(Note to the reader: this blog isn't about to become a total baby blog, but the birth of my first son and his first week in the world and the existence that comes with it have brought a strong urge to write some stuff down. You'll still see beer, bike, poetry and other entries here as well.).
Saturday evening. Dinner with the parents- delays as we go to the garden to pick the Brussels sprouts. Fillet mignon on the grill, done rare, potatoes dug from the garden. Everything is good. Kate's bright pink, then not. It's hot in here, isn't it? Parents head home after dessert. Yes, that was a contraction. I've been having them on and off all day she said. Didn't want to worry you. I think of the places we went today the dump, the store. Should we have gone somewhere else? Slips of paper come out. Where's the stopwatch? How do we note these things? Wasn't there a form to fill out. A call to the doctor and she says come on in and we'll have a look. The hospital is huge in the midnight quite of Burlington..
Go home they say. Not yet. We return to be up all night. Sleep says Kate I'm fine. Four hours til daylight I spend on the couch, heart racing, listening to low moans from the room next door. She wants me to sleep.
Daylight and another slip of paper and an attempt to time the pains. We call the doctor again. Not yet. By noon she says come in and we do. The room has a view of the college campus, Kate can see the sky from the bed and the tub. Look, a "V" she says. The geese practice formations you know, she says. We walk, slow to the common room on the floor, where Lake Champlain is bright tourmaline, steam rising off the bays in a sunset that is happening somewhere, but obscured from us by heavy clouds. Rain's coming.
All night she labors. There is progress, but it is slow. It's Sunday night, it's Monday morning. This place is the passage from the life at that dinner table to another life in the same place. It's Sunday night, it's Monday morning. You have a private room but there is somebody at the door every few minutes. They watch the child's heart, the mother's heart. Sometimes they move the instrument and it only picks up every other beat, and when the number changes, which I can see and Kate cannot, I gasp, silently. Then, a nudge, all is well. I stop looking at numbers and sleep to the locomotive whooshing of my son's heart.
It's still dark and we make the call. Caesarian Section. We talk a little. Different doctors are in the room now, then gone. I pack our bags, knowing we will be in recovery soon, not knowing anything else or what to do. I clean the room, throw away the Saltine packets. They come and take her, the bed she's on, the monitors. I am given blue pajamas, a shower cap, shoe covers. I put them on. I wait.
The room that was so small feels a mile long, empty. I sit at the end facing the door, head in my hands and tired, waiting to be fetched. I think somebody at the door could make a good photograph of me right now, dramatic.
They come and get me. The operating room is the brightest place I have ever been. I sit at her head, I can see her face, her shoulders, her arms outstretched as if on the cross. She smiles and I hold her hand. Both arms and hands shake as if she will soon fly from this bed. There is jargon, so many people in the room. All of these people helping us, i think, that is so nice.
Then. Something is said and her head and shoulders tip back from me and I know they are lifting him from her. I hear his cry, I see them bring him to be weighed, and they clean him. I am asked over to see. I am given scissors to cut a symbolic inch from his umbilical cord. I look sideways, and I can see all that is happening behind the curtain from before. They are stitching, counting materials and placing them on a blue tarp on the floor. There's blood, there's a plastic bag I assume with the placenta inside, and the rest of the umbilical cord laid out long like a hunter's prize.
My son is in my arms. It is 5:48 in the morning on Monday, September 27th, and my son is in my arms. I bring him to Kate's head. hoping she can see. She's feeling nauseous, she tells the anesthesiologist. His name is Abel. We like him. He makes an adjustment and all is well. Kate on her back can see that I am holding him, can she see him? I move closer.
The operating room is done and we wheel to recovery, back to our darkened room where she labored so long. There's a dim light in the sky, and then we move again, this time the bed, the baby on the bed with his mother, me walking by their side through endless hallways with our bags. The building is an amalgamation of buildings, the windowed halls twist and turn, and I can observe, sun and fog to the north, clouds and rain south over Mount Abraham and Lincoln Peak. North again, the sun over the Winooski river valley lighting the first bright yellow leaves of fall.