Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Sam: You Were Born, For Real.

When I last left this story, I had just taken the epidural, and was beginning to appreciate the wonders of modern anesthesia. Actually, I wasn't quite at the appreciation stage yet, because your Granddad, my Dad, was busy learning the back story of the anesthesiologist who was in the process of jabbing a gigantic needle into my spine, and this was not helping me calm down. Forgive me if I wasn't interested in where he went to school or how he decided to go into pain management; I was a bit more concerned about how focused he was on the task at hand, and how steady those hands might be.

Now, you are very, very fond of your grandfather, as am I, but there's something you need to know, if you haven't figured it out already. Get ready for a Life Lesson: Sometimes, the traits you love and respect the most about a person might drive you to want to kill them under extraordinary circumstances. Your grandfather has a commendable appetite for information. He watches the news at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00, and he reads two newspapers a day (I'll explain what a "newspaper" is another time). Most importantly, he is eager to learn from the people he meets on a daily basis, and he truly is interested in what they have to say. When I was a teenager and therefore self-conscious beyond belief, I was horrified by benign trips to the grocery store, where he could not resist chatting with the cashier (I thought he was holding up the line), or stopping to catch up with the parent of one of my friends (dear god, what if that parent went home and told their son/daughter?? I could ask teenage Kathryn 'what if' indeed, but she was too focused on feeling simultaneously conspicuous and unappreciated to think of anything that abstract). 

These days, I'm proud to think that he passed that interest in the stories of others on to me, and I do enjoy talking to the people I come across on a daily basis. Prepare to be mortified, teenage Sam. However, in that moment, with that needle poised to go where no needle is really meant to go, I couldn't care less if that anesthesiologist had lived in a submarine, interviewed J.D. Salinger, or seen a double rainbow in Yosemite Park, so long as his aim was true. As far as I was concerned, your Granddad was NOT HELPING in that regard, and my mother took note of my desperate death glare and diverted my father enough to let me breathe deeply, as the nurse who was kindly letting me crush her hands was instructing me to do.

Shortly after that, when your Dad and I settled down to sleep for a few hours and get some dearly needed rest, as was the purpose of the epidural, your Granddad and Gamma headed home, where I knew they would be thinking of me all night, and eagerly awaiting news of your arrival. Before they left, they told me that they knew I could do it, and that meant a lot.

When we woke up an hour or two later, I assessed the changes, and found that I definitely wasn't steady enough to walk anywhere, but I could feel the contractions, and still had enough sensation to push effectively. That was good thing, because I pushed for four hours. FOUR HOURS. I'll spare you the gritty details and just say that some parts were uncomfortable (good lord, the nausea) and some were precious (but that's between me and your Dad), and just tell you that the overarching theme was how damn long you took to make your appearance. The experienced and knowledgeable nurse kept assuring me that I was so close, and told me at least three times that I probably had less than an hour to go. On the less encouraging front, the OB resident would pop in every hour or so to judge my progress, shake her head discouragingly, and remind me that I was on a deadline: if I couldn't get you out by 4am, she was going to take matters into her own hands, and bring out The Forceps. Yes, I capitalize them in my brain. Like the epidural, I had a great fear of the forceps. Unlike the epidural, I'm still pretty convinced that that fear was justified. Now, I know women who have had forcep deliveries, and came out of it just fine, but I also know that they bring certain risks to both the baby and the Mom, and besides all that, they are just friggin huge. Really. So big. Visceral recoilingly big. So anyway, I was on a deadline, and despite a lifetime of being late for everything, I was determined to get you out on time.

The fact was, you were stuck. You weren't breech - that would have required a C-Section - no, your head was down, as it was supposed to be, but you were laying sideways. That meant that you were butting up against my pubic bone, and couldn't slide under it the way a properly aligned baby is designed to do. Besides requiring extra work on my part, you were under stress. Our wonderful nurse did a commendable job of shielding me from that information, but your Dad could tell you that he wasn't missing anything that had to do with monitors going off and your heart rate dropping. He bore all of that fear, while I just kept thinking "Wow, it's so nice of them to give me oxygen to help me breathe," totally unaware that it was for you, because you were struggling. So, that's why I had a deadline. As uninspired as her bedside manner might have been, the OB resident did not have some kind of twisted eagerness hone her mad forcep skills on my delicate bits (sorry), so much as she knew what could happen if you were pushed beyond your limit. Due to my work in the neurology clinic, I also know, and I am grateful for her inclination to move things along.

And that is why I know without a doubt that you were born at 3:59, not 4:00 as your birth certificate would attest. I made one last big effort, and the OB who was standing there with her forceps at the ready dropped them and caught you, and after that, nothing else mattered, because I was holding my baby, and you were so beautiful. I tore my eyes away from you to look at your Dad and confirm that you were to be Sam, and in that moment I remember thinking that there's no way I could have done it without him. If you're going to be all logic loving and fact-y like your Dad you'll ruin that sentiment by saying "well yes, because you wouldn't have had to," but draw on my side of your brain for a minute and go with what I really mean, ok? 


You were 7 and a half pounds, which is a good healthy weight, but you felt like so much more than that laying on my chest. I thought I could be crushed by the force of my love, and I knew that everything I had, I would gladly give to you. I was pretty much ready to burst, and I've never been so happy in my life. You were born.


  1. Hooray! What an ordeal, but totally worth it, eh? I love Granddads/Dads who talk too everyone all the time, embarrassing their children (mine does that too), but I think they are teaching us to love people and be interesting ourselves. At least I hope all that blushing and waiting on benches at the mall, grocery store, and pretty much everywhere else paid off.

    Forceps. Scary. Sometime I'll scare you with my completely opposite frightening-because-it-was-insanely-fast delivery story, which in retrospect was really nice of Jean, but reminded me a heck of a lot of Alien at the time. As for that pubic bone, I don't know how any babies ever fit past it. I thought for sure Jean wouldn't fit (of course, I also thought she'd weigh 9lbs instead of her more petite 7lbs 13oz). Keep up the awesome storytelling/history recording/Leslie entertaining. I'm loving it!

  2. I would love to hear about Jean's super fast alien entrance. Write it! It's not so scary, once you get going, I promise.