How can your whole life change in a day? By having a baby! This obviously wasn’t out of the blue – we have been anticipating this day for 9 months. There were two different due dates – the original date was 7/20/17 and an updated date was 7/17/17 based on the growth of the baby.
On our July 14th visit to the OB-GYN, the pregnancy was going well and doctor asked us if we would like to have my wife’s membraned stripped. This would naturally induce my wife and the baby would arrive between the time she stripped the membrane to about 2 days later. There would be some pain for my wife, but the OB-GYN assured us that there is no additional benefit of having the child in the womb after 39 weeks (babies are normally expected to be in the womb for 40 weeks). After some deliberation, we didn’t feel comfortable (and ready) to check him out of Hotel Uterus prematurely. We decided to let nature take its course. Knowing that this was likely our last weekend as a couple, we enjoyed a nice dinner out in the city and slept in to enjoy 8+ hours of consecutive sleep!
As the 17th came and past, my wife was ready to get this parasite out of her! The swelling in her legs, feet, and hands made it unbearable and uncomfortable. As the summer heat rose to the high 80’s and low 90s, so did our anxiety levels. We looked into various old wives tales to try and have a natural induction – exercise, eating spicy foods, sex, riding over railroad tracks, eating fresh pineapple – the list goes on!
There are 3 stages of labor:
- Early Labor, Active Labor, Transition
- A. Early Labor – contractions are occurring, but at irregular intervals. The cervix is beginning to open and dilate.
- Active Labor – contractions are five minutes apart or less, last at least a minute, and for at least one hour (5-1-1) and are stronger.
- Transition – contractions may be 1-3 minutes apart and may last 60-90 seconds. This is the likely the most painful process of labor, but the shortest.
- Pushing and Birth – typically lasts 15 minutes to 3+ hours and contractions come every 3-5 minutes for 60-90 seconds.
- Delivery of the Placenta – the placenta leaves the uterus and is pushed out, which takes 5-20 minutes.
Stage 1 – Early Labor
On the morning of the 19th, my wife began to have contractions at 2:30AM in the morning. She tried to sleep it off, but the contractions were uncomfortable and we were both awake after an hour. I was ecstatic to hear the news and rushed to get our hospital carry-on bag ready (+ exercise ball, pillow, cameras, car seat, etc.) and tidied up the house!
The labor process actually takes a long time, so we tried to sleep during the early labor phase. We both couldn’t get much sleep afterwards, because I was really excited and she was uncomfortable from the contractions. By morning, the contractions became more consistent, but so did the pain. Frequent backrubs around the spine and lower back were essential to counteract the pressure from the baby.
Stage 1 – Active Labor
We went into active labor around noon and tried to stay as long as we could at home. After eating lunch, we went to the hospital at 1:30pm as my wife’s father came by help take care of our dog while were in the hospital.
The check-in process took half an hour – there were 3 people in front of us. Once we were in the waiting room, there were also another handful of people there, although half of them looked like they weren’t even 6 months pregnant. The half an hour felt like eternity as the contractions were coming strong. After the people in front of us were admitted, we finally went into the triage room too.
One thing that was interesting was that they took my wife aside and asked her if everything was okay in the household and if it was okay if I was in the room with her. This just made me realize the society that we live in today.
Once we got into the room, it was a shared with another lady. It was cramped with our carry-on suitcase, exercise ball, and car seat. The bed looked like one of those of a stretcher from the back of an ambulance. We couldn’t lower it enough to make my wife get in and out easily. It was uncomfortable to say the least. The room had a chair for one visitor and a TV with cable, but we had no interest in watching TV. I set the ambiance by playing current pop songs performed by a piano on YouTube.
A baby heart monitor was strapped around my wife around her belly and it showed a consistent rate of 145-150 – perfect! The monitor kept moving around as we moved in and out of the bed to alleviate the pain of the contractions. My wife was screaming for me to give as many upper and lower back rubs to offset the pain. With each backrub, I began to read positive birthing affirmations to my wife.
Some of my favorite affirmations:
- I am deserving of an easy, uncomplicated birth
- The strength of my uterine contractions is a sign of my feminine strength
- I trust in my ability to birth my baby
- The power and intensity of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me
- I will breathe slowly and deeply to relax my muscles and bring oxygen to our baby
- Relax, breathe, open
- I am completely relaxed and comfortable
- Everything is going right
- I have grown this baby; I will push him out
At this point of the labor, our progression slowed down because we were pretty much bedridden and tied to the monitor. The key to a quick labor process is to keep moving as much as you can.
Stage 1 – Transition
By 4:30pm, we saw the doctor and they said that my wife was 7cm dilated! 10cm is when you can start pushing the baby. We advanced to the next step of labor and were escorted into the birthing room. At this point, we asked about an epidural. We still had the option to get one (we were afraid it would too late), but decided to continue with the natural process. Dilating the cervix is supposed to be one of the longest and painful parts of labor. The midwife advised the nurse to pre-emptively provide a bag of fluid to prevent her blood pressure from dropping if we were to get an epidural later on.
Painful contractions occurred for hours. I kept repeating those affirmations during the backrubs, while we listened to the soothing ambiance: “The power and intensity of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me; Relax, Breathe, Open”. The contractions forced her to the bed to deal with the pain. I was concerned that her water didn’t break yet at this point – it should’ve broke by now.
By 7:00pm, the midwife and nurses switched their shifts. The new midwife came by around and recommended that we get out of the bed, do some squats and sit on the exercise ball to help move the baby down. When the pain was too much to squat, we swayed our hips to spell our names and slow danced side to side to the music.
