Saturday, April 22, 2023

Baby Ernie is Born!

So last night I just lived my best life. The Cardinals were in town, so I put on my St. Louis jersey, bought a couple of nice all-inclusive seats, then drank a lot of wine on national television. But some people just cannot stand seeing my light shine. Lydia and the Troll, I assume communicating through her belly via Morse code, conspired to have Lydia's water break at 6:15am.. in the morning.. after I probably went to bed mere hours earlier.

Lydia's friend Katie recently gave birth in a truck outside of a Texas hospital, so I was pleasantly surprised at how orderly and chill this experience began. Since her water broke we could go to the hospital pretty much as soon as we wished. If she had instead had contractions first there was a whole unpleasant process that we were going to have to do, involving counting the contractions, timing how long they were and how far they were spaced apart... which all sounded very painful for everyone involved. So other than the unfortunate time of day this was all going pretty well.

I don't remember if I asked my Aunt Rita for these pictures of me on my first foreign trip to Germany or if she heard the baby was on the way or something. Having a baby en route has drawn my thoughts to memories of my own childhood lately.

Getting Lydia admitted was an odd process. Her water broke and it was definitely time to roll. One of the nurse's first actions was to test the stuff coming out of Lydia to make sure it was amniotic fluid. I asked her what the hell else it would be and the nurse said she’s had someone fake having their water broken to get admitted. “They broke my trust.”

She then proceeded to ask Lydia a bunch of weird questions. "Have you traveled outside the state in the last month?" Again I was curious so I had to ask what was with the questionnaire. "She doesn’t look like a drug addict but sometimes people will go to multiple doctors in different states to get drugs." So, in this scenario, is Lydia faking pregnancy at numerous hospitals in order to get pain killers? What the hell is happening here.

When we finally established that we were in fact having a baby and not just vagrants that move from town to town for drugs pretending to be pregnant, they were surprised how dilated Lydia already was and seemed to think that this was going to be a fast moving process. Spoiler: it was not.

They kept asking Lydia if she wanted an epidural and she kept saying she wasn't sure, and that it wasn't really hurting. I on the other hand, was very sure that this was going to hurt and she needed the drugs. This situation was stressing me out a bit because I know there's a point of no return where you're not able to get the epidural and I didn't want her to cross that line without realizing it was there.

Lydia then started having some painful contractions and changed her mind and asked for the drugs. She was at 5 centimeters at this point.

I didn’t realize how inexact epidurals are. They work with your blood flow so one of Lydia’s legs was always more numb than the other. In my head her legs would just be gone but that was not the case. She could move at least one of them a bit. I had a lot of time on my hands to inspect every corner of the room, every tool, every human that walked in the door. I laughed when I read the ingredients of her drip bag: fentanyl, OxyContin and a bunch of other crap. I hear fentanyl is really catching on these days so I was happy that we were on-trend.

I felt guilty about it but I was running on fumes and had to take some power naps. They had Lydia start pushing at 12:12pm and she pushed on and off for 5-6 hours. 

I tried to be as useful as possible during this very long process. Refilling Lydia's water bottle was one of my important duties.

I was also in charge of bringing her snacks. Once she got the epidural though she wasn't allowed to eat anything solid. They had a lot of good stuff: pudding, Jell-O, applesauce, popsicles, sandwiches, graham crackers... and some other stuff. It was like my summer camp self’s dream lunch.

There were lots of weird birthing implements that made appearances. Mr. Peanut here was one of my favorites. It had been through hell. It probably started off round and was crushed into this shape by screaming angry ladies.

We didn't seem to be making a lot of progress, so rather than eat what was likely terrible hospital food I went to a nearby burger place. Sadly Lydia wasn't allowed to have any bites of my burger.

The nurses would often ask me to help move Lydia's legs around. I was happy to help but also found the situation kind of amusing. Kind of like going to the mechanic and he asks you to hold his tools while he fixes your car. Like, I will help you but just to be clear I do not work here.

