So we had a baby. It wasn’t a surprise. In fact, there were many signs indicating that a baby was imminent, Rose’s growing belly, the piles of baby related items that were steadily encroaching on our living space, and the increasing tension as we got closer and closer to our due date. Rose and I are both overplanners and really by the end couldn’t think of what else we could do to prepare ourselves for his arrival. But regardless of how much you have or how much you think you know: all the diapers, and strollers, and nursery arranging and re-arranging, and books, and websites, and advice from other parents, etc. there really is nothing that can truly make your ready you for the moment when you see your baby for the first time.
Our delivery story might not be too remarkable as far as delivery stories go but it’s one of those days that I can add to an ever-growing list of days I will remember for the rest of my life. So, in that sense, it was remarkable to me and worth sharing in both words and pictures. At 3am on Tuesday September 25th, Rose’s water broke. We had had a few bouts with false labor before but this was different. Her contractions were longer and they more intense than anything she’d experienced in the previous two weeks of “is this it?” moments we’d had. We spent the first few hours in the dark of the early morning, clumsily throwing things into bags and busying ourselves around the house until there was nothing left to do but wait. By 7 am, Rose’s contractions were coming every few minutes, and lasting a minute each so we knew it was time to head to the hospital. When we left the house, it occurred to us that the next time we came home would be the first time we would be walking in as parents. And we’d be introducing a baby to a home he’d later call “the place he grew up.” We drove to the hospital in rush hour as the sun was coming up, checked in and settled into a long day of waiting, and worrying, and waiting. Throughout the day Rose was hooked up to several machines, the most important of which was the baby’s heart rate monitor. The beating of his tiny heart was translated to us digitally through a rhythm of staccato signals that were ever present throughout the day. That beeping was our open line of communication with the baby. It was constant, sometimes subtely blending into the background noise of the hospital and at others it seemed like it was the only thing we could hear.
After the first hour at the hospital, time started to blend for me. I know that around 11am the contractions became so intense that the doctors administered an epidural. Around 12pm they introduced pitocin to help speed the labor along. At 2pm, our nurse Amy was checking on Rose when that constant beeping we had been hearing all morning suddenly slowed. Within seconds, four different hospital staff were in the room, all clad in blue scrubs, plugging and unplugging wires, checking machines, and urgently announcing medical acronyms and stats that I couldn’t decipher. The baby’s heart rate had slowed to a dangerous pace. They quickly put an oxygen mask on Rose as she was hyperventilating. All I could do was watch from a few steps away and try for Rose’s sake to keep the mounting concern I was feeling from revealing itself in my face. The rhythmic beeping finally came back after a few minutes and one by one, the medical staff, satisfied that Rose and the baby had stabilized, returned to their responsibilities around the hospital. This brief drama was enough to dilute our excitement and add even more pressure to the day. As a result of this incident, we decided to stop the pitocin and for hours we nervously waited and tried not to concentrate on the pace of the beeping of the baby’s heart rate monitor. Our mid-wife Caitlyn stayed with us for over an hour and managed eventually to distract us from our focus on the beeping with idle conversation. It was exactly what we needed and a reminder of how valuable the human element can be when you are surrounded by tubes, and monitors, and machines.
Around 10:45pm, Caitlyn decided it was time to check on Rose again. This was a stressful endeavor as it was the last check that had caused the baby’s heart rate to slow. So, when she did the check and the baby’s heart rate began to drop again we quickly made the decision that it was time to have an emergency c-section. The next fifteen minutes were the longest of my life. Again, five or six doctors and nurses instantly appeared in our room and began unplugging Rose’s monitors and prepping her for the operation. One of the nurses tossed me a set of scrubs and the next thing I knew, I was standing in a sterile hallway, dressed in blue scrubs, watching them roll Rose’s bed into the operating room. In a matter of a few seconds, I had gone from calmly chatting to this moment of unbearable isolation and uncertainty. This was a procedure not without risk and I knew that whatever happened in the next few minutes would change our lives forever. As I paced that hallway by myself, it was all I could do to try to focus on the positive outcomes and ignore all the thoughts of worst case scenarios that were trying to creep in. And then, after what was only a few minutes according to the display on the digital clock in the hallway but hours in my mind, a nurse appeared to let me know it was ok to come in. In the operating room, there was a blue cloth hung from the ceiling and draped across Rose’s shoulders that separated her head from the rest of her body, where five attendants were hunched over her. I could get into the details of how the operation looked as I recall everything vividly, but it seems like a bit too much. They had given Rose something to put her into a state of semi-consciousness. Her eyes were open but she was clearly not “awake”. I was seated by her head on the other side of the blue cloth so I could only see lights above the cloth and the doctors’ scrub-covered shoes below. Even though I knew she couldn’t hear me, the only thing I could do was talk to Rose and assure her everything was going ok. I had no idea of what I was saying was true. My only updates on how the surgery was going came from the matter-of-fact pronouncements the doctors were making: “There’s the head”, “I need another cut” “Hand me the towel” etc.. After about a minute of listening to these men and women have this maddeningly calm conversation, I heard the cry of a baby. I was so tired, beaten down by worry, and generally disoriented that I actually thought to myself, “why would they bring a baby in the operating room?” It only took me a few seconds to realize my mistake, but it was an indication of the mental state I was in. I was torn between seeing my new son who was being attended to across the room and being with my wife, who was still in the midst of the final stages of her surgery. Over the next ten minutes, I was able to hold my son for the first time and bring him over next to his mom as she slowly regained consciousness. He was born at 11pm exactly and by 11:10 Rose was able to hold him in the post-op room and feed him for the first time. The next few days were spent at the hospital, sleeping and feeding and holding our new guy and on Thursday we brought him back home as a family to the see the house he will someday call “the place he grew up in” for the first time.
I’m writing this account a week and one day after Grey Anthem Weldon was born. Even though it’s only been eight days, it seems like so long ago that he was born just simply because of all the new experiences and adjustments we’ve had to make. As adults we have a way of being prepared for most things in our lives. If we’re being truly honest with ourselves, there are few moments that can be described as life-changing. This was one of those moments for me. Grey is 100% healthy and Rose is still recovering from the surgery. There have been a few sleeplessness nights and even more to come I’m sure, but the waiting is over and every day we get to enjoy some new discovery or moment as we all get to know each other.
Photo Disclaimer: Given my profession, I naturally had an urge to capture certain moments of the labor and delivery. Rose had her bags packed with clothes, toiletries, etc. Mine was packed with my 5d III and a pair of lenses (a 35 1.4 and my 100 2.8 macro). My iphone camera played an important role in catching the moments in the operating wing, before the delivery, during, and immediately afterwards. The story above is born out in the photos below. It took a lot of consideration to determine how much of this, if any, we wanted to share but in the end we think we found a nice balance. Rose was the arbiter on which images would make the final edit and which images were simply too personal to share, but the pictures below show the lenses’ perspective of one of the most important days in our lives.