Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hello, babies.

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind.
-Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Monahans are, by nature, pale, impractical, too nice, and cripplingly tardy. It's kind of our thing. And I was sure this baby would inherit my wide, dragging feet, eschewing a December 15th birth to finish drying her hair, to reread an old coupon booklet, to rewatch the season premier of Kourtney and Kim Take New York. Plus my doctor more or less implied that I'd end up spending Christmas Eve on a steady drip of yuletide pitocin.

But I guess I should've realized that it was just as likely she'd take after Matt- the prompt foil to my stunted sense of timeliness. This baby wasn't just on time. She was a day early. Dad genes 1, Mom jeans genes 0.

On labor...
After six hospital-given childbirth classes, one thorough reading of Jenny McCarthy's overly honest ode to childbirth, and one viewing of "The Business of Being Born," I was left with a confused understanding of what labor would entail. Maybe it meant soft-focus 80s videos of women in overalls moaning on the arms of bewildered and mustacheod husbands. Maybe there would be screaming or laughter or complete peace or Ricki Lake. For someone who'd consumed copious amounts of information over the past nine months, I was pretty clueless... and maybe that was the best way to be.

I picked my mom up from the airport that Tuesday night, confident we'd spend the next week staring at bowls of broccoli cheddar soup, waiting for something to happen. But, as it happens, the actual wait only lasted another six hour or so. I woke up at 1:30 a.m. with dull cramps that picked up in intensity and regularity as a I sat alone in the dark downstairs, watching bits and pieces of bad movies (had I known I was in the midst of something relatively momentous, I would've splurged on a new release). That morning, I scrambled to hand off my remaining work projects via email while my mom wrapped Christmas presents. We left for my regular doctor's appointment at 1:00 but never made it that far. By the time we reached 72nd and Dodge, my contractions were four minutes apart, so I pulled into a Burger King parking lot (no, I shouldn't have been driving, but hindsight is not in labor) and called my OB while my mom ordered chicken tenders. Within five minutes, we were checked into Bergan. Matt stopped at home to shave his pregnancy beard and met us there, camera in hand.

On birth...
I had resolved to make the whole epidural issue a game-time decision. I wasn't about to decide whether or not I could handle the pain until I knew what the pain was like. I ultimately went for the good stuff, and I'm glad I did. Maybe next time I won't. Who knows. But it sure was nice to be able to watch Modern Family and joke around before, as Matt later put it, shit got real.

Around 9 p.m., I was ready to push. The downside of the epidural is that I had to be told I was ready to do everything. In the movies, the woman tells you she's ready by throwing a bed pan at the TV or breathing fire or whatever. From there, everything moved quickly. And when the baby's heart rate became cause for concern, things moved really quickly- forceps quickly. Emilia Clare Kraemer was born at 9:17, wide eyed, angry and beautiful.

Matt took some amazing pictures of those first few minutes, one of which I submitted to Babble, along with my own inadequate description of what it's like to hold your brand new person for the very first time.

After Emilia had been cleaned up, evaluated and issued the standard hospital hat, and my placenta whisked away to the place where placentas go, our families were able to join us. Matt's mom and step dad had hopped in the car as I was choking down my last chicken tender, and made it to Omaha from Minneapolis mere minutes before Emilia was born. Looking back on that night, everything was so incredibly strange in the best way possible. Upstairs in our recovery room, Matt and I split my "You Just Gave Birth, Now Eat Something" box of food and stared at our progeny, careful not to get sandwich crumbs on her perfect baby eyebrows.

On Emilia...
Perhaps I'm biased, but I'm pretty sure she's completely wonderful. Her hair is wonderful. Her pout is wonderful. Her long monkey arms. Her crooked smile. The way her eyes light up when she sees Matt. The hilarious things she's so desperate to say. The ever-deepening appreciation I have for the guy I married who is now almost as into babies as he's into books. All of it. And I never, ever want to forget how lucky we are.
I've created puppets ever since I was 10 years old, but there's nothing like creating a human being. That's amazing.
-Kevin Clash, Being Elmo
Nearly 12 weeks after the Burger King contractions, as I prepare to leave our warm nest where showers are optional and the Today Show is compulsory, I'm glad to be past the first few nearly sleepless weeks, I'm mourning the loss of so much unadulterated quality time together, and I'm looking forward to things to come. We'll have a routine. We'll have warm walks through Memorial Park and our first family road trip. And then after that, we'll have a lot of other stuff I guess. I can't wait.


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