domingo, 21 de octubre de 2012

Loving until it hurts

This is the most joyous pain I have ever felt. And I'm not talking about the delivery, I am just the dad.

I love my wife's posts, I think she writes from the heart; uncensored and unfiltered. So in order to honor her style, I will write this post with all the honesty in my heart. But I must warn you, if you didn't like her book, or if it made you feel uncomfortable, you might as well stop reading now and go to Facebook, where everybody has good news about what they just bought or where they are on vacation or that cute new puppy. Most people don't like honest writing, they prefer feel-good stories with happy endings. When Karla wrote her book, everybody was thrilled to read the book and know more about our story; then everybody got a copy and she didn't get a single comment. Not one. Not even from family. I loved her book because it was refreshing, it was a story about overcoming adversity, about success and freedom, all through Jesus Christ. I guess people are uncomfortable when you talk about Jesus, or abortion, or failing a class, or getting stuff for your apartment from the trash, or getting a car as a gift. We're real people with real problems, so that is all you will get here.

The weekend before baby was born I was doing chores in the kitchen (you've heard about nesting before, right?), and I was able to see Karla playing with Libby in the living room, dancing to the music videos on TV; and I remember praying: "God, please don't let our lives change, ever." I felt so thankful to have a wonderful family and the time to enjoy them. Fast forward to three weeks later and now I'm writing with one hand while I hold Enzo with the other one, and I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that I have a son. I wonder if that is normal for a parent with a second kid. Anyway, I tried to get the perfect photograph of Enzo and me writing this post. What I (or any "good" photographer; dropping pearls of wisdom here...) usually do is take plenty of shots and then choose the perfect one, so I took 22 photos just to realize at the end that I had 22 perfect shots:

On Tuesday, October 2nd Karla called me to pick her up to go to the Dr's office because she did not feel Baby moving as much as usual, so we drove there and they hooked her up to the machine that monitors the fetal heart beat and the uterus contractions. As I was reading the chart alone with Karla in the room, I told her: "You're contracting" to what she simply responded: "No", as if I was not able to read a simple chart. Then the nurse came in and told her the same thing. She dismissed our comments and indicated that she would wait for the formal opinion of the Dr. When the Dr. came in, he said (to her surprise): "You're contracting, and you're 2 cm dilated". Jon Gogola, (the best damn OBGYN in the greater Houston area) recommended Karla to be induced on October 4th at 5:30AM, although he said, and I quote: "I would not be surprised if your body begins labor on its own in the next 24-48 hrs" (he was talking to Karla, not me, by the way).

Things started to look more and more imminent, so we began adjusting the final details of our plan: Our friend Merritt would come over and spend the night with Libby so she wouldn't have to sleep over at a different house, 70% of the time she does great, but on the other 30% of the time, you might want to wear ear protection if you're going to be within a 100yd radius. In the morning, Merritt would feed Dori and take her out and and then take Libby home with her. Karla and I would patiently wait for Baby at the hospital.

On October 3rd, before Libby went to bed, we finished reading The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein, one of my favorite books (gross understatement). It took us about a month, reading a couple of chapters every night before she went to bed, and sometimes well into her sleep. I love, love, love reading to her, I love to use inflections in my voice, make up voices for the characters and add a little drama with my gestures, and yes, I read the book as-is, even with the shits and the mo-fo's and the f's in the text. She knows those words exist in books (and real life, I guess), though her parents choose not to use them in their everyday vocabulary. But she knows they exist. Deal with it.

On October 4th, sometime during the early morning (it might have been October 3rd very late at night)  Karla told me she had felt some strong contractions about 7 minutes apart, and that it was pointless to  call the nurse line because we were going to the hospital in a couple of hours anyway, and that Merritt was on her way already. So I took a shower to wake up, and we got to the hospital at what I think it was 1AM (evidently the shower did not work). We were checked into our room and Jon was called and he gave instructions to administer Oxytocin starting at 6AM. That was my cue to cuddle in the sofa-bed and fall into a deep sleep, because even in these extraordinary circumstances, I'm not a nocturnal animal. I cannot drive, I cannot watch TV, I cannot party, and definitely forget about sex after 11PM. Make that 10PM if I had one beer that night.

