Sunday, April 09, 2006

JOOB - the story so far (Part One)

I suppose the best place to start would be with the magical hands of Dr John. TP had her last clinic examination on Friday morning - performed by Dr John- which, unfortunately, involved an internal exam. They hurt, particularly when the cervix is unripe. TP's wasn't even close to being ripe and so she was booked in to be induced on Monday. But it appears as if Doc's magical hands triggered something because within a few hours TP was in labour.

Of course, she didn't realise it at the time and I didn't find out for certain until about five hours later - I had to drag that out of her as it was. For weeks she's been having muscle spasms in the groin area as the muscles loosen in preparation for the birth. She's also been plagued with Braxton-Hicks so I forgive her for not telling me. When we got home all she wanted to do was sleep - the last two weeks have been exhausting - so I tucked her in and she had a good few hours nap.

I woke her up for dinner and she seemed fine. It was after dinner that she revealed that she was getting regular 'twinges'. Are these like Braxton-Hicks?, I asked. No, she said, They're a bit different. So I said, Then, you're in labour.. She didn't believe me, but it was confirmed after I felt her belly during a contraction. We had been told during antenatal class that we'd be able to tell the difference and you can. So, the show had started and the guest-of-honour was about to arrive. By this stage contactions were coming every eight-or-so minutes and lasting roughly 30 seconds.

When you're told about contractions and their timings it all seems so orderly, but we're dealing with the human body here. Some contractions lasted only a few seconds others went 20-40 secs, and the timings between them varied between six minutes and ten. But on average they went for 30 seconds with about eight minutes between. It's one of the many things I learnt during the next 24 hours.

I also learnt that the early stage of labour is boring, even for the mother. There's little pain involved so there wasn't much for me to do, other than make sure that TP was comfortable and getting lots of fluids. I watched a movie. TP played computer games. That changed around eleven o'clock when the pain began.

You know how you hear someone talking after some heroic effort by a fire-fighter or a cop like walking into a burning building and single-handedly carrying out seventeen generations of one family and they say the training took over? Well, the training took over. We'd been well-schooled by Susan, who runs the antenatal classes at KEMH, and so we knew what to do.

By 1am events were progressing nicely and so we called the hospital to see if we should come in. They advised us to wait a little longer and call back. We called back around 2am, and this is the only complaint I have of the entire six-month experience (clinics, classes, etc) at KEMH. The phone to the 24 hour, always on call, we will be here when we need you, birthing clinic rang out. Repeatedly. In the end we decided to go to the hospital.

We arrived with much luggage in hand and quickly progressed through to the assessment area. It's possible to be in labour and yet for the cervix to be still unripe. It has to soften and retract, and if that was the case we would have been sent home to wait some more. One girl we know had been in labour on and off for a week. So TP had to undergo another internal vaginal exam. I have no idea how that went because I stepped out for an urgent personal refreshment break (pee) and found myself locked out for the next hour. When next I saw her she was doped up on morphine and complaining about being so sleepy. The good news was that she was definitely in labour and her cervix was ripe. The bad news was it had only dilated 2cm. It needs to be 10cm for bub's head to fit through.

We spent the next three hours in the backroom of the assessment area. At one stage one of the midwives came and shut the door to muffle the screams. Unfortunately, nothing, not even the morphine, seemed to help.

About 7am we were moved into a proper birthing suite and assigned our own midwife: Glenn. He's actually the only male midwife I've ever met and I don't envy him: the other midwives make fun of him, but only a little and certainly not when I mention that they're female sexist pigs - all in good fun of course (well mostly). Glenn was great. Our rock.

By this stage TP was screaming for gas. NO2, like what dentists and poor goths, looking for a cheap high, use. It actually had an effect upon her pain. At least initially.