One of the nurses I liked most was a travel nurse from Baltimore so I passed the time by pestering her into watching The Wire. We all had a lot of time on our hands. It was kind of what I hear war is like: long stretches of boredom punctuated by dramatic moments of violence. 

Poor Lydia pushed and pushed and not one baby came out. Lydia told the doctor that she was a big baby when she was born and so they were going to measure Ernie to see if they needed to do something special to get him out, but he came before they had scheduled the test. So since he wouldn’t come out I started asking the doctor “what if he’s a giant” but she sort of dismissed the idea. One of the several times she stuck her hand up there she said that she could feel Ernie’s hair but not his skull.

Often while pushing we would all have our eyes on this monitor that measured contractions and both Lydia and the baby's heart rates. It may be that the process of trying to push Ernie out was squishing him because his heart rate would drop while they were doing it. This seemed to be in a concerning zone, where if it got any worse they were going to go straight to Cesarean section. I thought it was pretty cool that the procedure was named after a Roman emperor. Really gives it some pizazz if you ask me. I looked it up but sadly it seems to be based on nonsense. "A popular myth claims that the Roman statesman Julius Caesar was born via caesarean section and is the namesake of the procedure, but this is inaccurate."

You may notice that there is a total of seven charts on the screen. The large one was Lydia's measurements, and the six smaller ones were the readings of six strangers who just happened to be in labor at the hospital at the same time as Lydia. A nurse said this was a new computer system and they couldn't figure out how to turn it off. I actually got yelled at for taking a picture of it because it was other people's health information before I realized what I was looking at.

We got lucky that Lydia's doctor was on call while we were there. We liked her a lot and commented that we wished we could be her actual friend. She just seemed very smart, friendly, and relatable.

Lydia thoughtfully and effectively researched and found us a birth photographer like she does with every decision. I remember asking the photographer on the phone, "what happens if someone else has a baby at the same time as we do?" and she acted like that was unlikely because she only booked one couple a month so that there wouldn't be any overlap. Well of course, another client had to be induced early and so she was busy with another couple when Ernie came. She did find us a backup photographer which we were not excited about initially because we were already under a lot of stress. Morgan was very kind though and amazingly stuck with us through the entire laborious journey. I was impressed with how she rarely seemed to take a break and never seemed to be tired. She was also a doula which was an amazing asset for us to have throughout the process. I am bit embarrassed that I thought doulas were some sort of bathtub home-birth hippie witchdoctors, but she had a wealth of knowledge for us and would often give additional insight on the process that the medical staff weren't giving for possibly their own reasons. Or just help us to interpret what a doctor was saying. She was also even helping Lydia count out her pushing and that sort of thing.

Which made my presence amazingly even less useful than you might expect. I did my best to stay out of everyone's way. 

They tried numerous positions of pushing to try to get this rascal out of there. This one pulling the bedsheet was my favorite. If this process took much longer I was planning on tying a few of these sheets together to make a rope then escaping out the window.

In a very stupid scammy encounter the cafeteria person arrived and asked Lydia for her food order. Lydia wasn't allowed to eat anything, but they said it was the rule that they brought her something anyway, so they did. It sat there and no one ate it, then later they threw it away. I believe I was asleep or I probably would have poked at it at least. This was very sad and wasteful.

We got to the point where we needed to make a change in strategy. Zero people had emerged from Lydia after multiple hours of effort and discomfort. The doctor artfully gave us the choice on whether to move on to more... Roman ways of taking care of this problem. We sort of laughed about this moment later on because we suspected that this was the illusion of a choice and she was just being gentle about it.

Lydia started crying when they told her she needed a c-section. I asked everyone to leave the room so we could have some quiet moments of encouragement. I think her mom had some complications with the c-section so that was making her emotional. On the plus side this was all finally going to be over and we would have the baby safely out and the ordeal would be concluded.

I was half annoyed that our photographer didn't think my "everyone get the hell out of here and give us some space" request applied to her but I suppose I'm happy that we got some pictures of the moment.

Poor Lydia's epidural was wearing off at this point, so they jabbed her in the back again with an even stronger spinal block. She had to drink something horrible as part of that process. From my point of view her getting stabbed in the spine was the most painful part of the process for Lydia.

