Friday, September 28, 2012

Curmudgeon becomes a grandfather - Part I

Younger Daughter welcomed my first grandchild into the world Wednesday night.

My law practice has fallen off so far that (a) Younger Daughter didn't think twice about calling me Wednesday afternoon to drive her to the doctor and (b) I didn't need to think twice about leaving.

I'll spare you the gory details, but Younger Daughter felt compelled to call her doctors' office early Wednesday afternoon and the nurse who returned the call promptly agreed that she should come in ASAP. I jumped on the first train home. Younger Daughter met me at the station and off we went.

No, she wasn't in labor. I've been with Long Suffering Spouse when she's been in labor. I know from labor. This wasn't it.

So I didn't think there was any real chance her doctors would keep her -- but they did. Let's hope I'm a better lawyer than I am a doctor.

Once the doctors decided to keep Younger Daughter I had no choice: I had to call my wife's school and have her paged. Long Suffering Spouse was supposed to be a labor coach. I brought her up to date on the situation. "Call me back when classes are over. I'll leave as soon as I can," she said.

And there was also the necessity of informing Younger Daughter's husband. Olaf just started a job, you'll remember, and he is still taking a couple of classes. He'd gone to work for awhile Wednesday morning, then to class, and it was coming out of class that Younger Daughter got hold of him.

I would not want to have shared the road with him as he drove up from school to the hospital. But he says he didn't hit anybody or anything, and I choose to believe him.

By the time Olaf arrived on the scene, Long Suffering Spouse had finished school. It was arranged that I would go home and get her -- and Olaf's overnight bag -- and Younger Daughter's overnight bag -- and Olaf's phone charger -- and anything else they could think of while I was en route.

Long Suffering Spouse had one other mission at home: Her mother had to come over to pick up some sheets that she'd bought for Younger Daughter that were somehow wrong. I never did figure out how. Nor do I care.

Apparently this error had been discovered some days ago. Abuela was becoming increasingly agitated that the sheets had not been exchanged yet. Earlier Wednesday, Younger Daughter had promised her grandmother that she would take the sheets back to the store that evening without fail. But, of course, she would be unable to redeem that promise now.

Long Suffering Spouse had to tell her mother that Younger Daughter was in the hospital. Abuela was concerned about Younger Daughter, of course, and thrilled to death about the impending birth of her third great-grandchild. But who was going to take care of those sheets?!?

So Long Suffering Spouse proposed that Abuela return the sheets herself. Come by and get them, she told her mother. "I can?" said Abuela -- and she was happy. She had a job. An important job. She was already at our house when I arrived to pick up Long Suffering Spouse. Abuela was on the road to the store that had provided the wrong sheets immediately thereafter.

I collected the stuff I was sent to collect and Long Suffering Spouse and I left for the hospital.

I delivered the luggage and my wife and quickly withdrew. I was neither needed nor wanted at that point. But I'd been there long enough to observe that -- my impressions notwithstanding -- Younger Daughter was apparently having contractions. They have machines that determine these things, you know.

Of course, they had machines like this when my kids were born, too. You could see the contraction build up on the printout -- a big sine wave -- and, when the wave subsided, allegedly, the contraction did, too. More than once, I made the mistake of suggesting to my wife, when she was in labor with one of my kids, that the contraction was over. Long Suffering Spouse suggested in response what I could do with my suggestions. It wasn't pretty.

But even if a dolt like me could see that the contractions weren't the same for Younger Daughter, these were no longer my problem. I went home to sit and wait for further instructions. From the numbers relayed by the medical staff when I brought Long Suffering Spouse in, I had hopes of picking her back up by dinnertime.


The Pitocin (or some variant thereof) was introduced after my departure. Small amounts at first, then increased, and increased again. An epidural was started. (I never got an epidural, Long Suffering Spouse texted. I remember, I texted back.)

Still, no baby.

We'd alerted the rest of the kids not long after Younger Daughter was admitted. Older Daughter didn't see the text until she was almost finished with work.

She called her mother right away: "I'm leaving for Chicago as soon as I get off work." Long Suffering Spouse told her to call me.

Older Daughter was already planning to come up from Indianapolis for the weekend. The question was when. We were hoping for Saturday. She was indicating Friday. (After work Wednesday, she didn't have to be back at her hospital until Monday.) So, when she learned her sister was in the hospital, she was serious about leaving immediately.

And she made that abundantly clear to me when she called. I had to be abundantly clear in return.

"We don't want you," I said. "Not tonight. When this baby is born, I'm going to sleep. I don't want to wait up for you. I'm not leaving the door unlocked. You'd be exhausted when you got here anyway. Get some sleep and come tomorrow when you're rested. Then you can be helpful."

