Thursday, February 28, 2013

One Slow Delivery, Part I

Sunday and I didn’t have the opportunity to have one of those silly scenes so often depicted in television shows or in movies, where the father runs around like he’s on drugs while the mother, who is in labor, calmly walks to the car.  We had an appointment to have our baby.  We had scheduled him in, mainly because he wasn’t going to come out. 

So I sat there, in the waiting room with Sunday next to me, about as alone as I could be.  There was no running ahead, no outward excitement.  I knew any emotion that I could show Sunday would be magnified in her soul.  Sunday reflects anxiety and multiplies fear.  That’s just her personality.   I knew I couldn’t freak out in the waiting room like I wanted to freak out.  So I just had to do it:  RELAX.  “We” weren’t going to make it if I didn’t.  I had to relax.  My hands.  My mouth.  My eyes and legs and torso and feet.  Everything had to be relaxed or she would know it. 

Not to say that it all depended on me, because it didn’t.  She was the one who had to do this, but I certainly could be the one person in her life to make it exponentially more difficult.  I could, if I didn’t relax myself, make her feel much worse.  If I shared my nervousness with her, she would still make it, but it would hurt much more than it needed to hurt.  So I heard my father’s voice as it compressed RELAX into a one-syllable word. 

I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t know how long we were going to be in the hospital.  I just didn’t know.  Neither did anyone else.  The doctors, the nurses, no one. Sure, babies are born every day, but not our baby.  Not for us to keep or to see live in health and happiness.  Not our child.

Sunday and I were feeling alone.  So the only thing I could think to do was relax.  There I sat.  In the waiting room, watching really bad network television and wondering what I could do to relax.  The following section describes my effort.

Birthing Experience
February 25, 2004—9:00pm:                      Sunday and I entered the hospital where she began the pitocin drip to induce labor.   Although her comfort was the primary cause of concern, my back in particular began to hurt and I was just praying for an epidural after a night in the reclining chair they called a cot.  In fact, Sunday added to the pain by subjecting me to the final episode of The Bachelor that night, and I still walk with a slight whine in my step.  The nerve. 

February 26, 2004—6:00am:                       The small, wide-eyed girl who was our nurse for the night was replaced by a small, wide-eyed Romanian girl who was to be with us for the next thirteen hours.  Why is it that they find the first person who looks like a thirteen-year-old to give us comfort, encouragement, and to “check on” my wife?  (By the way, Sunday would be “checked on” about ten times during the next twelve hours.  In fact, one nurse came in and “checked on” Sunday and then introduced herself.  I was just glad she took her gloves off before she shook my hand).  At this time, Sunday had been on pitocin for about nine hours and she had dilated for only three centimeters.  Obviously, Jonah was not coming out without some serious coaxing. 

February 26, 2004—8:00am:                       The doctor finally showed up to “check on” things a bit.  This was the first time that Sunday has been “checked on” by a person who had gone to school longer than I had.  It was quite a relief that an expert in this field had arrived, but he told us that she had not progressed much past three centimeters.  I was getting a little antsy because I was wondering what I was going to watch now that “Good Morning America” had finished.  Sunday was getting a little antsy for other reasons.  The doctor broke her water and discovered that Jonah had poopied in utero.  Not a good thing, and all of us were relieved that labor had started and J-Dawg was going to be al fresco within the day. 

To be continued….

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sleeping with a Pregnant Woman

By the time Sunday had grown out of my pants and into pants two sizes larger, our sleep schedule was totally thrown off. 

I learned something about pregnant women by sleeping with one:  nothing comes easy. 


Adjustment in the middle of the night?  Serious undertaking. 

Rolling over?  It’s like riding the Tilt-A-Wheel at the amusement park. 

By the time the third trimester came along, Sunday had grown out of all her regular clothes—including shoes—so she was uncomfortable for most of the day.  Even sitting down was a chore, because she knew she had to get up sometime.  Plus, she retained water like it was her full-time job.  She was swollen so badly by the time she had Jonah that she resorted to wearing my shoes. 

When she eased into bed at night, her entire body had been yanked by gravity for every minute of the day.  Sitting, standing or walking, she was under stress. 

You’d think that bedtime would be a welcome time for a pregnant woman.  It’s not.  Gravity still works and, with the added weight, the pressure is more intense.  On top of that, Sunday’s bladder was the size of a very small change purse.    So, she was up and down about 1,300 times a night.