I liked it the few times that the anesthesiologist made an appearance because he wore a funny surgeon cap thing with the Seattle Seahawks logo on it, and he had a good sense of humor.

This gave me some unpleasant flashbacks of following my mother's bed to an operating room. Hopefully this would be a more cheerful occasion.

Lydia said that the doctors were having a discussion as to whether they were going to let our photographer into the operating room. That would have super sucked to have her with us the entire time while not a lot was happening, then suddenly lose her the second Ernie was actually being born. The doctors didn't super care so they let her in.

I did get yelled at for walking too close to the table where the operating instruments were.

After nearly 24 long hours of waiting and pushing and eating graham crackers, things were now moving at light speed. Our doctor was clearly concerned about something with one or both of our contestants because she told the other doctors and nurses in the room that they were not going to wait for the NICU staff to get there and were going to begin operating immediately.

When the drugs started kicking in Lydia was shaking a lot and my job was to hold her hand and catch her puke in one of those kidney shaped pans. She really started jerking around while they were operating on her and remember thinking a couple times “please don’t die I don’t know if I can raise this baby by myself.”

Ernesto John Milito made quite a theatrical entrance and emerged on April 23rd at 6:27am and clocked in at 21 inches 9lb 13oz. He's only half John Milito but he seems like a pretty cool guy. I was happy that we are still keeping my own birthday sacred and special. That was a close call.

We named Big Ern after his Great Great Grandfather Ernesto who was born in Italy in 1897 and arrived at Ellis Island in 1914. He didn't have a middle name of his own, but he gave his son the middle name of Ernesto, and in our family the father has given his name for the eldest son's middle name ever since.

I was a little sad that I did not get to cut Ernie's umbilical cord as that was supposed to be one of my few jobs today.

One of our many decisions today was whether to donate our cord blood. Sure, why not. Afterwards our doctor was excited that they were able to get a ton of blood out of the cord, and she said that she might finally win some sort of cord blood donation competition amongst the doctors. I assume this is because Ern Dawg is a giant. At first I thought she was joking but I do not think that is the case.

When he came out all of the nurses and doctors were making a big deal out of how big he was. They handed him to me and I cried. Nobody could tell or probably would have cared anyway because I had a mask on.

When I was putting my gown on pre-op I was checking myself in the mirror and told the Baltimore nurse that I needed to look ok because “I want to be taken seriously” in the operating room. When Ernie came out a giant the nurses were asking me how tall I am and so forth and the nurse that heard me talking to myself in the mirror earlier said “you have tall man energy. You said you wanted to be taken seriously”. They jokingly asked me if my arm was tired after holding him because he’s so heavy.

Lydia said that she was so drugged up here that it was difficult for her to look enthusiastic about the baby.

It was nice that Ernie calmed down so nicely after his very long and traumatic day.

I was now officially a father so Ernie and I got matching bracelets to show everybody we were in cahoots.

I was given the important job of pushing my new little boy back to the room in his aquarium. The whole place is kind of funny because to me I'm like beaming with pride and joy and it's a huge day in my life, but everyone else is there for the same reason and so probably don't really care. The doctors and nurses all seemed to be genuinely happy so that was fun.

First thing on our to-do list was to start feeding our little giant. He latched well which was awesome. I was very proud of him for taking his responsibilities so seriously. For being zero days old he had a surprisingly busy schedule. There was an endless parade of tests and measurements and whatever happening to him all day. The poor guy didn't get much peace. Many of the things that needed to be done to him required unswaddling him which caused him to scream.

Afterward our doctor told us "I stayed up for 24 hours waiting so that I could deliver your baby!" While that was nice we were both thinking "that's scary how did you stay alert while you were cutting Lydia?"

They made us some footprint stickers. Ernie was not enthused.

It was sad at times because I could tell he was trying to open his little eyes but they were very swollen and had some gunk on them so he was having a hard time.

It was super cute when they were both napping at the same time.

It was a very long day.

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