Catholic Fatherhood, growing in geekiness, holiness and intelligence.

kc0lex (Matthew). Get yours at

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Birth of Clara Joy...(dad's perspective)

I am reposting this, a classic but a goody from my old blog....hope you enjoy.

The birth of each baby is always a unique event, nothing ever goes the same or exactly according to plan. However, each birth being unique makes it a special event for the unique individual whose arrival it announces. Using the modern medical method of predicting delivery (no, not rolling dice) our fourth child was "due" on November tenth of this year (okay, that is the statistical middle of a one month window but they never tell you that). In reality, for a variety of reasons I won't get into here but you are free to send me a message and ask, we were due on about November 17th. We were able to determine this through a chart and documentation of one negative and one positive pregnancy test taken on particular days.

Anyway, on November 23rd, Thanksgiving Day, we were staring down the barrel, just seven days from having to start medical intervention to induce labor. Now at the beginning of your 41st week of pregnancy that is really a long, long time but it can be a scary prospect. I imagine that it is not unlike a death row inmate getting told he has a week before his execution, a lot can change in that week but I imagine it is a bit unsettling.

After we had Thanksgiving Lunch and Dinner with my family we made sure that our three girls had all their stuff so that they could stay at Grandma and Grandpa's for at least that night. Upon arriving home we took out the instructions for "natural promotion" of labor given to us by our good friend that I will call "The Witch Doctor" to protect her identity from the pregnant women of the world that are trying to go into labor. After I went around the house and made sure that everything was in a "hyper" state of readiness for us to go to the hospital and all of the necessary supplies (especially the roadside delivery kit) where in their proper place we began to follow the directions at 2022. This began with application of Castor Oil to the exterior of Dawn's belly and the administration of pulsitilla (homeopathic) at a rate of one dropper every 15 minutes. Okay, to complicate things the castor oil needs to be rubbed clockwise and you have to "smack" the pulsitilla bottle to "activate" it.


Now, to make everything more fun now I am running wet hand towels back and forth from the microwave to Dawn's belly to keep a nice warm one on the belly. Now at this point Dawn is working on something else to promote labor and I am getting into my routine of towel running, which I think should be an Olympic event. At 2044 Dawn gave a yelp and said "My water just broke." Idiotically I walked in and not having encountered a tidal wave asked, "Are you sure?" Dawn was quickly able to relieve my concerns and assured me that her water had broken. However, one problem still existed, even though Dawn was having contractions, they weren't regular or serious. Had labor really started????

After realizing that Dawn was having a few contractions, but nothing regular, and calling my mom to let her know what was going on (I think that phone call and my dear sweet mother's reaction has something to do with a temporary hearing loss I had for a few days after that) we decided that we needed to go to the hospital. Between the history of short labors and our discovery that meconium was present in the amniotic fluid, we thought it would be best to get to the hospital and make sure that no complications were brewing.

Now, just when you think you have things under control life has a way of throwing a curve at you just to see if you will panic when you stare it in the eyes. So, I take off driving down the road, avoiding the numerous bits of construction that pop up around the area and as I am driving down Harry Street I see something flashing in front of me a ways. I am trying to go east and a North-South train has me stuck on the wrong side of town from the hospital. Now, labor isn't serious at this point but I do not want to take my sweet time to get to the hospital either. I am worried that the train is going to be stuck and not moving or worse that it will derail in front of my very eyes. When I see that it is a fast moving freight train going northbound I am not too worried until I realize (no matter how unlikely) that it will probably derail in front of me and I will have to carry my pregnant wife that is in labor across a mass of train cars that are leaking toxic chemicals and then the final two miles to the hospital.

