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Wednesday, November 05, 2003
First day at home

goinghome.jpgOkay, Baby Ari, formerly known as Baby Kos, is now home with his mother (who feels a lot better, by the way). We actually came home Tuesday at around 3 p.m., and it's been a whirlwind ever since.

Aristotle Alberto is turning out to be a good-natured kid. While we were basically up most of the night, it wasn't horrible. He cried, but only a little whenever he got hungry. And despite some early frustrations, Ari is getting better at breast feeding. Still no milk from Elisa (that's not due until later today or tomorrow), but he seems to be getting enough colustrum to somewhat satisfy him.

He's also gotten quickly used to having either Elisa or me carrying him around, and gets upset if we put him down at any moment. He'll wake from the deepest slumbers to remind us that it is, in fact, our duty and responsibility to hold him 24/7. At some point we're going to have to point out that we, in fact, do get to put him down on ocassion. But that can wait.

And as parents, it's only been three days but we are already a bit less overwhelmed. After birth, my thought was "How are we going to keep this fragile little person alive". But those fears are fading a bit. I think we may pull it off just yet.

Check it out:


Yeah, he smiles. Probably not a real smile. More likely him testing out his facial muscles. But it's still adorable. And he's a curious guy. His eyes can't focus yet, but he's still trying mightily to make sense of the world around him. It'll be fun molding him into a mini-Markos.

So here's the plan: Aristotle can be one of the following:

  1. Baseball player,

  2. Concert musician (piano or violin), or

  3. a rock star.
Two out of three would be a bonus.

So I'm ready to get started. I was going to go out and buy him a baseball glove so we could start working on his slider, but people told me I would have to wait at least a couple of months. Sigh... I'm not exactly the most patient person.


The Birth

So here's the story.

lastvisit.jpgThursday, Elisa went to visit our midwife Hsui-Li for her now-weekly meeting. She did her usual checkup, and determined Elisa was 2.5 cm dilated and 75 percent effaced. We were getting there.

On the way out, we made an appointment for the following Thursday (tomorrow). I waved to Hsui-Li and said, "see you next Thursday!" Hsui-Li smiled and said, "probably sooner."

The due date wasn't until November 10, but it was increasingly clear Elisa couldn't last that long. She was about to explode. And given that babies gain half an ounce of weight per day the last three weeks of the pregnancy, the last thing we needed or wanted was for this baby to get any bigger. Let's not forget that Elisa is a small person (5' 2").

Friday went by uneventfully, but Saturday was weird. Elisa complained all day about the wait, and I told Baby Kos that it was about time for him to pay us a visit. His free ride in Mamy's womb was coming to an end.

I had a feeling something might happen that night, and I left our car out on the curbside rather than garaging it. And at 10:30 p.m., the contractions started.

We were up all night, me with a stopwatch in hand, timing contractions. They hovered around 4-8 minutes between contractions. Hsui-Li had told us not to call her or go to the hospital unless the contractions were under 3 minutes, or if her water broken and it came out green. Neither of those had happened, so we simply decided to wait out the evening. I prepared a nice hot bath for Elisa, and we passed the time counting down the minutes till morning broke.

At 7:30 a.m., Elisa had a string of sub-3 minute contractions, and we called Hsui-Li. She said wait longer, that the contractions weren't intense enough.

So we waited as Elisa's pain got worse. At around 10:30 a.m., Elisa started vomiting and we decided it was time to head to Oakland's Summit Hospital.

We've heard so many stories about delivery room doctors. How the nurses toil for hours setting the stage for the delivery, and the doctor arrives at the last minute to deliver the baby and claim all the credit. So it was with great pleasure that we saw Hsui-Li arrive at 11 a.m. After a brief examination, she determined Elisa was dilated at 5 cm, and almost completely effaced. We still had a wait ahead of us. But the wait got longer as we found out the baby was not properly aligned.

Hsui-Li had quickly determined that the baby was not in proper birth position. Instead of facing straight down, he was resting at an angle. So when Elisa had a contraction, the baby was being pushed up again Elisa's pelvic bone instead of down into the birth canal. Hence, she would not only feel the pain of the contraction, but also sharp pains on her hips.

Thus, Hsui-Li needed to maneouver the baby back into place. And she did all such maneouvering while Elisa was in the midst of a contraction, using the momentum of those contractions to help guide the baby back into position.

Except that Elisa was so tensed up during those contractions, given the intense pain, that she was actually squeezing the baby and giving him no room to maneouver.

Hsui-Li, seeing Elisa running out of patience (I had already been exiled to the back of the room with the bloody towels. My crime? I whispered sweet encouragements to Elisa). So Hsui-Li decided to break Elisa's water bag.

