I was in the guest room playing video games when around 4:20am I heard Sheri coming down the hall. I switched the Virtual Console game I was playing on the Wii to the menu, closed my laptops I was using to cheat and pretended I was half asleep. She opened the door and I lifted my head immediately.
“Hi honey.” I said sleepily.
“Hey, umm,” she slightly hesitated, “my water just broke.”
Pause for a moment before the rest of the day unfolds and read how she came to realize this. Apparently during the night Sheri had a dream involving her sister and hanging out in some random public place that only a dream can invent. In the dream she tells her sister that she really needs to go to the bathroom. Her sister tells her quite casually to “go, just go, it’s okay” and that no one around will mind. As she start to “go”, Sheri wakes up and notices she’s wet between the legs and thinks she just wet the bed. Well without going into too much detail she comes to realize her water broke and then came in to tell me.
Without thinking, I jumped out of bed with a start, which was the wrong move both literally and figuratively. For one, I was laying awake in the same awkward position for about three hours and second I had just finished one of the 16oz. Monster energy drinks I bought only eight hours ago. The sudden change in posture and thinner-than-normal blood resulted in a very painful pull in my lower back that happened almost instantaneously as my feet hit the floor. Fortunately the severity and excitement of the situation provided enough adrenaline to get myself dressed, packed, dogs fed and lock down the house. It took about 25 minutes to do everything, but this was only because Sheri wanted to wait a little while before getting in the car.
On the road to St. John’s, Sheri called her doctor to give them the scoop and both our parents to set them on track to Southern California. It was still dark outside, but traffic was picking up on the 405 and three out of five lanes were closed between Culver Blvd. and Venice Blvd. Regardless, I drove pretty quickly through it and Sheri reminded me that I didn’t need to rush. Secretly I was hoping I might get pulled over so I could use the classic and often malformed excuse given by men that he’s rushing to the hospital because his wife’s pregnant (unfortunately it never happened).
We arrived at the hospital around 5am and parked in the $12 valet lot out front. Remembering the instructions from our tour six weeks prior, I walked Sheri through the security area to get escorted to the maternity ward in the opposite building. The security guard wasn’t much help at giving help, so after determining the electronic doors to the new ward weren’t opening, I ran back to have him send an assistant to help us. When we finally made it through the building, then through the courtyard, then through the other building entrance, up the elevator to the 4th floor and through the maternity doors. There wasn’t a soul in sight and the only thing I could think of to get someone’s attention was banging loudly on the only door I knew someone was behind. I should have spent more than half a second thinking about it before rapping my fist a half dozen times on the door to the nursery and I jumped back from it as soon as I realized my mistake. Sheri made a gasp and shocked face at me, but I was already apologizing to the air. A nurse opened the door looking very concerned, and not so much angry. I doubt I was the first anxious father-to-be in these odd hours of the hospital to do this, but it was still rather irresponsible of me. The nurse at the door directed us down the hallway to the delivery section where we met a trio of nurses who escorted us to room 2418, the last room on the right.
The room was quite large and besides the typical hospital equipment, bathroom and heating crib, the room also sported a 32″ flat screen TV, a modern version of a simple rocking chair and a reasonably comfortable couch mat for tired and aching husbands. My back being in the condition that it was made it look mighty comfortable.
The nurses ran their tests on Sheri and each one came out very positive: blood pressure was normal, baby’s heart beat was steady and the contractions were five minutes apart. They also performed rather invasive tests to determine her cervix was 2cm dialated (10 is considered the max). Within the first hour, the nurses informed me that they didn’t have any of Sheri’s information on file which irritated me as I had handed it in to the hospital in person over six weeks earlier plus Sheri had some minor surgery completed in that very hospital only 18 months prior to today. While I was completing a new pre-registration form, the nurse came back in to inform me that they have information on her, just in her maiden name, which to me just sounded like the person entering in the data got very lazy.
