Alright, so this post has been sitting in my drafts for close on two months … because in the meantime, something crazy happened. [spoiler alert] We had a baby! It’s been amazing, and challenging, and wonderful, and all the things … much more to come on that.
This post already had a couple false starts and I had intended to come back and clean it up and maybe re-organize it, include some wisdom I’d gotten from other more experienced dads about the last couple weeks leading up … but then life happened. So for now, as I finally come back to the blog, I’m backdating this post to the original write-date of August 11. Here is is, fully raw and unedited … enjoy!
When I started drafting this post, Mama Bear was one day shy of 39 weeks pregnant.
Now, as I return to it, I’m sitting in the delivery room at NYU Langone Medical Center. Mama Bear is 8+ cm dilated and resting. I napped a bit earlier and am not feeling tired … so here I am, returning to this post … still waiting, but in oh such a different way than just a few days ago.
When I began this post, we were well into the window in which labor could begin any day (spoiler alert: it did). We were focusing on trying to get things as ready as possible for our new arrival, such as:
Getting projects and tasks at work to a stage where they can (relatively) comfortably be paused or passed along to others.
Finishing minor apartment renovations — ok, not real renovations, especially since we rent … but culling away unneeded clutter, moving our bedroom around to make use of space, adding shelves to the wall, moving our beloved but enormous “chair and a half” from the bedroom into the living room, setting up Red Panda Cub’s sleeping and changing stations …
We also started practicing walking Norman Jellybean alongside an empty stroller (and got more than a few befuddled looks).
He did very well! Norman Jellybean likes structure.
So … there we were, trying to get everything ready, when Mama Bear started to feel “movement” even though we were still five days out from our due date. We suspected RPC might come early given her size and how Mama Bear was carrying, but that still didn’t prepare us for waking up at 2 am this morning with real contractions underway.
Thus began what I’m sure will be one of countless many sleepless nights. After trying unsuccessfully to get a bit more sleep, I pulled out my laptop and started tying up loose ends at work in case these contractions continued for real. All those last emails I still needed to send, updates, notes, etc. Hint number one that the time has come: your colleague is sending you emails at 3:30 in the morning.
By 5:30 am we were fully up and out of bed. I took Norman out and moved my car to the other side of the street so that we would be good for alternate side parking through the weekend. And then made Bob’s Red Mill pancakes with turkey bacon for a hearty Labor Day breakfast.
We started tracking Mama Bear’s contractions. They were starting to increase in frequency – getting down to every 5-6 minutes, just above the “4-1-1” guideline our hospital uses for when it’s time to call the doctor and think about coming to the hospital (4 minutes between contractions lasting 1 minute or more, over the course of at least an hour). Gave the doc a call – incidentally, we were scheduled to come to the office today at 4 pm to meet this doc, as part of our “round-robin” to meet all or most of the docs in the practice who might be on call when we came to deliver. Doc said we should continue to stick it out at home, and call if/when they got more frequent and intense, as we thought she would say.
Meanwhile, the contractions continued regularly for … hours. And hours. 12 Noon passed. Then 1 pm, 2 pm … and the frequency of contractions started to slow, though definitely not the intensity, especially as Mama Bear started to show signs of exhaustion. Maybe these were in fact Braxton-Hicks “false” contractions — ie not true early labor contractions, but even earlier stage contractions helping to get the baby and uterus into position. Which could mean we might have multiple more days of this to look forward to … yikes!
So around 230 pm I drew up a warm bath and got Mama Bear in to soak – we’d been told it helps alleviate pressure, relax sore and tight muscles, and maybe the buoyancy helps baby move further into position for delivery. And according to the internet, warm baths seem to either relax Braxton-Hicks contractions away (leading to much needed rest) or move actual early labor or active labor contractions further along.
Maybe by coincidence or maybe by effect, the latter happened: those contractions began to pick back up in both frequency and intensity. Poor Mama Bear was hurting worse than ever, but doing her mighty best to work through the pain. It was time to call back the doc — we did, and she told us to come on in. Maybe they were false labor contractions, but better to find out.
So we gathered the final bits needed, tossed them into our hospital bag, and called the Uber. This poor guy had no idea what he had coming into his SUV. (Sidenote: when we came outside, our Puerto Rican neighbors across the street, who have the most adorable new puppy that Norman loves to play with, saw Mama Bear in labor and helped us flag our driver down to back up from a couple hundred feet up the block so we could load directly. Thanks!!)
Next up: the 30-45 minute trip into Manhattan. Mama Bear’s contractions were so intense by this point that she couldn’t help but make all sorts of sounds in the back. Our Uber driver, Max, didn’t seem phased though, and actually got us to the hospital almost ten minutes faster than the ETA, which feels like an astonishingly rare occurrence.
We got Mama Bear into a wheelchair and up to the Labor and Delivery floor. After what felt like an interminably long intake process at the front desk, we finally went to triage where the nurse did our first cervical exam.
The results? 6 cm dilated. Not just active labor. HELLA active labor. Absolutely the stage when it’s time to be at the hospital. The plan had been to try to work through early labor to get to around 4-5 cm dilated before considering an epidural, so as to move along the labor process in the healthiest way possible. Boy did that feel like a victory.
IV inserted and vitals taken, we finally got to our delivery room where Mama Bear got her well-deserved epidural put in around 6 pm — sixteen hours of full on regular contractions later.
What sweet, joyous, relief that was for her — and for both of us, really. Mama Bear had by far the worser toil, but dang was it a mental (and sometimes physical) expenditure trying to do my best to support her through these periods of debilitating pain.
It’s now twenty past eleven pm. Mama Bear’s been on her epidural for several hours, resting while under that sweet blanket of anesthesia her contractions continue, cervix continues to dilate, and Red Panda Cub continues to push her head down. At nine pm she was at 8 cm (full dilation is around 10 cm) so we’re definitely getting close. Thankfully the doc expects it to be pretty smooth from here.
So it’s a much needed but kind of funny liminal time.
.. And Doc just came in and said “ok, I think this baby is about to come out.” It’s go time?
[note: it wasn’t. Still didn’t begin pushing for 2.5 more hours … but more on that later]