Bring it!

I am a morning person, though, and by 6AM I was awake and avidly studying the aforementioned contraction chart and catering my wife ice chips every once in a while. The nurse said that the second babies come a lot faster than the first ones and that by lunchtime Karla would be nursing baby. Karla was contracting about 6 minutes apart and 3cm dilated, but she did not feel the contractions even without ANY pain medication or epidural, mainly because she is a tough cookie and can handle the (uterine) pressure like nobody's business, and this is not just a kiss-ass husband speaking, she is a legend among the nurses of the Memorial Hermann - Memorial City hospital. Word on the 3rd floor is that women in labor light a candle to a photo of Karla for good luck! Although I have never seen this, I believe it is true, and I would do it if I were going into labor myself ;)

Contractions can wait, I need to update my Facebook status.

So I figured I had a couple of hours to kill and I took out my work computer and answered some emails. Two hours went by and nothing, the contractions were still 5 minutes apart and we were at ~4cm dilated. Hmm. Lunch time had come and gone, and no major progress took place. Just keep on waiting. At 1PM I was starving, and I bet Karla was too, but I did not want to talk about food to the woman in labor who was not able to even drink water. Sympathy for my hunger was going to be a tough sell, so I told her I would return to the car to leave my work laptop and when I got to the car I ate an apple with peanut butter in about 7.3 seconds flat.

When I came back, Jon was in the room and he said that we were stalling at 8cm because the baby was facing the wrong way (rotated 180 degrees in the Z axis, if you're an engineer), so they had Karla laid on her left side for 30 minutes and BAM! 9cm. 30 more minutes on the right side and BAM! 10 cm. It was like Sir Isaac Newton was called into the room and an hour later we were ready to push.

I'm going to go off track for a minute here and talk about the lighting system in the delivery rooms. I think it is the coolest thing in a hospital! The lights are embedded on the ceiling in these super-cool semi-spherical domes and it just reminds me of stadium lights, like babies are making a stellar entrance to this world like a football player storming the field. Wicked cool.

Back to the delivery. There were a lot of questions on my mind regarding the orientation of the baby and the impact on delivery, and being as concise and tactful as possible I asked Jon what were the implications. On one hand, I am an engineer, and I like people to let me do my job, because I am trained to do it and do not want to be disturbed, so I didn't want to bother Jon; but on the other hand, I am an engineer and I like to understand how things work. Jon is great at providing this balance and he shared precise information with me: "Sometimes the baby turns on his own, sometimes you have to help them". Got it. We did not talk about it anymore because he interrupted with the phrase we've been expecting for the last 9 months: "It's time."

"I am ready to become a man now, though I realize I will lose all that I have been. All of my memories, all of my experiences. I would like to take them with me into my next life—there is so much I have gone through with the Swift family—but I have little say in the matter. What can I do but force myself to remember? Try to imprint what I know on my soul, a thing that has no surface, no sides, no pages, no form of any kind. Carry it so deeply in the pockets of my existence that when I open my eyes and look down at my new hands with their thumbs that are able to close tightly around their fingers, I will already know. I will already see." ~Enzo

Surprised? Did you think I had named my son after il Commendatore Enzo Anselmo Ferrari? Very close, but no. I named him after a fictional dog. Deal with it.

"When you feel like you need to push, you're going to push as hard as you can". That was my cue to hold Karla's hand and talk to her through the pushing. I did not talked as much as I did when Libby was born. Karla had this under control this time. After about 5 minutes of pushing, baby was advancing fast through the vaginal canal, and he even twisted 90 degrees, so things were going well, until something strange happened. All activity stopped. No more contractions, no more pushing and in this awkward position the heart beat of the baby cannot be picked up so easily, it was like the communications blackout during the space shuttle's earth reentry. Nothing. It was the longest 5 minutes of the last 9 months. We started looking at each other... So... how 'bout them Texans? (we did not talk about football, but we did have a conversation). Finally, Karla gave us the go ahead for the second half and the pushing was resumed. Karla was not quite on top of things this time, she started screaming while pushing (like the births you see in the movies), and obviously was wasting most of her energy in the scream. Coaching time again. I was very close to her ears, telling her I could see the head, and then the face, and I was thrown back in time 17 months. It was the same face as Libby! I thought it was fantastic to re-live the moment, but Karla needed me. I told her she needed to give her very best for these last push, it was getting very close. I had to hold her leg this time, not her hand. The nurse helped push the uterus down to help a baby that was finishing his 180 degree rotation as he finished emerging from beautiful momma. At that moment I thought that I wanted to deliver babies for a living.

