Let me start by saying that my son Tesla Ephim was born at 3:52am on 7/16, and he's doing great. I'm going to be a bit long here but I'll try to separate out the important points so you can learn from our experience.
So, Sunday night the 14th our Doula came over to drop off the birthing tub. Our plan was to labor at home and then head to the hospital for the delivery, and my wife really wanted a tub.
A mere four hours after the doula left, around 3am, my wife got up to use the bathroom and I heard the sound of water hitting the carpet. "I think I just peed all over the floor," she said. I immediately thought she had gone into labor; she wasn't convinced until around 9am when the contractions were coming on strong.
**Protip: When it breaks, the water doesn't always come out all at once, sometimes it's barely distinguishable from pee. And it will continue to leak in a slow trickle for hours.**
In our birthing class the advice given was that when labor starts, you should try to get her to rest as much as possible because it's going to be a long haul. Specifically, the midwife had said "drink a big glass of wine and pass out for a while." My wife was leaking small amounts so she didn't want to lay down anywhere. I covered the couch in a few towels and she still wasn't comfortable, so I suggested putting on a maxi pad. Turns out my wife doesn't have maxi pads.
**Protip: Buy thick-ass maxi pads and have them around the house. You will need them when labor starts and when momma gets home from the hospital.**
So I went to Walgreens to get maxi pads, hair ties, and a few other little things. I was in my pajamas, there was no traffic, and I was zipping back home when I noticed a commotion at our corner. We live at a decently busy intersection in Chicago, but this was unusual- several cars backed up, honking, and a semi truck laying on its horn. As I approached the corner to turn, I saw a dude completely passed out behind the wheel of his car blocking part of the intersection. No one else was stopping and I feared diabetic coma or whatever, so I stopped and got out to check on him. No amount of yelling could rouse him, so I called the cops.
While waiting for the cops to come, I visually inspected this guy and his car and determined that he was indeed unconscious, and also that his car was in gear and his foot was on the brake. That's a disaster waiting to happen. I also took [this pic of the unconscious dude](http://i.imgur.com/
rqoAGrnh.jpg) and sent it to my wife to let her know why I was delayed. If you look, you can clearly see the car is in drive. Scary shit.
The cops showed up, turns out he was drunk, I gave a statement, and skedaddled back home. Wife was still in a bit of denial and thought she was perhaps having that "pregnancy incontinence everyone talks about. Thus began the long, slow "early phase labor."
**Protip: Early phase labor can last anywhere from 1-12 hours. Use this time to get your shit together. Put those last few things in the hospital bag, pack some food for the hospital, eat (and make mom-to-be eat). Lay off the coffee or whatever, you'll need that boost later. Make sure momma is comfortable and has everything she needs. Firmly but politely make her drink water or coconut water or whatever, and do anything you can now to get her to save her energy and rest. She will be very uncomfortable, but do your best. Tylenol is ok, and one alcoholic drink is ok too. She probably won't want it though.**
I filled up the tub and she got in, which helped immensely. I also got water all over the place and had to improvise how to drain out cold water and add more hot when it got cold. I wasn't able to work this out in advance and wished I had. Also, keep in mind this wasn't a regular bathtub, we have one of those. This is a high-sided industrial rigid plastic tub that we rented, and it was totally worth it. Here's a pic.
She relaxed in the tub and weathered the contractions while I got everything ready. I put on some of her favorite soothing music and made her food and scurried around getting shit ready. Turns out there are hours worth of things to keep you busy during this time. We also discussed when to tell our families, and decided that we wouldn't sound the alarm until we were heading to the hospital. We didn't want to be swarmed at home with everyone kicking up a fuss while momma was laboring naked in a big tub. But after a little while, once my wife was convinced she was actually in labor, we sent out some text messages letting them know what was going on.
Somewhere around 10am (6 hours after water breaking) the contractions started becoming more frequent and more intense, and we started getting ready to go to the hospital. I took a quick shower while she was still in the tub, Momma dried off and got dressed, and my mom arrived to help us get to the hospital. Getting down the stairs was difficult, and every little bump on the road to the hospital made my wife very uncomfortable.
