Anna’s Birth (Kevin’s version)

Anna’s Birth (Donna’s version)



Donna woke me at 12:44, saying her water broke and she was having contractions strongly already. I briefly considered the many ways I was probably not up to the big task, and then we began the routine that we’d learned in our Lamaze class. Breathe, breathe. Time the contractions, have some liquid to keep up her strength. We quickly determined that the contractions were coming fast and steady, so we called the hospital to have the midwife paged. Laurie was on call, and she called us back after a few minutes, sounding quite sleepy. She told us to give the contractions some time to get established (the usual procedure) and call back after a couple of hours. But the contractions stayed strong and got even closer together – since they were so steady, they were very painful for Donna and almost wholly absorbed her. It was just before 3 am that we decided to head for the hospital, after one more call to the midwife to have her meet us there.

I woke at about quarter to 1:00 feeling like I really had to go to the bathroom. I got up and began gushing the entire way to the bathroom. I guessed that my water had broken, and from the way the fluid kept coming, I had guessed right. I knew that my contractions would be beginning any minute, but I hadn’t felt anything yet. I decided to sit in the rocking chair in the baby’s room and wait for them. Our Lamaze class had taught us that labor usually lasts hours, and there is no need to go to the hospital until contractions are fairly close and well-established. I didn’t want to wake Kevin since I figured it would be a while, but he heard me get up, so I told him that my water had broken. I went to sit in the baby’s room and Kevin got up and sat with me, waiting for the contractions to start. They came within the next 10 or 15 minutes and already were fairly close (5 minutes apart). As instructed at our Lamaze class, we called the hospital to have the midwife paged. The midwife on duty was Laurie. I felt bad waking her at 2 am. She told me to get in the shower for a good hour and give her a call after that. I got in the shower for what must have been 20 minutes or so, but it was difficult for me to stand there during the contractions. I tried to brace myself against the wall, but it wasn’t at all comfortable (my contractions were between 3 and 5 minutes apart). I got out, toweled off and got dressed. I told Kevin that I wanted to go to the hospital. So we called Laurie again and she said she’d meet us there.



We loaded the car with all of our meticulous preparations: the baby seat to bring her home, the large blow-up ball (birthing ball), a suitcase of clothes for us, etc. We sped to the hospital, with Donna convulsed with the pain of contractions (and me worried about hitting a deer in the deep night of the Merritt Parkway as we zoomed toward Norwalk). Arriving at the hospital, we were basically the only ones there – the early morning hours of a Sunday morning are probably the quietest. The hospital lets people drive up and they have a valet to park the car, so we unloaded, convinced Donna to get into a wheelchair, and made our way into the ER. It took them a while just to get us in: despite Donna’s moans, they tarried finding an aide to escort us from the ER to Labor & Delivery. Finally we got to L&D, where we met the nurse on duty and Laurie.

Kevin loaded the car with all of the stuff we had packed to bring to the hospital. Thank God we hadn’t waited to pack for that long labor period because I wouldn’t have been able to think straight, let alone move around to pack. I had a hard time getting down the stairs and being in the car was no better. Luckily at that time of night there was no traffic. I didn’t see how fast Kevin was driving, but he must have been going pretty fast. It still felt like an eternity to get to the hospital! Why had we chosen Norwalk Hospital? What had been a pretty quick 20 minute drive when I wasn’t in labor suddenly became interminable when I was. I barely remember anything about the drive because I was concentrating so hard on the contractions. Kevin pulled the car up to the Emergency Room as we had been instructed. At that time of night, the customer service wasn’t exactly stellar. No one came up to our car to see if we needed help or anything. I got in a wheelchair and someone pushed me to L&D. I yelled at him to stop when I had a contraction, but I finally had to give up on that one since I would never get to L&D if he stopped for every contraction.



