Saturday, May 2, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
“A novella recounting the birth of my daughter, and other adventures”
In a broken, abbreviated style written Thirteen days A.B. (After Birth)
(A.K.A. my faculties have yet to return completely and it’s hard to concentrate)
It was early yet, before the world broke open and let the light back in, when the sky can seep into your eyes and give you a headache if you’re up too early. 4:20 am is too early, but there it was, 4:20 am, and my wife was awake, talking to me.
Amanda was in the doorway telling me her water broke. For a second I was angry, thinking, “why are you waking me up?” I’m not a grumpy morning type of guy, BUT there is always a seconds-long window where I seethe with hatred for other beings that make sounds from their wet mouth holes at 4:20am.
I didn’t actually say anything to my wife as she stood there, her right side lit by the light from the bathroom, I didn’t want to say anything mean, so I just got up and went to the bathroom, leaving her alone with her broken water (how does one break water anyway? Can it be repaired? Can you put a splint on water then tell it to walk it off?)
I think I was struggling to process what she had just told me. It’s not a new thing for me, this ‘women going into labor inspiring general malaise or apparent lack of interest.’ I can remember vividly my step-dad coming into my brother and I’s room to let us know that it was ‘time’ for my baby sister to be coming, time to go to the hospital. I just turned my head back to the pillow, looking for a fresh cool spot to rest my face on, smirking, “oh, what a kidder that guy is.” This was a little like that.
I came back out and the wife looked at me, a little disappointment collecting at the sides of her mouth, “It’s babytime honey!” This was our pre-determined turn of phrase designed to help keep our energy and enthusiasm up and our fear at bay. Once again, I was a little slow, “uh, yeah, ahem, what…baby, babytime! Yay!”
Once I got a hold of my senses, I was packing video camera, baby bag, over night bags, and car seat as my wife dialed our OB. Of course, he was not available, and his on-call replacement told us, in a sing-songy voice, “Okaaaay, go to the hospital.” We did.
Driving to the hospital in the dark, the streets mostly empty, quiet with baited breath for the morning to come. Our parents had been in town in the hopes that just such a thing would happen. With the baby almost a week late, they were all waiting on pins and needles, and had driven up to hang out with us, and hey, on the off-chance that the baby happened to come, they’d already be up here. The wife texted and/or called and we were off!
We had to enter thru the Emergency Entrance, but I had forgotten that so we had to go to the front to be told to go to the back (way to go new Dad).
In the emergency, there were so many people in pain, waiting for help, heads in hands, the oppressive fluorescent lights bathing them in a discomforting glow. We were let in quickly, and the Wife got her ‘baby limo’ (a wheel chair). We were shown to our own room, comfy-looking, furnished by IKEA.
There were nurses coming in and out and the Doctor was on her way. They started the Wife on a labor-inducing drug (Pitocin), something we didn’t want to do BUT since her water had broken, we were told that there was a limited window for baby in there now that she was considered a ‘dry birth;’ anymore than 18-24 hours and the little one and Mom could be in trouble. The wife was also not dilated even 1cm. The show had to get on the road. At the very least, it was comforting to know that her water broke at home, it was Baby who started this off for us, she had told us she was ready, we were gonna take the baton and run with it.
I shot footage with the camera, the Wife giving a play by play. The Wife thought music would be a good idea, to help distract her from the contractions. For a while, we were singing Beatles songs through her contractions. In-laws came to visit, sharing their love, support and enthusiasm. Fresh baby-lust in the eyes of a new grandparent can be a bit like staring into the abyss, only with more presents.
I was trying to eat where I could, as I had been instructed (snacks, bagels from the parents, water, etc.) but didn’t like eating in front of the wife (since she could only have ice chips, later dubbed “In N Out” or “steak” by a very hungry pregnant woman) and I was getting weaker and more tired every hour.
Then the real contractions began. Somewhere between 8p and midnight, they got so bad that the Wife just couldn’t take it anymore. On the monitors I could see the strong steady heartbeat of the baby, and then beneath that the frequency and duration of the Wife’s contractions. They were swelling larger and getting closer together. And they hurt. Baby was coming. It was Epidural time.
