Monday, August 4, 2008

It's a boy!

Joseph Martin Amsler was born just shy of midnight, August 2. I've got plenty to say on that in a second, probably more than you wanted to know. But let's get the piano talk out of the way first. Not much is going on. There has been no time to sit down at the piano, as you can imagine. Nor have I missed it. The next few days might have some time, however, as I am staying home to:

a) Keep the kids off Sue
b) Make meals
c) Change diapers
d) Take pictures
e) Periodically check emails when there is nothing better to do
f) Update this blog with updates on the baby. Mostly stuff like "took another nap. Seems tired from the move."
g) Work like a dog.*

Take your pick there. Multiple answers are accepted. The correct answer(s) depend(s) on your role in my life. Unless you are my manager, in which case the only answer is g) (hello, Mr. O'Neil, thanks for dropping by, I'm setting up that session on AJAX and Rich UI Development Frameworks, I promise).

* - Why "work like a dog?" I have known many dogs. Very few worked, and those that did had an awful attention span. I was going to quote Homer Simpson here ("I work like a Japanese beaver!"), but I felt like that would have been too obscure.

I'm getting good and useful feedback from the various places where I've posted my Limbo clip. Thanks to all of you who have commented. If you've been wanting to post some feedback, and haven't gotten around to it, I'd welcome your comments. Any piano time over the next few days will be spend polishing Limbo and learning the LH patterns of Fuori Dal Mondo.

Anyway, since you're here, you have some interest in all this, so if you've 15 minutes to spare, and if you are interested in labor and delivery details, read on. If you just want to see a picture, here's one. I will say, he's really, REALLY cute. And this being our 4th (and final) baby, I feel like I have amassed some expertise in identifying cute babies. So trust me on this. Or see for yourself.

So here you go, the announcement I sent friends and family yesterday afternoon.

Many of you have already heard the news that Sue, Jillian, Jason, Rowan, and I welcomed Joseph Martin Amsler into the world last night, August 2, at 11:54 PM. We just completed our first-ever family pow-wow, then left to leave mommy and baby some time to rest and discuss things. On the way out, Sue reminded me that some of you are probably patiently waiting for your more detailed baby announcement, such as you’ve become accustomed to with previous Amsler babies. So here is the 4th (and final!) Amsler baby arrival announcement / recap.

To set the stage… our fourth (and final!) baby was due some time mid-August. As before, we didn’t know the sex of the child, and didn’t know exactly when to expect him. If the baby didn’t take matters into his own hands by August 8, 2008, we had tentatively scheduled that day to be induced. Many of you know that Sue is into the number 8, it being her number in college, so that date seemed like a natural choice. However, ultrasounds showed that the baby had met all requisite developmental milestones, and was sitting VERY low, perhaps ready to make a move. More importantly, mommy was CERTAINLY ready to get things over with, and it had become clear that we simply weren’t going to make it much further. Yesterday morning, we paid a quick visit to Jill, Sue’s midwife, and they decided that the time to have a baby had come.

Note: For those of you (like Sue’s brother Marty) who are not interested in Labor and Delivery details, you are going to want to skip ahead now. Scroll down until you see the words A TINY LITTLE BABY BOY

We checked into the hospital a little after 3:00. Like the pros we are, having done this three times before, we went straight to the Labor & Delivery desk. “Hi, remember us? We’re here for our fourth (and final!) baby delivery? Can we have the usual room?” Only, it was no longer the L&D desk; the hospital had done some sort of remodeling. We hung our heads like rookies and traipsed down the hall to the new L&D wing. On the way, we passed the room that Rowan had been born in (two years ago next week), and saw that it was unoccupied.

This was important, because this room has a large tub. Sue was very interested in going through labor from the comfy confines of a warm bath. We’ve gone to the swimming pool a lot this summer. And though, as you’d expect of a pregnant woman in the summer, she’s been very uncomfortable a lot of the time, she was always happy in the water. By extension, if she could go through labor in the water, she’d be more relaxed, more comfortable, and have an overall easier time of it. This being the 4th (and final! Did I mention that?) pregnancy, Sue would never again have a chance to experience this. If it didn’t work out, we could always say “Well, we tried” and call for the epidural, as we’ve done for the first three babies. Sue was excited about this, Jill was on board with it, and I was happy to spin appropriate music selections on the iPod.

