It’s midnight, and things are not progressing. Soon, her sister will have to go home, if the baby isn’t imminent.
Around 3am, with her sister gone home, we realize we’re in for the long haul. We could have gone home at that point, but with no family there to support, we wanted to stay for her. No one should have to go through that physical and mental anguish alone.
Now at this point, we’ve barely eaten since lunch. I did make a Burger King run earlier, but neither of us ate much. The appetite was not there yet, but we needed to eat something. Of course, the cafeteria was closed since it was the middle of the night. The nurse walks in around 3:00 and tells us that we should get some food from the cafeteria. Apparently it’s open for a couple of hours in the middle of the night for the night shift.
We head out and attempt to find the cafeteria. It’s in the next building, so we take the walkway. After wandering a bit, someone recognizes our faces. By that, I mean the “we’re lost and don’t know where we are” faces. He directs us to the cafeteria, and no one has to announce over the intercom that there are two lost parents walking the halls. At the cafeteria, I eat a variety of things, broccoli, salad, fruit and some tomato juice. HA! I mean I ate candy, mountain dew and butterscotch pudding. Hey, I’m stressed, I get to eat all the junk food I want!
Afterwards, we head back to the room. We reach the walkway and cha chunk, the door is locked. Ugh. Back down the stairs, walk outside in the cold to the front entrance. Nice little wake up, the brisk December weather. At least it is pretty with the Christmas lights. Once back in, we work our way back to the room. Time to figure out sleeping arrangements.
So, sleeping conditions. We have a fold out chair, and another regular chair. Steph takes the fold out, and I try to sleep across both. It didn’t work so well. I’m a flipper, and there was no room to flip. I end up sitting in the chair, with my head on the table. Its 11th grade chemistry class all over again!
At this point, I should mention the nurses. At one point or another, we had around 10 different nurses. The nurse we had at this point may have been my favorite, her name was Tara. She was so sweet, even coming to visit us the next night before her shift started. In fact, all the nurses we had were wonderful, except for one.
As is happenstance with pregnant women, she was uncomfortable in every position, but less so from the back.
The baby moved better when she was on her side, but laying there would make her nauseous. Let me resume the story from the point of view of our birth mother. Its 7am.
She’s sleeping, and the nurse walks in.
“I need you to put you leg on this table.”
Wah huh? Come again? How about a gentle wake up before making such crazy demands? In fact, how about Good Morning?
So the morning is off to a rousing start. We’re rocking 3 hours of sleep and based on her personality, our new nurse’s previous job was probably working at the DMV. At least the doctor is coming soon to break her water.
Pre water break : 5 cm
Post water break : 7 cm
We’ve got progress. Now it’s time to throw on my second hat for the day, my chauffer’s hat. Our birthmother wants her boyfriend there for the birth, and he needs a ride. At 7, I need to get moving.
I pick him up and I get a call. 9 cm. I know, from my previously ignorant comment about dilation “3 cm out of…..?”, that 10 is go time. I’m driving back as fast as I can.
We park the car in the parking garage. Since its mid-morning, we’re on the 4th floor. We run down the stairs to the street level. The hospital is across the road, so we walk across avoiding the circling officer. We get inside and get our badges. We head up to the room, and Steph is waiting outside the door. Birthfather goes in and I stay out with Steph. Steph tells me that birthmother is waiting to push until we’ve arrived.
It’s curious to see Steph outside, as birthmother had discussed having us in the room. The nurse sent Steph out, and we thought that birthmother had a change of mind on the situation, perhaps feeling awkward about being so exposed with us present. That’s fine. We’ll just wait and see. A few moments later, the same nurse comes out to the hall and instructs us to go wait in the waiting room and lobs this new bomb on us. Birthmother/father are going to spend the first hour and a half with the child, and then we’ll be able to see her.
Where did this come from? The last two decrees have come out of nowhere. Had our birthmother been hiding these feelings, and as soon as we were not intruding, have the nurse relay this new information? Why 90 minutes? I’m so confused! As we’re walking back the nurse informs us that she’ll come out right after the birth to let us know how it went, etc.
There was a Simpsons episode a few years ago where Mr. Burns went to the Mayo Clinic to have a checkup. They reveled to him that the reason that he’s still alive was not because he had avoid diseases, rather that he had all the disease. He then presented an image of these diseases trying to pass through the door, only to be stuck because they were all trying to get through door.
