A Heroine and a Princess

Guys, let’s get one thing straight: Women are the most powerful beings on earth. If you don’t believe me, wait until you become a father.

(Warning: This story is perfectly family friendly, but it may be a little explicit for some.)

We headed to the hospital two Wednesdays ago (11/16) to start the induction process. We were registered by 7:30 that evening, and Kim got her dose of Cervidil at around 10. The idea was to let the Cervidil do its work overnight, hopefully leading to a cervix somewhat more dilated than Kim’s 1cm. Thursday morning came with no change, so Pitocin — synthetic oxytocin, the hormone associated with uterine contractions among other things — was begun and we proceeded to wait. Nothing happened until our obstetrician ruptured Kim’s water at about 1:30 that afternoon. We suspected something was happening when Kim’s contractions finally started to grow painful, and by 4:30 an epidural line was keeping her comfortable. Progress was slow, however, and Kim was only 3-4cm dilated by 7:00 that evening. That’s much smaller than we were hoping, but it was progress; we estimated that Kim would be ready to push by 2:00 am or so. I went home and grabbed a quick shower, then came back to spend the night at the hospital with Kim. We settled in for a nap, hoping that we’d wake up ready to push.

I was pulled back into consciousness just before 1:00 am; apparently Kim’s contractions were getting much stronger, and the epidural can only take away the pain. The pressure was increasing and Kim felt like she had to push, but we called a nurse to make sure. The verdict: only 6-7cm. For the next three hours, I let Kim strangle my hand as she rode through contraction after contraction (at two-minute intervals) trying her hardest not to push. Finally, at 4:30 am on Friday, Kim was nearly completely dilated at 10cm.

The first attempt went relatively well: Hold breath, push for 10 seconds; repeat two more times. This went on every two minutes for three hours, by which time Kim was at the ragged end. Gasping for breath, her legs were constantly shaking from the effort and she was no longer able to hold her breath for even five seconds. On the bright side, I could make out the very top of our baby’s head when Kim’s doctor used her fingers to expand Kim’s birth canal and inspect her progress. The doctor and nurse on call rolled Kim to her side, which gave her lungs more room to expand. We pushed for another hour. Towards the end, Kim’s obstetrician (who had stayed up with us since Thursday morning) had brought out the suction device and attempted to help with the baby’s progress. On both of those occasions, the top of the baby’s head was within an inch of exiting the birth canal. She just wasn’t close enough, however, and we’d all run out of options.

The obstetrician gave us the news quickly but gently: “Kim, I know you’re giving it everything you’ve got, and we’ve all tried so hard to make this work…. But we just aren’t as far along as we should be. We can’t risk the baby’s health, so we’re going to go for a C-section.” It only took a moment for the news to sink in, and it hit rather hard. Kim’s head dropped to the pillow, too exhausted to cry, but the disappointment was palpable. The doctor called for the C-section at 8:30 am; by 8:35, I was sitting by Kim’s head in the OR and the obstetrician had just made her first cut. What happened next is still a bit of a blur, but I very distinctly remember standing up just as the incision was made in Kim’s uterus and our baby was pulled out. She let out a lusty cry, a welcome end to 36 hours of work and perhaps the most beautiful sound we’d heard in our lives.

Emerson, meet the world. World, Emerson. Born on November 18, 2005, at 8:40 am. 6 pounds, 13 ounces, 20.5 inches, 9 and 9 on Apgar.

It’s hard to describe everything we saw and felt in those last moments. Like the anxiety I felt as I waited outside the OR while Kim was prepped and draped. Or, before that, the combination of relief and disappointment as the anesthesiologist rushed in to deliver a bolus prior to surgery. Even before that, there was the restlesness mixed with exhaustion and helplessness as I sat by Kim for 36 hours, holding her hand and trying to be useful. I did everything I could, but in the end, I know that Kim did all of the real work. It’s one thing to stay awake and play the moral backboard; it’s entirely different to be a mother. I have no words to describe what Kim must have endured, what mountains she climbed to deliver Emerson to her mom and dad. It was an awe-inspiring, life-changing experience, one I’m not likely to forget.

Emmy’s been out here for nine days now, and we’re slowly settling into a pattern. The first couple of days were just blurs; crying, diaper changing, feeding attempts, pain management, and trying very hard to get in an hour or two of sleep when we could. Kim’s incision is healing nicely, which takes the pain mostly out of the equation; everything else has remained the same. I never thought that four hours was a lot of sleep, but these days it’s the exception. And once again, despite my best efforts, nothing I do can compare to Kim’s patience and reserve. She’s the one who feeds Emerson 8-12 times a day, while somehow balancing the demands of her own body and all of the regular stresses of normal life. I can only take away so much of that workload. I feel guilty whenever I sleep through a feeding, or fall asleep before one is over. I feel like I can’t form as tight a bond with Emerson, and in somes ways I can’t; in other ways, I realize this is only a temporary thing. But once again, I’m reminded of the power that women hold in this world. I could never have done something so beautiful in my life.

Despite the lack of sleep and occasional frustration, we’re both very happy new parents. I’m working on posting some new photos, but as you might have guessed, there are a lot to process. Stay tuned! (I also can’t believe I have to work tomorrow, but I suppose it was bound to happen at some point.)

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[…] Pain and joy: My friend Blair is now a father, and has been kind enough to share the emotional story. Congratulations, Blair and Kim: I wish you happiness and sleep. […]

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