aries, gemini rising

4/17/04

Wednesday Evening

So Tessa had been having these “contractions” for a few days now; every once in a while she’d look up from whatever she was doing and say, “oh, um, well, there’s one” and then go back to viciously tackling her pre-natal To Do list. I asked her if it was okay if I went to my golf lesson – yes, I have been taking some lessons, so SHUT UP – and she said sure. After an hour of slicing golf balls into the coke machine, I got The Phone Call saying something akin to “git yer ass home.”

It wasn’t long before her contractions became serious. Sandy (her mom) and I were doing our best to distract her, so we turned on cable and unfortunately, we were stuck with “The Prince of Tides.” I’d forgotten about how miserable that movie could be (and, of course, Barbra Streisand’s fingernails) and it’s amazing how much you can concentrate on such a piece of crap while your wife is about to have the most profound night of her life. Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism.

Her contractions were two minutes apart, and they lasted about 20 seconds each. This is where our troubles began; she started to projectile-vomit all over our kitchen, and, knowing that nausea is nature’s deal-breaker, I called the doctor and the doula. Both recommended we come straight to the hospital.

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arriving at the hospital around midnight

Thursday, Very Early Morning

The thing about hospital personnel is this: the most important day of your life is butting up against the most mundane day of theirs. This dynamic plays itself out time and time again, as frantic would-be parents try advocating for their spouses, only to be met with the cold stares of nurses Who Have Been Down This Road Lo So Many Times.

We happened to get a very crotchety nurse who pulled enough bullshit for us to start a deep loathing. Note to expecting parents: try to get your baby to wait until after the graveyard shift.

Tessa threw up again at the hospital, and the doctor assumed, by her physiology, that she must be 6 cm dilated (out of a possible 10). A quick check showed that she was nowhere near this, and let’s just say the fun leaked out of the room pretty fast.

Let me tell you something about my wife. She has the highest threshold for pain in North America. She hasn’t had a single narcotic in her body for a decade. She doesn’t get novacaine for a filling. She should join the carnival. She can take ANYTHING. But in the throes of the fourth hour of violent contractions, she looked at me with the hollow eyes of a child, a vulnerability I’d never seen before, and we both knew it was time for surrender. She was shaking, vomiting, and in unbelievable agony.

We had wanted as natural a childbirth as possible, no drugs, wires, tubes or anything. An hour later, she had:

– IV delivering saline drip

– finger sensor for blood/oxygen detection

– armband for blood pressure

– Doppler thing for monitoring contractions

– fetal heart monitor

– catheter

– and, of course, an epidural.

Thursday Morning

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Our room had a sensational view of the tip of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. When the sun rose, it lit the tops of all the buildings in downtown New York City and bathed us in this surreal yellow light. Tessa was at 8cm now, and we soothed her as best we could. Even the epidural couldn’t take the lion’s share of the pain away.

The nightmare nurse didn’t bother to get our doctor until after her shift was over, but that was fine by us: at 7am, the Sunshine Nurse of Happiness appeared, and both mom and baby inside seemed to know it. The new nurse gave us all the confidence that this thing was really going to happen.

Blogs can’t do remote justice to the process of seeing a child born. Both poetry and science have tried, but neither have the ammunition. What I saw made me so proud of Tessa – this delivery put her in paroxysms of unbearable misery, and she was so brave. It’s easy to say, “well, what choice did she have?” but if you’d been there, you’d understand. I wanted to keep her nether regions sacred, so I only glanced once as the baby was crowning. By then, the doctor and nurses were beginning to mumble something about the size.

The last push was Herculean, Wagnerian, like an entire Ring Cycle and Symphony of a Thousand in one. All of the health care professionals in attendance went “WHOA!” as soon as the baby emerged: 9 pounds, 1 ounce. 21 and a half inches. I never understood why people always put the baby’s weight on birth announcements, but now I do: it’s to make sure the mother is granted sainthood by the Vatican.

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In nature, we’re used to things moving slow: thunderstorms take hours to develop, flowers take days to bloom. But this little creature went from being an aquatic, blue, bloodied blob to a breathing, pink, screaming human in FORTY SECONDS. I had never experienced anything like it. When she started breathing for no apparent reason, it made me re-think my agnosticism.

The baby’s lungs were “junky,” so they did a ten-minute number on her with the aspirating bulb. Here’s where your fight really begins, because the hospital wants to take your baby away: give it a bath (which it doesn’t need), prick its heel several times for glucose levels, give it a blood screen, a Vitamin K shot, a gel-based eye wipe, and then rotate its tires, change the timing belt and lube the chassis. But if you can stall them an hour, and get the baby on the mom’s tummy right away, you can have the best experience of your young adulthood (not to mention put you on the fast track to easy breastfeeding).