This is me now. Only instead of diseases, it was emotions trying to get through the door. Anxious about everything, worried for birthmother, happy to soon be a parent, angry that the situation had changed so dramatically, and gleeful that I get to meet our daughter. Instead of these emotions trickling through, I’m more monotone. I toggle back and forth between Steph and Price is Right. One keeps me in the moment, the other provides a distraction from the realization that there is nothing you can do now but wait.
I don’t know how long we waited. The time is irrelevant and vitally important at the same time. This moment is timeless, it will matter not one bit if it takes 10 minutes or 10 hours if everything goes well. Yet, after a certain period of time we’ll start to worry. The exact moment of her birth is important, and I’ll guarantee that the length matters immensely to our birthmother.
Another distraction. We begin watching the people walking by us. The layout outside the birthing center is circular, with a large open area from the entrance lobby up to the domed ceiling above the third floor. The waiting room we sit in is one of two, cornering the walkway around the open area. It’s like a carousel as everyone seemed to be walking around the circle in the same direction. We watch these “riders” coming around the corner, waiting for news from our nurse. There’s the new mother in a wheelchair with her newborn, the gaggle of nurses heading to lunch break, the anxious grandparents pacing the walkway, the new father on his cell spreading the news, our birthmother’s delivery doctor, ….
Wait! The doctor is out?!! Come back!
He stops and asks if we’ve heard any hing. Nope! He then tells us the news. She’s healthy, 7 pounds, 12 oz, born at 11:20. Birthmother’s doing fine, and the delivery went great! It’s 11:35. Why hadn’t the nurse popped out to at least let us know that? Those emotions are down to two, joy and anger.
Now what? We have the data, but what of it? It’s 75 minutes before we can see her. Do we call anyone? What if the situation has changed? We have to wait. Then, the unexpected happens. The next rider around the corner is none other than our birthfather. He proceeds to ask what we’re still doing out here, you should be in the room with us and your new baby.
Instant relief. That simple statement has brought relief that no alka-seltzer tablet ever could. We gather our things and walk back to the room with him. We enter the room, and I’m not sure, but I think I got the stink-eye from the nurse. What’s her problem?! I should really raise a stink about this…but there she is….
She’s wrapped in swaddling clothes (can’t resist, it was almost Christmas after all), her eyes are pursed closed from this new light, and she is calm. She is beautiful.
How could I let disappointment with a nurse get in the way of my joy? Well, before this point she was numbers. Born 11:20. Weight 7 lbs 12 oz. Now she was real. I could hold her. I could feel her warmth. I knew what it meant that I was responsible for caring for her for as long as I could. In this little person I could see God’s work in every part of her. There is no emotion now other than pure joy.
Birthfather is holding her now. He looks at Steph and asks if she wants to hold her. This is the moment of truth. While I jumped in head first, Steph always held back. She always knew that things could go wrong, and protected her heart as much as she could from unbearable heartache. Plus, throughout this process something else happened. She came to truly care for the birthparents, especially birthmother. At this moment, she’s not only excited for the moment, but also concerned for the well being of the birthparents.
As if that’s not enough, there’s also a concern that many (if not all) adoptive parents deal with. Will I connect with this child? Will we be able to bond with this person who will have no connection to us other than a piece of paper? Can I love someone who doesn’t share my DNA?
Do you want to hold her? Steph being ever concerned with the feelings of our birthparents asks them if they are sure. They are. Birthfather brings her to Steph. As God as my witness, I have never seen her as happy as have in that moment. The happiness of the moment filled the room as tears of joy came from her. Almost divine.
We got to feed her from the beginning. We were there for her first bath and hair wash (and she LOVES to have her hair washed, even today). We got to rock her to sleep. It was magical.
That afternoon I made the requisite phone calls to the immediate family and our agency. The first day there are doctors and nurses in and out checking everything. At one point they took her away for some tests, so birthfather and I went out for a break. He proceeds to tell me a bunch of the lessons and tricks that he’s learned from his daughter. Look at this. This guy is 10 years my junior informing me on the ways of the world, and yet I needed to hear it as much as he needed to tell me it. No matter how many books you read, you’ll never learn as much about parenting than talking to an actual parent. I was the novice. I think he needed to know two things : that I was truly excited about being a dad, and that I will do my best in raising this child. I hope that he knows that both are true.
