Nice to Meet You, Jason

Jason Michael Sakasegawa was born on Monday, July 28, 2008.  Monday morning was a bit rough for Juliette and I, as we had had a little scare the night before.  Juliette had had some bleeding that we didn't expect so we went into the hospital around 1 AM.  It turned out not to be a problem--which we had expected, but we figured it was better to be safe than sorry--and we managed to get home around 3 AM. 

Needless to say, we were both pretty worn out the next day, so I decided to take the morning off.  We had an appointment with our OB at 11:15, so I figured I would sleep in a bit and then go into the office after lunch.  The appointment went well, the doctor pointing out that Juliette was dilated about two centimeters--one more than the previous week--and that she thought we might not actually make it another week to our next appointment.  Afterwards, having lunch at Red Robin, we talked to each other about our feelings of excitement and apprehension.

I got into the office at about 1 and I started in as normal.  Juliette called me at 3:24 to let me know she was feeling well, and I settled in for a long day to try to make up the hours I'd missed in the morning.  Nineteen minutes later, she called again, saying that she thought her water might have broken, but she wasn't sure.  I told her to call the doctor and then call me back to let me know what she said.  Ten minutes later, Juliette called me back, saying that the doctor wasn't sure either and thought it might just be due to the cervical exam she'd had that morning, but we agreed that I'd come home right then.

I arrived back at the house at about 4:25 PM and found Juliette curled up in a ball in the shower.  "I'm not doing well," she told me, obviously in a lot of pain.  She sent me out of the bathroom to call the doctor, load up the car, and put the house in order before we left.  Calling the doctor, all I could think to say was "I think this is it," and she told me to come on in to the hospital.

We were in the car and on the way by 5:00, and already things were going wildly differently from how the birth classes had described.  We expected to have the contractions start slowly, maybe 15 minutes apart, getting more frequent over the next several hours or even days.  We expected to be taking short walks to help things move along, to try some slow breathing patterns and light massage.  We had been told this could go on for a while, and not to bother going into the hospital until the contractions were five minutes apart, one minute long, and that this had continued for an hour.  But from the get-go, Juliette's contractions were unbearably intense and coming right on top of each other.  I tried to time them while we drove, but it was no use, they were happening too fast.  We got to the hospital in about twenty minutes and she had at least ten contractions in that time, maybe fifteen.

When we got to the hospital, Juliette was having trouble even walking from the car to the elevator.  When the elevator doors opened, we ran into a labor and delivery nurse who was just coming off shift.  She took one look at Juliette and asked if we needed a wheelchair.  The previous night a similar thing had happened in reverse--as we were leaving the hospital, we ran into a couple coming in.  They had their bags with them, so the woman's labor must have started, but she was wearing nice clothes and make-up, and seemed more annoyed than uncomfortable.  Afterwards, Juliette and I would marvel at the difference between her labor and that woman's.

We got checked in and into our labor and delivery room very quickly.  The staff was very nice and very efficient.  The nurse checked Juliette's cervix at 5:35, and she was already dilated to four centimeters.  Hooked up to the monitor, we could see that, indeed, her contractions were literally coming right on top of each other, starting every minute and each one lasting a minute.  The nurses were all astonished at how fast they were coming--"Gosh, you're not getting a break!" one of them exclaimed.

Throughout the pregnancy, Juliette and I had talked about whether or not she'd choose to have an epidural during labor, but hadn't ever come to any conclusions.  But it was clear from the moment I got home that there was no way she'd be able to make it without medication.  The anesthesiologist got to our room at 6:15, and finally Juliette was able to get a little relief.

Twenty minutes later--one hour after the first check--the nurses checked Juliette's cervix again and by then she was dilated to seven centimeters.  Despite everything that had happened in the past two hours, we were still amazed--the birth class had prepared us to expect it to take many hours to get from four to seven centimeters.  The next hour saw things slow down a bit in terms of the labor progressing, but the monitors were still showing Juliette's contractions coming on without a break. 

Around 8:30 or so, Juliette's mom made it to the hospital.  Juliette and I had originally planned that I'd be the only one in the room with her, but we were both happy to have her mom there to help and support her.

By 9:05, Juliette was fully dilated--just over five hours since her water broke.

Juliette started pushing with the next contraction, and the look of strain on her face as she pushed was the most intense I've ever seen.  It was hard enough for me to even watch--I can only imagine what she must have been going through.  After about an hour, her contractions started to slacken off and the doctor added pitocin to her IV.  That got the contractions going again, but it turned out to be too much--her uterus stayed in one long contraction until they backed off the pitocin.  Juliette kept pushing, her eyes clenched shut and her lips turning purple from the effort.

After two solid hours of pushing, the doctor finally told us that the baby wasn't progressing.  Juliette's pubic arch was kind of small and the baby was stuck behind it.  Worse, his heart rate was very high, and had been high for a while.  She presented us with two options: she could try a vacuum assist or we could do a c-section.  But, she was skeptical that the vacuum would work, and didn't want to wait too long due to the baby's heart rate.  By now, Juliette was completely exhausted, and just wanted the baby out.  But even so, she turned to me and asked if that was alright with me.  In the previous months we had both agreed that we wanted to avoid a c-section if at all possible, but now, after she'd worked so hard and I'd done so little, it just about broke my heart to see the look in her eyes when she asked me that question.  "Yes," I said.  "You did a great job, honey.  You did everything you could."  Juliette's mom's eyes were shining at the thought of her daughter going into surgery, and Juliette tried to reassure her.  I'm still amazed by her, after everything she had just been through, she was still thinking of everyone but herself.

I donned my OR coveralls and followed Juliette as the doctor and nurse wheeled her to the operating room, while Juliette's mom went to the waiting room.  Everyone went straight in when we got to the operating room, but I had to wait outside for about twenty minutes while they prepped everything.  Those twenty minutes were pretty terrible for me, as I imagined everything that might be going wrong.  But finally they let me in, and I sat by Juliette and talked to her while the doctors worked.  She was shaking violently the whole time, whether from the anesthesia or something else, I'm not sure.  From time to time I peeked around the screen to see what was going on.  I saw them start to make the first incision, and I saw them retracting and reaching in with surgical scissors.  Finally, at 11:34, I looked and saw my son's head poking out of the hole in Juliette's belly.  He was all pale, wrinkly, and slimy, and for a few seconds it was almost like it was a doll's head sticking out of there.  But then he let out a loud cry, and it really struck me, wow, I have a son.  I heard Juliette gasp, and I looked down to see her crying.  "Is that him?" she asked.  "Is he OK?  Does he have all his parts?"  And I was proud to report that he had all ten fingers, all ten toes.

It turned out that it was a really good thing we had done the c-section when we did.  After he was out, the doctor noticed that he had passed meconium during labor, which is a big sign of distress.  More dangerous, if a baby inhales or ingests the meconium, he can die.  So we very well may have saved his life by getting him out when we did.

I went over to the table where the nurses were cleaning him off and suctioning out his mouth and took the first pictures of him.  I cut the cord, and shortly after I carried him over and delivered him into Juliette's arms.  The joy in her voice when she greeted him was just amazing, even though she was still so exhausted.  I looked at him, running the list of names we'd chosen through my head, trying to think which one he looked most like.  Juliette looked up at me and asked, "Can he be Jason?"  I nodded.  "Yeah," I said.