My lovely wife and I are scheduled to welcome our fifth child into the outside world next week, as long as the baby does not have accelerated plans of her own. Over the years I have come to learn that there are certain things you can count on during the entire birth process. Like many things in life, childbirth has its own set of rules and a language all its own. Rubrics if you will.
I must admit, I really look forward to these days. Yeah, of course, there is that whole miracle of life thing but there is much more than that to anticipate. These days are great vacation days for Daddy. After the tiresome admitting process, we are brought up to a lovely room in the maternity ward. This place is awesome. They have a big leather reclining chair just for the dads. Not content with just the great chair, they also have a nice TV with remote for me. Oh and Mom too. Sometimes the whole birth process can take the better part of a day and there are huge chunks of downtime where I am not required to do much. TV is the answer.
During the birth of my first child, there was an awesome ‘Wings’ marathon playing on cable. That Antonio cracks me up. With my third child, as we approached delivery time we had yet to settle on a name. Divine intervention ended the discussion as the John Ford cinematic classic “The Quiet Man’ was on television. The boys name was to be Sean. That was settled.
Truth be told, even on my days off from work, it is impossible to wind down and relax the way that I can in the birth room. It is just so peaceful. But eventually we do have to get down to business.
This is where knowledge of the local language comes in handy. For instance, during the first couple of birth experiences, my wife would suffer through the contractions for quite a while before they would offer her the miracle of the epidural. She has since learned to use the phrase “the contractions are becoming quite uncomfortable” and then, sooner than you can change the channel, the anesthesiologist is right there with mommy’s little helper. I am worried that this time around my wife will utter this phrase during admitting. I have been coaching her to wait at least until she is in the hospital gown, otherwise they might suspect something. That epidural stuff is a wonderful thing. After she has it, I can go back to watching TV with much less guilt and interruption.
There are other useful little tricks that we have not learned through direct experience but rather through our vast network of counter cultural catholic baby makers. For instance, my sister-in-law recently had her fifth child too. Her OB/GYN is always reticent to induce labor and prefers to let nature run its course. My sister-in-law will have none of that. So when she has decided that the time is right, she just tells the doctor that she senses “low fetal movement.” and BAM! She is in the hospital ten minutes later and my brother is in his recliner watching ESPN. So much for nature.
There are some other things that you can count on as well. The majority of the nurses are absolutely wonderful. Cheerful, eager to help, and very professional. However there always seems to be one nurse who treats you like an idiot. If you ask a question like, “How far am I dilated?” She will look at you with a mixture of annoyance and pity and say something like “Oh dear, we still have a long way to go. Don’t worry about it.” Then she will drop the condescending coup de grace “Is this your first honey?” My wife’s eyes light up when this happens because the nurse has fallen for the trap. “No, this is my fourth..or is it fifth?” turning toward me she continues, “How many is it now dear?” I just shrug. “I dunno” and put on Spongebob Squarepants. The nurse’s eyes widen with surprise. After she leaves, my wife and I giggle like third graders.
So after a relaxing day of TV watching, lying for drugs, and juvenile antics the real action starts. I position myself next to my wife and perform my only real duty for the day. I give the play-by-play to my wife because I have the best seat in the house.
Finally, at the end of this amazing day, Mom looks on as I sit back in my big leather reclining chair and hold my child in my arms for the first time. As I wipe the dust out of my eyes I say to myself, “I really love these days.”
Update: 11-18-2007 Grace Ann was born today at 1:25 PM. 9 lbs 2oz. 21 inches long. I think due to divine retribution over the above post, the entire labor process was over very quickly and I did not get to watch a single minute of television.