I guess the title of this post is not very accurate; the birth of our child was definitely expected, however the circumstances were not. We knew that week 37 is considered full term, but we assumed that the birth of our daughter would follow a normal path and delivery would occur during our week 40 due date. As it turned out, this was not the case. Week 37 hit on a Wednesday, and on this particular Wednesday our daughter was unexpectedly born.
My wife had been measuring small during her regular OB check-ups so the doctor was scheduling more ultrasounds than normal to verify the size of the baby. Usually during these ultrasound appointments the ultrasound doctor would act exasperated as to why we were sent there again, and then report that everything looked normal; the baby was a good size.
The ultrasound that was scheduled for that first day of week 37 ended a little different than the others. The ultrasound technician got very quiet during the appointment, except for the occasional “Hmm” or “Huh”, as she measured the same things over and over. Finally the ultrasound was complete and the technician left to get the doctor. The report was not good; the baby was considered to be restricted growth due to an under-functioning placenta that was not delivering enough blood to the baby. The doctor recommended that my wife be admitted to the hospital immediately and that the baby be delivered ASAP.
Since the ultrasound appointment was at the hospital, going over to the labor and delivery unit consisted of a short walk down the hall, so there was no time to go home and get our bags (which we had just packed the night before). My wife was admitted in the evening on Wednesday at which time IV’s were started, monitoring of the baby and mother began, and labor was induced which started a very long and difficult several days. The first drug that was administered to induce labor was Cytotec, and the effects of it were felt less than an hour after it was given. Once contractions started the monitors indicated that with every contraction, the baby’s heart rate fell; the doctors and nurses soon became concerned that the baby would not be able to tolerate labor.
Late night on Wednesday contractions began to get worse and at about midnight on Thursday my wife’s water broke. At this time contractions began to become almost unbearable and the baby continued to show distress during most contractions. Early in the morning on Thursday my wife requested an epidural which alleviated most of the pain and contractions continued, but unfortunately labor did not progress. After over 12 hours since labor was induced, my wife was only dilated 1 centimeter and the doctor decided to start a Pitocin IV.
As we entered Thursday afternoon my wife progressed to 3 centimeters, but after 18 hours of contractions, and with a baby that was in distress, the doctor decided it was time for an emergency c-section. Once this decision was made, things happened very quickly and I soon found myself in the operating room seeing my wife get cut open for the procedure. I was quickly seated by my wife’s head where I was not able to see the operation itself due to a barrier that blocked my view. I held her hand, and although she didn’t feel any pain due to the epidural (they kept this in, and gave her a bigger dose of the drugs), she felt a very high level of discomfort.
The procedure was over quickly and I was told to stand up and start taking pictures (I brought my camera into the operating room with me). When I first saw my daughter I was shocked at how small she was; her birth weight was only 4 lbs. 7 oz. I snapped a few pictures and then I was ushered over to the table where they were cleaning her up. Next I was invited to cut the umbilical cord as my wife was getting stitched up over on the operating table.
Here was one of the most emotional moments in my life: The first time I ever held my daughter. A wave of emotion hit me as she was wrapped up and placed in my arms. I brought her over to my wife and one of the nurses snapped this great picture with my camera.
The next few days were pretty difficult; our baby daughter had some issues of her own that needed to be addressed (mainly low temperature, low blood sugar and low oxygen levels), but she didn’t have to spend any time in NICU, which is a blessing.
My daughter is amazing, she is the cutest and most beautiful baby I have ever seen. Now we begin a new chapter in our lives, one which already has its challenges, but I think we are working through them pretty well. Now we just need to figure out how to get some sleep!
I write about the rather unexpected journey of fatherhood, please join me!