Baby came out, started crying and I cut the cord. Baby was placed on momma's chest immediately and Karla saw with her own eyes that it was a boy, she warned us not to tell her, she wanted to find out on her own. It was a beautiful moment, one I will cherish forever, she did an amazing job again and she announced her retirement from breeding at the tender age of 29 years old.

Love it...

Finally! Thumbs!

Enzo and his homeless dad.

Re-living the moment


After delivery, for a minute, the engineer in me kicked in and I began connecting the dots of this magnificent design of the Creator: Baby was being fed nutrients and oxygen through the umbilical cord from the placenta, so how on earth do you detach the placenta? Because it must be connected to Karla's body somehow. I asked Jon if he just yanked it, to which he responded that it detaches automatically after ~30 minutes after birth. Then the placenta came out, and I was allowed to take a very close look at it. At that moment I knew I did not want to deliver babies for a living. Jon has a great personality to communicate in a human level, and extensive technical knowledge, he is a kick-ass Dr.

Speaking about damn good M.D.'s, we cannot leave Michael Pope out. He is an amazing Pediatrician, no nonsense dude. I remember the first day we met him, we had just come home from the hospital when Libby was born and Karla accidentally ripped her umbilical cord almost entirely, it was just hanging by a thread. We got to his office, he examined her and ZAP! he finished ripping that cord apart and tossing it on the table, he said: "She will be fine, clean it with a little alcohol on the edge,  and I'll see you at the 2-week visit" Ever since, he has been very assertive, speaking in very short sentences giving you a ton of information, and diagnosing and prescribing flawlessly. We love him.

Back to D-day. After getting Enzo's vitals (8lbs 8.5oz; 21.25in)  and settling him in his hospital crib, I went to Merritt's to pick up Libby and take Dori out and feed her. We are eternally grateful with the Gillingham's and we have started paying back in the form of wine, which I'm sure they'll love! I took another shower and I shaved so I didn't look like a homeless man anymore. I have a son to model now. We stopped by to buy flowers for momma and I made the flower store owner to get out of his car, re-open the store and prepare an arrangement out of the blue so we could take it to momma. He did a great job and went the extra 10 miles for me, so if you need flowers, consider giving your business to Sam. We got to the hospital to hug momma and bring her flowers and the rest is history, Facebook history that is. And it will live on forever in our hearts.

I really missed you mommy!

Warming up to Enzo

Your daddy is no longer a homeless man...
Ride home. Nice flowers, Daddy!

I got back to work the next Monday and coming home I remembered driving home from work when Elizabeth was born. I was so excited and in such a rush to get home that I optimized the route to get home down to the lane I was driving on (yes, I'm a geek, deal with it). Now the feeling was different, I was happy and content to come home, but not in a rush and not as excited as with Libby. Does that mean I'm not a good dad to Enzo? I don't think so, maybe other parents of more than one child can provide input on this... but  to me it feels... different. I think I have more on my plate than when Libby was born: more responsibilities at the office, more uncertainty about our long term plans in this country (more on that later), an aging dog, a recovering wife, a raging toddler, 8 fermentations going on at the same time, leading a small group, and relatives at home. I guess it also feels different because it is not a new feeling; I have been a parent before.

Ever since, everything seems a blur, things are going by so fast and I have added to the list of things on my plate: more relatives at home, a newborn, jaundice, vaccines, a dog with a lip infection, and the sudden need for a bigger car. I feel like I need a break but I also feel like I will get that break in about 18 years, and then that woman I live with asks: "Is that blog post ready?"

I have an addendum to my prayer and it is not for less things to do, or for an easier life, but: "God, don't let me miss this, it is going by so fast!"

By the way, Enzo says hi ;)

We're growing :)

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