Stage 2 – Pushing and Birth
Drops started to come down her leg! After a few more squats, whoosh! A trickle of water came flowing down her legs and onto the floor. We passed this major hurdle and we were ready to start actively pushing as my wife’s pain was a 10 out of 10 around 8:30pm.
No epidural. We’ve made it this far without one – why start now? The second stage is supposed to be faster than the first stage anyways! After going through the pain so far, she decided she could handle the remainder. With each contraction, we tried to get three good pushes that lasted 10 seconds each. The contractions were now coming pretty frequently 3-5 minutes. We tried many different angles to push – on her side, on her back, and squatting using a bar. The most effective pushes were when she was on her side/back.
I could see his hair after 1-1.5 hours of pushing (we figured he would be a hairy baby since my wife’s belly was extremely itchy during pregnancy)! However, we hit a wall. The baby wasn’t breeched, but it appears that he was coming sunny-side up (face towards the belly instead of the spine) and this is not the optimal way for delivery. “When was the last time you peed?” asked the midwife. We couldn’t remember. The bag of fluids collected into her bladder and she didn’t have the urge to pee during labor. With the help of a catheter, she emptied out 700mLs! That’s almost a bottle of wine.
We were making better progress once the bladder was emptied and my sister in law arrived around 9:30pm. My wife was on her back as her sister and I held each leg up and brought it as close to her shoulders. Her head was tucked in close to her chest. My sister in law and I counted “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!” The midwife assisted the pathway for the baby by widening the gap. I could see the crown of his head! “Relax, breathe, open; I have grown this baby; I will push him out”
After the 2.5 hour mark, the midwife began to worry if we may need some assistance bringing the baby into the world. Forceps, vacuum, or a c-section were mentioned. My wife was getting exhausted. She’s been up since 2:30am and it was 10:30pm. My wife asked how she was pushing for, but I didn’t want to tell her. I needed her to focus on how much more had to do and not focus on how much she had done. Her mind would confirm how tired she was and wouldn’t have the energy to finish labor.
The pain was now at 12 out of 10 on the pain scale. We opted for Pitocin to help stimulate her contractions and increase the frequency before we even thought of any other assistance. I told my wife that we’re not getting a c-section. We have come so far and that is not an option. We are pushing this baby out now and today. I promised her the best sushi meal that she’s ever had once she delivered the baby and she can tell everyone we know about how she did an amazing and incredible job of pushing this baby without an epidural. We were both tired and hungry, but adrenaline was keeping us going.
The Pitocin kicked in and contractions were coming much quicker. As the contractions were building up, my wife was giving it all she had. I can remember her stern face of determination, eyes closed, teeth clenching, and grunting each push. Blood vessels in her face started to pop. The baby’s head was coming out more and more. We continued to count “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!” as we held her legs back.
The first push in the contraction was always great, but I could see him slip back before we pushed the second time. One more complicating matter was the fact that they strapped on a heart rate baby monitor again. It was constantly falling out and needed to be readjusted, but left little to no room before the next contraction came. His heart rate maintained a consistent 145-150 – perfectly fine.
I could see the midwife and nurses were getting the equipment ready for delivery. They set up a plastic bag underneath to catch the blood runout. Medical devices, cord clamping, gauzes were being lined up on the metal tray. I kept telling my wife – you’re so close – it’s going to happen in the next three contractions! When we moved her legs up, I could see the baby sliding out even before we started to push.
I don’t remember it clearly, but I remember hearing the cries from the baby. His head was finally out! The midwife told Tina to relax for a minute. Once ready, with the next push, his whole body gushed out! The nurse cleaned off the vernix/fluids off of him and put him skin to skin on my wife’s chest. My wife had a let out a huge sigh of relief. Tears were rolling down my face – words can’t describe that feeling. Our lives just changed forever in that instance.
Stage 3 – Delivery of the Placenta
I don’t really remember too much of this stage. I was admiring our son for the very first time. A few things that I noticed:
- He came out with a cone shaped head after being in the pelvis for three hours! It would go back to normal after a day or two.
- He had a huge head of hair that was 1.5-2 inches long and hair all around his back and shoulders.
- There was also a big Mongolian spot (bruise) on his lower back and butt cheeks.
- I counted the number of fingers and toe. 10 of each!
- His fingernails were surprisingly long!
The APGAR score, which measures the overall condition of the baby in terms of: heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, response to stimulation, and skin coloration were measured. He got an 8 to 9 on the scale out of a possible 10. He was already making me a proud Asian dad. The only item that was a major concern was the coloration of his skin, which was a grayish/blue color in his extremities.
After the delayed cord clamping, I cut the umbilical cord. They gave me an inch of room to cut and I ceremoniously detached the baby from mom. It felt like cutting through a rubbery hose.
My wife pushed out the placenta and the rest of the amniotic sac, which looked huge. I don’t know how people can eat that. She ended up having a slight tear, which required one stitch. There were sharp stings of pain from the needle and thread and it took about 10 minutes to stitch her back up. She was exhausted mentally and physically. Her arms, shoulders, back, and legs were aching. Ice packs were used to help alleviate some of the pain between her legs.
I tried to focus her attention on the baby and avoid thinking about the pain down there. Who did he look like more? Me or my wife. He definitely has my wife’s nose and maybe my eyes. One of the key things we needed to decide was his name. We wanted to see him before we chose his official name.
In the end, Vincent came out at 11:35pm, weighting in at 7 lbs 8 oz, and a length of 20 inches. I thought the hard part was over, but after a grueling labor process, we had to take care of him afterwards as he slept beside us!
We immediately fell in love with him and so begins a new chapter in our journey together as a family.