Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A visit with irony

My father and his girlfriend left this morning after almost a week. They made the 15 hour drive from Ontario to New Brunswick on Thursday, on a mission to meet their new grandson.

They are both great to have around, but those two sentences you've just read set the stage for a buttload of irony.

#1. Father's girlfriend. I should say fiancee, because there is one of those shiny rings involved. Even so, the terms "girlfriend" and "fiancee" make theirs sound like a new-ish relationship. "Girlfriend" was at my grade 8 graduation (I'm 33). I've told my father on more than one occasion that with his sense of pacing, we should have the wedding right before the wake.

#2. My father drives a lot. He works in the oilfields of Western Canada and spends more time in a vehicle than anyone I know, excepting only long-haul truckers. The 15 hours to get to my front door were taken entirely in stride. However, Mr. Hammy's parents live 1.5 hours from us and constantly lament how far away we are.

#3. Related to #1, Dad's girlfriend - C - is overjoyed about her grandson. She's 42.

Dad, being of the old-school fathers, held Hamlet twice and said insightful, emotional things like "Woo! He's a load isn't he?" He also cut down 8 trees in my backyard, fixed the steps on the deck, replaced the shed doors, and relentlessly stalked the dandelions in my yard. Love has many different shapes.

C kept us fed, played with Hamlet, changed his diaper, helped with his bath, and took his picture. She also got some well-deserved rest - reading and watching TV. She has her own business and travels a lot; we were glad to give here a space where she could be "unavailable" for a few days.

I hate watching my family leave. Crying before breakfast is never a good way to start your day.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

And they all lived....

So, BabyHammy was born and despite his harried entrance into the world, his Apgar scores are great (meaning his colour, responsiveness, breathing, etc. are good). But in the meantime, I am in shock (literally) and there is a team of folks inspecting my nethers doing a whole lot of sewing. At one point the OB/GYN asks for better light. I say "For Jeebus sake, make sure he can see what he's doing. There's stuff down there I'd like to use again someday."

My own doctor takes a good look at me and interrupts the nurses doing nursey things with BabyHammy. "Let's get baby over here to his mother." Because I haven't held him yet, just watched him pass overhead. I can't tell you that there was an instant connection, that I was right then and there in love. But he was here, after waiting so long and working so hard. And I was sure this little guy and I were going to fall into love, no problem. As soon as I could breathe.

He was 8 pounds, 10.5 ounces, and 20.5 inches long. They also felt that he was a little overcooked - 41 weeks instead of 40. Talk about overstaying your welcome!

BabyHammy (or Hamlet as some prefer) is now 5 and a half months old. He's a great little guy that wakes up laughing, and sleeps 12 hours at night. Mr. Hammy and I won the baby lottery it seems, and we know we're very lucky.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Floating on the loveliness of the epidural, both Mr. Hammy and I were able to relax somewhat. My very organised engineer friends had developed a call-out tree for Mr. Hammy to initiate, so it was time to set things in motion. Family also had to be notified. His parents and sisters are about an hour away and were intending to show up, but my family is all in another province, so we were just putting them on "there will be a baby today" alert.

My family was very excited and wished us well. His parents? "Can you give us a call at noon and let us know how things are going? We've got some errands and stuff to run today." This was after their son had told them that the doctors had said baby was definitely on the way TODAY. For double certain sure.

"Call us?" WTF?

Mr. Hammy, you gotta love him, said "No. I'm fairly sure that I'll be busy." (Worry not, there will be more on Mr. Hammy's family later.)

Back in the labour room, we settle down to wait things out. Things are bearable now and I try to nap, but I think excitement, terror, and adreneline are conspiring to keep me chattering to the nurses, visitors, anyone who will listen. The intern who has been performing my pre-natal appointments over the past 9 months comes in and breaks my water to move things along.

