Our Birth Story

After an early dinner of Pho on Thursday, Laura and I decided on a trip to Target for soap, triscuits, pretzels, and baby shower thank you cards. We got home and watched a little TV when I got hungry and wanted a little more to snack on. A trip across the street for a Wendy’s Frosty sufficed.

Once we were home for the night to start relaxing, we discussed the plans for the weekend, including spicy Thai food on Friday, long strolls on Saturday, myofascial release on Sunday, and acupuncture early next week. We had our plans to get Ethan James out into the world as close to his June 1st due date as possible.

After the talk (~10pm), Laura began complaining of consistent sharp pains in her lower abdomen that lasted for a few seconds. She checked the time between pains and found that they were only a minute apart. “This can’t be labor,” we said to each other, “because the pains don’t feel like contractions, and they are supposed to be farther apart.” We both tried relaxing, but Laura was unable to find a comfortable position on the bed. A text to Dr. Capetanakis eased our minds as he called Laura and told us to come into the office in the morning for a check-up. So into the bath she went, as I fell asleep.

A couple hours later, I woke up to see her stooped over the bed, saying how the pains have progressed in intensity, but the timing remained at one to two minutes apart. I felt helpless as Laura went through the pains, and I tried to comfort her by letting her know Dr. Capetanakis will help in the morning! Then, another walk around the apartment, another effort to lie down in bed, and into the bath she went, as I fell asleep.

armstrong delivery pic

A couple hours later, I woke up again to see her stooped over the bed with similar pains of increasing intensity. She was unable to lie in bed; the pain would not subside with a warm bath or with walking around the apartment. After unsuccessful attempts to comfort her, I helplessly fell back asleep.

Then comes 4:45am when I wake up, again, to my wife in pain, still unable to find relief with walking, lying down, or soaking in warm water. I said to her, “Ok let’s go the hospital, and they can give you some medication to help with the pain.” She responded, “No, I’m not going to take any medications!” I was so proud to hear this because our unwritten birth plan included a natural, drug-free labor and delivery due to the health benefits to both Laura and Ethan! We sent another text to Dr. Cap to let him know that we were heading to the hospital due to the persisting and increasing pain. I packed my overnight backpack (in case this was the real thing) as quickly as I could; of course, Laura’s bag (and Ethan’s bag) had already been packed.

We jumped into the CX-7, drove five minutes to Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, and checked-in at the birthing center front desk at about 5:20am. “We think we might be in labor?” we said to the ladies at the front. “Welcome! Can we have your last name?” they asked, and when we said “Armstrong,” they said, “Oh we’ve been expecting you! Your doctor already called.” After some quick paperwork, they kindly brought us into our huge delivery room to see how things were moving along.

I enjoyed the look of relief on Laura’s face when the nurse told Laura, “Oh wow, you sure are calm for being almost eight centimeters!” Laura stated, “If all of this pain was for two centimeters, I’d definitely be getting the epidural!” So then came the initial monitoring, the sacral massage coaching, and the increasingly stronger contractions. After the first half hour Laura was fortunate to have intermittent monitoring, which allowed walking, stooping, and bouncing (on the Swiss ball) to help with her contractions.  This is where I finally felt what men go through in the movies; she didn’t want me helping, caressing, speaking, or even whispering to her during this time. All I got to do was hold the Swiss ball, give her sips of water, and fluff her pillow. The whole time I just wanted to say, “Remember the breathing, relaxation, and visualization exercises we worked on!”

At around 7:20am, the nurse told us, “I think it’s about time I call your doct-” when (with perfect timing) Dr. Capetanakis comes through the door saying, “Alright, let’s have a baby!” He checked on Laura, got his workspace set up, broke her amniotic sac, and by 7:30am was helping us through Laura’s first push. I kept as quiet as possible, all the while thinking to myself, “Breathe, relax, visualize!” as I looked on with amazement at the strength of my beautiful wife! This poor girl had been practically working out for the past ten hours, with no sleep, and is now going through the most difficult and painful event a human can go through. And to add to the craziness, the amniotic fluid was discolored which meant Ethan already had his first bowel movement. The neonatal intensive care nurses were called into the room, where they hid patiently in a corner, waiting to see if they’d be needed.

I helped by holding Laura’s left leg in one hand and her head in my other; another nurse held her right leg. Laura pushed through multiple contractions as per Dr. Cap’s instructions to get through the wall of pain, with her sights set on giving Ethan his first hug! After almost thirty minutes of pushing, our little boy advanced into the world, with a blue-face and the cord wrapped around his neck twice. I slightly glanced towards my flimsy Ethan, and with tears welling up, tried to tell Laura, “He’s here!”

Dr. Cap got Ethan’s shoulders out and told Laura to reach down and finish up (another part of the unwritten birth plan). Laura pulled him out and put him straight onto her chest, which amazed me as she went right into her motherly instincts as if nothing had just happened down south. She was worried about our blue-faced baby, as she patted his back and cheered him on with “come on little buddy;” she did not want to turn him over to the NICU nurses. The longest five seconds of our lives ended with Ethan’s first twitch, a deep breath in, and a loud cry out! The NICU nurses left when they saw they were not needed. Dr. Cap let the umbilical cord pulse until it stopped, then clamped it and let me cut it (again, according to our unwritten birth plan). Hello Ethan! Laura fed him after about 20 minutes of skin-to-skin, and then he went for his first bath!

I was amazed at the whole process, of course, but especially with

  1. My strong wife who let me sleep until she was over seven centimeters
  2. Dr. Cap who remembered (after one conversation) our requests for no drugs, for Laura to pull him out, and that I cut the cord after it stopped pulsing
  3. Our healthy, champion son, Ethan James Armstrong
    1. Born Friday, May 31st at 7:59am; 7lbs 10oz, and 19 inches long

Such an amazing experience… no event in my life has compared to this blessing… I’m a dad!

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