Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Hank!

I am sitting in my living room surrounded by gobs of helium-filled balloons in a rainbow of colors. In just a few hours fourteen children besides my own will join us for lunch, games and cake to celebrate Hank's birthday. Today Hank turns five.

Hank was born on October 17, 2002. I had expected his birth to be earlier. Much earlier. I was only five days late with Madeleine, and subsequent pregnancies were supposed to get shorter. I was convinced throughout my entire pregnancy that Hank (or Hannah; the name we probably would have chosen if he'd been a girl) would arrive pretty close to his October seventh due date.

October seventh came and went... and went... and went... and there I was. Still pregnant. By October seventeenth I was convinced I would be pregnant forever. We were still in Janesville at the time. Superdad was still in law school and I was finally staying home full-time. I remember taking Madeleine to the library that Thursday morning. It was rainy, dreary day and yet I felt at peace. When I said I felt like I'd be pregnant forever, I meant it. I really almost believed it and just accepted it.

Later that afternoon I remember Madeleine taking a nap, not as common an event as you might think of a girl who'd just turned two-years-old. I sat upstairs and paid bills and wrote some thank-you notes and cursed the Braxton-Hicks contractions I kept feeling.

Later that evening Diana came over to watch Madeleine. I was meeting Superdad in Johnson Creek, about thirty minutes north of Janesville, and there we'd drive to Milwaukee together for our last Bradly Birth class. I left around five p.m. and during the drive up to Johnson Creek my contractions started to get pretty intense and I started to realize it maybe was labor. But, like I said, I was going to be pregnant forever so I sort of just ignored them and did some shopping until I met up with Superdad.

It took Joe, like, half a second after seeing me to realize that I wasn't just sort of in labor. I told him I was fine and that we should just go to Milwaukee (a good sixty minutes east of where we were; a solid ninety minutes from Janesville). Superdad put his foot down. Home he said. I insisted I was fine and that there was no need to leave a car there. I could drive.

Once I started driving it started to rain. And then I realized that my contractions were only about four minutes apart. I think we made it back to Janesville in record time. We dashed home to pick up my hospital bag and tell Diana what was going on and this I remember vividly: Madeleine was watching Sleeping Beauty and I leaned over to kiss her good-bye and a felt a sudden pop and gush. Yep, my water broke all over my living room floor. Lovely.

I forget how dilated I was once we got to the hospital, nor do I remember the time (8 p.m.? 9 p.m.?). What I do remember is being monitored for a very short amount of time before a doctor came in whom I'd never met, and wasn't part of my obstetrician's group, and told me we were going down for a c-section, and that we were going now. Apparently there was something wrong with Hank's heart rate and he was dipping far lower than anyone was comfortable with. I don't remember what we said, but I do remember somehow asking how necessary it was and the doctor made it clear we didn't really have a choice.

And then, only fuzzy memories: drinking some awful, awful liquid, having a spinal put in and being told to hold still even though I was contracting constantly, it seemed. I remember bright lights and a ride in the elevator. I remember Joe being taken somewhere and telling them (the nurses? Doctors?) to go and bring him back. And then I remember getting into the operating room and Joe was waiting there. I remember my anthesologist asking me if I could feel him poking my stomach. I could. He looked at the obstetrician on-call (whose name I can't remember) and him shaking his head and saying, "There's no time." I remember feeling pulling and pressure and, finally, relief. I remember looking at Joe and seeing his face turn white and staring over the sheet that blocked my view. I remember being aware-- very aware-- that I couldn't hear any crying. I asked over and over, "What's going on?" I received no answer. I remember doctors rushing in and doing things on the other side of the room where I knew my baby was. I remember asking if the baby was a boy or a girl. No answer.

And then, finally, after three excruciating minutes, a cry. A loud, full-throttle new baby cry. I remember crying with happiness. So was Joe. And then, finally, someone told me the baby was a boy, and that he was going to be fine. A few minutes later another doctor I'd never seen or met before, a pediatrician, walked Hank over and stuck him a few inches from my face. I remember my first thought so, so clearly, and it was shock. For some reason I'd expected him to look just like Madeleine and I remember being surprised that he didn't. That silly thought still makes me laugh today.

There you have it. Hank's harrowing birth tale. Both older kids love the story. "Tell us about when Hank was limp and blue again, please Daddy?" they often ask.

But my favorite memory of his birth was a few hours after his 10:16 p.m. arrival into this world. After spending an hour or so by myself in recovery (Hank was taken for observation and Joe went along) I was wheeled down to the post-partum floor. As I was wheeled down the hallway Joe was pushing Hank out of the nursery towards our room. I met him there and even though I didn't get to see him for awhile after his birth, besides the doctors, I got to be the first person to hold him. There, in the still of the night on that quiet hospital floor I held and nursed my new son. And it was heavenly.

It's hard to believe that was five years ago. It seems overdone to say it but, it's true, the time has just flown by.

Happy birthday, dear Hanker-buddy. We love you!


Superdad said...

I remember that we asked the doctor for a few minutes alone. We went over everything we had studied about C-sections - when they are necessary and when doctors are inclined to unnecessarily push them and this was certainly in the necessary category.

For some reason, I watched the C-Section (I did with Elisabeth too). I can still see Hank’s seemingly lifeless, deep blue, limp body. I thought he was dead. I remember feeling more useless then I have at any other time in my life. I could do nothing but watch and pray as strangers worked to save my son’s life. They are still all strangers today. I have no idea who any of them are; I don’t even remember what they looked like. They saved him and I thank God that they were there.

And today, our Hank - the cute little boy who can get away with just about anything by flashing that big warm smile - has been with us for 5 years! I love you buddy!!!!

terri said...

There were only 16 kids there today? No way!!!!

But seriously. That is SO SO SO scary. I can just feel the sheer terror of the nurses in the room, but I can't even begin to imagine yours.

Happy Birthday, Hank! What a great kid! :)

terri said...

17. not sure how i just forgot you have 3.

Erin said...

I have never read this. I had no idea how scary Hank's birth story was! Oh Cate! Poor Joe! I can just picture him watching.

Was the cord wrapped around Hank's neck? Why was he not doing well during labor? Did you ever ask the "doctor strangers" those questions?

I would kiss Hank's forehead right now if he was sitting next to me. Would he roll his eyes?