Being a dad is all it's cracked up to be.
And when I say cracked, I mean just that: cracked wide open and into little pieces, but I'll get back to that in a bit. First, I should try to break it down by the time-line, so, as my once-comrade used to say, from jump . . .
At 1730, we called Labor and Delivery, as instructed, and were told “come on in”, after diffusing the immediate confusion assuming they meant come in right away, they confirmed our arrival time at 1930, and the wait was back on, crisis number zero averted.
I had the car packed that morning, just had to grab a pot of coffee and . . . I already forgot what else, and we checked into L&D at 1910. It took less than an hour to get settled into the room, which was surprisingly nice for an Army facility, then another hour or so to get all the rest of the equipment attached, because all the L&D staff saw was “ Complicated OB”, High Risk, Hypertension and other warnings, so Rebecca got a heart monitor for the baby, a uterine monitor for contractions, blood pressure cuff, lower leg cuffs (to simulate walking and prevent clots) an IV drip and . . . actually, I think that was it—until they added an extra pick for blood transfusion, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Shortly before 2100, they dosed her with cervadil, which was supposed to dilate her cervix the rest of the way (she was already at 1cm on her own) of 12 hours . . . it went to 2 by 0900 Monday, when her Doctor from OB showed up to take over.
Dr C was very optimistic that baby would arrive today, with just another dose of cervadil and pitocin (another induction drug for the the drip), but first he got her some hospital breakfast, which she ate about half of, the half she quit on and told me to take care of wasn't that bad. Then they put her on another dose of cervadil and settled in for the long wait . . . sarcasm not withstanding. Because the nursing staff was busy with other patients, I had to step up and help Rebecca out of bed (and the myriad of hose and wire connections) so she could get up and walk off some of the cramps every hour or so (her regular readers are probably chuckling at my colorful manipulation of facts here . . .). She sent me home three times during the course of the day to check on the cat, his food, water, litter, etc. and grab up any remaining items.
The Doctor finally stopped the cervadil after it's 12 hour limit, let her have a cold dinner (her first turkey cold cut sandwich in Months, for which she was earnestly grateful), then put her on a pitocin drip to further induce labor. Well, it gave her frequent cramps, made her extremely uncomfortable, whether lying on her side as they let her or her back as the first put her in the bed. Around 0800, Dr C's shift was over and Drs W (a midwife) and F (both Army Majors, so I was very confident) took over. The nurse anesthetist, Dean, came in to discuss pain meds, including various injectables and an epidural; Rebecca declined at the time, and he left saying “It's never too late for an epidural,” . . . I'll revisit that later.
I still don't remember whose idea it was to Break Rebecca's water with one of those foot-long white plastic hook probes, but that's exactly what they did, and less than 15 minutes later she was in full active labor. At one point she asked for pain meds—and that should give some of you Pause: Rebecca Asking for pain relief—and we were told they had to get the baby's heart rate first, which was problematic because the baby's heart monitor wasn't staying still. She actually asked if it was too late for an epidural—or maybe I asked—and someone said, with a bit of (what I hope was a nervous) laugh: “It's too late for an Epidural.” The next half hour or so was—to borrow a colloquial term—absolutely Epic.
Rebecca dilated to the full 10cm in the first 15-20 minutes of contractions and pushing. At some point, she asked “can somebody hold my legs,” so I grabbed her left and the nurse monitoring the monitors grabbed her right. Then, my amazing wife pushed almost straight through the next 15 minutes or so with nothing but me and an overtaxed nurse holding her legs. I looked down and saw the baby crowning at about 0910, stammered through my job as a coach—fortunately the nurse on the other side of me, able to spare only one hand for Rebecca's leg, had been a cheerleader and did an excellent job coaching her through in my place. Dramatic writing fails me utterly: shortly after the baby crowned, Rebecca Screamed through another push, ignored the contraction—or absence of—and at 0917, flying headfirst at a very calm but surprised Major W., our Grace entered the world.
There's a pause here because I am tearing up remembering it, just as I did the moment it happened, as she was wrapped in a blanket and placed on Rebecca's chest, whimpering and sighing, but not gasping or crying. In the afterglow of pain I don't care to guess at, she managed one word, none of the staff really heard or understood, so they all leaned in and asked her what she said, but I knew, we'd been discussing that word for Days, knew it inside and out, and now knew who it belonged to: Eilonwy.
Another pause as I tear up again, just so you folks understand why this writing seems to bounce around so much . . . For those of you not already googling Eilonwy, (we say it eye-LAHN-we, but nobody pronounces anybody else's name quite right) here are the facts: she is the Lost Disney princess, from the Movie “The Black Cauldron,” based on the book, by Lloyd Alexander, of the same name and its 1982 prequel, “The Book of Three.” Together, they are books 1 and 2 of the 5 part “Prydain Chronicles,” books I found by accident when I was in 5th grade, borrowed from the town library and wanted for my own. It was childhood dream granted by Rebecca years ago when she found the “Chronicles of Prydain” boxed set, and from which I've been reading to her belly for the last two or three weeks since we went through the mother goose's rhymes book.
Back to the time-line, Dr W clamped the cord and showed me where to cut it--there's a picture of that, too--and I stood beside Rebecca, Eilonwy on her chest, as Dr. W delivered the placenta and . . . finished up (I leave out all the details, but I'm sure you regular readers or experienced moms know what else that entailed). Because she was so small—visually, they hadn't weighed her yet—and slightly under temp, one of the nurses put Eilonwy under the baby warmer, where I was invited to help towel off the vernix, and where I stayed while Rebecca finally relaxed and got a little much-earned sleep.
Our Nurse showed me how to bathe, feed and diaper the baby, while Rebecca continued to recover from her delivery. Because she was so petite, Eilonwy's temperature remained slightly below average, so she spent most of her time in the baby warmer, under the heat lamp. It was still sometime before noon, while I was reading to Eilonwy from “The Book of Three,” when Rebecca said she wasn't feeling well, that she was blacking out, then “get someone” and her arms and legs began to shake violently, beyond the scope of the worst cold chills I'd ever seen. I hit the nurse call button, decided it wasn't fast enough, went to the door and called for help. It took less than 10 second for two nurses and a doctor to show up, another minute for two more doctors and another nurse to have Rebecca's bed flat, then inclined, a pressure bag, oxygen, another IV, so many cc's of this, so many mils of that, all the time rubbing her chest, calling her name, asking her where she was . . . I spoke up from the other side of the baby warmer when they asked details of medical history, MI, seizures, even helped them untangle a cord from the monitor, read a display to the lead doctor because it was facing the wrong way and a nurse was on the wrong side before they got it turned.
After several long minutes, they stabilized her blood pressure, which had dropped to less than half her normally elevated levels, but remained wary of her bleeding, such that she remained in the labor-delivery room well into the afternoon and evening.
Pictures will follow soon...but we'll save that for another post.