? I didn’t know I could have a camera in the OR – so no pictures from that scene.

    Then off G and I went to the NICU part of the nursery for his tests and to get him under the warmer. We held off on his bath until he could breast feed. We waited in the nursery, until we got the call that A was in recovery, stable, and ready to breast feed. It felt like hours but was only about 30-40 minutes. I didn’t leave G’s side for the next 10 hours – from OR, nursery, recovery room, back to nursery, then to Mom’s room once she was settled. I didn’t have a phone with me to call and update the family and friends who sat by as hours passed without any updates.

    I was thrilled to have a healthy beautiful boy and sad that I wasn’t experiencing it together with A. It was one of the loneliest feelings I’ve experienced, and was only made better by gazing at G lying in the hospital crib while holding my hands across his body.

    2 responses to “Coach’s View of Labor and Delivery”

    1. zoejean12 says:

      Wow, thanks for sharing this story. I never hear birth stories from the male perspective, so I haven’t been to sure how to answer the questions I’m getting from my husband. Thanks!

    2. becoming-mom says:

      I loved reading your perspective on the birth, G will be so happy to read this someday!

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