Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome Baby Jasper!

On Friday January 28th, at 5:13 pm, Jennifer gave birth to our first child, Jasper Weiss Sentell. Born after 44 hours of labor, Jasper weighed 6 lbs. 12 oz. and was pronounced healthy at the scene. In attendance were the magnificent doula Tracy Good of Good Births, lifelong friend Jennifer Tlumak, grandmother Beth Sentell, me (AKA "Dad"), and the dedicated medical professionals at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.Beginning around the 40 week mark, in an attempt to induce the birthing process as naturally as possible, Jennifer began trying a number of folk methods to ripen her cervix. Beginning with red raspberry leaf tea, walking some 2 miles a day, she soon moved to sperm - often the easiest and cheapest source of prostaglandin around - and evening primrose oil. By the end of the week Jen was even trying acupuncture. All to no avail. At the time of check-in on Wednesday, January 26th, she remained completely undilated.

At 41 weeks 3 days, Jen decided to check-in to Vanderbilt to begin medical methods of induction. Beginning with the cervical ripener Cytotech, by Thursday morning Jen was dilated only one centimeter. After this, the option presented to Jennifer was the Foley bulb, a mechanical device placed against the cervix to dilate it to at least 4 or 5 centimeters. (Only afterward did we learn that most women then choose to have an epidural due to its associated pain.) Before the Foley bulb, however, Jen and the birth team got a break, and moved into the deluxe room with the labor tub. Apparently some country music singer floated the tub for her own use, and the use of others in her wake. Bulb in place, mind in place, Jen labored gracefully in the tub for some 7 hours.Around hour 16 or so, Jen requested some assistance with the pain, and after the bulb was removed received a small dose of Stadol. This allowed her, as well as the birth team, to get some much needed rest. Afterward Jennifer's mood improved greatly, and she seemed to catch her second wind. At 9 pm on Thursday, after almost 9 hours, the Foley bulb finally came out with a gentle tug from the nurse, and Jen was 4 cm dilated. The bulb was said to only take 2-4 hours. Around 11 pm that night, the attending physician broke Jen's bag of waters and gave her a second dose of Stadol to help her with the increasing pain. That night, each member of the birth team kept vigil with Jen, holding her hand during each contraction and generally helping her be as comfortable as possible.

At 3:45 am on Friday morning Jen finally got an epidural, which took about 30 minutes to put into place. Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist had to come back in short order, as Jen was only numb on one side of her body and was having intense pain in her hips. After the second try, though, everything worked wonderfully and Jen felt much better. By 6:30 am on Friday, Jen was 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. Finally some real progress, and Jen was among the most excited with the developments. Around this time - some 30 hours in labor - the medical midwife ordered a Pitocin drip begin in earnest.

At 11 am or so, with impatience building palpably in the air, the attending physician came in to request Jen's informed consent for a C-section, but also did a cervical exam that revealed her to be 90% effaced and 8 cm dilated. She understood the risks, consented, and decided to wait just a bit longer. A few hours later the doctor was back and eager to cut. A check of Jen's cervix revealed yet more progress. By 2 pm she was 100% effaced and completely dilated. The room prepared for birth. By 3 pm it was time to push. Everyone assumed their stations. Jen T. and Tracy held Jen's legs; I stayed by her side, counting, whispering encouragement, and keeping her forehead cool in between contractions; grandmother Beth took photos and helped the helpers. It was an awesome team! After more than an hour of pushing, the doctor discovered that Jasper was turned a bit wonky in the birth canal. He still wanted to cut, and mentioned it again to Jen, which seemed to give her even more determination. With Tracy's guidance, Jen switched to her side in an attempt to straighten Jasper out with several good pushes. The attending reached in and attempted to turn his head manually. Now with the nurse reporting progress directly to Jen, she became very encouraged and quickly gave birth to Jasper, welcomed by tears of joy from all.
Immediately following birth, Jasper was placed on Jen's stomach while the nurses accomplished their requisite checks. After ceasing to pulse, I cut the cord. When they moved Jasper to the heater to weigh, suction, and stamp his little feet - the first of many numbers that will define his biopolitical life - the doctor and midwife began to suture Jen's "spontaneous" tears. This, incidentally, was the same word they used for the birth more generally - i.e., "a spontaneous vaginal delivery" - and after 44 hours of labor the propriety of both usages remains highly suspect.

All in all, it was truly an amazing experience that only solidified my love for this truly amazing woman. I began to see clearly, perhaps for the first time, how the roots of masculine domination stem from a deep fear of this beautiful, ferocious, and truly awe-inspiring feminine power. And while he is no doubt one of the fathers of our tradition's version of patriarchy, Jasper's birth has nonetheless been an occasion for me to reflect on Aristotle's claim that "it makes no small difference, then, to be habituated in this way or in that straight from childhood, but an enormous difference, or rather all the difference."

From Jennifer, then, came Jasper, the newest member of Ecotone who we're so happy to introduce. Welcome Jasper, we've been waiting on you for some time! My hope, above all, is for you is to acquire those habits of character that will enable you to become a man of whom the women attendant your birth into this world can be proud of progress indeed.


  1. Congratulations! Looking forward to meeting the newest resident of Ecotone

  2. Congratulations to all three of you! What an amazing experience.

  3. Jenn, CJ and Jasper, What an entry! I am so proud of you all and the steadfast determination and patience to stick to your plan. He is a lucky boy to have such cool, green parents.
    Let me know when the "welcome to this world" party is!

  4. Beautiful post! Beautiful experience. Sending my love and best wishes as you begin the journey!