Phew, what a week.
First, a huge thank you to everyone for their well-wishes and support. If I forget to mention a specific caring act that was shown to us this past week, it's only because we were inundated with caring acts (and I'm sleep deprived).
As I write this, it is Saturday, December 6th.
Brianna started having contractions every five to ten minutes all the way back on Friday, November 28th.
On Sunday, November 30th, Brianna wanted to go down to Colorado Springs to visit Link's eight-month-old cousin Torsten (and Megan and Jarred, Torsten's parents) to get some inspiration. We were also able to watch Brianna's Dad and sisters sing in a Christmas program at church.
By Sunday evening, we thought Brianna's water had broken, and the contractions were really strong. We drove back to Denver and went straight to the hospital. (And let me tell you, that was a hell of a drive, with fog, snow, traffic, and an increasingly uncomfortable wife).
At the hospital, we were sent to triage in Labor and Delivery. A nurse examined Brianna, and determined that her water had not broken and she was less than two centimeters dilated. After sticking around for two hours to see if anything changed (it didn't) we were sent home, severely disappointed.
The hospital did send us home with a dose of Ambien for Brianna, so she could get some sleep. Brianna wound up "sleeping" (she woke up 8 times due to contractions, but was able to fall back to sleep quickly) in the nursery, which let me get some uninterrupted sleep in the master bedroom.
Monday morning came, and Brianna was still laboring, contractions coming anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes apart. I asked Megan if she could come up for the day and encourage Brianna. Making that request was one of the best decisions I have made - Megan went on to become a huge emotional and physical support to both me and Brianna.
Once Megan (and her son, Torsten) arrived, I found myself kicked out of the house. I managed to put in a few hours at work, then came back home. Not much had changed: Brianna was still laboring. Lily (Brianna's Mom) picked up a prescription for more Ambien for us and spent some time encouraging us in the evening after Megan left for home. Once Lily left, we repeated the sleeping arrangements from the previous night.
Tuesday morning (December 2nd), Brianna was still laboring. Megan and Torsten came up again, and I was again kicked out of the house for a few hours. I got a few things done at work, and then came home. Lily came up again. Just a reminder: Lily is a professional midwife, but is only licensed to work at hospitals. She has a tremendous medical advocate for us throughout the labor and delivery process.
Tuesday evening came, and it started to seem like Lincoln would arrive by morning. Jarred came up from Colorado Springs to pick up Torsten - Megan and Lily would be staying with Brianna through the duration at this point. Jarred brought me a hamburger when he arrived, which spoke even louder than the supportive words he also offered.
At 8:07PM, Brianna's water broke for real. Brianna labored for another hour at home, and then we had a second stressful drive to the hospital.
This time, we skipped triage and went directly to a labor and delivery room. Brianna was examined, and was only 3 centimeters dilated. That was a huge blow to morale - we thought for sure it would be more than that. Since Brianna's water had broken, the hospital kept us there (Thank God. I don't know if Brianna or I could have handled being sent home again).
The Labor and Delivery Room was huge. Brianna labored for hours without any kind of intervention, often sitting in the en-suite bathtub to ease the pain. But early Wednesday morning, we opted for some IV pain killers, to let Brianna sleep and allow better monitoring of the contractions. The painkillers were effective for about an hour. At some point I fell asleep. I don't know for how long, and I don't know exactly when. Honestly, I'm pretty fuzzy about a lot of the details of early Wednesday morning.
Monitoring the contractions while Brianna was asleep and not moving around the room revealed that while the contractions were strong, they were not frequent enough for good progress to 10 centimeters. We opted to get an epidural and pitocin, to kickstart the contractions to a higher frequency. Once the epidural was in place, Brianna's discomfort level dropped, but her blood pressure did as well. At this point, Link's heart rate started to drop (or "decel", as the doctor said) immediately after some contractions. The doctor didn't want to move on to pitocin until Link's heart rate didn't show these decels for a period of time (I think it was 30 minutes, it might have been 45 minutes or more). It wasn't happening. In order to help Link out, the Anesthesiologist came by and gave Brianna a shot to help boost her blood pressure. It only raised her diastolic blood pressure a few points, but apparently that was all Link needed - his heart rate stopped deceling after contractions.
Pitocin was administered around 9:30AM Wednesday morning. Brianna's contractions immediately picked up. Link's heart rate did best when Brianna was on her right side. This had the unfortunate consequence of gravity-draining the epidural drugs to her right side, leaving her left side without effective pain management. After about 45 minutes, Brianna's blood pressure started dropping again (a side effect of pitocin, apparently) and the pitocin drip was stopped.
