And Suddenly All The Strange IKEA Furniture And Weird Doll Clothes Finally Made Sense

The whole time Jen was in the hallway in active labor the nurse kept saying how nice it was that we were so understanding about the fact that there wasn't a room ready. I can't speak for Jen, but I sort of assumed it wasn't like they were holding a table for a VIP, or that the rental car counter guy had an upgrade available but insisted on being a bitch about it. Besides, like the nurse joked earlier, what are you going to do, section 'em all and quickly change the bedding?

But when we finally got into the room, it was palatial.

NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, December 29, 2011

There was one of those great hospital reclining chairs that looked like the most comfortable thing in the world at that point. (Interesting item — the thing about medical recliners is that they're not cheap; I assume there's some Christian-Slater-on-West-Wing-as-Lieutenant-Commander-Jack-Reese-smashing-$400-ashtrays-to-prove-a-point-to-Donna reason but for the life of me, I have no clue why those things would cost upward of $1500.) Because we didn't really sleep the night before when Jen had contractions and we were thinking we'd be heading off to the hospital and of course we hadn't slept at all this past night. So I sat down and spread out on the chair for like 45 seconds, but there was just too much happening all at once.

Something else that a friend brought up to me: Who invented the design for those newborn hospital caps? They must be a gazillionaire!

Newborn Hospital Cap and Blankets, NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, December 29, 2011

A quick word about telling grandparents-to-be that their daughter is going into labor: No amount of rational argument will prevent them from getting up at 4 in the morning and driving up to New York from Philadelphia. And even though I said that it'd probably be easier to park at the house and take the subway in, they came straight to the hospital. I told them that they should get some breakfast or something, that according to the doctor we had about five hours or so (the rough guide to cervix dilation is an hour a centimeter, up to ten centimeters), and they did just that.

At around 8 a.m. I tried to go out to the waiting room to see where Jen's parents were and the nurse guided me back into the room: It was the 8-8:30 a.m. all-staff meeting and the floor was closed. I turned back and Jen announced that her water broke. I didn't know what to do — after all, the floor was closed, and I wasn't supposed to exit the room.

"Are you sure?" I asked her.

She was sure.

So I poked my head out and kind of arched my eyebrows and looked back in the room as if to say, "Um, something's going on over here."

So the doctor and nurse attended to Jen and confirmed that yes, in fact water had broken.

By this point, the day nurse had taken over. She sent me to go do the paperwork, which I hadn't had the chance to do when we were admitted because the computer had been down. I walked over to the office and saw that there were two other fathers waiting in line. I went out to the waiting room where Jen's parents were asleep. When the line died down, I stood and waited my turn. The paperwork lady stepped away to ask a question, then go to the copier.

At some point I got a little worried: Jen would never have forgiven me if the baby was born while I was waiting to do paperwork. Finally the doctor herself came to collect me: It was time to push.

And now a word about pronouns: We decided not to find out the sex of the baby, this despite the fact that we would be on the hook for two names. I'm not sure why I didn't want to know other than being surprised by the baby being a Boy! or it being a Girl! seemed like a quintessential baby experience. The doctor, for her part, thought this was "cool" — or she said something along those lines. Like most doctors, she didn't really betray a thought either way.

During the 20-week ultrasound, when the technician examines the baby's anatomy, you have to make sure they know that you don't want to know the sex. So the technician will tell you to avert your eyes or whatever. And it's important that everyone's clear about this — we had heard that people have been known to slip along the way and ruin the surprise.

After a certain point in the pregnancy, patients in the practice Jen's doctor was a part of were supposed to have a checkup with each of the doctors in order to become familiar with all of them in case one's doctor was not on call on a particular day. I happened to go along with Jen on the day she met the doctor who would deliver Animal. During the examination, the doctor said something about "her" immunity. I quietly processed this pronoun and debated bringing it up to Jen — if she missed it, she would be none the wiser.

Which is to say, for at least a couple of months I was convinced we were having a girl. I was so convinced that I didn't really feel the need to consider boys' names. So when Animal finally emerged and the doctor said "It's a boy!" I have to say, I was pretty surprised. Jen saw my face and she says that I looked very, very surprised.

Part of me wonders whether part of why doctors think it's "cool" or whatnot to be surprised is so they can have that thrill of announcing the sex. If you think about it, it's kind of a quintessential experience as well as a powerful one, and one that few people seem to allow for anymore. Our doctor seemed to relish the call. I certainly won't ever forget when she said it . . .

The pushing itself went very quickly — in about 35 minutes, which is on the lower end of the range. It's not unusual for it to last two hours or more, which seems really horrible, actually. I was stationed up north; this was a point of contention for some time in the months (and years, in fact) leading up to this moment until Jen finally decided near the end that it would probably be OK to see down below. I sort of hovered over the top, which was good enough, and which still allowed me to hold Jen's head, which as far as I could tell didn't do very much for anyone other than keeping me out of trouble.