Moaning in agonizing pain, Donna asked for pain medication, but as per our “birthing plan” they had her get into a hot shower first. While she was in the shower I called our parents to wake them to tell them the news. The shower didn’t do much (although it did let them get the room set up, since they were able to tell that this wasn’t false labor) and so they gave her a shot of Demerol to try to ease the pain. It didn’t seem to ease the pain of the contractions but it did seem to let Donna rest between them, and a few times she even seemed to drop unconscious between contractions. The hospital staff seemed impressed that the contractions were quite strong and well-established (we were hopeful, since Donna’s mom had something like 3 hours of labor only!) and progressed well. They were worried that the baby was not quite in the proper position but hoped that she would turn during the process. By 7:30 or 8, Donna was ready to start pushing. And here the midwives transitioned: Krista came to take over from Laurie. This was important because usually they don’t want a woman to push for more than an hour before intervening, but Donna pushed for over two hours, because in the transition they lost the exact time of beginning to push.

I had already decided that I needed some kind of pain medication, which I was hoping to avoid. I came into the room and asked for some, but Laurie convinced me to get into the shower first. At least they had a chair in this shower so I could sit, but it was too small and the water hit my head rather than my back if I sat down. I dutifully stayed in there for 20 minutes or more. When I got out, I toweled off, got into a gown and asked Laurie for the medication now. She suggested Demerol and gave me a shot in the butt. I don’t believe it did anything for the pain, but it did relax me to the point that I was falling asleep between contractions. I remember distinctly having to prop one eye open to look at Laurie, the L&D nurse or Kevin.


I was concentrating so much on the contractions that I don’t really remember what Kevin was doing during this time. I know he had to find our car (which had been valet parked) in order to get our luggage and birthing tools. He was also feeding me ice chips on demand.


During my early labor they tried to get me to change position to ease some of my discomfort. Just moving in the bed was painful! They especially had be turn over to my hands and knees to try to get the baby to turn around. She was posterior, which was causing me to have back labor.


I was fully dilated by 8 or 8:30. The strong desire to push finally hit me and we began. We hoped the baby’s position would correct itself during the delivery.


Christa, another one of the midwives, took over for Laurie around this time.



The baby was in the wrong position: she had her face towards Donna’s front rather than her back (also why her labor had been so painful: rather than the baby’s face pushing into her tailbone [the squishy soft parts], the baby’s skull pushed against Donna’s bones for increased pain). For two hours the nurses had Donna rotating positions for pushing: on her back, crouched on her hands and knees, and on her side, hoping that the rotations would encourage the baby to rotate. She was stubborn, however, and barely budged. Finally after two hours of hard pushing, Donna was exhausted and Krista suggested Pitocin. This is the drug used to induce labor: it would substitute artificial vigor to Donna’s pushing (her uterus by now exhausted). The nurses, in naked jargon, refer to this as “we’re going to Pit her.” It isn’t any better than it sounds. Donna pushed for at least two more hours, making slow (almost imperceptible) progress. The nurses could already see the top of her head: her first impression was “Look at all that hair!” Again, clinical guidelines would call for only one hour of pushing, but Donna went two.

I began pushing. Time really had no meaning for me during this phase. Although I ended up pushing for 5 hours, it seemed like an eternity and at the same time no time at all. The L&D staff had me change positions. I pushed lying on my back, holding my own knees; I pushed squatting at the birthing bar; I pushed on my hands & knees.


During each contraction I used to be able to push 3 times. I could tell I was tiring when I was only able to push twice and eventually once. Christa suggested we use Pitocin to reenergize my contractions. Unfortunately this required hooking me up to an IV. During this time, they kept an eye on the contractions, the baby’s heart rate and my own blood pressure.


The baby wasn’t coming down the birth canal. Although they could see the top of her head (and kept noting all the hair), the head kept slipping back in after the contraction was over. They attributed this to her positioning.



Throughout all this, the monitor of the baby’s heartbeat showed that she was doing fine, so there was no especially compelling reason to hurry along to the next intervention. The baby was stubborn but tough: nearly five hours of being squeezed along didn’t seem to stress her very much. Donna was doing most of the work; I was feeding her ice chips and trying to help her mood along, but frankly I was little use.




