Tuesday, January 24

Poor Annie

We should think through advice before we take it. No expert advice-giver is beyond reproach. If we’d only pause a moment to think, we might avoid calamity. Take, for instance, the advice we received concerning our firstborn, Annie-dog. We all knew it was going to be a huge shock to her when we brought Cannon home and she lost her only-child status.

For those who don’t know Annie, she’s our three year old Great Dane. She lives a charmed life, sleeping most of the time. When she’s not sleeping, she enjoys the most domesticated life a dog can have. She has spent about half the nights in her 21 dog-years sleeping on our bed (my side, drooling). She is the only dog in the extended family that gets to eat as much as she wants, anytime she wants, so when her cousins are visiting, they have to sit and watch as she eats in front of them. She has a high-pitched whine that is always tended to promptly. She won’t go outside to pee in the rain. She’s a beautiful dog, but I’m pretty sure she knows it. Anyway, Annie has it made.

Perhaps the best thing Annie has (or had) going for her is that for three years, she was the only child, the baby. Kris doted on her constantly- talking to her in a pouty, baby-voice, rubbing her itchy ears, taking her for walks, giving her treats. They had certain routines that were special. For instance, every time we went out, Kris would hold her pee so that she could go to the bathroom with Annie when we got home. Actually, I think Kris just prefers a familiar, clean toilet. But she did like to pee with Annie. Every time we came home from being out a few hours, Kris would let Annie out of her crate, then the two of them would go in the bathroom together. I think it was a special bonding time for them. I mean, I never enjoyed pee time with our dog. Or with Kris, for that matter.

Anyway, there has never been a stronger maternal bond between dog and master. After we drove the many hours to Oklahoma and gave the many dollars to the breeder to take Annie home, Kris held her in her arms in the passenger seat and said, “I just love her.”

So with a baby on the way, we sought advice on how to cushion the blow that would inevitably send Annie reeling. The experts suggested that we set aside a special blanket in the delivery room and use it to wipe off the baby at delivery. Then we could bring the blanket home with the baby’s scent and let Annie get used to the smell a couple days before bringing Cannon home. This sounded like a great idea, so we did it.

Why didn’t we think it through?!

Imagine you are an only child and your mother is the center of your world. One day in December, she jumps up for no reason and leaves in a rush, with no explanation. You try to remain calm, but you become concerned when she doesn’t return for days. Is she ok? She wouldn’t leave me- she must be detained! Could she be hurt? Then, your fears are confirmed when someone shows up at your house with a blanket covered in your mother’s blood. Would that make you excited to meet the owner of the blanket? No, of course it wouldn’t. It would freak you out, like in some mafia movie where the don sends you your bodyguard’s severed thumbs in a takeout box.

I’m sure Annie was relieved to see that her mother was alive when she came home from the hospital, but any feelings of relief were overshadowed by her fear of the stranger who sent her the bloody blanket warning message.

Eventually, fear turned to sadness as Annie realized that she was no longer the cat’s knees or even the bee’s pajamas. She has begun to realize for the first time in her life that she is a dog, not the Queen of Earth. I have tried to console her in my own way, scratching her ears and giving her bacon fat, but I fear Annie’s Paradise will never be restored. A telling moment occurred in her crate, when I came to visit her in the throes of depression. As I sat there petting her, Kris was in the next room changing the baby. As she cleaned his dirty butt, she began talking to him using the pouty, baby-voice she had been using exclusively with Annie for the past three years. I actually felt sorry for the dog as she listened to Kris speaking in this way to another creature. With every word, her head literally sank lower and lower. Sorry, Annie.

All I can do now is offer Annie my Love and Tenderness, hoping that in tandem with Time they will be enough to heal her broken heart (a la soft rocker Michael Bolton).

Monday, January 9

December 16 - Part Three


Here's the final act.

Annie took a few minutes to teach Naani, Mom and me the basics of pushing out a baby. I held one leg, Naani held the other, and Annie counted to ten while Kris pushed. The same instructions might have been given for a not so popular Olympic sport, Team Pooping. Everyone had a job and we all did it well. I remember having two thoughts: First, “Where is the doctor?” Second, “Why do I have such an up close view of the action?” As for my intimate vantage point, I was expecting to be standing by your mom’s head when you emerged, but this position had me right in the thick of the action. I just looked your mom in the eye and gave her my most encouraging words (“You have a real gift for child-bearing! You have a huge talent!”) and tried not to look to closely at what was going on south of the border. It wasn’t long before Annie could see your little head poking through. She said, “I see the head- he’s bald!” Fortunately, your ears were not yet exposed. Otherwise you might have heard and grown up with a complex.

After about thirty minutes of timed pushing at Annie’s behest, the doctor came in for the final surge. He set up shop at your mom’s feet and I moved to my expected position by her head. Poor mom was pretty spent at this point, but she as hanging tough. Remember, at this point she hadn’t eaten anything at all in 12 hours, most of which had been full of stress and exertion. Fortunately, that last meal had been dad’s hearty beans and rice. She proved to be a warrior with a particular talent for birthing humans.

By the time the doctor was ready at 9:10, you were literally one push away. Sensing that the moment was upon us, I grabbed the camera with my left hand while my right hand held mom’s. I pushed record just in time to capture the footage of the doctor catching you and spinning you around, untangling the umbilical cord and removing the fluid from your nose and mouth. The footage is miraculous, as you have seen, and the soundtrack is a mixture of your first screams and me weep-laughing with the greatest joy I have or will ever experience again. Although I can never again in life experience such joy in quantity, I can experience it in kind by simply holding you and looking at your face.