This was a real boon for the Wife (of course) and me too. Her pain subsided almost completely, and her relief was a tremendous relief for me, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. The pain that I couldn’t help her with would be abated, at least temporarily.
At 3cm, this was earlier than the Wife has wanted, but she had been a real trooper, and the Epidural meant she could sleep and rest-up for the long haul to come.
Sleeping arrangements for Dad at hospitals is like a kick in the crotch, just less comfortable. It was nice that there was a bed/chair/sleeper at all, of course, but it didn’t mean that it was comfortable. The next 12 hours were just uncomfortable, passing the time, me trying to eat (and not breathe my food-eating breath in the Wife’s face.)
As we got closer and closer to the 24 hr mark (where the baby’s been in there ‘dry’ for too long) we prepped for the real party to begin. This was when my strength really started to give out. Eating and maintaining my energy had been so hard, while the Wife had been able to really sleep and rest. She’d need it for what was coming.
Around this time, we passed the need for a Cesarean and progressed into the safe natural birth zone; Doctor and nurse gave the Wife the go ahead to proceed into the journey of natural childbirth, baby was doing fine and Mom was dilating well enough.
The nurse was coming in every hour on the hour and had called the doctor and the Wife’s epidural was running out. At 8am, I could see a bit of my child’s scalp, and it was time to push. And push she did, for the next THREE HOURS.
(What I didn’t know was that when I had told my in-laws “I saw the head,” they heard “crowning” and when I disappeared for the next three hours, they had feared the worst, and proceeded to pace the halls, with no information, nurses denying them updates. It was a nightmare for them. Next time, I’ll be choosing my words more carefully)
When someone says, “you’re a pussy,” they’re implying weakness or cowardice. I’ve since come to believe that to be a real misnomer. Apparently, there’s nothing stronger.
I’m just going to come out and say it; all men are just little boys compared to the feat of strength I was witness to. I was there, at her side, one hand on the back of her head, helping push her chin to her chest, the other hand on her foot or her thigh, pulling back and wide. She would push three times in a row, the nurse counting to ten through each, riding the pain of the contraction; they were fast and furious at times. I’d get her ice and/or water in between each. The stronger the contractions got, the more the wife could feel them as the epidural ran out completely.
Time moved quickly for us in the delivery room. Outside though, our poor parents were a mess. With no updates from us (we were busy) they feared the worst. It was hard on them, worrying through the full three hours.
The problem was the baby’s head; it was on the larger side (like her father’s had been when he was born), the same circumference as her chest actually. When the time came, the wife needed an episiotomy to allow the baby’s head through, then, all of a sudden…
After nine months, one week and over thirty hours of labor, my daughter was suddenly here. At 11:11am Monday March 30th, 2009, the doctor laid our baby girl on her mother’s chest and there she was. We were living that perfect moment.
The baby was so warm and cleaner than I thought she would be. Raisin-y but not too pissed off; she wasn’t even crying. She was so big, and slightly gray. So much bigger than I thought she’d be. Certainly bigger than the wife thought she’d be. She was 8lbs 5 oz., 21 inches long; a really good-sized sized baby. Big.
Suddenly, the baby was being cleaned, her pipes cleared of fluid in the incubator on my right, with my wife on my left having things pulled out of her and being stitched up. There was blood.
I was standing between my two girls, my world, looking back and forth between them, cooing at my baby, apologizing for my b.o., and squeezing my wife’s hand, encouraging both of them, so proud of both of them. Relieved. Joyous. Excited.
Parents and in-laws caught their first sight of her in the nursery an hour or so later, weeping through the glass at their little granddaughter/niece. It was magical, and hilarious. We just stared and stared, watching “Baby TV” as my cousin had put it.
The next few hours/days were full of tests, baby’s first bathy (not her fave), first diapers, more tests and very little sleeping (but both Mom and Dad got real food and that was plenty). We tired breast feeding with little to some luck, got some help, but then had to switch to formula to prevent dehydration.
There was some concern with jaundice and her inability to maintain her core temperature. There are no harder blows to a new parent’s confidence than your child being taken away because you can’t keep her warm enough.
With some family nearby, the Wife let me go home and shower, then I rushed back and she had hers. It was invigorating. Water is good.
