I'm a pretty good communicator.
In high school, I got a perfect 5 on my AP English writing test. My SAT verbal scores were higher than my SAT math scores, and I'm an engineer. When I asked a college professor to write a letter of recommendation, he said that in 25 years of teaching, I was in the top 5% all the students he'd ever seen when it came to public speaking. I've written letters that have mended bridges with family members and I've preached sermons that have moved people to tears.
Why do I say all that? To toot my own horn? Nah... that's kinda pointless now. I said it as a statement of my credentials as a communicator.
I was in the room when Tyler was born. I held Mandy's hand when we saw him for the first time. If anyone should be able to write about it, it should be me.
But, there just aren't words. There is no way I can ever fully give voice to the thoughts and feelings that went through me as my son was born or that are still in my now. I've got a pretty good grasp of the English language, and as far as I know, English just doesn't hack it.
But, this is a blog... all I have are words. So... I'll give it a shot. We'll go in chronological order, to the best of my sleep-deprived memory.
It was Tuesday evening. Mandy and I had just had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.. it was terrible. She had been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately, so she'd finally convinced me to have our reclincer fixed. It had been broken for several months. The recliner was repaired and I got in the Jeep to go pick it up right after dinner.
When we'd finished eating, Mandy had complained of an upset stomach... she also said she was having some pretty bad contractions. Contractions were nothing new to us, since she'd had a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions.. so, we thought maybe she was just fatigued and dinner wasn't sitting well with her.
On the way home from picking up the recliner from the repair store, she called me. She said she was in a lot of pain and that the contractions were different than they'd ever been. She'd thrown up all of the spaghetti and meatballs and told me is was even more disgusting the second time. I got home quick and moved the recliner into the living room.
I looked around the house and noticed that the kitchen was really clean.. a lot cleaner than I'd left it. Usually, I clean up the kitchen after dinner. I asked her why she did it. Her reply? "I think we might be in labor and I want it to be clean for family"
My breathing got a bit shallower.
For the next few hours, she sat in the recliner and I sat on the couch and watched a Nova special about tornados. She was in quite a bit of pain. She started timing the contractions... most doctors say that if the contractions are lasting for at least 60 seconds and are 5 minutes apart of closer, you should go in to the hospital. Her contractions were lasting about 45 seconds and were anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes apart. We decided to call the doctor. He spoke w/ Mandy some and said we could go to the hospital if we wanted or we could wait a little longer to see if things got more interesting.
I realized how many things I hadn't done to get ready at that point. I am the keeper of the electronic gadgets. I still hadn't made a playlist for my Ipod to be used in the hospital. Everyone knows you can't have a kid w/o a good soundtrack! My camera wasn't charged up... my phone charger was missing.. I was unprepared. So, I ran around, trying to gather all this stuff up while Mandy tried to decide what to do.
Ultimately, at around 10:30 after about 3 hours of contractions, we decided to go ahead and go in. I put Emma in her pen and we hopped in the car w/ a hospital bag full of clothes and a backpack full of uncharged electronics.
We got to the hospital and they hooked Mandy up to the monitors. Tyler was doing fine and Mandy was having pretty regular contractions. The nurse told us it really looked like this was the real deal.
A bit of a medical sidebar here. For those for those of you who are squemish and/or don't want to hear a little about female anatomy, skip ahead to the next paragraph. The whole purpose of labor (contractions) is to allow the cervix to dilate. The cervix is the opening into the uterus from the birth canal. Under normal circumstances, it is closed. During most of the pregnancy, it is completely closed. The uterus is really a big muscle, and a contraction is just that.. a contraction of the muscle of the uterus. So, what happens is that as the uterus contracts, it starts pushing the baby down. Ideally, the baby's head is pointed down as well. So, the top of his head acts like a battering ram on the inside of the cervix and the cervix slowly begis to dilate. Dilation is measured in centimeters. Moms have to labor until the cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters (around 4inches) before they can push. So, the primary way that the progress of labor is measured is by checking to see if the cervix is dilated.
The nurse checked Mandy and she wasn't really dilated at all. That wasn't a huge surprise. First time Moms typically have a tough time dilating. So, she suggested that we get up and walk for an hour. We did that. Every few minutes, we'd have to stop in the hall and I'd help Mandy stand up while she had a contraction.
At the end of our hour long stroll, the nurse checked us again. Still no dilation.
We stayed there for a while longer. Mandy was still having plenty of regular and painful contractions, so it still seemed like the real deal. The nurse checked us again at around 1 AM. Still no dilation.
She decided to call the doctor to see what he recommended and she told us that he'd probably send us home.
