I suppose you could say that The Unexpected has been a recurring theme on Life of Ando this year (as evidenced here and here). And while having a baby wasn’t a totally unexpected development, the way in which it happened was more than a little surprising. Before the weekend was over, the Packers had lost a game which they should’ve won, and I didn’t really care, because I was a father.
Our story begins on what would be considered at any other time to be your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Thursday. Jennifer and I were due at her Ob/Gyn for her regular prenatal check up. Several of Jen’s friends had told her that it looked like she’d dropped, which apparently means that the baby’s arrival is not far off. I would tease Jen that the baby was coming early by saying things like, “Don’t worry babe, we’ll have the room painted by the time the baby comes next week. Ha ha ha.” She didn’t find this nearly as funny as I did. So, here we were on the doctor, waiting to see whether or not the baby was going to be an early bird. All signs pointed to “no” and the doctor said she expected the pregnancy to go full term, another three and a half weeks.
Imagine my surprise when I was awakened early Friday morning with the words, “I think my water just broke.” There really isn’t a response to that three weeks sooner than you were expecting. I got up to see if I could be of any assistance, having no idea what that might be, and kind of tottered around the hallway looking for something constructive to do. Not believing this could really be it we went back to bed to check Jen’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting book to see what else this could possibly be. While I dozed off, Jen paged her doctor and called her sister to find out what the heck was going on. Of course, there could be only one thing that was going on, and her sister broke the news: “You’re having a baby…today!” It was at this point when I came to and asked, “Should I pack a suitcase or something?” Needless to say, we were caught quite unprepared. We didn’t have a bag packed, we had almost no furniture for the baby’s room, which I had just finished painting a mere two days before, we had very little for the baby to wear, and as we drove to the hospital I turned to Jen and asked, “How are we going to get this baby home? We don’t have a car seat.”
We arrived at the hospital at about 6 AM and were checked in. Jen’s contractions were coming quicker now and she was starting to feel the pain. About this time, the on call doctor finally got back to us–a full hour after we’d called. I told her what had been going on and she assured me she would call the hospital to let them know we were on our way. I then informed her that I was in fact calling from the hospital room, and she apologized for not getting back to us earlier. Gee, thanks. Jen was hooked up to some monitors and machines and such, given a little pain medication, and we dug in for the long haul. Our parents showed up after a bit to lend moral support and the contractions began coming faster with more intensity.
Initially we thought this would be a rather quick affair. The contractions were only a couple minutes apart before too long, so we figured we might have ourselves a baby by early afternoon. By this time Jen was in quite a bit of pain. The moment we set foot in the hospital door Jen had been talking about an epidural and telling every doctor, nurse, and orderly that she wanted one. She had heard a story about someone who didn’t ask for one until it was too late and she was determined not to let that happen to her. The time finally came and they loaded her up with all kinds of good feeling substances. Unfortunately, they would wear off over time and they kept having to increase the dosage. But she was quite the trooper. No one likes pain, but Jen has a particular aversion to it, so to see her fighting through it so bravely made me as proud as a husband could be.
After several hours she reached five centimeters dilated and things still looked on track for an early afternoon baby. But then things kind of stopped. She never got past five and after four or five hours of being stuck there, the doctor decided that after thirteen hours of labor it may be necessary to do a cesarean section delivery. When the doctor informed Jen, I could tell that she was upset and as soon as the doctor left the room, she burst into tears. She felt like she had failed in some way and that now the baby was in danger. The moms and I assured her that neither of these things were true. She had done all she could, and valiantly, but sometimes this is just the way it goes. Besides, c-sections were relatively routine. There was nothing to fear. We prayed with her, and then the nurses came to take her in to get prepped.
While I waited to be called into the operating room, I watched Jeopardy and prayed, all the while my leg bouncing up and down nervously. I hadn’t been anxious the whole day, but now I was a little jittery. I wouldn’t say I was scared or afraid that something bad was going to happen, I think it was more a combination of excitement and expectation. The kind of butterflies you get before the Big Game. I prayed that God would keep Jen and the baby safe, I prayed that He would keep Jen calm and at peace, I prayed that I wouldn’t pass out. After about twenty minutes, after I had donned my scrubs, they called me in, digital camera in hand. It was about five after seven in the evening. The brightly lit operating room was buzzing with activity. As a nurse led me around the corner of the big blue fabric blind separating Jen’s head from her body, I was surprised at how many people were in the room. A covey of blue clad doctors and nurses were gathered around Jen’s torso in what looked like a scene out of cartoon, all huddled up, hands and instruments seemingly flying everywhere. As I came around the blind to see Jen, she looked pretty calm. She had the shakes pretty good, but I think it was more the physical stuff she’d already been through that day than her nerves. I sat down next to her, held her hand, and we struck up a conversation. It’s quite a surreal experience. As we talked, I listened to the medical staff as they went about their work like it was business as usual, which of course it was for them. It was still a little odd to hear them just kind of shooting the breeze, knowing full well that my wife’s insides were exposed to the outside air. But somehow it was calming. They seemed relaxed so why shouldn’t I be? And I was. From the moment I came into the operating room, my butterflies flew away. After just a few minutes I heard our doctor say, “I see a hand. She’s waving at us.” The anesthesiologist, who was on our side of the blind, peeked over and said I should have a look. I peered over the edge just in time to see the doctor pull my daughter out of Jen’s incision. I didn’t get queasy, I didn’t get lightheaded, in fact, I thought it was pretty cool. All of a sudden, at 7:13 PM, January 18th, 2008, there she was, looking like an alien. Her head was a little cone shaped and she was covered in some whitish gook. They rushed her over to the cleaning off area and invited me over to come watch. As I stood there watching them wipe her down and check her out, I was conscience of an ear to ear grin under my mask. The nurse asked me if I’d like to cut the umbilical chord, which I did and then I just stood there dumbfounded as I watched them clean her up. I was in such an altered state, the doctor had to remind me to start snapping some pictures or I’d “really be in the dog house.”
After a few clicks, they wrapped Lily up and handed her to me to take over to Jen. That’s when the butterflies came back for a second. As anyone who has been in the same room with me when babies are present should know, I don’t usually hold babies of my own free will, so I lack any real world experience in baby holding. So just for an instant I didn’t know what to do. But I managed to pick her up without excitement and I walked her over to see her mom. We snapped a few more photos and then I went with Lily to be weighed and measured, while Jen was sown up and taken to recovery. I think I may have seen her liver.
While Lily was measured, the rest of the family–both sets of grandparents, my sister, Claire, and my grandma–were able to watch through a window. They couldn’t have been more tickled. It’s been a long time for either side of the family since there have been babies around and everyone was thoroughly enjoying being reintroduced into this world of tiny people. They ooohed and ahhhed as they watched Lily wriggle about on the scales. I think they may have enjoyed watching me handle a baby just as much. I know I would’ve.
At about nine Lily and I were reunited with Jen in her recovery room, the nurses gave Jen a quick lesson in breastfeeding, and then we were left on our own, parents and child. It was the end of a very long and eventful day. Before we all nodded off to sleep Jen said to me, “Is she going to be OK? She’s not hooked up to anything, how will they know if somethings wrong?” I replied that she won’t be hooked up to anything at home either, but I understood her concern. We’ve never done this before. What happens now? Fortunately sleep overtook us before the worries could, and every time we woke up–which were numerous–Lily was still there and breathing. It still doesn’t seem real.
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