We now continue Caleb’s story from the previous entry by bringing you into the delivery room itself! It is September 4th, 2007, around seven o’ clock in the evening.
When I arrived in the Labor & Delivery room, Steph was already hooked up to some IVs and monitors, including a blood pressure monitor, a monitor for Caleb’s heart beat, and a monitor to measure contraction frequency and strength on a little graph. (I would be mesmerized by the undulation of this graph for the next ten hours.) She was also on a magnesium sulfate drip to prevent seizures. (I wouldn’t find out how strong that drug was until the following day.)
We were originally told that Steph’s labor was likely to be at least 24 hours long, so we settled in for the long haul. However, at about 1am things started to get really intense as Steph’s contractions became stronger. The line on the computer screen behind her head would go shooting towards the top of the graph, and she’d get the most panicked expression I’ve ever seen on her face. On one of the first big ones, she looked into my eyes with true worry and said, “I don’t know what to do! Help me!” I coached her through just as they had taught us to do in our birthing class, breathing rhythmically. Ha-hee-ha-hee-ha-hee-ha-hoo. It’s a great distraction, which is exactly what you need in the midst of intense physical pain. Awhile later she got an epidural because we were told we still had many, many hours of labor ahead of us, and Steph wanted to get some rest so she could be more useful when the time came to push. It definitely helped her to get some rest. Or at least as much rest as it’s possible to get with needles in your hands, cords draped all over you, monitors constantly beeping, nurses regularly inspecting sensitive places, and a blood pressure cuff squeezing the daylights out of your arm at ten minute intervals.
Technology tangent: throughout all this, I was posting to Twitter and blogging it when I could, all from my iPhone. Seriously, thank God for that iPhone. I couldn’t get a wifi connection anywhere near that wing of the hospital, and the nurses recommended that I not leave Stephanie for periods longer than a few minutes at a time if I could help it for the first two days. I had to go down two floors and walk down a long hallway to get to the nearest hotspot. A few days later I ran home and got an Ethernet cord and found a live port high on the wall in the corner of our room, but until then, the iPhone was our only lifeline to the outside world. EDGE may be slower than you’d normally like, but when it’s all you’ve got, it’s really nice.
Things kept moving along until around 4:20am when Steph said she felt the need to push. Some of the nurses said it couldn’t be time yet because she was only 40% dilated an hour earlier, but they checked her again, she was fully dilated, and it was time to rock ‘n roll. I won’t describe absolutely everything I witnessed in the next half hour, but it involved a lot of blood and other fluids, some very bright lights, and several women shouting. When Steph’s final pushes rolled around, seeing Caleb’s blood-covered scalp with matted-down hair rocking back and forth with each push was amazing. Telling Steph, "He has hair!" and seeing her eyes light up. Seeing her determination to finish the process. Seeing him finally come sliding out to the cheers of everyone in the room, his rubbery arms popping out from his sides. Looking into his scrunched-up face for the first time, all pinkish-red and covered in vernix, is something I will never ever forget. There’s something odd that happens when you look at this cone-headed thing that has just come out of your wife and recognize it as a separate human being. And it’s your child, nonetheless. It was easily the most surreal experience of my life, filled with joy and a hundred other emotions. Add mild sleep deprivation to that cocktail and you’ve got something truly powerful!
Next time, on "Caleb’s Story," we’ll dive into the depths of parentnoia!