It was January 28, 1997, around 5:00 in the morning. I woke up and got dressed. I packed some of my wife’s things into a bag and woke her.
“It’s time to get up, honey,” I said.
“I know it is,” she said. “I have been awake all night. I am too nervous to sleep.”
My wife was eight and a half months pregnant. She had been to the doctor the day before for a checkup. He’d said he was a little concerned with her last month. The doctor had told her to come in the next morning for some tests to see how the baby was doing. He also told her to be prepared to stay in case he had to induce her labor. She had developed toxemia, which had caused her to retain water. If the water is in the body long enough, it becomes toxic. Not only is this bad for the mother, but if the toxic fluid gets in with the amniotic fluid, it is dangerous for the baby.
“Everything will be all right,” I told her.
“All I need is to have complications!” she said. “You just lost your job, and with that we lost our insurance. We can’t afford to have complications.”
I reassured her again, and we got ready to go. The hospital was a forty-five minute drive from our house, so there was time for tension to build up before we got there. When we arrived at the hospital, we checked in, and a nurse took my wife to get her ready for the tests. When I reached my wife’s room, she was in a gown and had several monitors strapped to her.
“They just took some blood and said the doctor will be in as soon as they have the results,” she said.
“Well, then, I guess we will just have to wait a little longer, won’t we,” I replied.
After about an hour the doctor came in and said, “The test result showed that you are on the borderline of becoming toxic. You have two choices: Either you can wait out the next two weeks, and we keep a very close eye on you; or I can induce you now, so we do not have to worry about what might happen later.”
My wife did not take long to decide. “Go ahead and induce me. I don’t want to wait for something bad to happen.”
The doctor broke her water and started her on some drugs to help induce her labor. We were both excited that we were not going to have to wait much longer for our child to be born. I started to call everyone to let people know what was going on.
The labor had a slow start. It was about three hours before my wife had any labor pain. Once the pains started, a nurse came in to check how the baby was doing. She couldn’t get a good reading with the standard monitor, a round sensor that was strapped around my wife’s abdomen. The nurse came back with the doctor, and he said that since he couldn’t get accurate readings this way, he would need to hook the monitor directly to the baby.
The doctor explained, “This is done by taking wires that have corkscrew-like sensors on the end of them and screwing them under the baby’s skin on its head.” The whole idea didn’t sound too great, and my wife was not fond of the idea of the doctor sticking his hands up there to put the monitor in. But the doctor assured us, “The baby really won’t feel anything, and your wife’s discomfort will be temporary.”
The one thing the doctor didn’t mention was that once they hooked up this monitor, my wife couldn’t get out of the bed. This was the start of a very long day for me and, of course, for my wife, too. My wife had decided that she hated the nurse taking care of her. I still do not know why. Her nurse was very nice and made sure my wife was as comfortable as possible.
The nurse would look in on my wife about every fifteen minutes and say, “Hi, hon, how is everything going? Can I get you anything?”
My wife would say, “Fine!” Then she would give the nurse a look that could kill.
“If she calls me ‘hon’ or ‘sweetheart’ or even smiles that way at me that way again, I will kill her,” my wife told me. This went on for most of the day.
At around eleven p.m., the doctor came in. He checked my wife and said she had dilated to only four centimeters. He told us he was going to go home, but he would be back as soon as my wife had progressed a little more. Because of the drugs, my wife’s labor pain had been pretty intense all day. Around eleven thirty, the nurse came in and asked if I wanted to go eat since I hadn’t yet. She said she would stay with my wife if I wanted to quickly run and eat. I told my wife I would be right back. I felt a little guilty because I was going to have some real food, and all my wife could eat were ice chips. I came back close to midnight.
The nurse said, “We have stopped the drugs causing your wife’s labor pains, so you both can get some sleep.”
I lay down in the waiting room right across the hall from my wife’s room. I had just closed my eyes when I heard, “If you don’t get that no-good-lazy-selfish-son-of-a-bitch in here now, I will show you what pain is!”