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Jordana and Sean were her first family visitors

I lost some battles (they took her from us for three hours at one stretch), won others (no second and third bath!) and by the time visiting hours for dads was over at 9pm, I finally thought we were going to be okay. Neither me, Tessa or her mom had slept in 2 days. I went home, drunkenly posted the pictures to the previous entry and passed out.

Friday and the Weekend

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gettin’ ready to blow the taco stand

I can’t tell you how awesome it was to wake up to all the comments on the blog – some of them made Tessa very weepy. I had done a pretty piss-poor job of keeping my family in the loop (Kent didn’t even know her middle name), so I made sure all of them got the status of Lucy and her mother – but that blog entry was the most anyone (including me) had in the way of pictures.

Here’s the thing: Tessa’s labor was blindingly intense for 12 hours, and once the baby was born, we spent the rest of the day fighting to keep her with us. Every other moment was taken up by unfathomable fatigue. We’d brought magazines, speakers for the iPod, all kinds of shit that didn’t see the light of day. It’s just too intense in there.

After a bunch more heel-pricks (OW!) and glucose screens, Lucy finally got the go-ahead to get the hell out of there. Not to be overly precious and riddled with metaphor, but when we emerged from the hospital, it was the warmest day of the spring: our little Aries baby, the first of the Zodiac, born on the day all the trees bloomed in front of our apartment.

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VICTORY!

Now we’re just trying to get to know who she is, and what the hell is in her diaper. When she locks eyes with you, you feel almost embarrassed by her gaze. Having her fall asleep on your chest is worth several round-trip plane tickets.

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with Granny Sandy

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When I first really looked at Lucy, not long after they had cleaned her up and we got a few secret minutes alone, I wondered what the hell this creature was that just crawled out of my wife’s belly. I’d heard that some parents don’t really connect with their infants, and I felt like I didn’t really know who she was. I’d just met her, after all, and even giving her a name seemed presumptuous. I went through the motions, but worried that I wasn’t going to be any good at this.

When they took Lucy in for the last blood screening, I came with her to speed things up. They pricked her heel, and she started howling. And that’s when it hit me: you’re hurting MY KID! I couldn’t bear the sound of my sweet little girl having anyone cause her the least bit of harm. I knew in that precise moment that I would fling myself in front of a bus for this wonderful little being, that I would leap skyscrapers and plumb oceans for her delight. In that epiphany, it was all too much. As her screams quieted, I walked into a storage closet, surrounded by vials of purified water, and began to sob.

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35 thoughts on “aries, gemini rising

  1. mom

    Dear ones, I cried all the way through this blog. I was so glad sweet Sandy was on tap so that our Lucy would have one of her loving grammas to hold her. The pictures all speak volumes: Sandy and baby, Tessa and baby, Sean and Jordi looking on in wonderment… and of course Lucy’s Victory sign. Thank you for all of those pictures, Ian..
    Here I am thousands of miles away filing taxes to avoid jail, getting needles poked in my eye to avoid blindness, and doing some work for my principal employer to avoid being fired. But just as Ian would climb the highest mountain for this little person, I think I would almost rather have risked jail, a seeing eye dog, and poverty to have been there.
    I’ll be there soon.
    Much, much love to everyone,
    The Other Gramma.

    Reply
  2. jif

    for god’s sake i am never reading your blog at work again. looking for a kleenex..
    ian and tessa – i know you are going to be brilliant parents. Lucy is very wise in her choosing.. i can’t wait to meet her.. love to you both, auntie jif

    Reply
  3. Killian

    Talk about poetry. . .the pictures, your words, Tessa’s face–jeez, even the view from the hospital WINdow was magnificent! Lucy has indeed chosen the most amazing parents in the world. And your auntie kiki is ready to dance with you anytime! With a mighty love to you all.

    Reply
  4. Lisa in Maui

    What can I possibly say through these sobs of joy?
    You three shine so much, if we could harness a fraction of your energy, gas would be free…
    The world is a better place.
    Here’s to waiting for the one.
    Congratulations !
    Aloha,
    Lisa

    Reply
  5. Joanna

    Ian, What a beautiful gift you’ve written for your daughter. I had the same feeling as you when our son was born, a nonbeliever trying to make sense of “miracle” and “blessing.”
    Your family is off to a wonderful start!

    Reply
  6. Emily

    Congratulations! That’s the most gorgeous newborn I’ve ever seen. And my maternal instinct is kicking in right… now!

    Reply
  7. John

    Ian,
    I had that same intense feeling of “DON’T TOUCH MY CHILD OR DIE” also! I still can’t be in the room w/ him (now 4 yrs old) when he gets shots @ the Doc’s office..that scream is awful!…CONGRATS TO ALL OF YOU ON YOUR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER!!!!!!!

