Monday, November 25, 2013

Sam's Birth Story

**John's POV in italics below.  Beware...this is a long and wordy post.**

Well, Sam certainly arrived in a different fashion than Jack.  As you may remember, Jack was over a week overdue when my doctor decided to induce labor.  With this pregnancy, I was CONVINCED that Sam would be late as well. So convinced that I had scheduled a bunch of things that I had to do up until my exact due date.  And then I still had things that following week which I told people I would "almost definitely" be able to attend.  I put off running last minute errands because I figured I had plenty of time.  At exactly 39 weeks (Tuesday the 12th) I wearily put sick Jack to bed as usual and went about my business.  Watched a little TV, browsed the internet, and headed to bed.  

(I want to say for the record that I wasn’t buying into this whole late to the party again prognostication. She was carrying a little lower and then there was Grammy using her West Virginia sixth sense to predict an early birth. However, I wasn’t more prepared because of my hunch. This probably makes me appear as a bit more negligent father-to-be. I thought the baby might be early, but was still phoning in the preparations. Look, fantasy football lineups aren’t going to submit themselves.)

As had been the case the past couple of weeks with our sick toddler, John had to get up a few times early in the night to deal with a restless Jack.  Around 1:00 am when John was climbing back into bed, I woke to a weird sensation.  I figured that maybe I was starting to lose my mucus plug (sorry, gross word) but took comfort in knowing that it can still take days or even more than a week to start labor.  But when I got up to go to the bathroom I realized that my pajama pants were soaked.  I felt the bedsheets in the darkness and realized, hmmm, they were wet too.  But, I thought, it was not possible that my water had broken.  Not this early.  So I went to the bathroom to check it out and realized, damn, my water MUST have broken.  I changed and thought, I'll just go back to bed and wait until morning to tell John because I want him to get some sleep.  I knew for sure that once I told him he'd be wide awake because, duh.  Have you ever seen any movies?  Water breaking!  Excitement!  Craziness!

(Movies don’t cover “mucus plugs.” “Water breaking” absolutely. “Mucus plug” no. Just sounds like something you google, and then go back to sleep. Especially with the amount of sleep Jack had been allowing us to get that week.)

Well, turns out that I once I cleared my head, I realized that of course I had to tell him and that we should probably head to the hospital.  The minute I told John he jolted upright with a "what?!" and it was on.  I decided to take one last shower and pack up my hospital bag.  Once I was almost done, John remembered that maybe he should also pack some things.  "Yes sweetie".  Luckily my sister was staying at our house so with one quick knock on her door, we told her we were headed to the hospital and good luck with our sick toddler.  1:30am and we were on the road!  It seems there is not much traffic to downtown at that time and we did the normally 35 minute drive in 15 minutes.

(I don’t think I’ve properly yelled at Lisa about this internal debate of not telling me that her water had broken. Of course you tell your husband. Standing rule for pregnant ladies out there: If your water breaks, at the very least, text your husband and let him know. Also, I can’t believe we avoided classic LA traffic for both births. We rolled the dice on going with a downtown doctor in a city known for its irrepressible automotive congestion. There are so many worse case scenarios lurking between the valley and downtown LA. I’d say 80% involve being stuck in traffic. Well timed, baby boy.)

Once we arrived I insisted that John not drop me off at the ER entrance and that we both park at the parking garage and walk to the door.  I figured that I wasn't in labor so might as well walk around and try to kickstart it before I got strapped down to a bed.  The parking garage is a bit of a hike but, like I said, it's not like I was impaired in any way.  Well, the night security guard who was driving around doing his rounds disagreed.  He offered us a ride and we took it because who wants a rent-a-cop judging your choices?  Once we were up in Labor and Delivery we were escorted to a triage room where they checked to make sure my water had actually broken.  Yup, positive.  So the nurse checked with my doctor and the doc said she'd like to wait and see if natural labor would start without using drugs.  So around 3am we were taken to our luxurious labor and delivery room and told that we were waiting until 6am to start the pitocin.

