I figure might as well begin this blog with exactly what nobody wants to see. Some nice chunky paragraphs. No pictures of the adorable new baby. Not even a cat photo. If you want the Level family experience, you’re going to have to earn it by reading–at least for today. Soon I’ll be back at work with piles to grade, coming home with a wife and family to enjoy, and hardly enough spare time to think, much less write my thoughts down. This blog will inevitably be commandeered by my daughter and her beautiful blond hair. Any text I throw in will be casually scrolled past in search of the next photo (I won’t blame the blog viewer but instead my daughter and her captivating looks for this). I could have done worse by you; I could have given you a mustache update. It has been far too long since I really sat down and wrote anything. My Italy blog may have been the last time I wrote seriously (if your standards are low enough to call a blog with weekly wispy mustache updates serious). So this is my attempt at getting back on the writing wagon–and now that I’m on it I remember that the wagon is not ridden but must be dragged, by me, because writing is difficult. Anyway, I’d better get to a point before I alienate my fan base (according to Murray one fan is technically all that is needed to be considered a fan base). In the following paragraphs I’ve hidden a few interesting details about our birthing experience (it feels so incredibly wrong to call this “our” birthing experience when Allison did all the work–it’s sort of like Brian Scalabrine bragging about winning the NBA Championship with the Celtics). The rest is meaningless detail that I want to record before I forget.
Induction: Madeline didn’t want to leave the womb, so Allison had to get induced. Usually this means taking a drug or two and the doctor taking his finger and [this is how I choose to edit out E.B.D. or Extreme Birth Detail] which is supposed to make the contractions begin. If women are cars (current research says no, but what does research know?), some having automatic transmissions and others having manual transmissions, Allison is the car Fred Flinstone “drives.” In other words, she needed everything done for her. We called the hospital at 6:15 AM on Tuesday to see if they had a bed for Allison. They didn’t, so I went back to sleep while Allison sat and stared at a wall for five hours. They called us back and we went to the hospital just after noon. The nurses and doctor attempted to drive her like a manual transimission, giving her meds and tooling around with [E.B.D] but then they gave up and the doctor broke her water himself. It was sort of like an easy button.
Contractions: I didn’t feel a thing but Allison said that these really hurt. Almost immediately following her water breaking, Allison dealt with the increasing pain of contractions coupled with the gushing of the water (should I have E.B.D.ed that?) which was more bothersome than the pain because she felt like she was peeing herself. Meanwhile, I was fascinated by the black and green monitor which blinked two numbers–the baby’s heartrate (which luckily was not exciting to watch) and the intensity of contractions. There also was a screen that showed a graph of this information (like one of those seismic wave graphs for measuring earthquakes). But the screen didn’t just show Allison and Madeline’s seismic waves; it showed the seismic waves for all 12 mothers and all 12 babies in all 12 birthing rooms at the hospital (which, if I haven’t mentioned was Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue). I made the joke that we should take bets on which room would give birth next (assuming we could tell by the waves suddenly stopping) and then realized that I really wanted to. I kept that to myself. However, I did watch painfully (figurative) as Allison winced painfully (literal) with each contraction. The contraction intensity number started at about 10 and bounced up and down a few points before shooting up to 85 and gradually dropping back down. I probably said something stupid like, “Whoa, that was an 85!” and Allison probably said, “Oh man. That felt like an 85!” The numbers danced between the 10’s and the 50’s and occasionally up into the 60’s. We got a hold of Ruthie, our nurse (since the doctor had only shown up for about ten minutes before breaking the water and leaving). We told Ruthie all about the contraction.
“It felt like a lot of pressure and it was pretty painful,” said Allison.
“It was an 85,” I said, matter of factly.
“Well, you’re still smiling. I’ll be back when you’re frowning,” said Ruthie as she walked out the door.
Each time the number started to climb I knew Allison was about to ride the pain rollercoaster. I was conflicted as I looked at the number, knowing that a low number was probably less painful for Allison but that a higher number would make progress faster and get Allison to her epidural sooner. We agreed to root for big numbers and pretty soon she was hitting 135 with ease (ease might not be the right word) and the number was staying in the 70’s and 80’s in between contractions. That’s when I realized that this number game was rigged. There was probably some nurse sitting in the back room turning a knob up and down, keeping the husbands (and responsible baby-daddies) engaged in the process. But in all honesty, it was hard to watch the woman I love go through so much pain. I mean, I still ordered room service (Northwest Cheeseburger, side of fries, and a cup of the Tomato Bisque) while Allison wasn’t allowed to eat, but it was difficult for me to watch. The painful contractions lasted from 4:30 to 6:30. It probably could have ended earlier, but Ruthie got into a pattern of walking in just after a contraction, farting around with this or that while Allison told her all about the pain of the previous contraction, and walking out just before the next one started. Each time she left she called out, “You’re still smiling!” When the contractions got to be really bad, Allison pressed the call button and as we waited for Ruthie to show up, I told her, “Whatever you do, don’t smile.” She didn’t and Ruthie scoped her out. After [E.B.D.] Ruthie announced that Allison was dilated to 4 cm and gave the go-ahead for the anastheisiolaokusgist to come in and give Allison her epidural. Minutes after the epidural, Allison’s smile outstretched mine as we held hands and watched the contraction intensity number rise and fall. Her pain was gone. Minutes later my room service dinner showed up and I turned the TV back to ESPN Classic for more college hoops.