    Reply
  8. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I just blew off a meeting at My Insurance Job so that I could log onto your blog IMMEDIATELY to read the Lucy update. Of course, I could have hustled to the meeting a few minutes late, but I am currently crying buckets of tears, just like Jif. I am shaking and weeping. I simply cannot compose myself to act professionally. And I don’t care.
    I almost expected that you would not have a new post this morning, being a new sleep-deprived daddy and all. But, to my delight, you posted what I consider your best entry yet! Beautiful photos! Victory baby! The most moving and on-target description of the birth/first days of parenting experience I have seen in a long time! It has been almost 6 years since my little daughter was born, and your excellent writing made all of those early memories come flooding back. The sweetness of the baby falling asleep on your chest. Even the EXCRUCIATING pain of the contractions, the ambivalent nurses, the icky catheter, the carefully packed “hospital bag” full of magazines, back massagers, and music that never gets used or seen.
    I want to hop in my Honda and drive to Helen’s school and hug her and kiss her and tell her for the billionth time that I love her more than anything in the world! I want to drive to my husband’s office in Annapolis, lock his office door and make another baby! I want to drive up to NYC, show up at your doorstep bearing all kinds of adorable baby gifts and announce, “I am Laurie from Manly Dorm, and I am here to hug and hold little Lucy Blake-Williams” (please don’t get scared — I am saying this figuratively! No stalker tendencies here, only blog lurker tendencies).
    Anyway, thanks so much for such a beautiful entry today. We all understand that you will be, uh, busy for the next few months, so don’t feel any pressure to spoil us all and keep up the writing at a daily pace. I for one will be grateful for intermittent gems such as this.
    Oh, I hope you don’t mind, but I shared this entry with the my working mother co-workers here at the Insurance Job. They were all amazed to see a man be able to articulate his emotionals so artfully. Apparently, they are not used to that kind of communication from their husbands. All of the ladies are in tears. I think you have a new fan base here at the Insurance Job.

    Reply
  9. Emily B

    Wow. I found my way here a few weeks ago looking for an answer to the question “I wonder what happened to that Ian Williams guy who used to write the Wednesday’s Child column in the DTH?”, and, my goodness, what an incredible answer. Ian, I’m continually amazed by your (and Tessa’s) generosity and willingness to share your thoughts and your life with those out here in the blogosphere.
    Tessa, you are a goddess warrior woman! And Lucy is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen, including my own. She is also obviously one of the smartest, to have chosen you guys as her parents. Enjoy her every moment, it all goes so fast.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    Reply
  10. CL

    Wow! Thank you for writing such a detailed and eloquent entry…you are all very brave, and I hope you get a good rest!

    Reply
  11. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Oh, and I did not have a chance to tell you that I LOVE HER NAME. And she is SO DAMN CUTE! Little 9.1 lbs. cutie baby cutie sweetie baby cuddle cutie!

    Reply
  12. Anne D.

    Perfect description of first-time parenthood, Ian. I am so glad Tessa got the epidural; you can’t know how much labor HURTS until you’re in the middle of it. I lasted about two giant whammin’ contractions before I began hollering for the anesthesiologist!
    When I got to the pic of Lucy on someone’s shoulder, I smiled so wide my face almost cracked. What a perfect little person! Except she’s already so BIG — wowza. She looks more mature and filled-out than many newborns… like a picture-perfect baby from an advertisement for parenthood.
    Blessings on all of you. I am so glad everyone is healthy and doing well. Gather ye naps while ye may.

    Reply
  13. Michelle

    Congratulations, Tessa and Ian! What a beautiful story, and what a beautiful little daughter you have… Best wishes to you all!

    Reply
  14. Kari

    I am a daily reader and a “lurker”. Thanks for giving me the chance to read your thought provoking words. Congratulations to you and your beautiful family! I don’t even know you and Tessa but your post brought tears to my eyes. Enjoy your newest addition!

    Reply
  15. Andy

    Great entry, Ian. Thank you for articluating what many first-time parents feel but are unable to verbalize. When my daughter was born 6 and 1/2 years ago, I felt like I was experiencing a whole new emotion that I had never felt before. It was some bizarre mix of undying love, overwhelming anxiety and sheer joy all all wrapped up together.

    Reply
  16. KJF

    Tessa – Welcome to motherhood. Lucy sure gave you a rough initiation! I predict a really great Mother’s Day gift for you!

    Reply
  17. Audra

    That was the most beautiful thing I have ever read. It made me relive every second of my own child’s birth. This little girl is truly lucky to have you and your wife for parents. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story with the world

    Reply
  18. eric g.

    My co-workers probably wonder why I’m sitting at my desk crying. But I don’t care. What a beautiful piece of writing about a stunning new child and her wonderful parents.

