After months of waiting and wondering, my life changed forever on May 26th, as my wife Jen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Matthew.
We went to the doctor on Monday and were told that we would be going into the hospital the next day so that Jen could be induced 10 days before her original due date. To say that the immediacy scared the hell out of me would be an understatement. It was like telling a kid that he had to be back at school ten days early from summer break. I had so much left to do in those last days: finish reading the baby books, look at the car seat instructions and learn to play a lullaby on the guitar (after learning to play the guitar). But now there was no time.
Waiting for the call from the hospital to tell us when to come in was more nerve-racking than waiting for the original pregnancy test results. When the call finally came in that afternoon, we gathered up our bags and headed into the great unknown.
After two hours of being poked , prodded and asked about her medical history, Jen and I were checked in to what is essentially the least comfortable all-inclusive resort in the world. Where the inconvenience of having the staff come in at all hours of the night to either insert something or ask you to rate your pain is outweighed by the sheer decadence of a never-ending bowl of beef broth. I imagine that there is nothing more filling than a bowl of the stuff in which I would usually dip my sandwich.
So as we sat waiting, we began sweating over all of things that were to come. Until we realized that we were mostly sweating because the air conditioner was broken. After nine months of being asked “Its burning up in here, are you hot?,” I could finally answer in the affirmative.
Fleeing the oppressive heat, and the low-rise pants of the hospital maintenance man, we moved into the room that would be our home for the next two nights. While Jen was propped up in what is essentially a cross between a futon mattress and a dentist chair, I got to spend the night in La-Z Boy’s stern, disapproving father. I’m not sure if hospital’s pick furniture that makes people want to leave early or not, but I think we would have had better luck sleeping in a booth at Arby’s.
After an exhausting night, we headed into day two. Hoping to move things along, the doctor’s cranked up the Pitocin and broke Jen’s water with what appeared to be a chop stick. But I could be wrong about that. To add a cherry on top of the increasingly intense contractions later that day, Jen slipped on some fluid while a nurse tried to get her up from a chair. You wouldn’t think that a woman in the middle of labor could do the splits, but Jen came as close as humanly possible.
After moaning through the pain of both the contractions and her hip, and riding high on an anti-nausea medication which had the unhelpful side effect of making her feel like she was tied to the bow a tugboat, Jen called for the epidural. As the anesthesiologist finished, she didn’t seem too concerned that Jen could still feel mostly everything on the left side of her body.
At this point, Mother Nature decided to add her two cents as the Tornado sirens began to blare. The nurses assured us that they had never had to evacuate anyone, so they instead decided to build a pillow fort around Jen. We barely had enough time to admire their work when we were told that we would in fact have to be moved into the hallway. So Jen was disconnected from her Pitocin drip and we were on our way. Luckily, only one night of sleep deprivation let us still see the humor in the whole situation as we hunkered down next to the laundry room for the next hour and a half.
As Jen was wheeled back into our room, the countdown began again and I quickly became desensitized to every doctor on duty coming in and flipping up my wife’s gown and saying, “Let’s take a look.” At least I hope they were all doctors.
The baby wasn’t making much progress, and seemed to be quite comfortable in his cramped, one-bedroom apartment. Facing another night in the recliner, I can’t say that I blamed him.
Our doctor let us know that if the baby hadn’t made significant progress by the next morning, that we would have to go with a Caesarean section. The prospect of which was a little frightening, much like the Caesar haircut I had in the late 90’s which made me look like ER-era George Clooney’s shorter, fatter brother.
The prospect of major surgery married with the world’s most uncomfortable furniture did not lead to much rest as we sailed through a second night of no sleep. One way or another, tomorrow was going to be the big day.
At around 5 in the morning, the decision was made that Jen would be going in for a C-Section at 7. So the next two hours were a flurry of activity, with an entirely different set of doctors and nurses coming in and out, and yet another anesthesiologist who didn’t seem to think that it was a big deal that Jen still had feeling on her left side.
In preparation for going into the OR, I suited up in a very stylish paper ensemble. Any thoughts that I may have had that I could still be a doctor were soon dashed when my father caught a glimpse of me and laughed uncontrollably.
I waited outside of the OR as they prepped Jen, and a voice came over the intercom at St. John’s with a daily prayer about new life. A prayer which seemed incredibly fitting for the moment and seemed like some sort of cosmic sign to let me know that everything was going to be all right. I really wish that I could remember the prayer, but since I was scared beyond the capacity for rational thought and sweating through my paper hat, it is unfortunately lost to me.
I was summoned into the operating room and told that I would have the job of announcing the sex of the baby. Now, I know the difference between boys and girls (we watched a film strip in the 7th grade), but I was deathly afraid that I would somehow screw it up and be the impetus for years of therapy for my child. But I had a 50/50 chance, and I liked those odds.
It was hard to watch them work on Jen, and even harder knowing that since she was fighting off exhaustion and nausea, and under the influence of anesthesia, this whole event would be a haze for her.
After several minutes, I was told that it was time to make my announcement of the sex, and I am proud to say that I nailed it on the first try. We had a beautiful baby boy with 10 fingers and 10 toes and plenty of black hair. I took a break from snapping pictures to cut the umbilical cord with what I believe were Kindergarten safety scissors and got to bring him down to get his first kiss from his Mom.
As the doctors took care of Jen, and I thought of how proud I was of her for everything that she had been through to get us to this moment, the next question popped into my head: We have a baby. Now what?