Finally after five hours of pushing, they decided to call the doctor to make the vacuum extraction. The baby was not making satisfactory progress. In this procedure, they basically push a large suction cup onto the baby’s head and pull her out. It’s awfully primitive: it’s really no more sophisticated than that! Of course, to fit this head-sized suction cup into the mother requires an episiotomy and substantial physical force. It is a surgical procedure, so there was a significant step-up in the character of the room: it became an operating theater, with a host of machines, green gowns, surgical masks, and the panoply of high-tech possibilities. The doctor only gets three tries: if insufficient they must go to a Caesarian delivery. On the second try the baby was hauled out: covered in white dust (like Smartfood, said her mother), blueish purple, and vigorously squirming. I got to cut the cord: it’s surprisingly thick and tough. The nurses put Anna onto the heated table where they did their tests and began to vigorously rub her to make sure she would breathe on her own. At first I was really worried about her: the rush of the nurses could have been efficient speed or worried haste. Her head looked as if it had been deformed by the vacuum (later I figured out that it was just her hair plastered into that shape). But of course no one was telling me anything, they were concentrating on the task at hand.

Because Christa could see that I was tiring, she suggested we perform a vacuum extraction. At this point I would have done anything to get her out safely for both of us. The vacuum extraction requires an episiotomy and must be performed by an OB, so Christa had to call the OB on-call. I had not met this woman before, and I was none too thrilled about her bedside manner!


They gave me a local anesthetic in order to perform the episiotomy. At some point (perhaps it was after the birth) they also gave me some more Demerol (a shot in the arm & some intravenously).


The told me that putting the suction cup on her head would hurt me a little, which it did because it was rather large.


They told me that if they couldn’t get her out this way in three attempts, they would have to perform a C-section. So, I was hoping that this would work. Basically the doctor put this suction cup on the baby’s head and pulled while I pushed. Luckily it worked on the second try.


I don’t remember much of this time. I just recall that they gave me oxygen by mask and that it felt really weird when the baby finally came out. And then there was a flurry of activity the stitching up of the episiotomy) and some attending to her. Luckily Kevin was there to watch what was going on with the baby. I remember him cutting the umbilical cord, but I don’t remember even having a chance to see her before she was whisked away to be cleaned off and tested. I was able to see her when I turned my head, and she was all white and gooey (I don’t remember the Smartfood comment.) I with some doctors & nurses attending to me (the delivery of the placenta & waited to hear how big she was – 8 lbs. 13 oz. – pretty large!



I was sobbing uncontrollably, could barely see through the tears. The emotional stress combined with lack of sleep left me bereft. Then came the first difficult decision: the baby was taken to the nursery, but the mother had surgery remaining. Which one would I stay near? This was my first big choice now that I had two women in my life. I stayed with Donna: she was aware of me, and while I worried about what was going to happen to my daughter and why they had to whisk her away (I still don’t know why they rushed her out), I knew that Donna needed me.

Kevin was crying a lot. I thought it was cute. I was so tired from the physical exertion and the pain killers, that I really didn’t feel anything but exhaustion and pain. I didn’t even realize that anything could be wrong with the baby. I think it was just a precautionary measure given that she was being pushed so long and due to the vacuum extraction. She registered an 8 on the APGAR test one minute after birth, so she obviously wasn’t 100%.



She still had to pass the afterbirth, the placenta. While waiting for the natural labor to force it out, the doctor began to stitch up Donna: the vacuum had torn her up in addition to the episiotomy. This stitching was done with essentially no pain medication: the Demerol had worn off long ago and a local numbing agent did little to block the pain. Donna cried out with every push of the needle. After some time the doctor began to try to pull on the cord, trying to separate the placenta from the uterine wall. It was surprising just how brutally physical it is, to be a doctor delivering babies. She had been wrestling before, trying to pull out the baby, and now she was yanking on the cord, putting all her strength into trying to pull out the placenta. Finally, she explained, she needed to put her hand in to pull the placenta off the uterus wall. This insertion popped most of the stitching she’d done and opened some new tears – agony for Donna! After finally dislodging it, she had to do all the sewing again. The doctor, whose bedside manner was chilly at best, was obviously distressed and made comments about how everything was torn to shreds. Sewing up pink flesh in the midst of rivulets of blood can’t be easy – but I’m sure Donna had it much worse. I’m not sure how much even the local anesthetic was doing at that point.

