I spent the wee hours of June 2nd with a very loud stomach, and an even louder butt. For the previous week and a half or so I'd been eating no meat and on this particular occasion I'd prepared a new veggie chili recipe I found on the internet. Most of the chili had been eaten on Sunday, leaving about a bowl and half in the pot. I didn't see much point in putting half a bowl back in the refrigerator, so I ate all that was left and ended up farting so much throughout the night that I barely slept. If the sound of the farts didn't wake me either the rumbling in my tummy or the smell would.
The next day I called out of work exhausted from my restless and very fragrant night. I looked forward to what I hoped would be a quiet day at home reading Absolute Sandman Volume IV and maybe mowing the yard, both of which would happen after several naps. None of these things were in the cards. Mom called between 10 and 11 in the morning, asking if she could come over. She hardly ever comes over, and certainly never is feeling froggy enough to invite herself. Taking care of all three of her parents, her dogs and working doesn't afford her much opportunity to get into my neck of the woods. I had to take her up on the offer. It's always nice when the parents stop through and I don't have to go to them.
Mom and I sat around talking, playing music and with the dogs until about four-something in the afternoon. Just as Mom was getting ready to leave Jessica pulled in, and we all stood around in the driveway until I suggested that my extremely pregnant wife get off her feet. We moved things back into the living room, and not a whole lot later Anissa arrived also. We all had a good time talking it up until it was time for people to get moving and Jessica and I to run to the grocery store. Things were very casual, the day was beautiful, family was together in a way that doesn't happen often and all of this was made possible by my explosive veggie chili which allowed me to be home for Mom in the first place. The world was a very comfortable place that day.
When Jessica and I returned from the grocery store she headed upstairs to call her brother Josh whose call she had missed while we were shopping. Since she was going to be lying in the bed for a few minutes anyway I decided to go downstairs and practice U2's “New Year's Day” on the drums. I had been running through the song three times a day every day for almost three weeks, working out little nuances and such. On this particular day I had decided I would start running an iPod through the stereo downstairs so that I wouldn't have to wear headphones and Jessica could hear the whole song, not just the drums. I turned the stereo up as loud as it would go and banged out three adequate but unimpressive run-throughs, then hopped upstairs to check on Jessica. When I went into the bedroom she told her brother that I was done practicing and that she was going to get off the phone so we could start making dinner. When she hung up she told me that she though her water had just broken.
I asked if she was sure and had her describe it to me. I don't remember everything she said, but it amounted to the possibility that she was simply a little leaky, which is something that isn't uncommon for pregnant women. I suggested that we call the doctor before we freaked out and made a move. Jessica seemed a bit embarrassed to call the doctor to ask if her water had really broken. Anyone that knows Jessica would not be surprised at this. I countered that if this wasn't really game time and we showed up at the hospital, she would be much more embarrassed. Jessica rose from the bed, moved to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. At this point it became much more obvious that her water had actually broken and the clock started. This was about 8:30. We called the doctor's office, and they paged the doctor. In the meantime, we put dinner on hold and I got some packing done. We were really excited, grinning like idiots and saying how much we loved each other. I posted to Twitter to stay tuned while Jessica and I discussed the plan if the doctor said to come on. When the doctor called back, he said to come in the next couple of hours and that they would induce labor if contractions hadn't started by then. This was about 9:00 pm.
We called Anissa at La Terraza and let her know Jessica was heading in. We packed, got the dogs situated, got ourselves situated, repacked, ran back into the house for stuff we forgot, over-packed and rolled out. We drove to Wendy's to grab some food since we hadn't had dinner, then to Wal-mart for batteries to power our camera and audio recorders. In the middle of all this we called our parents. The Marths were in Minnesota and said they would leave in the morning. My mom seemed a little confused at first, no doubt disoriented by the hour and also the fact that she had virtually just seen us. Dad was asleep when I called and mumbled something about talking to me in the morning. I told Jessica that he wouldn't even remember we had talked, which is what usually happens when I wake him up with a phone call. I made a mental note to call again in the morning. Once immediate family was out of the way, I started at the top of my phone contacts and just went down the list calling everyone in there that would care to be called at 10pm. We got to the hospital just a little before 11.
