January 25, 2006

"'Ello! A Spot of Colostrum, Perchance?"

The Birth (And Afterbirth, if Interested)

(You can click on all these pictures for a better view)

As many of you can attest to, I'm a fairly prodigious (the alternate definition) writer. If you work with me, you've come to hate my emails. If you are on the regular "mailing list" for this travelblog, you know how I ramble. If you are "Inner Circle," you are aware of some of the stuff I've written for actual real live real money paying blogs. (If are none of these, let me tell you - you are so totally missing out! People are laughing at you!) Anyway, my point is, I have never been at more of a loss for words as I am at this moment. How do I begin writing the story of the most momentous event of my life - the birth of my son?

I've been home from work for a few days now and have been up countless hours at night with the boy in my lap, and yet; I've come up with nothing. There really are no sufficient words that amateur (at best) writers like me can come up with to fully describe the range of emotions I've felt since Hoang's water broke shortly after midnight on January 25th. But, of course, I shall try. (Though, you only care about the pictures. I know how you are.)

Okay, to be honest, those first two paragraphs are pretty pithy. Hoang and I both remained very calm throughout the whole thing, and my exhaustion sort of stymied any emotional outburst I was supposed to have.

Hoang's pregnancy progressed smoothly and she had no complications whatsoever. She did get a couple high grade fevers in her third trimester which knocked her out pretty well, but the baby was never in any danger. Aside from frequent trips to the bathroom, no wine or sushi, and having to wear lame maternity clothes (no heels! The horror!), she was largely unaffected. We traveled to Delaware for Christmas when she was 34 weeks pregnant and she's never looked better. I absolutely love this picture of her - no makeup, towel on her head, totally candid, big and roly-poly and yet, she's radiant. I married well. (The other one is of the Pregnant Snowwoman I made.)

January progressed, she had her shower at our house (a hearty "Thank you" from me to those of you who attended), and she remained at work. The weekend of January 21st and 22nd, she started complaining of a pretty bad localized back pain on her right side. Though it wasn't until Monday the 23rd that she said those words every pregnant woman says: "Ok, I'm done with this. I'm ready for this cat to come out." I smiled at her, reassured her that she was doing phenomenally, and kissed her goodnight in our own bed.

Little did I know that it would be the last time I was able to do that for several days! The next night Hoang went to bed at her usual pregnancy forced time of 11:30 or so. I stayed in the living room watching The Colbert Report and fell asleep in the chair around midnight... For about 25 minutes. "Um... I think my water broke," I half-heard in my groggy state. Once my brain processed what Hoang was saying, I quickly snapped to and said, "Oh, really? What do we do now?" We both stood there and stared at each other trying to figure out the next move. Before I could really do anything, Hoang became assured that her water did indeed break. Four pairs of underwear later, I came to understand the gravity of the situation.

We called the doctor and laid in bed waiting his callback. And waited... Hoang actually dozed off for a while until the phone finally rang around 2:30 AM. The doctor, Dr. Elligers, sleepily told us to, "Go to the hospital now." Um, ok, sure. Except that we were in pajamas and hadn't packed our bags and weren't really prepared to GIVE BIRTH or anything! Oh well, we gathered up what we did have prepared, got in the car, and drove to St. Francis in Hartford. On the ride over I told her that her co-workers had planned her baby shower for the dawning day. Oh well. We checked in around 3:15 and Hoang was checked out physically. Not even 1 cm dilated at that point, and no contractions... Uh-oh. [Now, two weeks after his birth, I figure his pointy little fingernails popped the amniotic sac by accident.] Hoang slept some more.

I left her and went back home around 4:30 to, oh, I don't know... Clean the nursery, wash baby clothes, gather up a "take home outfit," clean the kitchen, walk the dog, drink a fifth of scotch, vacuum the whole house, get a bunch of stuff for Hoang, etc. I returned to her side around 6:30 to learn they had given her some Pictocin to artificially start up the contractions. Hoang slept some more. Around 9 AM, her body began to naturally start the contractions which meant Hoang was due for some Stadol. Wow, what a drug that must be - she immediately lapsed into a drunken smiley deep sleep while I watched the morning news cycle over and over and over again.

Early in the afternoon, Hoang awoke with a jolt of pain and a yelp for help. Epidural time! She was around 3 cm at this point but the pain was getting pretty unbearable. Thirty minutes later, Hoang was back to sleep blissfully unaware of the contractions within her uterus. I watched Dr. Phil, Tyra, The View... I actually physically felt my brain melting.

She awoke around 5 and got topped off with some more epidural drug. Then she slept some more. I watched the news again and ate some dinner my sister-in-law brought me. 6 cm.

At 7:30, UConn played St. John's and withstood a rather poorly played first half. Hoang slept. Around 8 PM, she got a final dose of epidural stuff and fell back asleep. 8 to 9 cm. UConn won, my in-laws visited, Hoang slept some more. At this point, I had spoken to the nurses so much and followed the progress on the monitors so closely, I think I can deliver a baby fairly well now. I watched the heart rates and contractions of all the other women in the Delivery ward. I knew which rooms weren't having contractions, I knew which babies were having difficulties breathing, I knew which ones were delivering and which were going to be sent home. I even named the other rooms and had long talks with the nurses about how the other women were faring. Hoang was oblivious.

