The nurse helped mom and baby with the breast latch. This was nature, again, working its miracles. And another historic moment for me, watching mom and baby in the eternal relationship of reproduction.
Here we were together, feeling as if time were frozen. After enjoying this experience for an hour or so, while the nurse completed the routine checkup and questionnaire, my wife was ready for her mom to enter the recovery room. It was a pleasure to witness the interaction between Nikki, her own mom and Oliver. I wish I had the words to communicate these special, timeless moments. The joy and love emanating from my mother-in-law was beautiful.
We then moved to the post-birth suite, where we were able to introduce our immediate family to our little guy. Introducing Oliver to my parents was another monumental moment that brought joy and wonder to my heart. I was witnessing life and reproduction through generations.
I thought to myself, “We had made this child together.” And my amazing, brave, strong, loving wife had played her part in nature’s most wonderful process. It happens all the time, all over the world, for myriad different species, but, for me, it’s still such an incredible wonder. During this time, our family was the centre of the universe, and this tremendously emotional and spiritual experience was raw, powerful and exciting.
After introducing Oliver to everyone and spending some time with our close family and friends, the three of us needed privacy. This first day was euphoric. We still hadn’t slept much in the previous 36 hours, but here we were, in this little hospital room. Life had changed forever. Nikki was exhausted and relatively immobile from the operation and lack of sleep. Filled with joy, we were able to experience our first day as a new three-person family.
I felt this was exactly where I was supposed to be. The confusion I had experienced in life, mostly associated with fitting into a world I didn’t understand at times, was gone. This made sense to me; being a father and participating in the reproduction of our species seemed to calm me and relieve the discomfort and lost feelings I had previously felt on this path called life.
I was proud of myself for my recent spiritual and personal growth, which enabled me to enjoy this moment more than I could’ve imagined. In the past, I was always at odds with the world and the way it worked. The year prior to my son’s birth was a wonderful year for me. I had experienced many great personal achievements, growing spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I was getting into better physical shape and improving my cognitive skills.
Other than a couple of nurse visits and Oliver’s first bath, we were able to enjoy each other’s presence and finally get a bit of sleep. I felt nature’s immense instinctual pull and awareness toward my son. This was a sensation I’d never felt before. With Nikki exhausted and groggy from the medication and operation, I spent a lot of this first night in a strenuous battle against my eyelids. I didn’t want to sleep. Actually, I did want to sleep, but the instinctual vacuum I felt toward my son was too powerful. Until Nikki got some sleep and was able to rest, I don’t think I got more than an hour of broken sleep through the night of labour and the first night with our son.
My new best friend was the nurse’s button on the hospital bed. It was a lifeline, an amazing resource I suggest everyone use as much as possible. The nurses were a huge help that first night as we began our experience being parents.
Approximately 10 pm, August 19, 2012
I was surprisingly calm as we drove to the hospital; I was relieved that the time had come. Growing up, I had always looked forward to this moment. Becoming a parent was something I had cherished over the past 41 weeks. Now that moment was imminent.
We checked into the birthing wing of the hospital and waited for the doctor to check my wife for dilation. After the examination, the doctor said she was three centimetres dilated and ready to move into a birthing suite. My wife received the epidural shortly after arriving in the birthing suite. She had planned on having an epidural, and I fully supported this decision. Part of my job during this process was to encourage my wife, supporting her decisions in ensuring her utmost comfort. The epidural helped her relax and relieved a lot of her discomfort and pain. I thought, “Wow, this is really happening!” The finality of our 41-month journey was inching closer. My mother-in-law arrived at this point, to lend her support and help us through the birthing process. By now, Nikki was hooked up to a machine that monitored her contractions and our baby’s heartbeats, and the nurse was explaining the birthing procedure from here onward. Before she left, the nurse told us that she would be back approximately once an hour to check up on us.
A doctor came to do a routine check–up after a couple of nurse visits. He said Nikki was progressing as expected. I couldn’t take my eyes off the heart-rate and contraction monitor. “This is intense,” I thought to myself about my only connection to the baby. It was a unique and unexplainable feeling to know I was about to finally meet this person, and that my only connection to the baby at this moment was listening to its heartbeat. Progress slowed over the next three hours, and it was an exhausting experience. I had to maintain my focus, though, stay patient and be calm in order to support my wife.