On top of the jaundice and core temp. issues, apparently she hadn’t peed yet. By Tuesday night, we were praying for pee. Hearing that our infant might need to have a catheter put in on the night before we’re supposed to take her home hit us hard. Hardest yet.
She cried. I cried; it was hard to take care of my girls in the hospital, hard in that place to be comfortable. I wanted to take my girls home, and now there was the chance that I wouldn’t be able to, or worse, that there’s something really wrong with our little one. By the time the WONDERFUL nurse came in to wheel our baby away for her catheter, we had decided that maybe all she needed was a little prompting and she would be fine. Surprise, surprise, my baby rules! She pees using the catheter and OVER the catheter. Good job baby.
Suddenly, it’s a windfall. Her core temperature is up, and the threat of jaundice has evaporated. I’m taking my girls home.
A quick word about nurses before moving on:
In our few days in the hospital, we found that your nurse is either GREAT or SUCKS. There is no in between. It was always a bit of a crapshoot to see what flavor we were gonna get from one 12 hour shift to the next. We had some great ones, and we had some sucks.
WEEK ONE OF LIFE: HOME
Thanks to Best Mother-in-Law Ever, new linens were already on the bed when we got home and fridge was already stocked with food from her and my Mom as well.
Believe it or not, there was sleeping to be had, by all three of us. Best Mother-in-Law Ever would take care of the house so I could support the wife; she did laundry, I changed diapers.
Holding the baby and changing her came faster and more naturally than I ever imagined it might. Before I had time to think about it, I was already doing it, and getting more and more efficient all the time. And I didn’t mind changing her. In fact, here’s a little Daddy Diaper Care secret; volunteering for diaper doodie duty means quality time with Baby. We get to talk, hang out, give kisses, play with fingers and toes, work out the legs and I rescue her from her discomfort, all in one felled swoop. My Dad calls me the “Toxic Avenger.” Cool.
That Friday was her first Doctor’s appt. He held her up by her arms and said, “how old do you think you are?” Apparently, she’s crazy strong, already lifting her head and trying to hold her own bottle.
Because of the shenanigans in the hospital, they needed to take some blood. The Nurse had to arm wrestle baby (trying to get her to put her arm down) in order to get to the vein. Super tuff baby, shaky daddy; and by that I mean, baby squealed once, barely, as they drew her blood. Meanwhile, Dad’s gonna pass out, death grip on Wife’s hand.
Afterward, Dad was still feeling shaken. Baby is stronger than Daddy. Good job kid.
First night alone is great. We were finished with it before we knew it was happening.
First weekend is full of family; Aunts, Great Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Bubbie and Big Pa. It's perfect.
WEEK TWO OF LIFE: Night(s) of the Mammpire!
Monday with the lactation consultant. Success with the nipple shield, the baby is ON IT! Doc is helpful, but also one part Home Shopping Network pitch woman with breast feeding accoutrement, all helpful, actually, just can’t shake this feeling that I’m being duped. But only a little. Info she gives is all good, positive, and encouraging to my wife and the hard thing she’s trying to do. We’re already off formula. Awesome.
Tues. back to doctors for 2nd appt. She’s back up to her birth weight, 8.5, which means, (halleluiah) we can let her sleep thru the night as long as she’s inclined to (she’s been gaining an ounce per day). She’s also able to be comforted after/during feedings, which means she’s NOT colicky. Doc is so pleased with her progress that we don’t have another appt. till the 4th week. YAY baby girl. Good job.
Wed. back to lactation consultant, more info, more sales job. She wants us to have baby weighed at pediatricians on Sat (only way to really be sure that baby is eating enough; needs to be 1 oz. per day, shooting for 8.8oz.) Not sure if we’re gonna do the next appt? Had a rough morning, was giving the wife the silent treatment, just not happy, hard to find my happy, tired, didn’t want to say something unkind so I just kept quiet, but that was almost just as bad. Mom broke down a bit, just a bit, and we talked, reconnected, shared. I apologized, and things got better fast.
Oh no, baby’s first diaper rash accompanied by foaming poo. No one warned me about that one.
Saturday morning, back to Doc’s to check weight and talk about rash and poo. Weight is at 8lbs 8 oz. SUCCESSS! Mom is giving baby everything she needs, and Doc is pleased. Advice for rash is running her bottom under the faucet. She doesn’t seem to mind.