After going to the restroom, she would get back into bed and begin jerking the covers off of my freezing body.  (Temperature sensitivity is also a major problem with pregnant women.)  She was in a bad mood for most of the night, primarily because I would hog my 15% of the bed and my 5% of the covers.  I felt like I remained on the bed by the power of the Holy Ghost.  Really, it was an impossibility of physics that I stayed in bed most nights.

Before Sunday’s last trimester, though, I thought the lack of sleep would come when Jonah actually arrived on the scene.  I was completely wrong.  When people would come up to me, telling me I should prepare for the lack of sleep AFTER the birth, my mind leapt to a few different thoughts. 

Thought #1:  I would wonder how quickly I could punch this person in the throat and run away.

Thought #2:  I was not getting much sleep as a graduate student as it is.  At this rate, I will probably get a “sleep deprivation rebate” on my life when I die. 

Thought #3:  I would combine the “sleep deprivation” thought and the “punching the throat and running away” thoughts.

Jonah wasn’t being too kind to Sunday at this point.  Her fingers were numb, her ribs hurt, and she wept with relief with every full breath she got during the night.  (I believe three full breaths per night was her record.)  Every time Sunday got out of bed, her effort required loud grunts and moans.  I felt like I was sleeping in the middle of an Olympic weight lifting competition, which explains my dream about falling in love with a rather large Hungarian woman, I think. 

Here’s the situation:  Sunday is fifty pounds heavier than she was six months ago.  She’s swollen in every extremity, including her face, and she was not getting much rest.  There was another human being inside of her, who demanded 24-hour service on everything from food to waste disposal.   The body that hadn’t changed in over a decade had produced a 25% increase in half a year, requiring a different method of walking, sitting, driving, standing, showering, and anything else people do before 9am.

And she had to live with me.  She lived with a constant strain that I didn’t have to live with.  I could go to school or work and forget for a while about our child.  I could read a book and get lost in the story.  I could go to the library and not remember that I needed to eat or to go home. 

She never could do any of that stuff.  Ever.  She merely had to look down, or take a step, or breathe in or out to remember what we were in for.  If she tried to forget with sleep or a movie or a talk with friends, Jonah inevitably reminded her. 

Her body was an around-the-clock operation that should have required double the sleep she’s used to getting, instead of cutting that number in half.  And the only message we were getting from people was that we were going to lose even more sleep.  We both went into the delivery time with a sense of dread. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gaining Weight

“And [Jesus] said…’My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”  II Corinthians 12:9

As we first learned about our pregnancy, I thought about what it was going to be like to be the only person on the planet to enjoy this entire process with Sunday.  I was going to be the only one to watch her stomach grow.  I was going to be the only person to see her entire body morph and change with every new week.  As she held her breath with every weigh-in at the doctor’s, I was going to be the only one to talk to her about it, stepping each step with her, noticing things that other people couldn’t.  I was going to be there.  I couldn’t wait. 

Sunday’s attitude about gaining weight was controlled, at first, with her lifelong pursuit of a healthy body.  But whether she wanted it or not, for the first time since she was fourteen years old, she gained weight. 

That first trimester was a hoot.  She only gained weight in her stomach.  She looked like she had a perpetual case of bad gas.  Since it was only in her stomach, she immediately grew out of her pants.  She would pause in front of mirrors and pull up her shirt, showing her stomach.  I would watch her.  She didn’t care that she was gaining weight or that her clothes were becoming a part of her past-tense conversations. And she was happy. 

Until that fateful day… 

I was sitting on the couch, either watching some form of football game—college or pro—or I was reading something.  I looked over at our loveseat and Sunday’s face was so low, it looked like the corners of her mouth were resting on her knees.  She was sad. 

Being the sensitive husband I am, I continued to watch television. 

After a few commercial breaks, I could tell that she was staring at me.  So I asked, “Do you need something, babe?  Iced tea?  Snack?” 

Then, the point of conversation every man hates.  Without saying a word, her chin began to quiver.  I had said something or I had done something.  Somewhere in the universe, justice was speeding to our living room, ready to deliver the death whammy on the formerly peaceful place we called our home.   I was doomed. 

Without muting the television or sighing too loudly, I quickly moved to the loveseat and put my arm around her.  “What’s wrong?” I said.


“No, really.  You’re dripping on your new pants. What’s wrong.”

“These pants aren’t new.” 

“Is that the problem?”

I immediately knew that I was wrong. 

“Sorry,” I said.  “Can you tell me why you’re crying?”

“You’ll think I am stupid.” 

“You’re not stupid, babe.  Tell me what’s wrong.”

