Samson Agonistes, A Comedy

September 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

“God, when he gave me strength, to show withal / How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair”

24 hours ago my son Samson was born.

With our local midwifery clinic just 4 doors down, St Michael’s Hospital a 10-20 minute car/taxi/streetcar ride across Queen Street, and our assigned midwife a former RN we thought we had it all worked out from every angle. Homebirth. Quiet. Convenient. The gods hate when you plan shit like this.

The midwives came Wednesday morning to verify that water was as broken as wifey thought it was and to see how dilated she was. The rule of thumb is, when labour’s really on, you gain about 1 cm of dilation for every hour of strong, minute-long contractions, and when you get to 10 cm you’re ready to push the baby out. When the midwives came on Wednesday night wifey was 4 cm dilated, so they were rolling up their sleeves for a typical 8-10 hour shift, albeit an overnighter.

By 5 am Thursday wifey’s cervix had resisted every trick in the book of homebirth midwifery, so the senior midwife asked for a decision: keep doing what we’re doing at home until it’s hairy and we have to go to the hospital for a c-section, or go to the hospital immediately and get some chemical help (with the offer of surgical help on-hand).

Because we are sane people we chose option #2.

But after a few hours in a private room and a generous dose of oxytocin wifey’s cervix was pretty much unchanged. The physician on duty (Dr Mark Yudin, recommended) felt that the only humane way to induce labour in a patient who’d already spent 24+ hours filling her contraction quota was to also administer an epidural, so one was ordered, and after several hours of bureaucratic bickering that our midwife was kind enough to keep us out of, eventually procured.

More oxytocin, more labour, but now no pain. And still, no progress.

Dr Mark then suggested a c-section to get baby out while baby was doing okay instead of urging the uterus to push and push on him until he wasn’t.

So that’s what we did.

To say the least in the most positive self-helpy sense, it was a memorable lesson in non-positional negotiation. The couple planning a home birth were about to go ahead with the surgical solution. But we had never been wrong. It had never been about birthing at home, or birthing “naturally”, or proving some political point; the priority was always the well-being of the most vulnerable parties involved.

Like any couple, we had our preferences, arrived at through lengthy discussion, reading, and mulling things over. We wanted as little intervention as possible. We wanted to let birth happen as a natural process, not a condition to be managed and cured. We wanted to maintain control. But yesterday, with one circumstance after another being knocked out of the reach of preference, we had to get pretty clear about our real interests pretty quick.

Samson, if you ever read this, that’s my first and possibly best lesson to you: be honest with yourself about what you want and be willing to work for those things. (Tip: you probably don’t really want the things you can’t be bothered to work for.) And as you bust your hump in the name of some holy grail be flexible and ready to change course without embarrassment or shame. Look around and you’ll find people everywhere who forgot what they wanted and got attached to a mistaken means to getting it.

As a wise man once said, “New shit has come to light, man,” and you, little man, should be able to deal with it. Happy birthday, Samson.


§ 2 Responses to Samson Agonistes, A Comedy

  • RJO says:

    I would say your journey to fatherhood is off to a good start Nathan – this post is profound and even if Samson never reads it I hope I can pass the lessons found within to my daughter – thank you for that.

  • Anonymous says:

    The two of you are going to make absolutely exceptional parents, and this post is merely one small example of that. Things do not often go as planned, and the mark of a great person is how they shift and change to meet the new challenges. You guys are so awesome for going about this process in exactly the way you did, and I’m not afraid to say that I got a little teary-eyed reading the above words. I wish the best of everything to you, Aleks, and little Samson.

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