"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Star is Born, part two: The Birth of Cool

Xander was supposed to be born on December 25, a Christmas miracle. He was almost born on October 10. Instead, he was born on November 15, 2010. It was a long and costly ordeal, but this is the result:
He's happy to be here.
If you missed it, read part one of this yarn here. The following might make slightly more sense.

The doctors told us that it was safer at 34 weeks for the baby to be born than to remain in utero sans amniotic fluid. On Sunday, November 14, sleeping on the hospital couch like I'd done many nights for weeks now, I awoke early to the nurse's administrations as she monitored May and the baby. Xander seemed ready. He was active, practicing his leg extensions or something, and there was still no sign of infection in either mom or baby, so we were told to prepare ourselves.

May had been sequestered in a long-term care room, and we had made it our own over the weeks. I had brought dozens of DVDs and books from home. The wide windowsill held a veritable electronics store: iPods, Kindles, laptops, speakers, reading lamps, cell phones. Two of each of those items. Literally. Our clothes spilled out of duffel bags in various locations throughout the room. The small refrigerator the hospital provided was stocked with snack puddings, leftover sandwiches, and cans of Mountain Dew, for me.

Now we had to pack it all up. The nurses equivocated about it all week. "You'll be moved to a labor room when we start the induction, and you'll be there until after you deliver," they said. "But we don't know if maybe we're going to need this room while you're in labor, so it might be best if you probably take most of your belongings with you." They had busy days in the maternity wing while we occupied that room, sure, but there were always empty rooms. Still, the room would be unoccupied while we were otherwise engaged, so I took all of the electronics out to our locked car in the parking lot.

May's sister and parents joined us after the lunching hour. Her parents were worried they'd miss something because they couldn't come earlier. We were informed, however, that the doctors had to perform two emergency C-sections that morning, and it would be a while before anyone could get to us. So we waited and gossiped and played Scrabble on May's sister's phone for four hours which prompted me to get Scrabble for my oldest daughter's phone just so I could play Scrabble when I'm bored. My phone's just a phone.

Around 5:00 in the afternoon (remember, we were awakened about 12 hours before), we finally occupied a labor room. May was presented with a pill to get her gears moving (neither of us can now remember what the medicine was called; it started with an S, maybe, and it's supposed to instigate a lighter, slower induction than the usual Pitocin). I ate one last Philly Cheesesteak from the cafeteria downstairs and May ate some salmon that her nurse turned a blind eye to. We expected to be there for the next 24 hours or so.

Still slightly happy to be doing this.
During the next two hours, every movement of May's uterus was recorded. The printout showed some small spikes, and May could feel something happening to her tummy, but I insisted she wasn't contracting yet. She'd felt little twinges like this the entire time she'd been in the hospital. Besides, she'd know it when it happened. Of course, then the nurse had to swoop in and contradict me.

Her contractions were regular if not strong, and labor was officially knocking at the door. At 7:00, they opted against a second dose of the meds. She was dilated to a two, which was pretty much where she started, and the effacement was changing not at all, but she was contracting.

The family units had to get home. We decided that they should get some sleep now in the event that she gives birth in the wee small hours of the morning. They left around 9:00, and I assured them I'd call when May was closer. With fewer people in the room, May turned to pacing, which helps labor but makes me nervous. We now had a view of the other side of the hospital. It was a gray day outside, so we turned down the lights and watched the sparkling evening threaten to snow.

At 10:00 I was on the couch, taking a Dagwood nap. I doubt May slept, but she seemed relaxed and ready for the Pitocin at 11:00. She was dilated to a three. At this rate Xander would be here in fifteen more hours. But all the Pitocin seemed good for was bringing the pain.

May hit the wall around 1:00 in the morning. The contractions were bigger, stronger, faster. Like a high school athlete taking gym class seriously. I asked her what she was waiting for, and she couldn't give much of a coherent answer. She can now say that she knew all along that she wanted an epidural and that she could get it any time she wanted along the way. But maybe by waiting, she was able to experience part of the birth that would be denied by the drugs.

