How E Came to Be!

About 1 A.M. on 4/17/2012 - a full month before Evan's due date - I got up to use the restroom. 

Waking Lisa, she decided to go too. Just as she was getting back under the covers, Bailey, one of our Golden Retriever/Lab mixes, got up and walked over to her. He gently placed his head on the bed and waited. Not sure of what make of this very odd behavior, she thought maybe he needed to tinkle like the rest of us. Except when she got up, he trotted back to his bed and plopped down. Lisa squatted down to give him and our other dog, Cody, a quick pet. 

As she stood back up, at 1:10 A.M., her water broke. 

Lisa rushed into our bathroom."Um. My water just broke."

My eyes popped open like a cartoon as I went from dead asleep to 20-cups-of-coffee awake. "You're kidding." 


I threw off the covers and jumped out of bed, even more Bugs Bunny-esque than before. "So, we're doing this." 

Within a minute, Lisa was on the phone with Kaiser's Labor & Delivery. While I paced, they quizzed her (no contractions yet, first child, still a month before the due date). She hung up and told me that since we were nearby, they thought we could come in to get "checked out." Lisa calmly told me we had time and we could calmly pack our bag and that we should just stay calm and...

That's when the contractions started. 

Using my handy iPhone app (yep, there's an app for everything these days), I began timing the contractions while my brain ran through all the things we'd learned in our classes. (1) Bring lots of things to keep her distracted from the pain because labor takes a long, long time. (2) Mouthwash is essential if you wish to stay close to her during this process. (3) No need to rush until the contractions are 5 minutes apart, a minute in length, and with that pattern lasting an hour. 

As I stuffed MODERN FAMILY DVDs, the iPod, and Listerine into our duffle, Lisa followed me around telling me when her contractions began and ended. Almost immediately, I noticed something: The app must be faulty. Her contractions were a minute long, but less than two minutes apart - way too close together for this early on. After all, her water just broke. Plus, she was still able to talk through them (she also emailed her boss during one with the message - in true Lisa fashion - Subject: In late today. Message: I'm experiencing some labor symptoms and am headed to hospital.)

After a few more contractions associated with increasing pain, we decided it was time. Rushing out of the house, we petted the dogs, grabbed the 30" diameter birthing ball (another essential from the classes) and the car seat. Around 1:45 A.M., we piled into my CR-V (after Lisa had me lay down some towels on her seat) and left for the hospital. 

Unlike the movies, I stayed surprisingly calm on the 5 minute drive from our house to Kaiser. Lisa  called her parents on the way since 2011 taxes were due in a few short hours and obviously her dad would still be up. She wasn't far off, when Gary answered, he'd been asleep for approximately 15 minutes. 

Lisa opened the conversation with: "Dad, you might have to retire to watch the baby a month early."

Gary: "What do you mean?"

"Dad, my water broke. I'm having contractions. We're on the way to Kaiser."

"You're kidding. You're kidding"...a while later..."You're kidding. You're kidding."

I *believe* she talked with a number of her family members - including one partial conversation with Vanessa in which a contraction rudely interrupted - though I was much more focused on remembering the rules of the road and the rules of labor to pay attention. Though after she hung up, it really sunk in that my parents were somewhere in the Bahamas and we didn't have a reliable way to contact them.  

As we turned onto Lawrence Expressway, we discussed how we still didn't have a name picked out. 

When we got to the hospital, I knew exactly where to go: Lot E (in retrospect, this is fitting, huh?). Lisa, of course, actually knew where Lot E actually was. Though at ~2 A.M. there's plenty of parking at Kaiser. Also, at that hour, only the Emergency entrance is open (another thing they drilled into us at our birthing classes). 

I grabbed our newly packed duffle, decided to leave the birthing ball for the 2nd trip, and followed Lisa toward the entrance. About halfway there, she stopped, hunched over, grabbed a white SUV for support, and had the first BIG contraction. 

The next one came when we were just outside Emergency with Lisa doubled over the back of a courtesy wheelchair. She was breathing hard with a slight moan. 

"Sir," the Emergency check-in nurse called though the door. "Is she alright?"

I patted Lisa on the back lightly. "She's just having a contraction. We're headed to Labor & Delivery."

The nurse came over, insisting that Lisa use the wheelchair to get through the hospital and up to the third floor. Lisa, who was well-versed in things labor, insisted on walking - after all, being on ones feet sped the process along. The nurse looked her square in the eye. "Mam, you might not make it to Labor & Delivery."

We came to a compromise. Lisa would kneel on the wheelchair and I would push. A few moments later, we both came to the conclusion that this was very, very unsafe. In pain, she succumbed to sitting in the chair while one of the Emergency nurses joined us on the trek. It wasn't until the elevator that I saw she was carrying a big, blue sterile drape, gloves, and an assortment of gauze. This lady was serious: she wasn't sure we'd make it to L&D. 

With a ping, the elevator opened and our escort pointed us into department 300. Labor & Delivery. 

Where we'd meet The New Ballou for the first time. 