I wasn't aware that a nurse constantly stays with you monitoring vital signs for both you and baby. At one point, nurse says "Hmm." and asks me to roll onto my other side. Then back again. "What's going on?" we ask. "The baby's heartrate dropped a bit, so the repositioning sometimes helps to get it back up." Hunh. Okeydoke. She seems satisfied with the result, so we relax again.

Around this point, Mr. Hammy realises that the snacks and provisions that we had put together are still at home on the kitchen counter. "Do I have enough time to go and get a snack in the cafeteria?" he asks the nurse. "Oh, sure you have plenty of time."

(this, my friends, is foreshadowing)

Mr. Hammy wanders off. In the meantime, the nurse has me do another rolling routine as the baby's heartrate drops again. She explains that in a lot of babies, the cord sometimes gets wrapped around their neck as they move around and down for birth. Nothing to worry about. Oh.

A friend from work arrives with a sandwich for Mr. Hammy (who is not there), and we start to chat. Of a sudden, the nurse wants me to roll. Then back. Then she pages the doctor. Then she asks my friend to leave. Then she makes me get on my hands and knees.

The baby's heartrate has dropped again, lower than before, and it is not coming back up with my acrobatics. They want to attach an internal monitor. I am not fully dilated, so they tell me that they are prepping me for an emergency c-section. I am still on my hands and knees, my husband is gone, and I am terrified.

They need to take blood. What? How? Why out of my arm of course (ramp up terror level), y'know one of the two that are supporting my weight. (I was bruised for weeks) The room is filling with people. My doctor and intern have been shunted aside for the emergency OB/GYN and his team. So much is happening. I hear my husband briefly; they explain what is happening and get him into scrubs. I don't want a c-section - my needle phobia pushes me to the brink of panic at the thought, and the room and the people continue to surge around me.

At some point, I am allowed to lay back down. Mr. Hammy is beside me and he says clearly, "Babe, the baby is okay. The heartrate is back up." Okay, I can breathe. Whatever happens next, BabyHammy is okay right now.

My doctor explains, "You've become fully dilated in the last few minutes. The baby's heartrate is back up, so we're going to allow you to push. There is a window here that we're going to use; if the heartrate drops again, we'll have to go to surgery." Read: do this quickly or not at all.

They get me into position. They tell me to push, but they don't explain how. After years of teaching people how to lift safely, I blow out as I exert myself. No no no. "You have to hold your breath to increase the pressure and help the baby out." Well, why didn't anyone say so? Why is this vital information left out of pre-natal classes?

I hear the sound of cutting. (Sweet jeebus) They put a vacuum on the baby's head. I push again. "Is it working?" I can't feel much because of the epidural (thankfully), so I need someone to tell me what's happening. "Again!" Three contractions and BabyHammy is out, torqued and wrenched like a rugby ball leaving a scrum. BH is lifted to the warming table behind my left shoulder. I can see a foot as he passes above me, and I can see that BH is pink.

"It's a boy babe! A boy!" Mr. Hammy sounds so happy that his heart may burst.

(Mr. Hammy tells me later that from his vantage point, he could see the cord wrapped around the baby's neck when he made his entrance to the world. The image was burned into his brain; terror and joy combined.)

Next time: The denouement

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Girls, check your tattoos

The good news about my labour is that it occurred during daytime business hours. Apparently, it gets a bit dicey in the night when there is only one attending anesthetist. You may want an epidural, but if something else is going on in the hospital that requires the anesthetist on a more urgent basis, you = screwed.

So, I had decided that an epidural was a good way to go, even taking into account the terror of needles. Through the haze of contractions, I was able to process that when the Epidural Guy (EG) arrived, he had a tremor. Seriously, I shit you not. Hand-shaking tremor on the dude who is going to place a needle in my spine. It is a testiment to my state of mind that I allowed him to go forward thinking a) I remember learning in university that some tremors disappear with controlled movement and are only present at rest, and b) he wasn't young enough to look like this was his first day. I would not be the first woman he maimed.

