The Baby Effect

Kaleigh and I have officially been parents for about a month and have begun to experience a plethora of new things.  We are learning new skills and our lives are changing.  Everything we do now revolves around Olive, which is as it should be. She is the most important thing in the world to us, the trump card for everything that we do. That being said our lives outside of Echo Base (our home…see here) are built around Olive’s moods.  This means that whenever we head outside the walls of our house for any extended period of time we hold our breath that Olive will be sleeping for the duration of the trip and not cause us to prematurely abort our journey.  And I am happy to say that Olive is a trooper and we have only had a few times where she became fussy enough for us to leave.  Most of our trips have been to the grocery store and/or a restaurant to eat.  And throughout all of these trips I have noticed a phenomenon I like to call the “Baby Effect”.

The Baby Effect can be described as the magnetic attraction that a newborn baby has on people, especially women in all situations and all circumstances.  The Baby Effect creates friends from perfect strangers.  It makes you and your baby the center of attention in any public setting and destroys any notion of personal space that you may have had.  This happens wherever we go.  Olive is an instant star and Kaleigh and I, the proud parents, become heros to countless strangers.  It continues to amaze me how grumpy old ladies at the grocery store, who on any other day without Olive would give me a scowl and walk by, are now walking from the other side of the store to say hello and meet Olive.  Then they get super close, touch Olive and us, ask lots of personal questions about the pregnancy, delivery, your sleeping habits and without fail proceed to bend your ear with countless tidbits of advice (A topic for another post). I chuckle every time. This isn’t limited to women either.  There have been many times when men, usually grandpas (at least they look like grandpas) approach us to meet Olive. Everyone is friendly and genuinely interested in our little family.  It’s great, Olive can’t even talk and she is already bringing people together. What a girl I have.

In my opinion The Baby Effect could easily solve lots of the worlds problems. If you have a grumpy neighbor, have a baby and casually walk by holding him/her, you will be the best of friends.  If your having issues at work with coworkers or your boss, have a baby. Instantly you will be the most popular guy/gal around and you’ll probably get a raise. If you have gotten into trouble with the mob and have a hit out for your life, have a baby and maybe buy a puppy for good measure, no one can resist that combination!

But in all seriousness the Baby Effect is a powerful force.  One that brings people together and makes normally unfriendly people friendly.  Advice is shared, stories are swapped and there is laughter.  There is actual interaction between humans, something that is becoming exceedingly rare these days seen only in movies.  Seeing the Baby Effect in action is an amazing thing to witness.  All you need to do is have a baby, or borrow one.

2 Weeks In…

Alright so it has been a few days over two weeks since Olive made her appearance and that means that I have been a father for an entire two weeks. Life here at the house  Echo Base, (I’m going to refer to our house as Echo Base from now on because I love Star Wars and I am kind of a nerd like that.  Plus Echo Base sounds a whole lot cooler than “our house”.) has been pretty mellow actually.  Olive is doing amazing, she is quite the character already with more than a handful of expressions that she uses both while sleeping and when she is awake. I still can’t believe that she is ours.  It still hasn’t completely hit me, even at 3am when I am getting up to change her diaper, it still doesn’t feel completely real.  But regardless of how it feels, it is real and I have a few observations that I would love to share with you about what is like to have a newborn and what it feels like to be a father of Olive in particular.