The Emergency nurse left us with the check-in nurse, who came to realize that we were first time parents and therefore, were probably overreacting in our rush. Though he might've gotten an inkling of the truth when Lisa had to stop signing paperwork in order to have a contraction - which were still piling on every 2 minutes or so. 

He led us to a closet - sorry, I mean "observation room" and gave Lisa the standard issue hospital gown. After she'd changed, an observation nurse came in. She asked Lisa if she'd felt the baby moving...

Lisa's face scrunched. "Not, really. Not even last night."

"Ok. Don't worry. That's often normal as the baby drops into position."

Lisa and I caught each other's worried gaze - as if we wouldn't be worried. I'm not sure I've ever been so nervous as they hooked up a belly monitor to check for the baby's heart...was beating just fine. With a quick sigh all my energy returned to my wife rolling on her side, grimacing. 

"Those contractions are really strong," said nurse obvious. "A doctor should be here any second to check you out."

More waiting. More contractions. More pain. No doctor. 

"I'm going to go get her," said the nurse - finally - as she charged out of the room. 

Eons (or possibly seconds) later, a young blond resident comes in with a light midwestern drawl. As the doctor readies for the exam, Lisa told her that our 36 week appointment was supposed to be that day, so we didn't know the baby's position or any of the standard blood work tests that most women find out during that visit. 

"Everything will be fine," the doctor began the check. "There's nothing to worry..." she trailed off. 

Lisa clenched my hand. "What?"

The doctor ends the exam and stands. "Do you feel like pushing?"

Another scrunched-Lisa face. "Ummm. Not really."

"Get her into a delivery room." The doctor looks back from the nurse to Lisa. "Because you're 10 centimeters dilated and the head has decended to the +2 position."

In a flash, another 4 nurses were in the room, pushing Lisa out, handing me our bag, and rushing us through the hall towards the delivery room. 

"Don't push. Don't push. Keep your legs crossed," one of the nurses told Lisa. "We never got a chance to test you for type B strep, so we need to get you on an IV before the baby comes."

Lisa moaned. 

"Breathe like you're blowing out a candle," I said, finally remembering something useful from class. 

We got a few jealous stink eyes as we passed a whole floor of women slowly walking the halls, waiting for their chance to deliver a baby. Finally, the mad dash ended and we entered Room 5 of Labor and Delivery. 

The chaos continued as the staff transferred Lisa to the delivery bed, set up an IV, took her vitals, and started monitoring her contractions. They kept telling her that she’d still have to push for a while since it was her first child, so not to worry and everything was under control. At some point, I talked with Lisa's dad and gave him an update, but honestly I'm not sure what I said. Then, in what must’ve been just a few minutes, the room cleared and things calmed. It was just the two of us, Joie (our primary nurse), and Casey (a student nurse). 

“Now, on the next contraction," Joie smiled at Lisa, "I want you to push for a count of ten…then deep inhale…and another push-for-ten. We’re aiming for a total of three per contraction.”

I stood at Lisa’s side as she pulled me into a bear hug at the next contraction. Her face went bright red as she pushed. It took a few tries for Lisa to get the hang of it, but she did. After a few good pushes, Joie made a joke about seeing a blonde baby crowning. No one laughed…

On the next contraction, Lisa pulled me close again, saying, "It hurts really, really bad."

I counted with the nurses and did my best to let Lisa know how proud I was of her and how excited I was to meet this little baby.
“Shouldn’t we get the doctor?” asked the student nurse.

“We still have plenty of time,” said Joie.

Two contractions later, Joie snatched up the phone – “Get Dr. Greenstein in here now.” And then turned to Lisa, “Stop pushing - the doctor is on her way.”

Happy to use my training again, I said, "Blow out the candle, blow out the..." but I trailed off as I looked down. 

Holy head of hair!

For the first time, I saw the baby crown. The thick, dark hair was just peeking out. 

"Lisa, I can see him! You're almost there!"

I’ve never been that excited in my life.

The next few waves of contractions were intense, though nothing compared to the screaming monsters I’d seen on TV. Mostly Lisa just breathed heavily. 

Dr. Greenstein, another young woman, popped in and took the catching position. From here, my memory gets very blurry: More bear hugs. More pushing. Me laughing uncontrollably. Lots and lots of cheerleading. The baby appearing – more magically than if actually flown in by a stork. That beautiful, deeply relieving, infant WHAAA. The baby on Lisa’s belly, silent again, but squirmy. People shouting their congratulations. Lisa’s tears. My tears. I cut the umbilical cord - it's tougher than I imagined. 

But then comes my favorite moment - one so vivid and real and perfect. A moment that I’ll clutch on to like a pirate’s treasure. In all the chaos of the first minute, the baby was on Lisa’s chest, instinctively looking for his first meal, ignoring everyone. I said my first words to him – who knows what they were – but…

He lifted his head. Opened his eyes and...looked at me.

He knew me. He recognized my voice. 

He knew his daddy. 

Evan James Ballou was born at 3:05 A.M. on 4/17/2012 at the Santa Clara Kaiser Permanente Hospital  – less than two hours after Lisa's water broke – but nearly a full month ahead of schedule. 

No comments:

Post a Comment