The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.
– Robert Burns, To a Mouse
I kind of accidentally became a father this weekend. Well, “accidentally” might bring up the wrong connotations here; this was coming eventually – everyone knew it – I just wasn’t expecting it to happen in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania!
Yes, my wife went into labor early Saturday morning when her water broke about five hours after arriving at Faire Play for Legacy’s second season opener. No, she didn’t squirt the kid out then and there, and neither did we end up having to go to the local hospital – especially since it looks like something you’d find out of Silent Hill – instead, we bundled everything back into the car and set out for Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown at around 1:30 in the morning. We left in such a hurry that I still have stage make-up on my hands from the character I was playing just prior to being told, in a panicked rush, that my wife left a big old amniotic fluid stain on the floorboards of the main Faire Play building.
We arrived at the hospital at around 4:30 in the morning with about a quarter of a gallon of gas left in the tank. On the trip down, my wife’s contractions had begun. At first they weren’t that bad – as someone who’s suffered from polycystic ovaries and endometriosis for years, Pam’s grown accustomed to incredibly painful period cramps – but by the time we had finally gotten upstairs to Labor and Delivery she was huffing and puffing with enough intensity to blow a whole row of Levittown houses down.
By around 6, we were moved from Triage into an actual delivery room. My wife’s cervix had only dilated a few inches since we had arrived at the hospital, and we both decided that I would run home and pick up the things we were going to need. We had pre-packed a birthing bag with an assortment of clothes and toiletries but we hadn’t taken it with us considering how we were told, at our last appointment with her obstetrician, that we shouldn’t have any trouble going away for the weekend (ha!), and there were a few other things we were going to need, like the baby carrier. It took me about an hour or so round trip, and by the time I got back to the hospital, Pam had dilated to 5.9 centimeters and she was beginning to feel like there was a tiny Rocky Balboa pummeling her cervix from the inside every time a contraction hit.
When the wife and I had originally drafted our birth plan, we made the decision to have as natural a birth as possible. She wanted to forego any sort of pain medication like an epidural, and we had long, detailed plans for every aspect of the delivery from using a birthing ball to meditation and breathing exercises to all sorts of granola, but when her cervix hit around 7 to 8 centimeters of dilation and her body began to more or less start pushing on its own no matter how hard she tried not to, we made the decision to get the anesthesiologist in there. She was getting so exhausted by trying to fight against her body’s natural urges that my wife was afraid she’d have nothing left when it finally did come time to push. On top of that, she was running the risk of causing her cervix to swell every time she pushed before she was fully dilated, which would have led to the kinds of serious birth complications that could cause an emergency c-section, so we went for the epidural after all; it made a profound difference.
About 45 minutes after the epidural went into effect, my wife was fully dilated. At 9:51 AM on Saturday morning, with a nurse holding one of my wife’s legs and me holding the other, our daughter, Eleanor Rose DeMar, was born, weighing 4 pounds 12.7 ounces and measuring 18 inches long. Strong and healthy despite her being born a full month before her due date, little Ellie escaped ending up in the NICU and has been in our presence the entire time, sleeping peacefully and charming the pants off of everyone that she meets.
I still can’t believe I’m a father. It all happened so incredibly fast, and well before I expected it to. Hell, we had just begun to straighten the house and get it ready for our impending new arrival! Let this go to show you that no matter how well you plan and how exhaustive those plans may be, you should be prepared to watch those beautiful plans go sailing right out the window at escape velocity.
It’s so worth it though. I mean, just look at this face: