Birthing stories are often shared when you tell people that you’re going to become a parent. I think it is even more prevalent for women. For my wife, she heard so many birthing stories that she didn’t really know what to expect. As an expecting father, my expectations were based on what I’d heard from other dads. Most of the stories were positive because so many shared the sheer joy they felt when they first saw or held their child. Needless to say, I was excited for the birth of my daughter.
Back up a bit
Looking back on the pregnancy, we were very lucky. We had a pretty easy pregnancy overall without any complications. I count myself lucky. The last month of the pregnancy was probably the hardest part just due to the excitement that we were getting so close to meeting our baby girl. It got even more real when we were asked to consider an induction at 39 weeks.
I’m writing this in the middle of a pandemic that has had us confined to our home for almost 8 weeks. In order to ensure staff would be prepared at the hospital, the doctor suggested that we induce my wife at 39 weeks. It would give everyone time to plan. After some discussion, we decided to take the doctor’s suggestion and go for it. Induction should be on May 4. Yes, a chance at a May the Fourth baby! Key the Lego Star Wars shopping.
I got a little ahead of myself. We were instructed to call the hospital on the big day to know when to come in. To my disappointment, we actually waited 3 days before there were rooms and resources for us. May 6th became our new date.
For those wondering what induction means, here is my outline:
The process is done to artificially move the women’s body into giving birth. In our case, that meant breaking her water manually with a plastic hook. She was then put on a synthetic oxytocin drip to simulate the release of the hormone oxytocin which starts contractions.
The Story of the Birth of my Daughter
We woke up at 5am to call the hospital. We were given an appointment time of 7:30am. After packing everything into the car and saying goodbye to our dogs, we headed out. The hospital is about 35 minutes from our house so that gave us time to talk and listen to music. Admissions at the hospital were quick and before we knew it, we were in the delivery room. Luckily for us, that was a private room.
8:45am – Break water and start synthetic Oxytocin drip
With very little fanfare, Diana’s water was broken. Here we go! Diana was hooked up to a monitor so we could see the baby’s heartrate and her contractions. Contractions started almost immediately but the intensity was similar to what she’d already felt in the week prior.
Oddly enough, this was the hardest process for me. Diana doesn’t like needles and the drip uses an IV and catheter. Watching them put in the catheter had me sweating and made me anxious. Looking back, it was minor, but it was difficult at the time.
Dad – Ask questions. Be friendly with the staff. Make sure you understand everything going on. Communicate with your partner. Ask her how she’s feeling and be attentive to her every need. You are part of the staff. You are there to help your partner.
10:30am – Regular examinations
The staff at the hospital were absolutely exceptional. They took such good care of both of us. I expected to be a spectator. The nurses often called on me to participate by helping Diana move, make adjustments, etc. I did take a second to think back to an episode of The Office US where Pam has given birth and Jim is astounded by the number of people seeing Pam’s naked breasts and touching her. It made me laugh. Examinations were done regularly to check dilation progress and both Diana and baby’s vitals. 3cm dilated!
12:30pm – Lunch
Like I said, they took care of both of us. The staff made sure I had something to eat at every meal. It wasn’t luxurious. Beggars can’t be choosers. My advice: Eat whenever you get the chance. And eat fast!
Dad – If your partner is hungry and can eat, then make sure she does. She’ll need her strength. You should do the same. Don’t miss any contractions, though. Be ready to drop everything and rush back to help her through it. Oh, and do not tell her when a contraction is happening. It’s fun to see the contraction coming on the monitor. She’ll know though. She doesn’t need Captain Obvious by her side. Diana asked me to tell her when she reached the peak of the contraction. Discuss how she wants help.
12:32pm – Contractions intensify
As the morning progressed into the early afternoon, the nurses continued to increase the volume of oxytocin in Diana’s system. With that increase came an increased intensity in contractions. For those keeping score at home, she was at 3-1-1. Contractions lasting one minute, three-minute intervals from the start of one contraction to the start of the next. This pattern lasts an hour or more. She needed to stand and walk around in order to deal with the pain.
Dad – Do what you can to help her through the contractions. Breathing, physical support, etc. Whatever she needs.
Giving Birth in a Pandemic
I was allowed to be present the entire time. Security measures in place forced us to bring everything we needed into the hospital and we could not leave the room. Protocols limited us to a room measuring about 150 square feet. We had to wear cloth masks anytime staff were in the room with us. That made breathing more difficult for Diana. I learned how clumsy I can be when trying to put her mask on. How embarrassing.
1:30pm – Time for the Epidural
Tea vs Coffee, Transmission type, and Epidural or not. Three debates that will forever rage. They are absolutely personal choices and Diana decided to take the epidural. We discussed it ahead of time and I supported whatever decision she made. The benefits outweighed the risks in our minds.
