When I finally returned from the cafeteria, Yilin was still having contractions, but now she was on the birthing ball trying to get Noah to turn around. He had his back up against Yilin's back and was causing a lot of pain. Judging by the increasing loudness of Yilin's screams, the pain was getting worse and worse with each contraction. It was pretty obvious that the contractions had gone from a discomfort to something intolerable. I began encouraging her between contractions and reminding her to relax and try to get whatever rest she could get. During her contractions, I continued to do other things. I was beginning to feel really helpless since I there wasn't anything I could do to lessen the pain.
After one particularly strong contraction and an equally strong scream, the midwife and nurse both came dashing into the room. They probably thought the baby was pushed out. I thought the baby was pushed out. I had never heard Yilin scream like that, so I can only imagine the intensity of the pain. We explained the back pain to the midwife and she recommended we use the tennis balls to apply counter pressure. Finally, this was something I could do to try to alleviate some of the pain.
This worked for awhile, but it was hard to repeatedly target the right pressure point. Also, the amount of pain wasn't lessened, it was just more directed, so it was like trading one bad situation for another bad situation.
Yilin soldiered on, but was beginning to succumb to the pain. She asked the midwife about some IV narcotics that aren't as strong as an epidural, but decided against taking it as it wouldn't really take most of the pain away and would make her really drowsy. Personally, I think the midwife just told her a half truth to try to keep Yilin to the birth plan.
At this point, Yilin asked about using the hot tub to help relax the muscles and ease the pain. The midwife said she would have to be at least 7cm dilated before we considered the tub. I'm not sure why that's the case, though. Yilin got another internal exam and was disappointingly still 5cm dilated, but now 100% effaced. This was around 5:30AM and I prepared myself for at least another 7 hours.
The next hour was a blur, but I remember Yilin really struggling to get through a bad contraction. She really couldn't take it anymore and neither could I. I couldn't stand seeing her in so much pain, so when she said she wanted to just get an epidural I was all for it. As a little back story, we had decided to use a code word for when Yilin really wanted an epidural. The thought was that it would feel good to be able to say things like, "I WANT AN EPIDURAL!", but not really want one. I was basically at the point where she could've asked for anything and I would've given it to her, no questions asked.
Then it was 6:30AM and after a really bad contraction and us notifying the midwife of our plans for an epidural, the midwife did another internal exam and found that Yilin was just about 7cm dilated and ready for the hot tub.
Yilin, ever the trooper, decided to give the hot tub a chance and put off the epidural for a little longer. The hot tub didn't really seem to be helping, but I found it really funny when the nurse turned on the little red tub lights and said that this mood lighting would help. I don't think Yilin even noticed. The pain seemed to be getting stronger and stronger. Yilin would later tell me that the tub really helped. I can't imagine what she would've felt if we didn't have a tub.
We labored in the tub for what seemed like just a few minutes, with each contraction getting stronger and stronger. At some point, the nurse wanted to check on the baby's heart rate and asked Yilin to sit up. Up until now, Yilin was kind of in a crawling position, relieving a strain from her back. Now in a sitting position, the pain was incredibly strong even without any contractions. This coupled with the nurse applying pressure to her belly to get the heart rate really set Yilin off. At first she asked them nicely to stop as the pain was really unbearable. Each subsequent request got louder and louder, until a contraction came along and she just screamed at the nurse, pushed her out of the way, and went back into her crawling position.
Now she was really asking for an epidural, but then Yilin told the nurse and midwife that it felt a little better when she kind of pushed during her contractions. They looked at each other a little puzzled and the midwife said that she could have the epidural after another internal exam.
To everyone's surprised, Yilin was now 9.5-10cm dilated. There was no time for an epidural. It was time to push! This was a little after 7:30AM.
There was going to be a shift change for the nurses at 8AM and the nurse that was with us from the time we got to the hospital would have to leave. Yilin pleaded with her to stay as she had a soothing and encouraging demeanor. Yeah, this was the same nurse to whom, just moments earlier, Yilin was screaming at.
Yilin pushed and pushed and pushed, simultaneously pleading with the two new nurses that came into just hold her leg up. They didn't seem to get that with the leg down between contractions, there was no where for the baby to go to except back up the birth canal.
I stood by as I watched my wife exert every ounce of strength and energy into getting the little thing out. I could see every pore on her body ooze with sweat with each push. We held hands, but not in the high school sweetheart way. It was more of a death grip, like the kind of grip you would have if you were hanging onto the edge of a cliff, just one slip away from certain death.
Our friend described the labor process to me as 2mm forward, 1mm back. Yilin was different. She was pretty efficient, moving around 1-2cm with a good push and hardly any back sliding as long as the nurses held her leg up. This probably lasted for 30-40 minutes. Our midwife was in the room, but she was busy updating the next midwife by text messages. Each time Yilin pushed, she'd use on of her pre-canned phrases of encouragement without even really looking. It didn't bother me that much because I was pretty sure Yilin wasn't even listening.
Then after one really good push, the midwife decided to have a peek and was stunned by the progress. She started to get ready and a few minutes after suiting up, a little baby boy emerged.
He went straight to Momma who really looked relieved to finally have pushed this guy out. I cut his cord and then things started to get worrisome. Noah wasn't making the big screeching cries that all babies normally make. His mouth was open in the same way, but no sound was coming out. When a sound did come out, it was very abbreviated and gurgly. It basically sounded like he was drowning.
The nurses started using all their tricks to get him to cry and worked on expelling the liquid and mucous from his mouth. I kept thinking that each time they sucked something out with the bulb syringe he would finally be ok. This went on for almost 10 minutes when the NICU team arrived. They obviously knew what they were doing and hooked him up to a monitor that checks his oxygen concentration in his blood stream. The concentration was pretty low and getting lower, so they supplemented his breathing with 50% oxygen (normal air is about 21% oxygen).
He started to regain some color in his hands and feet, but it was obvious that he was straining to breathe. The poor kid was using every muscle in his lower torso with each breath. Imagine yourself trying to suck in your gut to be a thin as possible. Now try doing it for each and every breath. It was heartbreaking to have to watch him. The nurses asked me if I wanted to take his picture. Uhh??? Just focus on your job and make sure he doesn't suffocate!
I followed the NICU team as they wheeled Noah from the delivery ward to the NICU. Even with the special emergency shortcut, this still involved at least 3 sets of doors, an elevator, and two long hallways. Did anyone think to put all of the baby related services together?
Finally, in the NICU, someone took the time to explain was had happened and what the course of action was going to be. Once she explained everything, I was a lot more settled and convinced everything would turn out just fine.
As for Yilin, it was a good thing she didn't get an epidural. Since she delivered completely naturally, she was able to come up from the mother/baby ward to see her boy.
It was at that point I knew that God had planned each and every step. He made sure that we would go into labor on a quiet night. Two days prior, the midwife practice delivered 5 babies in one hour. Our night, they delivered Noah and no one else. Our nurses only had one patient. Labor was quick and each major milestone was enough to get us to try different laboring techniques and avoid an epidural. Not having an epidural meant we could spend time as family with Noah in the NICU. In the NICU, Noah received first-class attention, Yilin and I got much needed rest, and the nurses spent a lot of their time answering our questions and teaching us parenting tricks.
In the end, our prayers were answered. Noah is home, eating well, and growing.