Debbie started having frequent contractions on Saturday morning at 5am. We went to the hospital later that afternoon to see what was up, the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. We get to the hospital and, of course, they slow down. After examination, Debbie was still only about 2cm, so they sent us home. She was still having contractions, and we’d told the contractor working on our house that we wouldn’t be back for a few days, so we stayed at her parents house. We didn’t get much sleep though, as contractions continued throughout the night, increasing gradually in pain. Sunday morning we went back to the hospital and found out that Debbie was at 4cm. Go time. 13 hours later: Abraham.
Calculating labor time is not exact. Technically we could count it from when she started having her contractions early Saturday morning, a 44 hour labor, but I was told that hospitals usually count labor from 4cm, which would make the labor the aforesaid 13 hours. I’m inclined to go with labor lasting from the first signs of pregnancy through the birth, because it appears to be work the entire time. Debbie was certainly doing quite a bit of work starting Saturday morning. Labor, in general, burns about 1000 calories an hour. Debbie’s labor plan was to keep her options open. The intention was a natural childbirth if at all possible. Since she likes being in the tub, we aimed for a waterbirth at first. The only problem was that Abraham’s head had entered the pelvis a bit crooked. This stuck things for a few long [exhausting] hours. The pain was increasing and her energy level was waning, so she took a little Nubain to take the edge off. Being in the tub was helping, but after awhile it slows labor down. Eventually we got out of the tub altogether, because Debbie had no energy left and asked for an epidural.
After the epidural, we both took a brief nap before things got going again. She was already at 10cm so it was pushing time, for almost three hours. Debbie got the head very close, but it seemed to get stuck again, so Colleen, the most excellent midwife suggested using a bit of suction to get him crowned. She left, and Debbie decided she wanted to do it on her own, and with the roaring encouragement of the nursing staff, managed to get the baby crowning by the time Colleen came back with the doctor.
I stopped holding Debbie’s legs, stopped keeping her focused, stopped feeding her popsicles, and put on my catcher’s mitt. It was time to catch the baby. What looked like a tennis ball was already crowned, I thought, “Oh, he’s almost here”, and then after another push, a HUGE, blue-purple, softball-sized head popped out. My thoughts were now nothing more than inarticulate gibberings of shock and joy. The cord wasn’t wrapped completely around his neck, but it was against it, and there was quite a bit of meconium, so Colleen cleaned his nose and mouth before I pulled him the rest of the way out.
My son was then taken from me. Taken. From me. But they gave him to Debbie, which is okay, I guess. I cut the cord with one snip. It is tough like a fleshy electrical cord. They whisked him away to the warmer while I heard him start to scream lustily. I don’t really remember what I told Debbie, but I went over to “check out” the baby. What I was really doing was guarding him. Guarding my son. He was bright red and squalling. A beautiful, healthy boy. I looked over just in time to see the placenta plop out of Debbie. I wasn’t much interested in the placenta, so I hung out with my son for a bit before going back to Debbie and getting a few pictures. I wanted a good shot of me delivering the baby, but with all of the excitement, it didn’t turn out that way.
Debbie’s parents came over that night to meet little Abraham. We ended up going to sleep around 3, only to be woken for poking and prodding around 7. The first day in the hospital went quite well. The staff, including the students, were helpful and compassionate. The second day, though, was hell. Debbie had been up until 5 trying to feed the baby and was completely out of energy. Our morning started with a barrage of loud knocks on our door, and a male student who was anything but quiet for 7 in the morning. People were poking and prodding Debbie for most of the morning and afternoon. She was exhausted and all she needed was people to listen to her when she expressed her needs. Instead, when she said she was dizzy, they started asking too many questions and just made things worse. All she needed was food. Which took about 2 hours to arrive. We’d been mentioning to people all day that she wasn’t getting any rest because of all the checkups. At one point she was lectured by a nurse that she should be sleeping when the baby sleeps; which she can’t very well do with people waking her up every half hour. Eventually she was so tired that she started crying when a nurse asked, for about the millionth time that day, how her bottom felt on a scale of 1 to 10. The nurse immediately asked Debbie if she had a history of depression in her family. That set Debbie off. “I’m just TIRED!” she yelled. Evidently after the nurse left, she finally spread the word [apparently the Do Not Disturb sign on our door wasn’t a clue to them] and we stopped getting incessant visitors. It only took about 12 hours. Pretty much the only upside to the day was a visit from my mom. She came up for a couple of hours to meet her grandson and it was great to see her.
We let the baby go to the nursery for most of the night so that we could catch some shut eye. He got bottle-fed once through the night so the upshot was that we got to sleep for about 6 hours, straight. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the hospital by this point, they had a hide-a-bed that was lumpier than a toad’s back and was too short and angled to sleep on comfortably. My neck and back are killing, but it was nice to be allowed to stay in the room with Debbie and Abraham. I’d been out making errand end runs to home and the grocery, since Debbie is now hungrier than when she was pregnant. We made it out of the hospital a bit after noon, and the day was much more relaxed after that.
We didn’t get Abraham circumcised. Apparently only 50% of boys get circumcised anymore, it is more traditional than medical. No one has vehemently disagreed with our decision apart from a few of my coworkers.
Letting Abraham sleep on and next to me makes me realize just how much I am an animal. To him I must seem this great, furry breathing source of comfort and protection, when I nuzzle him I remind myself of all of those nature documentaries where critters care for their young. I’ve got one for myself now, and the challenge of fatherhood suits me well. I’d been wanting a new difficult and meaningful challenge in my life. I love him.
Sleepdep is already in full effect. Abraham only needs fed about twice during the night, but it isn’t that easy. If he does eat right away, that takes about half an hour, followed by burping, possible diaper changing and getting the little feller asleep. Then we have a chance to use the restroom and grab a bite to eat ourselves. By the time all that is taken care of, it is pretty much time to feed him again. And that’s only if things run smoothly. Sometimes he won’t latch, will fuss because he’s too hungry to sleep and too tired to eat, or just because 10pm and 3am were his favorite times to party in the womb. I’m getting the idea that I’ll never catch up on sack time.