Henry’s Birth Story Part 3: Arrival

(You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Around 7:30am, I’m finally at ten centimeters and ready to push. But the baby is still somewhat high in my pelvis and my doctor wants to wait until he’s as low as possible before I start pushing. While we wait for him to move down, his heart rate becomes elevated again. Nathan starts singing to my belly. As he sings, our baby’s heart rate goes down for a few minutes. I like to believe that his voice calms our baby down.

At 10:00am, before I finally start to push, my doctor comes over and tells me she’s going to have a special nursery team at his birth just in case he needs any help. “Your water has been broken for a long time and you had a fever and his heart rate is elevated again and I’ve tried everything I can to get it to come down and…”

Her words trail off in my mind. All I hear is “special nursery team” and “might need help.” My baby might not be okay. She tries to console me and tells me she wants to make sure they can help him if he needs it.

My morning nurse, Carly, is around my age and she feels like an instant friend. Birth bonds you in strange ways. She tells me I’m a good pusher which must be one of the nicest things you can say to a laboring woman. They hold up a mirror for me so I can know how to push more effectively.

“That’s his head!” Carly says. I can barely see it, but I’m thrilled. I believe that I’m finally about to birth my baby.

Normally, when you have an epidural, you cannot move around at all from the waist down, but my epidural is barely working by this point so I can squat on the bed with support. I push in a variety of positions but he is not moving at all. After a couple hours of pushing, I realize my doctor is not in the room.

“Where is she?” I ask Carly.

“Oh, she just wanted to discuss your labor with another doctor.”

“I can push him out,” I say earnestly.

So I continue pushing and pushing and pushing.

And nothing.

“Has your water been clear during your labor?” Carly looks up at me after one of my pushes.

“Yes, it’s been fine,” I say with a question in my tone to discern why she asked.

I hear her mention something about meconium to another nurse in the room. Meconium is essentially a baby’s first poop—if it’s present during labor, it can indicate that the baby might be in distress.

I can see his heart rate on the monitors. It’s too high again. And now he has meconium in his water. Everything points to the reality that my baby needs to be born soon.

My water has been broken for over 35 hours at this point.

***

My doctor smiles genuinely and asks how it’s going as she comes back in the room. I see Carly slowly look at the floor, shaking her head no. My heart sinks. I become frantic. “No, no, no! I can get him out!” I say, crying.

I ignore anything else they say and keep pushing whenever I feel a contraction.

They leave the room and I look at Nathan and both of us fill with tears.

He knows my fears.

My doctor comes back in with papers for me to sign. This isn’t the outcome she wants either. She has tears in her eyes, too.

She is required to tell me the risks: my uterus could rupture and need to be removed, and my baby could be cut when they cut me open. My eyes well up as I sign my name.

I pray through my fears.

God, watch over our baby. Make me brave.

The anesthesia team comes back in my room to make me completely numb.

***

Just past 2pm, over 37 hours since my water broke, I’m wheeled off to the operating room. In the absence of time to process my emotions, I keep telling Nathan, “We’re going to see him so soon.”

Bright lights and white walls and about a dozen sterile people fill my gaze. Cold air touches my skin. A team of nurses lift me from one bed to the next. Then one of the nurses asks me to roll over and tells me I can hold her because it will feel like I’m falling off the bed. I close my eyes and hold her tightly.

My doctor takes a medical marker and draws lines down my lower belly. A blue sheet gets whisked in front of my face.

I look up at Nathan in his blue scrubs and puffy blue hat. I have the same silly hat on. Everyone in the room does. He takes hold of my hand. I need him there. A nurse stands by my head as she talks me through everything, but nothing could have prepared me for the physicality of surgery. Through the numbness, I feel them pulling and pushing with intensity. Gone were my hopes of pushing out my baby through my own body. Behind this sterile blue sheet, my baby is coming out of me. I imagine him seeing a thin strip of light for the first time, the first light he has ever seen as they carefully cut my belly open. I envision him rising into the air. You’re free, baby. You’re here. You’re home.

“Is he breathing?” I hear my doctor’s voice.

My mind can’t seem to catch itself. What is happening?

Then I hear him.

He’s crying.

I turn my head and see him being examined by the special nursery team. Nathan hovers over him.

“I want to hold him,” I say through my tears.

Nathan carries him over to me. Seven pounds, ten ounces. Perfectly healthy.

I feel his soft, warm skin press into mine. He is beyond words.

“Henry, I love you.”

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