Blanche Is Here!

No amount of preparation—not three years of working with children, nine months of reading, two full days of birthing class, five trips to the hospital, weekly clinic visits, Babies ‘R Us tours or countless hours of personal meditation—none of that could ever prepare a father to write this entry. There is so much to write, so much to show, and this is just the start. I promise I’ll post more pictures and share more thoughts about our four-day hospital stay–which prevented speedier posting–very soon.

Blanche Case Hoeger was born at 11:17 pm on Wednesday, March 10, 2010, and the hours surrounding that birth are at once the most memorable and blurriest of my life. I could try to describe those emotions, and I likely will, but no word captures the gravity of the experience. Luckily, I composed myself enough to realize how difficult those moments would be to depict, and took what I thought were detailed and pertinent notes on a hospital paper towel. So, I’ll give you a taste of the timeline.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010:

11:00-7:00: Kristie hits the town in an attempt to encourage Blanche’s arrival. Our doctor had sent us to the hospital after our Tuesday checkup, but we were sent home a few hours later. The contractions were long and increasingly painful, but weren’t yet changing the cervix. Kristie hoped that with trips to a few boutiques, a seafood lunch and a robust walk around the Mall of America, a cervical change would be in order. Friends later described her as being the crabbiest they’d ever seen.

7:00: Kristie arrives home, where I’m doing my usual weeknight routine: fixing a small dinner, checking the dishes and laundry, and wondering if my day was difficult enough to merit a guilt-free beer (it wasn’t this day). Kristie takes a bath, and brings with her a glass of white wine. Her MOA companion insisted a glass of wine pushed her mother into labor.

8:15: Bath over, Kristie plods back downstairs, where Nils is enjoying his favorite television show, Modern Family.

8:19: Kristie finishes her glass of wine.

8:19:30: Kristie places the empty glass on the coffee table.

8:20: Kristie’s water erupts! Membranes exploding! Gushing! Pants soaked! Towel retrieved, but not in time to save the quilt or the couch cushion from a tidal wave of baby water. New underwear, new pants, another towel. Throw the blankets in a pile. Put the cushion somewhere where Atlas won’t lick it. Pads. More pads. General chaos.

8:25: I jump in the shower. Don’t worry—a brief one! I was sweaty from running, and we were well-versed in how this works. It’s not *cliche alert!* like the movies. You have some time to gather yourselves.

8:45: Clean, packed and under control, we leave for the hospital. The drive’s fifteen minutes are the clearest and most focused of my life. I wouldn’t call it an epiphany, but this was the unmistakable moment where things became irreversibly real. There was such finality; an end to something that, until that precise moment, seems forever away. I will never forget how I felt as I plummeted down the on-ramp on to I-35; I couldn’t see the lines, didn’t feel the traffic. I saw only, at light speed, the path in front of me, on roads both asphalt and parental.

9:00: We arrive at the hospital, and though we already knew this was far different than our five previous trips, it became blatant when Kristie couldn’t make it from the car to the door. As she propped herself up against a stop sign, I jogged into the lobby and snagged a wheelchair. Kristie was in more pain than I had ever seen. During contractions, I was instructed to say nothing. (I remember being told to ‘shut up,’ but Kristie claims she only said ‘don’t talk.’ I’m probably embellishing, but it was a ‘don’t talk’ firm enough to equal ‘shut up.’) In between contractions, recovery was paramount. There was minimal conversation, limited to me asking her what I did that helped during the last contraction and what didn’t work. I didn’t mention that she was squeezing the life out of my fingers, so much that I worried circulation would never make it back to the fingertips.

9:05: In the Maternal Assessment Center, our nurse tells us tonight is finally the night, as if we weren’t already certain. She does the usual monitoring and paperwork, and I answer most of the questions while Kristie either swears her way through a contraction or begs for the epidural. She says things like “Why do people do this?” and “I don’t care what you do, I just want the epidural.” Suddenly, a fear of needles takes a far back seat to labor pain.

9:20: Finally, our nurse, the wonderful Danica (Da-NEE-ka) examines Kristie and finds that she is dilated to four centimeters. For you pregnancy rookies, ten is when we push. She had been dilated one centimeter for a few weeks, and was at two the day before. We soon get wheeled into the delivery room.

