Giving iBirth

We’ve got a daughter! Thessaly Jane was born at 10:13 p.m. Wednesday, January 6, at Ruby Memorial Hospital. She weighed 7 lbs, 4 oz., and is … well, I forget how long she is. She’s generally sleeping well and seems to enjoy the music of eels and Flight of the Conchords. Also popular are the variety of commercial jingles and TV theme songs that are the only thing I can think of to sing to her. She is particularly fond of the J.G. Wentworth opera jingle.

So I’m excited about that, naturally, but it’s not the focus of this post. What I want to write about is something I didn’t expect: The use of my iPhone in the process.

I have never had a cell phone. I was (and perhaps still am) fundamentally against their use on a variety of levels. They tend to make people into jerks. They scream for priority over the person you happen to be talking with in the flesh. They allow me to be reached at places I want to be unreachable (“Just turn it off” isn’t a valid response because people will ask “Why did you have your cell phone off?”). They also reflect a changed culture I’m still not entirely comfortable with because I am an old grouch.

Also ringtones.

So that was my perspective. I got one in October, however, as the planning for this semester’s blog journalism class suggested its necessity. Also, I wanted to be reachable by my pregnant wife. So I bought one and was rudely forced into a “minimum” calling plan that I will never use – I hit maybe 120 minutes in a month. On the plus side: Lightsaber app!

The iPhone is a crummy phone but an excellent computer, and it is this that I needed and this that came into play during our birth. We decided to update our friends (and people we knew in ninth grade) via Facebook throughout our hospital stay up until the point where Jess needed me consistently, at which point we’d switch to radio silence.

From packing our bag Monday night to the day-long journey from 2 to 3 cm on Tuesday right up to her water breaking at 1030a Wednesday, I posted what was up. And got responses. LOTS of responses. People mainly offered words of encouragement, but also advice and questions, and far more interest than I had expected. In fact, from when I switched off the feed at 1030a through the 1013p birth, I received a number of concerned posts on my wall asking if everything was alright (it was). Not only that, it’s a nice thing to read back over.

Updating Facebook was a big thing for us – people wanted to know what was happening, but if I was assisting Jess in labor I wouldn’t have time to make calls and send emails – but if that was the extent of my usage, I wouldn’t be posting this. There were also little things, like calling the doula from the iPhone when we went in, and posting pictures – many, many pictures – as they happened, but these are still just phone things. As shitmydadsays puts it, “no one gives a shit about all the things your cell phone does. You didn’t invent it, you just bought it. Anybody can do that.” The big deal for me was not what my phone could do, but what it allowed us to do.

We wanted to do natural childbirth. We went to a midwife, set up a birthplan, all of that. We wound up needing a mild Pitocin drip because the midwife said we needed to induce (PItocin mimics Oxytocin, a hormone the body produces during labor to spark contractions). Jess took a minimum-level narcotic at 7 cm when her body started producing Oxytocin, which combined with the Pitocin to give her nearly constant contractions (at which point they also dialed back the Pitocin), but otherwise that was it.

To monitor contractions, however, the mother needs to be lying on her back so that the monitor belt and gravity provide enough pressure to register those contractions. That’s the standard position if drugs leave you immobile, but it’s also the worst position for moving the baby along, and therein lies the problem.

Jess wanted to be as mobile as possible, and had been changing positions as her body called for it. Because of this, the contractions weren’t registering (but they were definitely happening), so the nurse couldn’t identify if and when more Pitocin was needed. Without this information, Jess would need to stay lying down.

The nurse had seen me updating earlier, and asked if it was an iPhone. I said yes, and she said she’d heard of an application called Contraction Master (dynamic name, huh) that was designed for just this purpose. Within a minute, I had looked up the app, bought it, and started using it.

Even in the midst of labor, it was the simplest thing possible – just a big purple button to push when the contraction began, which would change into a big red button to push when the contraction ended. The app recorded start time, stop time, duration, and frequency, so whenever the nurse came in she’d check this information with me and determine what to do.

The app also includes the ability to mail this information, so I’ve got every contraction from when I started until we were able to drop the Pitocin at 7 p.m. Here’s a sample of our readout:

Why this matters to me is not because, Gee Whiz, I can do stuff with my phone. It’s because we wanted to have our birth in a certain way, a way the midwives we trusted told us was best. Thanks to this particular piece of personal technology, we were able to do so. We also knew when to dial back the drugs to minimize stress to Jess, allowing us to use a light enough dose of narcotics to get over that rough patch that Jess was in complete control during the pushing (a fact that impressed those present so much that they brought in several residents to show what a good natural childbirth looks like).

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my wife for her strength throughout labor. That’s something I expected. But what I didn’t anticipate was how gratified I am that a little gizmo I brought to take pictures and update friends wound up helping to bring our child into the world. Sometimes new technology isn’t so bad.

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7 thoughts on “Giving iBirth

    • Thanks Hans! I highly recommend it – frees up the memory you’d use with just a watch, and that readout provides you with a different kind of snapshot of the birth (if only they mailed it to you as a spreadsheet attachment instead of a cut-and-past text table). I forgot to include this in the post, but it is only .99, too. My biggest trouble was occasionally running out of hands between holding Jess up, delivering drinks and ice chips, and marking contractions, but I suppose that just means I’m doing it right.

  1. If we end up having a child, you’ve ruined livetweeting births for me. I don’t think mine could be as hilarious and entertaining as yours. You can’t improve on perfection (RE the cervix quote).

    • Hehehe. Glad you enjoyed them – I figured we read enough about miracles elsewhere. Besides, if I draw the line at being flippant about my own child’s birth, I lose street cred.

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