Episodes: The Birth
Things started a while before the main event-- even the preamble to the main event.
We were just completing out our move on March 10th. You know: there's one afternoon of guys moving boxes and donuts/pizza/pop/beer being consumed and 10 days of getting out of one place and into another. Well, I was bringing the last box in on March 10th and I thought: "This is it. I'm going to go in and find out that Cheryl is in labor." So I went in and Cheryl was freaking. She had had contractions and was terrified.
Things subsided. We had a quiet night of videos and Sunday was spent going light errands: the obligatory trip to Toys'R'Us, the final visit to our old Quadra St. address to drop off the keys. We came back and had another quiet evening and called it a night... for three hours.
I crashed and a few minutes later, Cheryl began her contractions. She woke me up at 3 AM and told me this. I thought Monday was going to be a long day, so I crashed again while my wife writhed in misery.
Monday began with Cheryl puking. It soon became apparent that she couldn't hold down water. Puke has always been my bane. So, worried that Cheryl was going to be too dehydrated we trucked off to the doctor's. Dr. Jones calmly told us things were on their way and Cheryl could give birth that day or the next day. So, we returned home and Cheryl continued her cycle of puking and contractions. By noon, Cheryl had had enough. We phoned Jacquie, our doula. I told her we were definitely going to the hospital some time between then and an hour or two -- whenever the eye of the puke storm would pass. We love to help people plan their lives.
We showed up and Jacquie followed shortly. The hospital booked us into the LBD ward (labour and delivery ward). I was worried about Cheryl getting sent home and we'd have to do this all over again. At that point, Cheryl would then have to come back without more sleep, more dehydrated and in more pain.
I knew walking would speed up labour and make it overall smoother. Well, Cheryl was too dehydrated and in too much pain to do that. So, we sat around while Cheryl weathered the contractions.
We had talked out what we wanted and didn't want in this delivery and I was going to make sure that we kept to Cheryl's wishes. One wish : NO MEDICAL STUDENTS. So, a 'doctor' came in to examine Cheryl. He introduced himself then came the mantra 'NO MEDICAL STUDENTS.' I looked at Jacquie, who didn't seem to have a problem and Cheryl who I also think didn't have a problem. Then I may have said, 'no', but that, in of itself, seemed to convey all I need to convey. He excused himself and was not seen again.
Before long we were into the long haul of this. Cheryl couldn't keep anything down so she was weakening. She kept alternating between the bed and the toilet. Jacquie and I followed her from one place to the next trying to help. She got weak enough that they had to run an IV and pump up with glucose and fluids.
By about 6pm, her labour had gone from roaring session to a dwindle. She complained that she needed sleep and hadn't slept in 30+ hours. However, in between every contraction, she crashed out for about a minute of two. The woman who hadn't slept in over a day, was spending about 2 out of 3 minutes asleep.
In our hosptial tour, the nurse said that when the opened a closet full of neo-natal gadgets, that the birth was imminent. Well, they did that 7pm. I figured that this would be done 20 minutes before the birth, not 220 minutes.
What seemed to be close at 9pm, seemed like it was never going to happen. Conditioned by deadlines and ferries and buses, you get to a point where you say, "that's it for today. We'll try tomorrow." With this having gone on for nearly 24 hours, it felt like the doctor or nurse was going to say, "well, let's pick this up tomorrow." Of course, that would never happen.
Cheryl was pumped full of oxytosin. The stress monitor that was earlier peaking at 20 during contractions, was now peaking at 50-plus with one contraction getting all the way to 77. I knew I didn't tell Cheryl this. Even in the best of times, she has a habit of punching people. Watching the monitor spike, I stood by for the punchings. Luckily, they never came.
Dr. Jones positioned herself at the foot of the bed waiting for the blessed event. Everyone was cheering Cheryl on : "Come on, Cheryl, you can do it." "That's It Cheryl!" "We're going to have this baby!" In school, I think I voted least likely to join a mob. Cheryl had to get the baby out. Everyone knew that, most of all Cheryl who had a creature the size of a cat working its way through a something the diameter of a juice glass. Cheering is one of those things I have a hard time doing. I can scold, berate, hack, jeer or alert, but I cannot cheer. So there I was : "C'mon Cheryl : you're so close!" You can do it!" "That's it, honey!"
With one of Cheryl's pushes, the head showed. It was like a hairy softball, what I could see of it. I thought "this is going to be a small baby" Then, like some old sinking ship, the baby's head ease back in. What? It's going back? Then a couple of moments later, another massive contraction forced the baby's head out again-- a little further and a little long this time. Great. This sort of a see-saw could go on forever. Then the doctor said, "Cheryl : this baby is coming out on the next push!" Sure enough, another Richter scale contraction and SLOOP out came the baby. That "hairy softball" was the squeezed up top of the head, literally the tip of the iceberg. From what I saw, I expected a little baby, a six pound tike. Suddenly this contradictory size emerged. She was huge. It wasn't like putting a cat through a juice glass-- it was like putting a terrier through! The doctor hoisted the baby up to Cheryl. I was so stunned, but Cheryl said, later, it looked like I was so happy and excited.
The doctor clamped off the umbilical cord and handed me the scissors the cut the cord. After two days with shitty sleep and everything going on, I was in daze. I cut through the cord. I looked at the baby. I was used to so many stories of dumb fathers, saying "he's hung like a bear!-- sir? that's the cord" so I wasn't sure if the baby was a boy or a girl. So, I stupidly said, "It's a girl?" Cheryl quickly said, "Hello Alice!" She was there: our daughter. A lot of people guessed she was would be a he, but the odds-makers were wrong.
Time lost meaning. Alice was alert and seemed healthy. The last day of effort seemed to disappear. My family came in and saw the baby. We broke out the digital camera and started to take snaps of Mom, Baby and Dad; Mom, Baby and Nana; Mom, Baby and Jacquie; Mom, Baby and Wayne Newton (kidding).
In 30 minutes or so, everything was packed up, Our 11 hour adventure came to a close. I bundled up all of our stuff and trucked it down to Cheryl's room. Alice was in the neo-natal ward. A few years ago, they used to dump all of the babies into this one room like a baby corral. Now, they put them with the mother to promote bonding : bonding with an exhausted, emotionally wracked woman, who has skirted hypovolemic shock and potentially days of sleep deprivation. Good idea.
I followed Alice into neo-natal ward, where a nurse dutifully washed her, dressed her and bundled her up. She let out a small squeal when she went into the bath water, but was otherwise a quiet, alert little creature. Alice was wheeled back to Cheryl. It was 2:30 AM and I was beat. I went home, stopping by McDonald's for two Big Macs. I watched a few minutes of TV and crashed out, figuring it would be my last night of decent sleep for 20 years or so.
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