I'm sitting on the bed, leaning forward with my husband sitting in front of me, physically supporting me and reminding me at regular intervals to breathe. (Seriously, it wasn't just labour - when I'm scared I hold my breath. I almost passed out getting my ears pierced.)

"Oh, a tattoo." says EG. "It's a good thing it is where it is." (my tattoo is on my back, to the left of my spine, just at the bottom of the ribcage).

"Pardon?" says me.

"If it had been over the spot where I need to put the needle in, I wouldn't be giving you an epidural."

"WTF?" thinks me. "Really?" I say.

"Yep. I had to refuse one the other day. We don't know if the dye will get forced into the spinal cord, so it's not being done."

Holy Jeebus, I thought. Imagine getting to this point, finally mentally throwing in the towel and calling for the calvery, and then being denied. So the moral of this part of the story is: Girlies, if you are getting a tattoo, avoid the L5-S1 area. If you already have a tattoo there, argue with your doctor and hospital policy before the due date.

Being a polite girl, I turned my head to face the EG during this exchange and managed to catch an unfortunate glimpse of the spear he was readying to jab me with. Mommydaddymommydaddy.

After a couple more contractions, the medication kicked in and for the first time in hours I was able to relax and prepare for what was coming next. Or so I thought.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Long time, no blog

Well, I suppose it's about time eh?

"When last we saw Hammy..."

I was very, very pregnant and waiting for the birth of our first baby. My due date was December 14th. My friend T and her mom dropped by the evening of the 12th to deliver some baby clothes donated to the cause by T's brother and sister-in-law. T's mom is also an awesome person who wanted to check up on me and see the baby's room.

I woke up at about 4am on the morning of the 13th with what felt like cramps. My belly was upset (my actual stomach, not the baby), and I visited the bathroom several times thinking "Great, just what I need now is mild food poisoning." Now, I had been feeling crampy and stuff for a little while, but it was more like a joint ache - I figured my poor pelvis and hips were just trying to adjust to my increasing girth.

So, I go down into the livingroom to read. But the cramps aren't going away. Is this labour? How the hell am I supposed to know, I've never done this before. Gah! It's a little before 6am when I go and wake Mr. Hammy. "Are you in labour?" he asks. See above comment. Gah! We actually pull out the baby books and start comparing the symptoms of false labour and real labour. Things are starting to really hurt, but there's no discharge, no water, no nothing.

We call the hospital to see if we should come in; they are wishy washy. "Well, if you can't handle it, it's time to come in." What the hell does that mean?? I start writing down the time and duration of the cramps/contractions after I get out of the shower. Things are about 3.5 minutes apart, and lasting for around 35 seconds by the time we get into the car for the (thankfully) short drive to the hospital. (There is a funny story about the list I made of times and such, but that's a post-baby portion of the story.)

By the time we get there, I am really uncomfortable. Good thing we decided to get to the hospital, because by the time they get me in a gown and check things out (by the way: OUCH!!!), I am already 5 cm dilated and they ask me if I want an epidural.

(To recap, I am technically halfway through labour and my water has not broken nor have I experienced any discharge/loss of plug. Sorry to gross anyone out, but ladies out there should know that it is possible!)

Now, you may recall that I am TERRIFIED of needles and this whole pregnancy thing has been a trial for me. And an epidural is a big ass needle that they place into your spine to decrease the pain of labour. While I'm deliberating whether I'm brave enough for this, the contractions continue. I pace like a caged animal. I can't sit, stand, assume any position that makes it any better. Just for the record, contractions feel like the worst menstrual pains you've ever experienced...times a gajillion. I felt like my insides were being raked and pulled.

The intern in the room looks over at me and says "I can tell you for sure that things are not going to get easier from here."

Blink. "Good point." I say "Bring on the epidural guy."

Next up: The joy of modern medicine, and why you should pack a lunch for delivery.