Josephine is six months young today. Can’t believe how fast it’s gone, and it only makes me wonder how my parents handled how fast I grew up. To me, it has taken a lifetime (ba-dum bum!) but to them it must have been a blink of the eye. I look back at Josephine’s first six months of life with utter, complete joy and amazement. Sure, it was really, really hard at times. Sarah and I struggled, as do many first-time parents. But as I reflect on the past half year, the pain, frustration, lack of sleep, and fear that we’ve experienced is NOTHING compared to the love and joy this little bug has given us. Six months ago I could not have ever comprehended this feeling. But today, I understand! If you’re a parent, you know what I’m taking about.
August 28, 2012
Sarah woke up at 4:30 am with bad gas – sharp stomach pains that would probably go away if she could fart it out. In a half-asleep stupor, I may have mumbled something about going to the bathroom, but to be honest I probably just groaned, rolled over, and went back to sleep. A couple hours later, Sarah woke me up again complaining about her bad gas cramps that had kept her awake. The fart pains were coming every 5-6 minutes, but she wasn’t able to pass the gas and go back to sleep. We wondered if this could be early labor, but since the due date wasn’t for another week and on average most first-time mothers deliver 10 days late, we were a good two to three weeks away from when baby was supposed to come. Sarah had decided that baby wouldn’t come until at least September 10, so labor denial was in full effect. We called our doula, Liz Abbene, and she simply asked us to keep her posted.
I had a client meeting at 10 am, and Sarah wanted to get stuff done at work, so we headed downtown as usual. Sarah still hadn’t farted the cramp out, which made us wonder if it was something more than just gas… like diarrhea?! I dropped her off at work and headed to my meeting, but not much more than an hour later I got a call from Sarah to come get her and take her back home. We got home and Sarah thought it might be a good idea to call the doctor’s office just in case her abdominal pains indicated that she was in labor. The nurse didn’t indicate any sense of urgency, so it must have been a stubborn fart that refused to pass.
By noon the gas was causing increasingly strong pains in Sarah’s abdominal area, particularly in her back. The cramps were starting to come as frequent as every 4-5 minutes. We thought it was a bit strange that it had been 8 hours and still no fart, so perhaps… just maybe… could this be it? All the books said you’ll know when you’re in labor, but we didn’t know so it must not have been labor.
But the pains were getting stronger and closer together, and my The Expectant Father book said this would happen during labor, so… holy shit! Sarah’s in labor! What’s the first thing I thought to do now that we finally admitted to ourselves that we’re about to have a baby? I downloaded a free contraction timer iPhone app, of course. Hit the big button when a contraction starts, and hit it again when it ends. Rate the intensity. Easy. We called Liz to let her know it was game time, made sure Sarah’s parents could come get the dog, and Sarah hunkered down in the bathtub while I made sure to get some lunch. Jimmy Johns – subs so fast you’ll freak. Not that I needed a delivery guy to help me freak.
By about 2:00 PM the contractions were getting to be no joke. Sarah was in a lot of discomfort and the only think I could do was rub her back, make sure the water temp in the bath tub was ok, and time the contractions. They were getting closer together and more intense. Sarah would warm me that another contraction was coming, I’d tap the start button on the contraction timer app, she’d moan and scream, I’d rub her back and freak out a bit, she’d start to calm down, and I’d hit the stop button. Just as the contractions reached a seriously intense level and Sarah started spewing all sorts of profanities, I hit the start button and a message popped up that said I had reached my limit of 20 free contractions and if I wanted to continue I’d have to upgrade to the paid app for $1.99. Are you serious?!? Fine. Buy. Great business model. Damn it. Why didn’t I think of that?
In the weeks prior to this day, I had determined that my #1 job was to make sure I had a fool-proof plan to transport wife-in-labor to hospital-of-choice, which was Abbott Northwestern. I took a few dry runs to the hospital, saved the hospital location in our GPS system, mapped out a primary route along with secondary detours in the case of bad traffic, optimized a drop-off and park plan, and even considered a valet park option in case of emergency. I consider myself a guy who stays cool under pressure, but in this case I, uh, failed. I got us mostly to the hospital but when stopped at a red light I grasped the fact that my mind went blank and came to the realization that, for some strange reason, I was on my way to Fun City Dogs where we take Annabelle once a week or so. What?! We were a few blocks off course from the hospital, but thanks to a couple illegal lane changes we made it to the hospital’s main entrance.
Liz met us at the door, and after a few more painful contractions and a lot of rubber-necking spectators, Sarah made it out of the car and into the hospital where we decided to walk to the elevator which was less painful for Sarah that sitting in a wheelchair. At this point Sarah’s contractions were about 2 to 3 minutes apart, and getting stronger each time. After a seemingly endless walk and several offers for help from Abbott’s healthcare professionals, we made it to the delivery center.
Sarah measured in at 7cm, which means we were very close to go time. As the contractions got more intense, Sarah decided that the whole natural birth idea was insane and that she wanted an epidural. I started looking at the nurses wondering what they were waiting for while Liz calmly advised that we wait until after the contraction to talk about it. Ok, fine. Then, before we knew it, the next contraction started and Sarah demanded the juice again. Liz advised against making such rash decisions during a contraction, and suggest we wait until it was over to talk about it. This went on for one or two more contractions before Sarah caught on. “We never talk about it, Liz!” she exclaimed. And by that time we were past the point of numbing drugs and ready for pushing.
I’ve never heard my wife cuss and scream like she did at that moment. She was ready, the baby was ready, it was time! When the baby was crowning, Liz told me that I could take a look at the top of the head. The bit that was poking out was just a tiny almond-shaped sliver of a sphere, and in my panicked mind I estimated the radius of the head to be about an inch and a half based on the curvature of the crowned portion of the baby’s cranium. Wait a minute. If the head is the size of a tennis ball, then the body must be no more than six inches or so… And in that instant, I came to the conclusion that we were having a nine-month-old premature baby. This must be a medical tragedy! What will we do?! We need more doctors! Why isn’t Liz or the nurse or Dr. Schmitz-Burns or the other nurse taking any action? Why do they look so calm?!
“Pushing that baby out will be the best feeling in the world,” Liz told Sarah. And then as if that was all the coaching she needed, Sarah let out her last wail. A full-sized baby popped out, and Josephine Shu-Hui Bronson Lin entered the world.
Josephine, you’ve given your mom and me so much joy and love. I have never loved someone the way I love you. I’m excited for our lifetime together.