My wife was scheduled for induction at 5 a.m. on July 15th, 2020. On the night of the 14th, we set our alarms for 4:15 a.m. We each went to bed around 9 p.m. that night, hoping to get a full night of sleep. That didn’t happen. We each laid awake all night, our minds racing with possibilities, fear, and excitement. It felt like Christmas Eve when I was 10-years-old, times a thousand.
4:15 a.m. came early. We had breakfast, made coffee, and packed our bags in the car. Fortunately, we live walking distance from Sarasota Memorial Hospital. So, the drive took all of 2 minutes. We dropped off the car with the valet, and stepped through the emergency room doors. The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, and Florida is currently the epicenter. As a result, we were immediately greeted by security, and our temperatures were taken before entering the hospital. We passed the temperature test, and proceeded to the OB emergency room.
I stayed in the waiting room, while Emily was brought in and questioned separately. This theme persisted. It’s all about Momma on her big day. If you’re a Dad-to-be, be prepared to take a back seat. You’re not going to be answering many questions or signing many papers. Mostly, you’ll be ignored by staff. Sometimes, simply referred to as the sperm donor.
Once checked in, we moved to the labor and delivery birthing room. A nurse entered, suited up like one of the scientists at the end of E.T. She swabbed Emily in both nostrils for COVID — quite thoroughly. Again, I sat and watched. No test for me.
Next, we met Suellen, our labor nurse. Suellen has been a nurse at Sarasota Memorial since 1987. She was a bit gruff. A little rough around the edges with strong opinions, but good intentions and very personable. She wasn’t the nurse Emily thought she wanted. However, she turned out to be exactly what she needed.
After Emily’s COVID test came back negative, we let out a sigh of relief. Then, Suellen started the Pitocin around 6:30 a.m. Soon afterwards, Emily started feeling minor contractions. It was mild. Like menstrual cramps, she said. Mostly, we waited patiently for the contractions to intensify.
I was useless during this time. Emily wasn’t feeling enough contractions for me to spring into action. So, I busted out my laptop, and requested some food from the nurse since I was not allowed to leave the room. This moment of peace didn’t last long.
At 7:30 a.m. my hospital breakfast arrived. At the same time, Emily’s doctor arrived. With a tool that looked like a small fishing hook at the end of a long stick, Dr. Shepherd broke Emily’s water. All hell broke loose with it. This wasn’t dinner and a movie for me — more like breakfast and a birth.
Emily’s contractions intensified quickly. It was my time to shine! I slammed my laptop close, pushed aside my bowl of grapes, and jumped to my feet. I massaged her back and petted her brow to help her through. Unfortunately, it was little comfort.
Suellen’s husband was a pastor, and she asked if she could lead us in a prayer. We agreed, and she said a beautiful prayer for us and our baby.
Emily imagined herself having a natural birth. She didn’t want an epidural or pain medication. All her Google research led her to believe getting an epidural was an intervention that increased the probability of a C-section. Suellen explained, in her 30 years of experience, that wasn’t the case. “No Purple Heart’s are awarded to mother’s of natural births,” she said. She wasn’t shy about recommending an epidural, but Emily stuck to her guns. She wanted to see how long she could go.
Now, the contractions were getting super intense! The pain was so much more than Emily anticipated. She was in tears between each one, crying she couldn’t do it. As the contractions intensified, I heard my wife mutter softly in extreme pain, “Help me…”
That was all I needed to hear. The nurses and I convinced her to take the epidural — and we are SO glad she did. I was supportive of Emily’s decision to have a natural birth until we were in the moment. After this experience, my advice is to take the epidural. Take advantage of modern medicine. There’s no need to have a baby like it’s the middle ages.
Unfortunately, once you decide to get an epidural it’s not instantaneous. You still have to wait for the anesthesiologist. That means you’re going to endure several more contractions. During this time, Emily began to panic between contractions. This wasn’t going the way she had planned! Fortunately, we talked her down quickly.
When the anesthesiologist arrived, I was instructed to move to the corner, and sit on a portable toilet — like a dunce. So, that’s exactly what I did. I sat in a dark, distant corner of the room, gripping the handles of that potty in a half-sprint position — in the unlikely chance that I was needed during this procedure. What I witnessed from my potty was incredible!
Emily sat on the birthing bed, Indian style. The anesthesiologist moved behind her with epidural gadgets and gizmos. Suellen crouched in front of Emily, gripping her arms tightly and staring into her eyes. As the contractions came on, Suellen was a rock of support, talking her through each one. She gave encouragement and tough love.
Meanwhile, the anesthesiologist was a wizard in-between contractions. Just shoving needles into spines like it’s no big deal. Once the epidural was working its magic, Emily’s pain subsided significantly. After another 30 minutes, she was practically sleeping while her body did most the work. Uh, amazing.
It was the calm before the storm. I relaxed for the moment. A couple hours passed, and Emily was 9.5 cm dilated. Suellen said it was getting close to push time. I thought, “Cool. A little painless pushing from my wife, and my son will enter the world nice and easy.”
I thought Emily’s contractions before the epidural was the climax of this story. It was the most pain I’ve ever seen anybody endure. Surely, it couldn’t get more intense. As it turns out, I hadn’t seen anything yet!
Before we knew it, push time was upon us. The situation went from zero to light-speed. Suddenly, Suellen told me to count out the pushes for Emily. “Count to ten for each push,” she said. “We want at least 3 pushes per contraction.”
Great! I can do that! Maybe I won’t be worthless. The first push came on, and I whispered calmly, “One, two, three…”
Suellen said, “NO! Loud! Deep!”
I guess this wasn’t the time to keep her relaxed. So, I stepped up my game!