Then passing through downtown, some asshole abortion protestors were standing on every single overpass holding 15-foot tall signs with full color pictures of aborted fetuses on them. My wife started crying and I told her not to look, and I flipped down her sun visor so she wouldn't see. Those fucking assholes. If any of you happen to see any of those people in your particular town, please egg them or steal their signs and throw them away or something. This was seriously the absolute worst thing for my wife to see in that moment and made her extremely upset and my protective rage kicked in. I'm still kind of seething about it.
So we got to the hospital, checked in, and went into triage. Our triage nurse was awesome. My experience of the hospital staff (and we were at a very good women's hospital that specializes in childbirth) is that some of the staff are amazing. Some are kind of dumb and lack bedside skills, and some have been doing the job a little too long and gloss over your particular details.
Protip: If you think something is being missed or your momma-to-be is being handled badly, take the staff aside and talk to them. Don't be an overbearing asshole about it, but step up and protect your family. Momma is too busy and distracted and it's on your shoulders to be vigilant and proactive.
Our birth plan was all-natural childbirth. No painkillers, no pitocin, no intervention. My wife labored for 26 hours total, pushed for the last solid three hours of that, and We ended up getting an epidural, pitocin, and then ultimately having a c-section.
Ultimately, I think the reason the natural thing didn't work out is because our baby was huge: 9lbs, 6 oz. And my wife is pretty small, 5'4" and only 135-140lbs before the pregnancy. After all the labor and pushing, the baby wasn't budging down the birth canal and they started talking about forceps to pull the baby out.
Personally, I've hear the worst horror stories regarding forceps and it seems absolutely medieval to me- vaginal tearing, injury to the baby's head and neck- really scary shit. As they started to become more insistent, I asked the hospital staff to leave the room and we had a talk with our doula, my wife, and her mom. With everyone's suport, my wife decided on the c-section and I think it was the right choice.
Protip: know that a c-section is a very major surgery. They don't just cut a little hole and the baby comes out. They cut a little hole, extract all of your wife's intestines, ovaries, bladder, and other organs through that hole and place them carefully on trays outside her body, split the abdominal muscles and crank them apart with a clamp, them make a hole and remove the baby. They then spend the next hour re-packing everything into her abdominal cavity, checking to make sure they didn't lose a bit of gauze or a tool in there, and then cauterizing and stiching her up. I was in the room with her and you can small the cauterization.
As a bonus, they found a cyst on one of my wife's ovaries and removed it right then and there, since they were already set up to do it. This is what convinces me that we did the right thing.
When they pulled out our baby he cried right away, but then stopped and looked around with the widest, most aware eyes. They wiped off the cheesy coating and handed him to me, and I couldn't stop crying with happiness. People here have talked about the powerful wave of emotion that hits you when they're born, and I can confirm that it is huge and it is amazing. As a male, there are few times in your life when you can cry powerfully, this is one of them. Let it all out.
The nurse took a picture for us then, and I am grateful for it.
I held him and talked to him and showed him to my wife, who was still laying there with half her organs splayed out on the other side of the sheet. I laid him on her chest and she shook from the systemic shock and talked to him and kissed him, and with a nurse's help we got him to breastfeed.
These were not our ideal circumstances, but it was what happened and it was beautiful.
Eventually they got it all wrapped up and we went into a recovery room, and then to our room in the hospital for observation. His blood sugar was **just** below the acceptable threshold and they took him down to the NICU for a few days, which was very hard on us- I could write an entire post about this. But we visited him as much as we could and tried to sleep and recover and on the fourth day we got him back. On the fifth day we were discharged from the hospital and we're all happily hanging out at home, figuring it all out.
Also I wanted to add a little on smell. I forgot to mention this in the post I wrote. So right after Tesla was born and for about the fist three days he had the most intense smell. It was a very good smell and made me want to be right near him all the time. The smell made me feel very bonded with Tesla and very protective and nurturing of him. I smelled the same smell on me and surprisingly especially strong after I used that bathroom. I also started to smell it on Michael's breath and in his hair. Not as strong as from Tesla but strong still. I felt like the smell cloaked the three of us and united us into a unit, a family.