Quick Disclaimer: I intend this blog to be primarily discussion surrounding super-nerd Fantasy related content. But following the birth of my first child last week, I wanted to write up and share our experience for posterity sake and for any curious friends and family.
When people find out that you are going to be a parent the first thing they start to do is tell you what you’re going to experience, and how unfathomable it is. You’re never going to sleep again, you’ll never have free time. Your priorities all completely change. Over nine months, I heard these countless times. It all comes from a place of good intent, but by the end of my wife’s pregnancy, my slight smiles at the comments had turned to frustrated eye rolls, and ultimately rants at my wife about why people think building up a ‘sleep bank’ is even possible. But this post is not to for me to air grievances about completely normal things. It’s about how if someone told me what my experience in the first week of being a parent would be, I would have laughed in their face at the sheer improbability.
On January 16, my wife and I took a last look around our home and said bye to our dog. She was 41+ weeks and it was time to head into the hospital for induction. We had, so far, had what we considered a ‘vanilla pregnancy’. Every symptom was mild, no concerns from the Midwives. So we had no reason at all to worry while heading into the hospital. We must have said ‘vanilla pregnancy’ one too many times.
After getting set up in our antepartum room (a word I learned that day) and a brief disagreement with the charge nurse about whether or not Amanda needed an IV, we relented and it took the nurse four attempts (and about 40 minutes) to get the IV in. Not a great way to start the night, so we ordered some hospital dinner and milkshakes, started watching Arrested Development and dozed off. The plan from there was for Amanda to get a single dose of a drug to induce contractions every four hours. The first dose was 10pm. I fell asleep after a beer and some pesto pasta.
At 12:08 (1/17) I was awakened by four nurses streaming silently into the room. No lights were turned on, so I quickly scanned the room to see what was wrong. The baby’s heart rate was in the 70’s, when it should have been between 140-160 beats per minutes. With solemn efficiency, the nurses hung IV fluids and coached Amanda on how to turn to ‘get the baby off the cord’. It worked, and in a matter of seconds the baby’s heart rate was back up to where it should be. But we were sufficiently shaken, all of this was only explained afterwards.
It turned out our baby would not tolerate contractions at all. This deceleration happened half a dozen more times that night between the hours of 2am-4am. The leading hypothesis is that the placenta was sufficiently small and aged that it was no longer providing our baby what it needed. By 5am the attending doctor had recommended (as the only path forward) a C section. This was devastating to Amanda, who had gone to great lengths to avoid just this outcome. We now know that there was no other way for our baby to come. The official story now is that she was too vain to squeeze out the normal way, so she insisted on her own exit.
At 8am, we had been prepared and wheeled into the operating room, where a resident took five attempts to get the spinal nerve block, and still ended up handing it over to the anesthesiologist who had to take three attempts themselves. Amanda, bless her heart, through the tears told the anesthesiologist ‘Either I have some weird physiology or you’re bad at your job”, to which the whole OR (anesthesiologist included) laughed uproariously. It lightened a tense mood, which we were grateful for.
A few short minutes later, our baby was being pulled from the womb. Our midwife spoke the first words to describe her, which she will be frequently reminded of in her teen years.
“Oh, the baby is poopy. Oh, the baby is REALLY poopy.”
It turned out she had been marinating in meconium for over 24 hours, and the nurses raced to pump her stomach, clear her eyes and nose. But she was healthy. I will never forget those first, wavering cries from the heating table.
And she was a girl. Amanda asked me three times, ‘it’s a girl?’ through her fentanyl-induced haze. We were shocked. Tears may or may not have welled. Got a little choked up, perhaps. Despite the official Larkin party line being ‘we don’t know’, Amanda and I had reasonably convinced ourselves we were having a boy.
But she was happy and healthy, as was Mom. And we could not have been happier. Baby was born in the morning of 1/17. Writing from nearly two weeks later, the twelve hours of checking into hospital to birth of our daughter feel like a blur of chaos and anxiety. A terrifying realization in retrospect is that she would not have survived full contractions. Our plan had been, thanks to our ‘vanilla pregnancy’, to labor at home as long as possible.
Our crazy first week of parenting was just beginning though. After bonding and healing in the hospital for two days, we headed home. I dropped Amanda and the baby off at her parents first so I could introduce our dog Tuck to her scent. After introducing Tuck to the baby, which he did great with, we settled in for several weeks at home. Relaxing, learning, healing and parenting.
It’s at this point that I should point out that Amanda and I chose a word on New Years Day that we wanted to embody our 2020. We knew change was coming, so we both independently came up with ‘flexibility’ as our word. We had already been flexible, riding the wave of traditional birth into an urgent c section. We were through it and ready to settle in for the long recovery and bonding.
Then, midway through the 3rd quarter of the NFC Championship game, I plugged a space heater into our outlet. Our wonderful friends dropped off a casserole, and I popped some in the microwave for Amanda while she rested and fed the wee one.
BOOM. The power drops, breakers flipped. OK, no problem right? Well, when I went to go check on it and flip it back (breaking through several coats of pain over the box itself), I saw smoke from the box. After a second and third try (and seeing small amounts of smoke still), I was sufficiently freaked, and still had no power. Whether or not this was a logical decision, we bundled the babe and mother out of the house to her parents. I had no idea what the electrical situation was, so I called an emergency electrician. My landlord was pissed, and clearly didn’t want to pay.
For the sake of brevity, I will say, four nights in a hotel, four nights at my in-laws and a lot of heartache over the safety of our home got us to where we are now. The intervening time included signing a lease for a new house, setting up a generator in the driving rain (and subsequently moving our freezer out of the house in the driving rain) and now preparing to move.
The first one and a half weeks of our daughters life has been eventful. Throw in rare sleep and all the other difficulties that come with being new parents, and we have a great story. One of my major takeaways from this whole experience is how intensely grateful I am for our family and friends. We would have been in a much worse situation without their help bringing us food and offering us a place to sleep. This is certainly an experience I will never forget, and a true lesson in being flexible in ways we had no way of knowing.