Having a child
What a miracle we are, everyone of us.
Childbirth is, in a sense, beyond comprehension, and yet, for most people, it's something looked forward to with great anticipation.
Although I was never really "into babies" as a kid or young adult, the thought of having children is nevertheless exciting, full of so many things: joy, mystery, anxiety, thankfulness.
During 2008, Meredith and I embarked on this remarkable journey together, soon greeted by a faint "+" sign, so faint it was mistaken for a negative! But Eli was already being formed, stitched together in a loving womb, seen and known by his Creator.
As alluded to, the "Eli test" appeared to be negative at first. Meredith called me in to take a look; I recall it being in the middle of the night. The vertical line was so faint, it was barely perceptible. I figured it was just the trough where there would be a line if the test were positive.
Hours later the line looked a wee bit more convincing, so we took another test, and now it was undeniable: There was a bun in the oven!
Aren't those first weeks the strangest thing? You're so excited, but to be prudent it's advised to hold off on telling people. As odd as this seemed, it was sort of fun to have a big secret that only the two of us knew.
Telling the family
It was a beautiful weekend in Kingston, visiting Emily, that we shared our news with first Emily, and then Paul.
We were a little creative and prepared a web page for Emily. Without telling her what was up, we had her view the page and enter her name. It took her a few seconds, but then the lights came on. What a surprise!
We created similar greetings for Paul, Hannah, and Mary, and had a lot of fun sharing the news!
When we were in Woodstock for Hannah's birthday, the family crowded around the laptop as Hannah entered her name to find out what her birthday present was, and when my mom clued in, she screamed a very loud shriek!
The excitement of to-be grand parents and aunts and uncles made telling the family a wonderful experience.
We were sure to phone the St. Jacobs Midwives as soon as we learned that Meredith was pregnant, and it's a good thing, because we barely got in. Our plan was to give birth in the hospital, but we much preferred to have a midwife.
I was fortunate to be able to attend all but the last of Meredith's widwife appointments. The most memorable appointment was getting to hear a heartbeat. What an amazing moment in one's life, sitting in an office, listening to a "thump thump thump" of a wee babe. It was an incredibly anxious time, knowing how many millions of things need to happen just perfectly for a baby to grow properly.
But at long last, there it was, a strong and healthy heartbeat. Woo hoo!
It's a long wait of many weeks to finally make it to the ultrasound appointment, but finally the day came, and we headed to the clinic. This day was perhaps even more anxiety-provoking than the day we heard the heartbeat, because what we were about to see involved a whole lot more than a heart, which is only one organ of many. I had to wait outside for 40 minutes while the technician did her thing, but when I did get to come into the room I was speechless. I had no idea that ultrasounds were such a rich experience... I guess I envisioned those fuzzy, static images you see, but when those images are animated, the result is spectacular. The room was dark, and so the screen was very much the focal point: It's one of those times when, after a minute or two, you realize that you've completely lost track of everything around you and your focus is entirely taken up by what you're seeing on the screen.
Head, spine, heart, arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes. Everything looked great. A healthy baby was on its way. A day of thanksgiving.
Nary a baby is born without preparation. It was fun to see Meredith go to work thinking of everything we'd need. One of our date nights was burgers at Marbles followed by a trip to Babies 'R Us to register. Two hours later, I was one tired daddy! It's unbelievable how many baby products there are! Wow!
Meredith and I signed up for prenatal classes that were done right at the St. Jacobs Midwives building with Tara Sharpe. It was fun to sit together in this atmosphere with other expecting couples and learn lots about pregnancy, delivery, breast feeding, etc. Being together with other couples was quite meaningful for us, and we looked forward to getting together with them after the babies were born to see how everyone did. We even discovered that one of the couples lived just a couple of blocks from us!
We still get together regularly with these friends which we highly value. It has been fun to see the other 5 boys grow. (All 6 boys! What are the chances? Oh, 1/64)
Meredith's due date was March 29th 2009, and as that day approached, I realized that, any day now could be my last day of work. Each morning I'd come into work and my coworkers would acknowledge that, yes, another day had come and gone and Meredith had yet to go into labor.
After almost two weeks of this, it began to feel like the day was never going to come. But fortunately, in this day and age, they only let mom go so many days before intervening.
The night before
On the evening of April 7th 2009, Meredith and I met our midwife at Grand River. We went upstairs together and, after calling in, walked through the doors into maternity unit. The doctor thought that everything was looking good, and Jennie performed a test to see how frequently the baby's heart rate was accelerating. (This indicates that the baby's sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems are working in concert)
The big day
On Wednesday, April 8th, 2009, we got up early and phoned our midwife to let her know how things were going. I have to feel for midwives... and how often their sleep is interrupted by the chime of a BlackBerry! They are a dedicated bunch. We then phoned the hospital to see whether we could come in for Meredith to be induced, but they were busy and said they'd phone back when we could come in.
I worked from home for an hour and a half or so, and then the phone call came. We were off to the hospital!
