Friday, December 17, 2004

Ok, This is what Happened

It seemed like he'd never show up, and I was beginning to get a little embarassed. I mean, on November 20th, I sent text messages to everyone I knew in town inviting them to join the baby pool. Frankie had been trying to make an early appearance, but the doctor's medicine told him no. Now that Maggie was off the medicine, we all just felt that he was going to spring out and say "Where's the wishbone?"

But when Thanksgiving finally came, I had been out of the pool for four days, losing my 100NT$ on 11/22 at 11:22 a.m. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. My wife picked Deceber 2nd, and four of the women in our office followed suit, thinking that Maggie had inside information. But that day, too, passed with not so much as an ankle.

Then, there were the 7th and 8th of December, two days which we wanted to avoid for reasons which include the bombing of Pearl Harbor and John Lennon's murder. We were not disappointed. He didn't show up on the 9th, either. December 12th would have been a great day to have a kid, because the 54 days of maternity leave would run out on the first day of Chinese New Year, giving Maggie and extra week of time off.

On two days, there were false alarms. Both times I was caught totally by surprise and nudged off balance enough to crack the headlamp on the family car one time, and to drive home instead of to the restaurant the second time. Both times, I was admonished for being too nervous, and reminded that I have a habit of doing things terribly wrong when I get nervous.

So, after the doctor told us that we ought to consider inducing labor for the little fella who he thought was only going to be 3.4kg, we didn't want to wait too long. Maggie's father the FengShui expert advised us that Tuesday or Wednesday would be fine days to have a baby. Sure enough, there were eight C-sections scheduled at our hospital on those two days.

We turned up at the clinic at 11:30, but the staff was hungry, and they suggested that we were probably hungry as well, and after agreeing we went to SuBau at the Temple just behind the clinic. I had the lasagna and mama had seafood rice. The carbohydrates must have helped.

At 2:30p.m., we were back in the second floor ward, with a glucose drip and the various trimmings that come with induced labor. And then, we waited. Mama with her newspaper, and I with a Stephen Ambrose book. By the time, labor pains were racking my wife, the D-Day invasion was just getting under way and it was very difficult to find my place in the book while she clutched at my arm. When the commandos came over the hill to reinforce D Company at Ranville, the contractions were 70 seconds long and 45 seconds apart and the anesthesiologist came in with Maggie's epidural.

My wife will drink vodka like it's going out of style when she's in the mood, but she swore she didn't want any pain management. She was worried about the needle in the spinal cord and all that, but pain in the present tense trumped all over that.

We slept through the night about 30 minutes at a time. The jackass next to us had nothing better to do than to change the ring tones on his dageda every few minutes. In between these Bushian flip-flops between "Jingle Bells," "Mission Impossible," and "La Bamba" he played some insipid game that beeped and belched every time he pressed a button. I could have boxed his ears through the curtain pretty easily, but that would be uncivilized. I took off the shoes which I had been wearing for 15 hours and slipped them under his cot.

At 10:00 in the morning, Maggie was fully dilated and the drugs were wearing off. The third C-section was over and 30 minutes and two trips to the bathroom later, we walked together into the delivery room.

There are no classes offered to expectant couples who might want to have an inkling of what to expect in the delivery room. There was no tour of the facility. Hell, my wife was on the way to intensive labor pains by the time one of the nurses finally told her about breathing. Five hours before, I had imparted all the wisdom I gleaned from episodes of General Hospital and wrapped up the lesson with the observation that it was something which would have been appropriate material for a class.

This is Taiwan for chrissakes! School is the national pasttime! "What are you going to do on your vacation?" "I will going to study the test :-)" Childbirth class? No. Not a chance. Not as important as the GEPT. Waste of time. Most fathers don't go into the room with their wives anyway. Turns out Taiwanese men are a bunch of wimps when it comes to the sight of blood or bodily fluid and wouldn't be caught dead near a table with stirrups.

After Maggie had been pushing for an hour, the doctor recommended she do some squats. I knew that if I had done more than mouth the words "It would have been nice to have had a class about this" I would have gotten a fist in the nuts. Franklin is a stubborn little fella, but the doctor blamed it on the anti-contraction medication.

At 12:45, the doctor had changed his camelhair jacket for a set of mismatched scrubs and said that he was hungry again. Their lunch boxes had arrived and he was looking for someone with some money to go pay for them. The doctor looked at us and said, if you don't have a baby in three minutes, I'm going to help.

There was no class to prepare me for what was about to happen, but luckily I can read, and had read about vacuum assisted deliveries. What I didn't know was that in addition to the vacuum, there was to be the assistance of the doctor's colleague, an obstetrician who is built like a wrestler, who leaned over my wife's belly and with his forearm bore down on her belly. His head popped out with an arm, confusing the nurse a bit, but reminding us somewhat of Superman. Now, more powerfulthan a steaming locomotive, Franklin Harrison Batt finally made an appearance.

And what a sight he was. Goodness. Babies aren't purple in the movies. I was afraid something had gone horrible wrong. I told Maggie she'd been eating too many grapes and had gone and given birth to one. Everything slowed down. I leaned over and kissed my wife and told her that our son was beautiful, although I wasn't really convinced at that point. His air passage was cleared and the cord clipped. I had no idea that an umbilical cord was so colorful. It's a damn shame that my mother-in-law talked me into not taking my camera into that room.

A smack on the backside, and a final APGAR score of 7.9, and the screaming manchild was wrapped in a blanket and placed between his mother and father. He immediately stopped crying and I told him, "Hello there, little buddy."

Next he went behind a curtain to be weighed. "4100 grams!" gasped the nurse. "Wo de Tian-a!" exclaimed the doctor. Maggie didn't say anything, she just kinda lay there with a silly look on her face. We both heard A-ma's exhorations outside. The mood was electric. Franklin was presented to the crowds and then retired to the newborns' lounge for cocktails and a massage.

That's how our little boy came to life before my very eyes less than 72 hours ago. The cliche holds true: The world truly does look different.

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