Thursday, August 12, 2010

fatherhood in just 7 hours

(This is mirror of my post from my personal blog)

It took only one phrase to transform my Wednesday evening from a regular night to a multi-hour ordeal at the hospital.

"Hey Gar... I think my water just broke."

The wifey's voice was at once strangely loud and tentative from the bathroom. I was sitting on the couch, watching the 11:30 evening news. I looked at my watch: August 4th. Wasn't the baby due on the 26th, in about two weeks?

I tried not to sound too skeptical.

"Ummm... are you sure?"

Brief pause.

"Yeah... I think so."

I grabbed the phone and dialed the nurse hotline for our hospital, Swedish Medical Center. I handed the phone to Shiv so she and the nurse could talk. Yep, it's time to go to the hospital.

Lucky for us, we were ready. Earlier in the week, we had talked about all the stress of getting things ready for Baby Chan, so we brainstormed a list of things we wanted to get done: get a pediatrician, find a daycare provider, wash & fold baby clothes, etc. Shiv already had a rolling suitcase packed with stuff for her labor and earlier, on that very Wednesday morning, she familiarized herself with the infant car seat, installing it in the car.

Did I say "we" were ready?

I guess technically, "we" means more "her". I didn't have any bag packed at all. As calm as I could, I grabbed a backpack and rushed around the house grabbing things - I threw in my digicam, a book, my DS, my iPod, a clean pair of shorts & shirt, bottle of water, and a granola bar. Of course, it was only AFTER I was at the hospital that realized I forgot some important things like contact solution, eye glasses, phone charger, etc. Oh well.


We got to the hospital after midnight. The main entrance was closed, but we knew through a previous hospital tour that we had to enter through the rear ER entrance. They sent us immediately to the 5th floor, to the obstetrics triage where they took Shiv's and the baby's vitals to confirm yes, the baby was coming.

After about an hour of waiting and tests, we were moved into our own room, a "birthing suite", and assigned our own nurse, a sisterly pro about the same age. She gently helped ease Siobhan into the birthing bed and took up her post at a mini-nursing station, monitoring vitals and taking notes at a computer.

"Hi, my name's Marlow."

It's close to about 1:30 AM at this time and Shiv's contractions start to get more frequent and stronger. How do I know? My wife's yelling pretty loudly and her fingernails are digging into the back of my hand. I was pretty sure name-calling and cussing were imminent if the pain didn't go down.

Time check... about 2:30 AM.

In her birthing plan, my wife has already asked to get an epidural to help her manage the pain of childbirth. Unfortunately for her at this point, there's two problems. One, the nurses are having trouble finding a big enough vein on her arm to start an IV. Two, with the contractions getting stronger and stronger, it's getting harder and harder for Shiv to NOT push the baby. Pushing the baby out beyond a certain point would make the epidural dangerous.

Timing their work in between Shiv's contractions, the nurses finally get an IV going. Nice.

Marlow is getting worried and repeatedly makes calls inquiring about the whereabouts of an anesthesiologist. When one finally shows up and starts prepping Shiv for the spinal injection (epidural, remember?), he's immediately paged somewhere else.

"Dr. BlahBlahBlah, there's a car trauma down in the ER. You're needed immediately."

The doctor sighs, and tells the nurse to page the next anesthesiologist, who thankfully, shows up in about 10 minutes. I watch with half-dread, half-amazement as the new doctor, a middle-aged, quiet man in large glasses manipulates a tube and giant needles the size of bubble tea straws to finish the procedure.

"It'll take 15 minutes for the anesthesia to take effect."

He sits waiting, occasionally checking in with Shiv to make sure that anesthesia is only affecting her lower bod. Tricky thing, I suppose, injecting stuff into the spinal cord. The 15 minutes pass by slowly, but like clockwork I can instantly see the effect on Shiv. She's relaxed and smiling. And oh yeah, it's nice that the eagle claw grip of the nails into the back of my hand stops too.

Shiv's obstetrician isn't on call this early in the morning, but another doctor comes in to check. She seems satisfied with Shiv's progress.

"I want you to rest for a little bit before you start pushing with your contractions."

Christine Nakano, one of our good friends since our days at U-Dub also arrives at about 3 AM.


After about an hour of rest, the "real" pushing starts. I check the time now and it's about 4 AM in the morning. It's about this time that I sneak a snack and chow down all the granola bar I brought. I also remember I have a can of Fanta orange soda in my backpack and I drink that too. Sadly, because Siobhan's still in labor, the most I can feed her are some chips of ice.

One of the side effects of an epidural is that the labor process is slowed, mostly because Shiv can no longer feel the contractions. In order to help her coordinate her pushing with the contractions, the nurse monitors her vitals and signals when to try. I fulfill my role as breath coach and each contraction, we do a set of three 10-second pushes with held breath. The process has a slow, methodical rhythm, and our progress is rewarded after the better part of an hour by the nurse exclaiming:

"Hey, he's got a lot of hair!"

Close to the 3rd hour of pushing, about 7 AM, the obstetrician on duty, Dr. Kimmelman worries that Shiv will be getting tired and her pushes are less productive. She asks for permission to assist the delivery with the vacuum tool, a small, funky plastic disc attached to a pump. Though there are some small risks involved, the doctor tells us that she believes that it will help a lot.

Final preparations are made to get Shiv and the room ready. There's a brief lull as we wait for another set of contractions before the doctor can use the pump. When it comes, it takes literally only three pushes with the vacuum before Baby Chan is born.

Sounds of crying. Lots of blood. The lay him on top of Shiv right away to help him regulate his body temperature.

"Would you like to cut the cord?"

I'm handed the shears and with a quick snip, I'm dead. I look at the clock... 7:11 AM.

Welcome to the world, son!

And now... obligatory photos:


Cutting the cord.

Celebratory photo with our nurse and the delivering doctor.

Weighing in.

You can check out more photos here.


How about some Baby Chan crazy numbers / numerology?

Meaningless coincidence or not? Put on your LOST hats. DUH-DUM!

  • "The Number THREE"
  • Gideon has 6 letters in his name, 3 x 2 = 6.
  • Gideon was born in room 555 (three 5's).
  • Gideon's full Chinese name is made up of 3 Chinese characters.
  • Gideon's full Chinese name is written with 30 strokes, 3 x 10 = 30.
  • Gideon's story is told in 3 chapters in the Bible, Judges chapters 6-8.
  • Gideon was born in the Year of the Metal Tiger, the 3rd sign of the Chinese Zodiac. "Metal" is also the 3rd element of Wu Xing.

  • "The Number FIVE"
  • Gideon was born in room 555.
  • Gideon is the 5th judge in the book of Judges.
  • Gideon was born on 8 / 5 / 10. 8 + 5 + 10 = 23. Add the digits 2 + 3 = 5.
  • Gideon is a 5th generation Chinese American, counting from his father's side.

  • "The Number SEVEN"
  • Gideon was born at 7:11 AM.
  • From arrival to birth, Baby Chan was born in about 7 hours.
  • Both my first name and Shiv's first name have 7 letters. Gideon's middle is my first name, which of course also equals 7.


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