The parking lot ended up being full, so we parked across the street and walked over to the hospital. I remember it being a nice day, the snow having melted from some less than ideal whether a few days before.
We headed up to the maternity unit and sat there waiting for our midwife to arrive. I had carried up a pretty decent sized load of stuff, so we piled it up across the way while we sat there in anticipation.
After a few moments, Jennie arrived, and we were shown to our room at the far end of the hall to the left of the entrance.
Getting settled in our room
(note: It is now May 2010 and I'm only now getting back to writing this down, so from here on in things will be a little foggier!)
Meredith got into her blue gown and we got settled in our room. I must say, the rooms at Grand River are very nice. Not that I have anything to compare them to, but our room seemed clean, modern, and had lots of natural light. We felt very at home, so to speak.
Meredith had baked some muffins and purchased an assortment of other food, so we were all set. Or should I say, *I* was all set, since Meredith wasn't going to be eating very much over the course of the day. The maternity floor had a little kitchen with a fridge, so I put our things there.
We were introduced to a nurse and soon the doctor arrived. Meredith had her water broken and it was decided that we would wait until a little later in the day to see whether she want into labor naturally before Meredith would actually be induced. In the mean time, she would be hooked up to some antibiotics which were a necessary safety precaution. It was quite funny... the IV drip got half setup, but then there was a distraction and the IV wasn't actually put into Meredith. Fast forward some time later and we were wondering, why is Meredith's hospital bed soaking wet? The IV had drained right into the bed... a flustering event for our dear midwife, but we had a good chuckle.
When the IV was put in, Meredith's small and hard to find veins proved problematic, so a nurse who specializes in IVs came to our room to help. I was quite amazed at how easy she made an obviously difficult task look!
Meredith started feeling a bit of discomfort and so, unsure what exactly it was, we started walking the halls together. The discomfort seemed like contractions, but Meredith was still smiling for the most part, so in that sense it really wasn't clear whether or not she was having true contractions. After about an hour and a half, the discomfort had increased and they had become somewhat closer together, but it still wasn't really clear where we were in the process.
Meredith oscillated between various places... walking the hall, sitting, and I believe she tried a ball as well. Because the time for induction wasn't too far in the future, Jennie decided to check Meredith so that we could know exactly how dilated she was. Boy were we in for a surprise! She was 9 centimeters.
Suddenly there were phone calls being placed to the backup midwife who was in Guelph at the time to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Things were moving fast. Within perhaps 10 or 15 minutes Jennie pressed the "Birth Imminent" button (gotta love the name of that) to summon some help because there was about to be a baby born. By this time we had turned our video camera on (don't worry, it is G rated), which was sitting on the window ledge, and so it has been fun to watch the birth a few time since.
My job during the day had been to rub Meredith's back during her contractions, which she seemed to really like, so it was nice to feel somewhat useful :) As we transitioned into Meredith pushing, I continued to be the chief back rubber. I was quite amazed how relatively calm and collected Meredith was during the birth. She was obviously in discomfort, but there was no crying or screaming. What a pro.
A poignant event for me was seeing Eli's head and face for the first time. I think at that moment there's this sudden emotional reckoning that, oh my goodness, there is an actual person there.
I think less than 30 minutes had passed since Meredith had been checked, not even enough time for Gabby to make it in from Guelph, and Eli was delivered. As you can imagine, it is a pretty magical moment when this little person is suddenly there with you.
There hadn't even been enough time for family to arrive, but soon they were there and it was of course delightful to have mom and Hannah and Paul and Emily come in. We introduced Eli James Bigham and were sure to record that moment which has been fun to watch and rewatch! Dad arrived a little later and so we got to make another little introduction.
After a couple of hours it was just Meredith and I, with our family and midwife having gone home. It was an interesting night, this kind of intense anxiousness of having this little baby and wanting to keep him happy. It is true that the sound of a newborn baby crying is a very motivating thing. You just want to do anything possible to calm them down!
We didn't get a whole lot of sleep, especially Meredith, who ended up needing to hold Eli in her arms for much of the night. At one point a nurse came in to give Eli a bath, and we have pictures of him just wailing and turning all red because he was so distraught!
When the morning came, we slowly got organized and got things out to the car, and we were off home in our blue Civic. It was fun taking Eli outside for the first time on a beautiful sunny morning. But once we were in the car, it was unbelievable how fast and reckless it seemed like everyone was driving around us. Of course, it wasn't them, it was us, in super protective mode. We just wanted to get him home safe.
When we came in the front door, we took Eli on a tour of the house, introducing him to the various rooms and telling him that this was his new home. We had decided that would be a sweet thing to do. Somewhere we had read a recommendation that a baby should be treated with the normal courtesies of a person even though they're not able to understand in the same way.
And so we were home to start our new adventure with this adorable baby boy. It has been a lot of fun this past year and it is wonderful to remember back to all of the many fun, tiring, even scary things. What a ride! Thanks for joining our little family Eli!