Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dean's Birth Story

It has been just about two weeks since Maureen gave birth to baby Dean on November 28th. The dust has settled and we've now had time to process what all of this means on a day-to-day basis. While our schedule is anything but settled and he has no desire to sleep after 11pm, being a parent for two weeks has been pretty wonderful and filled with important time together as a new family, with our nuclear families, and with some really nice visits with friends. We'll keep figuring out what all this means, but right now I just would like to share our story from Dean's birth day and some observations because it's just a really nice thing on which to reflect a little bit.

Sunday November 28th at about 3:00 am Maureen woke me with a nudge and told me that she was going to head downstairs. She was feeling some regular contractions but it was not yet clear if these were going to transition into full born labor. A couple nights earlier at about the same time of the morning, she was experiencing some similar sensations, but after heading downstairs for a little while, the length of time between contractions expanded and eventually petered out, so this was a likely outcome for this morning. About 15 minutes later, Maureen gave a holler up the stairs to me to let me know that she thought this was the real thing, and I should probably come downstairs to attend to her. About 5 minutes later, things got even a little more intense and we decided it was time to call our doula and the midwife answering service to tell them that we thought that we would be heading to the hospital soon. Our doula, Deb, got to our house at around 5 am, and at about 6 we decided to head to the hospital. We arrived at Southfield Providence Hospital at 6:30 and Maureen and Deb made their way into the hospital while I parked the car. I very quickly made my way up to the room and that's when the real party started.

Without going into too much detail on the specifics of this part, Maureen labored for the next 7 hours, and we had our then-unnamed boy at 1:38 pm. The labor process was very much like what you would learn at a birth education class and absolutely amazing to observe. Maureen was just incredible throughout the entire thing, and I would like to talk a little bit more about that.

Several months ago, Maureen decided that she would like to attempt a natural birth. Natural birth is most certainly not all the rage in the United States these days as as epidurals and C-Sections are extremely prominent, but there is small movement back toward natural birth in the U.S. This is a very personal decision to every couple and there isn't a wrong option for this. Some people want medication, some people want or need surgical intervention, and others attempt a natural birth but it just wasn't meant to be because the baby wouldn't cooperate with this goal. Our baby cooperated and Maureen was able to successfully have the baby without any medication, and I remain so impressed by her and the whole natural birth thing. The process certainly was intensely hard work for her, but there were at least a few moments during those hours that our marriage and love and my appreciation for her strengthened and grew by amounts I did not realize were possible, and at least for me, made the entire thing something I will forever cherish (beyond just the fact that we got a pretty cool baby out of it). My job was to remain as cool, collected, and supportive as possible before, during, and after the labor and that's not terribly hard to do if you're appropriately educated and prepared about everything that happens. I realize this, so I hope I don't come across as "hey this was a piece of cake." The real heavy lifting is on the mom. However, having a fully mentally present wife during and immediately after the labor made for two moments that touched me and forever changed me as a person.

First, as Maureen was fully entrenched and near the long completion of the immensely strenuous push phase, she was a little drunk from exhaustion and hard work. I was doing my best to communicate positive things to her and my pride in her, and she had a moment of extreme lucidity, looked at me, and quietly said "he's almost here." I'm not sure what it was exactly about these words, but the combination of her hard work, our months of preparation, the knowledge of our future life changes, and her ability to put this thought together made me immediately burst into tears. I cried for about the next 10 minutes and the baby wasn't even quite out yet. When the baby came, Maureen was able to immediately hold him, with a clear mind say "I love you so much", and then immediately start nursing and bonding. This is much harder to do under medication because the baby comes out too groggy to respond. Just fascinating. The overarching component to the experience was just knowing how much Maureen was going through, and that she was bearing it because she was amazing and strong and capable and she wanted to bring her baby into the world as naturally as possible. I've never been more impressed with anyone or anything. How about this - 45 minute crown. Damn. I guess from our experience what I would say is that I would encourage you to consider going this route, but if you don't want to, your birth experience will still be beautiful.

