It seems like eternity since I posted here, but after the last 36 hours, my life has been changed forever and I thought it was a great time to start back up where I left off.
I promised Shea I wouldn't embellish, supersize, or James Frey up our birthing story that welcomed our beautiful Harper Avenn Fernandez to this world (and yes, Avenn is spelt with two N's...Aunt Mariah found out that A.V.E.N. was a ridiculous acronym for a well known ASexual Self Help Organization) this morning at 1:38 am on May 5th, 2011, but this tale was told so well that for once I don't even need to add any Fernandez flare to make it more interesting.
After a tumultuous winter, I arrived back in California from Chicago in early April ready to welcome our precious daughter to this world. Everyone, herself included, thought my ex-wife-to-be-who-was-pregnant-with-my-daughter would go early based on ultrasound monitoring and other factors. She was already huge so I figured we had a few days at most before we welcomed our little girl home. My sister in law Brinn moved in and together with Shea, Grandma O'Brien, and many other helpers we created Harper's House in a hurry ready for baby to come any second. Same structure, but everything else is new. The layout, the furniture, the atmosphere, the energy has completely shifted to make it the best possible home for this special little girl.
One week went by, then two, then three, than four, than five. Doctors appointments and checkups every single week signified she was coming at any second, and Mommy (and Daddy) were hoping for an all natural experience with very little intervention.
At last weeks appointment, with dilation only increasing by 1 cm each week, Dr. Trifero decided to make the call that Shea would be induced on her birthday morning, May 9th at 10 am at UC Davis Health Center in Sacramento. We all cringed, nothing about induction was ever part of our birth plan. We went to a few non-stress tests that Harper passed with flying colors, and after last Friday's check up, Mommy was having some serious doubts about going in for induction at all. But low and behold, Mother's Day came, and Shea made the decision that we would indeed go and make our appointment on Monday morning, and Dr. Trifero's morning call to her came with a strong warning of advisement to come in before she went even further past due.
We ended up going for Shea's birthday breakfast at the Pancake House and geared up for what we knew would be a long day. When we arrived at UC Davis Health Center at 10 am, the hospital wasn't expecting us since Shea was hesitant on Friday, but they quickly checked us in and got us the birthing suite that ended up being AMAZING. Very large room and the best news of all, that we would be able to labor and post pardum without moving in a room with a tub, dining room table, and plenty of space for this big welcome to the world.
Shea was still on the fence about Pitocin, a synthetic hormone that is now used in over 85% of US Hospital births to speed up the process. The very sweet doctors and nurses seemed amused by Shea's plan of pain free meds and our hyno-birthing. They went along with it, but as soon as they left the room you were sure to hear chuckles and if you could read into their text messages you would probably find messages about, "the crazies in suite 3772 who think they are delivering all natural." Connie, our main nurse took down notes and Grandma O'Brien got to work with Mom on setting the scene with soothing music, dimming the lights. I was just trying to BREATHE, I had tears rolling down my face and was freaked out that today was the day our little girl would make her debut.
At first the doctors allowed Shea to try some natural inducement techniques while they got her hooked in, put in her IV and ports, and other check in formalities. Finally at around 1pm, one of the many MANY doctors we would see (because this is a teaching hospital) made the decision to begin "whiffing" the pitocin in at a very slow rate to see what happened. Aunt Brinn arrived and things were moving very slowly for the next three hours, but the surges (we don't call them contractions in hynobirthing) were intensifying slowly. At 4:30, another doctor made the decision to finally break Shea's water, and about thirty minutes later with the water broken mixed with pitocin, Shea was finally in active labor! Contractions coming on stronger and stronger and spaced about 5 minutes apart. We began the actual hynobirthing, with no lights (other than the monitors), the low soothing music, and allowed Shea to breathe the baby down with each contraction (also no "pushing" in hynobirth, we call it birthing the baby down or breathing the baby down). At 6:30 Dr. Trifero and the night crew came on, and we got Cheryl assigned as our room nurse (each laboring Mom gets her own RN). Cheryl was amazing and had done a hynobirth a few weeks earlier. Everyone was brought up to speed and it looked like Harper would share the same birthday with her Mom.
From 6:30 to 8:30 surges intensified and at 8:30 Kim made the call to have the troops rally. Grandpa O'Brien, Uncle Logan, Aunt Shannee, Aunt Mariah were all called in and arrived within thirty minutes. When they arrived, we were in SERIOUSLY ACTIVE LABOR. Everyone worked in shifts, Mariah would crawl into the bed and massage Shea's lower back, Kim would stay at her face and cool it with towels, Brinn would massage her feet, I would make sure the towels were staying cool and changing them out, Shannee would help our nurse Cheryl move Shea from position to position. It was a team atmosphere and everyone was working hard.