Nikki had now been in labour for about eight hours. My brave wife was exhausted, drugged up and emotional. She’d reached five centimetres around the six-hour mark, but hadn’t progressed. So, the doctor decided to break her water to help move the labour along. It seemed like this 41-week journey just wouldn’t end. One hour later, the doctor came to check the dilation. Unfortunately, breaking her water hadn’t helped. The doctor said my wife’s cervix was swelling, and he could feel the baby’s head. He confirmed that the baby’s heart rate was fine, and that mom was OK, too. He was concerned, however, that the dilation wasn’t progressing past five centimetres. He then informed us that he now planned on checking her dilation every hour. The next few hours were agonizing; time was moving like molasses in January.
At the 13th hour, the doctor informed us that my wife’s dilation still hadn’t progressed, and her cervix was continuing to swell. The baby was trying hard to move through the birth canal, but couldn’t because the baby was hitting its head against my wife’s cervix, because it wasn’t dilating past the five-centimetre mark. Fortunately, the baby’s heart rate was still safe, and there wasn’t reason for concern. We were then informed that a C-section was becoming a more likely option, because there was no guarantee that Nikki’s cervix would dilate to the 10 centimetres necessary for a vaginal birth. The doctor’s concern was that it would get to a point where Nikki would need an emergency C-section; not an ideal situation or the safest thing for mom or baby.
This was an emotional moment for Nikki and I as soon-to-be parents. We had hoped for a vaginal birth, but, most importantly, for mom and baby to be safe and healthy. We weren’t going to be stubborn if we needed to change our plan.
This was the scenario in a nutshell: four to five hours of early labour at home, 13 hours of labour in the hospital and hardly any sleep, coupled with the pressures of a labouring wife and impending first-time parenthood. The doctor told us if we wanted to pursue the vaginal birth we could, but Nikki and baby would have to be monitored closely. We were given an hour to decide what to do, because if we chose the caesarean, they needed to prepare the operation room.
Once the doctor left the room, the soon-to-be mom and dad, and maternal grandma shed some tears. The process was beyond exhausting. The build-up was intense, but we decided it was best to go through with the caesarean. Ensuring the safe arrival of our child, along with a healthy mom, were our top priorities; we were simply unwilling to compromise. The desire for, and the social pressure of, having a vaginal birth were simply non-existent at this time.
After 17 hours of labour and 41 weeks of pregnancy, it was finally time for our little one to enter the world. We informed the nurse we wanted the C-section. WOW-we were almost there!
After the induction we were informed to return to the hospital after twelve hours if nothing happened, sooner if there was progress. We decided to go out for lunch with the future grandparents. It was our last lunch before becoming parents. We had no idea what we were in for. The anticipation was intense, after 41 patient weeks the birth was fast approaching.
The doctor indicated labour would likely begin between four to eight hours. For my wife it started at six and I remember it clearly. We decided to walk to the Tim Hortons which was five minutes away, however at the half way point my wife stopped and said, “I feel like someone just kicked me really hard in the crotch, I have to turn back now.” This ignited the butterflies in my stomach. Even though the doctor had given us guidelines for the onset of labour, we didn’t know exactly what to expect, so we waited. After four hours of discomfort and minor contractions my wife decided it was time to leave. While getting induced lessened the mystery of the onset of labour, it didn’t diminish the anxiety/excitement of our departure to the hospital. Having timed the trip to the hospital at the various times of the day, I knew the drive would take no longer than fifteen minutes. Surprisingly my earlier fears of delivering my child at the side of the road were thankfully absent at this moment.
The birthing process is something a mother or pregnant woman can relate with, but as a man this isn’t possible. I did my best to be empathetic, compassionate, supportive and encouraging throughout my wife’s pregnancy. I read a book called The Birth Partner Handbook , we took prenatal classes, I quizzed many parents about their birth experiences. While doing these things, I always wondered whether they would be useful or not. They certainly helped me be well-informed, supportive and a loving partner throughout the pregnancy; but preparing for the unknown is a difficult thing to do. Ready or not, this was it.