The epidural needle. Yikes!
Getting an epidural at this point seemed almost not worth it. Time was a factor because they can't come right on in and stick a needle in your spine just like that as soon as you ask. The anesthesiologist needed to be paged and the equipment set up and the husband properly prepared. My job was to hold my wife perfectly still while they shoved a catheter into her spinal column. I had to wear a surgical mask because during the procedure everything had to be sterile. I hate those things. I can't breath right when I'm wearing one, and I could feel myself get light-headed during the procedure. I very nearly fainted while I was supposed to be restraining my wife. I literally swooned and only saved myself from certain humiliation and possible jeopardy to my wife and child by sheer force of will.

Thus, with little help from me, by 2:00 May was comfortable, most of the pain dispelled. But she was only dilated to a four. Not making much progress. We actually slept. It was a short respite.

No longer having any fun.
By 3:00, she was in pain again. It was now worse than before the epidural. The nurse was taken by surprise, it seemed, and her consult with the anesthesiologist took too long and didn't really pay off. By 4:00, the dose of medication had been increased, but I think it was just too late. The next hour was managed by waiting out contractions, back massage, and a little whimpering, probably from the both of us.

Then, just before 5:00, May was suddenly fully dilated and effaced and ready to birth a baby boy. Apparently contractions that can rip right through an epidural pain block are contractions that want that baby out. I called my in-laws and said she's ready. It would happen soon.

The next half hour went wicked fast. The epidural had worn down and May was in massive pain. I massaged her shoulders and back and held her hand and she sat in the fetal position while the medical professionals took their time. The nurse said the doc was on the way and the NICU team would be here soon.

When the doc arrived and was able to do her examination, she said she could feel the head. But Xander was the only one ready. The medicos scrambled to put a sheet underneath and May was pushing and the doctor had one hand on May and one hand telling others what to do. After two pushes, Xander was crowning.

May's mother and sister walked in right behind the NICU team. There were five or six of them on the team. That added up to a sudden fifteen or sixteen people in the room when mere minutes before it had been just my wife and I with the occasional nurse. The NICU doctor complained that he wasn't told May was so far along. As if anyone knew she was that far along.

My mother-in-law took up residence opposite me, each of us grasping one of May's legs. On the third push, Xander's shoulders emerged and the rest of him just slipped right out. The ultimate water slide. The doctor almost missed him and let him drop onto the disheveled sheet. But she held on.
So skinny. No wonder he just slid out.

Without any prompting, up rose this tiny, airy wail. Our one big worry was about the state of Xander's lung development, and when I heard his soft, quiet bellow, I knew he would be okay. I laughed out loud to keep myself from crying.

The doctor handed me the scissors to cut the umbilical cord. The scissors were large and bent in the middle, I guess to give you leverage or something because that cord is tough. It ought to be; you don't want it tearing like the hose to the wiper fluid. After a couple good slices, I was able to sever the metaphorical apron string.

Alexander Brent Wescott was born at 5:32 a.m. on Monday, November 15, 2010, after twelve hours of labor. He didn't come home, however, until a month later. More about that later in the third part of "A Star is Born."
The Birth of Cool, indeed.


  1. You've got an impressive story my friend!

  2. I was getting worried. For a while there I thought you were going to have a cesarean! I'm so glad he finally made his appearance and cried.

  3. Thanks, Doc. You ever deliver a baby? :)

    Chanel, it's crazy how fast it all happened at the end. We had no time to even consider a C-section. But I'm glad my red herring foreshadowing worked.

  4. He is an absolutely adorable boy; no doubt about that with those cheeks that are just made for kissing. 6 days earlier and he & I would've shared a birthday.

    The needle picture made me nauseous; your wife is a strong woman for going through all of that.

  5. Your kid is almost as cute as my kid. Almost.

  6. AP: Some people might say a woman who gets an epidural is the weak woman. Thanks for your point of view.

    Doug: Isn't your kid a statue of some kind? Or a stick figure?

  7. Thanks for sharing your story Brent.

  8. AHHHHH. Confession time: I'm absolutely terrified to give birth. This increases my terror. You're both incredibly strong people, I'll tell you that.

  9. You're welcome, Michael. Thanks for reading.

    Nikki, I've been claiming all along that it was fast and easy. I mean, how difficult is it to push three times and have a baby? (I don't think my wife reads these comments, by the way...)

  10. Our son arrived at 36 weeks. I was in hospital from 25 weeks and on those awful drugs. What memories these blogs all bring back. T is now 19, tall, skinny and our pride and joy.

    Xander is adorable.

  11. Nubian, I think my wife has the same stats as you. Fortunately everything seems to have gone well.