Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Dad's Take on a Birth Story, Part 2: The Scariest and Greatest Night of My Life

We checked in to Sutter Roseville hospital at about 5:30pm, brimming with optimism that the moment had arrived - of course Noelle's optimism was tempered by the pain she was already in and what she knew was coming.  The head nurse was Kendall, a sweet and honest lady who informed us early on that what Noelle had gone through - thus far the hardest 24 hours of her life - was actually not real labor.  What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was she talking about?  All those contractions were not the real deal?  By the book, it had only just begun.  Wow - it kind of took the wind out of our sails, but Noelle dealt with the news like the champ she is and was ready to meet the greater challenge ahead.

We got checked into our room and settled in for the long haul.  Noelle had registered a solid "4" on the dilation scale upon checkin, so it was hard to say how long the ordeal would take.  Lorrie and I were doing our best to encourage her and remain peaceful even though neither of us could possibly contain our excitement.  Lorrie just wanted to hold and spoil her new grandson... I meanwhile wanted to see this little guy who had already changed so many aspects of my life while remaining inside my wife's body.

6pm... 7pm... 8pm... The first few hours passed with plenty of
contractions, although none of them resulted in much more dilating.  The one disconcerting event that happened early on was that Colton had apparently shifted into a bad position that required Noelle to have an oxygen mask - his heart rate had dipped a bit but it recovered relatively quickly.  Kendall assured us those sorts of things happen pretty frequently.  She really was an amazing nurse - forthright but not in an unsettling way, and able to answer every question and take care of every request with ease.  Apparently having someone in the room who is educated in such things as delivering babies does make a difference - especially for a guy like me who is basically allergic to what they call "science" or "biology".

9pm...10pm...  More contractions but not more dilation.  Dr. Ho, our awesome delivery doctor, had checked in a few times and was still pretty optimistic about the progress, little as it was.  Noelle was getting more and more tired - physically and especially emotionally.  Any bit of discouraging news like the fact that all that pain was not resulting in good progress was very hard on her, and in turn hard on me.  I was doing what I could to be calm and positive, but even I could understand the Dr.-speak that Dr. Ho used to basically say "You're not coming along like we'd hoped."  Wanting to make a difference in the situation but being completely unable to do so is a pretty rough spot to be in.

As 11pm approached, we realized we had a decision to make.  The time had come to seriously consider the epidural - something Noelle was never closed to but was hoping to avoid if things were going swimmingly.  But, they weren't, and the conversation needed to take place.  Feeling a sense of responsibility to persuade my extremely exhausted wife that it was the right choice, I asked Lorrie to leave the room and give us a few minutes to talk.  Holding her hand and sitting by the bed, I did my best to lovingly inform her that it was the right choice, and did not mean she had failed or was not a strong enough woman.  After a few minutes and some tears, she agreed it was the right thing to do.

I thought the hardest part would be over after that.  How wrong I was.

The doctor who gave the epidural - we'll call him Dr. W - was a real weird dude.  How could someone who stuck a giant needle into someone's back over and over walk in so nonchalantly, without a care in the world, as if he was coming into some peaceful environment with people who want to sit down for a chat?  That's literally how it felt.  Our nurse, Kendall, had warned us he was an interesting character, and she underestimated it.  Dr. W tried to actually carry conversation on with my wife... after we waited more than five minutes for him to finish a conversation with someone right outside our door like he didn't have anywhere to be... before helping her.  Clearly, I'm not over it.

Fortunately, the epidural went well once Dr. W actually got things underway.  It was now about 11:10pm, and I can remember sending a text message to the 20ish people I was keeping informed on the night's events about how better Noelle felt and how we were likely in for another 4-5 hours but all was relatively well.  Noelle was having contractions at a good rate and the computer monitoring he rand Colton was showing all the right signs of life for both of them.

Then it happened.  Kendall announced in a soft but clear tone something to the effect of "In just a moment, several nurses will be coming in the room."  Not more than 7 seconds later, 5 nurses stormed into the room together, talking a mile a minute and telling me to sit down in the corner of the room.  In the flurry of what was happening, I was speechless - having no idea if this was normal or not for the first, oh, 20 seconds.  It became very clear though, as they were unplugging things from Noelle and talking a mile a minute, that something negative was happening and Noelle needed some kind of extra attention.  Before I know it, I'm being handed a sack of blue hospital clothes - shirt, pants, booties for shoes, hat, the whole bit - and am told in a hurried manner to get them on me.  Lorrie is on the other side of the room speechless as well, being given no information.