“You promise you won’t think I’m stupid?”  I nod my head.

“I am wearing your pants.” 


I didn’t get it. 

Here’s where a woman may understand this new revelation more quickly than I did.  I didn’t understand that her size was so deeply connected to who she was.  Her larger size changed how she had defined her body for the previous 14 years.  Although she was changing because she was a woman creating something only women create, she felt less like herself because she was wearing my pants. 


Then, I tried to cheer her up.  I scooted away from her a little bit, and I said with a chuckle, “And what’s wrong with wearing my pants?  I wear them every day.”

She looked at me.  At this point in the conversation, I officially became the most insensitive man on the planet.  Literally.  I got a trophy and everything. 

I think about this scene, even years after it happened.  This conversation about the size of pants caught me totally off guard.  To be honest, I think it caught Sunday ill-prepared, too.  But being surprised wasn’t the worst part: I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand that gaining ten pounds at a time was going to be difficult for Sunday, even though gaining weight comes with being pregnant.  In my mind, getting larger was a part of the show, a slice of life for me to enjoy.  For Sunday it was a confusing time, fraught with uncertainty and discomfort.  We weren't ready for this.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Air Sickness Bags and Telling the Family

The first question we had when we found out we were pregnant was this:  when do we tell? 

The summer we found out we were pregnant, my brother was getting married and everyone was going to be there.  I told Sunday that I thought we should tell everyone then.  Very convenient, since we live about seven hours away from my nearest relative.

Silence from Sunday.  I have learned that silence means that she wants me to ask what she’s thinking.  Repeatedly. 

“What do you think?”  I asked (about 78 times).

“I was wondering what your brother would think,” she answered

“He’ll be thrilled,” I interrupted.

“What I mean is, what will he think, giving this news on his special weekend?”  Then, it hit me.   We weren’t flying to my brother’s house to announce that we were pregnant.  We were going to celebrate his marriage.  Everyone was going to be there, just not for my convenience.  It was for them, not us.  Sunday was right. 

We decided not to tell everyone, but I did want him to know.  So on the airplane, I wanted to write a note to Joe that he could read while he was on his honeymoon, telling him about his new responsibilities as an uncle.  So, I did what many people have done, I think.  I pulled out the air sickness bag and penned my note.  Sunday was sleeping while I was crafting my message, but she woke up just in time to sign it. 

“Why am I signing an air sickness bag?”

“This is the note for Joe and Kim, telling them we’re expecting.”

“You wrote it on this?”

“I didn’t have anything else.”

At this point, Sunday looked at me, realizing that I was really excited about sending the note on a vomit bag.   She was not as excited.  She knew that the vomit bag idea was funny, but not necessarily the classiest idea in the world.  She also knew that our child’s birth deserved a better announcement, but she signed the bag anyway.  No complaints.  No rolling of the eyes.  No nothing.  There are plenty of people who would have complained about that bag from the time I showed it to her until the time she could complain about it to her grandchildren.   She understood my excitement and she trusted me.

Before we got to Joe’s house, however, God had a better plan than one either Sunday or I could have imagined.   We didn’t know it, but my younger brother, Luke, had already gone to Joe to ask if it was ok to announce that his wife was pregnant with their second child during the wedding weekend.  Without telling anyone, Joe gave the ok for Luke to announce that they were expecting.

So there we were, all relaxing in Joe’s living room, watching some sports event.  Luke waited until a commercial came on—very important—and then said, “Hey, everybody.  Faith and I wanted to tell you that we’re pregnant.”

At this point, I looked at Sunday and she looked at me.  In the midst of the yelling and shouting and crying, we were shocked.  My older brother was getting married to a beautiful, intelligent woman, my younger brother and his wife were going to have another very-cute child, and we were in the midst of them, with our own little secret.

I could have lived in that five seconds the rest of my life. 

She raised her eyebrow in a question.  I knew what she was asking.  She wanted to tell.  Right then.  Throwing out our plan. 

In response to her unspoken question, I nodded my head.

Then, Sunday asked,  “When’s your due date?”

Luke answered, “February 1st.”

Sunday replied, “Well ours is two weeks later.”

The room erupted again.  There were fresh tears, joining the ones that had dried.  Hugs, kisses and shouts.   We had told my family and they were thrilled.  Joe and Kim were glad.

