Birth story: A hesitant dad-to-be is won over

Birth story: A hesitant dad-to-be is won over

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Arianna Marie Gleghorn
(A girl)
Born April 21, 2007, at 9 a.m.
8 pounds, 3 ounces and 18 inches
The proud parents: Hannah and Michael Gleghorn

Michael and I met a few days after 9/11 on the Internet – the last place in the world either of us thought we would meet someone! We dated long-distance (writing, calling, and occasionally visiting) for two years before we married. Michael is a researcher, and I am a graphic artist and Web designer. We were both in our 30s when our daughter was born, and we would describe the years we have been together as the happiest of our lives. We live in Dallas, Texas.

How it all began

Michael and I discussed having children early on, and it almost ended our relationship! Having children was a top priority for me – I wanted four – but it was a low priority for Michael. He had never considered having more than two and would have been happy with none. We were still writing each other when the topic came up, and I remember emailing that this might be a deal-breaker. He wrote back, "Don't be too hasty!" and suggested a compromise: three kids and a dog. And I agreed.

We waited a year and a half after we got married before we started trying to conceive, and it took a full year to become pregnant. We took a no-stress approach, thinking that if it was going to happen at all, it would happen in God's good time and we would be just be content while we waited. I think that approach spared us a lot of unnecessary frustration and stress and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Ironically, I got pregnant the one month in four years that I forgot to track my cycle. We had had a lot of family stress, and I just hadn't paid attention. I started to suspect that I was pregnant. Before I left for work one morning, I tested, and wow! The word "pregnant" came up in the little window alarmingly fast!

Since Michael was ambivalent about having children, I couldn't bring myself to tell him. I was afraid he wouldn't be happy. I knew that a negative reaction would crush me – and a negative reaction was likely since he doesn't handle surprises well. So I decided not telling him was the best approach. He was a man of "evidence" so I would just leave the evidence for him to find. I put the pregnancy stick on his desk and waited. And waited. And he didn't go into his office.

Finally it was time for me to leave for work. I asked, "Are you EVER going to go into your office?" He got the happiest smile on his face and asked, "Why? Is there a treat in there?" I said, "Uh, sort of." He asked, "Is it a bomb?" I said, "Sort of." So into the office he went. He looked at that stick for the longest time, and finally said, "Does this mean you're pregnant?" I got tears in my eyes and could only nod. He was quiet for a long time and finally said, as cheerfully has he could muster, "Well, I hope this is a good experience!" I nodded and blinked away tears. I hoped it would be a good experience too!

I had always wanted my first child to be a boy, but once I was pregnant, I started hoping for a girl. Before our sonogram (which was performed just as a huge ice storm hit Dallas), Michael feigned indifference. Either gender was fine with him, he said. When the sonographer told us it was a girl, Michael got very serious and asked over and over again if she was sure, which made me worry. After the appointment, I gingerly asked Michael if he was okay with what we had learned. He grinned and said he had secretly been hoping it was a girl. The fact that he wanted our daughter made my heart sing! The whole way home, I couldn't see the ice for all the diamonds on the trees.


Two days after my due date, my water broke. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it at first. It was such a small amount of fluid – I thought it was just the baby pressing on my bladder. But by the next afternoon, I wasn't so sure. Wetting my pants three times while grocery shopping was a little much, even for me! So I went the hospital. Sure enough, my water was broken, and I was having contractions – I just couldn't feel them.

I was at high risk for infection because my water had been broken for over 24 hours, so there was a bit of a rush to get the baby out. They started Pitocin at 7 p.m. and the on-call doctor broke my water the rest of the way an hour later. Then the contractions started coming hard and fast. To me, they felt like a charley horse deep inside. Within an hour, they were lasting a minute or more with no breaks in between. I was surprised how difficult it was to stay on top of the pain. I labored like that until 2 a.m. By then, I was only 3 centimeters dilated and my husband was asleep – so I opted for an epidural.

Let me tell you, I got the best epidural of all time! It was more freaky than painful going in, but once it was in, wowzer! It even took away my back labor pain, which the anesthesiologist wasn't sure the epidural would touch. That allowed me to rest for several hours.

By 5 a.m., I started feeling painful contractions. It turns out I was in transition. Even though I had progressed to 9 centimeters, the nurse made a strange decision. She had the anesthesiologist put a bolus in my epidural so that I would have "some relief" until it was time to push – which she determined was hours away.

