And so to blog.
About three weeks ago, my second daughter, Ann, was born. This time around, the birth was similar, but also different, from my first daughter's, though I admit things had gotten a little fuzzy after five years. I suppose any birth of any child will be different from any other, but paradoxically, one birth will also be like any other, as long as there are no complications.
When the time came, we had one doc and three nurses: one longstanding pro and two student nurses. It was their first delivery (the students', that is). So that meant I had one up on them. But I didn't do anything, except hold Yuriko's hand through the waves of pain. And cut the umbilical cord, when the time came. Otherwise, like any dad I had a bit part. I'm glad someone knows how to help birth them babies, 'cause I certainly wouldn't be up to it.
Anyway, on the January 29th I was persuaded to go with Yuriko to her OB/GYN for the latest (and last, as it happened) of her weekly exams. Weekly visits are the thing to do, if the baby is at term, i.e., past 37 weeks. That milepost had been passed about a week before. After considerable examination, the doc said that mild contractions were under way.
"Really? Does that mean the baby will come today or tomorrow?" I asked. This was my layman's response upon hearing the term "contraction."
"Could be," she answered. "Or next week or the next." It's no exact science, even in the age of ultrasound, genetic screening, etc. But as it turned out, my impression was accurate. Call it a lucky guess.
By the way -- and I probably mentioned this to my regular correspondents five years ago after Lilly was born, but it bears repeating for those of you who have no children --- absolutely everything in TV or movie fiction you see about birth is wrong. Or, I should say, it's fiction. As realistic as theatrical sex, which is to say, not much at all.
After the exam, Yuriko wanted me to take Lilly to her violin lessons, and then to afternoon preschool, so I said I would. Thus I decided not to go into work that day. Over the week and a half previously, I had been driving downtown and parking in the Grant Park underground parking garage, on the theory that if labor did start intensely, I could get home faster than if I had to rely on my usual commuter train. To facility this, I had also been carrying a cell phone I acquired at the end of December. But ultimately, all the driving did was annoy me in the morning especially, and all I ever got were wrong numbers on that phone, including two that came ten minutes after Ann was born. I'm not sure why I even felt the urge to answer the phone at that moment. Habit.
By late afternoon of the 29th, contractions had started with some vigor, but it does take a while for them to really get going -- we had been overcautious with me driving to town every day in the weeks before -- and at about 9:15 pm, we decided to go to Hinsdale Hospital. We put Lilly in care of old friend Kevin D. for a while, and went to the "Birthing Center." (Oh, whatever became of the Maternity Ward?) It wasn't until about 12:30 am on January 30th that they decided to admit Yuriko, at which time I returned to Kevin's to find Lilly so completely asleep that I decided to leave her there --- the other option had been for me to go home with her until about 7 the next morning, at which time I would take her to a friend of Yuriko's, Yuko. This seemed like a reasonable plan, since we were fairly certain that the baby wouldn't come until well after daybreak, and even if it did surprise us and I missed the birth, no ill would come of it, really. (But I did want to be there, if I could.)
In any case, after consulting with Yuriko on the phone, I returned to the hospital in time to be kicked out of the labor & delivery room while she got her epidural. At that time -- now around 2 am -- I read as well as I could in a small waiting room just outside labor & delivery, and saw a small parade of newborns, headed for the nursery. Not precisely a parade, but a trickle, one after another every few minutes: a nurse pushing the new mother in a wheelchair, followed closely by the new father, pushing the newborn in its sturdy clear-plastic-sided crib on wheels, the likes of which you only see in maternity wards. One new dad in particular struck me -- he couldn't have been more than 22, pimply and unkempt. Welcome to the club, pal. (I myself had lost all notion of kempt, but that's par for the maternity ward course.)
At about 3 am I camped out on the labor/delivery room's uncomfortable La-z-boy-esque recliner. At about 6 am, I got up and returned to Kevin D's. Lilly, alas, had keep him up most of the night, having woken up after I left ("Good thing I had the Cartoon Network," Kevin said.) Lilly was somewhat upset by it all, but she had no objections to going to Yuko's house, where she has been many times, and where she knows Yuko and her daughter (nearly three years old) quite well.
I got back to the hospital at about 7:30 am, and things were moving along nicely, but I hadn't missed the main event. Before long, though, the show was on. At about t-minus 10 minutes (in retrospect, I can call it that) the doctor asked me if we knew it was a boy or girl. I said no. Do you have any names? Yes, Ann and Alexander. Duly noted. And so the baby came -- hard to find a verb here that really describes it -- pushed out, squeezed forth, slipped through bloodily, noisily, suddenly. "It's baby Ann," said the doc, which was a nice thing for her to do. When Lilly was born, there was much hubbub, the view was obscured, and no one mentioned gender until I asked.
Now it's been three weeks. Most of that time, Ann has been home, as you would expect, tho' we have taken her to see our regular pediatrician. Yuriko is nursing the child with tiring regularity, and we are supplementing with formula once or twice a day. When Lilly was born, it took several weeks for milk production to kick in, and she lost an alarming amount of weight, not quite enough to be dangerous, but close enough to the danger zone to look over the fence and say howdy. So we didn't wait for that to happen again. Ann has lost some of her weight, as newborns do, but not more than she should. With any luck, she’s now on an upward growth track... as indeed her sister still is.
Lilly's four-day-a-week preschool schedule was interrupted but once, the day Ann was born. Otherwise, she's taking it well, it seems, but as those of us with siblings know, it's early in the game. But she (Lilly) does periodically kiss the top of Ann's head, saying something like "Hello baby" or "Ann-chan" (that's the Japanese pet form of her name). Too cute, so I won't go on about it.
In short, we are tired but well, on the whole. Ann seems alert enough, and noisy enough, and medical inquires have all turned up normal. Most importantly, nutrition goes in, and biochemical byproduct emerges. I won't go on about that, either.