Christine Arrives

Warning: This is the story of the birth of my daughter. If you are under the age of consent in your state, you probably shouldn't read this. If you are single, or newly married and considering having children, you probably shouldn't read it either...there are some things best learned on your own.
Michael J. Marchi
July 1, 1997

Today is my daughter's first birthday. In the past year this little girl, who my wife and I made, has brought us such happiness. She is a cool baby. She is cute as hell. She grins ear-to-ear when I come home at night, bounces up and down and says my name: "Da-dee!" There's something special about a father-daughter bond. I am, of course, wrapped completely around her tiny finger, and every day I learn new ways to marvel at her. She is a miracle. I love her beyond reason, and by extension love my wife all the more for bringing her to me. 

The story of her arrival began on Sunday, June 30, 1996 ... the night of the Blue Moon. It was around 11 p.m. and we had been awake since early that morning. I believe we'd had some sort of family gathering that day, so it had been a long day already. Suddenly, Becky jumped up off the couch and ran into the bathroom. Her water had broken. We had taken the lamaze classes. We knew what this meant. I could see the look of fear and uncertainty in Becky's eyes. There was no denying it any more. We were about to become parents. 

When we arrived at the hospital and she was put on the fetal-monitor, you could see light, semi-regular contractions starting, which at this point, Becky couldn't feel. She was completely undilated. Unfortunately, with the water bag broken, she was bed-ridden. No walking around, no whirlpool bath. We watched Aliens on TV. This was pretty ironic, because two evenings prior to that, we had been videotaping the movement of Becky's belly as the baby moved, and we had cracked some joke about Alien (how spooky is that!). 

By around 4 a.m., her contractions were strong enough to be uncomfortable. There was no falling asleep for either of us. Around 7 a.m., even though the contractions were highly uncomfortable, when they checked her, she was only dilated to 1 cm. By 8 a.m., they had put her on Petosin to increase the regularity and intensity of the contractions. This worked. She was in a lot more pain until ten or so when they gave her an epidural. She managed to sleep for about a half-hour. By noon, she had made it to 8 cm. By 1:00 p.m. we were ready to go. At 1:15, the doctor arrived, and the room was magically converted into a delivery room. A huge light (laser emitter, deflector array thingy) was lowered from a hatch in the ceiling. A table full of "instruments" was wheeled into the room. The lower half of the bed was suddenly removed, and the serious stuff began. We were both exhausted by now. But you know the drill. Hold her hand, coach her breathing. Becky was really good at focusing though the first 30-seconds of a contraction, and then I would see her gaze waver. "No! Look at me! Focus (choom-bee)! If you're not looking at me, you're thinking about the pain. Breath! (ahee, ahee, ahee)" The doctor is going at it down below. I've got things under control up, top-side... 

At least I thought I did. Did I mention that this whole baby thing, from conception on, is an exercise in you-ain't-seen-nothin-yet? Here I am, as coach, and I'm supposed to keep her pushing. To keep her breathing. But the baby wasn't moving. Becky was so tired, that she was actually falling asleep between contractions. So the doctor decided to help, and pulls out the suction-thing/vacuum extractor. Now, I'm breathing with Becky, and the doctor is leaning into it, and Becky starts...screaming. So we played that game for a while. Becky falls asleep. Wakes up with the contraction. Starts breathing. Pushes while the doctor pulls. And then Becky screams. This rattled the hell out of me. In my sleep-deprived mind, I was making her scream. After all, I was the one keeping her going! 

The doctor decided she needed an episiotomy. Now in all the classes we took. I always assumed an episiotomy (and I apologize to you women out there) was done with a scalpel, and involved a nice, clean, little slice. So when the nurse handed the Doctor a pair of long-handled scissors, I was confused. What the hell was that for? I, mean (and I'm watching the scissors move toward my wife as I think this), the baby isn't out, what do we need...(*SNIP!*) My eyes bugged out. My mind did a somersault. Inside my head, my brain shrieked. Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! And I turned back to Becky, and said "That's great Beck, you're doing fine. Keep breathing." And I start breathing with her. Only I'm not doing little controlled breaths any more. My brain is on overload. Becky is in pain. I'm causing it. And there's a bunch of insane people taking her apart with scissors, which she can't even feel, because everything else hurts so much! 

So we're breathing. We're pushing. She's shrieking. The doctor switches to forceps and says, "Rebecca. You've got to push now. You can't scream. When you scream, you stop pushing. This isn't for you anymore. This if for your baby." My brain grasped that, and came to the realization that the baby was in trouble. I heard the words "posterior presentation". The baby was coming out head first, but face up, instead of face down. And apparently, the head was oriented so that it was coming out full diameter, and not squishing like it was designed to do. This was why it wasn't moving without help, and why Becky was in so much pain. 

I had to keep Becky going, but keeping her going caused her pain. But not causing her pain hurt the baby. I felt like I was betraying Becky. I had stood in front of a church full of our closest friends and relatives and promised to protect this woman, and now I had to choose between Becky and our baby. I closed my eyes and tears started streaming down my face. I put my face down next to Becky's ear so she couldn't see me, and whispered "Becky, you've got to do this. You've got to push now. You can do it. Just breath..." Suddenly the nurse says. "Slow your breathing down." And as a dutiful translator/relay/coach I say "You hear that Becky? Slow your breathing down." To which the nurse replies, "Not her! You! You're hyperventilating. You're going to pass out." So I checked, and sure enough, I was breathing a mile-a-minute. So I forced myself to slow it down. And suddenly a big gray tunnel formed around my peripheral vision. It was as if I was listening to everyone through gauze. And the tunnel was getting longer. From far away, I hear "Oh, my god, is he pale!" And I realized...I was about to pass out! (I had joked about this for nine months. "ah, don't worry, if things get too bad, I'll just pass out, ha ha ha", and then I'd get an elbow in the ribs.) Something in my head suddenly developed an acute focus. I was NOT going to pass out. Becky needed me. The baby needed me. And I dragged myself, kicking and screaming back to consciousness. 

"Don't go away on us now, Dad.", the Doctor said. "We need one more push." Tears streamed down my face. I was shaking. But I grabbed Becky's hand, "I'm okay!". And this time she didn't scream. And all of a sudden, we went from top-of-a-head, to a full-sized head poking out. I mean, there was no visible transition. Just no-head, no-head, no-head, HEAD! When the baby came out to her waist, the Doctor tried angling her up so Becky could take a look. "Look Mom!", she says. Then Becky, panting, crying, in utter agony, stretches her head upward. I could see the chords standing out on her sweat-soaked neck. She looked down, and the little whimper changed to a throaty growl. I had no idea she could make a sound like this. If I didn't see it come out of her mouth, I'd have sworn there was a squat, winged, Cthulu-esque demon sitting on the bed. "GET IT OUT!", she growled, and slammed her head back down on the pillow, sobbing. 

There was one last push, and suddenly, at 2:22 p.m. on July 1, 1996 Christine Elizabeth Marchi was out in the world. I looked at that tiny, little girl. Slightly purple with a big suction pucker-mark on her forehead, and I'd never seen anything so beautiful in my whole life. I couldn't stop sobbing. I stayed with Becky until the nurse had finished with Christine, and then just left her alone and crying under the warmer. So I went to her and reached down. I touched her chest, for the first time, feeling her little heartbeat. I put my finger down next to her tiny hand. She opened her eyes, ever so slightly, grasped my finger, and then ... she stopped crying. 

Oh, there's something special about a father-daughter bond all right! 

 "Christine Arrives", Copyright © 1997 by Michael J. Marchi
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