Later that afternoon, I had to take him home to pickup his daughter from daycare. Upon returning from this trip, I found the girls in the new room. See, the large rooms are for the pregnant woman, once you’ve given birth they ship you to a smaller recovery room. This is going to be a tight fit.
Except, it wasn’t. When I came back, our agent from the adoption agency was there along with the hospital’s social worker. They had acquired a room for us across the hall more commonly known as the parent room. We have a twin bed, a recliner, a half-bath and a TV. No more cramped sleeping arrangements, I might actually get more than three hours of sleep tonight!
At this point, the last time we had eaten was the night before. We decide to go out and get some food. The baby will stay with birthmother, who I assume wanted some alone time with her. Steph and I went to Bob Evans to decompress and eat. Talking was at a minimum, the moment was surreal. This is really happening. We are parents now. This is probably the last peaceful dinner for a long time. It dawns on me that at this point, our baby was only eight hours old.
Now looking back to that afternoon I think proves Einstein’s theory of relativity. Time is not uniform or absolute. That time went by so fast, but that night at dinner I felt as if she was three days old when in fact she was only eight hours old. She had accomplished so much, her first bottle, her first bath, her first emotion, her first facial expression, her first hearts melted, all while sleeping seven and half of those eight hours. I had probably spent that amount of slicing fruit on Samari Fruit that day. 1/3rd of a day old and she’s already more productive than her old man.
We come back to the hospital and bring in some bags that we’ve stored in the car. A change of clothes, toothbrush, something to read, etc. We hang out in birthmother’s room, and baby and birthmother are getting to know each other. It’s getting later, so I run home to let the dog out. You might be wondering about the dog. It has been about 28 hours since we’ve been home and this is the first reference to the dog. Luckily, we had friends stop by to let him out potty and even play with him a bit. Thanks K, J, & H!
I bring home with me a hat that the baby was wearing at the hospital for the dog to smell. He comes over and smells it for a while, licks it, then proceeds to play with it. Maybe this whole bring home the dog something that smells like her will actually work! Time will tell. After loving the dog for a while, I shower and head back to the hospital. By now, my joy meter has peaked. The angsty song on Alt Nation is not enhancing the moment properly. I need to find an upbeat song to rock out to. I find my muse on 90’s on 9.
So hold on to the ones who really care
In the end they’ll be the only ones there
When you get old and start losing your hair
Can you tell me who will still care?
Can you tell me who will still care?
Mmm bop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop, ba duba dop
I’m rocking out to Hanson, and enjoying every moment of it. By now, you probably can see that I have now not only changed to a parent, but I became old at the same time. For example, the previous night I found the soda machines downstairs and complained that a bottle of water costs $1.35. Seriously? Why not $1.25? Or a $1.50. Now instead of two simple quarters I have two quarters, a dime, and the most annoying of the coins, the nickel. Nickel, you are the most inefficient waste of space in my pocket. I can’t buy anything with you. Please go away.
Perhaps more poignantly, the day before we went to the hospital I received our photo from my work’s holiday party. Steph is her usual beautiful self, but when I looked at me, I saw something different. I saw my dad. You know it’s strange. Your parents are some of the people you know best in life, but because of the circumstances you never know them before they’ve had a life altering change, i.e. you. Dad has always been Dad. He was never a child, never a single gentleman, never the childless young husband, but only Dad to you. I think that maybe at that point I had started considering myself to be dad, and only then could I match us, Dad to Dad.
I started to hold off the transition to being old. I flipped the station back to Alt Nation, and someone slap me if I start saying that they don’t make them like they used to.
Now back at the hospital, I go back to birthmother’s room with her and Steph watching the tellie. Eva is taking a physical at the moment. I imagine that she is all hooked up with all the sensors running the treadmill. Once she comes back, we spend the rest of the night relaxing with birthmother. I think we deserved it.
Around eleven, Steph and I retire to our room. Birthmother has visitors coming, so Eva stays with her for now. She’ll come over to us when they leave. Both of us are ready to crash. Steph takes the bed, and I take the recliner and we quickly drift off. What will tomorrow bring?