Amidst the emotion of your birth, I had two confusing moments. At first sight, I would have sworn you were black. Though I would never question your mother’s faithfulness, my eyes perceived a son that did not match my race. I later learned that you were just a little low on oxygen at the time, while you were figuring out how to use your lungs without mooching oxygen from your mom’s bloodstream.

My second misconception came only seconds later, when a nurse was wiping fluid off of your hind parts on the other side of the room. I could have sworn that I saw a tail right above your baby butt. Though concerned, I thought it best to carry a light tone in my voice when I said, “He has a little tail, doesn’t he?” The nurse promptly responded, “Yes, he has a tail.” Her tone was not as light as mine, which to me confirmed that my eyes had not deceived me. Due to the health checks and blood draws that were necessary in subsequent hours, it was a long while before I was allowed to flip you over and examine your rump. It turns out you never had a tail at all. Evidently the nurse who confirmed the appendage thought I was talking about your tally whacker (penis).

Speaking of your binkie, I tried to save your foreskin. Sadly, the pediatrician would not hear my suggestion to preserve it in formaldehyde for posterity.

You were born at 9:10 and by 3:00pm you were in the recovery room with us where we spent the next couple days getting used to life together. You were tested multiple times over that period and you passed every exam with very high marks. You scored a 9.9 out of 10 on the APGAR, which tests your tactical agility and ability to make quick decisions under duress. We’ll be sure to put that on your college applications. You also passed your hearing exam and impressed us all when you slept through your circumcision.

We received further evidence of your toughness when you got your first heel prick. The technician said you were the best baby he had drawn blood from all day. You didn’t cry at all. In fact, I think I heard you giggle. Already you were distancing yourself from your peers. If that didn’t earn you an early membership to the man club, the pediatrician’s revelation did- while feeling your bones, she discovered your collarbone had been broken at delivery. After briefly entertaining the assassination of your delivery doctor, we gawked at your tolerance for pain.

The family gathered around and joined hands to thank the Lord for granting you safe passage into the world. From beginning to end, everything went as smoothly as it could possibly go. Lots of things can go wrong when delivering a child, but the Lord was a shield from these complications. At the end of a long couple of days, we had a beautiful, healthy boy and every reason to celebrate and glorify the Lord, who gave us the best early Christmas gift ever.

Wednesday, January 4

December 16 - Part Two

We parked in clergy parking- I tried to park at the ER entrance, but your mom insisted on walking. So we walked from the parking garage to the maternity ward. Well, I walked. Your mom sort of swayed side to side with gradual forward progress. It wasn’t from the pain- at this point she felt none. It was because she was straddling a towel, laughing and repeating phrases like, “Water is pouring out of me,” “It won’t stop,” “I feel like I’m peeing myself.” Fortunately, a kind night shift janitor followed us with a mop.

We finally reached elevator D and went straight to triage, as we were told to do on the hospital tour. A nurse met us at the door and asked what we needed. What could a waddling pregnant woman riding a wet towel possibly need? Kris just said, “I think my water broke.”

The nurse’s name was My. She became a good friend of ours and even came by our room a couple days later to meet you before we left the hospital. She was very reassuring and gave us the good news that you were healthy, happy and ready to come out. By 10:30, your mom was dressed in a hospital gown and having her contractions timed. By 11:00, we were wheeling her into our labor and delivery suite. Your Naani and Podiddy were there waiting for us.

We said goodbye to My and hello to Debra, our new nurse. Her main task was starting your mom on a magic potion that would make her contractions come faster and harder. Though I have never experienced them myself, son, I believe these contractions are like doing crunches while nursing a stubborn bowel movement. These contractions are evidently pretty uncomfortable. Nurse Debra quickly fell in your mother’s esteem, since every fifteen minutes she revisited our room and increased the dose of magic contraction pain potion. By 1:00am, we were getting your mom popsicles and crushed ice and encouraging her through contractions.

Now, there are lots of women in the world, many of whom have successfully delivered children, but your mother surpasses them all. Up and down the halls, women moaned and groaned and screamed obscenities. Not your mom. Even though the mother to be in the next room was screaming in what sounded like Japanese, your mother simply closed her eyes and breathed through the pain. She was really something.

At 2:30, nurse Debra returned with good news. It was time to call the anesthesiologist to administer the epidural.

I had a lot of misconceptions about the epidural. The epidural is not a shot in the back. It is the insertion of a wire down the spine through a pipe that is burrowed between two vertebra. Nurse Debra said most of the dads who faint in the delivery room faint during the administration of the epidural.

Dr. Millar appeared in the doorway around 2:40 with a cart heavy laden with medieval torture devices. Our confidence was shaken when he began speaking in a very groggy voice. I thanked him for waking up from his nap to help us. He parked his cart next to the bed and set up his sterile working zone. My confidence in Dr. Millar was climbing until he asked the nurse on three separate occasions what time he had come in the room for the epidural. He was too tired to remember the time, but was alert enough to shove a pipe in my wife’s spine? After he asked a third time, I told him I would be happy to write it down.

When I saw the foot-long needle approaching your mom’s back, I decided it was not the time to prove my manhood, so I turned away. Your mom, though, ever the soldier, never flinched. Soon, the good stuff was coursing through her lower body and her legs went numb and heavy. Dr. Millar kindly reminded her not to tense up at the cool sensation running down her legs, because there was still a needle in her spine. “Great,” I thought, “hiccup and you’re paralyzed from the waist down.” But no one was paralyzed. Everything went perfectly.

Contractions continued pain free for the next several hours and a shift change. At 8:00, our new nurse, Annie, introduced herself. Annie came just in time to see your birth. She said we were on the cusp of pushing time. More on that later.