The Birth of Wheels

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Dear Wheels,

It’s been almost a month since we welcomed you into the world. I was hoping you could make it to June 10, so your birthday would be number palindrome, but you came a day earlier than that. This means you may have to suffer through some lame teenage boy jokes when you hit high school. We’ll teach you to say your birthday is June 9. You will never say six nine, okay?

You rang out your first cries in the exact same room your brother did two years ago. You came out with the same black shock of hair on top of your head, like the top of a carrot being plucked from the ground. You weighed 6 pounds 6 ounces and measured 19 inches tall. You have long eyebrows, long fingers, long toes. You have what we affectionately call in our family “turtle lips,” where the top overhangs the bottom like a crisp little beak. You have grey-blue eyes, the color of the ocean in the morning twilight. (That might change, but we’re holding out hope.)

You’re beautiful.

You look so much like your brother.

You don’t look anything like your brother.

I don’t know how that juxtaposition is possible, but it is. And you do.

Your entry into the world came at 10:50am. You were originally scheduled to be born on the 17th in a scheduled c-section, but the doctors decided that was too far away. Your mother’s blood pressure was dangerously high and when asked what was the best way to alleviate that symptom, the doctor said, “Have a baby.”

So we went into the hospital on the 8th. The anesthesiologist decided it was better to wait until the morning when they had more support for the c-section, so we waited until the 9th. Unlike your brother, your c-section was not an emergency so I had time to enter the room with your mother. After they had injected local anesthesia and it took effective, they ushered me into the room to sit next to your mom. We couldn’t see anything. Just a blue tarp covering the doctors from view. I was not allowed to stand up until they said it was okay to stand up. So we waited. Then they said okay. I peeked up, and there you were, slathered in a pile of placental fluid. I willed myself not to look at your point of origin into the world, your mother’s open abdomen, but my will is not strong.

It’s a moment of profound humility in a man’s life, when he sees his wife’s internal organs not presently internal. Women are strong, Wheels. I could never make it through what your mom has now done twice.

I met you for the first time at the warming table. I cut the umbilical cord, which was already cut off but you know…ceremony. It’s surprisingly difficult to cut. I blamed it on me being a lefty.

And there you were, and there we were. We spent the next few days in the hospital. Your brother came to stay with us. When he wasn’t trying to climb up in the bed to say hi to you, he was outside in the garden trying to track down rogue pillbugs or roaming the seemingly abandoned west wing of the 4th floor like the kid in The Shining. He did great.

You did great. You’re a nursing whiz kid, Wheels. Figured it out within seconds and haven’t stopped eating since. The double chin you’re now sporting is a testament to that.

I’m going to write a lot to you, Wheels. A lot. I get the feeling that you’ll need a little more guidance than your brother, not because of who you are but because of who the world will try to say you are. In all honesty, I have very little clue how to raise a strong, independent, free-thinking woman who is unafraid to stand up for what she thinks is right, defends her loved ones passionately and wrings out every last drop of enjoyment life has to offer her.

However, I married one such woman. Your mother and I have a lot to teach you.

We love you, babe. Welcome to your family.

-Dad

 

 

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Expanding the Audience

 

Dear Blue,

 

Writing has a peculiar habit of shrinking time. Seconds, minutes, days, months and years have no distinction in the spaces between words. Not coincidentally, it has now been over six months since I wrote you anything, and in that time, so much has happened.

 

This includes moving into a new house and starting a new job, which are considered to be two of the four most stressful events in a person’s life. It’s been absolutely crazy around here, and I hope you’ll forgive me for not writing as much. I’m sure you will, because to you this will just be the next post and nothing more.

 

I do intend to write more letters to you, Blue. Maybe I was wrong in saying that writing shrinks time. Maybe it just forgets that it exists. Because here I am, imagining a teenage Blue reading these for the first time. I hope you find these letters all that I intend them to be: insightful, profound and illuminating. If nothing else, I hope you at least find them worthy of an occasional chuckle and only slightly embarrassing.

 

If that is accomplished, then I consider this a success. Because no matter what, you are the only audience that matters. Well…you and one other person. I neglected to mention earlier that in addition to moving and starting a new job, your mother and I are about to experience the third most stressful event in life for the second time.

