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Roland Arrives

image of Roland as a newbornRoland was born at 9:40 a.m. on Wednesday, April 14. He weighed 7 pounds and 14.8 ounces and was 19.75 inches long. (I’m not sure why you’d need to know that unless you were trying to determine the cooking time accurately, but apparently people want to know.) He was delivered by c-section, and arrived with a full head of dark hair; he appeared normal and healthy. As I write this (twenty-six hours later), he has finished his breakfast and gone to sleep on his mother.

Birth was a very different experience this time around. For one thing, we knew in advance that we’d be having a c-section, so we had a specific date to plan around. For the same reason, we were nowhere near so sleep-deprived by the time we actually went into surgery. Theron had to spend some time in the N.I.C.U., whereas Roland is already able to stay in the room with us.

We arrived at the hospital at six-thirty in the morning. The c-section was scheduled for eight fifteen, so this gave us time to settle in and get ready. Since we knew we were going into surgery, my wife had been fasting since about seven the previous evening, and avoiding liquids since about nine-thirty. I had managed to grab a handful of Pringles - always a healthy and filling breakfast - on the way out the door. 

Traffic was essentially non-existent; there were plenty of cars on the road, but at that hour they were all moving along with pep and alacrity. The hospital was expecting us, so when we arrived on the maternity ward, they pointed us at a room and notified the doctor. Then they gave us a few extra forms to fill out, and tagged us with bracelets and other identifying items. Nurses came in, asked a few questions, and went away again. Finally, the Anesthesiologist came in, and started an epidural. 

That turned out to be the one big stumbling block of the day. My wife is not tall, and she’d been carrying about fifty pounds worth of baby-maintenance apparatus in her belly for the last few months, so her spine was a bit compressed. The epidural went in well enough, but it only numbed the left half of her body. So they pulled it out a bit (which was supposed to maybe straighten it), added a little more anesthetic, and waited; it was better, but it was still numbing one side a lot more than the other. So, they decided to go for a spinal block, and wheeled the Beautiful Woman away. As they left, they told me someone would call when they were ready for the delivery.

I put on the medical equivalent of a ninja costume: white coveralls, blue hair net, white mask, blue shoe-covers, latex gloves. Everything was covered except my eyes. I was ready to go do my part.

My part, if you remember, is to tell silly stories to the Beautiful Woman, and keep her distracted from what the nice doctor was doing to her belly. Unfortunately, I’d already used up my prepared story (detailing the exploits of the alligator who had learned to love music and not try to eat people, and his attempts to break into the music business) in distracting her while people were sticking needles into her spine. I was not at my best, and new story ideas weren’t exactly leaping into my brain.

But I had time. In fact, I had lots of time. I waited, and waited, and waited some more - until I was starting to wonder if they’d forgotten me. I’m honestly not sure when the operation finally got started.

They hadn’t forgotten me. The spinal block hadn’t gone in; or rather, it had gone in, but they hadn’t found any spinal fluid. So they tried another epidural, and finally got this one to work. The whole time I was sitting in our room, my wife was hunched over, doing her best to “hang like an angry cat” - and let me tell you, if you’ve got nine months worth of baby in front of you, Yoga is the last thing you want to try. 

So by the time I got in there, the Beautiful Woman didn’t want to hear any stories about the musical aspirations of furry woodland critters. She just wanted me to be there and look encouraging while the obstetrician got the baby out of her. So I sat on a stool and said encouraging things. The doctors were busy on the other side of a cloth divider, and I could see right over it; it’s fortunate that I’m not at all squeamish.

Eventually, though, I saw the top of Roland’s head emerge. A moment later there was a whole baby. He did a little bit of squawking and crying, sounding a little bit like a duck. This was encouraging mainly because it sounded absolutely nothing like the little gasping wheezes that Theron had made. The nurses wiped him down and tagged him, and showed him to his mother. This time, she got to give him a smooch on the cheek before we wheeled him off to the nursery. The doctors were still busy working on her, because getting the baby out is only part of the job.

So I pushed the cart with baby Roland, pausing briefly to wave him at the rest of the family, who were gathered in our room. My father emerged, carrying Theron, and I pointed out his baby brother. Theron, however, was busy looking at me. I pointed out his baby brother again, and Theron glanced down briefly before he went back to staring at me. Finally, I realized what the problem was:

Theron regards the Masked Daddy

When I pulled the mask down and pointed out that I really was Daddy, he grinned. Later, I went out to the waiting room (where the family had retired after Roland was deposited in the nursery), and Theron helped me take off the doctor-ninja suit. By then, he thought it was funny. He was mostly occupied with a pair of Transformers that his Nana and Poppy* had gotten him, anyway.