Now, a few things that made this experience possible:

We had Dean at Southfield Providence Hospital and its Alternative Birthing Center. They've been around for something like 30 years, but are not especially well advertised or broadly well known. They are a unit of the hospital, owned by the hospital, and if you decide to go to them, they will work with you on natural child birth. This means many things - moms and dads get big rooms all to themselves with big tubs to assist with pain management. Because moms are not on a constant fetal monitor, they are encouraged to move around the room and into the large tubs to try to find the position that is best for them. It could be on a birthing ball, on the toilet, in the bed, or anywhere else that the mom may want to try for comfort. They regularly check the baby's heart rate with little hand held monitors to make sure that the baby is healthy, but that is pretty much it. However, if the mom decides she wants medication or a C-Section is necessary, they will move you down the hall to the fully staffed and capable labor and delivery unit. It's very close to a home birth, but with a whole bunch of medical staff if you need them. And speaking of staff...

The nurses in the ABC absolutely love what they do, and the births are attended by a midwife from Metro Partners in Women's Health. This organization is based out of Novi Providence Hospital and they have midwives, OBs, and nurses who work for them. They have a team of about 5 or 6 midwives that you regularly see leading up to the birth. Our birth was attended by Sarah Sutton from Metro Partners and a whole team of Providence nurses based on their shift. Between the certified nurse midwife and the nurses, we felt blanketed in constant support the entire time. They were medically proficient, made intelligent recommendations/suggestions, had encouraging words, and in the end, caught and handed us a healthy baby. They are not pushy or negative or even overly positive - just what you need when you need them and supportive of whatever decision you decide or need to make about the birth.

Finally, I recommend a doula. Our doula's name, as mentioned before, was Deb, and here is her website. A doula serves many purposes, but mainly they meet with you a couple times before and after the birth to talk through your plan and any thing that may be on your mind, they are there with you throughout the entire birth, and then they meet with you a couple times after the birth to discuss lactation, any postpartum issues you may be experiencing, and again anything else you might want to discuss about parenting. The most valuable part of her services, I felt, was just having someone there during the entire birth, 100% committed to supporting the mom (mainly) and the dad. The nurses and midwives have other duties and they need to come and go, but Deb was just there for us. When we got to the hospital and I needed to park, Deb stayed with Maureen. She helped us decide it was time to go to the hospital, and if our parents were pushy (which they're fortunately not), she would have kept them patient in the waiting room. She also made suggestions to Maureen throughout the labor and provided other physical support services. It enabled me to focus on purely being what Maureen needed from me - mental support and encouragement. Deb served Maureen's needs which let me do my job.

So there you go. Now we have a baby who is two weeks old, and we love him very much. He refuses to sleep after 11 pm and he wants to feed 5 minutes after a 50 minute feeding (his father's son in this regard), but everything about him is perfect. He is right on track to tell me in 14 years that he temporarily hates me because I wouldn't let him get the iPhone 47.

Being a parent is exactly like I thought, yet somehow completely different. Changing diapers isn't a nuisance (at least for a brief while), it is actually a sign that the baby is well fed and his system is working correctly. Ever time we feel a poop I'm like "YES!" whereas before him, the thought of this made me not especially happy. I'm still changing diapers, but it just doesn't mean what I thought.

What is my point in writing all this, most certainly my longest post in quite some time? First, it is a love letter to my wife who carried and birthed our son. I love you honey and while I've said it to you privately, maybe it will mean something different if I declare it publicly - I'm so proud of you. You are easily tied with all the best moms in the world. Second, it is a little history for Dean, and I will use these words to guilt him into taking me to movies when I'm old. Finally, it is just a general declaration of the love and amazement of life. So many things have to go right for any one baby to be born, and yet, there are billions of us alive at this moment and billions came before us. The fact that I'm here and Maureen is here and we had a baby is a testament to how incredible every moment can be. Not every moment is perfect, but it is always perfect that perfect moments are possible. Now I've had a few more of these.

Thanks for bearing with me on this extremely personal and lengthy indulgence. It's a story I wanted to tell. Welcome to the world, Dean.

1 comment:

Deb said...

So special to hear your experience of Dean's birth- something to celebrate indeed.