That, my friends, is Active Labor

At 8:30, one of the wonderful nurses (Ann) checked on the progress and... And... 10 cm! Uconn was only up by single digits with 12 minutes remaining and Hoang was still pretty out of it, so everyone left the room again and Hoang fell back asleep. Gee, you'd think when the nurse said, "Oh look! There's the top of his head! Wanna see it?" they'd be ready to deliver. But good ol' room 8 had an emergency C-Section (I totally saw it coming) and, well, we could wait apparently. And waiting meant sleeping of course. I sat there and watched the monitor stuck on/in my wife and saw the tell-tale signs of active final stage labor. One minute intervals, regular peaks, baby's heart rate increasing... Y'know, the time when women scream epithets and gouge their nails into their husbands' arms? Yeah, well, Hoang slept.

At 9:50 when the nurses came back in, I tried to convince them to try to deliver without waking Hoang so it would be a surprise, but alas, she woke up. Must've been the draft from opening the door or something. Before I knew it, the doctor (Dr. Bourque) arrived and said, "Let's have a baby." Yeah, why don't we already. At that point, I pulled out the boom box, Mr. Microphone, and strobe light and after pushing play on the Gary Glitter CD announced, "Let's do this thing!" A quick high-five from the nurses and we were ready to push. (A quick CD change to Salt n' Pepa's seminal hit, "Push it" was made.)

Ann told me to grab Hoang's foot and push her knee to her chest. Huh? I had no idea I'd be so involved. During contractions, Hoang pushed 3 times hard and Ann offered just the right amount of encouragement. I, however, stood silently and breathlessly. Actually, I found myself getting caught up in her breathing patterns; holding it in, then pushing it out right along with her. Of course I'll never know what it feels like to give birth, but from what I saw, it was akin to having an incredibly difficult time on the toilet. Seriously.

The first three contractions were a bit uncomfortable for me, as I'm not used to a) seeing the love of my life in such distress, b) seeing a few random people peer at the love of my life's nether regions, and c) seeing said nether regions in such a way. That is, with a head poking out.

What an amazing feeling... Seeing the head of my son coming out more and more with each push. There's his hairline! Push! Push! There's the top of his ear! Push! Push! Just incredible. Hoang was holding up fine and I knew not to offer her anything more than a heartfelt, "I love you" or two. A few contractions and 9 or so pushes later, there was an entire child's head hanging out of my wife. Let me tell you, if you haven't seen that - it's mind blowing. The "wonderfulness" overcomes the undeniable strangeness fully and completely. The next contraction Hoang mustered up all her energy and pushed with all her might... Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!!!

10:22 PM, 1/25/06: *Pop!* There he was, all bluey and gooey, a healthy little boy - OUR healthy, beautiful little boy! Within seconds he was crying his little Bert (from Bert and Ernie fame) cone head off. The doctor shoved the umbilical cord in my face and asked me if I wanted to cut it - he didn't present me much of a choice. *SNIP* He pinked right up and looked at us as if to say, "What's up?" Oh, about the title of this story... For some reason, every time Hoang and I previously talked about this moment we imagined how funny it would be if he came out, looked at us, and began talking in a Cockney accent. As in, "'Ello mumsy, 'ello father, 'ave you some tea?" (The other scenario was a result of our penchant for calling him, "This cat." As in, "This cat keeps kicking my ribs," or, "This cat has the hiccups again." So we toyed with the thought that Hoang would give birth to an actual cat - but that one was a bit too surreal to really think about too much.)

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Such a modest boy

Alas, he was a human and his cry was wholly American, so they cleaned him up, weighed him (6 lbs, 14 oz), measured him (20 inches) and gave him to his beaming, incredible mother. I didn't really know what to do with myself, so I walked around and asked a bunch of questions. Those of you who have given birth, or been witness to one, know what they don't tell you on TV. Hoang was not quite done yet, as she had a bit more to deliver. I knew it was coming but I didn't know the sheer magnitude of it. SPLOOSH! There it was, the placenta - the only temporary organ of the human body. Being the biology degreed graduate I am, I had to check it out. That thing is HUGE and it's really cool looking. In fact, I even took a picture of it. Don't believe me? Don't know what a placenta looks like? Well, now you know. Awesome, huh? The big three arteries (or veins, I don't know) come together there and become the umbilical cord.

Phew, so that was that. We announced his name to the world (Damian Vinh), tried to stick him on Hoang to snack a bit, and had some quality alone time. No words needed to be spoken, we just stared at this new creature we created and marveled. His full head of soft black hair, his giant feet, his teeny little nipples... It was a rather novel idea to me to be 100% responsible for a human being... Exciting, scary, and rather cool. Around midnight they took him away to do whatever they do with newborns and... Hoang fell asleep. At 1 AM they moved her to the maternity ward and by 1:30 Damian was still being tended to. There was a line formed in the nursery, so I decided to go home and get some sleep. (Though not before meeting Gerrie, the "Gerrie-atric" nurse on night duty. Oi, I didn't trust her with her shakiness and lack of limb control.) At that point, I had been up about 38 of 40 hours, hence the circles under my eyes in the first pictures.

The next day progressed as all normal post-partum days do. Phone calls, family visits, forced feedings... For the record, the first person other than us and the staff to see Damian was none other than the man himself, EdHill. He happens to work in Hartford and was able to make it up to the hospital during lunch - that just cracks me up for some reason. He also was the first (and thus far only) person to equate "Damian Vinh" with "DV" with "Darth Vader." That's our Ed. The only thing out of the ordinary for us was that Damian couldn't keep his temperature up so they kept taking him away to warm him up. Just like his mom at home. He also developed a slight case of jaundice, but that was no big deal. Hoang and I enjoyed our "celebration dinner" that the hospital provided and just kept staring at the boy. The night progressed without incident as all three of us slept soundly. Geeze, I almost make this whole thing sound almost boring somehow! The next day, however, certainly had more excitement...

Go To The First Week; On Our Own

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