Later, I asked Joe if the timing of our announcement was right.  He told me it was perfect.  In fact, he would have been disappointed if he hadn’t told them before they went on their honeymoon.   Sunday was right.  Even if it didn’t match with our plan.  She was perfect.  It wasn’t going to be the last time that she would take control of the situation, change the plan and create a situation to celebrate.  She was only two months along, but she was developing into a parent.  Right there in my brother’s living room.  She recognized that the plan didn’t fit the situation and she was flexible enough to realize it.  Yet, her flexibility did not supersede our agreement.  She asked.  I answered.  We both ended up with the right message.   


Friday, February 1, 2013

Riding Bulls and Fatherhood

When I realized what the one little line meant, Sunday was asleep and I was lying on my back, staring at the ceiling of our bed room. I was nervous to the point of dysfunction. I was terrified and it reminded me of the only bull I’d ever ridden. 

I was about ten or eleven years old, my older brother was thirteen or fourteen, and my younger brother was seven or eight.  As we stood there leaning on the rails of the corral somewhere in Texas, watching our cousins getting ready to ride, we saw the Texan rise up in my Dad.  He saw the Texas animals, smelled that Texas dirt, and asked us a very Texas question:  “Boys, do you want to ride?”

So there we were, with our cousins and other insane folks, waiting to ride a bull.  We weren’t the youngest in line, but we were the least experienced.  Some kids were barely out of diapers, but they had a bull bag and boots.  (A bull bag holds all the materials required for riding a bull:  ropes, gloves, last will and testament…)

Like a fool I thought, “This is going to be fun.”  Then, the first boy climbed into the chute. 

I watched him get on a bull that was the size of a Chevy Suburban.  This animal was huge, and this boy wasn’t physically comparable.  In fact, he was about the size of an overweight house cat, so this match was not looking good for him.  But he was confident. 

That boy tied himself to the back of the animal, spit, nodded his head, and held on tight.  The gate swung wide and the bull headed for the top rail of the corral.  For the uninformed, a bull does not usually jump, except when a bull rider happens to be sitting on his back.  Thus, a bull turns into a husky kangaroo every time a rider alights on him.  The bull tried to jump on the top rail of that corral two or three times before the boy thought it expedient for him to exit the arena.  The boy let go of the rope, which was his first mistake.   By letting go of the rope, the rider released the tether by which he was connected to the largest animal in the corral. The bull didn’t like it.  The bull communicated his dislike by quickly breaking that boy’s arm. 

We all heard his arm break.  

The boy got up from the dirt and tried to pick up his rope.  His left arm didn’t work. 
Actually, it worked pretty well as a compass.  His arm dangled there, but it pointed due north at all times.

I stood there, in the dirt, reconsidering this bull ride.  At that point, though, I was picked up by my shirt and loaded onto Geronimo.  To me, this bull looked like an elephant with horns. He was big and getting bigger all the time. Looking back, it was probably a little larger than the average billy goat, but I was convinced Geronimo was unusually large.  As I sat there, I looked at the large, dirty, hairy man who had pulled me up and put me on Geronimo.  I said, “What do I do now?”

I looked around the corral at the knowing and smiling faces, and I knew I wasn’t going to get the answer I needed. 

I did get an answer, though:  “Every ride’s different.  Just hold on tight.”

I said, “Ok.”  And then I nodded my head. 

If you have never watched bull riding, the nodded head is the sign to open the gate.  I didn’t know that.  They didn’t tell me that. 

Before I could catch my breath or think, Geronimo was out on a dead sprint to the other side of the corral.  The first boy got a bull who knew how to buck.  I got a bull who knew how to run.  It was more like riding a motorcycle than riding a bull and I got one of the easiest—and quickest—bull rides in rodeo history. 

By the time that gate was open, I was on the ground wondering if my arm could tell me where the concession stand was.  It wasn’t broken, and neither were any of my limbs. 

That rodeo sounds scary and dangerous and little crazy, but I got the right bull.  Most people aren’t prepared for that kind of situation, regardless the advice given.  Experience is the only way you know you’re ready to ride a bull, no matter how many rides you see. There in that small corral, I got the right bull.  I couldn’t have handled any of the other kinds of bull that day, but I could handle Geronimo. 

It’s like fatherhood.  I could watch other fathers go through their struggles and confusions and injuries even, but that didn’t prepare me like being a father myself.  I figured that, like watching rodeo doesn’t prepare you to ride a bull, hearing other father’s tales of fatherhood doesn’t prepare you much for fatherhood.  When I got conditioned to the idea that I wasn’t ready for being a Dad, I was already on my way.   Plus, the advice I got was about the same as the advice I got when I was sitting on Geronimo:  “Hold on tight.  Every ride’s different.”