Since it was so late, the only way into the hospital was through the emergency room, which has a security checkpoint. Jessica and I had packed a bad with distractions and snacks in the case of a long and painful delivery, which made this security checkpoint a real hassle. The security officer was very pleasant, it's just that when your wife is about to have her first baby, being held up for five minutes while a stranger goes through everything in your very large duffel bag is very annoying. By the time I was done with security Jessica had already been checked in. We followed a nurse through lots of hallways and elevators to the labor and delivery room on the fourth floor. After we got situated a doctor came in just to make sure that everything was happening the way it was explained to him. He checked Jessica's mommy parts out an looked generally bored with the process until he got to the part when he was to make sure that her water had actually broken, at which point he exclaimed, “Oh...oh yeah, that's a lot of fluid. That's a LOT of fluid. Also, it looks like your baby has had a bowel movement.” I was never so happy to hear that someone had taken a shit in my wife. The doctors got an IV into Jessica that was to induce labor, since contractions still had not happened.
I laid down for a nap and was woken between 1:00 and 1:30 Jessica's contractions started. Happy fun time was over for a bit. Jessica was throwing up and trying to pull the bed apart. She ceased to be amused by my jokes, and appeared that she was threatening to call the whole thing off. She wanted her painkillers and she wanted them immediately. I got on the horn to call someone in for the epidural, and doctors flooded in before too long. Somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 they started to insert the epidural.
For those that don't know, this is done by taking a very long needle and stabbing into into the woman's spine, then using the tube that the needle was on to feed a constant stream of drugs directly into her. Longest damn needle you've ever seen. Apparently there are a lot of very supportive men that see the needle and pass out or throw up even before it goes in. For this reason I was asked repeatedly if I was okay with being in the room as the process was carried out. I tried my best to express without indignation that leaving the room simply wasn't an option while strangers poked things into the part of my wife most crucial to her mobility. I remembered a story that Kevin, an elder at my church, had told me about his experience praying while the epidural was carried out. He said that he closed his eyes and prayed for a moment until a nurse grabbed his should and asked, “Sir? SIR ARE YOU OKAY?” Kevin got a little irritated with her and informed her that he was praying. They thought he was passing out. I got a similar reaction. I was helping a nurse hold Jessica forward while the needle was worked in, closed my eyes to pray, and was greeted with a look of terror from the nurse when I opened my eyes again. She thought she had a fainter on her hands, I guess.
The epidural either went in a little deep or a little off, so it was readjusted. This was very scary for me, because I had heard horror stories of year-long headaches and nervous system damage from botched epidurals. I should say now that Jessica has shown absolutely no signs of long-lasting problems. The epidural was done well. Anyways, as the nurse and I were holding Jessica you could see a change in her face that went from constipation to, “Let's light some incense and discuss the inner-workings of the soul.” After it was done everyone was in a much better mood. Jessica and I discussed beer and wine with the guy who put the needle in her, then she and I took a long nap starting at 3:45 AM. Jessica was at around 4-5 cm dilated at that point. When we awoke at 7:30, she was at 9 cm. Best nap ever.
My father, George, arrived around 8:30. All three of us hung out for a bit talking and carrying on while I got a deluge of voicemails and texts from well-wishers that were just starting their day. Around 9 AM Jessica's sister Anissa showed up. About 9:20 Jessica was obviously falling back asleep, so I moved the party into the waiting area so she could nap. My mom got in about 9:30, Dad left, and Jessica hit 10 cm. She could have started pushing right then, but the doctors decided it would be a good idea to let gravity move the baby as much as possible before working at it. Jessica's body did a lot of that heavy lifting while she was asleep while I did my best to keep Mom and Anissa happy in the waiting area. Poor Mom didn't even get to see Jessica before the baby arrived.