Helen, our L&D nurse, was considerably less enthusiastic. Helen was a fill-in from another hospital, one with extremely conservative birth procedures. No tubs. No midwives. No walking around if your amniotic sac bursts. (“You’ll use a bedpan, and you’ll like it!”) Helen began our stay by telling us how unfamiliar she was with our hospital’s computer system. She then proceeded to whiff, twice, on connecting Sue’s IV. The first failed attempt was, in fact, as painful as anything Sue had ever felt (to that point, anyway, but hold that thought). With each step in our unconventional labor plan, Helen grew visibly less comfortable. We felt bad for her. But by the time Jill arrived later that evening, everybody was happy to let Helen take a step back and let Jill run the show.

We started the Pitcocin (a synthetic hormone that stimulates contractions) around 6:00 PM. Sue and I walked the halls a little, once or twice leaving telemetry range for the sensors. Poor Helen, chart stickler that she was, gently reminded us not to stray so far. We fought with blood pressure cuff every fifteen minutes. (“Sue, hurry, you’ve only got 12 seconds, get that thing on!” “No, Jim, not that way, it’s backwards! Oh, geeze, we’re too late!”) I got some pizza, and refused to smuggle some into my now-hungry wife. Helen was stressed out enough as it was, Lord knows how she would have taken that.

When Jill arrived around 9:00 PM, Sue had only dilated to about 3 cm. After some discussion, it was determined that it was time, now or never, to get into the tub. Apparently, they don’t do this very much, because the act of filling the thing brought a crowd of L&D nurses and techs. I think some came to watch out of morbid curiosity; others came to issue their opinions about how it should be done. This was a very lively 20 minutes or so, for all of us except poor Helen. She was mortified. “I’m just going to come in here to see what music is playing. You can’t go wrong with Van Morrison.” I bet Death Cab for Cutie would have been prohibited at her hospital?

Sue got into the tub. Sue was very, VERY happy to get into the tub. The discomfort had been steadily increasing, but that all disappeared pretty quickly. Warm water, no pressure. And I had nothing but winners coming up on the iPod.

Before going any further, let’s step back to clarify two things. First, it was not our intention to actually give birth in the water. Indeed, the hospital regulations specifically forbid this, and we knew it. (Maybe the local Baptist hospital would be OK with a full-immersion birth, but we were at a Catholic hospital.) Instead, the water was simply to make Sue more comfortable during and between contractions. Second, it wasn’t necessarily the intent to do this in lieu of an epidural. We (well, I, but what do I know?) figured she’d stay in there for awhile, and when the pain became too much to bear, she’d get out, and call for the big needle. What I underestimated was the anxiety that accompanies an epidural. It’s a really scary thing, I gather. I don’t know, though, because they kick the husbands out of the room when they give it. Three times, Sue said something along the lines of “Ok, let’s give this another 15 minutes, and see where we’re at.” Three times, 15 minutes expired, and she stayed in the water. Next thing you know, an hour had gone by, Sue was in a LOT of discomfort, and she was now 7 cm dilated. That must have taken an hour, but it seemed to go by really quickly.

However, by that point, an epidural was out of the question. Jill proposed an alternative med, something that would relax Sue much like “5 glasses of wine” would. Candy said, “Oh, you wouldn’t like Sue after five glasses of wine.” Me, I didn’t see anything wrong with this. 5 glasses of wine are how we ended up in this situation in the first place, so I found a natural symmetry to this idea. However, in order to administer the med, Sue would have to leave the tub.

No dice.

Another 30 minutes. Discomfort had turned to pain. Sue was 9 cm, and it was time to come out the warm, comfortable tub. Sue and Jill made their way from the tub to the bed, a process that took about 10 minutes, including three powerful, knee-buckling contractions. She wailed in pain during the contractions, but was still coherent enough to announce “Next song!” when I started dialing up annoying iPod selections. Suddenly I couldn’t pick any winners. It is during this time that poor Helen had seen enough and ran away screaming got to go home, because her shift was finally over. She introduced us to her replacement, Cari (I think), who said nothing, just sort of nodded in our direction, and started reading the chart.

Sue finally made it to the bed, just in time for another contraction. Jill told her it was time to push. Thing is, while the baby’s head had cleared the cervix, the cervix itself was still not entirely ready for prime time. In the middle of a contraction, Jill did something or other (I sort of lost my train of thought when she later explained what was happening… go figure). Whatever she did forever redefined the word “pain” in Sue’s mind.