  • Newborns are really simple. All Olive really does right now is eat, sleep and poop.  Not necessarily in that order.  I can testify that she is quite a voracious eater and can poop with the best of them.  What this means for me is that I have become a first class diaper changer.  I was the one who changed Olive’s first diaper after she was born and ever since that has been one of my main roles (More on that later). Not the most glamorous role I know but still one that I can get behind as it gives me a sense of responsibility and something to contribute.
  • Olive loves to pee right when I take her diaper off. I don’t know why she does it but without fail as soon as I get off her old diaper and grabbing a new one she pees. I have become quicker and sometimes am lucky enough to get another clean diaper under her before she pees, but then before I close it up she pees and I have to throw away that diaper.  So usually with every diaper change we are going through two dirty diapers.
  • Olive loves to me moved.  She really doesn’t care how but she loves movement. She loves riding in the car and getting put in her swing or just simply rocked in our arms.  I am not sure why but that girl loves to move.
  • It is hard being a dad.  For all you dads out there I sure this is a no brainer, but for me this is more of a shock that it has been hard so early on.  Not hard as in physically demanding, but more like emotionally demanding.  I think that guys have a thing inside them that wants to protect women and kids and take care of them at all times. We have a certain amount of pride that says, I am the man I can do anything I can solve any problems and fix anything. With Olive, as with any newborn I am sure, I have had to put this pride aside because as I mentioned above my main role is diaper changer. For obvious reasons I can not feed Olive.  If you aren’t sure why this is, ask your mom. Anytime Olive is not eating she is usually sleeping. Which is all well and good but that means that there is nothing really for me to do.  And feeding her is really a one woman job which leaves diapers. And taking care of mom. That has become my main role for the past two weeks.  And for any new father or father to be I would recommend you get prepared for this because this is going to be your biggest responsibility for the first few weeks (that’s all I know so far) at least. Which leaves me to my next point.
  • Newborns, and Olive in particular make you patient. For the first week at home I struggled with what I mentioned above, not being able to contribute a ton and not knowing my role or how to help Kaleigh. But Olive has made me patient. Through the many diaper changes and hours rocking her in my arms our connection has grown.  Now when she looks into my eyes I start to realize that this little girl is my daughter.  My daughter who is depending on me to be her father and take care of her.  Even if that only means changing her diaper.

Liftoff

Olive

And we have liftoff. It’s strange to think that as of this moment I am the father of a 2 day old little girl named Olive. It’s also strange and even a little humorous  to think that on Sunday night on the way into the hospital to bring Olive into the world I was a completely different man than I am right now. My whole idea of a what having a baby entailed, what my wife, Kaleigh, would be going through and how I would feel just seconds after Olive was breathing her first breath would be shattered in about 24 hours.  Yup I said 24 hours.

Kaleigh and I (I’m Kyle by the way, the happy, proud and freaking scared father) were expecting the arrival of our daughter on April 10th, but that day came and went with alarming speed.  So did the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th.  Due to Miss Olive being at least as stubborn as her parents are she was going on 5 complete days late and showing no signs of wanted to come out.  Our Doc told us that she wanted to induce Kaleigh on Sunday night and give Olive a little shove to start the process. So that’s where we were on Sunday night walking into the hospital, wide-eyed and full of optimism wondering what our labor process would be like.

We got to our labor and delivery room at about a quarter after eight and got Kaleigh all settled in.  At about ten or so Kaleigh was all hooked up and receiving her pitocin, which I have learned is the synthetic form of oxytocin the hormone the body naturally releases to start contractions. Before we get too far, these were our main goals for this pregnancy:

1. Start labor at home on its own – Already not happening

2. Have a natural birth (no epidural)

3. No c-section

Alright back to the action…

The pitocin is typically started in small doses and slowly increased as the body needs it to help start and maintain the contractions.  Kaleigh started out on the lowest dosage, and with her all hooked up and ready to go, and Indiana Jones on the TV I thought we were in for a nice easy labor.

For the entire first night, nothing happened.  Well I guess nothing isn’t entirely true, Kaleigh was having contractions, but they were so small that we weren’t aware anything was happening until our nurse came in and told us.  Kaleigh was getting increased levels of pitocin all night until she reached the maximum amount, but still nothing too noticeable was happening. Now the be all end all of labor is dilation of the cervix and without getting too technical, Kaleigh started the evening at 4cm, and in order for the baby to come out and the pushing phase to begin you need to be dilated to 10cm. So fast forward to about 7am the next morning (Monday the 16th) and the doctor made a visit to examine Kaleigh and break her water, which would/should help move along the labor and intensify the contractions. With her water broken, it was go time.  The contractions started getting more intense and we were actually feeling like something was happening.

At this point, at least for me I was just incredibly relieved that something was actually happening.  We had been waiting 5 days and some odd hours to begin the journey of getting our little girl into the world and after a sleepless night of waiting and watching Kaleigh for any signs of discomfort or distress I was tired, but excited that the process was beginning in earnest. I wasn’t sure what the next steps would look like, but I had faith in my wife and faith that God would get us through it. I don’t know how many times I prayed that first night and I don’t remember what I said but I know that my constant conversation with Jesu kept me from freaking out.

