Clara is ten years-old today. Double digits. I can’t believe it.
From the moment I learned that Elysha was pregnant, I started writing to Clara, and later to Charlie, on a blog called “Greetings Little One.” I wrote a post to the kids on that blog every day from 2008 until late 2015, about eight years in all, so there is a lot of content there.
On the day that Clara was born, a single decade ago today, I wrote this to my little girl.
Our day began yesterday, at 11:53 PM, when you mother awoke me from twenty minutes of glorious sleep to inform me that her water had broken. In fact, it was still breaking as I awoke. I could hear the splashing from the bed. Despite the hours of birthing class and hundreds of pages that Mommy and I read on pregnancy, we both stared at one another and asked, “What do we do now?”
I doubted that your mother was experiencing contractions, since the brutal, possibly hedonist midwife earlier that day had told me that there was “no mistaking contractions.” Since your mom had said that she thought it might be contractions, I assumed that she was experiencing cramps and that we should probably not go to the hospital yet.
Your mother, in a bit of a panic, insisted that we go. I offered to call the doctor first and bring Kaleigh to the Casper’s house before heading off, but she was not happy with this suggestion.
Oh well. Mommy and Daddy aren’t always perfect.
After loading up the car and waiting for Jane to arrive to pick up Kaleigh, we were off, finally leaving the house at 12:30 AM.
Seven minutes later, we arrived at the hospital, and I dropped Mommy off at the doors in order to park the car. I said, “Don’t wait for me. Just go up.”
She replied, “There’ll be no waiting for you” and exited the car.
I admit that I secretly hoped that by the time I made it up to the sixth floor, you would be well on your way out.
No such luck.
Mommy was filling out paperwork with a nurse when I arrived in the delivery center, and it was at this time that I finally understood the degree of Mommy’s pain. As she was being asked questions, her responses were were fairly incoherent. It turns out that her contractions were coming every three to four minutes, which explains the pain.
After being led to our room, we met Cassie, the first of two nurses who we would come to adore throughout the birthing process. Cassie was with us throughout the evening, making us comfortable and helping us to catch a few hours of sleep. After arriving, we learned that Mommy was almost entirely effaced but not dilated at all. We were shocked. On the way over to the hospital, we took wagers on how dilated she would be.
She said 4 centimeters would make her happy, and I was hoping for 7.
Zero was a disappointment.
Thankfully, our doctor, who doesn’t believe that women should ever suffer through childbirth, offered to administer the epidural immediately, even though birthing class instructors informed us that it would not be done before 4 centimeters. This was the first of what we discovered to be several false statements made by birthing class instructors, including their assertion that the hospital had no Wi-Fi, which I am using at this moment.
I left the room for the epidural (though Cassie said I could stay if I wanted, which my birthing instructor said would never happen), and even though Mommy hasn’t said much about it, it seemed to go well. The anesthesiologist was a bit of a jerk, but otherwise, the needle, the meds, and all the horrifying aspects of this procedure went off without a hitch. Mommy was terrified during this process, possibly more than any other time in her life, but she held up like a trooper.
With the epidural on board, the pain vanished, the lights were turned off, and Mommy and I managed to sleep for a couple fitful hours. The chair that I attempted to sleep in was a device that harkened back to the Spanish Inquisition. It tortured my neck and back, but I later found the wisdom to open it into a bed and sleep soundly for an hour or two. We slept from about 2:00-4:00 AM, when Cassie checked Mommy again and found her fully effaced and 4 centimeters dilated. Lights went out again until 6:00, when Cassie checked and found Mommy fully dilated.
Hooray. I expected a baby before breakfast and said as much.
She began pushing at 6:30, but in the midst of a shift change, Cassie left us and Catherine took over. It was immediately decided to allow you to drop some more on your own before resuming to push.
When Catherine first appeared, we didn’t know who she was, but being the woman she is, your mother immediately requested her name and rank, and we learned that Cassie was leaving us. Cassie was wonderful; an easy going, friendly, and warm woman with three young kids of her own who was perfect for helping us to rest and relax during the night.