Just then, a nurse came into the waiting room and said, “Excuse me, I think your wife wants you to go back into her room.”
I went to see what was wrong. It turned out that after being on the drugs that caused her contractions all day, she had actually started having contractions on her own. She glared at me.
“You put me in this hell! Don’t think you are going to be able to go get a nap while I’m still lying here!”
“I’m not going anywhere,” I told her.
I sat down beside her. I leaned down to give her a kiss on the cheek and to tell her I was proud of her. Then pow! I didn’t know what happened at first. All I knew was that I was now lying on the floor and I couldn’t find my glasses.
“Don’t even try to kiss my ass, you son-of-a-bitch! If you think that I’m ever going to forgive you for the pain I am going through, you have another thing coming.”
That is when I realized she had punched me. Not a little punch either. This is when I figured out why I couldn’t find my glasses. My glasses were in pieces all over the room, and my face was starting to hurt.
“Now calm down,” I said. “You don’t need to get so angry. You wanted this baby too, remember?”
“Don’t tell me to calm down!” she shouted. “You’re not the one in constant pain.”
This is the way that most of the night went. At six a.m., my wife had been in labor for about twenty-two hours. The doctor came in and checked her. She was still dilated to only four centimeters.
“It doesn’t look like you are progressing quite the way I would like,” he said. “We are going to have to do a C-section because I just don’t think you are going to be able to do this one on your own.”
By this time, my wife didn’t care if she had a C-section or not. She just wanted everything to be over. The nurses came in and started to prep my wife for her surgery. Because of her condition, she was going to have to be knocked out for the surgery. She was not happy about it but didn’t say much because at this point she just wanted it over with. The nurses then wheeled her into an operating room and asked if I wanted to go with her.
“Of course I do,” I said. “I haven’t stayed up this long just to miss the end.”
I was given some scrubs to put on over my clothes. I walked into the operating room just in time to see the doctor make his first incision. I had never seen anything like this before and was not prepared. After he had cut through the muscle, he took two big metal hook-shaped objects and inserted them into each side of the incision. Then two nurses pulled on each hook to open my wife’s incision so the doctor could see inside her. At this point, I almost lost my lunch. It was one thing to be by her side while she gave birth; it was another to stand over her and look at her insides. As I looked on, I kept thinking, shit, that just doesn’t look like it should go there or do that. I kept myself together and I thought, it’s almost over. The next thing I saw was the doctor making an incision in my wife’s uterus.
Within a few moments he pulled out my son. This was a big surprise to me. We had thought that we were going to have a girl. I laughed a little and thought what a surprise it would be for my wife when she woke up to see she had a son.
One concern that the doctor had with my wife’s condition was that the baby would be dehydrated. We soon found out this was not the case, as my son urinated all over the doctor as he was pulled out. The nurses took my son to a table on the other side of the room and started cleaning him off. Something was wrong, though. They couldn’t get him to breathe. I found out they had tricks to make babies cry and breathe, such as tickling their feet and patting their backs. After a few seconds, I started to get a little worried. Just when I was going to ask the nurse what was wrong, I heard a loud scream. I didn’t know at the time, but I soon found out my son doesn’t do anything until he is damn good and ready.
The nurse looked at me and said, “He’ll be just fine.”
She then took my son into the next room to weigh him and measure him. I looked over at my wife. The doctor had almost finished sewing her up. I knew she didn’t want to miss anything, so I hurried into the next room with our video camera to record everything. After the nurses weighed and measured my son, they put him in an incubator as a precaution since he hadn’t breathed right away.
Then they asked me, “What do you want to name him?” I had to really think about this. Since we assumed we were going to have a girl, we hadn’t talked much about boy names. Then I remembered that when we first found out my wife was pregnant, she had mentioned that she liked the name Ethan and I had told her I liked Michael.
I told the nurse, “We’ll name him Ethan Michael.”
My wife woke up an hour later, but she was pretty out of it. She still doesn’t remember much of what happened the next couple of days. But I will always remember the day my son was born, probably the most tiring and exciting day of my life.