With her water broken the contractions were beginning to get painful.  Luckily Kaleigh was able to get up and she spent most of her time bouncing on a birthing ball, moving around to get into a comfortable position. With each contraction Kaleigh was transformed into a picture of concentration. She would become quiet and completely focused on the task at hand, it was amazing to watch.  For about 4 hours Kaleigh was dealing with contractions that were coming consistently about two-three minutes apart and were lasting about a minute. I could tell that they were getting more and more intense. At the recommendation of our nurse we moved Kaleigh into the bathtub, which was supposed to help relieve some of the pain of the contractions, which it did.  But moving to the bathtub also brought on some of the most painful moments for Kaleigh and some of the most trying moments for me.

By the time Kaleigh was in the bathtub her contractions were getting closer together (about a minute apart) and were getting very, very painful. I am not sure how Kaleigh was dealing with each of these painful minutes, but I was doing my best to help her get through it.  My role was to remind her to breathe, remind her to drink water between contractions, encourage her and to try to help her not think about the pain that she was experiencing. I am not sure how successful I was at this, you would have to ask her, but I knew I needed to keep myself busy otherwise I would start to struggle myself. It was extremely hard to see my wife in so much pain, and know there was nothing I could do about it. Kaleigh and I had come to agreement beforehand that she was going to try to get through the entire process without the epidural.  (If it was me having the baby I wouldn’t have been so strong and would have got the drugs way earlier.) If she got to the point that she thought she wanted the epidural, I would ask her to get through three more contractions and then decide.  This was to insure that she wouldn’t feel like she jumped to getting an epidural too early.

Alright back to the action.  Kaleigh was in the tub for about an hour and was doing amazing dealing with the contractions.  As for me I spent every free moment praying to Jesus for safety, wisdom and strength; both for me and for my girls. Like I said above after about an hour, Kaleigh was ready to get out and I could tell she was about at the end of her rope.  It was very hard for me not to suggest her getting an epidural, I wanted to take her pain away.  But like with a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter, I didn’t want to even put the thought in her mind, unless she had made the decision herself.  After getting out of the tub, she moved back to the bed and we got the nurse to come in and check her progress.  The nurse did her check and told us she was at about 4.5 cm.  That was it for Kaleigh, she could barely focus between contractions and I could see in her face that she was about 5 minutes away from a complete breakdown. So without further ado she told me she wanted the epidural, I didn’t question her and asked her if she wanted to wait for 3 more contractions. I knew the answer was going to be no, which it was but I wanted to ask to make sure.

Alright so check off number two on our list as not happening. Kaleigh was not disappointed in having to get an epidural. In fact she was relieved, as was I. The pain that she was going through was indescribable and I was more than impressed that she made it that far, especially after what happened next.

After the epidural was put in (very quickly I might add-more props to JC) Kaleigh was able to rest for a few minutes before the doc came in to check in with us.  Once the doc got to our room she again checked a much happier Kaleigh and told us that Kaleigh was “Completely gone.”  This we found out meant that Kaleigh was at 10cm! We were both dumbfounded, being that about 30 minutes ago she was at 4.5cm.  Anyway the good news was that she was now able to start pushing! Finally!  Kaleigh was a little out of it, due to the drugs and so our great nurse helped her figure out how to push and within no time we began.

Timeout. At this point I figured we were right around the corner from welcoming our child into this world and soon all the pain and waiting would be over.  Not true. Kaleigh pushed for 4 hours. This I am told is rare and I could tell that Kaleigh was using a superhuman effort to try and get Olive out but she was just not coming.  Without getting into too many details of the why this happened we ultimately came to the conclusion that a Cesarian was our only option and the best choice for Kaleigh and Olive’s help (Take number 3 off the list).  After this decision was made (it was about 7:00PM on monday the 16th) it was mere minutes before I was in scrubs and Kaleigh was in the operating room.  While Kaleigh was getting set up, I had a few minutes to myself to gather my thoughts, say a quick prayer for safety, and to put on my game face.

After that I was whisked into the operating room where Kaleigh was.  Again without getting into too many details, after about 5 minutes or so of me being in the room and talking to Kaleigh, Olive McKinzy was brought into this world!  What an experience.  I couldn’t believe that we had finally reached this point!  We took a few pictures and then I left Kaleigh to finish her surgery while I went with Olive to get her weighed.

No words can describe this feeling

I still can’t believe it, and in those few minutes when I was with Olive by myself, just me and her in the world looking at her I couldn’t help but be amazed that this had just happened.  That I was now officially a father, and that from this point forward my entire life had changed!  What a feeling! These thoughts and feelings are going to be saved for another post.