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A Birth Story – Part 3

April 24, 2015

They had told me that I would go out to the infernal room while they cleaned my wife up, and that they’d bring the baby out for me to hold while I waited. Instead…I waited alone.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Nurses went in and came out, none of them had my baby.  I was getting anxious.  Then anxious and annoyed. Then bordering on pissed.  Then, twenty minutes after I left the OR, they brought my son out in a bassinet.  I STILL wasn’t allowed to hold him. I was going CRAZY. They wheeled him to our room, the entire time I had a mental image of myself body checking the nurse out of the way so I could finally pick my son up.

I had played out the first time I held my son in my mind a million times.  I’d look into his face and introduce myself.  I’d kiss him gently on his head, and I’d maybe shed a tear of joy.

Instead, as we walked into the room I found my in-laws sitting there.  Stunned and disappointed, I finally got my son in my arms but the moment I had dreamed was gone and never to be had as I imagined it.  It was no fault of the in-laws.  They graciously bowed out of the room in less than a minute to let me have my moment.  But at that same time they rolled my wife in.  The emotions were strange.  I was disappointed at that moment, but also feeling amazing as I had my son in my arms.  I can still remember how he felt in my arms, still feel the sense of awe.

I took him over to meet his mom. I expected my wife to look a little haggard, after all a person was just ripped out of her  (pretty literally).  But I didn’t expect her to look so bad.  All around her eyes was puffy redness.  Her face was a mask of exhaustion.  She could barely open her eyes to look at her son.  I gently laid him in her arms.  I still remember her smiling weakly at him, and reaching her hand over to touch his face.  But a few moments later she had me take him back as a fit of nausea over took her. She threw up for the first time a couple minutes later.  An action she would repeat half a dozen times that day.  The pain medication was more than her body could handle on an empty stomach.  The entire day of my son’s birth she was sick. Looking back, that certainly makes my silly regret look…silly.  She couldn’t enjoy him at all that day.  Regretfully for us, and especially my wife, it was just the beginning of a long ordeal.

For me, the rest of that day was a blur of motion. Family and friends came to visit in a steady stream.  I did my best to entertain and coordinate handing the baby off to people, trying to mentally calculate a fair amount of time for each person, and occasionally allotting some time for myself to hold him.  I took as many chances as I could to tend to my sick wife.  I took every chance I could to take care of Jack (it took me months to be comfortable calling him Jack…silly how the mind works).

I am not sure the nurses knew what to do with me.

1) I insisted that the nurses let me help bath him for the first time (a good thing as I had to handle most of the baths in the coming few weeks)
2) I changed every dirty diaper
3) I fed him bottles (we had to supplement due to his size)
4) I tracked all the feedings and diaper changes
5) I helped my wife nurse by helping with positioning the baby and being her cheerleader
6) I was involved in every discussion about my wife’s and my son’s care.

Some nurses were bemused, obviously thinking “how cute, he wants to help.” Others were pleased, happy to see a dad so involved.  There was only one nurse who blatantly treated me like a kid at the adults table.  She shunned me, belittled me, and all around treated me like garbage.  Thankfully, she was only there for one shift.

So that first day passed in a blur of visitors, my wife throwing up, changing diapers, talking with doctors, and getting every second I could with my son. Finally, at the end of the night, my wife was able to sit up and hold our son and give him a proper ogling.

And we finally got to have a moment together with him.  Our first family moment.

That night my wife decided to try and nurse him throughout the night.  It was difficult.  She was so tired, and nursing is damned tricky.  After her first attempt, we decided to let the nurses handle him so she could sleep.

Day two was more of the same.  Many more visitors.  I continued to play host.  I got more and more tired. About half way through day the nurses convinced my wife to try and get a shower.  I hung out in the room with my son while she showered.  I set him in his bassinet when she was done and I went over to help her out of the shower.

She was chatting it up about how she was glad she took a shower. Then…she started talking nonsense.  Stringing words together that didn’t make sense.  Then her words started to fade out…and she started falling.  I caught her, set her down on the tub and pushed the emergency button. “Something is wrong with my wife, she is passing out!” I held on to her and waited for the nurses.

They came running in, ripped open some smelling salts and waved them under her nose.  And just like in a damned movie, it was like flipping on a switch, my wife was back.  And I was finally able to breath.  We took her back into bed.  They checked her out and said she should be fine.

Despite that terrifying moment, the rest of the day went fine. Jack’s billirubins were high due to his weight and not getting enough food from nursing alone.  So, we had to supplement.  We decided to let the nurses take him all night for the second night, as it was to be our last in the hospital. Sleep in a hospital isn’t exactly sleep in the strictest of terms.  Between the beeping of the machines and the frequent checkups from the nurses and the horrid “couch” I didn’t so much as sleep as I took a series of shitty naps.

Day 3.  Time to head home.

We finally started to feel a little normal on that third day.  We spent several hours packing up the room, gathering up the many generous gifts we got from family, and of course finalizing our paperwork.  My in-laws came to help us checkout and load up the car.  Finally my wife was placed in a wheelchair, Jack Jr. in her arms, and we left the hospital.

The ride home was surreal.  I had my family in the car.  I had a family.  I had an amazing little boy.  It felt momentous at the time and looking back it still does.

From there we arrived at home, and set on the great journey of parenthood.  All the good, the bad, the beautiful, the terrifying, the exhausting, and the amazing.  I had my family at home, and I was at peace.

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