Inspired by the honest and emotional telling of Cricket’s birth story by her non-bio mom and encouraged by the moms over at First Time, Second Time, here is the retelling of the birth story of Little Man. Originally, I felt that it would be unfair to focus on my thoughts and feelings during L & D. I wasn’t the one doing all the L’ing, right? These ladies mentioned above helped me realize that this attitude results in a disservice to our community of non-bio moms and our broader community of NGPs. The typical birth story gives the NGP little insight into what to expect during labor beyond what is happening to her partner. Hopefully, these stories help more NGPs experience the birth of their little ones without the feeling of “Why didn’t anyone tell me this?!”
Just a note – This post was getting L O N G. So I’m breaking it up into multiple (at least 2) posts. I promise not to make you wait long between installments.
Our birth story really starts months before Little Man’s birthday. In the simplest terms, our original birth plan was to avoid induction, give birth in a hospital with no narcotic medications but be open to an epidural if Mommy decided she needed it (hopefully once she was 6 cms or more dilated). This seemed to fit our medical intervention comfort level perfectly. Then, about a month before Little Man’s expected arrival date, Mommy began to have painful, rhythmic, even time-able contractions for hours at a time. She also began to have pelvic pain so bad that she needed help to walk. Many days saw her using a dining room chair as a walker to just get to the bathroom. She spent more time those last few weeks sitting on a balance ball than anything else. As the days of contractions stretched into weeks, Mommy became much more open to induction, and I just couldn’t stand to watch her in pain anymore and to feel so helpless to do anything about it. We weren’t going to ask for an induction, but if/when the doctor suggested it, we weren’t going to resist. Every week at the OB’s office, we got the same news: more effacement but no dilation. Mommy’s body was working so hard, and we felt more and more frustrated with the lack of dilation. The anticipation of meeting our son and watching the pain and exhaustion my wife was enduring made these last few weeks stretch on f o r e v e r.
At 40 weeks, 2 days, we had an OB appointment. Mommy had been contracting for about 3 weeks at that point, and we went in knowing that our OB didn’t like to let patients go past 41 weeks. We carried along all the stuff for the hospital just in case. The doctor checked Mommy and said that although she still was not dilated, she was almost fully effaced and that her cervix was very soft. The OB could feel Little Man’s head. The doctor told us she was going to make a few calls and come back to talk to us. As soon as the door closed behind her, I looked at Mommy and was flooded with a rush of panic and excitement. All the weeks of wishing Little Man would hurry up already had not, in fact, prepared me for the possibility that we were very likely about to set a date to coax him out.
When the OB got back, she asked if it would work for Mommy to be admitted then to start the process of induction. Not schedule the induction but be admitted to start it. As in now. As in today. Yes, we had come prepared with all the crap we thought we’d need in the hospital and even had Granny with us, but hearing that we were going to get the ball rolling was still a rush of emotion. We discussed some things with the doctor, agreed that it was a good day to start to have a baby, and headed upstairs to Labor and Delivery.
Mommy was admitted, and they allowed her to eat dinner before starting anything. While she was eating, I took Granny home to sleep for the night, because we weren’t expecting Little Man any time before late the next day according to the doctor’s estimates. My round trip drive was full of mental checklists and questions and anxiety. Did we pack everything we needed? Were we making the right decision by inducing now? When would Little Man make an appearance? Who did we need to call? When I arrived back at the hospital, I began the task of carting our bags of clothing, a breast pump, a Boppy, and countless other things we’d packed up to our room. After my first trip, the nurses offered me a cart. So, I literally carted the rest of our belongings up in a second trip.
That evening at 8PM, the RN started administering Cer.vi.dil or Cyt0tec (I’m still not sure which) to help dilate Mommy’s cervix. This was done every 4 hours until 4 AM. We tried to get as much sleep as possible in between doses. They encouraged Mommy to take something to help her sleep so that she would be strong for what could be a long labor. She resisted multiple times but finally gave in. Once she was asleep, I tried to get comfortable. I barely slept at all. I tossed and turned on the extremely uncomfortable pull-out “sofa” and listened for any little noise from my wife. The only breaks from the non-stop anxieties, questions and concerns running in my head were the moments when I could laugh at my wife’s sleep talking. She’s quite the comedienne in her sleep, and I knew that meant that at least she was sleeping. I naively hoped that since Mommy had been fully effaced and having those rhythmic contractions for weeks that the jump-start to dilation would be the only push she’d need. I held out hope, ever so small, that we could avoid the dreaded Pit0cin.
Just before 8AM the next day, the OB came in to check Mommy’s progress. She had begun to dilate but only to just over a centimeter. Hearing that made me feel defeated. All hope I’d held onto of avoiding Pit0cin immediately vanished. This also started the routine cervix checks that my wife would endure over the next 29 hours. How can one little procedure cause so much conflicting emotion? I began to dread those checks. They caused my wife so much discomfort that I felt sick at the thought. At the same time, the whole room pauses waiting to hear word of progress. In this case, there was enough dilation to break her water. Then, they started Pit0cin at 8AM to strengthen contractions. Almost as an aside, the doctor notified us that she saw meconium in the amniotic fluid. She reassured us that this was not all that uncommon, and that it was quite possible to continue as planned without complications for Mommy or Little Man. At the reassurance of the OB, the meconium issue practically disappeared from our radar as Pit0cin contractions took over.
For the next few hours, my eyes were constantly on my wife or the monitor. I was watching contractions similar to what they had explained in our birth class except that these did not have a resting period. My wife was quickly becoming exhausted from what was basically a never-ending contraction. Sure, it had peaks and valleys, but there was no resting period. There was no time to regroup before the next one hit. There was no next one, because this one never ended. I felt helpless. Everything I wanted to say to comfort her seemed small and insignificant. So, I just sat with her and tried to let her know when she’d reached a peak. That way, at least, she knew a valley was coming. After a few hours of this, the contractions were so intense that Mommy accepted the offer of an epidural. This was much earlier than we had hoped to need the epidural, but Pit0cin wasn’t part of that original plan either. For a while after the epidural was administered, we were able to nap and rest – Mommy in the bed, and me in the chair next to it with my head on her bed. During that time, one of our friends picked Granny up from the house and brought her to the hospital. For a few hours, labor seemed to be going in the right direction. Mommy was reasonably comfortable. She was dilating, and Little Man was handling it all like a champ. The mood shifted in a positive direction. We were tired, but excited, and the nurses thought we’d be holding our son by midnight.