July 4, 2007

Day 4

God is funny sometimes. I got called into work last week for a day shift, totally forgetting about Liz's doctor appointment that day. After a bit of a fiasco with the scheduling, she said she had to switch the appointment to friday because her midwife wasn't available until then. And so we go to the appointment, and talk with the midwife, describing how Liz couldn't sleep last night because of a few contractions. So Nancy (the midwife) hooks her up to this monitor, and lo and behold, we discover her contractions are roughly 4 minutes apart, and very consistent - she's in labor. Nancy tells us not to panic, but to wait it out a little, to go home, get our stuff, and then, assuming the contractions remain consistent, to come back to the hospital. So we went home and picked up Sally and the labor bag and headed back.

We got to the hospital around 3ish, and due to some complications, Liz had to have both an IV and an epidural put in. Which was a shame, because the labor room had a whirlpool tub in it that she really wanted to use. Anyway, the doctor comes in, puts in the IV, and leaves for a little while to let an antibiotic set in, and a few hours later, comes back with this big cart of stuff. Liz sat upright off the side of the bed and he numbed the area, then put the needle in.

Now, some background here. I have no problem with needles, at least, I tell myself I don't. The idea of a needle going into my (or someone else's) arm and removing blood doesn't bother me on a mental level. But I think Freud may have been onto something when he talked about the subconscious, because as soon as the doctor pulled the needle out I made the mistake of looking at it. It was enormous, and again, that didn't bother me so much, in principle, but suddenly the room started feeling a bit warmer.

"Is it getting hot in here?" I asked, and suddenly Liz and the nurse exchanged very worried expressions.
"You better sit down, hun," said the nurse.
"Yeah, you look all grey and pasty," said Liz, who by this point was already going numb in her legs.
"What? No, I'm fine," I said, "it's just really warm in here, can we turn the heat down?"
"No, it's 72 in here right now, you go lay down," said the nurse.

I fumbled my way around the doctor over to a chair and sat down, feeling a bit rediculous and thinking I should be with Liz helping her. But I sort of fell into the seat (clue #1), and wasn't sure why I was having trouble sitting, so I leaned back a bit. That's when I started feeling nauseous; so I moved to a chair with a headrest, and figured that'd help. But it got worse. So I moved to the couch. Something in the back of my mind said "feet up" (thank goodness I was an Eagle Scout and learned all this valuable information about treating shock), and gradually I started feeling better. The doctor told Sal to grab something sugary from the cafeteria when he found out that I hadn't eaten much in the past few hours, so she got me this tasteless piece of pie (well, it was shaped like pie anyway). After that I was ok.

A few hours go by. Sal and I are bored, and Liz is fading in and out of consciousness (the poor girl was exhausted). We grabbed some dinner at Chipotle, and settled into the room for what we figured would be a few days of this. Not so. Around 11ish, Liz went into full labor, and got ready to push. After some debate, it was decided that I should have a chair to sit in while I held her hand. But nobody else knew that I had been praying until then.

"God, please let me be here for the birth. I don't want to get sick again."

Everybody figured I wouldn't make it, that I'd have to get a gurney so that I could still be in the same room with Liz while she delivered a baby and I fought to remain conscious. But she started pushing, and I suddenly discovered how awake a guy can be. It was surreal, almost like time slowed a bit. My job was to hold Liz's hand, so I pulled my ring off (advice from my mother) and set to it. But Nancy had to go get something, and before she got back, Liz went into another contraction. Noel (the RN helping Nancy) asked me to hold Liz's leg; you know, right where I'd have a full view of all the action. I think this is where I should have panicked, but no - I held her leg, AND her hand, and she pushed.

I did this the rest of the evening until suddenly, towards the end of one set of pushes, Nancy said "hey, I can see some hair!"
"Hair? Really?" I leaned over to look, and sure enough, amidst the blood, there were little black curls sticking out.
"Cool. Hey Liz, she's got hair!"
"She's got hair!"

This continued with every feature until Aurora slipped into the world. It turns out her hair is auburn, not black. And I never passed out, never felt queasy, never even flinched. In fact, the number of times I actually checked the progress was rather remarkable, given my response to the epidural. But then the baby was here, and I had something else to think about.

"Did you bring your camera?" asked Noel.
"My ... what?" I was still focused on Liz.
"Your camera, did you bring one?"
"Yeah, sure, of course."
"Do you want to go take some pictures?"
I had to pause and consider this briefly, then look at Liz and make sure it was ok.
"Sure, I guess so."

I realized later that this had nothing to do with photography. The attending doctor had walked in and as I snapped pictures of the baby, he had pulled out another needle, this time to sew up a small tear. But I was too busy watching the nurse clean off my daughter, too busy taking pictures and picking my jaw up off the floor each time the baby moved to notice; it was all very clever, really. I do that a lot these days. Drop my jaw, I mean. Her little yawns get me every time. It's funny, but I didn't know that a guy could be so enthralled with every little movement, facial expression, and sound that a baby makes. But not every sound.

Case in point, the baby slept for the first two days, both in the hospital, crying only when we changed her diaper (yes, WE, though sometimes it took both me and Sally to figure it out). But then we got her home. At first, she slept (she likes riding in the car). We're thinking "yay, we got the quietest baby ever, she's so increadible" and we relaxed.

An hour later, the screaming began.

As it happens, there's this short period between birth and when the milk starts flowing that all the baby gets is this stuff called "colostrum," which is sweet, but not too abundent. It's fine in the hospital, when the baby is so tired from the birth that it wouldn't matter anyway, but there's like, one day after you leave that all she gets is small amounts of sweetness. And that's not good enough to quench hunger.

There's something particularly disturbing about an infant's cry. Not only is it disturbing as a sound (it's horrific if it's NOT your kid), but when you can't figure out what in the world is WRONG ... it's infuriating. You wonder what a horrible mistake you'd made and wonder if the kid will always be like this and does this make you a bad father and ... suddenly it hits you - you're tired, you haven't slept in days, your judgement is impaired, and you wonder how much worse it must be for your wife. And you stop complaining and put up with it. And then your amazing pediatrician (bless her heart) tells you to just give the poor kid a bottle of formula and breastfeed when the milk starts. And we did. And there was much rejoicing.

And she's still way too cute.

And I've never been so surprised to get eight solid hours of sleep (in two segments) in one night.

[New pictures here]


shawna said...

Keep it pics coming!!!

I didn't know you had all those photos...that pic of Liz at your cousins wedding was absolutley gourgeous, your wife makes a beautiful pregnant woman :)

paul said...

Hey Chris,

What a wonderful life you have before you. I don't think I could congratulate you enough.

Thanks for sharing this story with us.