Well, fortunately nothing like that happened and we uneventfully drove the remaining distance to the hospital. At times it is good to be disappointed. After arriving at the hospital we were able to gather up our bags and make our way to the fourth floor delivery ward about 2142. Dawn's contractions hadn't been serious but had been running right at three minutes apart. We walked up to the PSU (perinatal support unit) and announced our arrival to the nurse that was waiting. Normally at St. Joe's a mom that shows up thinking she is in labor or that her water may have broke stops here and stays here in a room not much larger than a bathroom until they can make sure your water is broke and that you are actually in labor before you get to go to a room and deliver a baby. Now, being the experienced parents of three, I politely informed them that my wife's water had broken and that meconium was present (ok, all I knew about meconium at the time was that it was poop floating in the amniotic fluid and the only way I could have identified it would have been if it looked like or smelled like you-know-what, so the light green tint didn't really do a whole lot for me but it did for my wife). That was more than enough to convince them that we should get to pass "Go" and move directly to a birthing suite for where the real fun begins.

Ok, so now we get into the birthing room and we begin what I consider to be an extraordinary obstacle course. Not that we have to jump over barb-wire fences or clamber over brick walls but there are lots of things to get through while you are in labor in a hospital. The first is that we met our labor nurse who begins all the normal procedures of the hospital. First, is to get Dawn into a gown with a "sock" under it for holding monitors in place. Now, we aren't wanting Dawn hooked up to monitors all the time and the idea of putting a tube sock over a belly that is contracting and in labor just doesn't sound like fun so Dawn and I decide to skip that step and I step out of the bathroom to see if the nurse has any questions about our birth plan that was handed to her a few minutes prior and she is reading for the first time.

The labor nurse didn't have any questions and we talked to her about wanting intermittent monitoring and/or monitoring with a Doppler of the baby instead of having dawn chained to a large desk with a large machine on it. The nurse said that we would want to check with the doctor and make sure he was ok with that due to the meconium (who is the boss, us or the doctor??) and we used the belts to get an initial monitor of the baby just to make sure their wasn't any distress. Fortunately, no distress was found and all was well, the contractions were mild and my mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law (both of them), brother, and both nephews all came in to say hello. One other special guest was able to come in and wish her momma a special hello. The oldest big sister, Mary Elizabeth, was able to come to the hospital with her grandmother to help support her mother.


During this entire whirlwind of people coming in and out of the room we met the resident doctor that would be assisting our doctor with the birth, he checked Dawn and found out we were at a 4 and if I remember correctly about 60% effaced. It was about here that they talked about the fact that due to the meconium we would probably need a neo-natologist at the birth. This would mean that instead of the baby coming directly to Dawn's tummy for an hour or so the neo-natologist would first quickly and deeply suction out the baby's throat to make sure no meconium would get sucked into the baby's lungs.

Now, we use the Bradley Method of Husband-Coached Childbirth to help us achieve a natural and un-medicated childbirth, but we still get the obligatory visit from the anesthiologist on-call so that in case we need to have a c-section they have all the obligatory information just in case, at least according to our labor nurse. Then this guy comes in, he is just doing his job, and gives us this big spiel about how they will go about an epidural if Dawn gets to 8 or 9 centimeters dilated and decides she just can't make it anymore. Ok, so first they give her so much fluid through the hep-lock, then get her into one of two positions, then stick a needle in her back, then put a catheter in the needle, then guessing they are in the right spot the slowly start to inject medicine into Dawn's back and if her legs start to feel weird and go numb they start pumping her full of medicine. Total time for this is about a half hour and with Dawn's propensity for quick labors it would make it totally ridiculous to even try to give her an epidural at the end of labor.

At one point Dr. Ferris did stick his head in the door just to let me know that he would be close by. Alright, now we get all of that fun stuff out of the way and its now about 2230 and we have been at the hospital for about an hour at this point and labor really hasn't gotten that serious. Finally, about 2245 Dawn decides its time to walk the halls.


So we go walking up and down the hallways of the labor section. My mom, brother, his wife and their two kids join us on our walking of the halls, finally the contractions are starting to pick up and Dawn has gone from having one every two laps, to having one every lap, to having two on the last two laps. Finally, we go back to the room to let Dawn rest and continue to labor. Things still aren't too serious, I continue reading my book but Dawn is now only smiling between contractions but she is handling them like the pro she is. She is sitting in the very comfortable recliner in our room and I am starting to hold her hand especially during contractions. The nurse lets me know that they are waiting for Dawn's labor to get serious before checking her again or really doing much of anything else.

