Veronica Ruth Potts

2 Nov 2004

Paul R. Potts

Veronica Ruth Potts was born at 6:23 a.m. on Friday, October 29th. As they say, “mother and baby are doing fine.” And Dad is feeling great, too!

We were very fortunate: the delivery went very well. No long labor, no C-section. She was born with long fingernails and lots of hair.

The original plan had been to go into the hospital Thursday morning around 7 a.m., but they were full. Grace and I waited around all day, and bickered. We had all kinds of contingency plans involving her going into labor before then, but no plan for waiting around all day, and no food. We were understandably tense. Finally, at 6, we were asked to come in at 7 p.m. There was a little more waiting around after we arrived, but by 8:30 or so, we were in the room.

It was hurry-up-and-wait for the next couple of hours. First, they had a lot of trouble getting an IV inserted. This was not a surprise, since people often have trouble drawing blood from Grace, but it resulted in a lot of waiting around. Grace got a few extra holes before they found a nurse with more expertise, who finally got the IV going on her wrist. They got the intravenous oxytocin going at perhaps 10:30 p.m. on Friday. Grace began feeling mild contractions. We listened to Stevie Wonder and I wrote notes on my newly aquired Newton MessagePad 2100 (purchased on eBay), but that is another weblog entry for another time.

Nothing really changed until our obstetrician broke Grace’s water with a little plastic lancet around midnight. He put in a probe so that he could monitor the strength of the contractions. We could watch them on both a strip chart and on a monitor. The monitor was a Windows machine running some kind of web application on Internet Explorer. It seemed to crash at one point and need restarting. Color me surprised. Not. I’m perpetually flummoxed as to why people would deploy any kind of critical software on such a platform. It isn’t that I would use MacOS X or Linux or something else instead; I wouldn’t even use an operating system at all, if I could help it. But that’s also a weblog entry for another time.

They found meconium in the amniotic fluid, which is common in late babies; they warned us that the baby might not breathe right away, and they would bring in some people to do some extra suctioning-out and checking as quickly as possible. If you don’t know what this means, here’s a primer: basically, babies can poop in the amniotic fluid, and then inhale it. That means (possibly) tarry, sticky poop in the lungs, trachea, etc. It’s not a good thing. Fortunately, Veronica doesn’t seem to have inhaled any of this stuff.

Grace had strong contractions every two or three minutes until about 3 a.m., when they became increasingly painful. We were listening to Eric Clapton; Grace was wobbling around the room attempting to relieve the pain by moving around and rocking. She started to experience hallucinations and asked me to change the music from Eric Clapton to Van Morrison. Apparently she was seeing big spiders with legs growing out of their legs and other strange things, but at least she realized they were hallucinations. All this stopped immediately when they put in the epidural. The contractions continued for three more hours while Grace actually dozed off on the hospital bed. The doctor came and checked her. The baby’s possition was good, but slightly rotated; he had her lie on her other side, propped up with a rolled-up blanked, to get the baby’s position to shift.

Grace reached full dilation around 6 a.m. The last stage went very quickly: our obstetrician came back in, and said the baby would be out in ten minutes. He was only slightly exaggerating. The head was coming into view. You could see her hair, coated with waxy yellow gunk called vernix. She has a lot of hair!

They gave Grace a little bit of oxygen, to make sure the baby was getting as much oxygen as possible via the umbilical cord. The baby’s heart rate looked low, but I’m not entirely sure the monitor could read the baby’s heart accurately at that stage of delivery, when the head was crowning. In any case, they took the oxygen mask off almost immediately, since it was all over so quickly. I don’t recall the precise timing, since I was not looking at the clock or counting, but I recall that roughly only a dozen hard pushes were needed, and took fewer than five minutes, all told. I supported Grace’s neck while she pushed, and tried to help her count. It was at this point that I wished we had taken at least one or two of the childbirth classes, instead of going through most of the pregnancy assuming we would have a scheduled C-section.

The head popped out, and our doctor began suctioning out the baby’s nose and mouth right away to make sure she didn’t inhale any meconium that might be in there. One or two more pushes, and the rest of her popped out. No tearing, no episiotomy. The doctor offered to let me cut the umbilical cord, but I declined, in part because I was trying to help Grace keep her legs stable on the push-bar (the epidural results in somewhat numb and wobbly legs).

Our doctor told Grace “you were made for this,” and he was right. We were really impressed by our obstetrician. He was extremely reassuring, confident, and quick, giving us all the needed information without making us fearful or panicked. It was his advice that led Grace to try a vaginal delivery, and it turns out to have been a great decision. What kind of a doctor would let her patient have surgery that wasn’t at all necessary? Our other obstetrician, apparently. I’m still appalled.

After some more suctioning and checking, half of the extra staff disappeared; apparently they weren’t needed. Veronica had a high APGAR score (one nurse told us the next day it was “nine point nine,” although that didn’t quite make sense to me, since I thought APGAR’s categories were all measured 0, 1, or 2, and produced a round number… so now, I’m wondering where she lost the tenth of a point, but it doesn’t really matter; it was obvious that little Vernonica was in great shape: pink, wiggly, and mad as hell. With any luck, it is only the first of athe high scores she’ll get on standardized tests!)

Grace was doing extremely well, too. My chronology may be slightly confused at this point; I was a bit dazed. I spent the next few minutes bouncing back and forth between the warming table and Grace’s bed. Our daughter was weighed and measured; they gave her a vitamin K injection in the thigh. (That made her really mad). She was quickly warmed up under the heat lamp, burrito-wrapped, and successfully latched on to Grace’s breast fewer than ten minutes after birth.

