Thursday, March 23, 2006
Good things come to those who wait (and wait, and wait, and wait)
For those who may be wondering why I wasn't taken into the operating room and "put under the knife" by the end of the first day, Japanese doctors have more of a "watch and wait" philosophy when it comes to childbirth than their American counterparts. I am grateful for this, as a C-section was the last thing I wanted, although I will admit that by the end, I was practically begging for one just so it would be over. (I think I also begged for death at one point!)
I had what the books call a "prodromal labor," characterized by a very long and drawn out early or latent phase. In my case, because my water broke at the very beginning of labor, the baby's head, which was already engaged, started putting pressure on my cervix, causing it to swell and slowing the dialation process. An American doctor would have labeled me "failure to progress" and had me on the operating table after 24 hours. But in Japan, as long as both mother and baby are genki (healthy, strong, energetic) and seem to be tolerating the stress of labor well, nature is allowed to take its course.
My one and only disappointment in my birth experience was that I was not able to deliver at the midwife's house like we had planned on. Because of the lengthy labor and possible risk of infection, we decided on Monday (one day into the ordeal) that the hospital was the safest place for both me and the baby. Kudo-san, the midwife, stayed by my side and acted as my advocate and translator with Dr. Suzuki, the nurses, and the rest of the staff. I could not have done it without her! I was allowed to actively participate in all of the decisions regarding my care -- from taking drugs to stimulate contractions (an oral form of Pitocin) to finally agreeing to an episiotomy and the use of the vacuum extractor.
Finally, on Tuesday evening just before 7:00, Alexander John Campbell made his entrance into the world. Rusty's first words were, "It's a boy, it's a boy!" My first words were, "It's over, it's over!" While Kudo-san attended to the baby and helped Rusty cut the cord, Dr. Suzuki turned photographer and started taking pictures with his polaroid camera (standard equipment in a Japanese delivery room?)! They placed the baby on my stomach and he lay there for a few minutes before he opened his eyes and looked right at me, and then right at his father, as though he knew exactly who we were. Then he was whisked away to be weighed and measured and cleaned up a little bit.
About 45 minutes later, they brought him to me in the room and I got my first really good look at him. Fine blond hair. Scrawny legs and arms. My long fingers. His dad's big feet. Every part so tiny, yet perfectly formed. He was beautiful. I could scarcely wrap my exhausted brain around the fact that he was ours.
Have I forgotten all the pain of those excruciating 64 hours? I wouldn't say that, but holding that little 7 pound bundle in my arms was definitely worth every single minute!