Thanks to my dad, we got back to the hospital by about 1 a.m. They put Sari back in triage for an initial exam, where we received two big surprises. One was that she was dilated up to 7 centimeters! The other was that her waters hadn’t actually broken. What we thought was her waters breaking in small trickles was actually just some small self-repairing leakage. No matter, though, 7 cm was definitely good reason to have her back at the hospital. They admitted Sari and gave us a labor room (one with a jacuzzi!). And they called Dr. Russell, and said she was coming in.
Despite Gabriela’s and my best efforts to keep Sari drinking, they found her slightly dehydrated (the barf in the shower probably hadn’t helped), so they hooked her up to an IV, as well as to a fetal monitor. Then we got back to helping her labor.
Dr. Russell showed up at around 2 for a visit. It was such a relief to see her and know that, after our months-long journey, she would be here with us to see our kid come into the world. She did an initial exam to confirm Sari’s dilation, and decided it was time for her waters to really be broken. I was surprised to see her whip out a foot-long yellow plastic stick — almost like a letter opener — and if I’m not mistaken, that’s what she used to actually rupture Sari’s waters.
I will never mistake the trickle we saw at home for waters breaking again! There was a huge amount of fluid inside of Sari! It required her bed to get a whole new set of Chux (those disposable absorptive towels) and sheets before it finally slowed down. There was a sizeable amount of meconium (baby’s first poo, often a sign of some fetal distress) in the waters, which gave Dr. Russell some concern, but the fetal monitor showed the baby’s heartbeat to be strong & steady, so she wasn’t overly worried. (Our hopes of laboring in the jacuzzi were dashed, however, as there was now an increased risk of infection.)
Now the waiting really begain. Left alone to labor some more, Sari kept on suffering through the contractions. It was made that much harder by her being hooked up to the IV, the fetal monitor, and the contraction monitor, keeping her pretty much bedridden. And it was harder for Gabriela & me to help Sari in that position as well. I was pretty much limited to verbal support, head stroking, and messaging her legs and feet. After a while, we got her off the monitors by asking if Sari could try laboring in the shower. While Gabriela assisted Sari in there, I slumped into the one comfortable chair in the room and grabbed a 20-minute nap.
The shower didn’t help much, and by 5:30 — 24 hard hours after her labor really began — Sari was wiped out. She had been hoping to avoid a medicalized labor, but there was only so much her body (and mind) could take. She needed a rest. What was most discouraging, and really cinched the deal, was that she was still dilated to about 7 centimeters, and her contractions were actually losing strength. Sari asked for and received epidural anesthesia.
Once the epidural kicked in, Dr. Russell also prescribed Pitocin to get the contractions going again. So, even more tubes and wires connected to my poor sweet wife. But the epidural really helped her pain, and Sari was able to start getting some rest, if not actual sleep. It was around this time that things got a little fuzzy. Gabriela took the chair and I crawled into the empty jacuzzi for some more dozing. Some time later, around 7 a.m. or so, Dr. Russell came back for another exam, and she gave us a little more information. It wasn’t good.
Seems that the little one was “malpositioned.” The baby was facing upward and the head wasn’t tucked, making it difficult for getting into the pelvic opening. This was a large part of why labor had slowed down or stopped. (Also, studies show that many laboring women lose the momentum of their contractions in the sterile environment of the hospital room, as well as when they’re stuck in bed and not able to move around freely.) Dr. Russell told us that if things didn’t change — and she didn’t seem to have much hope that they would — Sari was probably looking at a Caesarean section. But, as the baby’s heartbeat was still strong & steady, she gave us a couple more hours, just to see if things changed.
This was hard news for Sari (and, to be honest, all of us). She had worked so hard — going back to the whole breech period, the version-that-almost-was, the visits to the acupuncturist, the moxa, the iPod down the pants, etc. — to deliver the baby vaginally, and now, right on the cusp, it didn’t look like that was going to happen. Sari really felt bad, and of course blamed herself, which was natural but of course completely without basis.
