Kathleen’s due date had finally arrived. After many weeks of misery, swelling, aches, waddling, and general awkwardness, Kathleen had all but put a big red circle on the calendar around June 29th. The problem was– and she knew this to be a likelihood– what if she were late1? The morning of the due date came with nary a sign of labor. Discouraged and frustrated, Kathleen set her mind to other tasks about the house.
Inn the mid-afternoon, Kathleen stood up from a chair with a peculiar look on her face. It wasn’t a pained expression, more like the look someone gives you when they’ve just been caught doing something really embarrassing. Her water broke. The contractions were slow and mild, and the hospital told us to try to rest up at home and come in first thing in the morning2. Surprisingly, we both got a decent night’s sleep and woke well-rested. We slowly began gathering our things to head to the hospital and arrived at 8am.
Kathleen’s labor was a by-the-book affair3, and at 7:39pm– less than 12 hours after entering through the doors of the hospital– our 7lb, 4oz daughter was born. This pedestrian labor experience was a massive relief for Kathleen, who spent months agonizing over her friends’ birth horror stories, including tales of 50+ hours of labor and babies being whisked off to the NICU4 for days and days.
Our first night in the hospital was surprisingly easy; the baby slept for long stretches and we managed to get some good rest. The second night, however, was a horrorshow. Our baby frequently let out loud, piercing shrieks, her face beet red, hand clutched into a vigorously shaking fist. She resembled a a miniature despot barking orders at her underlings5. Kathleen spent the entire night trying to comfort the baby and failing. The nightshift nurse gave us a crash course in newborn care, demonstrating the Four-Point Inspection Plan for dealing with a fussy baby: Diaper Check, Intestinal Gas Check, Burping, Feeding.
After the second night, we learned that we would have to stay in the hospital for another 36 hours. While TD was looking good and healthy, Kathleen had abnormally high blood pressure that put her in the danger zone. We were initially crushed when we learned we would have to stay in our tiny hospital room/jail cell for another day and a half6, in the end it was better to be in the care of professional medical staff than forcing the issue and going home before Kathleen was ready.
As such, our new little family spent almost the entirety of 4th of July Weekend in a 18×12 room getting to know our newborn daughter while my mother and sister-in-law got the unexpected opportunity to get to know each other much better.
On one level, I felt bad that the visiting family members were left to their own devices, getting only a snippet of Baby Time each day on their visits to the hospital. A twinge of guilt gnawed in the back of my mind; the reason they came was to see their new granddaughter/niece, after all. On the other hand, they are here to support us as a new family, and all of them are familiar with my asshole-ish treatise on the expectations of family when they visit. Good thing, too, because for our first few days home, the people here have been nothing but helpful and understanding. Much to my surprise7 having so much family around has been among the best decisions we made for the earliest days of TD’s life.
- It is commonly-held that first pregnancies tend to be overdue.
- Contrary to prevalent media tropes, a woman’s water breaking does not mean a baby is going to fall out in the next ten minutes. In fact, only 10% of women’s water breaks before they ever get to the hospital.
- Though it certainly didn’t seem that way at the time to her. When it was over, I asked Kathleen what surprised her the most about labor, and she said how much pain there was. I think it’s telling that after four weeks of childbirth classes and 40 weeks of prenatal care with Kathleen’s midwife team nobody adequately prepared Kathleen for how painful labor actually would be. This is a bizarre cultural notion; everyone has it in mind that labor is the most intensely painful thing that a woman generally experiences. Kathleen knew this as well as anyone and she still said the level of pain was dramatically undersold.
- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
- As a result, I will retire the “Creature” moniker she carried with her to term; my daughter will henceforth be known as “TD,” short for Tiny Dictator.
- While Kathleen had a reasonably comfortable hospital bed, I was forced to sleep on some sort of torture device from the not-too-distant future known as a Versant Sleep Chair. I’d have been more comfortable sleeping on a pile broken glass.
- And contrary to just about every piece of advice we received.