The doctors and nurses soon had my wife hooked up to the fetal monitoring machine and had done a pelvic exam. Yes we were definitely going to have a baby. As my brother, who happened to be visiting from Alabama said, “the resources (i.e. amniotic fluid) had been irreversably used… there was no taking it back.” She was only 1 cm dilated but was 50% effaced already which was a lot faster than everyone had expected. I predicted that at that rate we would have a baby girl by noon. I was very wrong.
As the night turned into dawn, we had progressed to 4 cm dilated and 100% effaced but my wife was obviously in a lot of pain. The anesthesiologist happened to be on the floor post surgery and could do an epidural right then if we desired, otherwise it would be another hour before he could get back. I looked at the pain in my wife’s eyes and I knew what my answer was. She consented and within 10 minutes later, she had the medication dripping into her spinal fluid and was mercifully in an exhausted sleep. She would sleep off and on for the next eight hours not feeling the contractions but progressing until she was fully dilated by 3:00 p.m.
I watched over her and watched as the contractions got strong and increased until they were only two minutes apart. I was amazed that she couldn’t feel them when earlier, a small fraction of a contraction would have her almost pulling the railings off the hospital bed. I myself tried to nap in the chair beside her but didn’t have a lot of success. I mostly sat and listened to my daughter’s heartbeat on the monitor and wondered what she would look like.
At 3:00, the doctor came in a checked her again and said that my wife was to “labor down” and that he would be back in a little while to check on her. At 3:45, he checked and then uttered the words that will forever be with me, “all right now, lets start pushing,” in his thick North Carolina (old tobacco growing farm family) drawl. My wife pushed so hard that fifteen minutes later, the baby’s head had traveled a full four to five inches down the birth canal and the head was only a few centimeters from starting to crown. The thick black matted hair made it seem as if my wife was giving birth to a bear.
But things stopped. The baby was pointing face to the ceiling instead of the normal face to the floor position and due to her small pelvis, thanks to her family history, and my large framed genes, she just wasn’t fitting. The doctor thought that if the baby had been facing down, she might have flexed her head through but with her head pointing up, it was a really tight fit. My wife pushed on, pushing every two minutes for the next hour and a half but after all that time, the baby was still firmly caught. The decision was made. The baby would be born by cesarean. The time was now a quarter after six in the evening.