What happened on Thursday? At first, not a lot, for quite a long time. Then, a whole lot, inside about an hour.
After a relatively normal day highlighted by the arrival of Stacy’s dad, we were somewhat resigned to the Cesarean Delivery scheduled for the next morning. After feeling some contractions all day, and noticing that they were weak but somewhat regular, Stacy hoped this was ‘early labor,’ and we continued the final packing for the hospital. We figured if labor progressed, we might not have the surgery as planned, but if the contractions stopped, we’d go ahead with the plan.
So there we were, packing toiletries and flip-flops, when– for some reason that we still can’t quite identify– Stacy decided to check on the baby. How, you ask? Well, when you’re a Labor and Delivery Nurse, you have your ways… A co-worker who had bought a portable Doppler monitor on eBay during her own pregnancy loaned it to us in case the bag of waters broke and we were laboring at home, to ease our minds as we waited to go to the hospital. In the meantime, Ella was having a fun time listening to Baby Sister’s heartbeat occasionally.
So Stacy turned it on for a minute, and didn’t like what she heard (I knew something was up when she asked for a watch…). After listening through several contractions, she was fairly certain that the baby’s heart rate was decelerating toward the end of the contractions. So we zipped up our bags and called Nana (who has been staying downstairs in the main house) to come up quick, which she did. She tended to the suddenly hollering Ella while Stacy made rapid-fire calls to the hospital (where she works, and where we had planned to deliver the baby) and I threw the bags into the car. Minutes later, my trusty steed was speeding us down Route 50 while Stacy continued to call various doctors and nurses at the hospital. She was equally sure that we were overreacting to too little information, and that something was very, very wrong.
After dropping off Stacy at the door to the ER, I parked the car across the street and noted the time: 10:20. I arrived in the Labor and Delivery Department minutes after my wife, but the room was already running on fast forward: the floor was still wet from housekeeping, there were shoes and clothes strewn about, and at least four people were staring intently at the monitor while they were rushing through other tasks. The decelerations were indeed real, and the team was headed quickly toward surgery. Through her oxygen mask, Stacy briefed Anesthesiology about the particulars of her medical history and fused vertebrae. An IV was started, and the monitoring continued. The Attending Obstetrician came in from the remote monitor to confirm our worst fears, and everyone was masking up for surgery. I ran downstairs to get the camera while they took Stacy back for anesthesia and prep– it was 10:36 when I made a 20-second call to Nana.
Back upstairs, I gowned up in the now-empty room, afraid that they had gone ahead with general anesthesia and that I’d miss the delivery. But the minutes only seemed to be racing by, since someone escorted me to the OR a few minutes later, just before they made the first incision. The crack anesthesia team had been able to place a spinal tap (insert joke here about the loudest band of all time) in Stacy’s tricky back, leaving her very comfortable and conversant. At 10:59, our girl’s head was out, crying away, and daddy was snapping (low-quality) photos the whole way. Her initial assessment by the pediatrics team left them with no concerns, and I had the pleasure of holding her while the surgeons closed up her mother. As they did so, they chatted with Stacy about her medical history and preferences for surgery, and offered their initial guesses as to the baby’s distress in utero. ‘Low amniotic fluid’ received a decent consensus (this would have allowed compression of the umbilical cord during contractions) even as everyone celebrated the good outcome. Later, as Stacy and baby were being wheeled back to our room, the Attending OB walked with me, breathed a huge sigh of relief, and marveled at how a person could detect decels with such rudimentary equipment.
Back in the stillness of our room, my relief was expressed with more than a few sighs, and some tears of joy and delayed stress as well. The combination of relief, gratefulness, adrenaline, and love that was welling up in me was a heady combination, and had my heart working double-time. Still, it was sweet to be able to spend some quiet moments with my wife and our newest girl, swimming in thankfulness that they were so healthy, and that disaster had been averted.