I tried, up to this point, to stay back. Since I wasn't involved with the hynobirthing classes, I wasn't really sure what to do or say and there was something magical about watching the women tend Shea. They worked silently, switching from station to station. Shea felt like she was ready to push around 10:00 pm, but Dr. Trifero came in and said she was only at 8 cm and it looked like another hour to hour and half. This is when the hynobirthing started to slightly slip away. Shea was having intense contractions, very closely together, and thought she was ready to push. This delay caused her to second guess whether she could take any pain medication, but unfortunately (or fortunately) it was too late and I think Shea only asked because she knew that. It was the only time in almost 15 total hours of labor that I saw her waver and it was only for a split second. As soon as she said it and realized that Harper would be here very soon she went back to the deep breathing and laboring.
At 11:15pm, Shea knew it was time to push and she paged for another exam. Dr. Trifero was in a Cesarian, so Cheryl the nurse checked her and sure enough she was at a 9.5 cm. With a few adjustments to her position, it was time to push.
This is the time when the labor actually BEGAN for me. I think in my mind, as well as Shea's, we thought this next step was about 30 minutes or so. Since she had been preparing for so many hours and it was time to push, we all already began eyeballing eachother and seeing that Brinn had likely won the bet of a May 9th Birthday at 11:45. Little did we know that Harper and Shea's body would have other plans.
Shea was pushing really hard. As soon as she went up into the stirrups, I think the intensity of seeing her daughter in this kind of pain caught up with Kim, so she allowed Mariah, Shannee, Brinn, and me to take over while she cooled off. She would come in and check on the situation, but this was the time when the four of us huddled around and held hands with Shea as we saw her push. About ten minutes in we could see Harper's head, but with every breath out the head would show up and then with every inhale it would pop back in. This continued for over an hour. We had missed the chance for Harper to have a chance to share her birthday with Mommy and Shea was beginning to get beyond exhausted. She had been pushing for and hour and fifteen minutes and the same thing was happening over and over; head shows up with breath out, baby disappears with breath in. There was a LOT of blood. Apparently this is normal, but I wasn't expecting it. Towels, pillows, blankets, and other items were thrown everywhere and it began to look more like a crime scene the a birthing suite. Dr. Trifero finished his Cesarian and came in to the room. He told Shea she was doing good, told her to keep going, and left the room. While he was visiting, he noticed that with every exhale, Harper's heartbeat would drop significantly and told Cheryl to watch it. I had already noticed this trend, as had Kim and we knew we were close so we tried to ignore it. When Dr. Trifero returned, the heartrate was getting lower between contractions and he immediately called in for reinforcements.
Within a matter of seconds, two other doctors and three nurses came into the room. Mixed with our nine guests, the room was filling fast. The other doctors were unaware of our plan and just began turning on lights, speaking loudly, and the Chief Resident said page the Attending OB Immediately. Shea began to freak, and my heart was pounding. She had come this far and there was no way in hell we were going to be rushed off to the operating room with Harper's head literally within reach. When the Chief Resident said she had to figure out the babies position, she inserted both arms up to her elbows into Shea and around Harper and Shea completely lost it. There was now squirting blood, a few extra nurses stampeded the room, and they were saying things like the baby was in distress, that she needed to be moved, one even undid the breaks on the bed preparing to move us.
Some place I have never gone to before just kicked in. I got right at Shea's face and just talked her through the next two contractions. She had bursted a blood vessel in her eye with the jolting scream of that doctor inserting both of her arms inside of her, and she was on the verge of completely losing it. Brinn and I sat at her face and told her just to keep pushing. We knew that if we could get one huge push in before they could move her or come up with an alternate decision that they would pull Harper the rest of the way out and not resort to alternative treatment. Shea pushed through the next two contractions like a superhero rockstar. She was calm and collected, and on the end of the second contraction, Dr. Trifero literally grabbed Harper by the hair and pulled her out. As soon as she came out, everyone shouted LOOK AT HOW FREAKING BIG SHE IS.
The rest of the night was so personal and intimate that I feel like it should be kept for our closest friends and families to hear in private. Shea, as you can imagine, had very VERY extensive tearing and other problems because of the size of Harper matched with the doctors reaching in to grab out the baby and feel around her while she was in the birth canal. It was all hazey, but in the backround our beautiful wide eyed girl was crying and ready to take on the world, as happy as could be that her Mom chose her health over comfort. While Shea was still being stitched up, Harper latched right on and began breast feeding. Our nearly ten pound baby (9 lbs 11.6 oz to be exact) miracle was here, healthy, and so was Mommy and Daddy and an entire family to support and care for her.
I was priveledged to watch it, I was honored to go through the experience, and I also know I dont think my heart or brain could ever endure that type of pressure again. I made some quick calls and then just collapsed in the hallway, sobbing out of joy and release of the insane journey we had just gone on together.
Today we had a chance to spend the whole day with our beautiful baby who still rarely closes her eyes, is so alert, eating regularly, and perfectly happy and completely healthy. I am so grateful that God chose me to be Harper Avenn Fernandez's Daddy and so proud of Shea O'Brien for handling birth of our daughter with such care and determination. It was one experience I could never ever forget and am priveledged to have gone through.