Thursday, March 12, 2009


Some thoughts on birth and the baby as we enter week seven of parenthood.

The name

True story. One day, at least a year before we seriously considered attempting pregnancy, I found myself standing in the shower spontaneously pondering baby names. Mrs. VFR and I hadn't discussed anything of the sort in months.

But there I stood, rinsing shampoo out of my hair, and the name "Eliza" popped into my head. I immediately loved it. It fit predetermined criteria. Old, but not Mabel. Classic, but not overly popular.

It was more than the fact it merely passed those initial tests. It had this intangible: It just clicked right away. It sounded right. Eliza VFR. Yes.

I filed this nugget away and proceeded with getting ready for my day, thinking I'd unearth that thought again many months down the road. While I was drying off, Ericka came in to ask me a question. When she was done, she said:

"By the way, I was thinking of baby names for some reason. What do you think of the name Eliza?"

We never really considered anything else.

Numbers game

A little background on the mushier side of my marriage: Ericka and I often say "123" to each other, which is code for "I love you."

This is a little tradition that started on her side of the family. When her brother, Bullfrog, was a fierce southpaw on the mound in high school, her mom would always shout "I love you!" to him from the stands, much to his embarrassment.

He told her to stop; she wouldn't budge.

They eventually compromised on 123. One. Two. Three. I. Love. You. Bullfrog allowed her to shout this from the stands, and it quickly became a family trademark that carried over into our marriage.

It's important to us. Our wedding rings are inscribed on the inside with "One. Two. Three" and our wedding date.

So you can imagine our joy when Eliza was born, two days late, on January 23. 1/23.

Darth Vader visits

For the months leading up to the birth, we did a ton of research on natural birth versus C-section and the general labor process. Ericka concluded that she wanted as natural a birth as possible.

There were a lot of reasons for this, but the crux of it was that she wanted to avoid a C-section, unless an emergency required one.

From our studies, we knew that epidurals can often slow down the labor process, leading antsy doctors to administer the drug Pitocin, which speeds it up. Pitocin can also put undue stress on the awaiting baby, thus creating the sudden need for a C-section.

That cycle was burned into our minds. Epidural = Pitocin = C-section.

She was open to the epidural, but was going to give it her best shot without one. And I was slated to be her advocate during the hospital "experience." Her doula. Her voice of reason. This was the great birth plan.

Here's how it actually went down: My poor wife endured 55 hours of labor by the time they finally induced her, which caused her contractions to exponentially increase in severity.

She rolled around on the birthing ball and soaked in the jacuzzi in our room in hopes of soothing the daggers shooting into her stomach. But nothing really dulled the pain. More worrisome, she wasn't dilating. At all. All this pain, and no gain.

So the prospect of intervention was on the horizon when Ericka looked at me, and in a dark, low voice that sounded like Darth Vader, she said: "I want ... an epidural."

I assumed my role as advocate. "OK, let's slow down and talk about that," I said. "We can do that. Just remember that could slow things down, and --"

"NOW!" she bellowed.

"OK, just remember that it could --"

"NOW!" Darth Vader said.

Heil, epidural

I arranged the epidural.

A few minutes later, an anesthesiologist named Dr. Swastik arrived.

I kid you not. That was the dude's name. I wondered why he never changed it. I also wondered if my baby would someday display an irrational obsession with marching band and Meister Brau.

(Poor guy. I mean, seriously, now he's got some wise-ass cracking on him in a blog entry when all he did was deliver a fantastic epidural).

I left the room for about a half hour while Dr. Swastik administered the epidural. When I came back, Darth Vader had departed and my wonderful, smiling wife had returned.

Crowning achievement

The epidural not only defeated the pain, it allowed Ericka's body to relax to the point where she dilated. It occurred quickly, and in no time, she was ready for the home stretch.

She was feeling no pain, so much so, that we were having very nice conversations with our doctor in between pushes.

We did not know if the baby was a boy or girl, and we discussed our naming options with our doc at this point. We told him we had our girl name picked out for sure, but that we had three boy options.