(The appearance of the security guard and his chariot did have this guardian angel feel to it. Until we took a quick left, a quick right and we were there. Pretty anti-climactic. I’m still more in awe of the whole dodging traffic thing. Also, the labor and delivery room is grand and lovely. So much space. A nice long couch. I went to sleep almost immediately. Would the noble thing have been to stay up and keep my wife company? Absolutely. But I learned from Jack’s birth when we failed to nap. It’s a mistake. On top of that, I was taking advantage of the long luxurious couch, before we got shipped to the post-partum dungeon that awaited us and that godforsaken cot that proud fathers have to splay out on.)

Guess what happened in those 3 hours?  Yup, nothing.  Well, the sun came up and the view was quite lovely with the sun hitting the mountains and the Hollywood sign.  After a failed IV attempt which left my hand pretty damn swollen and bruised, they started an IV in my arm and I was like "let's get this party started".  The nurse kept checking on me every hour to ask if I was feeling anything.  They always refer to a pain chart hung on the wall with funny little pained faces and descriptions 1 through 10.  For so long I remember thinking I was at about a 2 ("pain can be ignored").  I told her, well, I feel something but not enough to make me stop texting.  (I think I was texting my mom.  Nothing too frivolous.)  

(That failed IV attempt was not pretty. It’s no fun when the universal pain scale is being used for incidents outside of the world of labor. Knowing how much Lisa hates blood and needles, she really toughed that one out.)

Well, slowly they jacked up the pitocin drip.  They started at 1 ml and by the end we were at 14 ml.  Somehow between 6am and 4pm I went from a pain level of 2 to an 8 or 9.  It was a gradual build and then all of a sudden my contractions were about 90 seconds apart and painful as hell (duh).  I had learned my lesson with Jack and knew that it wasn't best to just lie on my back in bed waiting for pain.  So I alternated between standing, leaning over the bed, sitting in an upright chair, and sort of leaning on John.  My husband was amazing as usual.  Just as he was while I was delivering Jack, he was my rock.  Sure, he started off sleeping all morning on the couch while I played on my phone, but once the pain kicked in he was right with me, supporting me, massaging my back.  You know. All the stuff you'd expect from my awesome husband.  

(I do not regret that nap. At all.)

Around 4pm I decided to throw in the towel and ask for an epidural.  I figured I was already dilated to 7 and the pain was just too much for me.  I figured if I didn't get it then, there would be no way I'd have the strength or energy to push later.  So in came the super-friendly anesthesiologist who literally said three words to me the entire time.  After I tried to explain that the last epidural I had made me super super nauseous, caused vomiting, and made my blood pressure plummet, I think he tried to go a tad lighter.  Which was great because I didn't feel nauseous at all.  Slowly my lower half became numb and I was excited about the possibility of sweet relief.  And then the contractions kept coming and, damn, there was one isolated place where I felt every bit of pain that I had before.  My legs were fairly heavy and tingly but this one little spot around my uterus about the size of a baseball was in excruciating pain.  The nurse explained to me that sometimes people had "windows of pain" in spots that just couldn't be explained.  Or as John said in his delirium "window pains".  Haha.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to get rid of the pain by completely numbing my entire half.  I said, "heck yeah!"  I endured getting a giant needle in my spine to get rid of the pain so why would I want to be in the same amount of pain but stuck in a bed?  She warned me that the only downside would be that I might not be able to feel any progress at all.  I thought, who cares, and asked them to bring it on.  So they gave me another shot and...YES, amazing relief.  

(Window PANES. That’s what I was thinking when I said that. So yes, I was a little bit confused. And that window pane was a pain. Like taking a trip to Hawaii where you’re constantly on a conference call with some annoying dipshit from work. And by the way, our anesthesiologist who administered the epidural had such remarkable bedside manner. In that he made no remarks about anything. You couldn’t have made it up. When he checked in on us the next day, he said exactly 5 words to us: “Congratulations” twice and “How is your back?” And then he was gone. He was the Clint Eastwood of epidurals.)