The Support Person: I’m lucky Allison is such a trooper because I think 99/100 women would verbally abuse their husbands for taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat fridge down the hall (I’m talking Jell-O cups, ice cream, pudding, salads, sandwiches, soda, etc.) and eating right in front of her when she hasn’t been allowed to eat since the night before (it should be noted that Allison cheated and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwhich right before we left for the hospital). But she insisted that she wanted to see me eat (since I sometimes forget) and that it wouldn’t bother her. Also, spoiled enough that we had a hospital room with a TV, she let me watch four college basketball games throughout the day. She didn’t even mind that two of them were on ESPN Classic, which usually gets disqualified for being “irrelevant.” The only time we didn’t watch college hoops was when her contractions were at their worst. During the painful stretch I wisely switched the channel to something she liked (“Dirty Jobs”), partially because I wanted her to be as comfortable as possible, but mostly because I was afraid that she might associate watching basketball with painful contractions for the rest of her life. She was so supportive of me during our birthing process that she didn’t complain about watching Kentucky at South Carolina twice (a 1997 classic the first time in which SC upset #3 Kentucky followed by SC upsetting #1 Kentucky live–it was virtually the same game). I couldn’t have asked for a better support person.
Nurses: When we first arrived at the hospital, we felt like the sombrero at our Christmas party gift exchange (passed around many times) until finally settling with one for the rest of the night. Within four hours we had Christine 1, Christina, dear old Ruthie, and Christine 2. Luckily for us, Christine 2 was by far our best nurse and had a long enough shift to be with us from 7 pm until 3 am (after the birth). She answered questions, encouraged Allison, reassured us, actually had a personality, and most importantly she knew her stuff. To highlight the difference, when Allison asked the life-threatening question “Is it bad that there are bubbles climbing up my IV into my arm?” Ruthie replied, “No.” Anyone who knows Allison probably knows that this didn’t exactly eliminate any sense of alarm that she had. Later, with Christine 2, Allison’s parents merely mentioned the IV and bubbles in the same sentence and Christine 2 took the time to explain how little air there is in a small bubble in an IV, and that it would take about a footlong bubble to do any damage. Then she double checked the IV to prove that there were no footlong bubbles slithering into Allison’s bloodstream.
Ultimately, Allison and I decided that the doctor matters very little in the delivering process (ours was there for a total of 45 minutes the whole day). We wish we could book which nurse we get for our next birthing extravaganzas. Had Ruthie been the one guiding Allison through all the pushing, she probably would have told her to squeeze it out already.
“I’m trying,” Allison cried (in the scenario I am imagining).
“What do you want, a sticker?” said Ruthie (in the same scenario).
Birth: I’m tired and I’m blathering. I feel no pressure to go on with this since the title pretty well promised a bad blog. The baby (Madeline Rae) came out healthy. She is 8 lbs 9oz and 19 3/4 inches. We were both shocked to see that she has blond hair. Allison was in labor from 4:30 (water breaking) until 1:10, so almost 9 hours. The first two hours were painful. Then Allison sat around with a dopey smile saying, “Labor is easy” for a few hours. Then things got painful and she was ready to push. Contrary to popular belief, biology, the laws of physics, and any other logic, the pain goes away once the woman starts pushing. All that grunting, breathing, and facial contortion is due to the strain of pushing and not pain. It’s like doing a bench press (a lot of times and with different muscles, obviously). Allison pushed from 11:40 PM on January 26th until 1:10 AM on the 27th, so she pushed for about a day (or an hour and a half for those of you scoring at home). Dr. Rogers showed up at 1 AM, Allison pushed three times, he [E.B.D.], caught the baby, [more E.B.D.], washed his hands (at least I hope he did), and left by 1:30. Elated, woozy, and weary, Allison and I stayed up until 4 AM before crashing for a couple hours. By the time we woke up we had switched nurses three more times and signed our daughter up for tests, vaccines, and ballet. The 27th was a whirlwind of nurses, Jell-O cups, breastfeeding (I was more of an observer on this one), and visitors. I couldn’t recap it if I wanted.
In case you just scrolled to the bottom looking for pictures, you lose.