At some point (memory fails on the exact order of things at this point) Grace began shivering, but a heated blanket from the warmer took care of that in short order.

The doctor took blood samples from the umbilical cord. I took a couple of pictures of the baby. Grace passed the placenta without difficulty, and as soon as the baby was nursing, she and the obstetrician started chatting about her years on the rowing team in college and his experience as a triathlete. Something about the push bar on the hospital bed reminded her of rowing, apparently. Yes, my wife was having a conversation about sports mere seconds after giving birth. This is in pretty stark contrast to her previous birth, where she had a C-section after twelve hours of labor; in a photo taken after that birth, she looks like she just had been beaten up. This time, she was chatty.

My overall impression of the whole thing was that it went so quickly and calmly. Conversations with other dads had led me to expect screaming, and body fluids squirting in all directions. I’d been prepped to expect a C- section, a blue baby, and an unconscious mom. None of that happened. I’m not generally very squeamish (I used to watch the surgery channel), and so the only thing I declined to observe was the epidural (they ask dads not to watch that anyway, after one passed out and suffered a concussion; something about a long needle going into the spine is a lot more unsettling than the birth itself). There wasn’t any screaming. The only serious cries of pain occurred just before the epidural went in.

St. Joe’s took great care of us. I have only minor complaints. Only a few hours after Veronica’s birth, we had to put up with incredibly loud construction noise coming through the air vents; it sounded like someone was drilling holes through the walls of our room!

The older unit, where we were moved after the birth, was not nearly as nice as the rennovated delivery rooms, but we had been told this would be the case during our tour. In particular, the reclining chair/bed provided for a spouse or partner was really ancient and uncomfortable. I didn’t really sleep much that night in the hospital, and of course I didn’t sleep at all the first night, so I was pretty wiped out by Saturday afternoon, when we brought the baby home.

The bedside manner of the nurses varied; I did not like one of them. This only would have become an issue, I think, had we needed a lot of care. Most of the time was spent waiting and attempting to nap. Grace passed a blood clot “the size of a mouse,” but that is also apparently common. We had far too many knocks on the door, from everyone from social workers to someone wanting to take a family picture. But overall, the environment was really supportive. I never expect to get any rest in a hospital.

I watched them bathe Veronica in the nursery and trim the umbilical cord stump (a bit unexpectedly) with a scalpel. Under the sponge, she turned bright pink as if she were sunburned. I also watched them administer the heel sticks to take blood tests. Embarassingly, I found myself watching the wrong baby, convinced that she was mine. Honestly, it is a good thing they label them and carefully match the armbands against the parents armband. Newborns really don’t look that different! Her only really distinguishing characteristic seems to be her big toes. They are large and with a wide gap between the big toes and the rest of the toes, just like mine.

The first night home, we were expecting a quiet night with a few wakeups for feeding, but Veronica got really cranky and would not be consoled or suckle. After an hour or two of listening to her cry, we decided to give her a little water (less than half an ounce). Her little digestive system started gurgling and she felt immediately better, and promptly fell asleep. Our theory is that since she was late, the meconium in her digestive tract had gotten thicker and more like tar, and was painful to pass; the water helped to loosen it up. The next morning she had blown out a lot of it.

We were also a bit concerned the next night, because it seemed as if she had forgotten how to nurse. She would fuss and cry for twenty minutes before latching on. We had her first pediatric appointment the next morning, but by then she seemed to have gotten over this difficulty. She now latches on immediately and sucks well. I can say, with all honesty, our new daughter sucks!

It is now her 5th day of life outside the womb, and she is doing quite well. She is more alert every day. Grace’s milk has come in and Veronica is feeding regularly. We have mild concern about her wet diaper count and her weight loss, but have had her to the pediatrician’s office once already and will take her back on Thursday to check that she has not lost too much weight.

With newborns, it is hard to determine how much breast milk is going in, so you try to measure the input by the output. The general rule is that she is supposed to have a wet diaper count that matches how many days old she is: one the first day, two the second, and so on. This doesn’t go on indefinitely, obviously, or I’d be expected to dampen over thirteen thousand diapers today. For day six and afterwards we’re supposed to expect about a half-dozen wet diapers per day.

Veronica followed the schedule for the first few days, but had only two on day four. This is day five, and she’s only had three. We’re a bit concerned, and giving her as much milk as she can hold, and a little more supplemental water with a spoon, after okaying this with her pediatrician. She seems to be chowing down on the milk now, so I don’t expect either the wet diapers or the weight loss to be a real issue, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and will check in with our pediatrician tomorrow in advance of her next scheduled appointment on Thursday.

We’re co-sleeping, with the baby right in the bed. Various authorities warn against this, but it is working out very well. The baby is only waking us up a few times a night, and Grace can put her right on the breast without a lot of rearranging. I can’t imagine how people manage with the baby in a crib in a separate room. Of course, she is a newborn, and different every day, but for the moment we’re only suffering very mildly from interrupted sleep, not serious sleep deprivation.

I’m not going to turn this weblog into the Veronica Chronicles; I just wanted to tell the amazing story of her arrival. I’m amazed by how quickly she’s become a regular part of the family, and I’m so grateful Grace did not have to have a debilitating surgical procedure, and is up and around, so that I can go into work and we can all do our jobs.

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