Less than 90 seconds later, the nurses are whisking Noelle and Colton away on the bed, nearly running down the hall, and Lorrie and I look at each other like "What the hell just happened?"  I'm frantically trying to get those stupid booties over my over-sized feet - finally I do, and rush off as I was told by a nurse to wait outside the operating room.

So, to recap:  in about a 4 minute period, somewhere around 11:15pm, we went from "happy that Noelle got the epidural, ready to wait it out" to "Where is my wife and son, why have they taken her to the O.R., and what is happening?"  I left Lorrie alone in the delivery room and walked down to the O.R., having no clue what to expect.

Those 4-5 minutes waiting outside the O.R. felt like 4-5 hours.  The only person outside the room with me was a nurse who had been told to wait outside the room in case they needed backup, but she likewise had no info because of how quickly everything was happening.  Literally - and I mean literally - I couldn't stop shaking and thought I would hyperventilate.  Did they have an extra bed in the O.R. in case someone needed to operate on me?  I hoped so.  Meanwhile, I knew I needed to send an S.O.S. type text to the friends and family I had just reported happy news to that in fact it was not happy news after all.  I informed them something was wrong, asked them all to pray, and told them I had no details.  I knew it would cause a panic and literally put some of them on their knees before the Lord interceding for my wife and boy, which is what I wanted.  Having heard from many of them later, that's exactly what they did.  I thank God for godly family and friends who love us so much.

Dr. Ho finally emerged from the O.R. with the news.  Colton's vitals were going down pretty quick - something that had happened earlier in the night - but this time so much so that it required immediate intervention in case an emergency C-section was necessary.  Fortunately his vitals returned to a good enough place not to need that.  However, Dr. Ho informed me that we had a choice to make:  we could go back to the delivery room and hope everything stayed normal, or we could opt for the C-section right now.  If we chose option A, and anything went downhill again, she said that at that point I would no longer be given an option and she would have to save Colton's life, and possibly Noelle's, with the emergency C-section.  Whoa.

I was still shaking a bit as I walked into the O.R., and Noelle could tell.  She meanwhile, hopped up on the epidural drugs, was happy as a clam and calm as a... well I don't know what she was as calm as, but she was calm.  Seeing her so relaxed helped me a great deal.  We talked for a few minutes about the options and quickly came to realize that the responsible thing to do was to go for the C-section right away.  After all, everyone was in the room - even Dr. W was there ready to put a needle into Noelle again and give her even more drugs so she could stay awake.  Fortunately he avoided chit-chat this time and was all business.

I foolishly expected a C-section to be a delicate thing - I guess I thought they would calmly make an incision, move some organs around very gently, and bring Colton into the world slowly.  I may as well have expected some soothing violin music to be coming from the corner of the O.R.  Instead it was about 3 minutes of quick and rough maneuvering to bring Colton into the world.  After making the incision, the surgery bed started shaking violently as they dug around to find Colton.  It was crazy.  Think turbulence in a plane in a thunderstorm and that's about happens in a C-section surgery.

After all of that, it was over.  Colton came blazing out of Noelle's body like a bat out of hell, as they say... although I don't know if bats make it out of hell ever.  Anyways, he came out pink and red and white and crying like I couldn't believe.  It was the most glorious baby cry I'd ever heard.  My boy was here after all those months of waiting, those nights lying in bed wondering what he'd look like and anticipating that exact moment.  My son was born at 11:49pm on April 13, 2013 - and that's when I knew he was destined to be a "49er" for life... get it?  Awesome.

After a few minutes of measurements, I had Colton in my hands for the first time.  What a surreal experience - he was still freaking out but I couldn't have loved it more.  I walked around while the docs finished taking care of Noelle.  15 minutes later we were all together, with Noelle holding Colton chest to chest, soaking in the depth of the moment.  It was glorious, and besides the fact that this is getting really long, there just aren't enough words to express the beauty of those moments.

At about 12:30am, I realized I was STARVING and needed more than the hospital cafeteria could offer.  John graciously went out to In-N-Out for us.  That was possibly the best meal I'd ever had.

1 comment:

  1. Whew! Hadn't gotten around to reading this one until today, but that was an amazing and scary adventure to bring your little guy into this world. I'm very glad all worked out well and you're loving being parents.