There was another wait, but this time I was able to find out how long it would be. The Beautiful Woman was wheeled back to the room in her bed, and the family came in to join us. One of the nurses brought Roland in around noon (I think), pronouncing him clean and healthy and ready to feed. Theron had brought a present for his new brother (a little Dr. Seuss outfit, which my parents bought but Theron helped wrap), and Roland had arrived with some more Transformers for his big brother. My brother had to work, but his wife was there and helped by sending out announcements on her cell phone.

They took the opportunity to look over the new arrival, reached a consensus that he was a fine and handsome baby, and finally went off to do other things. All in all, this was a much better experience than Theron’s birth. (No reflection on Theron, of course.)

Birth Brain
I know I’m forgetting things, here; it’s amazing how fast the details slip away. Part of that is just that we’ve been busy, and part of that is that I’ve been (weirdly, extremely, unexpectedly) tired. A lot of what I’m leaving out isn’t important; you don’t need to know, for example, that our camera ran out of battery right after the first round of pictures, or that I drove home later in the day and picked up the wrong charger for it. You might want to know that I stopped to post a picture and announcement that people could look at online, or possibly even that the cats had thrown up and I stopped to clean that before I went back to the hospital; but none of that really matters in terms of the birth.

Post-Partum Impressions
Newborn babies are tiny. Theron was too, and I’m finally starting to remember that; but Theron is my unit of measure, and his current size makes Roland seem tiny and unbelievably light weight. I’m not sure what effect having a second child will have on my tendency to judge all other children by Theron.

Roland comes in to feed on my wife every two hours or so. This is having entirely predictable effects on our sleep schedules, except that shortly after midnight I collapsed and could not be roused. The Beautiful Woman’s position was exacerbated by the fact that she was itchy all over, which seems to be mostly a lingering effect of the anesthesia; by the fact that nurses kept popping in to examine her; and by a bizarre little auto-massaging sleeve that they had put on her calves to keep blood clots from forming**.  Also, apparently I slept through someone giving birth in the room beside us; this explains the somewhat bizarre character of my dreams.

By this morning, the Beautiful Woman was back to eating solid food; she has been up and walking - or at least shuffling - around. Late in the afternoon, we both managed to shower. Even without soap or shampoo (there doesn’t seem to be any, and I didn’t think to pack either one), this was a blessed relief. So we’re making good progress on the Beautiful Woman Recovery front, too.

What else...? Nana brought Theron by around noon. He arrived with some flowers for his mother, which we added to the bouquet of roses I’d brought in yesterday. He was very happy to see us, and - later - very insistent that I wanted to go back to Nana’s house with him. He had a great day at school; Nana had provided pictures for him to take in, and he returned with a lovely note from his class. He agreed to hold baby Roland for a little bit, with photogenic results:

Picture of Theron holding Roland

I have, tentatively, dubbed Roland “The Goblin Prince”. This is partly because gobblin’ is his main activity right now, but it’s mostly because of his hat. He has a little knit cap - what my brother calls a “homeless person hat” - which conspires with his pudgy cheeks to make him look like one of the goblins from Labyrinth. (“Bah! Where’d she learn that rubbish? It doesn’t even start with ‘I wish’.”) The impression is further reinforced by the fact that small-baby movements look weirdly Animatronic.

And that’s pretty much the news for the moment. I’m not sure precisely when my wife will be released, but I’m scheduled to go home tomorrow (Friday) and have Theron with me tomorrow night. He’s having a good time with his Nana, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to come back home.

Late Addendum: The Beautiful Woman was released on Saturday afternoon, and we are now home. This gives me sufficient Internet access to actually post this. It also means that our goal for the next few days is to make my wife stay still and recover as if she were still in the hospital. As a result of the hospital's wireless Internet connection being entirely unreliable, I posted a much shorter announcement of Roland's birth over on the Blog O' Doom; it didn't say anything that wasn't covered in the first two paragraphs of this entry.

Theron did spend Friday night in his own home; I transformed the couch in our living room into a bed, and we fell asleep watching Maggie and the Ferocious Beast (an absolutely charming little show). On Saturday, he went with his aunt and uncle (my brother and his wife) to see the horses at the stables, and then went to spend the night with my parents. As a result, my wife's first night back at home featured only a single child. 

Man. Where did the week go?

* Nana and Poppy are my wife’s parents; my parents are Grandmommy and Grand-daddy. 

** They had one on each leg, and every so often they would start a pattern of tightening and loosening. I can’t imagine actually sleeping with something doing that to your legs; when they finally took them off on the morning of the 16th, the Beautiful Woman’s legs looked like the back of a camel with three distinct humps. That, by the way, is her description - not mine.