It has been over six weeks since the birth of our son, Dorian. I have been wanting to document the story of his delivery before the details were lost in the shuffle of feedings, changing diapers, and soothing a newborn (and mother). Here’s my recollection of the events leading to Dorian’s birth.
Thursday afternoon, May 14, 2015:
Angie was experiencing some contractions and was concerned that her water may have broken. We called the birthing center and were invited to visit the triage room for an evaluation. There were a few methods of testing used to determine if Angie’s amniotic sac had been ruptured. They all came back negative. Dorian’s head had been so far down for months, it was always funny to see a new nurse or doctor examine Angie with a bit of shock like, “Woah, he’s way down there!” With Dorian’s head so low it could act like a cork, and there was concern that Angie’s water could break without our knowing. It is known that if the amniotic sac is broken for too long and the baby is not delivered, infection can set in. Angie was at 1 cm, which had been the same for the past week or so since our last doctor’s appointment. The nurse advised us to walk around the hospital for an hour and return to see if there had been any change in dilation. So we walked, exploring the hallways and corridors that connected the birthing center with other parts of the hospital. We got some sympathetic looks from passersby as I escorted my super pregnant wife, parading in her two hospital gowns to cover her front and backside. An hour later, we returned, and there had been no change in Angie’s cervix. We were released knowing that our baby was probably coming soon. After spending the afternoon in the triage room, it was kind of a tease for us to leave the birthing center with our baby still inside of Angie’s belly.
Friday, May 15, 2015:
12:45 pm: We were making a routine visit up to our sister-in-law’s house. She wasn’t home, so we let ourselves in to wait for her return. Angie and I were sitting at the dining room table when she said, “Oh, I just felt something pop!” There had been mild contractions about 7-9 minutes apart that morning, but after this statement of a popping sensation, Angie immediately went into more intense contractions that were 3-4 minutes apart. She knew something was different about these contractions, so we decided to go home and see if they continued for more than an hour.
1:30 pm: Contractions were still going strong, and Angie had begun to enter the ‘delivery zone’, which is the best way I can think of describing her behavior. The moans, groans, grunts, and panting appeared to be channeled through a primal part of her spirit. I called the birthing center to seek counsel. The operator picked up, and I just started blabbing away, explaining with as much detail as I could to describe our situation. Then I heard, “OK sir, please hold while I transfer you to a nurse.” Then I realized that I had just wasted that information on the wrong person. When a nurse came on the line, I repeated my speech, which had been easier to relay the second time around. She asked me to describe my wife’s pain on a scale of 1 to 10. I couldn’t help but laugh, and during my loss of an appropriate response, the nurse asked, “Is that her huffing and puffing in the background?” She asked to speak with Angie, and after their conversation, it was recommended that Angie take some Tylenol, wait a couple of hours and see how she was doing at that point.
2:30 pm: I was trying to prepare a late lunch for myself with the thought that we may be in for a long labor. Angie had other thoughts while listening to her spirit, which was saying, “We need to be in the birthing center now!” We ignored the advice of the first nurse and called the birthing center again. I asked if we could bring Angie in to be examined, as her contractions were now less than two minutes apart. They agreed to let us visit the triage nurse. I scarfed down my lunch while gathering our ‘hospital’ bags and loaded the car. Away we went, Angie in full moan. At every traffic light, I tried to keep a smile so cars next to us knew that I was not harming my wife…she was simply in labor.
When we arrived at the birthing center, I decided to take advantage of their free valet parking. That way I could escort Angie upstairs as quickly as possible. As I exited the car, I was greeted by the valet person. I was trying to have a conversation with him about how the valet process worked, since I had not used it there before. However, our communication seemed impossible over the moaning of a woman in labor. Feeling the pressure of the moment, I basically just handed off the keys and gave the guy my phone number. Part of me was relying on the good people of Billings, Montana to not victimize us at a birthing center parking lot, of all places.
I held Angie’s hand and guided her through the main doors to the elevator. She was hunched over in pain, groaning in such a way that a man waiting for the elevator took one look at us, stepped aside and said, “Go ahead, you take it.” We took the elevator to the second floor. At the check-in desk, Angie was falling deeper into her ‘delivery zone.’ So much so, I had to sign some of the paperwork for her. After a few minutes of waiting, we were admitted into the triage room. This time we were in triage room ‘B’, the second of two such rooms in the birthing center. We got to see both rooms in two days!
The triage nurse began to prep Angie for monitoring. Angie mentioned that she’d like an epidural at some point. The nurse was kind in responding that there were other procedures that needed to happen first. Angie said she understood that but wanted to ensure the staff knew she would like an epidural whenever that became possible. It was a sweet, eight-second moment between the nurse and Angie. I smiled during their exchange, unaware of the shift in energy that was about to take place.