Much louder, much more aggressively I started, “ONE! TWO! THREE!”
“Crunch! Head between your legs!!”
This persisted for over an hour. Not much progress was happening, but I couldn’t tell Emily that. So, we told her she was making progress.
Before this day, Emily and I discussed what I should, or shouldn’t, wanted to, or didn’t want to see during the birthing process. Typically, I don’t like viewing the graphic inner workings of the human body. For instance, I could never watch a surgery. So, my plan was to stand behind Emily’s shoulders, and avoid bearing full witness to the gory nature of child birth. At least, that’s what I thought I wanted…
Then, Suellen asked me, “Do you want to see his head?” Without hesitation, I replied, “Yes.” I moved from my sheltered position for a better view. She proceeded to show me Wyatt’s head. My mind was blown. It wasn’t gory. It wasn’t gross. I wasn’t disgusted. Instead, I was completely and utterly amazed. It was incredible. I could see the top of my son’s head, and it was covered in dark hair!
I told Emily what I saw. It was more motivation for her. She continued pushing, and I went back to screaming numbers at her, even louder.
Later, Dr Shepherd arrived back in the room. She rolled over a tray of all kinds of tools that I didn’t like the look of. I could see it her face, and the nurses — this was getting serious.
It turns out, Wyatt was exiting sunny-side up. Meaning, he was being delivered face-up instead of in the preferred face-down position. As a result, the largest part of his head was exiting first. Sunny-side up is known for being an extremely painful delivery. Not only that, Wyatt was cock-eyed. So, his shoulders were not positioned for an easy exit either. All of this was adding up to an emergency C-section — Emily’s worst nightmare.
During my counting, I watched Dr. Shepherd reach inside Emily, and move Wyatt into a better position. My amazement continued. Next, she said quietly to the nurses, we’re going to use the vacuum and give it a few more tries. I could only assume Emily would be rushed into surgery without me if these next few pushes were not successful.
When the doctor said “vacuum,” I imagined them wheeling a Shop-Vac into the room, and sucking little Wyatt out of his Mom with a black tube. Not quite. In reality, the vacuum looked more like a little yellow accordion hand pump for an inflatable mattress. It had a rather thin attached tube with a suction cup on the end. I thought, “Hmm, I wonder how this thing works?” It wasn’t long, and I saw it in action.
The doctor attached the suction cup to the top of Wyatt’s head, and pumped up the vacuum with her hand. When Emily pushed, she snatched the bejesus out of it — like she was setting the hook for a Marlin. I was shocked, and concerned about the force applied — but I suddenly saw Wyatt’s head much more visibly.
At this time, one of the nurse’s said to Emily, “Do you want to feel your baby?” Emily said yes, and the nurse moved her hand to the top of Wyatt’s head. The moment she felt his head, I can only describe it as the most love I could ever possibly imagine seeing wash over Emily in an instant. We immediately broke into tears. It was the most beautiful moment I have ever experienced.
Emily was rejuvenated, and ready to give it her all again. I assured her, “He’s so close!”
The doctor attached the suction cup again for round two. Yank! A little closer, but not quite. Then, she grabbed some scissor tool to perform an episiotomy. I didn’t like that at all, and quickly turned away.
Soon, her contractions were building again. With the next push, the doctor yanked on the vacuum once again. This time, she reached inside and pulled Wyatt out.
What a sight to behold. I watched my son emerge, face up.
Wyatt didn’t look like a newborn. He was a big baby! Eight pounds eleven ounces to be exact, and Emily is petite! There is no way I could have ever endured that much pain. My wife is absolutely incredible!
They immediately moved the baby to the NICU tray for inspection. The nurses called me over to meet Wyatt, while the doctor attended to Emily.
Wyatt’s head was disturbingly cone shaped from all the yanking. I was prepared for some cone head appearance, but he looked like an alien. The nurses moved the back of his head with their hands like it was Jello. They mentioned “bleeding” amongst each other. It was extremely scary, and they saw the fear in my eyes. Quickly, they assured me it was superficial bleeding, like a bruise. It wasn’t his brain. “It’s common after using the vacuum. It should return to normal after 48 hours,” they assured me. Immediately, I was relieved.
With tears running down my eyes, Wyatt grabbed my finger with his tiny hand. Only second old, and he was holding my hand.
Emily was looking over from across the room. We glanced at each other, both of us in tears, and afraid something was wrong. Thank God, it wasn’t.
The nurse then handed me some scissors, and asked me to cut the umbilical cord. What a weird tradition that is. Nevertheless, I grabbed the scissors, and began cutting that fleshy cord. It felt like cutting through a gummy worm with crappy safety scissors from Elementary school. I prevailed!
The nurses checked his vitals. Then, they wiped him down, and brought him over to Emily. She held Wyatt to her chest, and immediately he latched for feeding — which we were told is quite rare. The two bonded, and it was a beautiful sight.
Throughout the remainder of our hospital stay, Wyatt continued to prove himself as the perfect baby.
It’s exactly two weeks since his birth, and he continues to amaze us every day. Emily and I truly lucked out. We feel so fortunate to have had a healthy baby during this crazy time in the world.
The best gift imaginable was born from intense pain and suffering. Watching my son enter the world was a visceral experience like nothing I have ever felt. It changes you, and it’s not a change to be feared. It’s for the better.
Now, I am beyond excited to watch him grow, and explore, and experience everything life has to offer. Life is truly amazing. It’s easy to forget, but everything about this universe and life itself is sacred and incredible. I hope to remind Wyatt when he falls off his bike, or goes through his first break-up, the experience of life isn’t always good, but it is always a miracle to be experiencing it.