I had always been told that after delivering the baby, delivering the placenta was easy. THEY WERE WRONG!!! As Kevin says, the doctor starts by stitching me up. But the placenta doesn’t seem to want to come out by itself. (Personally, I think the doctor is just trying to get the hell out of there and is rushing it, but I find out later that it must be removed from the uterus within a certain amount of time after birth, 30 minutes to an hour). By this time, any pain killers I had had worn off. She starts to pull. I am in agony! She needs to go in with her hand – more pain. I can’t really see from my vantage point how hard she is pulling on it, and I don’t know that by pulling on it, she is tearing me up again down there. When she is finally done, she has to stitch me up again. I feel each stitch acutely. My recollection of the whole event is somewhat fuzzy, but I don’t think I complained as much during the whole rest of my labor and delivery as I did while she was stitching me up. I kept saying “ow, ow, ow” with each stitch. I begged her to just give me a break to breathe a little, but she says something like “It doesn’t matter because you’ll have to feel it sooner or later.” (Bitch!) Luckily I didn’t realize how bad it was (how torn up it was) because I was too tired and out of it.



Donna was amazing throughout the whole labor. Through much of it, she was nearly delirious with pain; afterwards she said she couldn’t really remember much of it. I think that’s because the pain was so engulfing that there was no part of her brain available to record how bad it was. I saw her moaning and crying. She didn’t like to be touched anywhere else while laboring: the nurses would occasionally rub her leg or offer her a pat and she’d tell them to stop.

I said to Kevin that the whole episode felt like an out of body experience. I remember that it hurt like hell, but I kind of have this feeling that I was floating over myself throughout the whole surreal experience just watching my body go through the pain. It is true that I didn’t want to be touched anywhere by either Kevin or the nurses.


I was very unlike myself during the experience. I recall that I was calm and courteous to everyone around me. No yelling, no swearing, no screaming at Kevin for the pain he had inflicted on me by fathering our child. I recall that I was even apologizing to everyone for being such a bother.


Of course I was so intent on what I had to do and the pain that I was feeling, that I didn’t really say much to Kevin expect “More Ice Chips.” I felt bad that I didn’t include him more in the sensations and emotions I was going through, but I just didn’t have the strength to do anything else at the time.



Finally after the surgery was done they got Donna off the delivery bed and began to clean up. There were so many blood-soaked cloths and bandages and plastic bags full of gore, there were specks of blood to be cleaned off the floor and equipment for a wide radius, but the nurses calmly noted that it was not really an unusual amount of blood loss. It was a substantial amount but within the bounds of normal.

Getting cleaned up was difficult. Wearing those damn pads was also pretty disgusting. The loss of blood, the lack of sleep, the physical exertion, the lack of food, and my past experiences almost made me pass out. The nurse shoved those damn smelling salts under my nose, and, trust me, those are quite unpleasant!



I went out to find Donna’s parents, who had arrived early that morning. They’d come right after I’d called and had arrived at the hospital by 8 or something. Now it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon and they were still waiting! They were overjoyed, of course. They’d actually been getting some news from the staff, and were able to peer through the glass to see Anna in the nursery. I called my parents to tell them, and they got down in the evening.

I couldn’t believe my parents had been there the whole day without us even being able to talk to them. After I got cleaned up, I told them that they could come into the room in which I had just delivered.


Mom & Dad hadn’t eaten any lunch that day and decided to go out to find something to eat while we were moved from the delivery room to the maternity ward.



We both finally got a chance to hold her, and Donna got her first good look at her (she’d been in too much agony previously). We were looking forward to finally getting a bit of sleep. (There was a chair that unfolded to a bed for me.)

Honestly, I don’t even remember the first time Anna was put into my arms. I believe it was once we got to our room in the maternity ward. There is a picture of me, though, holding her that is hideous. My face is still swollen from the pregnancy and pale from the ordeal I had just been through.


Mom & Dad returned with some food for Kevin and some gifts for all of us. They spent some time holding Anna and taking pictures. We celebrated with some champagne.


My hospital food dinner was delivered and I finally ate something for the first time in 24 hours. I think I ordered grilled cheese and soup. In a way I was famished and yet at the same time not at all hungry.