By 6 a.m., as the nurses were changing shifts, I realized I was in trouble. I had no feeling below my waist, and little feeling above it. I could not move my toes or legs, and my torso felt very heavy. The new nurse quickly turned off my epidural and started cursing because she discovered blood in my catheter bag. Apparently the first nurse hadn't been very careful. The new nurse was determined to spare me a c-section, so she started turning me every 15 minutes to help move the drugs out of my system and prepare me for pushing.

It was another two hours before I could feel the contractions again. I still couldn't move my lower body, so the nurse put my legs in the stirrups. I overheard a nurse say it would take at least two hours for me to push the baby out in my condition. I remember thinking, "No, it absolutely will not!" I pushed through three contractions (boy, did that feel good!) and the nurse called the doctor to tell him to get there pronto – the baby's head was right there. But in typical doctor fashion, he took another 30 minutes to arrive.

The nurse allowed me to push through the contractions while we waited, but she had to apply counter-pressure against the baby's head to keep her from coming. The nurse had been an ob-gyn in China – I think she would have let me push the baby out before the doctor arrived. The largest part of the baby's head was presenting, however, and I needed an episiotomy to deliver without severe tearing.

The doctor arrived just before 9 a.m. One second-degree episiotomy later, Arianna was born – at 9 a.m. on the dot, 14 hours after I arrived at the hospital.

Arianna was very purple and not crying. For some reason, I wasn't worried at all about the breathing problem. I was sure she was fine. In my drugged state, all that concerned me was the thought that my husband might not think that purple baby was his. So strange!

The nurse suctioned her out while the doctor stitched me up and did some serious kneading of my uterus. He had the nurse turn my epidural back on, but even with that, the pain made me gasp. My mom, a surgical intensive care unit nurse, later told me she was shocked by how rough he was. She thought perhaps I was hemorrhaging, and he was trying to staunch it as quickly as possible.

Strangely, the best thing about my long post-delivery stitching session was that I was in no position to hold my baby. A very wise nurse handed Arianna to my reluctant husband. Arianna was alert the whole time and stared up at her father with her big, dark, blinking eyes. Her alertness took my husband by surprise. He started talking to her and she responded to his voice. And that's when my husband, who was ambivalent about having children, fell in love with his daughter.

About 45 minutes after she came into the world, I got to hold Arianna for the first time. I had wondered for years what that moment would be like. Would I see my husband or myself in the baby? Would I know her instantly? The truth is, she looked like a beautiful stranger. I didn't "know" her instantly, but I was sure I would love her without reason and enjoy learning who she was for years to come.

After delivery

The first days with a newborn are always exhausting, but for me being home was a huge relief. I slept very little in the hospital, thanks to the almost constant parade of people in and out of my room. It was nice to come home and have only an infant to deal with at night.

To my surprise, most of the new mommy stuff came fairly easily – except nursing. What a wonderful, painful, challenging shock that was! I could not believe how hard that baby sucked and how very painful my nipples became! The hospital connected me with a nursing consultant who was worth her weight in gold. She helped me master latching on and gave me a number of tips that I still use to this day. In addition to the normal nursing woes, I had Raynaud's syndrome of the nipple – which meant that my nipples were overly sensitive to temperature change. When my milk came in, and each time the baby came off my breast, the temperature change triggered a burning sensation like frostbite on my nipples.

Fortunately, all these pains were gone in a month and a half. After that, nursing was both pleasurable and convenient, so I'm very glad I persevered. I will certainly nurse any future babies.

If I could change one thing about my birth experience, it would be to fight harder to keep my daughter with me at night in the hospital. The nursing staff was really pushy about taking the baby at night and bringing her back to nurse, and that process was exceedingly disruptive. In the wee hours of the night, some of the nurses were fond of delivering – along with the baby – 20-minute lectures on nursing, which wrecked any chance of sleep. They were sticklers for schedule, even when the schedule made no sense, and they kept me waiting an hour or more when I called them. I felt too tired to fight – but I think I would have been less tired if I had insisted more.

Some advice, tempered by experience:

  • If a kind nurse offers you a stool softener, take it. You will live to thank her.
  • If you think your water might have developed a small leak, get checked. It's dangerous to leak fluid. By contrast, it's really not that big a deal to find out you were just wetting your pants.
  • Make plans, but don't get too upset if things don't work out the way you hoped. Give yourself permission to make decisions in the moment and just roll with it. You'll be happier and healthier if you work with, not against, the circumstances you are in.
  • Be aware that just because a hospital is on your insurance plan it does not necessarily follow that individual doctors hospital also are on your plan. Unless it's an emergency, make sure that any doctor, pediatrician, or specialist who sees you or your child is covered by your plan. Just asking the question can save you thousands of dollars.

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