My parents and sister come back into town. So good to see them, and spend time. And honestly, I couldn’t stay away from that little face too long either. They bring food, presents and their presence. We’re grateful for all of it.
Visiting with friends from Middle School who made the two-hour plus drive from San Diego county. A real validation for them to see her and our place and our lives. Makes it more real. Actualizes, contextualizes this wild, surreal adventure.
Am I being anal about the hand sanitizing before touching baby, or just cautious?
My wife’s life has three components now. Feeding, pumping and sleeping. Living between feedings, my wife, one part heifer, one part leper, stuck in the bedroom, with either a baby on her breast or a plastic pump, sucking her dry. Then, two hours later, doing it all over again.
My Baby is a “Mammpire;” a mammary gland vampire, preying on my Wife for sustenance all hours of the night (and day). But it’s OK, cuz she’s so cute.
Baby forcing me to live in the now; something the wife has been trying to get me to do for over a decade, the baby has done in a matter of days; I can only think in terms of the next feeding, the dishes, the laundry that needs to be done NOW, all now and next, not later.
Baby is awesome. Now she sleeps up to five hours at a time. Awesome.
Late night diaper change, Mom sleeping, close to 2am, baby farts so loud it scares me, startles me so bad I literally jump. Should be more cautious when close to loaded weapon.
Over the course of the last two days, her right eye has been under siege by wave after wave of eye gunk. Looks like she has an infection. Maybe I wasn’t being so anal about the hand sanitizer after all.
Today is baby’s 1st Easter. Happy Jesus Resurrection Chocolate Bunny Mysterious Colored Egg Day Baby.
And now, Daddy has to take a nap, and do laundry, and dishes, and eat.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
You broke your mother's water this morning at 4:20am!
You are coming, closer and closer.
We've been at the hospital since 530am, and your mother just got an epidural to help her with the pain. Things are good.
I am exhausted but thrilled and relieved. I can't stop thinking and talking about you, now that I know that you're so close.
This is the greatest roller coaster of my life. YOU, baby, are the only thrill ride this Daddy needs.
I can hear your heart as I type this, strong, steady, like its always been. I can hear you coming baby.
We played you Beatles tunes and your mother and I sang through some of her contractions.
So far, this is a pretty incredible day. Your day, baby.
See you soon,
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sorry we haven't touched base in a while; there's so much to share with you.
The last trimester has been a ride (for you too I'm sure). Here are the highlights:
Three Baby Showers (two for us, one for me) "Your Presence = Presents!"
When you get older, you'll become a fan of presents and parties (and presents), just like your parents did when they were growing up. You're not even here yet and already you've been spoiled by family and friends alike. There are so many people who love you, who are waiting with baited breath to meet you and hold you. These people have given you a bed to sleep in, every bit of clothing you'll wear for at least the next year, a stroller and car seat to keep you safe, toys, books, art; all of your needs (and then some) have been met by those who love you, sight unseen. It's incredible.
Hopefully, we'll be able to impart to you the importance of gratitude during your developing years. To start with, we're going to show you how much of a gift YOU are to us. I think you'll catch on.
Also, your loving uncles, The Those Guys, threw your Dad his own special day, full of go-karts, video games and good food. Turns out the best way to usher in becoming a Dad is to remember what it's like to be a kid.
Certainly thanks to all of the above, we've been putting your room together. It will be your place, your refuge, full of bright things, and entertainment. Your mother and I worked together and built your crib, your stroller, and your chest of drawers. The only thing missing now is you.
Child Preparedness Class
This was a 5 week course that was really good for your Mom, but more for your Dad really. I learned all kinds of things that I didn't know, and knowledge is power (power over fear). Also, I saw a few live births on video. Not something you get used to exactly, but, I did notice how no matter how traumatic the labor was, there was always the same, perfect moment when baby was laid on Mom's chest and the world just fell away, leaving Mom, Dad and Baby to just stare at one another, finally breathing the same air, face-to-face. Rest assured, you're going to have one hell of an entrance yourself, heralded by ticker-tape parades and fanfare; by the way, the deafening squeals you're gonna hear is nothing to be worried about, that's just your Grandma and your Bubbie. I think they're more excited about you than we are.