When we were on the break before the second-to-last series of pushes, we finally got around to talking about what I did for a living. When I told him, he said, "Oh, so you must know Reako."

"Indeed I do," I said, and we had nice conversation about the general state of affairs on the local sports scene.

At this point, the doc said, "OK, you can see the head now." And he pointed in the general direction of this pointy, bluish-gray mass with white goop protruding from Ericka's down-theres.

It looked like a moonscape.

I had no doubt that the doc had indeed pointed to a head and that he knew what he was doing, but I concluded in my own mind that I must be looking in the wrong area.

"I delivered one of Reako's kids," the doc then said, jumping back to the earlier part of our conversation, as we geared up for a final push. (This was later verified).

Minutes later, the baby was born. I was stunned silent by the magnificence of this miracle process. The doc looked at us and said, "I guess you don't have to pick a name!"

Crying commenced. I cut the cord. Nurses placed the baby on the warming table. I watched as they poked and prodded her while the doctor patched up my wife.

At that moment, Eliza opened her eyes for the very first time. Her first sight was a proud papa. She stared right at me, and her steely blue eyes melted my heart.

Die Bambi!

Those of you who are already parents may remember placing your precious cargo in the car for the first time and driving away from the hospital as if you had a Ming vase balancing on a toothpick in the back seat.

I was no exception. I have never driven more slowly or been more on the lookout for soccer moms driving Ford Navigators while blabbing on their cell phones.

We weren't more than two blocks from the hospital when I saw an oncoming car careening off snow banks and hurtling toward us. It looked like the make and model Bluto drove at the end of Animal House.

A few minutes later, after dodging that wreck, we approached Pleasantville on a nice, country road when all of a sudden, a damned deer jumped out of the woods and into our lane. You may remember that I've already had a previous encounter with a deer this year.

I had no choice but to lock up the brakes.

At the last second before impact, Bambi jumped out of our lane and into the east-bound one. Just in time to get whacked by another vehicle.

My nerves were shot for two straight days.

Things I've learned

I know that a few of my readers are going to be proud parents any day now, so I'd like to pass along a few tidbits I've learned in seven fantastic weeks. I hope they're useful.

- Babies R Us is an evil place, filled with fear-mongers who prey upon your worst parental nightmares. All their advertising essentially comes down to this: "You're a bad, dangerous parent if you don't have this crappy, overpriced piece of plastic we'd like to sell you."

- If you have a birth plan, be flexible with it. Like I mentioned above, Ericka went in fairly determined to not have an epidural, because it could lead to the C-section. As it turned out, she probably avoided the C-section by having the epidural.

- We squirreled away a little dough specifically for baby expenses in the early months. OK, we didn't, but we thought about doing so. If you've had similar thoughts, save double what you planned. It's not just the big things. It's the series of little things on top of the big things.

- Three consecutive hours of slumber can indeed be classified as "a good night's sleep."

- There's an overabundance of information out there on birth and babies. Take it all with a grain of salt. Ask questions of your doctors, but realize that if you asked 10 different doctors the same question, you'd probably get 10 different answers. I'm not exaggerating. Trust your instincts. It ain't rocket science. They're either tired, hungry, gassy or sitting in their own waste. There's an outside chance they're sick, but that's why you've got a thermometer.

- Being Papa VFR is the greatest thing ever. Enjoy it.



At 7:04 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

Aw, I love this post! So much fun.

One clarification, though. Your doctor only fantasized about delivering one of Reako's babies. He never actually did. I know. I was there. :)

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Todd Cohen said...

Nice job with the Reako reference. Couple of observations...

1) I wonder if this sentence has ever been uttered. So who can use to deliver Mrs. Goldman's baby? We could use Swastik, eh?"

2) You have a jacuzzi? Is there a reason this didn't come up when I made my trip out to Michigan one year ago? Man, if I want a jacuzzi out here, we gotsta fart in the tub!

3) With all of this Darth Vader talk, would you have gone with Luke if you had a boy?

4) I wish I read this before I deposited my mail late yesterday. You'll know what I mean. And no, there's no chocolate cake on the way.


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