So now that we have gotten into a routine (for now) with the new addition to the family I wanted to talk about how my workouts and conditioning paid off in ways I had not imagined. 20 Hours of supporting my wife through labor and finally a c-section truly tested my conditioning. Suffice it to say, how I prepared helped a great deal. My wife gets the Ironwoman award because the work she put in far outweighed mine. I am still a bit sleep deprived but will try to recount the story of our daughter’s birth.
We had decided to do an ultrasound and then figure out when to induce. The next day (her due date, a Tuesday) we did the ultrasound only to find out that she may be up to 9.4 lb. Wow! My wife is little. So, we were both a little scared by that number, but we knew that with God’s help, my wife could do it. We picked Friday for the induction so I wouldn’t miss a couple of important things at work. Little did we know God’s timing differed from our own. A little after one in the morning my wife woke me up out of a deep sleep and said, “I think I am leaking.” It was very clearly very quickly that her waters had broken. In less than five minutes, we started getting ready to head off to the hospital. We were excited and more than a little nervous. But mostly, we just couldn’t wait to meet our daughter.
Got to the hospital, registered through the Emergency Department (it was 1:30 in the morning after all) and after a longer than comfortable time in the ED, we were sent upstairs to labor and delivery. We got to our room and settled into the labor process, which at this hospital included continuous fetal monitoring. This type of monitoring along with the IV fluids standard at the hospital basically meant my wife was feathered to the bed with brief breaks to get up to use the bathroom. We had a phenomenal nurse assigned to help us and this nurse everything possible to allow us some freedom to stand, squat and sit on the birthing ball while maintaining fetal monitoring. The contractions were manageable at first but started to increase in pain and frequency over the next few hours. By noon the contractions were coming consistently every 2-3 minutes. The problem was that my wife wasn’t dilating enough.
Our birth plan was to have a natural childbirth experience. But that process wasn’t happening fast enough. By 1PM, the OB assessed that labor was not progressing fast enough and put my wife on Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin) IV. Also, because more than 12 hours had passed since the water broke (putting baby at increased risk of infection), my wife was started on IV antibiotics. By 2 PM the Pitocin made the contractions so strong that my wife was struggling.
By 3PM, my wife need some relief but was only dilated to 3cm (the “pushing” stage of labor cannot begin until cervical dilation of 10cm – a long way to go). So we decided together to get the epidural. That was rough because my wife had to hold very still for several minutes while the anesthesiologist applied the epidural. During this process (which takes several minutes), my wife was having near constant contractions. My strength and endurance came in very handy because the only way to keep wife still (and safe) during the epidural was to allow her to lean completely on me and rest her head on my chest to avoid passing out or moving around and compromising the needle/catheter in her spine (ouch!).
After the epidural the Doc upped the Pitocin dose to strengthen the contractions, and as a result my wife did end up fully effaced and dilated within an hour and a half. So we moved on to the pushing phase at about 5PM. And my wife pushed for two hours. And here it was my responsibility to hold her up as she pushed as well as keep her focused and relaxing in between contractions and pushing. I would lift her forward and support her back as she grabbed the rails on the delivery bed. Then I’d help her back, tell her to breathe and focus her eyes on mine. But it had been almost 24 hours since she had eaten anything and had very little to drink (like 2 popsicles and a couple of swigs of Gatorade). She was tired and mustering every ounce of energy for two hours. Our daughter still wasn’t coming out. Her head was fully engaged but was stuck and unable to crown.
So we made the call to have a c-section. My wife was literally passing out for brief periods by this time, so she asked me to make the decision on the C Section or continuing to push. Again, it was important that I had the endurance and calmness to make the right call. In hindsight, I’m sure it was God who gave me the strength and clarity to answer as I did. It turned out later that a C Section was not only inevitable but very important to maintain our daughter’s health and safety.
The next 30 minutes, while we waited to be taken to the Operating Room, seemed endless because the epidural was turned off, and my wife continued to contract every 1-2 minutes with no relief. We finally made our way down to the OR and I had to wait in another room while they got her anesthesia started. I gowned up terrified and eager to get in to the OR to support my wife. I was guided into as surreal an environment as every I have been in where I sat near my wife’s head reassuring her the God was in control guiding our doctor and all in the room. The surgery seemed to take all of three hours but I know was probably less than 30. I can’t tell you how long because it seemed like an eternity and seemed to go by immediately at the same time. We heard our daughter gasp and cry at the same time. My wife had a look of joy and astonishment that is burned into my mind.
As I reflect now on my workouts and getting into shape prior to delivery, I never really envisioned how I would be put the test during labor and delivery. Everything I did was about endurance with brief moments of intense effort. So everything I did helped prepare me for that day. A lot of walking, helping my wife in and out of bed, providing stability and ultimately lifting her forward. But after about twenty hours of labor and delivery my job as being a Functional Dad was just beginning…more on that later.
It wasn’t what we had planned but all worked out in the end.