And So It Came To Pass
On the evening of January 18th, at around 8 PM, my first child, Cordelia Krizsan Vogel, entered the world. She came out of Mariann, my wife. She got her mother’s facial shape, her father’s irritability, and her mother’s genitalia. The event was the joyous conclusion to 15 hours of labor. This is not as horrible as it sounds, because, as it turns out, epidurals RULE.
(For the uninitiated, when you get an epidural, what happens is that a nice person enters the room, sticks a needle into your spine, starts a steady flow of anaesthetic into it, and leaves it there. For hours and hours. It is a good measure of how horrifying childbirth is that, when it is taking place, leaving needles in your spine sounds like a great option.)
Please do not pick a fight with me over the joys of natural childbirth. Unless, of course, you want me to explain at great length how I plan to have my wisdom teeth taken out without anesthesia, so that the intrusive evils of western medicine don’t get between me and the purity and joy of my dental care.
On the bright side, once the drugs arrived, the labor was, while tiring, surprisingly pleasant. We chatted with the nurses, hung out, and occasionally napped. On the down side, at the end of it, well … While the mother doesn’t want me to go into too much detail, let’s just say that her private area looked like the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.
The Unbearable Grossness of Being
I am cursed with the ability to be interested in just about anything. Plus, I’m a jerk. This is a bad combination, as any of my friends who have had the concept of meconium explained to them by me in sticky detail can testify.
(meconium, n. the first fecal excretion of a newborn child, composed chiefly of bile, mucus, and epithelial cells. – Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. How cool is that?)
As a result, we have many sweet and charming childbirth photos:
* Baby’s first time being held by mother.
* Baby’s first scream.
* Baby’s first flinch when startled by a camera flash.
* Baby’s first angst.
I also have a number of other photos:
* Mother’s first epidural.
* Mother’s first epidural, better angle.
* Baby’s first placenta.
* Baby’s first meconium.
* Baby’s head (which looks like it had just been squeezed through a tube, because, you see, it had just been squeezed out through a tube).
We plan to have a lovely baby album, suitable for presentation to relatives, friends, and passersby. I also plan to have a second baby album, a secret, special baby album, henceforth known as Baby Album B. This will be a horror show, kept for my own private amusement, and only revealed as a surprise at a later date if Cordelia ever brings home a boyfriend I REALLY hate.
It Has Always Been This Night. It Will Always Be This Night
The first night of Cordelia’s life passed without incident. Occasionally, she would make this cute, whiny, little squeak, sort of a proto-cry, and one of us would pick her up, and she would quiet down immediately, and look adorable. “Oh, this is easy, we can do this,” we thought, being idiots.
The next night went something like this.
Midnight – 2 AM: Baby screams whenever she is set down because she is hungry. Parents do not sleep.
2 AM – 4 AM: Baby screams whenever she is set down because she really, really has to pee and has not figured out how to pee. She also screams whenever she is picked up. Parents do not sleep.
4 AM – 6 AM: Baby, having been fed and having peed prodigiously, screams whenever she is set down or picked up because, in her tiny brain, all she can ever remember doing is screaming, and, to her, it is the perfectly reasonable and expected thing to do. Parents do not sleep.
6 AM: Parents give up this weird iron-man, “I WILL outlast the baby” thing they are doing and let nurses take baby away for a little while. Baby instantly stops screaming and goes to sleep like an angel. Father thinks baby is a little suck-up.
8 AM: Baby returned to parents. Screaming instantly resumes.
Please understand that all of this is completely accurate and free of exaggeration. Daddy has a bad feeling about this situation.
A Word About Worries Regarding Dealing With the Grossness
I was extremely worried about my ability to deal with, not to put too fine a point on this, shit. You know, feces. I thought it would completely gross me out.
Yet, much as a terrified young man oft becomes a bloodthirsty killer when faced with the immediate reality of battle, fatigue and necessity made the grossness absolutely no problem at all.
To clarify the point. When the baby was crying on its first night, the nurse and I placed it on the changing table to check if the diaper was dirty. Not wanting to deal with the bother of rediapering if I removed the diaper and it was clean, I jammed my finger inside it without hesitation, not being sure what I would find.
It felt dry. Just to make sure, I ran my finger around inside for a little bit. Oddly, something stuck to my finger. Something gooey. I pulled my finger out. Attached to the tip was a round, translucent, pearly white wad of goo, about the size of a pea. I showed it to Mariann. She didn’t know what it was. I showed it to the nurse, who immediately said “Oh, that’s just a wad of mucus. It came out of the vagina.”
The wad of goo hung from my fingertip, stickily.
It was at this precise moment that my soul left my body.
I went into the bathroom to wash it off. Then, thinking better of it, I returned to the room, grabbed the camera, took two good, close pictures of my finger and the goo for Baby Album B, and went to wash my hands really well.
I am no longer worried about grossness. Sure, the feces will become much more smelly and voluminous than they are now. I am SO unconcerned.
Meeting My Child
After Cordelia came out, I went over to where they were cleaning off the slime and moist unpleasantness so I could get a good look at her. The nurse said “Say something to her.” The first words she will ever hear from her father. The words that begin the journey, where I help her develop from a helpless primate into a productive member of society. But no pressure.
Being groggy and about 8 seconds into my first experience with newborns, I said the first thing which came into my mind: “Hello, Cordelia. Welcome to the world. It’s not going to get much better.”
The nurses did not approve. I don’t feel too bad about it though because
i. I stand by my statement, and
ii. As far as I know, my daughter does not yet speak English.
Amount Of Time Elapsed Before I First Poked a Sleeping Baby to Make Sure She Was Still Alive
About six hours.
Oh, and One Other Thing
Our daughter is named after King Lear’s nice daughter.
She is NOT named after the character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.