This is part 2. To catch up, go to part 1.
I was in awe. S had handled her contractions so beautifully (with only a bit of IV fentanyl) that I would have never guessed her to be that advanced into her labor. We had introduced counter pressure prior to her check, but I had been operating under the assumption that I was helping treat discomfort, not transition labor pains. Other symptoms of transition became more obvious in hindsight. She had started being a tad ornery, didn’t tolerate noise and distractions as well, and had stopped talking through the peak of her contractions.
With this information, I threw the rest of my preconceived notions out the window. Her contractions were still spaced pretty far apart, and based on contraction pattern alone, she wouldn’t have been considered even “active labor” if baby was term. It was the cervical check that helped us better assess her progress.
K was doing knee presses as often as he saw S contracting. She was still so quiet that even I was missing cues. Her face was starting to scrunch up with each one, and she would close her eyes, but otherwise appeared very relaxed. A few times, she snapped that she’d like “a little pressure please!” because neither of us had realized her contraction had started. K’s jokes and the TV proved at this point to be an unhelpful distraction, so the TV was switched off and K worked to stay a little quieter.
It had been about an hour since the check when S started to show more signs of pain. She asked if she could get an epidural. I quickly asked the nurse for her and was told that the anesthetist would be on his way. Ten minutes of waiting passed before we saw the nurse.
“I am so sorry.” That was the first thing she said, and I tensed up, wondering what was wrong. “They didn’t do your blood work when you were admitted. We need your platelet count before you can get your epidural.”
The reality crashed in on us. S was going to have to get a blood draw, wait for the results, and then wait for the anesthetist before she could get the epidural she wanted. She was understandably angry, especially because an epidural was not part of her plan. Now that she had decided she wanted it, she wanted it sooner than later. The nurse apologized again before dipping out of the room so that she could hurry the blood draw up.
I addressed what I could to relieve her pain. More knee presses, which helped open her pelvis and release some of the pressure of the contractions. Low lighting, quiet during contractions. Finally, her blood was drawn and rushed to the lab. Her IV drip was turned up so that she would have plenty of fluids and not be as likely to suffer adverse effects. Finally, the anesthetist was introducing himself and going over consent forms. Finally, S was able to sit up and have the epidural placed. It had been about two hours since she had asked for it.
The placement didn’t take long, but S grimaced in pain from her contractions throughout. K held her, the anesthetist helped steady her, and finally she was able to lay back. She was informed that it could take up to 20 minutes to kick in fully and to let them know if she was numb only on one side or if she was experiencing any “windows” of pain. The anesthetist left just as S’s midwife came in.
She asked how S was feeling, and then asked if it was okay to do a cervical check. Baby B was right there when she checked, and she started prepping for the birth. The nurse was in touch with the NICU staff, the photographer arrived, and it was time to push.
I helped support S’s leg so that K could be with her. S pushed well with little instruction (she later told me the epidural never really kicked in and she was able to feel exactly what she was doing). Baby descended and turned. The midwife encouraged S to push.
“A little more. Your baby is almost here. Just a few more pushes.”
The strength S had exhibited her entire labor seemed to give out. She stopped pushing and broke down in tears. “But as soon as she’s here you’re going to take her away.”
There are no words to describe that sort of pain. The nurse, midwife, and I fought back tears. K held her and she calmed slightly in his arms. “She’ll be in good hands.” I reminded S gently. “You’ve done so well for her, kept her safe and growing in you all this time. But now she needs a little extra help. You’ll see her soon.”
My voice broke. I remembered, vividly, being told that my baby would need to be admitted into the NICU. She was 12 hours old at that point. I’d already seen her, kissed her, held her, and nursed her. Even then, my pain and guilt had overwhelmed me, had dragged me into a sobbing heaping mess. I can’t pretend to know what S was feeling, but I can imagine.
S nodded, looking more at K than at me, and resumed pushing. One more contraction, and baby B was born. She was laid on S’s stomach, crying a pitiful tiny cry, while the midwife quickly clamped the umbilical cord in three places. She “milked” some of the cord blood into the baby, and then handed K the scissors and helped him cut the cord. Baby was then wrapped quickly in a blanket and taken from the room. The midwife then cut a small section of the cord, full of baby’s blood, and set it aside in case baby needed any blood in the first hours.
It seemed so quiet without the baby there. The time of birth had been called, and I let S and K know what it was. The midwife helped S deliver the placenta and got to work stitching a small tear.
We heard some news from the NICU. Baby B had a score of 8 at her one minute APGAR and a score of 9 at her five minute, which is just as high as a term baby. She was 3 pounds and 12 ounces, had some hair, and looked like her daddy. She had a nasal cannula with oxygen as a caution, but she seemed to be breathing pretty well for her age and they hadn’t needed to intubate her.
We breathed a little easier after that. The mood in the room lightened a bit, with K cracking jokes at the midwife and making us all laugh. When the repair was done, the midwife left to do some charting, the photographer left to head home, and S and K were left in limbo.
That was the longest time– S had started to shake and shiver, which is normal after giving birth and normal with anesthesia. She curled up in bed and dozed while trying to get warm. K paced for a bit, torn between wanting to be with S and needing something to do. I suggested that they rest and I went to check in with the nurses. The news was good– she was doing well. But they didn’t know when her parents would be able to see her.
It was a long three hours before S and K were able to see Baby B, but she was stable enough by then to be held. I moved all of their things to S’s recovery room and waited while they met her. It was an odd time of reflection. My daughter NJ had the same Dr in the NICU. I knew their journey would be longer than mine, that their baby would likely need more intervention than mine. They also had to juggle two kids, and try to figure out how to spend time with the baby without neglecting their two year old.
Yes, they have a long journey. But I saw the strength and determination in S’s eyes, both during birth and after holding her daughter. Whatever obstacles they face, Baby B has parents that are strong and determined and that will make sure she’s in the best hands at all times.
As I drove home early that morning, I was reminded again of how much motherhood requires. But if anyone can do it, S and K can.
–Thank you for reading this. I mentioned in part 1 that Baby B was back in the hospital. I’m happy to report that she’s home again and doing well. Your continued prayers and good thoughts for this family are very much appreciated.–
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