Trips to the Doctor's
Our bi-weekly trips to the Doctor meant we could hear your heartbeat at least twice a month. Your Mom says it sounds like "Wow-wow-wow-wow-wow." My sentiments exactly. Still so steady and strong, like a song I can't get out of my head, and don't want to. I never get tired of hearing it.
Within the last four weeks, we were in the office once a week. At one point, we were concerned that you were not in the right position for your birth; you were turned upright, maybe so you could hear us better. But then, a week later, you had begun your descent, head-down. Apparently, you know better what's going on than we do. You move all the time now, almost constantly in the last week. It still makes me laugh.
A friend at work pointed out that you are a sci-fi/horror film geek's (that's me) dream come true; you grow in your mother, using her for food and water and shelter, moving around in her belly at odd times like a little alien parasite, then you're born in an explosion of pain, sweat, blood and tears, only to turn your loving parents into sleep-deprived zombies, shuffling their way through life, dead to the world outside. It's kind of awesome.
Birthdays and Anniversaries
When you get here, that day will be your birthday, and it will be in the same month as both of your parents' birthdays. Your Mom turned 30 and I just turned 31. We're young parents, but not as young as our parents were when they had us. We also celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. March is a big month in our house, and you're gonna make it even bigger.
So far, 31 is pretty special. I like it. Has a ring to it. Feels like the beginning of something.
And here we are, 3 days past your projected due date. Your room continues to fill up with gifts, and according the Doctor, on Monday your Mother was 50% effaced (which means we're getting close.) Her whole stomach seems to have 'dropped,' and you with it, in preparation for the birth. She's bigger now than she's ever been, bursting at the seams with child (like those women in the birthing books your Mother subjected me to so many months ago). She's still glowing, still beautiful; she was meant to be a Mom. Your Mom. You'll see what I'm talking about when you get here, in her eyes, you'll see.
For many months, you were baking in her tummy, now your Mother says you're just 'warming,' and soon, will be ready to come out and meet the world.
Everyone asks how we're doing everyday. Your Mother is so strong, such a trooper, as she becomes increasingly uncomfortable and anxious for you to be here. I am in a state of constant anxiety, punctuated by joy and terror. Also, my adrenaline has kicked in a bit; just a slight, steady pulse, making me hyper-aware of my surroundings and standing ready for action at a moment's notice for your Mother's phone call and the words, "it's baby time!."
Most of my own fear has subsided (having your room all set up, filled with all we'd need was a big step in the right direction) and I'm excited. I can't wait to see your face. You have one, you have had a face, always, since the beginning, but I don't know what you look like, not really. You're still so abstract to me. I know what your heart beat sounds like, I can feel you move under my hand, but I don't know what you look like. I can't wait to see your face.
We have another appt. on Monday the 30th to see what's what, but who knows, you might come before that. It's important to both of us that YOU tell us when you're ready to come.
Here are the current predictions for your arrival time:
Your Mom says you're coming tomorrow, the 26th.
Your Bubbie believes the same thing, there's a full moon that night too; apparently, that's when babies come. Also, werewolves.
I think you're gonna come this weekend. Just a feeling I have.
Keep safe in there baby, keep warming, for as long as you need. We'll be here.
When you do get here, and we have our perfect moment, I'll see your face, and kiss your little head and I'll know it's you, I'll recognize you, the little one I've been talking to all these months. I'll take your little fist around my finger and shake it, gently, and introduce myself.
Till then, and ever after,
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Happy New Year Baby,
We're three days into 2009, a new year. People tend to be optimistic around this time of year, time for resolutions to start some things and stop others. Odds are pretty good that for your mother and I, you are going to be the biggest/best/overwhelming thing about 2009.
We're also a week into the third trimester; the home stretch to your arrival. It's only a matter of weeks now before you get here. My stomach's full of butterflies, and your mother's stomach is getting full of you, more and more everyday.
You seemed to really enjoy Christmas this year, dancing around in your mother's belly pretty regularly. I can see you moving under her skin now, which is equal parts creepy and cool. You've also been doing this thing where you kind of snuggle down into one corner of her uterus and just sit for a while. Actually, you may be standing on your head, but we imagine you're just sitting there, pulling gently on your umbilical cord, letting your mother know you're hungry.
