Sunday, July 1, 2012

The best and the worst three days of my life

Once upon a time, I was a wee little boy scout, determined to make it with the big guys.  Thus determined I set off with them on the high-adventure group in North Carolina, a grueling 5-day backpacking adventure in the Appalachian mountains, surrounded by beautiful forests and strapped to 30 pounds of gear.  I got done, and swore off such activities, branding it publicly and in Sacrament meeting as "the worst experience of my life, putting it positively."

Wow, I was wrong.

I'll tack that one up to naivety and inexperience, because I don't have the words to describe the anguish that I felt watching Stepheni labor for that long and they don't compare.

If you read the last blog, you know how it all started with her water breaking (more on that later).  Friday night at about 9pm we got to the hospital and got to checking in and just getting into the groove of things.

At first we still tried to continue breast pumping to stimulate oxytocin to flow, and it did give her some contractions for quite a while, but they were not strong enough or consistent enough to be considered active labor.  So at 3 Saturday morning our midwife came in and talked to us about starting up some pitocin, and did so at a very low dose so that Stepheni could get some sleep.  We got a few hours and then they started upping the dosage around 7am, and continued to increase the dosage about every hour.  9 am they came and did the first check to see how dilated she was and she was at 5cm, we weren't sure how long she had been 5cm dilated since they hadn't checked previous to that as a matter of caution since her water had ruptured prematurely.  She was still in a ton of pain throughout, but she was intent on trying it without an epidural and so she endured like a champ.  During this time the greatest source of anxiety was not knowing how long this would go on.  They were coming back at noon to check her again and see if she was further dilated, but as of then there was no estimation to the time left.  It felt best for Stepheni to be on her feet during this time, being confined to the bed was awful since she couldn't move around at all, and all she could do was squirm around and try to breathe into the contractions.

Noon came, and the news was disheartening as she hadn't progressed at all.  Soon thereafter the OB/GYN came and told us that since she had been dilated to 5cm so long, it was referred to as an arrested labor, meaning nothing had happened for about 4 hours.  She gave us a window of another 2, at which point we would be beyond good practice and it was anybody's guess as to the birth defects that could occur.  She assured us that she respected our wishes, but that she had to cover herself and her practice by telling us that she would be officially noting that she had warned us and that the responsibility was in our hands to make an informed decision with the life of our baby.  No pressure.  The midwife talked with us and we decided to up the dosage again and see if anything had happened by about 2:30, at which time we would decide what we would do.  Throughout it, I was calling people and letting them know what was going on, and now it was with some fairly bad news.  Everyone was praying for us throughout and especially now.  My step-mom, Vicki spent some time on the phone and cried with me for awhile.  At times like this, I understand a bit better what it means to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and mourn with those that mourn.  But my mom, grandpa, in-laws and everyone I talked with were praying for us and doing as much as they could from such a distance.

During this whole time the contractions were getting more painful and still weren't rhythmic at all, sporadic and in clusters at best.  So we decided to get some drugs into her to take the edge off.  Those totally knocked her out, the baby was asleep and she was conscious but only barely.  They did help her to relax and the contractions weren't nearly as painful anymore.  At this point, a C-Section was becoming a very real possibility and we knew it.  I started to make a few calls to see if any other priesthood holders from the ward would be able to come.  I had given Stepheni several blessings throughout but I needed the faith that only the companionship of several righteous priesthood holders can afford.  I got ahold of the 2nd Counselor and the Bishop, and we got ahold of the missionaries and they came right away.  It's difficult to describe the relief that I felt when they got there and were genuinely concerned about our well-being.   They gave me the first hug I had received in quite awhile and it was much needed; Stepheni and I were hugging and supporting each other throughout, but it was different when more support from outside your family crisis comes to the rescue.

I wished so badly that things had gone differently, and I was so scared of all the terrible possibilities that lay before us if she didn't progress any further, or if our baby went into distress with the increasingly intense contractions.  Throughout the whole process we had felt terribly alone, with the nurses only coming in and out to increase the dosage of that terrible drug causing Stepheni so much pain, and really no other present and outside support, it was awful.  Up to this point I had been as reassuring to everyone involved and especially Stepheni that it would all work out and everything was just as it should be, but it was looking less hopeful and we could only hope that she had progressed by the time Pam came back in.

At this point the midwife, Pam, came back and declared her as still arrested, at which point we decided to go ahead with the C-section.  This was something of a relief, knowing that either way this would all come to an end.  They scheduled the epidural and they took her off the pitocin, thankfully.  She told us that this had become something of a perfect storm:  the baby was asymmetric (I think that's the word, but it means his head was not going straight down the birth canal, kind of tilted), her water had ruptured before she had been in labor, he was posterior, and he was fairly big.  None of these things, by themselves are a game-breaker, but together they made delivery nigh impossible through the birth canal.

The missionaries stepped back in and we spent a few more minutes visiting and then we anointed and gave Stepheni a priesthood blessing.  The missionaries offered food and help of any sort that they could, which I turned down, my mind was on other things, frankly.  They left, but a spirit of reassurance and comfort remained and I spent the next hour calling people to let them know what was happening and sitting with Stepheni.  This was about hour 36 since her water had broken.

Stepheni was relaxed and dozing in and out when the anasthesiologst came in to administer the epidural which turned out to be another IV near her spine.  She was still pretty doped up on all the drugs and painkillers now, so she was gratefully asleep through most of this.  They then moved her out and down the hall to the operating room for C-sections and left me to get dressed in a sterile outfit.  When I arrived she was all prepped for surgery and I was able to sit by her head, camera in hand, for the big procedure.  It was a nervous few minutes but all of a sudden we heard the cry of our brand new baby boy!  "You can look now!"

I got up and saw our beautiful and very grumpy baby, fresh out of mom.  For those who have had this precious opportunity, you know what it is like, and for those that haven't then you will just have to wait, but it is totally worth the wait to do it in the right way and the right time.

They got him cleaned up and under the baby heater, where he got calmed down pretty quick, despite the huge shot they gave him for Hepatitis of some kind immediately.  He weighed in at 8 lbs 12 ounces and 20 1/2 inches, our little bundle of joy!

They handed them off to me a few seconds later, I was holding our brand new baby!  I showed him to Stepheni as soon as I could, and just held him for a few moments.  We were moved back to recovery where we got Stepheni some water and they began carefully monitoring her.  She was bleeding quite a bit, with a lot of clotting and blood still coming from her uterus.  It was worrisome, but the nurses and midwife were all working quickly and knew what they were doing.  They expected this though since she is redhead, because apparently they bleed more for no known cause.  At this point we made a few calls and got some pictures uploaded and the news was spread abroad.  About two hours after they wheeled her into recovery they rolled us quickly out and we were on our way to the permanent stay room and just relaxing here.

It's Sunday night now, and we have had the first twenty-four hours of time with our baby, Ephraim Alexander Beckman.  Precious, joyful, exhausted time.  Stepheni is so cute with him, and calls him "little dude" as she is feeding and cuddling with him.  I changed my first diaper with some help from Stepheni, which was super gross, but not as stinky as I thought it would be, like the green smoothies people like, only served in a diaper instead of a glass.  Stepheni and Ephraim have been poked and prodded several more times but all is well.  The missionaries came back to give us the sacrament, and they were the first people outside of the hospital to see him.

It has been, without exception, the best and the worst three days of my life.  But I guess that's how it is supposed to be, isn't it?


  1. aw, so sweet. and i'm so glad you wrote this when it was still fresh in your memory. and how cool that the missionaries came then came back for the sacrament. i'll give you guys a big hug when i see you next:)