If you’ve seen The Princess Bride, you know the sound. For those who haven’t (shame on you, first of all), there was a scene in which the protagonist, Wesley, was hooked up to some sort of torture device with lots of suction cups, and subjected to 50 doses of whatever it was that the machine did. His grunt / scream (a gream, if you will) sounded throughout the kingdom. Everyone, wherever they were, stopped in their tracks, alarmed, looking around, trying to figure out what the sound was, who or what was making it, and where it was coming from. Everyone except Inigo, the Spanish Swordsman, who correctly identified the sound as The Sound of Ultimate Suffering. (The movie ends well; all the good guys live happily ever after. Go rent it, or better yet, read the book.)

(In the announcement, I neglected to finish this thought...) As Sue made these sounds, I couldn't help but wonder whether they too penetrated out into the world, making people wonder "Good Heavens, what is that?"

When Sue made her first push with Jill helping, Sue greamed in a deep, gutteral way. The Sound of Ultimate Suffering was not a shriek, the kind you see in Hollywood depictions, usually for comedic effect. No, it was a deep, from-the-soul response, something that you can’t reproduce. It was also very alarming. Sue later told me she was very frightened, as if pushing would… well… be a very bad thing, let’s leave it at that. And it was at that time that “Cari” decided it was time to speak for the first time. She was making charting notes, and apparently didn’t have enough information to make a required entry.

“Um, so what would you say your pain level is right now? (On a scale of 0 to 10) a 10, maybe?”

To her credit, Sue did not kill Cari. Jill answered on Sue’s behalf that the pain level was probably a 20, and for all we know, that’s exactly what Cari wrote down. My response was to turn off the iPod. I couldn’t bear the thought of, oh, Rock Lobster coming on in the middle of a push.

Jill let Sue “relax” a little… “relax” being a relative term. Sue pushed on her own for about 10, maybe 15 minutes. Then it was time for Jill to help out again. The baby’s heartbeat began to drop, and Jill told Sue, “Look, you are in control here. You can have the baby in two minutes or ten. But I need to tell you, this baby needs to come out now.” Two pushes and three greams later (each as mournful, gut-wrenching as the first), we had a baby boy.

Not just a baby boy… A TINY LITTLE BABY BOY. (Welcome back to the story, those of you just joining us here.) It’s funny, Jillian and Jason were big babies. We induced Rowan because we were concerned she was going to be too big, and she came out a mere 7 lbs. 9 ounces (or thereabouts). It was clear to me on first sight that our little boy wasn’t even in that neighborhood. To be honest, when I heard he was 7 lbs. 1 ounce, I was surprised it was even that much.

Back to Sue. She has always (correctly) self-identified as a wimpy, lousy patient. She’s now forever cast some doubt on that status… she did this without an epidural. Those of who know her, you are, of course, aghast. And while it’s true that they don’t give out Girl Scout patches for that (insofar as I know, maybe scouting is different these days), she did say this: “I had a natural childbirth. Anything else, from now on, is going to be easy.”

Joseph is not only little, but quiet and calm. He has already nursed for about 20 minutes (and potentially more during the couple of hours it has taken me to type all this out). All his parts are in place, and he is not as beat up as his older siblings were at this point in their lives. While he can (and does) cry, he also has long spells out quiet, studious wakefulness. He has lots of hair, which seems equal parts red / brown / blond (if that is possible). Of course, Sue says he looks like me, but she always says that.

Jillian, Jason, and Rowan are beside themselves. They are so happy. Ever since we got home from the hospital, all they want to talk about is going back again.

Pictures attached. Which is, of course, what you wanted in the first place, right?

Expect mommy and son to come home tomorrow, August 4. Y’all come by and see us when you get the chance.


2ndsoprano said...

Congratulations! He is very cute!

sawtooth said...

Congratulations! Of course, this is where the digital piano with headphones would come in handy since you could play without worrying about waking up the newborn when he's sleeping. ;)

Michelle Himes said...

Congratulations!!! Joseph is a beautiful baby.

Always Wanted to Play Piano said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Sawtooth, curiously enough, when he's into doing some sleeping, I am not sure a 9' Fazioli (pauses for a moment to verify such a creature exists... confirmed) could wake him up.

Last night was a long one, though.