Of course, with such a strong dose, I was completely paralyzed from the waist down.  Couldn't move my feet or legs.  So when they wanted me to turn and lay on my side to try to move the baby (who they thought was sunny side-up) it was quite a procedure.  I likened it to moving a whale which I think the nurse appreciated.  And so, then, there I was.  Lying on my side, one leg propped up on a table, with droopy eyelids that I could barely keep open.  I decided to rest/half-sleep (or the drugs decided that for me).  So as the sun set around 4 and 5pm I just laid in silence.  After the first hour, John and I wondered what our next step was.  What was going on?  We saw that my contractions were still coming fast and furious so I knew I must be making progress.  

(She slept through contractions. That was some serious shit Clint Eastwood gave her to close the window pane.)

After almost two hours with the epidural, when the nurse finally came in we were like "sooo...what's happening?"  I wanted her to check me because I knew I must be dilated close to 10.  She asked me if I felt like pushing.  I told her I couldn't feel a damn thing really but that I thought I had felt something.  She asked me if it was constant or just fleeting.  I told her it wasn't constant so she seemed to think it wasn't urgent and that it wasn't time yet.  The nurse (who, by the way, was just amazing and awesome), told me that the doctor didn't like to "check" this far along because it may cause infection.  But, she said, if I really wanted to be checked she could because she needed time to call the doctor to the hospital from her neighboring office building.  I had this gut feeling and I said, "yes, let's check it."  

So the nurse lifted up my gown and all I heard was "whoa! there's his head!"  She immediately shouted out into the hallway to get a nurse to help her.  Then she yelled, someone call Dr. Park!  Or get her partner who was just in the hospital!  She quickly asked me if I could push and I said "I can't push, I literally can't feel my legs or know when I'm pushing."  She said "It doesn't matter, here he is" as he squirmed his way out and she picked him up and placed little Sam on my chest.  Some nurse had run in and grabbed a towel and was trying to towel off Sam while she turned on the little warmer and newborn scale and everything.  

(Just like Jack’s delivery, I had been given instructions not to look below Lisa’s belt. I did pretty good when Jack was born, right up until the end, and then there’s really no where else to look, so I looked. This time there was no time to avert my gaze. I was getting in position to help Lisa push, and I saw the top of Sam’s head. That seems premature, I thought to myself. I think I switched sides, because the nurse wanted to be on the other side, and as I was trying to get as out of the way as I could get, I watched Sam just pull himself into the world. I’d say the nurse was mostly there to spot his dismount. In so many ways, all good, this kid has just snuck up on us.)

Three minutes later my doctor (and her partner actually) rushed in and said "what happened?!!"  I think she was absolutely shocked that it all went down so fast.  She didn't really have to do anything besides fix me up and tell me congratulations.  John and I were sort of in shock.  Suddenly we had a baby and I got to meet Sam without any pushing or effort whatsoever at the end.  It was awesome.  And he was adorable just resting on my chest.  I'll never forget that moment.

(I had gotten first contact with Jack when he was born, because the NICU nurses had snatched and grabbed him to clear him of any of the meconium that had been seeping into the amniotic fluid. Sam’s first resting spot was right on Lisa. Frankly, I think they were so unprepared, that it was the only spot he could have gone. But it worked out so perfectly. Everything did. Except for that pesky window pane.)


  1. AMAZING! You are totally amazing, Lisa! (I also can't believe how long you went without the epidural on pitocin! Holy cow - you're a badass.) This is also my favorite write-up of a birth story ever. I laughed, I cried. Seriously. (And "He was the Clint Eastwood of epidurals" is probably the greatest sentence ever in a birth story. Either that, or the line about Sam's dismount.)

  2. Uncle Bobby and Aunt PattyNovember 27, 2013 at 5:15 AM

    Congratulations - Aunt Patty and I are so happy for you. Sam is so cute. And what an entertaining account of his birth...I loved it! You and John should consider collaborating on a book or screenplay. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts. Love to all.

  3. huge agree with t! best write-up of a birth story EVER! so happy you guys took the time to write and post this. i love the pic of sam on your chest with his little face tucked behind his hand, like no, not yet! :)