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.
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
– and, of course, an epidural.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
with Granny Sandy
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.