We have no idea how Erin’s Mom Cheri beat us to the birthing suite. Hell, neither did our nurse, who was as bemused as we were to find her there. I had called her when we initially departed for the hospital, but had let her know that the actual birth was a good long time away. However, this was her first grandchild – I don’t think anything could have kept her away from that hospital. After a brief check-in, she left so that Erin could get her epidural and get everything else set up. Cheri was a nurse for years – she knew when to stay out of the way.
Erin’s sister Carlin and brother-in-law Rob had driven up from Portland and were staying at our place. I’d told Carlin on the way out that we were headed to the hospital and that I’d text with an update from triage. They would arrive shortly and set up camp in the waiting room.
We got settled into the birthing suite, and met Elaine, who would be our delivery nurse. We can’t say enough good things about Elaine – she was fabulous. Not only was she extremely efficient and good at her job, but she was also a pleasure to be around and hilarious as well! We spent the entire day telling stories and cracking each other up.
The anesthesiologist arrived shortly thereafter, and Erin got hooked up with the epidural. I had been a bit leery of epidurals when I heard it involved a needle being injected into the spine, but our guy was in and out so quick you’d never believe it could possibly be dangerous. The relief was almost immediate. Ten minutes after he left, Erin got a lot more relaxed, and was even able to smile again. It was amazing. The transformation made me wonder why anyone would ever go through a delivery without one. I’m sure Erin would agree.
At this point, all we could do was wait. Erin had to dilate first to 7cm, and then to 10cm. At 10cm, you start pushing. But dilation takes time, and it’s what the contractions are all about. Of course, at this point the contractions were something that we could only monitor by watching the tape spewing out of the monitor machine. She couldn’t feel a thing. The nurses and doctors called the epidural a “block,” because essentially what it did was block the pain information from getting to the brain where it could be processed and understood. Oh, there was plenty of pain going on, as Elaine told us. Erin’s brain was just unaware of it.
We had a lot of paperwork to fill out, release forms, forms for tests they would do to the baby, billing forms, you name it. We spent a good hour or so on paperwork. I went out and fetched the family so that they could check in with Erin and see how things were going. Because there were only three family members at a time allowed in the room, we had to take turns.
The only disadvantage to getting the epidural was that Erin was not allowed to eat from that point on. And at this point, it’s about 9:30AM, and we’d been up all night. Erin had thrown up her dinner from the night before, so she was already running on fumes. Elaine told me to go eat, and I tried to be the tough guy, saying that if Erin didn’t get to eat, then I wouldn’t eat either. Elaine responded with something like “Oh great, another father who is going to pass out before his baby arrives because he’s too stupid to eat. Go eat.”
It’s kind of hard to argue with that. Like I said, we were very fond of Elaine. She looked after both of us, all day long. I told her okay, okay, I’d go to Subway and grab a sandwich. I was bushed, anyway. Remember that hangover I mentioned earlier? The adrenaline had taken the edge off, but that adrenaline was ebbing fast. Taking a walk in the fresh air and grabbing a sandwich couldn’t be a terrible idea. Plus I could maybe grab a coffee…
When I got back from my meal break, Elaine took her lunch break, and was relieved by Lisa. Who, it turns out, lives just a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I went to high school. She was also a hoot, and told us stories about her crazy high school adventures. When Elaine came back, she called the doctor in to have a look, and guess what? We were at 7cm. Things were progressing along nicely, and it was only 12:30PM.
Now, all we had to do was wait for the final three cm of dilation, and then it would be time to push. It had been 12 hours since the very start of labor, about 4 1/2 of that active labor. So far so good.
Those last three centimeters went quickly. At 3PM, Elaine called Doctor Koala and asked if we could start pushing. As it turns out, one of Dr. Koala’s own patients was giving birth next door, and was in the final stages of delivery. Of course we didn’t know this – all we knew is that Elaine said we had the go-ahead to start pushing. It was time to change the music.