Once settled and hooked up to the monitors, there was an immediate concern for Dorian’s heart rate, which was dropping every now and again. The nurses worked hard to figure out if it had any relationship to the contractions or not. A doctor came in to examine Angie’s cervix and determined she was at 5 cm. Then one of the monitor cables kept cutting out, so the team rushed to find a working replacement. It was determined that Angie’s water had indeed broken, but it was not known exactly when that happened. The nurses worked on adjusting Angie’s position, having her lay on her left side to relieve the pressure on the umbilical cord. It was uncomfortable for Angie to do so, since she no longer had the same amount of amniotic fluid to cushion the baby inside of her. There was talk amongst the staff to prepare for emergency c-section if our baby’s heart rate did not stabilize. There was an intensity in the air, and I basically just stood back and observed. There just wasn’t much room for me physically or verbally. I needed to stay clear so the nurses and doctor could work on Angie, and I needed to keep quiet so they could all communicate effectively with one another. It was tough to witness, and a helpless feeling of sorts. Every now and again I was able to touch a part of Angie (her back, her foot) to let her know I was there. We were able to make eye contact with each other a couple of times through the arms and bodies of the medical team. Angie now had a mask applied to her face to help ensure that both she and baby were getting enough oxygen.
As I stood in awe of the situation, I was wondering where our story would go from that point. So many possibilities, all of which were not covered in our reading or baby classes. So there we were, at the mercy of the universe, awaiting our fate. I remember asking Dorian’s spirit to help his mother out, to at least give her a chance in delivering on her own. Angie had been patiently waiting nine months for this moment, and I wanted her to have a wonderful, rewarding birth experience.
The doctor decided that both mom and baby were stable enough to be transferred to Suite 20. I followed the medical team as they wheeled Angie’s hospital bed from the triage room. They were very careful when exiting and entering rooms, ensuring the safety of Angie’s fingers. She was reminded at each doorway to keep her hands clear of the bedrails. Once inside our suite, the nurses worked quickly to get Angie and baby hooked up to the new set of monitors. Again, there was a technical issue with one of the machines or cables. The nurses handled it well by deciding to swap it out with a neighboring vacant suite, as our situation was urgent.
An anesthesiologist was called to administer an epidural. He did not take long to appear with his medicine cart to add to the circus of nurses in the room. Just as in the triage room, I was on the outside looking in on the scene in front of me. The anesthesiologist was working on Angie’s back, while nurses were working on her IV and various monitors on the opposite side of the bed. The doctor was in and out of the room, at the foot of the bed, examining Angie or asking her questions about the pregnancy. Sometimes I chimed in with answers from outside their circle when Angie was ‘in the zone’ and too distracted to address certain questions. Finally, I was able to contribute something other than just standing around! At some point during all the madness, there was a brief pause in the action. I remember walking up to the bed and tugging on one of Angie’s toes to get her attention. She looked down at me and I smiled. She smiled back. I can’t remember why, but she only had one sock on. It was her pair of striped, ballerina shoe socks. Then people were bustling around the room again, and I had to step back.
Before long, the epidural began to set in, and Angie’s pain was being taken care of. The energy in the room seemed to settle some, as well. It must have been around 3:30 or 3:45 pm, and somehow I thought of our car and wondered if the valet closed at 4 or 4:30. At that point, I was quite certain our baby was coming and worried about having to deal with the valet while Angie was pushing out our baby. I asked the doctor if it would be an okay time for me to run down to the parking lot and deal with the valet. I also wanted to get our bags out of the car, since the only things that left the vehicle on arrival was Angie and myself. The doctor said it was a good time for taking care of that, as I double-checked with Angie who was also fine with the decision. I think she understood that I wanted to get the bags because my camera was in there, too!
I race-walked down to the valet stand and told him my name. He smiled and said, “Oh yes, your car is right up front and you can leave it there all weekend if you need to.” I was happy because I could carry all our bags in one trip, since it wouldn’t be too far. I rushed back into the birthing center and found relief that nothing much had happened since I had left. There were fewer staff in the room at that time, so Angie and I were able to share a few more glances and smalltalk about the car and our bags.
As I reflected on that afternoon’s events, it stood out to me that Angie had changed into the hospital gown in triage room B, but we had left her clothes in the bathroom. I asked a nurse if anyone had brought Angie’s clothes over to our suite. The nurse said, “No,” and recommended I go to the triage room and look for Angie’s clothes. I have no idea why that seemed so important to me at the time. I guess I was being protective and didn’t want Angie to lose anything during our visit, especially her Tunisian desert shoes! I rushed over to triage room B and found that it had already been cleaned and prepped for a new patient. I asked a nurse outside about Angie’s clothes, and to my delight, they had set them aside while cleaning out the room. I hurried back to our suite, clothes and desert shoes in hand.
