Well before the arrival of my beautiful daughter, Shell and I took a birthing class. I also read bits and pieces of The Expectant Father and other birth-related books. More importantly, I got pointers from every one of my male buddies and cousins with children for their advice. None of them, however, entirely prepared me for the labor experience.
By 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 7, 2009, I witnessed around 11 different people as they became intimately involved with my wife's business at various points of the day. This topic was never addressed in our class, the books, or by my buddies so I was unsure about the proper protocol for my positioning during these examinations. Do I stare ahead from wherever I'm sitting and act like this happens all the time? Or am I supposed to look from the same angle of the, um, penetrator? Fortunately, my role was clearly defined during the actual labor.
8:38 p.m. Tim Riggins is possibly the only high school student in America that I envy. Truth be told, it's a complete man crush. In real life, that dude probably pulls more wool than an Irish sheep farmer. I digress.After Hannibal gave us the "go" sign, Nurse Kelli instructed me to use my right arm to hold Michelle's right leg and my left arm to support her neck. She had Michelle's left leg.
NK: As you feel a contraction coming on, push while holding your breath as I count to 10 backwards.
Me: (Nodding. At a loss for words after the weight of the moment began to sink in.)
NK: You'll do this three separate times and then you can take a rest.
Me: You can do it, honey! C'mon - FOCUS! You GOT this, Shell. Bring the baby home to papa!
NK: (Looking at me funny.)
Me: You're doing great Shell. (The actual only true quote.)
Michelle attacked the pushing like nothing I've ever witnessed. She was a rock star. At the beginning, I thought her eyes my literally pop out of her sockets a la Total Recall. (I asked her to please close her eyes.) In between pushes, I'd massage her back or bring water sips - whatever she instructed. At one point, Nurse Kelli even fastened a bar to the bed that resembled some type of snow or water ski tow for hard core pushing. It went on like this for some time.
My support for Shell was vigorous in the first sixty minutes or so. But 0f course, as time progressed, the adrenaline waned and the caffeine from my coffees and cokes ran its course. My inner thoughts began to drift towards the cramp in my hand that I was feeling with every deep massage that Shell requested for her neck and shoulders. My back kind of ached, too. Come to think of it, I didn't really get too much sleep last night. It was also really challenging to text my mom one-handed in between contractions to update her on the progress.
8:42 p.m. Holy schnikes, Lila Garrity! Why does Riggins want to go to a house party instead of hanging out with Lila for the night? (I know I'm creepy but she's actually 26 in real life.)
8:43 p.m. Cash is lying, Tyra. Get the hell away from him. You know this relationship will not end up well.
All kidding aside, Michelle pushed for two and a half hours. Eventually, the baby's heart rate was above the level deemed safe and she had reached a point in the canal where she seemed to have just stopped. Michelle also had a fever. The doctor recommended a c-section and we consented. They moved Michelle to the operating room and told me to wait until someone came for me.
I knew the procedure was routine. This hospital probably banged out as many c-sections in one day that a Mass. Pike rest area Dangelos kicks out lobster rolls. Nevertheless, I was scared. Was the doctor really telling us everything about the baby's condition or was there something more serious? More importantly, was my wife/best friend/confidante/partner-for-life/person who-often-knows-me-better-than-myself going to be okay?
While dressing in the scrubs given to me by an indifferent nurse, I quietly reflected and prayed asking my version of God to ensure the safety of my wife and child. The nurse returned, said they were ready, and reminded me to bring the camera.
I entered the O.R. and intentionally avoided looking toward Shell's abdomen, which was open and on display for the approximately 10 other medical staff with us. I sat behind a sheet near Michelle's head and held her hand. The doctors and nurses might as well have been discussing the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy but I was tense enough for all of them. They were tugging Michelle's body in different directions as I squirmed silently.
All I wanted to hear was my baby's beautiful cry for the first time - a cry that will ultimately morph into a piercing alarm whistle that accelerates my pulse into immediate action but in that moment would sound like a chorus of angels singing my favorite Cake or Weezer song. Please, doctors, for the love of all that is good and right in this world, hurry up and deliver our baby.8:52 p.m. Yeah, Matt Saracen! Get some action with the daughter of the coach who benched you. Sweet revenge - yeehaw. Wait a second, though, they spent the entire night out - AND there's no confrontation with her parents when she got home? (If Greta ever pulled a stunt like that, she'd be grounded! AND banished for that matter! Plus, I'd, I'd - um ... ok, I'm just going to continue gaining weight and losing hair while I think of ways to prevent Gigi from meeting anyone who remotely resembles me or my buddies at 16.)
Finally, I know the baby is out. The neo-natal doctors who were huddled in a corner have moved over to the table. A woman said something like, "Okay, are you ready to meet your baby?" Michelle and I, after nine and a half months of waiting, worrying, celebrating, and preparing answer in unison, desperately and exhausted, "YES!"
Woman: You have a baby girl! Does she have a name?
Me: (Crying behind the surgical mask.) Greta Jane Teravainen.
Sunday, February 8, 2009 - 1:55 a.m.