As the support person my job was to aid TP mainly by making sure she was as comfortable as possible. Usually that involved creating a mellow atmosphere (lights down low and soft music), making sure she was hydrated (ice-chips/cubes get TPs personal stamp of approval btw), and remembering stuff for her during a contraction - like using the gas. Severe pain drives out logic. Even the most basic and obvious things are hard and sometimes seemingly impossible without a little help.

About an hour after the move to the Birthing Suite we were asked if we would mind having a medical student join us to observe and assist. Neither of us had any problem and so Noel joined our happy little troop. My job was made so much easier by having Noel there.

If the early stages of labour are boring, then the middle stages (end of stage one actually) are mind-numbing (at least for the support person). There's not a lot to do, and much of that is at the whim of the mother. After six hours of back rubbing, standing around waiting and ice-cube retrieving all while having a woman scream at the top of your lungs the mind tends to wander. The midwife is pretty busy, but Noel had no assigned tasks so he was someone I could talk to and ask idiotic medical questions. I think he liked that and we developed a great rapport.

Around 11am TP had another internal exam and she had progressed to 5cm dilation. Halfway there. But events progressed fairly rapidly and much of it is a blur.

I remember that at about 11.30am they gave her another shot of morphine - which like the first one seemed to do nothing. At around 12pm they broke TPs waters (using a device not unlike a knitting needle) and she was at 6cm. At about the same time they put a drip into her arm to help her hydrate - she didn't want to drink and the ice cubes weren't enough.

By 1pm the gas was no longer enough and, although she had sworn never to use it, TP requested an epidural. This involves sticking a needle into her spine and pumping painkillers directly into her spinal cord. TP and I had discussed pain management at length. One of the reasons she'd decided not to use an epidural was because it would limit her movement - you end up attached to a drip filled with the painkiller. By this stage TP was already hooked up to a drip and had to be severely prompted into even shifting position - let alone moving around so it seemed moot. Plus the pain had simply become too much and so she gave in.

I say gave in because she was the only one in the room who wasn't prompting her to use it. I recommended that she have one at 11am but she's stubborn and one helluva fighter. She went through another one hundred or so soul-destroying contractions before she changed her mind. The irony is that she never got the epidural.

We were told that the anaesthetist was delayed. Then Glenn had to go to his scheduled lunch break at 1pm and so was replaced by an Irish midwife, Anne I think her name was although I honestly can't remember. She was like a whirlwind. She moved TP around and had her change into a better position. Within a few minutes another doctor arrived to do her internal exam and presto TP turned out to be fully dilated.

For the previous 12 hours I had seen my beloved slowly crushed by the pain. She was a rag doll totally consumed by the spasms in her belly. And then Anne told her she had to push and I saw a light blaze in TPs eyes and she said one word: Finally!.

It took her a few tries but she got the hang of it. During one of her pushes the midwife said one of the funniest things I've heard in my life - or perhaps it was just that I hadn't slept in 36 hours: Come on, push! You still have some pain left..

Anyway, after a few push cycles they decided to suck poor little Jooby out with a vacuum. This involved them fitting a device to his head and pulling while TP pushes. It's harmless but because the skull of a newborn is so soft the bit that attaches to the vacuum distends. The lump does disappear pretty quick but it leaves a bruise that is supposed to last a few days (can't say I've noticed btw).

It took a couple of more contraction-push cycles before the head emerged. The first thing I noticed about my son - apart from his thick black hair - was his left ear. I have distinctive ears and he had them.

By this stage I could smell poo. I initially thought TP had messed herself during her push, but then I heard one of the doctor's mention that Jooby had pooed in the womb. It's not uncommon but it generally occurs when the baby is in distress.

Then Anne told TP, Get ready. We're going to put him on your belly because there's no room down here.

The next thing I knew was he was there on TPs belly and she was looking down at him and I could see in her eyes she was thinking (later confirmed), What the fuck is this thing?. She was in la-la land, which is just as well, because Joob was too. He was motionless and dead-looking.

continued in part two

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