Not long after I returned to our suite, the doctor was back to examine Angie. There were some brief words passed between the doctor and nurses. I was called over to take hold of Angie’s right leg and foot, while a nurse took over on the left side. The doctor instructed me to push Angie’s foot toward her body at the same time she was pushing for the baby to come out. I remember being stunned by the fact that we were already at the ‘pushing’ point of delivery. What happened to the long, drawn-out, 12-plus hours of labor?
Apparently, the doctor knew a thing or two about delivering babies. She told Angie that the baby was there, ready to be pushed out. Both doctor and nurse began shouting out counts to help Angie push for about 10 seconds each time. I dared to look down and was like, “WOAH, his head is totally right there! What?!” Our son, who had his head ready to go for months was finally making his way out. Progress was slow, and Angie worked hard to keep up with the coaching from the medical team. Every once in a while, Angie would look at me for some type of feedback. With the shouting from the other ladies in the room, I felt a little apprehensive in sharing my own voice. There were times when I’d smile at Angie, give her a thumbs up, or simply raise my eyebrows in awe of it all. I also remember speaking softly to Angie, “He’s here.” as a confirmation of the doctor’s statement.
Little by little, I was witness to the growing presence of a grey, wrinkled head, with clearly visible wet hair as Angie continued to push through her contractions. More fluid passed from the birth canal, and the doctor noticed it was colored by the presence of meconium, meaning that our son had pooped inside the womb. In an instant, the delivery got a little more serious. The doctor explained to Angie that the presence of meconium during delivery could put the baby at risk for further complications. So, the quicker Angie was able to deliver this baby, the better it would be. The doctor kept it real, saying that if the baby spent too long in the birth canal, they would be going into the operating room.
Angie acknowledged her understanding of the situation. She began pushing with a new fury, tapping into an energy from within her spirit that only a mother can have for her unborn child. Unfortunately, our son was not moving along fast enough. The doctor called for the vacuum pump, which was a small, white, plastic device placed on the portion of our son’s head that was peeking out. Angie dug deeper, working together with the doctor to push and pull our baby along. I watched the doctor use her skill and experience to control our son’s head by pulling on the pump in different directions as Angie pushed. Their teamwork was working! POP! The pump popped off, leaving our son’s head looking like a muffin top. It was freaky to look at, but I made sure to keep a straight face for Angie’s sake, as I knew she was looking at me for some type of feedback. The doctor explained that it was okay to have a pop-off, though there was a limit of one or two more, maximum. A decision was made to try and finish the delivery without the pump, as the doctor began using her hands to manipulate our son’s muffin-topped head.
Several more rounds of pushing, and out came our son’s head. His face was down and then turned to his side. Seeing his face for the first time was indescribable. Simply beautiful. Throughout the pregnancy, we were not able to get a good look at his face on any of the ultrasound appointments. He was a shy baby in utero. Next, there was an ‘Aha’ moment, as the doctor found the culprit of our baby’s fluctuating heart rate. She quickly unwrapped the umbilical cord from around our son’s neck. Again, I kept a straight face for Angie. The focus now shifted to getting the rest of his body out, which didn’t take too long.
As soon as the doctor delivered our son, she said that he felt a little warm. I was invited to cut his cord. It took me two attempts to completely sever the cord, as it had moved a little as I was cutting through it. Dorian was quickly handed over to the staff to get cleaned up and have his temperature taken. It was determined that both he and Angie had developed a fever during delivery. Once again, the energy in the room became urgent. “Possible chorio” was being said amongst the medical team. The doctor explained that Angie may have chorioamnionitis , which likely meant that her water had been broken for an extended period of time, allowing for an infection to set in. Unsure of how Dorian was affected by this, plus the presence of meconium during his delivery, the doctor decided it was necessary for our son to be sent off to the NICU for further evaluation and begin some antibiotic treatment. Angie’s placenta was removed and sent off for analysis at the laboratory.
Dorian was quite the quiet guy who did not cry at all when he exited the womb. The only sound he made was one little squeak as he was being cleaned up by the nurses. I was invited to see my son for the first time, who was laying on the warming table. I said my hellos and welcomed him into the world. Then he sprayed the warming table with a fresh coat of pee. The nurse cleaned Dorian up and asked if I’d like to see him being weighed and measured. 7 lbs, 5 oz and 19.25″ long. Time of birth had been recorded as 4:54 pm. Next, he was carried over to his mama, who was both exhausted and excited to hold her son for the first time. They shared but a few minutes together before the staff needed to steal him away to the NICU.
The energy in the room returned to a more relaxed state, as a lot of the extra staff had left with our baby. The remaining team prepared to repair Angie’s wounds of labor. The doctor and nurses congratulated Angie on her hard work and praised her efforts during delivery. The mood was light, and I found myself in conversation with the doctor about her wristband fitness tracker as she stitched away.
Dorian waited patiently for us in the NICU. I got to visit first, then later brought Angie down to see him. We stood, stared, then held him in our arms. Our family was born, and our little boy was finally here.