It happened eight weeks and three days ago, and it was both wonderful and terrifying. Of course rationally, it started long before that, from the moment of finding out that she was pregnant. Colleen had decided to show up four weeks and three days early, which completely threw us for a loop. Knowing her today, I realize that is just her personality. My wife called me frantically on a Wednesday morning. We work in the same building so she had a friend track me down. He looked confused, not sure why he had been enlisted, but told me she sounded serious. I knew what it was immediately.
I dropped her off at the entrance to Hartford Hospital. I spoke to my sister-in-law, telling her we wouldn't be able to babysit her kids. I dropped my car at the Valet and bolted the stairs, as if we had only moments. The other passenger in the elevator asked me if my wife was having a baby. We must all have a look.
Colleen waited, having seconds thoughts about her entrance. Maybe she had picked up on all those makeover shows her mom watched while she was in the womb and wanted to be more glamorous. So we sat in Hartford hospital, listening to the calming sound of Colleen's heartbeat. The doctors told us her heartbeat was a good, strong indication of her health. Still, a doctor from the NICU came in to have a scary conversation about the needs of our child post birth. Our doctors told us it was silly and at almost 36 weeks, she would be fine.
At some point I fell asleep on the man cot--a bed converted from the wing back chair. My mind registered midnight tests, gentle talks with nurses, a relieved doctor. I slept well with the loud heartbeat permeating the room. Around 4:30 my wife woke me up and said she was not officially in labor, but that her doctor told her she was staying until the baby came out. I was sent to work so I didn't dig into my two week leave.
The day was a mix of colleagues giving me curious glances, while some gave me blatant dirty looks. They wanted to know why I wasn't there, how was she, what kind of thoughts were going through my head? Despite this, I am now told I was smiling the entire day, happy for the pregnancy to finally be over. Not quite.
I returned to Hartford Hospital after work, feeling more comfortable with the place. There had been no movement in the labor front, so I planned orchestrated strikes on the cafeteria, reveling in the thought of carte blanche eating for the night. My weight loss plan, which had detailed losing 10-20 pounds before the baby arrived, was scuttled. I brought back a big cookie, some popcorn and a slice of pizza. My wife was served hospital food, the end being nowhere in sight for her.
Around 5:30 another doctor came in and my wife asked him about her fluid levels. It was a last minute question, spoken as he was nearly out of the door. Nevertheless, we both remember it as being the beginning of the rollercoaster ride through maternity neverland. He stopped in midstride, turned back and looked at my wife's chart. His amiable face, so pleasant a few moments earlier, turned dour. He was nervous and didn't want to wait anymore. If she was born that day, she would be an automatic NICU patient. Hartford's NICU was so fall, they were using other nursery rooms and offices. We would have to be transferred.
My wife's heart catapulted, and for a time they thought they would have no choice but to perform a C-section on the spot. We were taken into the OR, where her heart finally settled down. I managed to make her laugh by accidentally locking all my street clothes, as well as the locker key in the OR locker. We share our klutziness, a trait we are both positive Colleen will inherit. She was walked back into the room while they tried to find a space for the delivery. It took two security guards with fifteen keys and three maintenance men with a manual screwdriver, hacksaw, wrench, broken key and two power screwdrivers, to release my belongings. The entire time they kept asking me if I was sure I needed my things. I was positive.
At some point we were told we were being transferred to the UConn Medical Center, which was not the best news for us. UConn is even further away from our home than Hartford Hospital, and many of our friends were unfamiliar with us. Fortunately, both sets of parents were in Florida (mine live there 365 while my wife's were on vacation), so we didn't have an entourage. My wife was going to be sent by ambulance, while I went ahead in my car. It was around 11 oclock at night when I left Hartford, realizing I had become attached to the hospital. It was February 28th and the possibility of a leap day baby was clanging around in my head.
I arrived at UConn Medical Center at approximately 11:45 and felt more relaxed and secure. The nurses told me I had a short time to acquiring food, so I ran to the cafeteria. My first disappointment was the cafeteria, which had no hot food, and a smattering of bread and chips. I ended up with a bagel, chips and some sort of juice. My poor wife wouldn't be able to eat until she gave birth.
After about an hour of pacing, and uncomfortably watching a Law and Order episode, my wife arrived. Her long journey was over and she looked exhausted. The room was bigger, but lacked a key feature--there were no windows. In the dead of night, I didn't notice. But days of being in a dungeon, stuffed in the basement at UConn, turned out to be a tough experience. What kind of stupid bureaucrat number cruncher puts a maternity ward in a basement? That's like putting a psych ward on the roof.
Inducing pregnancy isn't as easy as it sounds. The gory details are unnecessary, but lets just say that Colleen wasn't a leap baby. The night of the 29th, my wife finally had the kind of contractions that were necessary for labor. We were to get some rest and maybe we would have a baby in 12 hours. We both slept, the man cot was bigger at UConn, and in the morning I found myself voracious. At 7:30, I walked up to the cafeteria and ravaged a waffle with strawberries. I was halfway through an omelet when I received the call. She was ready to go.
When I arrived back there was a doctor who said my wife would be ready in about an hour or so. We breathed a little relief. My wife looked tired but a relieved smile crossed her cheeks. Then another doctor came in, took a look, and we were being wheeled into the delivery room. It was 8:00 am.
At 8:14 am, Colleen showed up. She was purple, which surprised me. The doctor asked me if I wanted to cut the cord. I didn't.
There's a lot of half memories. I remember texting people, and have evidence I did. People asked me details, which I vaguely gave. Being a preemie, Colleen was taken into the NICU first, and I rushed off to see her. Her vitals were all fine, so I proudly carried her into the room and handed her to my wife. She managed to muster the strength to hold Colleen for a minute, and then I brought her back to the NICU.
For all the fussing Hartford made about not having a NICU bed, it turned out Colleen spent 48 minutes officially there. Unofficially, she was in there for about four hours, but that was due to the fact that there were no nursery beds available. She was perfect.
I'm writing this today because quite frankly it took that long to get my head above water. I have lots of stuff from our first eight weeks, but I wanted to start here.