To our surprise, he recommended keeping us overnight and seeing what had happened by morning time. The nurses gave Mandy a sleep aid, Ambien, to help her sleep. I didn't get anything. I layed down on the pull out bed and Mandy settled in to the hospital bed and we tried to get some sleep. I closed my eyes, tried to slow my breathing and get some shut eye.
"CALEB!!!!" Mandy screamed.
"What?!? What is it?!?!?" I said
She was sitting up in bed, pointing at the wall. I had no idea what was going on. Then she looked me right in the eye and said 'I think I'm halucinating'. I started dying laughing. She had several other random halucinations over the next few minutes.. she though someone named Ann came in to see her.. she thought she was standing up in her hospital bed to shake their hand when they came in to meet her. In hindsight, I think basically what it was is that she was fighting sleep so hard cause she was scared and nervous.. but the Ambien was occasionally winning the fight... so she'd slip into light sleep.. dream about bananas or peopled named Ann and then wake up convinced it was real. Once I figured out what was going on, I got a pretty big kick out of it. Mandy finally fell asleep after 20 minutes or so and so did I.
Morning came and our doctor came by to check on us. Mandy had contracted all night. She'd been in labor for about 12 hours at this point. The doctor checked to see if she had dilated any.
We were both really disappointed. Mandy had been in a lot of pain all night and that morning and we were really expecting some progress to be made. So, the doctor said we had a choice to make. Mandy could either go home and try to rest and see if the contractions got stronger, or the doctor could give her something to help her along.
Mandy asked him what he thought she should do... our doctor is a consummate professional, so he wasn't about to actually tell her what to do. He basically just explained the two options a little more and then told her to make up her mind.
Mandy was a wreck. She asked me what to do.. I didn't really know either.. I wasn't the one experiencing all the pain.. I didn't know what was going on. She was frantically trying to figure out what to do. She just wanted someone, ANYONE, to tell her what would be best and no one would make up the decision for her cause no one really could. For an hour, she was an emotional wreck. On the one hand, she was in a lot of pain and really wanted the pregnancy to be over with. On the other hand, she felt like she wasn't giving Tyler 'a chance' if she used some artificial means to speed up the labor.
Eventually, her pain and impatience won out and we decided it was time to have a baby. They moved us into a labor and delivery room and checked us in. We called our parents and told them that Tyler would be born soon and that they should make their way to Ohio post-haste. My parents weren't a big concern... they live about 8 hours away and we were confident that they had plenty of time. Mandy's parents, on the other hand, are about 18 hours away. They were the critical ones, so we just hoped we'd given them enough of a head start.
A few hours later, the contractions started picking up in intensity. The previous night, they'd just been really uncomfortable for Mandy. By mid-afternoon, they were really starting to hurt. She couldn't talk through them and had to focus on breathing and trying to relax. One of her good friends, Tara, showed up. Mandy had been at the birth of Tara's second child in January of this year and Tara decided to drop by and visit Mandy for a while. The contractions got worse and worse. Mandy was crying some.... I hated seeing her like that, but I was also happy that the contractions were getting intense. That meant that they were starting to do some work and progress was being made. One of the nurses came in and asked Mandy if she'd like some pain medication. It took Mandy about half a second to say yes. It was close to dinner time on Wednesday and I was really hungry, so I decided to go to the Subway that was in the hospital and eat something while Tara was there to stay with Mandy. I ran downstairs, scarfed down a sub and made my way back up.
Tara looks at me and says " I'm glad you weren't here "
I look and Mandy, and she looks to be sleeping. It seems that Mandy had quite a reaction to the pain medication that they gave her while I was gone. She started shaking uncontrollably and hyperventilated. They had to put an oxygen mask on her for a few minutes to help her get back under control. By the time I got back, the excitement was over and she was sleeping.
Nurses would come by occasionally to check on our progress. She was slowly starting to dilate. The pain meds wore off and she got another dose.. without incident this time.
My parents arrived around 8 PM. I was glad to see my Mom especially. Her and Mandy are pretty close, and I knew Mandy would be glad for another woman in the room to help her. I was also glad cause having my Mom around was re-assuring to me as well. My Dad was a nervous wreck... he was excited and anxious all at the same time. I could relate. He eats when he's nervous.. he probably gained 5 pounds just that night.
At any rate, contractions were getting very strong. Pain medicince would wear off and Mandy would have to really fight against the pain. She did well, but it was really hurting her. I still wrestled with feelings of sorrow that she was in pain but happiness that things were progressing.