At this point, Brianna was still at a 4-5 centimeter dilation (after DAYS of labor). As she continued to labor, exhaustion and despair set in a bit, and with the strong contractions and pain coming through the epidural, she started talking about getting a C-section.
When the pitocin drip started, the doctor told us it would need at least two hours to work. Those were a really long two hours.
I forget if it was at this point, or if it was earlier in the morning (it certainly felt like it was 4AM to me), but I had to leave the room for a bit after a C-section was discussed as a serious option. At that point, the idea of Brianna laboring for days, only to be cut open anyway made me break down. Megan followed me out of the room and gave me a shoulder to cry on for a few minutes.
At 12:30pm, the doctor examined Brianna, and announced she was at 9 centimeters.
The entire atmosphere of the room changed. Suddenly it seemed possible to do this without a C-section. Brianna got a huge burst of energy, and labored for another hour.
After that hour, the nurse examined Brianna and said she was ready, and to get ready to push. The nurse went to find the doctor, and then came back and gave us some instruction.
Brianna was to push during contractions. Breathe in, hold the breath, push for 10 seconds, relax, breathe out. Repeat three times per contraction.
I held Brianna's right leg, Lily held her left, and Megan stood by Brianna's head, whispering support and holding a camera ready. Brianna pushed through two contractions. The top of Link's hairy head appeared almost immediately, and the nurse started to look slightly panicked - the doctor hadn't come yet.
The doctor showed up at the end of the second contraction, and had to ask Brianna to relax and not push through the next two contractions: he needed the time to get all of his scrubs on, tools in place, and get Brianna's bed into delivery position.
On the fifth contraction, Brianna pushed again. After three pushes, the doctor had her push a fourth time, saying Link was almost there. After 12 seconds on that fourth push, Link's full head popped out!
The doctor told Brianna to stop pushing, and pulled Link the rest of the way out. A couple of seconds after the air hit his skin, Link started peeing. The doctor waved Link in my general direction, and said something to the effect of "here's the first time he pees on you, Dad" (I didn't actually get any pee on me at the time). The doctor flipped Link around and around, examining everything, and suctioned fluid out of his mouth, nose and lungs. It happened so fast the impulse to say "Hey! Be careful with my kid!" didn't even make it out of my mouth before it was over.
Link was crying the whole time. For a good part of a minute, it sounded like he was crying "Maaaa! Maaaa! Maaaaa!"
I got to cut the cord - it was a lot tougher than I expected. I had to reset my feet and lean into it to cut it. Then the doctor plopped Link on Brianna's chest.
A little backstory: Brianna and I have been joking throughout the pregnancy about Link being a jerk. He would nuzzle her bladder at inopportune times, kick her colon or lungs, make her nauseous, etc. The jokes got a little grimmer during labor.
Within a minute of Link being placed on her chest, Brianna told him: "You're forgiven for everything".
As soon as Link was on her chest, Brianna became the definition of serenity. I was choking up, but Brianna was calm and beyond all the pain she had just endured. She kept telling Link how beautiful he was.
While Brianna and I were focused on Link, the doctor kept working. The afterbirth delivered perfectly. I saw the placenta and amniotic sac - it looked kinda alien, but it looked healthy and was completely intact. Brianna had some extremely minor tearing and got one stitch - she was so focused on Link she didn't even flinch.
Shortly after that, the doctor wrapped up and left, and Megan and Lily also took their leave, and it was just our little family of three.
About half an hour later, Brianna was working on breastfeeding. A nurse came in and gave a few pointers, reminding us of our breastfeeding class. Link latched on like a champ.
After that, they kind of forgot about us (apparently a lot of women delivered in the same 3 hour window, if I overheard the nurses correctly) and we had over two hours to ourselves in the labor and delivery room. Around 4:30pm a new nurse came in to weigh and measure Link, and give him a bath. He didn't like any of it.
7 pounds, 2 ounces. 20 inches long.
Once that was completed, we were wheeled up to the third floor to a recovery room. It was half the size of the labor and delivery room, but there was a bed for Brianna, a cradle for Link and pull-out bench/couch for me, so it was great.
There's more to the story after that, but the high-lights are already on Facebook (scroll down to December 3rd to read everything), and this seems like a good place to wrap up a long post.
Thanks again for all the kind words and well-wishes!