As the sun started to rise, Sheri’s contractions got more and more painful. She has mildly convinced herself she was going to give birth naturally, namely meaning without an epidural (basically an IV of a novicane type drug into the lower back). This idea lasted about an hour when she decided the pain was just too much to take and she sent me out to fetch a nurse.
The ordeal in getting Sheri an epidural lasted nearly two hours. At first I couldn’t find a nurse anywhere, then I couldn’t find a nurse that could help us. Finally when we did get some help, we were told the anesthesiologist was in an emergency Caesarian operation and would be available for at least an hour. I tried to sit up next to Sheri for as long as I could but I had to take the occasional rest off my back to ease the discomfort. The time I did spend sitting next to Sheri involved holding hands through each painful contraction and feeding her soothing words of encouragement until she told me to stop. The nurses attempted to add a mild and safe drug to her hydrating IV to assist pain relief, but it never lasted more than ten minutes and provided very little relief when it did. Finally, around 9am the anesthesiologist arrived and he couldn’t have been a more likable guy. He was very chatty, which helped ease some of the pain before the drugs kicked in. In the conversation he was able to extract that Sheri was a teacher at the school where his daughter went and that her best friend was a previous student of Sheri’s. By the time he was finished, the nurse did another test on Sheri to determine she was now 6cm dialated.
Once Sheri’s pain was finally taken care of, my mom and sister arrived. They had kept in touch by phone a couple of times on their drive down so we could pretty much predict their arrival time. After some visiting, they made a trip down to the food court and got met a turkey and cranberry sandwich and a bag of chips, seeing as I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before. By now it was about 12pm and Sheri’s parents still hadn’t arrived. Apparently they waited until 7am for the dog pound to open so they could drop off their little dog.
Sheri’s petosin (sp) was increased to bring her contractions closer together to speed up the delivery process until she reached her 10cm cervix dialation. Dr. Yashari, Sheri’s prenatal doctor, arrived around 2pm to deliver the baby. As the process started I reminded myself that I still wasn’t 100% convinced we were going to have a daughter (more around 80%) and that my friend, Reed, was born with both parents 100% expecting a girl. Dr. Yashari gave his usual inspection to check her cervix then we started the major process of pushing. With the assistance of one of the nurses, we each took a leg of Sheri’s to push up and back for maximum pushing capacity. Sheri did her absolute best at pushing and I was fascinated by the far-out but not at all disturbing (well, not to me) process of vaginal birth. I could even see the very top of the baby’s head, decorated with a wet patch of hair. After about five minutes of pushing with the baby in this position, Dr. Yashari made the call to use a device nicknamed the vacuum. Just as it sound, the vacuum is designed to suction onto the top of the baby’s head and allow it to be pulled out with greater ease, apparently safer and just slightly more comfortable than forceps. The suction didn’t work as well as the doctor thought, because after about five minutes he pulled out his scalpel and went forward performing an episiotomy. The effect requires an incision at the bottom of the vaginal to the sphincter, ah hell this is my blog, the asshole, and its purpose is to give instant gratification, namely birth. I actually witnessed this incision take place which amounted to an immediate gush of blood into the catch bin below but it was followed immediately by the birth of my daughter. Yes, daughter. The estimate was correct. The doctor asked if I would like to cut the umbilical cord and I happily accepted after he placed two clamps on it close together and instructed me to cut between them. The time of birth was 2:28pm.
My eyes were filled with tears of joy; more than I ever expected myself to feel at this moment. It was such an amazing feeling and overwhelming experience that I just couldn’t contain my emotions. Sheri, of course, was also crying and I only hoped it was entirely from joy rather than the soreness and episiotomy pain. The doctor was finishing his job by sewing up the episiotomy incision and then called it a day. I shook his hand thanking him with my swollen eyes then I turned around, kissed my wife and rotated my head back and forth between the two women I had pledged my life to. Once the nurse was done cleaning off the baby he wrapped her up in a blanket, handed it over to me and I held Lily in my arms for the very first time. Moments later my mom, sister and Sheri’s parents, who had finally arrived, entered the room. Later I would be told that I showed no reaction to the commotion surrounding me and had 100% of my focus directed entirely toward my daughter. Of course, I knew they were there, but I had seen them all before and I would only have this moment once in both our lives so I soaked it in for all it was. She slept in my arms and was so beautiful I had no words. The only noticeable irregularity to me was a large, mushroom looking cap of skull covering a third of her head. The doctor and nurses told us this was natural when a birth is assisted by vacuum and that most of it would fade away over the next couple of days.
