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  • Ken Westfall (A Doula Client - Dad)

{Birth Story} Dad's Perspective of Changed Plans

Birth was a long journey. Andrea woke up at 2am Saturday morning with back pain, and then it really set in at 4am. Turns out it was back labor, which is much more painful than regular contractions in the front. We spent a fair amount of time trying different positions to help relieve it and readjust baby (because back labor is often caused by a bad baby position). Around 1pm we noticed she was looking really puffy, especially her feet, despite having been off her feet all day. Puffy is a sign of high blood pressure which is dangerous, so we called the doctor and they said we should come in to get checked out.

I had a feeling this was it, so we took our time. Andrea showered, we got some food, and then went in. Turns out her blood pressure was 168/92, and she had preeclampsia. So we get checked in at 3pm, are in the labor room, and back labor contractions are setting in pretty strong. The pain was so bad that she was howling with each contraction, for sometimes 5 minutes at a time.

We had a plan for a natural birth, and hired doulas to help support that. We were expecting them to be there for physical support through labor. Unfortunately Andrea's body had different plans, and the terrible labor pains were just too much, so she got an epidural. This was the right choice as she could finally relax.

The doula, Sarah, arrive around 5pm, Andrea's progressed to about 4cm dilated, and the doctor wants to start pitocin to help things keep moving. As they weren't going to be providing the physical support we expected, the doulas changed in to an advisory and mental support role, which was still so helpful. The doulas agreed with the doctor about pitocin and we continue on. Ideally her cervix would dilate about 1cm every hour.

Around 6pm there hadn't been much progress, so the doctor broke her water, hoping it would help things move faster.

At around 10pm she's at 5cm and we're nestling in for a long night. Unfortunately the pain in her back is returning, despite the epidural, so Andrea has to push a button every 20 minutes to help increase the medication to tolerate the pain. This made for a hard night, as she was continually waking up while I was snoozing away. I felt bad, but there was nothing I could do to help, was very tired, and knew I'd need my strength. Plus she had the doulas for some support.

Morning comes, doctor checks at around 6am, and she's only at 6cm dilated. "This baby needs to come out, and your progress has stalled. You need to have a C-section." Andrea looked at the doulas, me, and we all knew it was the best decision. Yes, we could have tried to struggle through for longer, hoping for progress, but we probably would have ended with a C-section anyways. So we decided to give ourselves grace, and agreed with the doctor.

Once it's decided, C-section prep moves quickly. Around 7am the operating room is ready, surgery team assembled, and Andrea is wheeled away. They get her in the room, transferred beds, and get to work. I was brought in after they'd already started cutting, and was happy to see her talking about dogs with the anesthesiologist and laughing. They turn the epidural way up for the surgery, so all she felt was some tugging and pressure.

I'm a detail guy, so while I was sitting by her head stroking her hair, I was constantly looking over to see whatever I could. While I'm sure it's safe and modern, there are parts of this surgery that seem brutal and crazy!

They start to remove baby, and she looks gigantic. I was not ready for just how large and foreign a plump baby looks when it's being pulled out of another person. More and more of her just kept coming! As she's almost fully out, the doctor shows me she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice! While she could have been born naturally with this, it's yet another potential complication we avoided, confirming this was the right choice.

The doctor, despite his seemingly pushy demeanor, came highly recommended by the nurses. "If I had to have a C-section, I'd want him doing it. He takes his time, and used to be a plastic surgeon, so he does a good job." While that was comforting, he again proved to be a great doctor by breaking the rules and letting me cut the cord, which apparently never happens in a C-section! So that was a nice treat.

Suddenly, baby is out, and she's crying! We have a daughter!

Baby is covered in a white, waxy substance, and has a significant cone-head from the night of contractions before trying to shove her through an un-dilated cervix. The nurses take her to the warming table and clean her up. She's so pink! Everything looks perfect and healthy. She's a redhead! She's beautiful. She's wrapped in blankets, handed to me, and I bring her over to meet mom. The joy, relief, and love in Andrea's face was magical. The pictures still make me tear up.

I then get to take Dorothy back to the labor room for cuddles while they finish sewing Andrea up. I take full advantage of this time, amazed at this perfect baby I helped make, and get lost in her details. They're taking their time finishing the surgery, which I take as a sign they're doing a good job. Sarah, the doula, comes in and meets baby, then Andrea is wheeled in. I thought baby was happy with me, but once she hears mom's voice she clearly brightens up.

I bring Dot over to Andrea, she cuddles, and baby starts looking for that nipple. Sarah, our doula, helped her latch and she did it immediately! Nurses and doulas are both amazed at how great she's doing!

And that's it. Baby is here, she and mom are healthy, and we can relax.

We had a plan for a natural birth, and did everything we could to support it. We hired doulas, attended classes, did exercises, had special chiropractic, and more. Turns out in the end her body had different plans, mandating basically everything we didn't want. The journey was hard, and Andrea has lots of recovery ahead. But after all was done, we have a perfect, healthy, beautiful, redheaded baby girl, and we couldn't be happier.


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