Gabriela was really wonderful. She reminded Sari how hard she had worked and how strong she had been. On a primal level, Sari really now knewthe experience of labor. And Gabriela reminded both of us that the baby was healthy and that if this was the way he or she wanted to be born, that was okay. The main thing was — one way or another — we would have our baby, and sooner rather than later.
It was just around this time that my dad showed up at the hospital again. Not having heard from us, and operating under the knowledge that Sari had been 7 cm dilated when she came in, he figured the baby was close to, if not already, born. So I went out to the waiting area to tell him the latest (sad) news. Even though I didn’t want to seem down in front of Sari, it was helpful for me to admit to him that I was disappointed about what appeared to be an imminent C-section. (We had learned in our childbirth education classes how beneficial for the infant’s early physical development labor and passage through the birth canal was.)
So back into the labor room I went, while Sari continued to get some rest from the epidural and Pitocin. Despite everything, it was wonderful to have Sari “back” again, as the drugs allowed her to think and talk about things other than just the pain & effort of labor. Despite our muted emotions, it was comforting just to be there together, thinking about how we were going to meet our baby that day.
One odd episode from this period was the recurring visits from a hospital volunteer, who kept coming in to offer Sari ice chips. This “candy striper” was a high school senior, and interested in a career in nursing, but had the strangest manner. I guess she was a typical teenager, but she seemed to have no awareness of the situation, and came and went in our room like it was her buddy’s dorm room. She’d been volunteering in the labor & delivery ward for awhile, and felt compelled to tell us how loudly the women screamed when they gave birth. Not exactly what Sari needed to be hearing at that moment.
But good ol’ Sari, despite her discomfort, tried to be nice. She asked the girl if she planned on ever having children. “After the stuff I’ve seen on this floor?! No, thank you!” Again, probably not appropriate for the situation. The last straw, though, was when the girl flopped down onto the one chair in the room, pulled out her cellphone, and started text messaging! At that point, Gabriela had had enough, and she politely asked the girl to leave us in peace. She wasn’t bothered in the least, got up, and we never saw her again.
When Dr. Russell came back in, we viewed her visit with anticipation and dread. But her exam obviously didn’t discourage her, because she told us that Sari had actually dilated another centimeter. She didn’t want to make us any promises, but she gave us another hour. A reprieve, however slight!
Some time later (I stepped out for a quick breakfast at the hospital café) and Sari had dilated another centimeter! The Pitocin seemed like it really started to kick in, as the contractions were coming faster & stronger, and, despite the epidural, Sari was beginning to feel the discomfort. She was now up to 9 cm, just 1 cm from what’s considered fully dilated. No word about the position of the baby, but the vitals were all good, so again, Dr. Russell gave us some more time.
Once she left, Sari, Gabriela, and I all gave each other looks. Were we going to have a chance for a vaginal delivery after all? It was all too exciting to really be contemplated. We felt like we were on the proverbial razor’s edge, not sure which direction we would utlimately go.
All this time, by the way, through all these many hours, our room was host to a constant stream of visits by the ward’s medical staff. Nurses, attending doctors, attending midwives, volunteers — sometimes it seems like there are more people than there are jobs to do. Often, they were nice and helpful, giving us new supplies or words of advice, but sometimes they just seemed to be doing busy work, trying to keep themselves from getting bored. We soon learned who we looked forward to a visit from and who we hoped wouldn’t stay.
Around 4:30 or 5 p.m. — where did the hours go? — Dr. Russell came back for another look. This was just around the time Sari’s epidural was beginning to wear off, and she was really feeling the power of the Pitocin’s artificial contraction stimulant. Dr. Russell finished her exam, stood up, and as casually as could be, said, “I think it’s time to start pushing.”
!!![Whoops! Gotta go back to the hospital to pick up baby & mom. I’ll finish the exciting tale (hopefully) later today. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.]