    Reply
  19. salem's little sister

    She is so beautiful Ian. You and Tessa did a great job. James, Ben and I are sending lots of love from NC. Try and sleep when you can stand to take your eyes off of her.

    Reply
  20. Another lurker

    Lucy will be so glad as she grows older that one of your favorite radio stations was XM-54 and not XM-47, 48 or 53. Lucy could have ended up as Ethel or even worse, Squizz or Fungus!
    On a serious note, thank your for sharing your weekend with all your friends, family and lurkers. It brought back those wonderful memories of the best words I have ever heard. “It’s a healthy boy!” and two years later: “It’s a healthy girl!” Joy, relief, fear and unconditional love all at once. Anyone who doesn’t believe in love at first sight does not have children.

    Reply
  21. Kmeelyon

    Oh Ian, this whole post made me weepy. Thank you so much for the update. I am at work now and I have to get a new box of Kleenex for my clients b/c this posting made me use up my tissues for myself. Psychologists are not supposed to spend the ten minutes between clients crying!
    Congratulations to your whole beautiful family.

    Reply
  22. Andrew

    Is it a victory sign, or is Lucy saying, “Let’s ROCK!”
    You should write a how-to book for new dads. Don’t forget me when the royalties start coming in. Seriously.
    Can’t wait to go home and hug my wife and daughter.

    Reply
  23. Beth

    What I would like to know is: how can Tessa look so gorgeous after that intense labor; and Ian, how can you put forth such heart-wrenching perspective and wisdom after that intense labor and that little sleep? Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  24. oliver

    I second or third or fourth the “Wow!” (I haven’t counted them) I suppose what you’ve offered up in this entry is just news we can use, not to mention classic grist for blogging, literature, movies and cave paintings…and yet it’s (duh) so personal and inspiring that I can’t help feeling an extra heap of gratitude for the effort you must have put in to making us participants in this wonder (it’s either that or acknowledge myself to be a sucker for babies and/or bad art). Congratulations, Ian and Tessa!! Them’s production values!

    Reply
  25. Rebecca

    Truly an amazing entry. Thank you for sharing with all of us. I am new to your blog, although I think I still own some of your Wednesday’s Child columns from UNC. Anyway, I was referred by a friend to read this blog after the Heels won the big game. Then I was sucked into “Baby Watch 2005” and have been reading ever since. Congratulations to you and Tessa. I look forward to reading about your first year of parenthood. It will change you in ways that you can’t imagine, and make you both better people. I hope little Lucy is a redhead! (I have 2 of them.)

    Reply
  26. lyle

    seconds to all the kind, congratulatory, grateful and awed words above. thank you for taking the time to share with everyone your family’s birth story. tessa has been officially added to my personal pantheon of heroes!
    i think andrew is right, in the outdoor photo with mom and gramma, lucy might be saying, “let’s ROCK!” … or possibly even hailing a taxi, which i’ve heard can be an incredibly frustrating pursuit in new york these days.

    Reply
  27. Cristal

    I stumbled here while researching for a project I was doing on my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I got hooked on your writing, and this entry affirms my good decision in bookmarking your page.
    Your writing is vibrant and down to earth. The story of your relationship with Tessa chokes me up, and helps me step back and look at the bigger picture of my partner and I. The news of your daughter filled me with happiness for you and your future. Someday I hope to take a journey like yours.

    Reply
  28. Piglet

    This is why we did our birth at home. Little Two-Foot was born in the bathtub, and The Redhead recouped safely in her own bed.
    Suffer any medical emergency rather than turn to the hospital.

    Reply
  29. jif

    so i sent this blog to my mom and my sister (who is a midwife and currently spending three months in Alaska at the ONLY hospital with an obstetrics unit in the entire state – she has harrowing birthing tales to tell but i won’t go into that here..) and my mom (who says hi to you by the way) gushed and gushed about your entry. she was sitting there in tears (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree..) and telling me how perfectly you’ve captured the emotions of becoming a parent for the first time. and then, as i am her first, she proceeds to get all sentimental with me… and now i am crying at work for the fourth day in a row!!! this has got to stop.. more love, jif

    Reply
  30. Josie

    This was such a great birth story. I shared it with a few dozen of my closest email friends. Hope you don’t mind! Congrats!

    Reply
  31. imtboo

    Ok i am a total stranger. But still. I have to say. This entry is amazing. It captures birth so well and i have never had a child. Thank you and much happiness with the new baby

    Reply
  32. Sherry Boone

    Congratulations Ian and Tessa!!!!
    thanks soo much for sharing your experience with me. beautiful.
    yes…a true miracle and tessa you are a Queen of the earth now and all should worship you as my homegirl Roseanne says…
    Lucy is truly precious
    Blessings to all of you,
    love,
    Sherry Boone

    Reply

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