Sunday, February 10, 2008

Surgical delivery

I wondered if it would feel different to tape and photograph a surgery for a close friend, versus doing it out of interest, like this post from Ethiopia, or doing it for a client. In terms of shooting, it was a bit different because I was joking with Jennifer and Luis. And, I was more consious than usual about staying back because I really did not want to be kicked out.

A tripod would have been a HUGE help. With one, I could have focused on stills while getting video. Instead, I went back and forth, holding the cameras up high to see over the barrier between Jenn's face and her tummy. When I saw Mia's head, I thought I had somehow missed the doctors taking her out. I shot a bit of video, then switched to the still just as they pulled the rest of her body out. Missing that beautiful motion on video kept me awake last night.

Here it is in stills. Amazing, isn't it, that we live so perfectly in our mother's body? Simply incredible.

When the doctors pulled Mia out, they started talking in Spanish. I didn't catch what they were saying, but Jenn heard something along the lines of "wow, that's weird - no wonder!" Turns out, Mia's umbilical cord was less than half the length of a normal cord. Mia couldn't push down properly on Jenn's cervix and help the birth along. Here, one of the doctors shows us the cord, comparing it to the length of a normal cord. We are all glad Jenn didn't keep trying, as a normal birth would not have been possible.

Updates, more of them

Update, 6:45pm
Jenn is exhausted, but the doctor wants her to keep on for another 30 minutes. The baby, Mia, sounds good. She is not in any distress.

Jenn, Luis and Joy breathe together. Quick breaths for ten seconds, then a deep breath.

Vidal is on a new game. I forget he is watching because he has the sound off. Boston won, but now the Heat has to beat the Lakers. I’m having a really tough time getting internet, and things are getting intense enough that I don’t want to leave.

Watching this, I can not imagine what it must be like for young girls here to have their babies in the public hospital for poor people in La Vega. Their husbands and mothers are not allowed to be in with them. If they require a c-section, they must have brought their own suture material or send someone to buy some. Supplies at the public hospital are limited. People needing oxygen must stop at the hardware store to buy it or get a canister refilled. Seriously.

In contrast, this clinic is wonderful. It is almost like being in a room at home. The only other sound I’ve heard on this floor was a baby crying when we came in. Everyone is calm. No one comes in to boss us around and take a bunch of vitals, and no one seems stressed out like they do in the States. I can tell the doctor hopes Jenn can have a natural birth, and does not want to see her disappointed. At the same, she tells the truth about what is happening.
Before, I thought it was pretty crazy to have a doctor two hours from home, but, now I can see why Joy recommended her.

Update 7:25
Things are not as good as we have hoped. It has been 12 hours now since Jenn first lost fluid, and she is still only one centimeter dilated. The doctor says her cervix is still facing backwards, and the baby’s head is not where she wants it. Luis and Jenn have decided to go ahead with a c-section, and is now being prepped for it. She just got an IV. We will move to a new room for the procedure. Good news is that Mia will be here soon.

Jenn is not happy about it, and commented between contractions, “I’m going to be in some wretched pain for six weeks.” She is tired. I’m going to shut the computer down as we are moving.

Update, 5:50pm

Jenn has dubbed Joy her doula. Luis is timing, Vidal is water fetcher and backup timer. I’m on video. It is getting intense, with contractions less than 60 seconds apart. Doctor came in as I was leaving to update. She hooked Jenn up to some monitors and said the contractions are as strong as the machine can measure. But, she is still only at one centimeter. She wants Jenn to stay on the monitor for another 30 minutes.

Hospital Update

Joy and Vidal arrived and came up to the apartment. Workaholic Jen decided there was more to be accomplished before we could take off for the capital. Checks were signed, paperwork put into labeled bags and keys left with the proper people. Then, snacks were purchased at the grocery store under Jen’s apartment and we loaded the van. A man walked by and tried to sell me a child’s chair. I decided against it.

Contractions on the way to the hospital made it to one every 8 minutes or so. But, they were not yet painful. Joy accused Jen of being in denial when she said she felt like we were going on vacation.

A quick stop at Wendy’s made hamburger loving Vidal happy. Louis admitted he was feeling quite nervous. Trying to get from Wendy’s to the hospital proved challenging. All the streets were one way the wrong way. Vidal went into Dominican driver mode and ignored the lights and signs. We (finally) arrived at the nicest clinic in the country, a few blocks back from the beach road where Carnaval wildness would take place soon. Carnaval is not as crazy here as in La Vega, however, so it is good we got out this morning.

The people at the front desk met Jen by name.

Jen’s doctor was in mass, so the doctor on call came in. He is Lebanese, and friendly. Even though Jenn had to sit on a towel in the car, he was not convinced her water had broken. He did a fern test and determined that she is losing amniotic fluid, but from a small tear, not a full blown water break. She is not dilated, and her uterus and cervix are facing back. He says there is a 50/50 chance at this point that she will need a c-section. They will check her again at 4pm.

Vidal asked Jenn if she minded watching a little basketball, so now we’re watching San Antonio play Boston with the sound turned down.

3:30 update:
The contractions are beginning to hurt. The doctor told us not to time the light contractions, but only the strong ones. Right now, strong ones are about 10 minutes apart. A woman just walked in and brought us coffee in white espresso cups. I’m heading up to the roof to see if I can grab internet from a neighboring high rise.

4:15 update:
Jenn’s doctor just arrived. She is not pleased with the one centimeter dilation and gave Jenn Prostoglandin gel to induce her, says she will give her 8 more hours before considering a c-section. Going to look again and try to connect – there are a dozen networks within range, and I can’t seem to grab any of them, even though the computer says I’m connected. Joy is desperate for a cappuccino and is asking everyone and anyone for three 10 peso coins so she can use the coffee machine.

The contractions are getting much more uncomfortable. Doc is saying things like, “pain can get very, very bad – nasty, without dilation.” I’m sure Jenn finds those thoughts encouraging, but has been promised an epidural if it gets too bad. She doesn’t want an epidural, or a c-section. So, we help out by telling her it’s pressure, not pain. Got that line from a comedian we watched last night. The other doctor told her if he was a woman, he’d want a c-section. Joy and Jenn gave his comment full thumbs down, but I was completely with him!

Boston is winning, and Vidal is content. Louis is looking green again.
Hotel prices are insane because of Carnaval – double the normal rate, but we booked two rooms for tonight because it looks like we will stay here for sure until this baby breathes air.

update, 20 minutes later

We're waiting for Joy to arrive. The doctor, who Jen said sounded like she was running on a treadmill, said she is on her way to a funeral (at 7am) and would call the other doctor to meet us. We think maybe Jen's water broke, or maybe she just peed on herself, which the doctor said happens, too. I'm really feeling the fact that I have NO valuable input to dispense regarding giving birth.

So, I'm taking lots of photos instead.

I wonder if there is an internet cafe near the hospital?

If not, I'll be back in a day or two with a long post.

"Oh my . . ."

We were awakened when it was dark by a Carnaval parade. I taped it because I just can't believe people got up that early to bang drums and march through the streets. I'm sure the tape is not great, because I was asleep while shooting. Water has been off for 8 hours in our apartment. I think Jen is going to have the baby soon. She had contractions and her husband is walking around, holding his head saying, "Oh my God."