Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bad Part First

It’s difficult to summon the emotions that I felt as an expectant father back in late February 2010.  It’s not that I don’t remember what I felt, or even if I felt different than many new fathers would feel, regardless of the situations surrounding your wife’s first pregnancy.  I wrote most everything down about who was there with us, who took care of the house, who made us food, and what doctors and nurses cared for us.  It’s more of the fact that the speed at which life was happening in the days surrounding the end of a pregnancy and birth of new life were nothing more than incredibly warped.  In fact, I couldn’t even say that “one minute, time sped up, and another, time slowed down,” because there was no “one minute.”  I can’t give a play-by-play because the more pertinent unit of measurement was just one fixed point:  the point in time at which my daughter came into this world, leaving her quiet sanctuary and joining the rest of us in our less-than-serene world.  For my engineering mind, the rate of change at which time passes lost all meaning and thus, by the end of my recounting of our little journey, I’ll propose my own Theory of Relativity.  So if you're interested, click the link below, and let's get started.

In writing this, I don’t mean to slight those who have gone through much more horrific events; for sure, combat veterans, survivors of shipwrecks, and victims of violent crime have it much worse.  I wouldn’t trade traumatic memories with any of them for a second.  Nor do I intend to lessen the impact or importance of Ashley’s experience.  She had all the worries that I did, and the additional demand of carrying our child.  Regardless, this was not the way in which any man would want to begin fatherhood.

The call from the doctor’s office parking lot is not what I most remember about Ashley’s preeclampsia diagnosis.  I don’t know what words were said, but I can tell you that I was sitting at my new desk at my office (we had recently renovated the space), and all I could hear was a sobbing on the other end which I had never heard before.  I have known Ashley since seven days after my birthday, 2002, and I had never heard tears like this.  It was not exasperation, it was not anger, but all-consuming and confusing fear coming through the earpiece of an iPhone (3G, and we’re not upgrading, FYI).  We have had fights, arguments, sad times surrounding the death of loved ones, but I had never been in a situation where I didn’t know what to do or say.  Moreover, there was nothing for me to do.  Now, it is fair to say that we (Casey and Ashley) like to be prepared - for anything.  The year prior I started working out with the CrossFit method.  Publicly, I told people it was fun (and it is).  But secretly, I wanted to prepare myself for an end-of-civilization situation where a man must provide for his family.  You know, in case I needed to scale a mountain to find food, or kill a deer with just a 3” pocket knife.  I keep a survival kit in any backpack and enough water for a day’s walk - even if we’re on a mile hike in a park where the best chance for survival is the Bojangles a quarter mile away.  Ashley makes lists, checks them twice.  She took clothing enough to U.K. for all four seasons, even though that from everything that I’ve ever seen or read, the English really only have two (this turned out to be a great decision).

All I’m saying is that we like to be prepared, but in a way that allows us to be flexibly ready for any situation - not to be confused with the plan-makers who must stick to any plan, do-or-die.  So in this spirit, we had enrolled ourselves in the Bradley Method birthing classes, a.k.a. the husband-coached, natural, anesthetic-free way of doing things.  We like proving that we can do things, we like being different, maybe like most first-born children do, and we generally don't like other folks messing about with our personal lives - and we considered birth one of the more personal experiences any couple could have.  While we accounted for unnecessary doctors and nurses, we forgot someone most important to the creation of this child: God.

Now, I believe that we are lucky enough to have a just and benevolent God.  In fact, I bet that he’s quite funny and amiable – I’d like to ask him about this face-to-face one day (many years from now).  Sense of humor aside, he has a way of teaching us little folk how small we are, and he always seems to know the right time for this lesson to occur, which is always when we least expect it.  I mean, he’s been doing this for years (see: The Bible).  So this was where I found myself on that afternoon, with a tearful wife and little understanding of what to do next.  After all, I was the leader, wasn’t I?  I had been coached to be a coach, but all that was focused on preparing for a birth at a full 40-week gestational term.  After all, you can easily have a natural child birth when your baby is a nice, ripe eight- or nine-pound miniature human.  The Bradley Method is good, quite good, and other folks in our class later reported success.  In this class, a lot of discussion centered around this unnecessary intervention, some of which I still honestly believe gets in the way of the natural order of things for the typical pregnancy.  When your wife is sobbing on the other end of the phone, only 27-ish weeks into the pregnancy, you aren’t ready for anything - never mind the fact that “everything” will be coming at you a lot sooner than expected.

I can’t honestly tell you what happened the days surrounding the doctor’s diagnosis.  I remember first, getting home after a teary call, and trying to help Ashley relax.  Unfortunately, trying to make someone relax is a complete waste of time when that person has been ordered by her doctors to take it easy.  There may have been no physical activity, but Ashley was nothing but a nervous, anxious mess.  After a day or two of that (I think), the next thing I remember is sitting in the exam room, where Dr. Whats-her-name said she was going to send us “straight to labor and delivery.”  As you’ll recall from Ashley’s blog post yesterday, this woman, who had the worst communication skills I’ve ever seen in a medical professional, forgot to tack on the critical word department to the end of that statement.  I remember being furious, and I was incredibly rude to this Doctor.  I think I questioned her credentials and abilities as a doctor.  I was madder than I ever have been, mostly about this lady getting my wife so worked up, and not recognizing that when a young woman, in peak time of pregnancy hormonal shifts, was bawling in the exam chair, you probably shouldn’t go throwing your words around all willy-nilly.  Maybe, we should quit acting like a doctor and start acting like a human being (this may be verbatim, though I don’t have any official record).  It didn’t help that you never want to hear her news from someone you’ve just met for the first time. 

I pride myself (often too much) of being aware and educated on my surroundings.  At an earlier time in my life, I was cocky in this regard, but I like to think that even at seven and a half months ago I had a healthy regard for what I knew, and was thankfully aware of all that I didn't know.  I'm not that old, but I've at least had enough life to realize that each time I think I know all that I need to know about a particular subject, well, I'm dead wrong.  But when I think back to that day, the first thing that comes to mind is the anger of confusion.  The kind of anger I felt that day is so strange to me, because it was the kind of anger that I comes with the fear of un-knowing –it was like being a small child caught outside in a night-time lightning storm, only aware of the immediate threats of booming thunder and the bright plasma arc of a lightning bolt, thinking that with each crash the Heavens would engulf you.  I prayed a lot over the next few days, and I think I went to work for a little while, but I don’t know what I did or said or even who I saw.  I felt cold, and just wanted my wife and my unborn child to be OK.  Although we had never met, this tiny unborn baby was preparing me for the rest of my life - not with a gentle touch, or a polite "excuse me," but with a shove through the front door of a hospital, talking through the mouths of an ever-increasing team of experts.  But she wasn't ready just yet...

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