I've been meaning to write down our experiences of the day Charlie was born and finally got around to it. Hopefully I didn't forget too much. Charlie Green Santos was born on July 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm at CPMC in San Francisco. He weighed in at 6 lbs. 6 oz. and measured 18.5 in long. Charlie was in the 10th percentile of weight and height and this last little fact was how Charlie came to be born 5 days early. After almost a year and a half of trying to conceive we finally managed to make it happen and got the good news Thanksgiving weekend last year. Serious shock and disbelief…we were finally pregnant! At our 20 week ultrasound we found out our baby boy was healthy and happy and measured in the 50th percentile and was growing normally. We were thrilled.
Because Betsy insisted on working until literally a day before she delivered, Betsy’s doctor struck a deal with her. Keep working but go to a weekly fetal monitoring session the last few weeks to ensure all was well. At our first appointment there was nothing abnormal however at our 38th week appointment our technician noticed our amniotic fluid had dropped considerably and that our little guy now measured in the 15th percentile. These numbers were still considered normal but our doctor was a little concerned. Of course there is some error in these measurements so we waited to see what would happen. By the third week the fluid was still trending downwards and after careful discussion we decided to get induced. A reduction in amniotic fluid can be an indicator that the placenta may be aging faster than the baby, which can be dangerous to the baby. This, combined with the reduction in growth percentile was a red flag to our doctor who plays things conservatively (we tended towards the conservative as well because it was so hard to get pregnant in the first place so we didn’t want to take any chances). We decided to get induced 5 days early and we found ourselves heading to the hospital on Thursday, July 29th to start the induction process.
We called the hospital one hour prior to our scheduled time as instructed and they had a little rush and were not ready yet for us. We were, of course, all ready to go with packed hospital bags and a clean apartment ready for our return home. So we decided to take naps and when the hospital called 45 minutes later to say they were ready for us we drove across the Bay Bridge (at rush hour) and were at the hospital by 7pm. Betsy was checked in and had an IV started. We went upstairs to our birth room and the nurse and on-call doctor walked us through the game plan. Betsy was 1-2cm dilated and 25% effaced the doctor was going to place a dose of a drug on her cervix every 4 hours to help her cervix get ready to deliver. Then at 5am we were going to start the pitocin drip to trigger contractions. We were told there was a slightly higher chance of a cesarean birth when labor is induced but since Charlie was already so low inside Betsy, our on-call doctor predicted once things started going, they were going to go fast.
At that point I ran down the street to get dinner. We decided to carbo-load on some pasta. By the time I got back the drug was in and we had begun our labor process. We ate our dinner and then tried to get some shut-eye. Betsy was plugged into a machine that measured the baby’s heart rate and contractions and our baby’s heartbeat lulled us to an uneasy sleep.
Around 12:30 am several nurses came running in because our baby’s heart rate had plummeted from ~140bpm to ~70bpm which translates to our baby was in distress. They gave Betsy supplemental oxygen and had her change positions and eventually his heart rate came back to normal. It was a very tense 10 minutes but Charlie is a fighter and his heartbeat is strong. The nurses decided to skip our next drug application and just wait until 5am to start the pitocin. We had a restless few hours of sleep keeping our eyes and ears tuned to the fetal monitor.
Around 5am, the Dr. came in and examined Betsy and she was 50% effaced and 3cm dilated; some progress but not much. We started the pitocin. Charlie’s heartbeat was holding steady and strong and Betsy was feeling good so at 7am I ran to get a bagel. When I got back, nothing had changed but Betsy had noticed contractions were happening, irregular in duration and not painful, but happening. By 9am the contractions were coming with regularity and were intense and Betsy was in visible pain. I was talking her through them and telling her when they were subsiding (thanks to the monitor) but I felt helpless. I asked her if it was time for the epidural but she didn’t think she was ready and wanted to hold out. By 10:30am the contractions had become so intense she was in tears each time one hit. When the nurse came in Betsy explained that she could hold out and thought it was too early for the epidural but the nurse reassured Betsy it was in her plan and it was okay if she wanted one now. We decided to go for it. As the anesthesiologist was setting up and Betsy was in position, I noticed on the monitor that a contraction was about to start. I was nervous because the doctor had instructed Betsy to stay extremely still. She managed to fight through the intense pain one last time and the epidural was administered successfully. The effect was immediate. The pain was manageable, she could feel the contractions but they weren’t killer. It also relaxed Betsy and she was looking forward to getting a couple hours of sleep. But, after another examination at 12:15pm she was at 7-8cm dilated and 85% effaced! We were both in shock. All we’d heard was how slow and painful inductions were and here we were, 7 hours after the pitocin stared, at 8cm! No naps for us!
When our doctor came to check on us at 1:30pm, Betsy was 9.5cm and 95% effaced. She was there! It was go time. Our nurse Roxanne then got the room ready and told us what we needed to do when it came time to push and what was going to happen when the baby was born. We were excited and Betsy was in good spirits and I think ready to not be pregnant anymore. The epidural gave her the strength to continue. Around 2:30pm we practiced pushing with the nurse. We did 2 big pushes and she saw Charlie’s head and knew it was time to call in the doctor (whose office is across the street).
When our doctor came back, I was impressed how she just commanded the room. She told Betsy to stay calm and to relax and really put us at ease. As she was getting prepared, Roxanne and I were in position to help Betsy push. We did another 2 pushes and his head was practically out. I was a bit freaked out since his head looked so small (turns out it was only the top of his head) and was concerned that he was REALLY small. Then at the next push, his entire head was out and we were all a bit shocked that he was out already. This baby wanted to join the party! A few quick seconds later and he was out! It turned out that the umbilical cord was around his neck which was probably causing the heart rate dips. I knew we made a good decision to get induced and we were overjoyed to have our baby boy with us.
I can’t really express the feelings I had when our little Charlie came into the world. Both Betsy and I were crying and laughing and just so, so happy. Here we had this crying, bluish baby, who was finally in our lives. Everything changed in an instant. We had lived with Charlie for the past 9 months but he was just this thing in Betsy’s’ belly that provided entertainment in the form of kicking. I knew we were going to have a child and become parents but I really didn’t know what that meant. I am the first sibling in my family to have a child and have really limited baby exposure period. Being a parent was a strange, unfamiliar concept. It just didn’t seem real.
But now, here he was, kicking and screaming and breathing oxygen. I remember Betsy excitingly stating how cute he was when she first saw him. I just remember looking down at him through tearful eyes and knowing that my life was different and that I was a father now and I had to protect this little bundle of joy. And man, he is so cute. I couldn’t imagine loving anyone as much as I love Betsy but I was so excited to realize that I actually could. Life was not just about us anymore and we welcomed him into our lives. This little guy was going to make us better people.