Dedan K. Bruner
Father of 1
On February 6, 2019, my son will be 20 months old. I remember before he was born, I would talk to people about parenthood and the work that goes into it. My parents told me that it would be hard, trying, but rewarding. When I first heard that advice, I brushed it off (at least the hard and trying part). Those three adjectives are parenthood in a nutshell and now, something I will never take lightly.
When my wife was pregnant, she thought that her water broke. We knew it was coming any moment and we were prepared. We had her bag, clothes, items for soon-to-be “Little Ron”. We were happy. We rushed to the hospital and relayed the message. We were bombarded with several health questions from different healthcare providers, a test was run to see if my wife was, in fact, leaking amniotic fluid. They determined that she was not and sent us back home. We were told that there would be a rush of fluid and she would ultimately know that her water had broke.
The next day, the fluid increased. My wife was concerned. I asked her if it was more than the day prior. She said, “yes.” We went back to the hospital. This time, we told the healthcare providers that the fluid increased. They ran a test. The test came back positive for amniotic fluid, but it did not give another sign/symptom that they were looking for. Again, they reiterated the signs and symptoms of water breaking and sent us home.
At around midnight, my wife got out of the shower. She told me, “Ron, this is not normal.” As an attorney that practices medical malpractice defense, I wanted to be respectful of the healthcare providers medical opinion, but I also wanted to be supportive for my wife. Plus, I knew how quickly things could go south because I’ve had to litigate those cases. To comfort my wife (and my own paranoia), I told her that we would return to the hospital.
When we arrived, I remember getting looks from the nurses/aides/etc. and feeling like they thought we were nuts. I gave the doctors the prior history of my wife (including being sent home twice) and they ended up testing her again. I already made up my mind that we were not leaving this time. However, I did not have to make a scene because they told me that her water, in fact, had broke. Right after they told me that her water broke, they asked, “Around what time do you think her water broke?”
Irritated, I responded, “You tell me, you sent us home twice. The last time you sent us home there was amniotic fluid present.”
I saw a look of concern on one of their faces and I started to get worried. I then asked, “What’s the significance of knowing the time that the water broke?” The doctor responded that the time was important because the baby and my wife are more prone to infection if not treated within a certain amount of time. They must have seen the look of concern on both of our faces because they started scrambling and finger-pointing. One of the doctors even stated that we should have gone to see her after the test came back partially positive.
Needless to say, we were taken to labor and delivery immediately. Once there, my wife wasn’t dilated completely and the baby did not drop and position himself. Therefore, she needed to be induced. Since she was going to give birth naturally, she was given an epidural (for the pain) and was placed on Pitocin to help induce labor. They also strapped her to the fetal monitoring strips which allowed us to see my wife’s heart rate, baby’s heart rate, and time of contractions. Unfortunately, when my wife was placed on the Pitocin, it was having an adverse effect on my son. As a result, they took my wife off. Once that occurred, her contractions were too far apart.
They tried the Pitocin a second time. Same result. Took her off again, the same result. The physician’s assistant contemplated putting her on Pitocin a third time but wanted to discuss it with the lead doctor. Seeing the fear in my wife’s eyes, I calmly followed the physician’s assistant out of the room. I remember thinking to myself, so there is a chance that my wife has an infection and it is affecting my unborn child and we’re sitting here going in circles. I also remember thinking to myself that my wife and I shouldn’t have to make decisions that affect our unborn child’s wellbeing this early. Everything was supposed to go smoothly. And most importantly, it is TOO LATE TO GO ELSEWHERE.
As a result, once I followed the physician’s assistant out the room, I calmly stopped her and said, “Look, I am looking at these strips and seeing the same thing as you. When she is on the Pitocin, it is not healthy for my son. When she is off, her contractions are too far apart. There is already the question of infection because she had a slow leak (i.e., water break). At what point in time does the health and safety of my wife and unborn child become a factor? When are you just going to perform a C-Section?” She looked at me kind of amazed and told me that she would discuss and recommend with the doctor. I walked back into the room and informed my wife that she was going to have a C-Section to be safe. The surgery went smoothly and our baby son was born. However, without getting too technical, he had certain vitals and labs that came back abnormal so he had to go to the Neonatal ICU (NICU). Our first concern was that he suffered from an infection due to the slow leak. Our next concern was that it was something else that was major. I remember the doctors asking our permission for several things. They took different tests. They had to take blood from his foot, but had problems drawing the blood. I felt horrible. My son was merely days old and was already getting poked and prodded. I was not ready to make such decisions and be ready for such responsibility. To make matters worse, the doctors that were recommending certain treatment were not reviewing all of the pertinent medical records. The right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. I have never been so terrified in my life. The pediatrician also stated that my son was jaundice (he wasn’t) and needed to go under the bilirubin lights. As a courtesy, they brought the machine into our room. However, they never checked on him. Then they had the nerve to allege that we did not follow their instructions keeping him under the lights. My wife was livid. I was livid. We were ready to go. By this time we questioned all of their medical judgment. Luckily, I have family members that are obstetricians and pediatricians. I had them talk to the doctors on the phone and explain everything to me. We felt that they questioned our intellect. We never like to advertise credentials, but we informed them that we were both lawyers. I also informed them that I knew their general counsel and risk management. This shut them up extremely quickly. My wife and I ultimately decided that we were not going to allow them to run any more tests and we got the hell out of that hospital! My takeaway from this entire thing goes to what my parents said: parenting is hard, trying, and rewarding. I never thought that I would have to make tough decisions, that affect my son’s well being at such an early age. I never thought that I would feel so bad for allowing them to do tests (I question whether they were warranted) causing him to cry and be in pain. I never thought that I would have to argue with doctors and nurses and advocate for my son and wife’s wellbeing before Day 1. I simply thought that I would be faced with the challenges of raising an African American male in society. Life hits you with crazy twists and turns and you just have to be as ready as possible. You also have to have the conviction that you’re doing the right thing. It is very hard to do. There is no book to teach you this stuff. A lot of it is smarts, common sense, and trusting your gut. The best thing about this story is that I get to see my healthy son grow, learn, and develop. That is the most rewarding gift I could ever have.