Catherine was warm and friendly as well, but she was also a bit of a drill sergeant, specific and demanding in her orders, and it was just what your Mommy needed when she began pushing again around 8:00. This was the hardest time for your mother. She pushed consistently from 8:00 until 11:30, but because of the placement of your mother’s pubic bone and the angle of your head, you simply would not come out. The vacuum was attempted briefly, but at last, it was determined that a c-section would need to be done.
A few interesting notes from the pushing:
Several times, Catherine encouraged Mommy to find some anger with which to help push. “Get mad,” she would say. “Find something to be angry about.” Your mother continually asserted that she had nothing in her life with which to be angry. “I’m just so happy,” she said. Catherine eventually gave up on the anger angle, acknowledging that she was dealing with the sweetest person on the planet.
Your mother never yelled at me and never uttered a single word of profanity during the entire birthing process.
Throughout the pushing, I was receiving and sending texts to your grandmother, Justine, and Cindy, who were all dying to find out what was going on. I also managed to update my Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the morning and work on my next novel, finishing up a chapter and starting a new one. Catherine questioned this, but Mommy is no dummy. If I finish and sell this book, she might be able to stay home longer with you, so between pushing, I would roll to the other side of the room and write.
When the vacuum was brought into play, the room filled with about eight doctors and nurses. At one point, a nurse asked me to hold your mom’s leg, which I had been doing all morning. “Not him,” Catherine said. “He doesn’t get off of that stool.” Though I didn’t feel queasy or weak in the knees, she saw something in me that indicated otherwise. Later I was sent out of the room to “drink some juice.”
This was prescient on her part. After you were born, I went downstairs to Friendly’s to eat and fell down in the hallway from hunger and exhaustion. Nurses ran over to me, expecting the worst, only to find me half-crying about how hungry and tired I was.
When the decision was made to extract you via c-section, things got fast and furious and I left your mom for the first time today in order to don a pair of scrubs while she was rolled into the operating room and prepped. It was at this time that I was forced to remove my Superman tee-shirt, which had been specifically chosen for the event. I wanted your first glimpses of me to be reminiscent of the man of steel.
The best laid plans of mice and men.
When I entered the OR, the doctors were already working on your mother, and I inadvertently caught a view of her and the horror of a c-section before I was ushered to a stool behind the screen and told not to move.
Sitting beside your mom’s head and three anesthesiologists who were busy at work injecting Mommy with more medicine than I could have ever imagined, I listened and waited with her. It took about fifteen minutes before I heard your first cries and one of the doctors leaned over the screen and said, “Here it comes. Do you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“Yes,” we said in unison.
“It looks like… a girl,” he said, and immediately thereafter, the docs behind the screen began asserting the same. We began crying while we listened to your cry and caught our first glimpses of you as a nurse was preparing to weigh you. A couple minutes later, after managing a 9/9 on your Apgar scores, you were handed to me, the first time I have ever held an infant without the protection of a sofa and many cushions.
You were simply beautiful.
Because of the position that Mommy was still in, she wasn’t able to see you well until Catherine finally took you from my nervous arms, flipped you upside down like a football, and held your face to hers.
I’ll never forget this moment.
Your mom was forced to remain on the table, arms outstretched and pinned, for more than an hour while the doctors stitched her up. She began to go a little stir crazy for a while, unable to move and shivering uncontrollably, and we tried to calm her by massaging her shoulders and rubbing her arms.
Eventually the surgery ended, and you were finally handed to Mommy. The two of you were rolled into Recovery while I had the pleasure of telling your grandparents, Aunty Emily, and soon-to-be Uncle Michael all about you. There were many tears. Your grandfather laughed, your grandmother cried, and in keeping with her character, Aunty Emily was indignant over her inability to see you and her sister immediately.
She’s one demanding babe.
It’s almost 9:00 PM, and we are now sitting in our room, resting and chatting. You are asleep and have been for the past few hours. I must leave soon in order to go home so that I can teach tomorrow and use my time off when you and your mom are at home. My students will be thrilled to see your photos and hear all about you.
For your mother, the hours of pushing were her greatest challenge of the day.
For me, the greatest challenge will be leaving this room tonight and not taking you with me. I want nothing more than to hold you in my arms for the next week.
We love you so much, little one. Welcome to the world.