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I didn't know what it was going to be like; not really.
As I write this, I have an almost 4-year-old and a 1-and-a-half-year-old. I'll describe the journey and my present thoughts.
There's no particular things you can nail down on "getting pregnant". Even when you try to plan it, it's really accidental. You don't even know if it's possible until the first time it happens. It's easy to spend a fortune on pregnancy tests and ovulation tests, and your chances are still less than one in six each month.
(Parenthetically, it's no wonder some younger folks might feel emboldened by their lack of pregnancy and all of a sudden have a whoops :)
We tried while on honeymoon in Africa - that would have been a cool conception story to tell a first-born - but it was not to be.
We did eventually have our first surprise - a positive pregnancy test. We told folks about it right away. I guess there are two schools of thought on that: there are some people who don't tell anyone until the first three months are up, on account of it being fairly common to lose a pregnancy that early. That said, wouldn't you want the sympathy and support under those very circumstances?
Pregnancy affects a few things oddly. If you've heard about the "pickles and ice cream" strange cravings, that might not be accurate, but it does push sense of taste around. Dena loves garlic, especially from her stint in South Korea. Pregnant with our first child: couldn't stand it.
It takes a while before you get to the stage where an ultrasound will tell you much, but earlier ones can tell you whether something is terribly wrong with the fetus. I hate to think about being in the position where someone has to tell you there is something terribly wrong.
Ultrasound itself is pretty cool. It's a lot better "live" than in still pictures, because you can get a sense of things as the image feed represents shallower and deeper things. They also have at many clinics a "3-D option" where it pieces together a 3-D image for you from a whole stack of images. That's neat, but requires some cooperation.
It's here where they ask you whether you want to know the sex of the baby. Some people don't want to know, but we did. I've heard that people like it to be a surprise, but a slightly earlier surprise is good by us. They can still get it wrong and they give a spiel to that effect, but it was funny how the tech stopped in the middle and realized that the big testicles in the scan - for our child was relaxing with with legs wide open - totally gave the game away.
If you want to name a child whatever you want without lots of family interference, start in with names that they would never want in a million years; then they'll be grateful it's not those. Flem is a good name, right? :)
Pregnancy means a fair few doctor's appointments. It's also the habit to assign you to a maternity clinic of some sort, and someone on that staff will often be with you in the delivery room.
It was around here that professionals started losing a bit of their magic. Well, actually, that would be the day we went down to the hospital, but the thought was retroactive.
Our firstborn stayed in the womb longer than projected, and showed no signs of wanting to come out. We went to the hospital, and they set us all up. They have a set way to 'induce' everything to start working - the nearest analogy, from what they were saying, is a 'tea bag' of chemicals. Then we waited, full of trepidation.
Later, they came along and, after asking a couple of questions, determined that it was not safe to deliver naturally; a C-section would be required.
It was here that my blood started boiling a bit, though not directly at the messenger. Going to a maternity clinic for months and having not one of the five obstetricians there pick up on this possibility?
We got slated for an urgent - but not emergency - C-section. It's still not as good as a planned C-section, but at least the focus is not "get the baby out NOW".
They carted Dena off to get prepped.
They sent me to get some scrubs on. They had a locker room with a bunch of spare scrubs that's actually used by staff. It felt something like what it must feel like hanging around in the women's bathroom when you don't belong there.
You know that Dilbert cartoon where the T-shirts vary from "petite" to "elfin"? Well, it was not quite that bad, but close. If you're bigger, it would almost be worth getting your own scrubs, although perhaps someone could track them down.
Also, I would highly advise paring down what you bring to the hospital. Don't bring a big wallet with lots of change and your big keyring - you will have to fit everything in your scrubs, which means a shirt pocket.
I then got to join my wife at last in the operating room. They basically put a big blue sheet between her head and the rest of her body, and the only things she got to see were me and the anaesthesiologist. Surgeons seem to vary on what they let the husband do. This time, I actually got to see past the sheet. It's weird: I don't actually like watching those surgery shows, but it was actually okay in person. There's that sense of "you're cutting up someone I love" balanced with "you know what you're doing and he isn't coming out any other way".
When the baby finally comes out, it's a little messy but cleans up quickly. He was over ten pounds, and started crying right away, as if he were really offended and cold.
It's at this point where they go to cart the baby away. I was torn - I wanted to stay with Dena, but there was a touch of that paranoia in both of us: stay with the baby and don't let it out of our sight.
The maternity ward was one of the most mixed experiences I think I've ever had. There were some amazing professionals in there; some of the ward nurses and some of the technicians did a fantastic job and treated us with the utmost respect. There were also some of the most maladjusted, ignorant and authoritarian nurses I have ever laid eyes on, often spouting contradictory commands or making passive-aggressive 'suggestions' that were physically impossible at the time (hello, catheter???)
While I enjoyed the pre-maternity course we took, what I really wish they had were courses on what to expect and how to assert yourself while in the ward. Our poor son was shrieking from hunger - it sometimes takes a while for breast milk to start producing - but all we got was people interrupting Dena when she most needed sleep and our boy was still hungry.
All he needed in the end was a little supplemental formula, but they seemed hell-bent on avoiding even mentioning it at all costs... unless you asked.
Leaving the hospital was sweet, sweet freedom. It's really strange, in a way, that you are just "free to go" at that point. It seemed like there should have been a bit more of a send-off, but if you have a baby car seat (note: you should really have one by this point), there you go.
So it was that Axel came into this world. I'll describe what the early days of having a baby were like in my next installment.
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