9:45-10:00: While I try to get settled into what I imagine will be a long night in and around this room, Kristie continues to beg for the painkilling magic. She barely has time in between contractions to steady her hand, sign the consent forms and position her body for the anesthesiologist. I pace around the room, offering my hand during times of pain, and trying to get out of the nurses’ way in general. It is a very quiet room.

10:00: The epidural is administered. It may take up to 20 minutes to fully set in, the doctor tells us.

10:25: Kristie is now dilated to seven centimeters. Turns out, this is like the movies! Forget the hours spent learning about birthing positions. No walking the halls to increase contractions. No shower to relax the body. No yoga ball. No bending over a chair. No squats.

10:40: We are fully dilated: ten centimeters. And without any help. The epidural is beginning to take hold, and Kristie tries to find the position that best allows her to focus her energy to combat the still painful contractions. At this point, Blanche is a birth canal luger. She wants out. But we wait for our doctor. I grab the cameras, and since I am the only one in the delivery room (the events happened way too fast for anyone to make it), I have the camera in my left hand and the video camera in my right. It gets trickier when the nurse asks me to help brace against Kristie’s leg as she pushes.

11:00: Doctor Block arrives! Time to push. She reaches in a checks for Blanche. “Hey pretty baby!” she says as the nurses tie her scrubs. Kristie gets pushing instructions from the nurses. Doctor Block inadvertently brings up “the next pregnancy,” which horrifies Kristie. “I know, that’s almost cruel of me,” Dr. Block says.

11:08: Kristie begins to push. She does four ten-second pushes, with Dr. Block kindly asking if she “has another one” after the third. “Everybody’s excited to have you here!” she says to Blanche.

11:10: Another round of pushing. Danica joins the crowd and coaches Kristie through the pushing. I am without words. Blanche isn’t thrilled about coming out, so we grab a vacuum extractor, which Dr. Block attaches to Blanche’s yet-to-emerge head.

11:14: The vacuum extractor, with the help of Kristie’s massive pushes, brings Blanche down, and after three long thrusts, Kristie says she doesn’t “have another one” in her. She is having “a muscle spasm in my butt.”

11:15: Head is out, but the shoulders are stuck. “Oh my gosh, she’s got her hands up here,” Dr. Block says. “For gosh sakes.” Blanche loves to have her hands up at her face, and as you might imagine, this makes coming out of a vagina a bit more challenging.

11:16: I try to get the birth on video tastefully. Kristie, I knew, was hesitant about me videotaping the birth in its full grotesque nature. Since she was busy, I took the liberty of ignoring her concerns. I was not about to let this moment go undocumented. Kristie’s pushes, at this point, are quite impressive. She lines up multiple consecutive ten-second thrusts, holding her breath for each. “She’s not that big,” remarks Doctor Block as she’s about to emerge.

11:17: Blanche is born! It’s now, when I see them remove her and place her on Kristie’s chest, when my voice is first heard. It’s not a word I force out, just a groan of amazement. I can’t even figure out what letters would accurately illustrate the sound. “You made us all sweat,” Dr. Block says. “But you’re awfully sweet!” I cut the umbilical cord.

Kristie was tougher and more determined during labor than I had ever seen her before.  Seeing her in that amount of pain and feeling completely helpless was incredibly difficult. All I could do was be an emotional presence and exude the most positive energy that I could (remember: no talking).  The focus she showed on that second-floor hospital bed was awe-inspiring. “I pushed a baby out!” she kept saying during our stay. It is pretty remarkable when you put it that way, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Two hours, 57 minutes. In less than three hours, I went from a childless, TV-watching lounger, to a father of a magical 5 pound, 14 ounce, 18.5 inch baby girl. The mere thought of that moment still overwhelms me. I imagine it always will.

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4 Responses to “Blanche Is Here!”

  1. Molly Says:

    Nils, I’ve been reading along quietly since we got the newsletter from the center. But after reading this, I had to say something. You write beautifully. This is so sweet and real and touching.

    Congrats to all three of you. You have a lovely family.

  2. Nils Says:

    Thanks! That’s very kind of you. I aspire to have a blog like yours.

  3. Mommytude Says:

    Congrats Nils and Kristie! Blanche is beautiful.
    -Maria B’s mom

  4. Molly Says:

    Well thank you. I think you are well on your way to having a wonderful blog and a great gift for her (and all of you) someday!

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