Contractions had become so intense that Diana could no longer speak during one. She was breathing through them. There are lots of things you can do as the partner during this process. As I’ve mentioned before, I found SupportingHer during the pregnancy and the content of the course really spoke to me. I printed a list of 10 ways to give physical support during labor and relied on that list. I like to think it helped. The key is to be supportive however your partner needs it.
The anesthesiologist arrived quicker than expected. The whole process is fairly straightforward. Essentially, the doctor is freezing a specific area on the back to insert a catheter that will deliver the epidural to numb the lower body.
Dad – Giving birth is quite an experience. Only your partner is equipped to know whether she needs an epidural or not. And she may even change her mind. It’s your job to support her.
4:15pm – 7cm
The nurses were happy to inform us of the progression. We were relieved to hear that Diana was already passed the halfway point to 10cm. Our nurse even told us to expect to meet our baby girl before the day was done. The excitement was overwhelming. The epidural was working. Diana was not feeling anymore pain during contractions. She could feel pressure but was no longer writhing in pain.
Dad – Breathe. Make sure you stay calm and breathe with your wife. Diana really appreciated that I breathe with her through the contractions.
6:45pm – Surprise!
Examinations were done almost every two hours. The nurse would check vitals and the progress of the dilation of the cervix. By now, Diana had been laying down for 5 hours because walking is not possible with an epidural. It effectively numbs both legs. She was encouraged to switch positions every so often to ensure the drug was distributed evenly in her legs.
To our surprise, she started feeling some pain from the contractions. The nurse examined her and called another nurse to confirm her suspicions. Both could feel the baby’s head clearly low in the birth canal. Diana was fully dilated.
Dad – Listen to instructions. Offer to help wherever you can. Pushing is important and you get to help out.
6:46pm – Game on!
Diana’s obstetrician was called in to deliver the baby. It went from sometime in the evening to definitely within an hour. The nurse coached Diana on how she would switch from breathing through contractions to pushing. We tried one trial of 3 pushes during a contraction to see how things would progress. The nurse was astonished and had Diana stop because our baby almost crowned.
We were instructed to go back to breathing through contractions as the staff prepared for baby’s arrival.
7:45pm – Doctor Arrives
Diana’s doctor arrived, wearing personal protective equipment head to toe. The nursing staff did the same. Everyone geared up. I was given my new instructions on how to help. We were told how everything was going to unfold.
Dad – The doctor is the coach. You are a cheerleader. Cheer your partner on. Don’t cheer louder than the doctor can speak.
7:59pm – 10 Pushes
Contractions last roughly 60 seconds. Diana was asked to push for approximately 10 seconds at a time, take a breath and start again. That would mean about 3 full pushes per contraction. I’ve heard of some women pushing for hours on end. Nope, that wasn’t in the cards for us.
After just a couple of pushes, our daughter was already crowning. What a surreal moment for me. It’s too easy to get lost in the fact that you can see your baby. If you’re unsure about watching your baby come out as I was, then you shouldn’t be. Do it! I was astonished. Blown away. Floored. What a moment. One of the most amazing things that I have ever seen.
The doctor made minor adjustments to baby’s position and out she came. With just 10 pushes, our daughter was born! She cried almost instantly and was put on Diana’s chest.
Dad – Watch your baby come out if you can. I loved the experience and have heard many dads say the same. It’s absolutely incredible. And be patient, you’ll get your turn to hold your baby.
7:59:54 – I’m a Dad
Officially becoming a dad is a surreal feeling. I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotions. Understandably, the baby goes on mom to bond immediately after birth. Cutting the cord is a great experience and I’m glad I did it. I went from coaching and supporting my wife to protecting the two most important people in my life. My protective nature kicked into high gear. The doctor and nurses were amazing. I found myself watching over everything going on to ensure my wife and daughter were fine. That was the only thing going through my mind.
I’ve heard it before and it is true: Instinct takes over. My protective instincts kicked into overdrive. This was the feeling I waited 10 months to feel.
After an hour or so, I was able to take my daughter in my arms and sit with her. I fell in love in that moment. In an instant, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes. I didn’t know I could find more love, more space. I did. It feels so natural. She nuzzled up against my chest and wrapped me around her little finger. My daughter has claimed my heart and will never give it back. I told her and continue to tell her that I love her. Forever and always.
Dad – Cherish this moment.
10:30pm – Move to Post-Partum
She is considered a bit small. Her blood sugar was monitored over the course of the night and the new couple of days. We moved from the delivery room to the post-partum room where we’d spend the next 48 hours.
The birth of my daughter is one of the most important days of my life to date. I’m lucky that I was able to record it in text messages, pictures and now, in writing. My friend Alice suggested that I write this down before I forget it. I do hope that someone takes the time to read up until this point. If you have, then I thank you and I hope it has helped you.
I plan to read it to Baby I on her birthday every year.
Baby I, I love you to the moon and back.
Diana, you are incredible. You blew me away throughout this whole experience. I am in awe of what you and other women out there can do. Thank you for embarking on this journey with me.