Larisa has her weekly checkup for the baby, which our midwife asks us to do at the hospital, since she’s there delivering another baby. I drop her off and head into work. I’m there for about 15 minutes when I get a call from Larisa. “The midwife says not to worry, but I’m dialated to four centimeters already.”
Don’t worry. Right.
I come in and pick her up at our church, which is only a few blocks from the hospital. She’s attending our midweek Eucharist, with a half-dozen other people. I get in near the end, but we stay through the prayers and take communion. Afterwards everyone prays for Larisa and me, which gets things off to a great start.
The midwife has told Larisa to go home and wait for her contractions to pick up. We head in, pack our bags and get the car ready. In the early afternoon her contractions are coming consistently every five minutes, so we called the midwife and were formally admitted to the hospital.
Things progressed well, but slowly. Larisa’s contractions pick up and slack off intermittently. They never become very painful or powerful, though she does get dialated to 6cm. We wait until that evening, and sleep intermittently through the night.
In the morning, the midwife talks to us. Larisa’s contractions have slacked off through the night, but she’s plenty dialated. We can either go home and wait for her labor to speed up on its own, or we can have her break Larisa’s water, which will provoke active labor. We take an hour’s walk to discuss it, and agree to have her break Larisa’s water. So at 7am the midwife uses something that looks like a giant knitting needle to break the amniotic sac, and the fluid gushes out.
Things pick up almost right away. The contractions start coming more frequent and strong, and pretty soon Larisa’s in a lot of pain. We move into the jacuzzi room, which alas doesn’t help Larisa very much. It becomes difficult for her to walk, and she keeps moving into different positions trying to find something that’s more comfortable. The nurses keep telling her that she’s doing great, but that doesn’t relieve her agony much.
At 2pm, seven hours after her water broke, the midwife checks Larisa’s cervix again. She’s only dialated to 7cm. As soon as the midwife leaves, Larisa starts to cry. She’s been in excruciating pain for hours already, and has made hardly any progress since her water broke. She tells me she wants an elective caesarean. She is done. She wants this baby out.
We talk to the nurse, who sets Larisa up with an IV to prepare her for whatever procedures are to come. The midwife is out for an hour (doing a C-section, ironically), and when she gets back I relay Larisa’s desires to the midwife. She strongly suggests that we not do that. Gradually, she talks Larisa down off the ledge. They’ll give her painkillers to help her relax and take away much of the pain, then she can re-evaluate if she really wants a C-section or wants to keep going for a vaginal birth.
Drugs are great. We were originally going to attempt an unmedicated birth, but avoiding a C-section is a much higher priority. Larisa feels better almost immediately after they give her the narcotics. She also feels rather sleepy. Before the narcotics wear off the nurse anaesthetist comes in and sets up Larisa’s epidural. It’s fascinating actually: they thread a tiny tube directly into Larisa’s spinal column, and drip small continuous doses of anaesthetic that desensitizes the lower body. The effect is remarkably specific: Larisa can feel her feet and knows when she’s having a contraction, but there is little actual pain.
The next five hours pass pretty quickly. The anaesthetist has to adjust Larisa’s dose a couple of times, but her ability to keep up and her relaxation increase dramatically. The labor picks up–by eight pm she’s almost fully dialated and the baby has descended. At eight thirty the midwife checks again and makes the announcement: it’s time to push.
Larisa is a champion pusher. I hold her legs and shout encouragement while she grunts and groans and pushes. Pretty quickly I can see the top of the baby’s head. Larisa pushes a bit more, and soon we see eyes, ears, shoulders, the whole body. She’s done! They wipe the baby down quickly, and a few seconds after being born the baby is resting and whimpering on Larisa’s chest.
So Ciprian Alexander Bangs was born on May 22, 2008, at 9:15pm, weighing 6 lbs. 12 oz, and 19 inches long. He’s resting with his mother a few feet from me right now.