I have a son. His name is Cole and this is the story of his birth. I chose to write about his birth because it was an amazing experience for me.
I will back track just a bit and tell you a bit about my pregnancy towards the end of it. I went to the doctors for a regular OBGYN appointment at 32 weeks and they were not able to get a measurement of my little guys head because it was down to low. The did an exam and told me that they thought I was in labor. I told them they were crazy but they sent me to the hospital to check for pre-term labor anyway. I was hooked up to monitors because I was in fact contracting. They kept me for a little over 36 hours to make sure that I wasn’t dilating. I wasn’t but I didn’t get to leave there without a few steroid shots and Doctors orders that I would be on limited bed rest until 35 weeks. I was thrilled! (can you sense the sarcasm?)
A few weeks went by and I had an appointment on Monday, December 21st (35 weeks) to see if I would be allowed to come off bed rest. They told me yes and I went back to work on Wednesday December 23rd, just in time to see my students and give them their Christmas gifts before break. That evening I went to bed around 11:00 and was awoken with strange cramps at 1:00am. I started timing them. They started at 7 minutes apart. I did everything I could do to keep my mind off of them while Mike was sleeping…including, showering, taking a bath, watching a movie, and calling my mom in the middle of the night. Mike woke up around 5:30, rolled over and said, “These darn dogs! I haven’t gotten much good sleep tonight.” To which I replied, “YOU didn’t sleep well? I’ve been up since 1:00 with contractions.” He jumped in the shower and got himself ready while I continued to lay around timing my contractions. I was not about to go to the hospital on Christmas Eve, not be in ‘real’ labor, and get stuck lying around in a hospital bed on Christmas Day. Well, finally around 10:30am I decided that this really was happening so I got dressed, put on make-up, fixed my hair, (yes. I really did. You do know they take pictures of you when you are in labor and after the baby is born, right?!)and jumped in the car(that Mike already had packed and warmed up for the last few hours. LOL)
We arrived at the hospital, I went to Triage and they did an exam. The Doctor said, “Looks like you are having a baby today!” And I said, “TODAY, right? A Christmas Eve birthday is bad enough but I can’t have this baby born on Christmas Day!” She laughed and said, “Yes. Definitely today. Let’s get you up to your delivery room.” Just as we were getting settled in the delivery room, I started to have contractions that felt like someone was stabbing me in the stomach… up until now they hurt, but nothing more than bad cramps that I could handle. They called for the epidural and with-in a few minutes I was feeling good again. By this time it was around 1:00pm. The waiting room was filled with my family and friends and they, a few at a time, came in to visit and chat with us. I spent the next 3 hours hanging out with my family despite being told to get some sleep. The doctor kept coming in to check me and would fill me in on how strong my contractions were because I couldn’t feel anything. Around 4:00pm I had a very big contraction that sent the baby into distress. His heart rate plummeted and they rolled me onto my side and put an oxygen mask on my face. After a few seconds his heart rate stabilized and all was well. The doctor came in around 4:30 to check my dilation, asked me to give a small push, and said, “I see hair. It’s time to go!”
She got herself set up, directed my mom to hold my head up, my sister to hold one leg, and Mike to hold the other. She explained to me that I needed to push 3 times for as long as I could per contraction and told me that we would begin on the text contraction. I pushed 9 times, during the next 3 contractions and he was born in less than 15 minutes, at 4:58pm, December 24, 2009. He weighed 5 pounds, 10 ounces and was 18 3/4 inches long. I felt no pain or discomfort at all and I am thankful for the epidural. I was able to enjoy and truly experience everything that was happening as my son was being born. He was cleaned up and brought to us in a Christmas Stocking that said, “My First Christmas”
And just a little proud mommy side-note… my little man-made it onto the news on Christmas Day! There were no Christmas Day babies at St. Joes hospital so they did the Christmas Eve babies instead. They even said, “This Baltimore couple got ‘Cole’ in their stocking for Christmas. Their son Cole Hammel was born on Christmas eve. He was due to arrive in January but decided to make an early arrival.”
Cole Michael Hammel’s first picture.
First family picture. “Love does not even begin to describe how you feel about your child.”
Picture taken just as the news cameras were arriving.
My First Christmas
To be completely honest with you, I am not sure of my opinions on how birth effects child development. I have heard a number of arguments that an epidural affects a child’s development and that babies born to mothers who did not have drugs during childbirth are happier, easier to care for and have better motor skills. I have not read any type of proof that this is true and if it is, I can’t imagine that it is true for everyone. My child was a very easy baby,never cried unless he was hungry, started sleeping through the night before 2 months, and had very good motor skills. He walked just days after turning 10 months old. It would also be nice to think that if a baby were born into a setting where everything was calm and soothing for them, that this would be beneficial to them as well. But that setting only lasts for a short time. But then there are visitors, first bath, shots, etc. Those are not soothing settings for a baby. And what if there is an emergency during childbirth and the setting the baby is born into is frantic and loud? Maybe I am naive to think this way but I believe that a safe delivery/birth is the most important thing.
I researched prenatal care and birth in Africa and found some quite disturbing information. About 20% of disease in children below the age of 5 is related to poor maternal health and nutrition, as well as quality of care at delivery and during the newborn period. Eight million babies die per year, before or during delivery or in the first week of life. Out of 100 women in Africa ages 15-40, 34 do not have proper prenatal care. The consequences of this is untreated hypertensive disorders leading to death and disability, or malnutrition. Iron deficiency anaemia among pregnant women is associated with roughly 111,000 maternal deaths each year. I found that countries in Africa have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Many African women die during childbirth due to the lack of hospitals, trained medical personnel, and lack of road access and transportation to the hospitals. A recent study found that 900 out of 10,000 women die due to childbirth complications. These women often give birth to their children in their home with the help of local women rather than at clinics because they are unable to find a ride to the clinic. An African woman has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth. Due to the high maternal mortality rate, many children are left motherless each year and these children are 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mothers’ death.
This is vastly different from my experience here in the United States. I can afford proper prenatal and hospital care. And there are many hospitals with properly trained medical personnel. I can not begin to imagine how awful this must be for these poor women and their children.