Sunday, November 18, 2012
Friday was my last day of work, and L's first day away from the office. We felt you coming soon, a distant rumble, but thought it was a long way off. Alice had napped until 7:30 that night, so she was up and thrumming as we watched "The Amazing Spider-Man." L began to feel some contractions and we called the doctor, who assured us we could wait for a while. Later, as the movie continued, we realized something was happening. We called our nanny Angie and she and her husband Steven began making their way over. I paused the movie just as Spiderman was going underground into the sewers after he had battled the Lizard in his (Spiderman's, not the Lizard's) high school. Needless to say I will probably never know how the movie ends.
We tried to put Alice to bed before Angie came, and L was battling contractions in the baby's (babies') room. I found myself looking out the window for Angie's car. Finally they arrived and we went out the door, with hospital bag, purse, nursing pillow, and jackets in tow. We felt calm because the contractions seemed erratic -- four minutes, then ten, then seven. We were okay in the taxi but the driver was nervous, assuring us as we crossed Central Park North that we would be there in five minutes. We got out and made our way to the labor and delivery area. After ten minutes or so, we were waiting in the admission area when L had to go into the bathroom for some really painful contractions. We had finished the paperwork and were still waiting for someone to deal with us. After the second strong contraction L was hunched over a handlebar in the bathroom and she told me, "You need to find someone to help us."
Alert to my responsibilities, and slightly resentful of being told what to do, I walked into the hallway and called out, "Can somebody help us, my wife feels the need to push." Nurses descended on us and we ended up in an antepartum room, a cozy enough space not at all equipped for the gruesome necessities of childbirth. A wise nurse named Charisse, who guided us through that long night, told L to go with her body and push. Ride the contraction. I was holding L's hands awkwardly from the top of the bed. The nurses were laying down papers and fabrics as L pushed. No one even knew our names or who our doctors were. After some comically gross physiological elements had occurred (I will refrain from detailing them here, although they are seared into the same vaults of my memory as certain scenes from "Alien"), you were here in this world - long and blue and squalling. You immediately landed on your mama's chest and stayed there for a long, lovely while. Unfortunately L was in a great deal of pain and had a long way to go as the doctors performed the necessary ministrations. When they finally moved L from one bed to another, the original bed looked like the scene of a car accident. By which I mean disgusting. But L was amazing, brave and tough, and the doctor (a wonderful, no-nonsense, slightly masculine woman with a hedgehog-like hairdo) complimented her various body parts and abilities as if she were assessing livestock at the state fair. That's my girl!
Once you were born -- perhaps an hour after we had left our home -- we called loved ones, telling the story and explaining your name, and waited in the room where the birth had occurred. The lights were turned off so that you would be more at peace. Somehow during the birthing process the TV in the room had turned on, and for a long while we had the constant buzz of the Knicks-Grizzlies game (I believe), which we remarked on ironically from time to time. ("We actually don't care about basketball at all," I explained to our doctor.) The calm of the room was betrayed by the detritus around us -- the bloody basins and pairs of scissors in the sink, the wet on the floor. A certain kind of tedium set in as we waited to go to the room where L would spend the next couple days.
After a long while we moved up to the eighth floor, and L went to get settled in the room and I followed you to the nursery, where I watched behind a glass wall as a new nurse scrubbed you, took measurements, and did who knows what else. It was now very late, around 2 or so, and the hospital floor was dark and quiet. I watched as a few other children in the nursery slept and cried in turn like dominoes. As the nurse worked on you I could see you shiver sometimes, still adjusting to our new reality, cold and unadorned. For some reason in the hospital I kept hearing some chime, some tone that sounded exactly like the start of an old R&B song, Donell Jones' "You Know That I Love You," a jaunty and happy tune that somehow seemed very appropriate as its first notes bleated from some machine somewhere. As I watched you from behind the glass I held on to all of our bags and jackets for a long while, then eventually I put them down and just settled into my vigilance.
Eventually, finally, they returned you to us and we went to your mama's room. She would spent the night nursing you and sleeping beside you in the bed. I returned home around 4, said my thanks and apologies to Angie and her husband as they woke up and left, and had a brownie and a seltzer. I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself.
You looked then, and still look, exhausted and bewildered by your own birth. You're a little rough around the edges, kid, but I hope that each day, each moment, you are settling into yourself and our family. Alice has been a dream, immediately doting (yet with a dawning realization that she has new competition for our attention). As soon as she saw you in the hospital, she ran to your mama so that she could hold you, stroking your head and patting you.
Welcome to the world, little bear. We are so happy and blessed to have you.