Dash's Labor and Delivery
(sorry, no pictures)
Setting the Stage
Sonogram technicians note an arrhythmia in Dash's heartbeat. Leigh is sent for additional monitoring which after several hours clears Leigh to go home.
Friday October 14
Sonogram technicians again send Leigh to Labor and Delivery after noting an "ugly" heart deceleration. I clean up my cube in the CalTrans trailer (a feat that to this is a bigger miracle to my co-workers than Dash is) and head home to pack for the hospital. Hours later there was talk of inducing labor. I am introduced to the concept of having to make a potentially life-changing decision that I'm completely unqualified to make. Foreshadowing. I've got everything packed from the house and have just finished a pizza buffet lunch (what? 1st things 1st) and am driving to the hospital. Leigh calls. Further monitoring gives her an all clear. Leigh returns home.
Through October 19
Normal stuff. Finish the house on the weekend. Leigh had some monitoring on Monday. Everything okay. Jeff's nails are all bitten off.
Thursday, October 20
Leigh goes in for monitoring again at 8:45am. Again they notice Dash's heart decelerate during contractions instead of accelerate like it should. They send Leigh over to Labor and Delivery at around 11:00am. I get the call at work again. This time, since she is past her due date, it will be unlikely that Dash will be sent home again inside Leigh.
I get to the hospital around 4:00p. Leigh is in a room about the size of our minivan (okay, slight exaggeration) crammed full of stuff. She's in the bed hooked up to a contraction and a fetal heartrate monitor. So she's chained to the bed. I bring our five bags of gear and plop them down behind and in front of the "recliner" that I'll be based out of for the next 18 hours.
Leigh is contracting every nine or ten minutes, easing into labor. Poking, prodding, and an IMAX camera show that she's at 1cm and holding. Heart rate is still a concern. Nothing major, but contractions should cause an increase in heartrate, not a decrease.
So induction is suggested. Which means Leigh won't be able to go upstairs to the Midwife New-Agey Holistic Alchemical MetaPhysical TreeHugger Estrogen Floor like we had been planning. We had brought our Birth Plan which included a number of New-Agey requests (no vaccinations, no Goo-in-the-eye, Pediatric-Team-Chanting-Dr-Seuss-like-Monks). This "Plan" was bullet-by-bullet being thrown out the window. Leigh and I were scheming to come up with a way to get induced and still make it up to the Midwife/Occult//Estrogen floor. Get the Petocin and then start a "Keep Your Filthy Hands Off my Body" chant.
Really wanting to cling to the very organic Birth Plan, we eventually, disappointedly, capitulated to the masculine, interventive, continual-monitoring route on the Labor and Delivery floor.
In a last attempt to make it upstairs, we tried mechanical induction, which involved a "Foley Ball," "membrane scraping," "eye of newt" and an attempted exorcism. Stronger contractions, closer together but little progress.
Bring on the drugs. For induction, that is. Leigh gets an IV for Petocin which WILL get the ball rolling. Between the monitor cables and the IV, Leigh is pretty strapped down, unable to walk around or even change positions much. The contractions are becoming more frequent, stronger, and more painful. Leigh's tolerance for pain is being tested, mine has already been exceeded. I start pushing for the epidural. Which, when Leigh gets it, is enough in itself to make me forswear ever having the gall to go through a pregnancy again. I mean, the Birth Plan has been aborted, why do the pain for no reason.
Dilation goes to 4cm and stays there. And then: continues to stay there.
Meanwhile, everybody, including random passersby, are saying they Really Don't Like those heart decelerations.
Friday, October 21, 2005
We're still at 4 centimeters. Heart still drops a bit at the initiation of contractions. Bush announces that "If the Heart decelerabates, then the terrorists win." The C-word is brought up by the doctors. If the decelerations continue, then they'll have to do a Caesarian. Leigh and I, having gone through a week of heart scares, are suitably worried.
We're still at 4cm. I already know it's coming based on the monitoring, but the doctor in charge (there have been about a dozen due to shift changes it seems) says she's going to recommend an immediate (but not an emergency) Caesarian. Waah. We just want Dash to be okay. Very on-edge. Nervous.
