Birthing Christopher30 Dec 1999
It took me a long time to start writing this story. Participating in the birth was more difficult psychologically than I ever imagined. I saw my wife suffering so badly at a fairly early stage of labor, and I knew the pain would only get worse before it would get better. I had no idea how to comfort her, much less how to deal with it myself!
With Mama due on the 27th, we made sure not to make any fixed plans
over the holidays. At least, I thought we made sure. My wife forgot,
and invited her mother to stay overnight from the 25th to the
26th. "But we might have to suddenly leave for the clinic," my wife explained to her mother. "So you might have to find your own way to the train
station." But she didn't really believe that anything would happen.
But sure enough, my wife woke up at midnight feeling uncomfortable, and
started feeling contractions at 3 am. She didn't wake me up until 6
am, since the contractions were weak and 20 minutes apart. We knew
that things wouldn't be serious until they were 5 minutes apart or the
water broke, so we weren't yet too concerned. We went ahead with our
Christmas dinner plans, roasted goose legs from Poland, with red
cabbage and potatoes. After all , the goose legs were already thawed
out, and had to be cooked that day.
However, just as the goose legs came out of the oven, the water
broke. It didn't come rushing out, though, and the contractions were
still 15 minutes apart and fairly weak. My wife called her midwife, who
said not to be concerned yet as long as she was feeling well. We
went ahead with dinner.
However, after dinner, at 2:30 pm, the water started flowing more
strongly, and my wife was not feeling good any longer. "We are going to
the hospital... NOW." So we did, and my mother-in-law had to find her
own way to the train station after all.
It had started to snow (northern Germany was catching the edge of the
big storm that caused so much damage in France), so driving to the
hospital was pretty slow. At the hospital, they attached a CTG (fetal
heart monitor) for 30 minutes (contractions now 8 minutes apart),
performed an ultrasound, told us we had a ways to go yet and that the
size of the baby could cause difficulties, and had us fill out
paperwork, move into a room, and come back in a couple of hours, at
7:30. Then it was back on the CTG. The contractions were now 5 minutes
apart and getting uncomfortable.
We then moved into a delivery prep area, where in theory my wife could
relax and take a bath, which would make the contractions more
comfortable. In fact, they became totally unbearable, in every
position, and in the bath they felt worse. The cervix was only dilated
3 cm... it needs to be 10 cm to deliver, so things would only get
We hadn't really discussed pain medication beforehand, except that
we'd try to get by without if we could. Obviously, at this point all
bets were off, and she requested a PDA... anesthetic injected near
the spinal cord, the strongest type of pain medication available for
However, the PDA meant the birth became a very clinical procedure. It
was applied by an anesthetist, an IV was needed to regulate blood
pressure, a CGT was then permanently attached, and labor-inducing
medication were administered to keep the contractions going. We even had
to sign a release between contractions, but by 11 pm the PDA was in
place, and my wife was in peace. The PDA would last for 2 hours...
In theory, anyway. In fact, the pains returned after only an
hour. Even worse, the anesthetist was no longer available to reapply
the PDA (that snowstorm had caused a number of accidents)... only at
1:30 am did someone arrive to refill the anesthetic. If they hadn't
arrived, a Cesarean section would have been unavoidable, as my wife had
no strength left at all, and her cervix was only at 8 cm.
With the second PDA, though, she was able to even sleep for about
an hour and the cervix was able to dilate fully before she had to start pressing. However, the size of the baby was causing problems. The head was just too large to pass into the birth canal. The doctor was signalling that they could start a Cesarean, but the midwife insisted that my wife was making progress.
The midwife was right. At 3:15, the head was far enough down so that a
vacuum extractor (an alternative to forceps commonly used in Europe)
could be used to complete delivery. One doctor pounded on my wife's
stomach, the other pulled on the extractor, and at 3:39 am Christopher, all wet and sloppy, was laying on her stomach.
This story from my old weblog was copied into Movable Type on 17 August 2003