 

Your sister arrives in June, Blue.

 

 

 

The Birth of Blue

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WARNING: This post is going to feature graphic details about Blue’s delivery. Don’t read ahead if you’re squeamish or if you’d rather not know. Although, if you do, there’s a surprise waiting for you at the end.:)

Dear Blue,

According to insurance companies, having a child is a life-changing event. I don’t know any parent who would say otherwise. They would also add that the experience of being in the delivery room is either “a blur” or “indescribable.”

You were born last Wednesday night at the Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Boulevard at 10:22pm. Your mother was in labor for over 24 hours before undergoing an emergency C-section, and truthfully, it was all a blur. Perhaps it was indescribable. That would make a boring story, though, Blue, and thankfully, dear old dad was taking mental notes throughout the whole thing. So let’s expand on the basic facts. This, my boy, is how you came into this world.

Tuesday

Everything started Tuesday night. At this point, you were a week overdue and Whattoexpect.com had run out of fruits to compare your size. The closest one was a pumpkin. A pumpkin! We went to the mall in the afternoon. People stared warily at your mother’s belly, as if she was a volcano about to erupt at any moment. We went to a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, and your mother’s blood pressure was high. Too high, in fact.

High blood pressure in a pregnant woman is not a good thing, Blue. It’s a sign of a condition called preeclampsia. Doctors still don’t know what causes it, and if it develops into full on eclampsia, seizures can start happening. This is not a good thing, and the only cure for the condition is to deliver the baby.

So off we went. First, we stopped by home, took some quick showers, loading up our bags, texted family and friends, and drove to the hospital. Along the way, your mother smiled, screamed, freaked out, smiled, prayed, laughed, freaked out again, sang, crushed my hand and freaked out again. This was a big moment.

They checked us in right away at labor and delivery. We had already been there to triage several times, but this time, it was the big show. They took us back to the luxury suites. The delivery rooms. Picture a hotel room filled with medical equipment and a baby warmer table lifted straight out of a 70’s space movie.

We arrived around 5pm, and by 7pm, the nurses had your mother hooked up to IV fluids and then put in a cervical balloon to help her cervix dilate further. Basically, they stuck a tube up into her cervix, pumped the end full of air, and then waited until her cervix dilated enough to pop it out. Sounds painful, doesn’t it? Your mother’s retelling of this story will confirm this truth for years.
Mild contractions, looking like tiny waves lapping up onto the shore after a boat passes by, began around 8pm. We were still a long way off from your arrival, so they gave your mother some pain medication to help her sleep. She slept through the rest of the night.

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Wednesday

Early Wednesday morning, the cervical balloon dropped out and it was time to begin inducing labor. The doctor came in to give the epidural before they began administering Pitocin. Pitocin kick starts labor, and the nurses advised your mother to get the epidural sooner rather than later. There’s a reason for this. See, the epidural works wonders in blocking pain to the lower extremities, but in order to work, they have to inject a huge needle into her spinal fluid. While they do this, she has to remain perfectly still, hunched over like Rodin’s The Thinker, or there are bad, bad side effects. In order to avoid these side effects, it was much easier to get the injection now instead of later when contractions would be far worse.

The anesthesiologist was wary about injecting your mother, primarily because your mother has an autoimmune disorder that causes her joints to begin fusing together as she grows older. Navigating the medicine into the proper place would be like navigating a cruise ship up the Nile River. It might just prove impossible.

Twenty minutes later, the epidural was over without any problems and soon after, she was given Pitocin to induce labor.

Contractions began rolling in at a steady pace around 11am. I could see them coming in on the monitor, eventually becoming a pattern of rolling waves by 3pm. Increasingly, your mother began to feel pain. The doctors increased the dosage of epidural, but there was another complication. Since her blood pressure was rising, they gave her an IV bag full of magnesium sulfate to help prevent seizures. According to your mother, magnesium sulfate feels like fire dripping into your blood. Ouch.

The rest of the day is spent watching the waves of contractions continue to roll in. Your nana, gonggong and godfather showed up to provide support and Thai food. Your mother’s water broke around 3pm, and we finally understand, after many false alarms, why they called it a gush. Gush doesn’t do it justice. It was a flash flood, a mini-tsunami of fluid and blood spilling out onto the bed.