I try to talk to you everyday. Sometimes you kick or roll for me, most of the time you don't. Your mother says it's because you don't like to be a performing monkey. I think I can appreciate that. Every little move you make makes me laugh now. I can't say why exactly. It's not funny, but it is joyful, the first time I've ever written that word I think. You make me happy baby. When I'm not terrified of failing you, you make me very happy.
Your mother and I laugh about how she's never alone now; you're with her all the time, and you remind her of that constantly. In the shower, or the bathroom, while she's eating, or reading or driving, there you are, nudge, shuff, snuggle and bump.
Your mother's baby bump is quite pronounced now. She's lovely and round and beautiful. I told your mother that she's like a Russian Nesting Doll, and you're the next smallest Doll nestled there inside of her. And since you're going to be born with all the eggs you'll ever make, there's little nesting dolls inside of you too, already, on and on and on.
Little things about little you:
You make your mother gassy, which provides hours of amusement for me.
People who love you have already given you clothing and toys.
We'll be putting your room together soon in our new place, your first home.
I bought you a ladybug light at Ikea. It's cute. Your mother thinks I like it more than you probably will.
Your mother's uterus, (that's the one bedroom, one square-foot apartment you're renting right now) is really, really strong. And hard. So that's cool.
Food makes you move.
This month we start Lamaze classes where your mother and I learn breathing exercises and things that will help her through your arrival. Probably, it'll mostly be for me so I learn to calm down and control my own breathing so I don't hyperventilate. I have a feeling your mother's gonna be fine. And so will you Baby.
See you soon pumpkin.
PS 'Pumpkin' is entirely negotiable. We can nail down a suitably adorable and marginally embarrassing nickname for you when you get here.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
We're within weeks of Christmas, the weather is cooling
down and baby-time is ramping up. We're collecting all kinds
of little clothes for you, and even looking for a new place to
live so that you have room to grow (and maybe share space
for Daddy's makeshift office).
And you are a little party animal these days. You move all the
time and I can feel you through your mother's tummy now,
bumping and nudging. I can't help but laugh out loud when you
kick me. It's an amazing feeling, with very little to compare it to.
It's weird in a way because it seems unnatural,
(nothing's ever moved around in your mother's tummy before), but
it also seems completely normal, like it's supposed to be this way.
You seem more active after your mother eats and just before bed time.
When your mother's turned on her side and getting ready to go to sleep,
you tickle her with little tap-tap-taps, like you're knocking on a door,
saying hello. Or else there's some baby in-utero Morse code that I'm
not aware of. Maybe you're saying, "give me more of that chocolate stuff"
or "baby want hamburger." The latter seems the most likely, it's still your
We've been reading stories to you a couple times a week. You seem to like it. If I get real close and read, you kick and nudge. I also introduced you to my favorite nursery rhyme:
In the not-too-distant future
Next Sunday A.D.
There was a guy named Joel
Not too different from you or me
He worked at Gizmonic Institute
Just another face in a red jumpsuit
He did a good job cleaning up the place
But his bosses didn't like him so they shot him into space
"We'll send him cheesy movies!
The worst we can find! (la la la)
He'll have to sit and watch them all
And we'll monitor his mind!" (la la la)
Now keep in mind he can't control
Where the movies begin or end (la la la)
Because he used those special parts
To make his robot friends
Robot Roll Call (alright let's go)
Cambot! (Pan left!)
Gypsy! (Hi, girl!)
Tom Servo! (What a cool guy!)
Crooooow! (He's a wisecracker.)
If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts (la la la)
Then repeat to yourself "It's just a show
I should really just relax
by Joel Hodgson and Josh Weinstein
Your Mother had to help me remember some of the lines, that's why
she's the best.
Next month we're going to start playing some music for you.
Stuff like "The Beatles" and Billy Joel and Elton John. Maybe
your Mother will let me play some "DEVO."
This weekend I have to put together our first piece of baby-type furniture;
a glider for your mother. It's a kind of rocking chair that rocks smoothly,
and even reclines. I get to sit in it too. Maybe.
Pretty soon we'll be counting the days till your arrival.
Love you Baby.