Sunday, January 6, 2013

Spoiler Alert: It Wasn't a Velociraptor

So it's been about eight weeks since my last post.  A lot has gone on since mid-November.  Namely, Thanksgiving, my birthday, the mistaken prophecy of the Mayans, and, in efforts to not bury the lead, our daughter was born.

Much to my chagrin, she was not a velociraptor.  But she's rather cute, so I think we'll keep her.

For those not familiar with the interweb reference:

What actually was the result of labor after 9 months of a rather difficult pregnancy was far less dangerous but much, much more adorable:

Not a velociraptor
Em gave birth at the Birthing Center in Bryn Mawr -- a midwifery practice where they only do natural birth.  In other words: no epidurals.

For the males of the species who may be reading this, those two words may have little impact for you.  For anyone who has witnessed a natural birth and/or delivered a baby under those circumstances, I'm quite certain you clenched your nether-regions just now.

The recounting of the story from my shoddy second-hand perspective is a sorry substitute from getting it straight from the source, but seeing as whatever hormonal cocktail the body releases in the mother's endocrine system post-delivery seems to have a total amnesiac effect on the mother regarding what she just went through, I'll have to do my best.

Em started laboring around 3:00 PM on Friday the 21st.  At least, that's when she told me that she was feeling pretty regular contractions.  You have to realize that I'd been hovering over her for the past two weeks and every time she'd wince, I was ready to load us all into the car.  

The contractions were steadily increasing in duration and intensity, but she took the midwives advice and tried to distract herself with other activities until they became too intense to ignore.  

She actually cooked herself some pancakes and vacuumed a bit before she had to sit down.  We played video games until she had to put the controller down and hold her belly.  She called the midwife and described the pain and they told her to go take a shower and give them a call in another hour.  Hopefully by that point the contractions would be closer together and lasting for a longer period of time.

At 10:00 PM (seven hours after the "pre-labor" contractions had started) we got in the car and headed for the Birth Center.  Ruby (our noble basset hound) was under the watchful care of two of our friends and the cats were well stocked with food and drink, so there was nothing to focus on aside from getting this baby out.

But first, we stopped at Wawa.

Now, before anyone strings me up for being an insensitive bastard husband, the Birth Center tells you to bring a "victory" meal with you so that when labor is over, Mom can get something to eat.  The entire pregnancy Em's been craving an Italian hoagie.  And as pregnant women are supposed to avoid cold lunch meats, it's been off the menu for the past 9 months.  

It being after 10:00 PM, the only place I could think of to stop for one was Wawa.  So, while Em was writhing in her seat, I went in an picked up a Shorti.

If our baby is going to be born and raised in Delco, she might as well get used to it early.

Mission accomplished, we made it the rest of the way to the Birth Center.  The nurse on duty opened the door for us and led us to the green suite.

At this point the midwife came in to assess the situation.  Em was still under the impression that she wasn't really going to give birth yet and that they might send us back home, but after checking under the hood, it looked like we were in business -- she was 3 centimeters along and this was going to happen.

Now, as of this point Em's been awake for about 13 hours.  She tried to nap at home but the contractions kept her awake.  Already tired, she's in for another 18 hours of labor.

By 2:00 AM, the contractions were right on top of each other, but she was no where near fully dilated, so the midwife gave her something to help her sleep.  We dozed until 6:00 AM and within a few minutes of waking back up, the contractions started back up again.  The next nine hours were the part of the movie that they'd montage so that the summary of contractions, back rubs and bath tub soaks could be compiled into a pithy 3 minute segment while "Disco Inferno" played in the background.

Would that the same could have been said of that time.  By the end of it, Em was totally exhausted and we all were the worse for wear.  The Shorti has been consumed hours ago.  But by 3:30 things were in order for Em to start pushing.  

It's not like movies make it out to be.  There's definitely an intensity and some primal noises that happen -- but maybe everyone's birth experience is different.  By the time Em was ready to push, she was so exhausted that she was falling asleep between each contraction.  She would push for a minute, sleep for a minute or two and then right back at it.

I won't go into the more gory details for the most squeamish of readers out there but I will let you know this -- helping in the delivery is (as the midwifes are fond of saying) an "earthy" process.  There will be all manner of amniotic business going down.  But when you are the one to actually help pull your baby into this world, the whole thing makes instant sense. 

And for the tough guys out there -- don't think you won't cry.  The minute you see your little one safely in the arms of your baby's mama, Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel...

Pro Tip: when grabbing your baby for the first time please note that he or she will be as difficult to grab as a greased pig.  Seriously.  The midwife told me to help grab her and I couldn't get a good grip.  I suggest a good under the armpits maneuver if you can manage it.

I can't sing the praises of our midwife / nurse team.  They were a dynamic duo and the perfect pairing for what Em needed to get her through the process.  Our midwife was a spritely, pixie type with a Skrillex haircut.

(Not our midwife.  Skrillex)
Our RN was a wonderful Delco raised girl who had a great sense of humor and a no-nonsense attitude.  When Em thought she'd never get through the process, Jen was there to set her straight.  And given the super-human strength a woman seems to develop mid-delivery, the fact that Jen repeatedly encouraged Em to squeeze her hand along with mine through the contractions, was a testament to both her steadfastness and her tolerance for pain.

So, by 4:44 our baby girl, Lily Noel, was born.  Em was elated.  I thought for certain that she'd fall asleep instantly, but she started holding court.  She didn't stop talking for half an hour while the midwife delivered the placenta and made sure everything was all right.  There was a joy in her eyes unlike anything I've ever seen on anyone's face.  And when you see this little person who looks a whole lot like the best of the two of you, it's hard to believe that everything you went through actually happened at all.

By the end of the night we'd made all the calls and let everyone know Lily was born -- all 9 lbs. 14 ounces of her.  And then it was just the three of us.  At the Birth Center you have to stay a minimum of four hours and a maximum of twelve.  As Lily was born at 4:44 PM and Em's labor had been long and exhausting, they wanted us to stay the night there to keep an eye on both Mama and baby.  

Em's appetite was back after having not eaten anything in almost 24 hours, so I made another Wawa run.  

It took everything within my power to not announce to anyone who would listen that I was a new dad.  Being the closest Wawa to the Birthing Center, I'm sure I wouldn't be the first to do so, but I hardly think the guy assembling a series of Shortis behind the counter would have been impressed.

But I was on top of the world.  I couldn't be happier that the Mayans were mistaken.