The bad news: no C-Section yet. The good news: he is in better shape than some other babies who needed the operating rooms more (everyone turned out okay). By now we've been waiting so long everything seems abstract and life seems unchanged.
It's time! Doctor (perhaps yet another one) comes in and says they're ready to go. They're going to take Leigh in, get her ready, and I'll follow in twenty minutes. That "life is normal, baby is still abstract" feeling is WAY GONE. Oh my God! Dash will be here in half an hour!
They wheel Leigh out, leaving me alone for twenty minutes until she's prepped. I go through that "Oh my God: this is the pivotal moment of my life, depending entirely on Dash's health. All attempts of transcendence, redemption, and worth depend on this boy..." Grand fear. But fortunately it occurred to me that I can't pin my worth on Dash; it would be too much pressure on him. I'll have to find my worth not resting on his shoulders. He'll just need to be healthy and average and able to be a good, kind person.
They escort me to the operating room. It looks like a government work program, twenty people in green, lots of equipment. I'm escorted to green divider. Leigh's head and an anesthesiologist are on the far side. I sit. Leigh is fine. Everything is swabbed in green cotton, except for Leigh's head and her left hand, which seems to be clamped in place like that of a NASA monkey in a space capsule. I hold it. The anesthesiologist, the only other man in the room (until Dash is extracted), is asking about us diving off of Zanzibar, either genuinely interested or trying to keep us from thinking to much. As is typical, I bite on the conversation and almost forget why I'm there. UCSD Hillcrest is a teaching hospital, so I assume some of the eighteen women in the room are med students or residents. I hear snippets from the two closest to me and Leigh's head "that's because I can't see what you are doing" like they're good ol' boys under a hood. "Hey that's MY hood you're monkeying around under," I think. Leigh's numb below the curtain, but can feel the tugging. I occasionally peak over the divider. They have her stomach all disenfectant-ed up, reminds me of a frozen Butterball turkey.
At some point they say "Lower the table" which is doctorspeak for "Let's pull him out now." A greenclad shuffled over, swaddled arms held wide. She was clearly the Catcher. I was mostly watching Leigh and really didn't want to see Dash in utero or in incisero, but saw him when they lifted him high. They Catcher seemed more precisely to be a Transferer who took Dash over to the Pediatric Poking and Prodding Team who had seemed kind of giggly up to this point. They went right to work, with lots of laughter. Miracles are awfully routine in Labor and Delivery. Leigh said "If they were laughing, I knew everything was alright."
We got a thumbs-up from the Pediatrics team and they invited me over to check him out. They were stitching Leigh up, we said some I Love You's and I went over to check him out. By then they poked and prodded him and had hosed him off. My initial impressions were "He doesn't look newborn. He's clean. He doesn't look all wrinkly. He looks good. He looks healthy." I also noticed that I didn't feel that this was in fact the only person I know who's genetically related to me. He could have been any kid. Not that it mattered. He appeared to be in good shape. After all the heart scares, I was thrilled with relief.
Even though they had cut the cord when they excised him, the Pediatrics team felt I should cut a little bit more even though they could find large gloves for me. Kind of like when you accept a drink or a piece of cake at a party because it is easier than evading an insistent hostess.
Back over to Leigh. Stitch, stitch, stich. "He's a good boy. He looks good." The brought him over for Leigh to see (I'll have to solicit her words for her feelings here).
After a bit, they were going to take him to some incubator area. I went with him while they finished sewing Leigh up.
Babies are alert for up to a couple of hours after they're born. They brought him to a completely different set of pokers and prodders. The pokers and prodders also did some measuring and some appropriate praising. They routinely work with good looking miracles. They injected vitamin K in Dash's heel, which cause a cry of pain, which was heart-rending. Waah. After that they gave him to me and I held him for twenty minutes or so. He was quite and alert, in that "wise observer" mode that he gets in still when he's topped off with milk and still has some energy. Those deep blue eyes looking around contentedly. I was so deeply happy and moved.
Soon back to Leigh for that first mother and child reunion. The picture on Dash's home page was taken shortly thereafter.