Linda & Richard arrived later in the evening just as my parents were leaving. They also held Anna and took a lot of pictures and partook in the champagne.


After everyone left, we started calling some of the friends and relatives, but by about 9 pm, we were so wiped out, we went to sleep.



But not too much, since the baby needed food and Donna had to provide. The nursery had given the little one a bit of formula to tide her over while her mom was still being stitched, but now it was time for colostrum. The baby looked much healthier when we saw her this time: she was now a bright pink, still with the shock of dark hair but she’d been cleaned up substantially. They had her in a tiny diaper and 2 shirts: one on top and one, upside-down, to cover her legs. They had a cute hat on her (the only time she consented to wear a hat!) which one of the nurses hand-painted. The nurses instructed us in swaddling: it seemed that they were roughly strapping her down, while we were worried about breaking this amazing little creature. Learning to breast-feed was the same: the nurse would wait until the baby screamed and then shove her onto Donna’s nipple. It would take some practice until Mom got that good. It took both Mom and baby some time to learn how to work the process. Her milk came in soon, though, and that seemed to help since the baby was not content with just colostrum.




That night we slept like we were dead, having missed most of the previous night’s sleeptime and going through the ordeal of the day. The nurse brought the baby when she cried to be fed: they’d wheel in the tiny bassinet with the clear plastic basket and bring her to Donna. Some of them were quite helpful in aiding Donna and Anna to get used to each other and how to feed; others were surly and of no help. The next day we talked with the lactation consultant nurse, who helped to get them straightened out.

We decided to keep Anna in the nursery and have her brought to us when she required feeding. We thought this was the best thing so that we could get some sleep and not wake up panicked at every noise she made or didn’t make.


I don’t even remember how many times the baby was brought to us during the night. But that, coupled with the rounds the nurses made to check on my vital signs, etc. made for not such a sound sleep.


The nurses were trying their best to help me breastfeed Anna. Although it seems the most natural thing in the world, it is a learned process. Looking back at it now it seems so easy, but I remember nurses pushing her head onto my nipple in a way that would make a bigger person gag. How it hurt! And Anna kept falling asleep while feeding, so we had to keep nudging her to keep her awake. (She still does this.)



That night all my dreams were of my new daughter’s face, I think my brain was frantically trying to build all the cross-linkages. This new person would be relevant to just about everything else I’d previously known, for the rest of my life. There was quite a bit of cross-referencing and filing to be done.




The next day my parents brought down my Grandma Reed: since her legs aren’t too strong (they put her in a wheelchair to get down the halls of the hospital) they decided that it would be easier for her to see us in the hospital than at our house with so many flights of stairs. Donna’s parents were there again – after spending all the previous day! My mom was very excited at the prospect of changing her diaper, so she got to deal with the meconium.

It’s funny how memories don’t stay that vivid weeks after an event. The next day Linda came down to visit with my mother and Gramma Reed. The grandfathers were not in attendance. And, I believe Linda changed the diaper the first day, not the second (or perhaps both).



The rest of our hospital stay (the insurance covered us for two nights after her birth) we gradually tried to adjust to this new person. We gradually got a bit more comfortable with her, but still not very! We were both really tentative at that point. She stayed with us in our room most of the time. Donna was, of course, still recovering. She looks at the pictures from the first day, showing her pallid and a bit haggard, and is embarrassed, but I think they’re important to show what she went through! The first time she got out of bed, with the nurse hovering over her, the pads underneath her were soaked in blood. She teetered to the bathroom and nearly passed out from the pain.




After those few days were up, we went home. We packed our things, dressed the baby in a cute outfit (one that we’d bought back in February, when we’d gone to Bordeaux and had been unable to resist buying some clothes for the arriving new one) and loaded the car. Anna fit snugly into the carseat, and we took pictures to record the big event. When we got home it was very strange: here was the place which had been so familiar, and although there was only a single thing different (a tiny bundle!), everything was different. At first we were both nearly on tiptoe – even when she was awake, we were just in awe of this transformation. Eventually we got back to our more-normal selves (but will we ever, really?).