Friday, December 8, 2017

Baby #3

My wife had been dilated, effaced, and experiencing contractions for almost 6 weeks before the birth of our son. Our weekly ritual was as follows:

1. Wife has painful contractions at a frequency normally necessitating hospital admission.
2. We would go for a checkup and the doctor would inform her “you are still a 3.”
3. I would immediately interject that I disagreed with his assessment and told her that she has "always been a 10 in my book."
4. She would strongly suggest that I refrain from further commentary.

So, at 39 weeks, our doctor agreed to induce. A few hours before the scheduled time, my wife began having intense contractions. Finally, around 3 AM we decided that we might as well go to the hospital because they weren’t likely to send us home 6 hours before a scheduled induction.

Upon arrival, my wife was having very intense, painful contractions. She was loaded in a wheelchair and taken to the front desk where a receptionist prepared a hospital arm band. The receptionist calmly asked my wife (who was doubled over in the wheelchair at the moment) to put her arm on the counter so that she could attach the band. When my wife did not respond, the receptionist asked me if I could kindly have my wife place her hand on the counter. I offered to attach it myself and was told this was against protocol. I was on the verge of asking if walking out from around the counter to help a patient was against protocol when my wife raised her hand and we were on our way.

Once upstairs we immediately requested to be placed on the “epidural list.” Heads were nodded and noncommittal language was used. In short order, we were taken to another room and another set of nurses heard the epidural request. Finally, during an extremely-painful contraction my wife demanded a status on the epidural only to be told, “We are working on it.” The same nurse then looked into my eyes and mouthed, “She’s not getting one.”

We had been through birth twice before, but never Little House on the Prairie style. If the hospital staff thought I was going to break that news to her, they were sadly mistaken. 

Eventually, one of the nurses gave her the “pull yourself together” tough-love act which my wife reciprocated in both volume and intensity. At this point I realized two things:
1.      My wife is far stronger than I could ever hope to be.
2.      If men were responsible for the business-end of reproduction; overpopulation would never be a concern.
Within an hour of arriving at the hospital, our son was born. It was shortly thereafter that we realized most of our previous knowledge of newborns was hopelessly outdated. Cleaning the umbilical cord with rubbing alcohol? Barbaric. Inserting the bulb syringe into an infant’s nasal passage? Inconceivable! It had been less than three years since our last child’s birth and I felt as if I was stockpiling paregoric and asking about twilight sleep.

The hospital had made some procedural changes since our last birth as well. Some were welcome (they give you extra time in Labor & Delivery) and others were unintentionally ironic (my wife’s breastfeeding was interrupted on multiple occasions by a woman tasked with ensuring the hospital retained its “breastfeeding friendly” accreditation).

In keeping with new policy, the hospital attempts to keep the newborn in the mother’s room as much as possible. At one point, a staff member asked if we wished for our child to receive their bath in the room or not. My wife and I agonized over this as if it was destined to reappear at his future parole hearing.

Then came the paperwork. Even though we had already decided on a name, there is some natural trepidation when committing it to paper. Is this the right name? What if the Japanese translation is vulgar and it becomes an issue one day? And, although we had never experienced it, there was the face/name mismatch contingency. I firmly believe that there are precious few instances where it is appropriate to bring this up:

 - When naming a child
 - During the planning stages of an undercover narcotics operation
 - Deciding to launch a career in show-business

I have never understood the phenomenon of meeting someone, hearing their name, and challenging the name’s validity based on appearance.
Hi. I’m George and this is my wife Susan 
You don’t really strike me as a George. More like a Roderick or a Hershel.

What is the recipient of this comment supposed to do with this information? Apologize? Agree for the sake of continued small-talk? I wish that I could witness someone seizing this opportunity to turn the tables:

George  - *begins to violently sob* I have always felt uncomfortable in my own skin. For years I have lived life as a George would. Buying George cars. Eating George food. Susan and I even named our firstborn after me; but until I heard you verbalize it so eloquently, I never realized that my entire existence was predicated upon a lie. Thanks to you, I have been endowed with the courage and strength to begin life anew as a Hershel. As of this moment, I am an avid cigar enthusiast who fabricates Civil War dioramas from discarded toiletries.

I would also like to point out that the official birth certificate application treats paternity as an afterthought. I am paraphrasing, but the idea is something like, “you can name the father but until results are Povich-validated the state assumes this was a virgin-birth.” I realize that there are legal considerations, but it is disheartening nonetheless.

Once we got him home, our other children took to him immediately. They would gather round and attempt to hold and kiss him. My son, having recently viewed The Boss Baby, was convinced that the whole I-am-a-helpless-newborn thing was an act. The first time I dropped him off at daycare after his younger brother was born, he requested that I make sure that the family’s new addition did not mess with stuff in his room.

When I jokingly responded that I did not foresee that being an issue, his eyes and tone got more serious and he repeated his request. This went on until after the first full days we were all home together. In short order, our oldest son’s reaction changed from suspicion to disappointment. He watched the newborn sleeping in my wife’s lap and asked, “Is this really all that he does?” He sounded truly crestfallen as if someone had pulled the bait-and-switch on him at a car dealership (I thought this was the model with the interactive whimsy….)

Like all stages in life, the third child gives you better perspective on the stages that precede it. Before kids, my wife and I used to talk about how tired / busy we were. Once we became parents, we laughed at our previous naivety. Once our second child came along, we saw how foolish it was to ever complain about how difficult it was when we outnumbered our offspring. Now, we scoff at how we foolishly laughed about our naivety concerning how tired we were.