This was a post from my first website for Ben. I’ve moved the photos to flickr, but the prose is still scattered elsewhere. I’m moving more here where I can more easily edit if need be.
20040702: A Baby Viking Sets Sail
The Baby Viking broke the waters at 2:45 am, and had a relatively quick trip to the outside. We gathered the things for the hospital; Henrik covered the passenger seat in blankets, towels and trashbags. I packed one bag with baby clothes, a change of clothing, clean underwear, diapers, and let my colleagues know on IRC that all meetings that day were cancelled. Once the water began gushing, I simply walked around in my sundress with a towel between my legs. And that’s just how I waddled into the maternity ward at Evergreen Hospital, around 4:15am.
In no time, I was signing papers, then putting on a johnny. Our labor nurse, Sally MacDonald, had been a midwife in her native Australia for nearly 20 years. We gave her our birthplan, and had no idea how many of the requests would be granted. Thanks to Sally, nearly all of them were.
I only felt one contraction, and it was much more Wow! than Ow! And when I say Wow! I meant, “Wow! Can I have more of that? And can you give me a moment alone?” My doula, a mother of 3 with a different set of birthing experiences, later told me with an uncharacteristic scowl after I described the sensation, “No, Janet, that’s not what contractions are usually like.”
I was very lucky – no bloody show, nothing that might otherwise produce a panic or concerned feeling. Since surgical birth was the last thing I had wanted, I was already carrying more than my share of tension. But strangely, everything was just really calm and relaxed.
I was brought into the delivery room around 5am, and other than asking Sally to hold her hand when they gave me the spinal, things went smoothly. It is a test of one’s dignity, however, to be introduced to people when you are bare from the waist down, and have been shaved. Still, things hummed along, and I was even able to contribute a little bit to a conversation on Roth IRAs.
One of the things they don’t tell you about spinals is that you don’t lose all sensation. You lose the pain sensation, but you sure as hell do not lose the sensation of pressure. Two large (both well over 6ft) dude MDs were pushing hard in an effort to get the baby into an optimal position for the delivery (he had been in transverse lie for months), which resulted in my lungs being compressed to just shy of suffocation. It was the most excruciating and terrifying physical feeling. And yet, it was over in less than 45 minutes, from the time I was “ready” vis-a-vis the anaesthesia to the trip back to our room. I even saw his face through a vent in the surgical drapes, at 5:50 am. It was pink, and he was already making a lot of noise – an excellent sign for a premature male infant.
Henrik was magnificent. I was afraid that he would have trouble with being in the hospital, but he shone. The first thing he said to the baby was “Velcommen til Verden” – welcome to the world. The first thing the baby may have heard was me yelling at Henrik: “Go talk to him, go, go!!! No, talk to him in DANISH!” Proving that even spinal anaesthesia can not keep me from bossing people around.
What I remember about Ben on this first day were his long, thin arms and legs, and the longest feet I have ever seen on a baby. Because he was 3.5 weeks early, some of his skin had yet to plump up and out; he still had waxy vernix covering his skin, keeping it soft and protected. His hair was a golden-reddish color, and his eyes, when he opened them, were a dark slate blue. He also nursed immediately, and long (45 minutes) before he fell asleep on my chest, under a pile of warmed flannel blankets. He slept there for nearly 8 hours, until I made my first attempt to get out of bed. That is another painful story.
No one can really prepare you for the humanity of the birth experience – surgical or otherwise. Of course, you can learn quite a bit about procedures and options – a really good thing to do, imho – but you simply cannot imagine the overwhelming nature of the experience. I cried, but not out of sheer sorrow or joy; it was more that this experience takes everything inside you and changes it, and through that, changes your world. Eech, it sounds corny, but it’s true. It also makes me an even more ardent supporter of choice. You should not go through this, unless you are really as ready as you think you can be. Because even that won’t quite be enough.
That day, we called a number of people – our parents, and friends. I called my friend and colleague Ian, as his first child was also going to be born in July; all I could think of was how happy he would be when he saw his daughter for the first time.