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Delivery Countdown

7 P.M. Apparently the epidural was the calm before the storm, because another crisis just ended. As I was settling in for a much-needed rest, one of the monitors connected to Miki began beeping loudly. Three people came rushing into the room, including Dr. L. for some reason, the baby's heart rate had dropped to 45 beats per minute, and everyone went to work bringing it back up. Dr. L. began massaging the baby's head through Miki's abdomen while someone else gave her a shot of Brethine, a drug that slows contractions. The whirling flow of people and medical terms made things seem very, very scary.

Almost as quickly as the baby's heart rate dropped, it returned to normal. And even though the doctor was explaining everything he was doing, and I was the only one in the room who seemed really worried, I began to wonder why we were doing this in the first place. However wonderful our baby is, it can't be worth putting Miki in danger like this. For the first time, I think one child will be plenty.

8:40 P.M. Dr. L. had been coming in and out all day, but now he's visiting more frequently. He has just attached an internal monitor to gauge the intensity of the contractions. After a few minutes, it's clear they aren't quite strong enough. Although Miki is 9 cm dilated, it's still not time to push. To help move things along, our new nurse, Gail, adds Pitocin, a labor inducer, to Miki's IV. Dr. L. says that every half hour they'll add a bit more Pitocin, and by midnight it should be time to push. He encourages Miki to sleep now.

The hospital seems deserted. Miki is the only one still in labor. In fact, several women have come in and delivered since we arrived this morning. The lack of activity in the hallways and the general sense of quiet has helped us relax. Now we're just resting and waiting.

10 P.M. The Pitocin made a difference, but it's not the one we expected. Although the contractions got stronger and came faster, the baby's heart rate dropped again, to 75 beats per minute. This time, as Dr. L. massaged the baby's head, he also inserted a tube that injected a solution of warm water into the womb. The idea was to float the umbilical cord, since it might have gotten pinched and caused the distress. Meanwhile, Gail strapped an oxygen mask on Miki's face and helped her roll onto her right side. Almost immediately the baby's heart rate increased.

Now that Miki and I are alone again, a feeling of despair washes over me. This was supposed to be a natural, life-affirming event. But Miki is lying in a hospital bed with wires and tubes everywhere. She looks like she's fighting for her life. The scene makes me feel nauseous. I definitely don't want to have another child.

12 A.M. Out of the blue, the epidural wore off. Miki started shaking uncontrollably, obviously in incredible pain. After a few minutes the anesthesiologist arrived, but it took another 15 minutes for the new dose to take effect.

This is the last thing we expected. No one ever mentioned that the epidural could wear off. Now that Miki is comfortable again, Gail checks to see if there's been any further dilation. Miki is still 9 cm. It looks like this baby's not going anywhere.

1:15 A.M. Gail and Dr. L. do another examination. Miki's cervix has swollen. The doctor tells us it's "time to throw in the towel." He'll have to do a c-section.

After 16-plus hours at the hospital, you'd think this news would be devastating, but it isn't: It's actually a relief. To me it means the end is near. As I change into hospital scrubs, Gail and a few other nurses get Miki ready for the roll down the hall. A few minutes later I'm walking beside her. Maybe it's because I'm dressed in these doctor's clothes, but I feel confident. We suddenly realize we're about to find out whether it's a boy or a girl. It's the first time either of us has thought about that since we entered the hospital.

1:45 A.M. I have to wait outside as the final preparations are made, but after about 10 minutes I'm in the operating room with Miki and a team of doctors and nurses. I sit on a stool next to Miki's head, with the anesthesiologist right next to me. There's a curtain at Miki's neck that hides the rest of her body. Miki says she doesn't feel a thing as they make the incision. While the doctors operate on her we talk about how amazing this whole process is.

1:56 A.M. A few minutes later we hear a tiny, muffled cry. Dr. L. asks me if I want to see our baby. I expect to see him holding the child in his arms, but as I emerge from our side of the curtain, I see one of the doctors still pulling the baby out. I don't have the stomach for scenes like this on TV, but here I can't look away. At first, all that's visible is the head, but then the whole body comes out. Dr. L. says, "You have a daughter." Then someone asks her name. As I say "Dayna," I'm filled with a sense of bliss.

Before any of this happened, people told me how life-changing it was to have a child. Only now do I understand. Dayna has only been here for a few minutes, but she's already the most precious thing to us in the world.

2:30 A.M. I'm in the nursery with Dayna while Miki rests in recovery, and I feel happier than I can ever remember. The events of the last day and a half are a distant memory; in fact, I'm already thinking about having another child.

Writer Vince Beatty lives in Monmouth Beach, NJ.

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