Around 10:30 the doctors said it was time to start pushing. I went out and told Mom and Anissa, and they both lost it. Over the course of the next hour-and-a-half they continued to lose it every time I came out to give them another update. I must admit it was a little amusing, but I felt bad that every time they saw me they just knew that they were seconds away from seeing the baby. Anissa was especially anxious because she wanted to know the baby's name so badly, but knew that we would tell nobody before we told our daughter. Before it was all over I just knew Anissa was going to pull a gun out and demand full disclosure.
The nurses put up some stirrups to keep Jessica's legs up and help her get a better angle on pushing. This put Jessica in a position that I would have never imagined her being comfortable with, showing everyone everything. I would like to pause here for a moment and tell you that if you've never experienced child birth, you don't have a full perspective on how disgusting and beautiful it is. Even the most graphic of videos shown to parents-to-be and kids in sex education classes leave out some of the more...er...funky parts. When you are in the moment, it's incredible. Thinking about it later, some of the things that happen when a person is born make so much sense, and we would all do well to put them in perspective and think about them in our everyday lives. I will not, however, give you those details here. I want you to keep reading, and you may be eating right now. How would I know?
There was a nurse in training that was assisting in her first vaginal birth, and she got to share in a lot of the wonder that Jessica and I were experiencing. This had the odd and enjoyable effect of letting Jessica and I see our new experience through a stranger's eyes. It also let Jessica learn a lot and keep her mind busy in between contractions as things were explained the to the newbie. Tiffany, the new nurse, held one leg while I held the other, gently pushing back as Jessica pushed through contractions. Tiffany counted to ten for three pushes for every one contraction until her conversations with her trainer distracted her to the point that she forgot to count. I was thrilled to get to take over counting, which helped me feel more involved. For a while there, I was the absolute best counter in the world. Jessica seemed to love it. Jessica seemed to love everything, actually.
The nurses and doctors were very impressed with the whole process, which was about as easy-going as any they'd seen in a first-time mom. The epidural was perfect. Sometimes it is slightly too weak, which results in pain towards the end of delivery and screaming and such. Sometimes the epidural is slightly too strong and makes it so that the mother can't feel herself enough to push properly, forcing the nurses to get very manual in their assistance. Jessica was right in the perfect spot in the middle, feeling enough pressure to push strongly. In fact, Jessica was pushing so well (surely as a result of my superior counting skills) that the nurses made her stop pushing for half an hour so that the doctor could make it into the room in time. I went into the waiting area to inform Anissa and Mom of this and they were very disappointed in the delay, but pleased that things were going so well. Things were going so well that the doctors only stopped commenting on how well things long enough to make sure that the trainees understood that things never went as well as they were seeing. I suppose it was wise to make sure everyone had the proper perspective on the proceedings and didn't assume that births were always this easy. During the half hour that Jessica was not pushing, the baby tried to claw its way out. I swear it did. It just kept trucking. I half expected a little baby hand to pop out like the undead rising from the grave, clawing its way to the surface.
As the final countdown started, a flood of doctors, nurses and trainees came into the room. In all there were probably ten people in there, soon to be eleven. As the head got closer and closer to the surface, I wondered about what our daughter would look like, what sound she would make when she came out, how healthy she would be, what she would think of her name and lots of other stuff that's none of your business. Mostly, I wondered about how big her head would be based on the section Jessica and I could see. Oh yeah, Jessica had a mirror. Forgot to tell you that.
When the baby came out, Jessica and I looked at each other with more love than we had ever seen in each other's faces. Then the rest of the baby came out, which totally surprised both of us, and we could tell that both of us were shocked because we shared the same look that said, “Holy crap, that wasn't it?” You see, we thought that the head was the whole baby, just curled up in a very small ball. We were waiting for the little legs and arms to spread out of her head right before the rest of her came out of Jessica. In our heads, Jessica and I heard an infomercial announcer screaming, “BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!”
I grinned like an idiot while I tried to cut the umbilical cord, which is something that I hadn't decided on until just that second. Then I tried again to cut it. Tricky things, umbilical cords. Then the baby was given to Jessica, and I gave Jessica the honor of telling our new daughter her name, which was something that I had planned on doing myself. It just seemed like Jessica earned it more than I did.
Everything that happened after that moment happened in a much more beautiful world.