Prior to breaking the water, Hsui-Li had estimated the baby's weight at 7 pounds, 7 ounces. After breaking the water and feeling around Elisa's belly, Hsui-Li shook her head. "Oh oh. This baby is a lot bigger."

"How big?" asked one of the nurses.

"About 8 pounds, 10 ounces." Everyone gasped. This was increasingly turning into a nightmarish pregnancy.

I am convinced that a medical doctor, seeing the baby in the wrong position, and its large size, would've decided to do a C-section at that moment. But that's why we got a midwife.

As soon as the water bag broke, Elisa's contractions got even more intense. She had previously determined she wanted a natural childbirth. Even going so far as to say, "If I ask for drugs, say 'no' to me, okay?" To which I had responded, "If you ask me for drugs, I'll ask 'how many'?" That time had now come. She wanted drugs.

oxygen.jpgThe nurses ordered up the epidural, but Hsui-Li cancelled it almost immediately. She decided Elisa was close enough to birth. With Elisa screaming in pain, Hsui-Li worked with the contractions for about an hour, moving the baby into proper birth position, but he didn't want to come out. He would drop a bit into the birth canal and then scamper back in. It wasn't going to happen.

With much apologies, Hsui-Li ordered the epideral. Elisa lasted 16 hours before surrendering.

It was another hour before the pain killing took place. Elisa was so dehydrated, that they had to hook her up to an IV drip to replenish her fluids. So it was one more hour of painful contractions, but relief finally arrived. And it was transformational. Elisa turned from (understandably) evil Elisa into chatty happy Elisa. It made me wish she had done the drugs earlier, but it was all good. Hsui-Li went off to take a nap before the final effort, still a few hours away.

Keep in mind that by now, there were bloody rags and gowns all over the room. I had no idea births were this -- violent. None of this "miracle of birth" fantasy with cute birds chirping in the background. There was copious amounts of blood, and pain, and screaminng. Hsui-Li would reach inside of Elisa and pull out strands of bloody mucus. There was no romance in the process. It was literally life and death.

birthingroom.jpgBut we have progressed as a society. The birth wasn't happening in an operating room. It was a specialized birthing room. No one was scrubbed down in the delivery room. The nurses and Hsui-Li washed their hands, and wore blue nurses smocks, but that was it. I was right in the middle of the action in my jeans and sweatshirt. It may not seem like much, but it made a world of difference, I believe. A lot less scary, a lot less septic, than the operating room births of old.

Hsui-Li came back into the room at 7 p.m. Did another inspection, and decided it was time to push. Elisa wasn't feeling any pain at this point, but still felt the pressure of the baby in the birth canal. Unlike the epidarals of years ago, Elisa could still help with the pushing.

30 minutes into the ordeal, we could barely see the top of the baby's head and tuft of hair. Hsui-Li even had me touch it. That was cool, but jeez, we had so much work to do yet! I turned to a nurse and whispered, "Is it normal for it to take this long?"

"It usually takes an hour", I was told. So I relaxed a bit.

Except that an hour passed. And then another half hour. And still, the baby's head was barely crowning. Elisa was pushing with all her might, but still, it was a big baby.

The nurses, despite being wonderful human beings, were concerned the baby was too big to pass through. They started whispering that dreaded word -- episiotomy -- where they slice the vagina to make the openining wider. Hsui-Li, whose claim to fame around these parts has been built in large part due to her low episiotomy rate, refused to consider the option.

But there came a crossroads. About half the baby's head was out, but it was stuck. Literally. Two or three contractions went through, and the baby wasn't budging. Hsui-Li had poured oil on crown to make it more slippery, and had spent hours massaging and expanding the opening, but it seemed it was all for naught. So she gave Elisa one more chance to save herself the scalpel.

I looked at Elisa and said, "Push with everything you've got. You're almost there, but if the baby doesn't come out, she'll have to do the episiotomy."

With the next contraction, Elisa gave it one might, superhuman effort, and the baby's head popped out. Hsui-Li made two quick maneouvers to get the shoulders out, and our brand new baby boy was suddenly in Elisa's arms. I declined opportunities to catch the baby or cut the umbilical chord -- better to let the professionals take care of that. I didn't need those things anyway, we were both elated, and, I'm sure, we both shed some tears.

So how does one capture the essence of a 23-hour labor? I don't think you can. Elisa was hooked on TLC's "A Baby Story" and "Maternity Ward" shows, which film real-live baby deliveries. But you only see the end result -- those last few pushes. This was a lot more difficult than anyone can imagine.

Was it worth it? Of course.


by Kos | November 05, 2003 02:52 PM