Around midnight, 30 hours into the labor, the nurse came in and told Mandy she was dilated enough that she could have an epidural if she'd like. For those who might not know, an epidural is a special kind of anesthesia for women in labor. It involves a giant needle straight into her spinal column to deliver the medicine. While that sounds a bit gruesome (and it is) the pain relief is complete and constant. Mandy said she wanted one.
The anesthesiologist was called in and I took up a position in front of Mandy where I could support her but not see the HUGE needle that he was about to stab my wife in the back with. I knew Mandy was really nervous about this part. Who wouldn't be? So, I made eye contact with her and hoped for the best.
Turns out, all our worry was over almost nothing. Mandy said the worst part was the small injection of local anesthetic he gave her before the even touched her with the giant needle. Once the epidural kicked in, Mandy's body was pretty much numb from the belly button down. She could finally sleep, so I did to.
At 3 oclock, the nurse checked her and she was 5 cm dilated. 33 hours of labor and we're halfway there. Good grief... he's going to be born next year. Mandy and I both went back to sleep.
At around 5:30, the nurse came in again. I remember barely waking up, just to hear her say how dilated Mandy was. I expected 6 cm.. maybe 7. Instead she said:
"Woah! You're at 10!!"
My heart stopped. Mandy's jaw dropped open. My mom giggled and grinned.
The nurse said she was going to call the doctor. Mandy's epidural was working great, so she wasn't in much pain, but she was still exhausted. Another nurse showed up and started getting out all of the medical equipment that is needed to deliver a baby.
'This is it' I thought... 'it's going to happen soon.'
And then I realized that Mandy's Mom and Dad still weren't there. I called them on the phone.. they were close. But I wasn't sure if it was close enough. I got worried.
30 minutes passed, still no doctor. But, somehow, Mandy's Mom and Dad have made it in. I relax about that a little. The nurse comes in and says "Okay... you're probably going to have to push for a while, so we're going to practice that, okay? On the next contraction, I want you to push for me."
We did. Mandy pushed, I held her hand and watched her struggle. The nurse said she did a good job. Mandy said she was feeling sick to her stomach. She did another practice push and then a few minutes later she threw up.
The nurse had her stop pushing. And checked her. "Okay.. that enough practice pushing for now. Also, try not to throw up, cause getting sick uses the same muscles and is really the same thing as pushing, and you shouldn't push any more right now."
NOT getting sick is not one of Mandy's specialties. A few minutes later, she was throwing up again. The nurse check her.
"WOAH! Okay, we've got to find a doctor NOW!" and she ran out the door to find our doctor or any available doctor. She turned to another nurse in the room and says "Watch her!"
The second nurse turned to Mandy and said "Don't do anything honey, I don't have my gloves on!" and ran off to put on some gloves. I manged to sneak a glance at all the action.
I could see the top of Tyler's head.
I'm no expert on delivering babies, but I knew that meant we were CLOSE.
Where is the blasted doctor?
The door opens and the first nurse walks back in w/ our doctor, Dr. Green in tow.
He walks in, cleans himself up and gets to work.
Tyler was so close, Mandy only had to push one more time. Within 3 minutes of the doctor walking in the door, Mandy was holding our kicking and crying son on her chest.
This is where the story gets hard to tell. Not because I don't know what happened, but because I really just don't know how to express it. Within 5 minutes of being born, my son was reaching up and wrapping his fingers around my pinky. My heart was in my throat.. I was on the verge of breaking into tears or uncontrollable laughter, or both...his eyes were open and even though he can't really focus on anything right now, he seemed to be looking at me. Maybe looking through me. Everything else in life faded away and it was just me and that little hand wrapped around my finger. I looked back over to Mandy. She was watching me, smiling and crying. I looked back to Tyler. He was perfect.
Remember earlier when I said that my abilities as a communicator didn't really matter? That there's really no point in tooting my own horn? Here's why... Tyler is my greatest achievement so far. Everything else pales in comparison. There is nothing else worth bragging about when you've helped bring another life into a loving home. What else could? This is as close as humans ever come to God. It is the act of creation, through means that God gave us. And it is amazing.
I've done most of the dad things so far. I fed Tyler his first bottle ever. I've changed diapers and I've dressed him, swaddled him, and put him to sleep. I've even calmed him down once when he was crying. I could spend all day, just looking at him... Watching him sleep.. wondering what it is he's dreaming about.
I'll spend the rest of my life in awe of what happened on my 25th birthday. I'll never understand it. It is the most unbelievable thing on the planet, without doubt. It has been around since humanity began... but I can assure you that no technological achievement of mankind will ever inspire more wonder in the heart of a person than the event of a child being born.
Thanks for reading.