Eventually I handed off Lily to my mother, who had been the biggest, and earliest, promoter for Lily’s existence since our wedding. She was exchanged to everyone but my sister who was too nervous to hold her right away. In this time I talked with my brother, who called around 3:15pm, when he got off work. He explained he was going to try and visit the following weekend, presumably when all the family had cleared out. I explained that Cindy would be staying with us for about four weeks which is when I learned from her it was going to be more like one week. When the baby was finally sent to the nursery my mom, sister and I took a walk to my office, mostly to help walk off the pain in my back. With my awkward limp it was more than just obvious. A little over halfway through our trek, Sheri called me from her cell phone to tell me to get back to the hospital right away. Apparently I was needed in the nursery to oversee the weighing. We turned around and made it back in five minutes.
The nurse in the nursery reminded me very much of Sheri’s friend Heidi and was very friendly and knowledgeable. She weighed Lily, who came in at 7lbs. and 5oz. I tried to signal this to my family staring through the visitor glass, but they had no clue what I was trying to get across. The nurse ran the protocol of matching the number on my bracelet with that put on both of us at the time of her birth. Sheri had one too and it was just one of the security measures to make sure our time at the hospital goes uninterrupted from clerical errors. Another precaution was an interesting monitoring device attached to Lily’s left ankle. If any tampering happens to it, an alarm would go off. If Lily were to be passed out the doors of the maternity ward, an alarm would go off. It it were to somehow get wet or slip off, well, you get the picture. I limped back to the delivery room to share the news with Sheri and pack all our stuff to be transfer to the post-partum wing on the opposite end. The room was noticeably smaller and lacked the two spotlights on the ceiling that the doctor used to assist in the birth.
Everyone left. I suggested they go to Callender’s Grill for dinner. I stayed until 6pm. Was going to go to taco bell but called Kristi instead to pick up a Cabo San Lucas salad. Got home, went to bed. Sheri called 10 minutes later at home (at first upset I didn’t hear my cell). She needed her nursing bras. I asked if she needed them right away and she said no, only in the next hour or so.
I got back to the hospital before 9pm where Sheri was in bed with the post-partum nurse, Isabella. Around 10pm Isabella had me change Lily so she could watch and judge my style. It was Lily’s first change ever. The baby crap was mostly meconium, or so I’ve been told, and was a very dark brown, almost black, solid sludge, not unlike rich brownie batter (the point of me writing this is for historical record only).
Sheri was in a lot of pain so I had Motrin ready for her. I finished my salad early, I was very hungry and held Lily for a while. I eventually went to bed on hospital mat which doubles as a couch. Sheri wanted me to stay up for her because she was in so much pain. I had a lot of trouble staying up. By now I was up for 38 hours and running on empty (I admit it was my own fault). I went into the hallway a few times to beat myself awake (hard, repeatative slapping of the face works every time). Eventually Sheri allowed me to sleep on the husband mat, which was not as comfortable as it looked under the circumstances. Still, at that time I felt I could have slept on the floor (I actually slept on the floor for a short while earlier because Sheri didn’t want me to leave her side). Around 3am I woke up and Sheri told me that I slept through her trying to breast feed. After changing Lily again I asked if I could go home to sleep and she said yes. I walked back to my car which I had parked a block and a half away to save on hospital valet.
When I finally arrived home I stayed up for another hour watching tv, effectively falling into a deep sleep around 6am for the very first time as a daddy (the hospital husband mat doesn’t count).