Where was I? Oh yeah, around 3 in the afternoon on the 10th, Lisa had a quick bite, and then we were off to the hospital. It’s a weird feeling knowing that the next time you come home together everything will be different. And let’s make no bones about it – EVERYTHING changes once the baby arrives. The pregnancy and all of that planning that leads up to it is nothing compared to the realization that there a mini-human that completely depends on you…
So yeah, we went to the hospital. The waiting room for labor and delivery was humorously stereotypical – nervous fathers-to-be accompanying calm mothers-to-be who were knitting or reading magazines or making phone calls. All of that “intensive” training really does nothing except for prepare you for just how graphic… I mean beautiful… the actual process is. All of the calming and focusing techniques go right out the window as soon as the words “I think my water just broke” are uttered.
The in-laws showed up (mother, father, and sister) and I figured it was time to start letting everyone in on what was going on. So text messages and phone calls were made. Rather than calling everyone, my Mom offered herself up as the point contact (this is the usual scenario in my large family). Of course it seemed as though each time I got off the phone telling her nothing happened, something happened.
“We’re just stuck in the waiting room.” They move us to an exam room.
“We’re still in the exam room, they’ve got no where to put us.” They move us into a holding room for women “not quite ready to go”.
“Yeah, it’s a holding pattern. Nothing going on.” Lisa starts have major contractions and they start prepping a birthing suite for us.
“Holy cow! She’s almost fully dilated! Kayleigh’s coming any minute!” The obstetrician and nurses start taking bets as to just how bad the intern was at measuring and determine that she’s only at about 2-3 cm. We’re in for a long night.
The entire night was a back and forth affair of nothing happening followed by frantic scrambling when it seemed like everything was suddenly lurching forward. By the time we did move into the birthing suite, Lisa was having full blown contractions even though she was not even close to fully dilated. On top of that, the contractions did not stop. You know how they always have people counting between the contractions? And once they are close together it’s go time? Well Lisa didn’t get the benefit of the down time. Instead of CONTRACTION! Wait ten minutes… CONTRACTION! It was CONTRACTIONCONTRACTIONCONTRACTION!!!!
So the cute thought I had that she might be able to go the hippie natural route was tossed out the windows along with my nerves. It took 2 attempts to place the epidural before she was finally able to relax at all (the first one only numbed one side – I have many stupid analogies for that, but I’ll spare you). But relax can be a relative word, and by midnight we were anxiously awaiting any progress reports with little sleep to keep us going. By 1 AM I finally took a little snooze.
I should really thank my in-laws at this point. I was very nervous about having them around, fearing that it might be too crowded and noisey. But they played an essential supportive role before, during, and after the birth. By the time I collapsed at around 1 I was going on 2 hours of sleep in the previous 40+ hours. The three of them were able to take turns at Lisa’s side and make sure she was ok. They also bought me some… wait for it… McDonald’s for dinner.
The night was tiring. There was a lot of waiting. At the very least I was able to eat and sleep and move around a bit. Lisa was not so lucky. Once your water breaks and they put you in bed, the hospital won’t let you do anything. Well, they’ll let you sleep, but even with the drugs it was tough for her to doze off. But come morning we still felt refreshed knowing that our daughter would be arriving within hours.
I’d say it was right around this time 1 year ago that the pushing began. And once again, thank you to my mother and sister-in-law. Fortunately no one was bothered by the extra person in the room (the hospital only allows the partner and one other person) and they were able to help out both me and the hospital staff. Outside of a single night nurse that we complained about, the staff was incredible. The obstetrician (who turned out to be the only doctor from the practice that Lisa hadn’t met) was calming, warm, and friendly – and very capable.
Honestly, the process is both graphic and beautiful at the same time. In the birthing classes the instructor cautioned that babies don’t necessarily come out looking all cute and cuddly, bonding with you the instant they make an appearance. And it’s true. When Kayleigh finally popped out she was covered in vernix and her eyes were practically swollen shut. While I was never able to imagine what she would look like before, I did assume that she’d be bald or have very light hair. Instead she had a thin covering of dark hair. There was part of me that felt like she didn’t look like my daughter at all.
And then they did all the usual hospital things (sans shots). Wiping her down. Warming her up. Throwing that goop in her eyes. Weighing her naked and screaming. And a fatherly urge started to kick in. At first I wasn’t sure what to do. Am I even allowed to hold her? Should I be comforting her, or would that be interfering? Do I even know how to do any of that? I’m still amazed at how quickly those questions and doubts start to melt away.
After Lisa was given a chance to be a mother for the first time and begin bonding with her little Kayleigh, it was my turn. Once I held that little bundle close to my heart and smelled her sweet little head I never wanted to put her down again. I just wanted to sit down and watch her sleep the day away.
Looking back on those days, nothing really seems that difficult about it. Obviously I’m not the one who had to go through labor and the serious discomfort after the fact (Lisa had some painful recovery issues including back problems), but it’s really such a brief event in the scheme of our lives and hers.
Had I written this at the time of her birth, I’d probably mention more about the hospital stay (thanks for the private suite!) but it really seems inconsequential now. I ate a lot of McDonald’s. Lisa had to stay in bed almost the entire time. It was the most Kayleigh slept for months to come. Thankfully we were able to relax knowing that the hospital staff was there to help us out with the learning process. But after two short days, we came home to do it all on our own.
I’m not sure which was a bigger day in my life. The 11th, when we welcomed Kayleigh into the world, or the 13th, when we began our new life as a family. Either way I’m just so thankful it happened – because I love my family more than I thought possible. Thank you Lisa and Kayleigh.