Older Daughter called her mother back. "Dad's grumpy," she said. But she agreed to postpone her departure to first light Thursday.

I'd become the press secretary for the enterprise. From the recliner in my den, communicating as necessary with my wife via text, I was able to field queries from my other kids as they came in.

And Abuela called, too.

She'd successfully exchanged the sheets. That's great, I said. I will be sure to tell Younger Daughter right away.

Around 9:00pm my wife texted that the doctors had abandoned hope of delivering the baby in the traditional manner. A C-section was to be performed. Long Suffering Spouse was no longer needed as a labor coach. But she was not leaving the premises. (I don't think the National Guard could have dislodged her.) She was shown a room where she could wait. I was told to join her forthwith.

I was told, too, that the baby would be born about 10-15 minutes after they started the procedure and that they were ready to start. We live at least 15 minutes away from the hospital, even at that time of night, so I had expectations of meeting my wife, chucking the baby under the chin, maybe saying coochy-coochy-coo once or twice and then going home.

I never learn.

For one thing, they hadn't started yet. They were still getting the OR ready. Maybe someone else had been using it.

I couldn't find Long Suffering Spouse in the waiting room that I had found earlier that day, mainly because she wasn't there. She came and got me when I texted, where are you?

Olaf was waiting for us when Long Suffering Spouse brought me back to the designated room.

I've written about how things have changed so much since my kids were born. This much, at least, hasn't changed: Fathers are only at the hospital for comic relief. In a normal birth, the father practices the deep breathing techniques that his wife needs to push the baby out. Since the father is not doing anything nearly so strenuous, he quickly hyperventilates -- and passes out. As long as he doesn't actually crack his head open, his pratfall can be a great source of mirth and merriment to the attending medical personnel. But Olaf would not be practicing breathing techniques during a C-section.

His comedic value, therefore, was largely confined to the effect of his ridiculous costume. This was surgery, you know, and he had to 'scrub' along with everyone else. And he had to wear a giant blue paperish showercap and blue paper scrubs. Doctors and nurses don't look stupid wearing scrubs -- maybe they take a course where they learn how to pull this off -- but prospective fathers always look like idiots. And Olaf had work boots on his feet -- his new job involves his being on a factory floor from time to time -- so the paper wraps for his feet were truly enormous.

"That's a nice look for you, Olaf," I said, when I could compose myself.

"Yeah, right," he said. I'd obviously not been very successful in concealing my opinions about his outfit.

"Let me take a picture," said Long Suffering Spouse to Olaf.

"Yes," I said, "this will have serious blackmail value in future."

She got the shot. Someone came and got Olaf. We commenced to wait. By this time I knew I'd be in for a bit of a stay: Long Suffering Spouse explained that the baby would be born almost immediately after the procedure started, but there would be a 45-minute-to-an-hour delay while the doctors put Younger Daughter back together.

Well, that made sense to me. But I wished I'd known this sooner, so I could have brought a book or my wife's iPad or something.

So we waited.

We talked.

We reminisced, mostly, about the birth of this one or the birth of that one. Long Suffering Spouse remembers some of my best stories quite differently than I do. Isn't that always the way?

Our quiet discussion was interrupted by a baby's cry. Long Suffering Spouse's face softened. "That's a baby," she said.

I looked at the thick wooden double doors that blocked the entrance to the corridor where Younger Daughter was being tended to. "I'm sure that one's not ours," I said. It didn't matter to Long Suffering Spouse. Not at that moment.

Not too long after, those giant wooden double doors swung open and someone in scrubs (who did not look like an idiot) flashed a thumbs up in our general direction.

"That was the anesthesiologist," Long Suffering Spouse said. If the anesthesiologist is done, my wife predicted, Younger Daughter should be out soon.

My wife's cell phone went off at that point. It was Abuela. "What's happening?" she wanted to know.

My wife hadn't told her about the C-section. Why worry Abuela unnecessarily? Her plan was to tell her when mother and baby were safely back. But Abuela had tired of waiting. "Did your husband tell you I returned the sheets?" she asked.

The double doors swung open again and a bed was rolled out, towards us. It was Younger Daughter. With passenger, only now on the outside. Olaf was trudging along behind. Statistics were reported, then shouted into the cell phone. 8 lbs, 12 oz. 19½ inches long.

Our waiting room had become the C-section recovery room.

"Who's on the phone?" Younger Daughter asked.

"Abuela," I answered. "I'm supposed to tell you she returned the sheets."

Next: Standoff in a hospital room.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

this is truly so well told, i have tears running down my cheeks. i keep thinking "they should be able to see this"...

congratulations! bee

Steve Skinner said...

Congratulations to everyone!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your entire family and especially to you, grandpa!!