I tried to be as helpful as I could while the doctor coached Jen on how to push. She sort of equivocated that Jen would "know" what to do, that it would feel natural to push, that it would be obvious. Except she wouldn't ever say it was like taking a crap, which is what we'd always heard it was "like". I'm assuming this was intentional. Funny thing: We were watching one of those Baby Pops Out! shows on cable in the weeks after Animal was born and a male doctor told the pregnant lady that it was just like taking a shit; I wondered if it was a gender thing or something.

So I'm like, "Yeah, baby, you're doing great, blah blah, you're doing great," which is silly because I really have no idea what's going on, and I'm looking down and the doctor's like, "the head is there," and I look down and . . . oh, it's terrible to think about . . . and I still can't think about it because it's so gross to think about . . . and I look down, and sure enough, the top of the head is there, but the head is being squeezed in an awfully odd manner, and it's making me really skeeved out to think about how baby's heads are so soft, and then the doctor does this sort of finger sweep and I'm freaking out — well, not freaking out, because basically my only responsibility is to be comforting except I'm pretty sure that the look on my face while the doctor digs around the baby's squishy head with her fingers is so far from comforting that it could actually be at the point that it could be counterproductive, and no sooner do I pause to consider all this does the doctor tell Jen to push once more and — well, you can guess what happens next . . . and it's not that the contents of the baby's skull spilled out on the floor.

"It's a boy!"

And then I'm like, "Holy shit, a boy?"

And the nurse puts this little screaming thing on Jen's chest and at first the skin has this otherworldly greyish purplish hue and then it slowly looks more humanlike and the face — my goodness — it actually does kind of look like me I guess, which you always hear is the case but which when you actually see is . . . bizarre? I don't know. It's heavy, for sure. I just sat there thinking how crazy it is that Animal was floating around in fluid a few hours ago and now he — he! — is out in the world, and safely, at that. And it's just . . . amazing. And if there ever were a time to use a word like "amazing," it's now. And then I got to cut the umbilical cord, which is a lot chewier than you'd expect it to be.

Something else cool: The birthing room wasn't anything like you see on, I don't know, Grey's Anatomy or whatnot — it was pretty mellow. There's a lot to do directly afterward, including some things I know I'm not supposed to discuss, so you have a lot of time to sit there looking at this goofy grey-purple screaming monkey.

(There is a philosophical/scientific purpose to just hanging out with the baby plopped down on the mother's chest immediately after birth, including introducing breast feeding and "skin-to-skin contact," which I believe is supposed to confer immunological benefits on a newborn.)

Eventually the nurse took Animal to the little table next to the bed to clean him up and take his footprints. The doctor then showed us the placenta, which, if you've ever heard about people who use it afterward in some manner, will really skeeve you out. We asked her about it though. She said that one thing she heard was that some people are being counseled to not only cook it up or turn it into capsules or whatever but actually take a bite out of the fresh placenta. I could really talk about this for a long time, but for everyone's sake I think I'll leave it at that.

And then we joked about names for a little bit and then when Jen was finally covered up, her parents and Goober got to come in and see The Monkey. And that was definitely cool, too.

And then someone told me to pack up our stuff because we were going to the recovery room — I think there was a new Hallway waiting to get a room — and everyone headed over to that part of the hospital. We had to wait until we could go and Jen and I just looked at each other.

She had been scared about what would happen in childbirth, for obvious reasons, and I felt terrible knowing that she felt scared, but at the same time you know that a gazillion people make it through the same thing (even more since modern medicine took over and women stopped having to give birth in a kiddie pool with only a doula to assist). And — I think this could be the funniest part of the whole thing — she just looked up, not 45 minutes afterward, and shrugged and said, "I could do this again." She attributes this in part to the hormones or endorphins or whatever else is pulsing through a mother at this point.

So there we were, just the two of us, and we shared this moment — another one I'll never forget — and I looked down and made sure I had our bags, just like I always do when we take the train to Philadelphia, or go on a trip somewhere, and I started to say, "OK, are you ready to go?" when I realized something along the lines of, "Oh, right, that baby over there on the table — we have to get him, too."

And that's when I realized that things would always be a little bit different.

NYU Langone Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, December 29, 2011

Previously, The Amazing Little Things You Never Forget About The Birth Of Your Child: His Precious Cry, The Thick Snap Of The Sinewy Umbilical Cord, His Tiny Little Fingers Gripping Mom's Chest, The Bizarre Depiction Of Rhinophyma In Domenico Ghirlandaio's "An Old Man And His Grandson" In The Maternity Ward Hallway, Bascially A Human Head Is Forcing Its Way Through A Vagina.

Posted: March 23rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,