Birth Story

TarquinThis post is actually a re-post from my previous blog at  Just around three years ago my first son was born, and I was getting back into writing n a big way. His birth was difficult, and there were many tense moments where I was afraid for my wife and for him.

Now, he is nearly three years old, he is thriving, healthy, and happy. He has a little brother whom he loves, and he is becoming an expert on the computer. But, he is starting to drift away from me. After almost three years as my little man, he is starting to depend more on his mommy. He goes to her when he is hurt, he only wants her to read him bedtimes stories, the list goes on and on. And it sucks and it hurts. I am trying to think of ways to reconnect, without pushing him further away.

One thing we are doing is telling him stories about when he was a baby, adventures he and I went on, things like that. We have been telling the birth story recently, and he has been loving it. I remembered that I had written it up all those years ago, so I thought I would re-post.  It’s long, so feel free to skip it. I just wanted it back up, reminding me of the day he came into my life.

The Birth

After what seemed an eternity, the due date was fast approaching. For nine months, my wife and I had been eagerly anticipating this day, the day we would finally meet our baby. We had spent endless months talking to it, playing music for it, playing with any bits that stuck out, and hoping for a healthy, happy child. We had everything ready, or, as ready as we could possibly make them in the one-bedroom apartment that was all we could afford. We had been seeing a midwife for the duration of the pregnancy, and with every check-up, we became more and more confident and comfortable. Maureen was the perfect pregnant woman: while she experienced all of the possible symptoms, they were always very mild. Her check-ups were always perfect, her growth, development, and levels were always perfectly normal. She was never incapacitated by nausea, and was able to walk well into the pregnancy.

The due date came and went, with no baby. Maureen took maternity leave from work, I completed my Bachelor of Education Program at York University. We were looking forward to the birth of our baby. But the baby had some other plans.

The due date came and went, no baby. As days trickled past, we found it increasingly difficult to fill our days. We were trying to save money, and Maureen did not always want to do the things we had once done. Bicycle riding, for example, was out of the question.

A full week after the due date there was still no baby. We went once again to our see Susan, our midwife, and were told that we would have to book an ultrasound. While there was no reason to worry, it was imperative that an examination take place to see that the baby was still thriving. Susan told us that it would receive a score out of eight that would determine its overall health. A score lower than eight, and we might have to induce.

Thursday at 2:00 in the morning, Maureen had her first contraction. She woke up feeling a tightening in her uterus. All night she walked back and forth, feeling the pain of the imminent birth. Hopefully imminent. These pains were not particularly strong, and did not really feel like what she had been anticipating. The pain moved into her back, and made doing anything very uncomfortable. She spent the whole day feeling generally miserable. Hot showers and back rubs helped to alleviate some of the pain, but only for a short time. After hearing a description of Maureen’s symptoms, our midwife assured us that this was pre-labour. This, she told us, could go on for up to 48 hours. What was worse, it didn’t really indicate that labour was as imminent as we had hoped. It could fizzle out, and leave us back at the same place we were before. Waiting.

Friday morning came. Maureen had been suffering for just over 34 hours now. While still miserable and uncomfortable, we had to go to the ultrasound, to see about the baby’s in-utero health. Unable to handle the subway, we splurged on a cab ride there, and tried to wait as patiently as possible. The African-themed art of the waiting room did little to sooth and relax us, fixated as it was on various carnivorous animals, peering out at us with unbridled fury behind tastefully matching frames. Finally, they called Maureen. I had to wait outside until the examination was finished.

I waited until at last they called my name. Maureen was laying a bed, looking miserable. Her back was hurting, she had to pee, and the news was not good. The baby’s score was 6/8. Although that is 75%, a seemingly decent score, the two marks deducted were because the levels of amniotic fluid were low, very low. On the phone to our midwife, she told us to get to the hospital. Maureen was going to need to be induced.

Another cab home and frantic phone calls to Maureen’s parents. Could they meet us at home and drive us to the hospital? Of course they could. At home, we finished the long-ago stated packing of the bags. Just a few last items to throw into the mix and off we went.

The trip down to St. Michael’s hospital was long and slow. Traffic conspired to thwart us at every turn, but slowly, slowly we made it closer and closer to the hospital. At last, we were there. As we rode the elevator up to the 15th floor, Maureen turned to me and said, “I think my water just broke.” Truly, we were on our way!

Our midwifery student Elena met us as we left the elevators. The triage room was packed, she told us. We would go directly to the birthing room to get set up. I was in charge of getting Maureen signed in, while they found the room and got set up.

The birthing room was large, room enough for several people. Maureen had been experiencing labour pains for 36 hours now, and was very sore. Susan, our midwife told us that we would probably have to induce labour. There were three possible ways to do this, but as it appeared that Maureen’s membranes had ruptured, the most likely one was a drug called Oxytocin. This would be administered via an I.V. drip. There was still a chance that this would end in a Caesarean Section, but first they would make every effort to get Maureen on the path of a natural childbirth.

