Pregnancy Is Hard; Babies Are Soft

So I guess I'm a dad now. That's pretty weird to think about, and it still hasn't quite set in. It's also weird to think about the fact that it happened in literally seconds. One second the baby was still inside my wife, who was at the time undergoing a c-section, and the next second they said from over the sterile curtain, "Dad, look!" as they hoisted the baby up, and that's all it took.

Of course, to say "that's all it took" ignores the previous 24-odd hours of intense labor pains, fatigue, pushing, sleeplessness, denial of food, and uterine contractions... and that's just what she had to endure. It also ignores the previous month or so of just waiting. By that point we had acquired all the supplies we felt we needed, organized and decorated the baby's room, taken a childbirth/newborn care class, and mentally prepared ourselves as well as possible.

And we'll just pass over the previous eight months of preparing our minds and house for the most important life change we'll probably ever have.

The doctor said the baby was due on December 1st, but also that he was measuring above the 90th percentile for weight, so he might come as early as Nov 22. Weight, however, is not an indicator of development, and development is what triggers the baby to induce labor. So Nov 22 came and went with no sign of baby and we were starting to get antsy. My wife was super pregnant and consciously uncomfortable basically 24 hours a day. By this point she just wanted him out, so the wait was agonizing.

When labor finally came, it was a mixed relief. The end was finally in sight! But labor is crazy, you guys. We learned about it in the childbirth class, but, following a recurring theme, what you read in books or learn about in a class only half prepares you for the real deal. My wife was only in the early stages of labor when her water broke (the amniotic fluid sac ruptured). In the movies you hear about water breaking all the time, but this isn't really the ideal outcome, because it starts a clock ticking: 24 hours. 24 hours after your water breaks, the risk of infection goes up, and they really want the baby to be out by then.

Ideally, her contractions would have gotten stronger and her cervix would have started dilating (to allow the baby to exit) first before her water broke. But that didn't happen, so they had to speed things along by giving her Pitocin to increase the strength and frequency of her contractions. As you can imagine, this sucks because it hurts like hell.

Thanks to the wonder of modern medicine, eventually she was able to get an epidural anesthetic. They inject this directly into the spine (with a gigantor needle, hoo boy) so it doesn't pass to the baby and is really effective. It took away basically all her pain, allowing contractions to proceed with increased Pitocin until she was fully dilated. That was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, this is only the first half of labor. Then comes the other part you see in movies: pushing. Pushing is exhausting and by this time she had already been awake for probably approaching 36 hours with only ice cubes for food in about the last 24 of those. The baby's descent through the birth canal was not being especially cooperative, including his head swelling for some reason, so, at the end of her energy and with a big baby not making great progress, she decided a c-section would be best. Obviously, I went with whatever she wanted here, and we had both been prepared for this possibility ahead of time.

A c-section is a routine but still substantial surgery. They cut through a lot of layers, including skin, muscle, fat, and the uterus, so the procedure itself took probably about an hour. Interestingly, they don't use general anesthetic, so she was awake for the whole thing (and asking one of the nurses for a play-by-play of the operation, since the sterile screen prevented her from watching directly). She also asked for a bunch of pictures, but don't worry, I won't post them here. I had the option to watch the whole thing, but chose not to, because I didn't want to unexpectedly faint because I don't see the inside of a person very much in the normal course of my life.

She also asked them to save the placenta and show it to her later, because she's cool like that. It looked pulpy and weird, but she thought it was awesome.

The sad part is that because of the sterile screen, the layout of the operation room, and the need to, you know, sew her back up, once the baby was born there was a big delay before she could even see the baby, let alone touch and hold him. My son was born at 1:20 AM, but it wasn't until probably 2:45 that she could really hold him, and that's not a thing you want to do to a new mother, let me tell you.

Now, I don't remember this next bit clearly at all, but when they lifted him up and said, "Dad, look!" I stood up from holding her hand and looked over the screen and (reportedly) said "Oh My God". That turned on the waterworks for her. Those first few minutes were a daze for me. He wasn't crying heartily like they wanted, so they took him aside to try to suction out fluid from his stomach and throat and whatever. Apparently this fluid is common for c-section babies, whereas vaginal birth squeezes a lot of it out.

Just-born babies look bluish and weird. He started to pink up after a few minutes, which is good. He was breathing and doing okay soon, so I finally got to hold him. At this point in my life, I'm not sure I'd ever held a newborn, so I was incredibly nervous and awkward. Honestly, the magic of the whole thing didn't really start kicking in until hours later when my wife and I started taking care of him together.

Going back to the major abdominal surgery thing, recovery is slow. It's hard for her to move too much, and various painkillers are basically necessary. Pile on top of this the grueling feeding schedule for the baby and it means she hasn't slept more than at most 2 consecutive hours in over a week now. I at least have had my mother-in-law staying with us to help spell me during the night shift, but breastfeeding gets no such break.

The hospital kept her for 2 days after her surgery. Interestingly, all our elders said, "wow, that's it??" and all our peers and younger friends said, "woah, that's a long time!" A weird little generational gap there. On the first day she definitely couldn't get out of bed at all. By the second day she was able to get up, albeit with the help of those painkillers and with some support and someone spotting her. The hospital stay was good because people would come in and help us with any questions about the baby at any time of the night, but a pain because people would come in at all hours of the day for all kinds of reasons. It was a near-constant parade of hospital staff, and the interruptions were a constant reminder that we weren't home.

At least we had all four grandparents staying with us or visiting to help out with holding the baby. I especially enjoyed my mom and dad fighting over who gets to hold him. Dad was a bit nervous holding him at first (I guess thirty-ish years since having one of his own to hold makes one rusty) but by the time they had to fly home he had gotten the hang of it again and they were conspiring to smuggle him away in their luggage.

When we finally did get to go home, it was such a relief. Our well-prepared baby room was waiting for us, as were our own beds (the importance of this cannot be overstated), home cooked food, and just an all around more relaxed and quiet atmosphere. It's been one week now since my son was born, but the comfortable routine--though tiring and a lot of work--feels like a wonderful bonding and family-building time. Labor and the hospital stay really took a toll on my wife. At one point I realized she hadn't shown any signs of her usual mirth for days and her voice had this tired, strained quality to it, all of which was very troubling, but last night I got her to laugh hard enough that her incision hurt; I feel only a little bad about that. It was worth it.

This has gone long enough, but I realize I haven't even talked about the baby yet. He's a wonderful little summer sausage or burrito or bread loaf or other food item, but nearly every one of these I write will center around him from now on, so just hang in there.


odobenus said...

This is great!

mai said...

wonderful.That's how a child binds mom and dad more firmly

Nayana Pise said...

Beautiful..... Congratulations once again :)

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