Your arrival was imminent.

We headed into early evening. Again, troublingly, the epidural’s effectiveness began to fade away. The contractions really started ramping up now, going from tiny rolling hills on the monitor to near perfect renditions of Sauron’s tower in Middle Earth. Your mother felt every mountain, nearly bending the bed railing in half with every contraction.

6pm passed, then 7pm, then 8pm. Still, no Blue. The doctors began to grow concerned that your mother was not dilated enough. You were right there, poking the dome of your head out like a shy little turtle, but the gate was not wide enough to pass. If it didn’t widen in the next few hours, the doctors warned, a C-section was the best option.

9pm. Your mother was still feeling the full force of every contraction, and the doctor came in once more to try to reapply the epidural. This meant sitting her up, bending her back over once again, and reinserting the needle into a lower section of her back. It was painful enough the first time around, but now, she would have to deal with the pain of the contractions, all the while staying still as a statue.

Like I have said before, your mother…she has superpowers. Knowing the task in front of her, he leaned up against me, clasped her hands against my front pants pockets, and directed every contraction, every last ounce of that pain and agony, right there while remaining perfectly still. She almost ripped my pants off.

And…It didn’t work. Your mother, she still felt everything and by now, her blood pressure and heart rate were both skyrocketing. At 10pm, the attending doctor came into the room, knowing that something needed to happen. You weren’t ready, Blue. The gate was not open.

All of a sudden, your heart rate plummeted, Blue. It didn’t decrease. It didn’t weaken. It just dropped, like the edge of a cliff. Later, they would tell me you had the umbilical cord wrapped around your neck. Immediately, the doctors called out, “Code C! Code C!” Practically every nurse on the 4th floor rushed into our room. In a flash, your mother was whisked away to the operating room. I was given a pair of white scrubs and told to gather our valuables.

I followed to the operating room. I wasn’t allowed in, of course, but I was able to watch from the door window. I had never been so scared, Blue. A billion thoughts all raced through my mind, crashing into each other, beating themselves into a crescendo that came out as the most simple, most earnest prayer I have ever prayed in my life:

Please, Lord. Let them be okay.

Okay. This is the part that is graphic. I watched as the doctors performed a C-section on your mother. The technical description of this procedure is that they make a c-shaped incision along the lower part of your mother’s abdomen and then cut through the uterus to pull you out safely. That’s the Wikipedia version. Seeing it first hand is something much different. It’s like being on the front row of the crowd in that scene in Braveheart where they eviscerate William Wallace.

It took them less than five minutes to make the cut, pull aside your mother’s liver and pull you out from the uterus. A nurse came out and said, “Congratulations. Your boy looks very healthy. You’re going to see him in a…”

The doctor blocking my view stepped out of my way and…HAIR. That was all that registered. You had a lot of it, Blue. They whisked you over to a warming table because you were still blue, Blue. A few pumps of the oxygen mask and then, with a great big heave, you roared out an ear-splitting cry to announce your arrival on planet Earth.

I don’t know how close we were to losing you, Blue, but I do know this. We came a lot closer than most people, and that is a place I never want to be again.

Your mother, thank God, was okay. She made it through the procedure and was busy being sewn back up while they brought you into the recovery room. Finally, I was able to get a good look at you up close. I held you in my arms and you heard my voice and your big black pools of eyes darted in on me.

Again, this is the indescribable part that parents talk about when they first hold their child. It is such a profound rush of emotion that defying description seems appropriate. But let’s try.

There’s this song on the radio right now called “Team” by this up and coming artist named Lorde. For the longest time, I thought the chorus was “We’re only seventeen.” I never questioned my understanding of this lyric, because it was a pop song and I think she’s seventeen. It made sense. But then, I came to realize these were not the lyrics at all. They were in fact, “We’re on each other’s team.” Suddenly, a song I liked for the music became a song I liked for the anthem. However small, my view of the world shifted. Any time your view of the world shifts, it is a profound change indeed. And if that one little silly song is moved my view about an inch, then meeting you for the first time Blue…I think I just jumped across the Grand Canyon.

Welcome to the experience of your lifetime, Blue.

Love,

Dad

P.S. For those that made it to the end. Thanks for joining us on this journey!

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