2003 06 21

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The most beautiful sight imagineable

Our daughter is about an hour into this world and has found peace with it already. World leaders take note: this is the sight of innocence and peace.

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Letting the world know

A non-edited (besides translation) transcript of the phone conversation between me and my brother-in-law:

- What's the gender?
- A girl.
- I'll be right there--CLICK.

He must have seen from caller ID that it was a call from our house; the exchange of words literally took less than ten seconds. Sure enough (he lives pretty much around the corner); within five minutes he was at the door. Let in, he barged right through, only to be diverted at the bedroom door, because my wife was still being stitched back up. (and no brother, no matter how close they are with their sisters, should be subjected to that image. :)

I called my parents, the other brother-in-law, my brother and let the grapevine take care of the rest for the time being.

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Unbelievable. Overwhelming. Fantastic. Majestic. Beatiful. Exhausting.

Just a few words that are almost by definition a feeble attempt to describe what just happened to my wife and me: we became parents.

The feeling is impossible to describe to non-parents and pointless to describe to the rest of the human population, because they know exactly what I am talking about.

In the confusion (trust me, there is always enough of that around at times like this), my wife completely forgot to ask about the gender. I had determined it at first visual contact, but I had not spoken out because I wanted her to see for herself. Only, she never did and just hugged the baby. It took a full 20 seconds (it can't have been much longer, but it easily felt as two days' worth of emotions) before she realised this herself.

It is a girl and we are calling her Britt. (derived, I believe, from Brittany, but in our case not short for anything.) We are not religious in any organised way, so this will be her only name. (Come to think of it, I never did figure out why God can't refer to His creations by singular nomenclature :).

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Final stretch

The final stretch is here: it has been over 40 minutes of bearing down, which is only ten-odd minutes away from the default limit at which the ambulance is called for a late transition to the hospital.

Sitting beside my wife, I leave her immediate side to move closer to the actual drop zone. At this point, more with every push, I can see the top of a head, covered in black hair.

Minutes creep by, our only-just unborn baby is advancing millimeters at a time towards the exit and I am watching it from up close. Really up close.

There is a relative lull in the proceedings and then the big push comes. The midwife edges some skin under high tension out of the way and it is all a free fall from here: T minus seconds until we are parents.

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More help is here

In addition to the midwife, there is another assistive person involved.

I am not sure if this is normal in other places in the world, but here it works like this: when you choose to deliver your baby at home (given that there are no medical reasons why you should not), part of the social services framework provides you with 7 or 8 days of home care, if at all possible provided by one and the same nurse.

Such a nurse will come to your house 8 hours per day and take care of the household (whatever needs to be done, within reasonable limits) so that the new parents are able to recover from what just happened to them. She (the profession is 99.9% a female one) is also an invaluable resource for practical advice. I personally do not think any amount of books or other written information is worth the help these people provide in that first week. The time they stay can, depending on health insurance particulars, be extended to 10 days. We do that, hence I am not sure if the normal term is 7 or 8 days.

Our nurse has arrived around 06:00 and has been busy preparing for the baby's arrival (hot water, towels, etc). Good thing too, because although I rate myself capable of working of a detailed instruction list (in the case we would have such a thing) I am nearly out of my mind from the heat, sleep deprivation and sheer emotional exhaustion. Also, having someone knowledgeable and experienced running around, taking care of the necessary things leaves me free to stay with my wife and hold her hand.

Gran (now officially given the title) is sitting at the end of the bed, which is easily the best seat in the house if you want to catch this show sitting upright.

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Make the ^&*( call!

The midwife has not returned yet. It has been a few more hours. The pain is getting on towards the unbearable point. The dam does not feel too far away from bursting. My wife instructs me to go and make the call. Let hassle be hassle; we need assistance.

I make the call, only to find out to our collective relief that the midwife is just now pulling up to the house. Not a moment too soon, as far as my wife is concerned.

From this point on, things start happening faster and faster. The membranes are manually broken and the final stage of labour (delivery) sets in. Pretty soon now, she will have to start bearing down, which is supposed to be the final 30 minutes.

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To break or not to break

The midwife visited again. The dillemma is that near-mom's cervix is fully dilated, but her water hasn't broken yet. The midwife could break it, but she would then have to stay around to assist in the delivery, which might still be some hours. At the same time, she is assisting another delivery, where she has to visit next and where she might need to do the delivery first. She makes the call that rupturing the membrane manually is too much of a risk now, because it would mean that the other delivery going on in the next few hours might require calling out a second midwife to back up the shift of the one on duty: a lot of hassle worth avoiding.

So she goes away, but we can and should call if anything drastic happens.

So we bed down to more waiting. I should probably point out that we are experiencing a heat wave of sorts: it is past 03:00 in the morning and I would happily walk outside in my underwear. Normal in Florida Summer, but not in The Netherlands. Where normal people are allowed to open all windows and doors and utilise some sort of airflow device, we can not, because she might very well wind up with breast infections.

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Call for help

The contractions and associated pain have become worse. This is enough of a signal for us to call in the professional help. Doing things this way is normal procedure: except in medically exceptional cases, the midwife only visits about an hour before the ETA of the baby, with one or more short check-ups at several hours' interval before that.

She came around and told us plainly that all was well and she would be back around 03:00. Oh, er ... ok. So far for any lingering notions of getting any sleep that night.

By this time, only my wife's mother is still with us; the youngest brother has left us less than an hour ago, slightly swaying on his feet dus to the pre-festive consumption of a respectable number of beers.

I decided to take the opportunity now to catch a few hours' sleep while I still can. Other than the fact that I have to do this on willpower, while my wife only has to ride out what her body does to her, I am very sensitive to my biorythm, on account of my Diabetes. And my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that it expects to be asleep. Right now, please.

2003 06 20

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The real work starts

This has been an unusual day. My wife has been having contractions that are getting closer, but only ever so slightly. I know, because being an utter geek and staying close to form, I sat down and whipped up a spreadsheet on which the times of the contractions could be recorded, for the intervals to be calculated and plotted on a graph. I even did some statistically unholy modelling to predict when our child would be born. We were looking at 21:00-ish tonight for some time, but over the last hour the projection has shifted well into the night.

Where we thought that it had all started this morning, we now know that that was really only the prelude. Much fiercer contractions started around 20:00. They are roughly 5 to 10 minutes apart, but they last for several minutes and the expectant mother is increasingly incapable of doing anything other than lying on the couch and trying to keep herself together. From what we have learned from the numerous sources available to young, informed parents-to-be, it is going to get a lot worse before the job is done.

To illustrate that women in labour are not necessarily immediately turned into helpless basket cases, her mother and her joined forces to go out, buy and put up some shelving in the nursery. Late in the afternoon, I might add in admirational tones.

Where we live, delivering a baby at home is fairly normal and from what I have read, it is done in a growing majority of births. That includes ours. What makes ours probably just that bit more special than most, is that her mother will be present during the birth. By local culture standards, that is not unheard of, but definitely not common either. In fact, a generation ago it would just not have happened. But that goes for my presence as well.

My wife's mother and two brothers have come over and seem to be planning to stay until we kick them out. It is a good feeling to be surrounded by family at this sort of time.

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The first contractions

My wife woke up in intermittent pain: the prelude to the first contractions. Support troops were called in and the waiting starts now.