It’s been a while. I missed you. My absence is mainly due to the tiny human whose first day on the planet I intend to write about here. The tiny human who has led me to make Facebook posts such as this:
Well, the kid’s new word is “Why?” Which is cool, it opens us up to deeper conversations.
“There is no why. Your search for meaning in a random, uncaring universe will prove absurd and unsatisfying.”
“You learn quickly. Sure.”
Noises from behind me:
Lindsay: “Why would you do that?!”
…I’m not turning around.
And who, in the past year, has changed quite a bit:
We took Bradley Method classes leading up to the big day and we were very hopeful of having a natural childbirth. I highly recommend the classes, should you ever find yourself in a situation where the appearance of a tiny human is eminent. Even if you don’t care about natural childbirth (though I think you should) they’re still a good place to meet other parents and they’re full of helpful tips and, more importantly, terminology. So if the doctors all of a sudden start talking about Cephalopelvic Disproportion, you know what the hell is going on.
My wife was diagnosed with Gestation Diabetes (though she hasn’t had diabetes before or since pregnancy) so there were concerns about the size of the baby and about stillbirth. Our due date was December 27th 2013 and it was stressed to us that, due to the Gestational Diabetes, that we induce labor on the due date if the baby hadn’t come yet. Unfortunately, the holidays are a very difficult time to schedule having a baby. Because many of the doctors had the week off, and a number of people had already scheduled c-sections/induction in order to make the cutoff to get a tax break for having a child during 2013, we were unable to get in until the following week (and since we actually had a medical reason and our due date was that week, I was… not pleased).
We went in to the birthing center to start the process on the morning of December 31st, 2013. My wife’s aunt, who is a midwife, had flown out for the event and having her there was amazing. They started the Pitocin drip early that morning and the labor started. I don’t remember much of that day. There was a lot of waiting with the baby… not coming, as the contractions became more and more painful with the increased dosage (apparently contractions caused by induction are more sudden and therefor more painful than natural labor). I remember counting in between pushes and going too fast and getting reprimanded by the nurse and my wife’s aunt. I did what I could, but I think I was mostly in the way during this part of the process. But I was there, even if I was feeling rather helpless.
That night she finally got an epidural for the pain. She had wanted to avoid that because they make pushing more difficult and increase the likelihood of a c-section, but after fifteen plus hours of labor she couldn’t take the pain anymore. I remember her crying and telling me she felt like she had failed. But I know I couldn’t have taken it for that long, and she went through all of that without pain relief for all those hours for the health and safety of our baby. I’d have probably given up after about ten minutes, so I can’t imagine her being any stronger or having any more love for our child. That’s not a failure.
Around 1pm the next day, the baby was finally starting to crown, but her vital signs were starting to fall. Our doctor finally recommended a c-section. Up until this point, she had been incredibly supportive of having a natural birth and when we had outlined our birthplan the nurse had even said to her, “These are your kind of people!” This was really important to us, because we had heard a lot of stories about doctors pressuring patients to have c-sections or be induced because it fit their timetable or other, personal reasons that weren’t about the safety of the child. Even though we didn’t end up having the birth we had planned, I feel having a doctor who supported and respected our decisions had a hugely positive impact on the situation because, if nothing else, we took her at face value when she said we would need a c-section. Natural childbirth isn’t for everyone, but being able to make an informed decision is.
They wheeled my wife into surgery and I followed. She squeezed my hand and told me she was scared. The sheet went up, and a few minutes later they were holding up our baby. My wife couldn’t see what was going on, so I told her how beautiful our baby was and how she was waving her arms and I could see her breathing. I was lying. They were desperately trying to resuscitate her. It must have been less than a minute, but it felt like an eternity. Finally she started crying. I would find out later that the meconium (that’s not a pleasant link) had been released during labor and it had filled up her lungs.
I stuck with Isabel (the baby) as my wife remained to get stitched up. Isabel had a fever, which is a pretty scary thing in newborns since they basically don’t have an immune system yet. She had to go on intravenous antibiotics immediately so my first few minutes with her were spent holding her down and helping nurses get the needle in. After a few busted veins it finally took hold in her right leg. A few different people (nurses, doctors? I wasn’t really keeping track of who was around me) commented that this must not be my first. I guess most new parents freak out a bit more instead of helping to stick their new baby with needles. It was sort of an odd moment. I remember wondering if I was really just cold and dispassionate, which is very possible. But I think I mostly just considered everything a bonus after she had started breathing.
After they got the IV in and everything calmed down there was this really clear moment when she was lying there looking up at me and we made eye contact. I didn’t say anything, I just smiled and I remember thinking, “So, this is who was in there.” It was strange, I already felt like I knew her. We had named her almost immediately after finding out she was a girl. I remember the other couple in our birthing class asking us what names we were thinking about and we replied, “Isabel.” And they were like, “That’s… it?” She had always been Isabel. I used to poke her mother’s belly until she kicked so she could give me a “prenatal high five.” (Her mother loved this). And now, looking back, all I can think is, “I didn’t even know her yet.”
Eventually they brought my wife in and I gave her the baby so she could hold her and try to feed her. Other than nurses lifting her to move her, I made sure my wife was the first person to hold Isabel. It seemed like the right thing to do after what she had been through.
They had to take her out before long for more post surgery stuff so I stayed in the nursery with the baby and let her fall asleep on my chest. I’m not sure how long we stayed there, but it was amazing. This tiny human sleeping on me after such a rough day for her. Eventually I had to get up and put her first diaper on her so I could take her in to see my wife again when she was ready.
We ended up staying in the hospital a week. I hardly slept. I went with the tiny human for every procedure, every diaper change, every… everything. I *think* my wife let one of the nurses take her for something during one of my brief naps, but I’m still not sure. The whole week was a blur, living in a hospital out of a duffle bag, eating nothing but turkey sandwiches and drinking this strange concoction of sprite and cranberry juice they kept on hand for women in labor. I remember the nursing staff, they were amazing. They reminded me of what it was like to work in a good school, where your coworkers are like family, every day is full of surprises, and everyone is putting the needs of the kids (or, in this case patients) first. Not all schools are like that. Most aren’t anywhere near it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if this birthing center was an exception as well, but we were lucky to have it and its staff.
Oh! We also got in the local paper, since Isabel was the first baby of 2014. Our very own new year’s baby.
I’m not entirely certain why I’m sharing all of this. Maybe somebody will find something here helpful. Maybe I can look back on it later. But I said a long time ago I would write a post about this and, since I’m going to try to get this blog going again, it seemed a good place to start.