Friday, April 6, 2012

Audrey's Birth: Robert's Version

Time for an extra special guest post by Robert!!  Please comment and give him a pat on the back if you feel so inclined!   And now, Audrey's birth story... as retold by Robert Chatham.

I thought I was ready because I went to childbirth classes and skimmed a couple of books. At the very worst: a middle-of-the-night dash to the hospital, a rush to the room, a few minutes of pushing, and then: baby!
There's a lot that They leave out.
For one, the baby was fashionably late. Even though every time we went in for an ultrasound, the technician told us Audrey was ahead of schedule. It looked as if she'd come early, right up until the due date, the week before Thanksgiving. In the end, we scheduled an induction.

We had to show up at the hospital early. Very Early. We capped a sleepless night by getting up at 4 A.M.. It was impossible to sleep. I kept thinking about the videos they showed at our birthing class; most of the women had not gone through an epidural, and they screamed and squatted uncomfortably before a bloody human burst from their nether regions. Things were about to get Real.

We ended up getting to the hospital earlier than scheduled. The lobby was filled, even though it was five-thirty, that special time of morning when No One Wants to Be Awake. Rebecca signed in and then we waited to get the appropriate paperwork; it was something like half an hour before they took us upstairs to a big, anonymous hospital room. They told us to settle in (easier said than done), and then the nurses disappeared.

So we waited. We were used to it.

Eventually, they hooked Rebecca up to an IV drip and started pumping in Pitocin. I didn’t feel fantastic about it. Rebecca had told me that it could cause intense contractions, and that was about all I knew. Neither of us were comfortable. I’d overpacked, bringing a sack of snack food and a Kindle loaded with books. Only I didn’t feel hungry and I didn’t feel like reading. And there was no place to go. So I sat in the gross chair in the corner of the room, wondering how many other first-time dads had slept in the same seat. I wondered how (or if) they sanitized it.
Once the nurses showed up, things started to move quickly. They came in every half an hour to check on Rebecca. At this point, I realized that the instructor lied to us in the childbirth class. I wasn’t a coach; I was the Ambassador. I was the one who got to answer questions and joke with the doctors and nurses, because I wasn’t going to be pushing a baby out of me later on. Before I knew it, it was already ten o'clock, and the nurse told us that they were going to break Rebecca’s water. And then a few minutes later, Rebecca said she wanted an epidural, because things were getting too intense.

That meant I got to stand by while they inserted a little wire into her back. I did not feel like I was being a very helpful member of the team. Everyone waited as the epidural did its thing, and I nervously tried to eat some tasteless trail mix, and the nurse said that she was going to increase the Pitocin. The obstetrician might, at some point in the near future, be alerted. Until then, the nurses would start without her. Why not. They asked Rebecca to start pushing.

Childbirth is not a beautiful thing. It's a lot like watching someone try to poop for a really long time. I stood by nervously while the nurses asked Rebecca to push and count to ten, and then everyone took a mini-break and watched contractions on the monitor. This went on. And on. And on. And on. For two hours. Pushing and grunting and sweating, counting to ten, taking a breather. I think I made the appropriate small talk with the nurses, but I have no idea what I said. Rebecca was a REAL champ throughout all of this; even though I could tell that she was exhausted from pushing for such a long time (especially without any visible progress), she kept going.

The doctor showed up an hour into the process. The baby's head descended. From the outside, it looked like it was the size of a tiny softball. It was alarming, because I expected it to be much bigger. The doctor explained that I was just seeing the very top of the head, something I didn't grasp until later. At that point, understanding was not possible. I was in panic mode.
All at once and too quickly, the doctor pulled this enormous gray, chalky thing out of Rebecca, and everyone sounded very excited. For a half-second, I was horrified, because it looked so wrong, and then it uncurled and cried, and it suddenly changed from a piece of meat to a human being: Audrey Harper.   

They cleaned Audrey, weighed her, and put a band on her arm. Finally, they told me I could carry her to Rebecca. Adrenaline was leaving my system, and I felt exhausted and a little emotional. She was tiny and helpless. I handed her to Rebecca, who looked remarkably composed for someone who'd just pushed eight and a half pounds of human from her body. She seemed more in control than I felt; I wanted to collapse. And still, we weren't alone. I wanted it to be just the three of us; just our new family.

Most of the nurses left the room and Rebecca nursed Audrey for the first time. Our parents were in the waiting room, and when I texted them, they wanted to come in immediately. We wanted to be alone with Audrey for just a little while. I sent them pictures, only none of them could figure out how to see the pictures on their phones, so I ran out to show them. Then they wanted more pictures, so I took a few more and ran back out. I was back to playing Ambassador. 
That first night was one of the hardest of my life. We'd been up since four in the morning. We’d gone through an incredibly emotional experience and then spent a couple of hours with excitable parents. We were in a strange hospital room, and we had to wake up every two hours to feed Audrey. Worse:the nurses came in to look at vital signs every couple of hours, and none of the visits coincided with Audrey's feedings. It was this terrible sleep deprivation experiment, and I felt like I was failing. That's what I remember most about Audrey's birth - how exhausted I felt the entire time, and how we were never alone. It was like a little taste of the month ahead; four weeks of Hard Times.

ABOUT ROBERT: He is my best friend, my husband, and my baby's daddy.  He enjoys jigsaw puzzles, bicycling, and rum.  He blogs over here, and I won't be held accountable for anything ridiculous that you read there! 


  1. How great to have the father's perspective! I love seeing brand new dads, it's always very moving especially since watching my own husband become a dad. Thanks for sharing your sweet version if the story.

    1. It's very Rashomon-esque - we didn't realize how different our birth experiences were until we read each others' stories. I don't think anything else has ever made me feel simultaneously happy and miserable.

  2. Oh that's a great version of it. I like his honesty and how he said it wasn't a beautiful thing. But you did get a gorgeous baby girl!

    Happy Easter!!


    1. That's true - in the end, Audrey was (and is) absolutely WONDERFUL. I guess pop culture didn't prepare me for those two tediously frustrating hours and the crushing exhaustion that followed :-)

  3. Oh, how lovely hearing such a monumental experience in your lives from both perspectives. I really appreciate the honesty of this post. I think parenting is an experiment in extremes, starting at birth. As a couple you experience such intense highs and lows (and a good dose of sleep deprivation) those first few weeks. Thank you for sharing your story. I now wish my husband had written a birth story!

    1. It's something I wouldn't have done without Rebecca's prodding - your husband still has time to write his out! :-)

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  5. This is great! I love hearing the dad's perspective. And having had two births outside of a hospital, I must say that my one hospital birth was the most exhausting by far. A hospital is definitely not a place to rest! Congrats on your beautiful girl, and thanks for sharing this honest story!


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