Maureen changed into a hospital gown, and the medical intervention began. Elena attached two monitors to Maureen’s belly. The first measures the baby’s heartbeat, the second Maureen’s contractions. These results were visible on a screen, and the heartbeat pattern was printed out to a long strip of paper. There is nothing quite as reassuring as seeing the strong, steady heartbeat of your unborn child as it traces lines along the screen. I would soon see the other side of this comfort, however.

Dr. Yudin, who would have to be our attending physician for the birth, came in and did an examination of Maureen. Her water had indeed broken. Oxytocin though an I.V. drip would be needed. Oxytocin could cause very strong contractions, and Dr. Yudin and Susan both strongly suggested that Maureen should consider an epidural. After 36 hours of pain, Maureen agreed.

By 6:00 that evening, Maureen had the I.V. the epidural, the two monitors on her belly, and blood pressure cuff, a monitor that directly attached to the head of the baby (giving a more accurate heartbeat reading) and a catheter. This was not the natural childbirth we had been hoping for.
After all this, we had to wait some more. The Oxytocin was on an amazingly slow drip. I could watch the countdown on the monitor, and give Maureen a play-by-play. “Just enough Oxytocin left for 72 hours.” I would tell her. “Man, I hope we don’t need that much.” We would watch the baby’s heart rate, listed to its steady beat, and wait. Doctors, nurses, and various hospital staff would come in and see how things were going. All signs were pointing in the positive direction. The heartbeat was fairly strong and steady, Maureen was dilating, slowly but surely, and the epidural made the pain bearable. We just waited and waited.

Then the bad stuff started. Watching our unborn baby’s heartbeat when it is strong and steady is a fine thing. Watching it when it suddenly drops is very, very horrible. The longer this labour progressed, the more in distress the baby was becoming. Maureen was not fairing very well either. The epidural would wear out, and the anesthesiologist would take some time to arrive. Maureen was feeling sick, and occasionally vomited. When the baby went into distress, Maureen had to have an oxygen mask as well. For those of you keeping count, that is seven wires, tubes, or monitors attached in some way to her.

At 2:00AM, Dr. Yudin arrived again to do a check-up. The nurses were sure that Maureen was fully dilated, but every effort to push resulted in further fetal distress. The little heart just couldn’t handle it. This baby was not coming out the natural way. Dr. Yudin finally said the dreaded words. Emergency. C. Section. This is when chaos erupted. Doctors and nurses were running in and out. Pages were being sent to anesthesiologists and pediatricians. Clair, our nurse, told me to pack up all of our belongings and take them over to the recovery room. Maureen was unhooked from most of her wires and tubes, and the nurses pushed her down the hall and away from me. I could go into the operating room, they told me, but I had to wait until they were all set up. There is no worse place to be than outside the operating room where Doctors are prepping your wife for an emergency c-section after 48 hours of difficult, painful labour. It is the most hateful place in the world.

People were running in and out of the O.R., getting things, getting ready, NOT LOOKING ME IN THE EYE AS THEY RAN BY. That made me very upset. Why were they not looking at me, I wondered. What do they know that they are not telling me? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN THERE. I could hear the clatter of equipment, the babble of voices, and whenever the door opened, I could see people frantically moving equipment, setting up monitors and tents and whatever they hell they use in the O.R. There were only two things that made me feel slightly better. At one point, the anesthesiologist came out of the O.R. and went to the next room. I wondered what was wrong. What was he missing, what did he need? He shuffled out of the second room, surgical booties scraping on the floor, carrying an old, beat-up clipboard. If he had time to pick up a clipboard, I reasoned, things were going all right in there. The next thing that made me feel better was when the respiratory specialist came to scrub up. He introduced himself to me, and explained his function. “Hopefully,” he said, “I will not be needed.” He went in and got himself prepared. Susan and Elena came and helped me get suited up. Hair covering, mask, robe, booties. I was ready to go. They allowed me to enter the O.R.
My dear Maureen was on a table, arms outstretched in a position familiar to any guilty Catholic, shivering uncontrollably, a side effect of the triple dose of the epidural. I sat beside Maureen, up beside her head. She was not enjoying this. I was not enjoying this. Nobody was enjoying this. There were at least eight people in the room, doctors, nurses, hangers-on. It seemed like too many people for such a small baby.

Dr. Yudin carefully cut Maureen open, and extracted the baby. Maureen asked, “What is it? A boy or a girl?” I peeked over the tent to my slimy little baby. “What do you see, daddy?” Dr. Yudin asked. The baby was covered with goo, blood, and vernix. I couldn’t see what gender my baby was because of the coiled umbilical cord. “I see a whole lot of stuff,” was the only answer I could give at the time. Dr. Yudin laughed and moved the cord away so I could see that we had a boy. “We have a little Tarquin,” I told Maureen. She was still shivering and sick from the drugs. The Doctors took him away and gave him the once over. The respiratory doctor gave me the thumbs up as he left the room.

The problem with the birth was readily apparent. Tarquin is a big boy, with a big head. Weighing in at 9 pounds, with a head 39 cm in diameter, he was not going to fit. He was also slightly offset, and was trying to come into the world crooked. Other than that, he was a fine, healthy baby boy. I have almost forgotten the events at the hospital already. The fear, pain, and discomfort is now erasing itself as I spend more time with Maureen and Tarquin, my perfect little family.