Okay, so we finally get down to about midnight and someone, I can't remember exactly who, comes in and lets us know that its now the 24th (no longer my uncle Steve's birthday). It is about this time that Dawn decides its time to transfer over to the bed for labor to continue. There are also some little personality changes that I notice about her, some of them I won't mention as they are probably unique to her. There are other things that are a normal part of labor that she undergoes but guys you got to get over your squeamishness and be a man to deal with these. A level head, strong stomach and a sharp mind are necessary to do what you got to do to help your wife and recognize what is going on so that everyone is ready.


I decide to tell the nurse that I think things are getting serious at which point she checks Dawn and tells us that she is dilated to 6, I do also notice that she is fully effaced. I gesture to the nurse and tell her that I think things are going to go quick, its now 0016. I call my mom and ask for one person to be sent down to help me, my mom decides to send my wife's mom down (who better to help, she knows just about as well as anyone) and my only requirements are that she come in quietly and keep to the side. The reason for this is that I know for the birth we are going to probably have at least two attending (our doc and the neo-natologist), probably two residents and two nurses. I have my mother-in-law sitting off to the side behind me when I hear Dawn say, "I have to push." It has only been two contractions since she was dilated to six.

The labor nurse decides that this would be a good time to check Dawn and gets all gloved up and at this point the nurse and I both take a look and don't see any baby but there is movement. The nurse changes her mind about checking Dawn as her leg goes flying up in the air only to be met by Dawn's hand to hold it in place. The nurse starts frantically making phone calls (faster than the captain of the pomp on squad captain an hour before prom when she finds out her date just fell over dead and she needs a new one) to get people rolling to make sure we got everyone one we are supposed to have in the room their.

The resident comes in the room and does check Dawn even though, as the labor nurse put it, "she is involuntarily pushing." The resident does glove up but doesn't really check her due to the fact that he is able to feel the baby coming down. The labor nurse tells Dawn that she is going to put/hold the monitor on her just to make sure that everything is ok and that we "aren't going to mess with Dr. Ferris if the baby is having any problems, we will just push it out." These kinds of statements I always think are funny, like Dawn is going to 'wait' for Dr. Ferris at this point. I hear someone ask if the neo-natologist has been called and another person asks if someone has called Dr. Ferris. About this time Dr. Ferris walks in the door and Dawn pushes a couple more times. Someone, I think the labor nurse, makes the comment that we are going to see the head pop out any second.

Okay, so now it is clear to me that we aren't having the neo-natologist at the delivery, I can't explain how I know it but it may have something to do with two people in the delivery room almost simultaneously asking each other if the other has called the neo-natologist, Dr. Ferris didn't seem too worried about it, he was just sitting back and waiting for the baby to show up. That is part of the reason we like him so much, he doesn't get overly intervention oriented without good reason. About that time I heard someone say, here it is and I look down and sure enough everything starts to open.

Dr. Ferris drapes some type of a sheet under Dawn. At this point she is in on her side and no one has broken down the bed, no stirrups, nothing. The little baby's head comes rolling out facing posterior and rolling counter-clockwise towards me. That is when I see it's a little girl, baby number four, fourth little girl for daddy. She was place directly on Mom's belly and I believe a bulb syringe was used to suction her throat out, she cried a sweet little sound almost right away and pinked up really quick.


Now, we had a problem.

Name, a name was in order but we were staring at each other. Therese? Theresa? Gabriella? Clara? I was ready to play: Rock, Paper, Scissors. Finally Dawn asked what I thought and I told her she knew what my vote was. Dawn looked down and said that name I loved and so it was.


On 7/24/06 at 0044, weighing in at 7 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long is "Clara Joy".

My littlest girl.
Under the Mercy,
Matthew S

Turbo Tagger


Chris Lewis said...

Hooray for Bradley Birth!

James, Andrea, and Clara Smith said...

Congratulations! We had our own little Clara Joy just last year. :) I love the name! Sounds like you were a terrific labor coach! We really appreicated Bradley training. It was a blessing for our 41.5 hour labor! I had fun reading your birth story!