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Friday, October 28, 2005

Birthday Story Conclusion

I suggest that you read the first part before this one. Before continuing, allow me one error correction: When the doctor first saw Horyon she was dilated 3 cm, not 2. I have changed the post to reflect this. And hey, what's one lousy centimeter between friends?

I am still sick, but slept well last night. God bless whoever invented Nyquil. Can't get it in Korea, but I bring some back every time I go to the States

So after being sent into a state of near panic by her nurses, which happened a couple of times during this process, and seeing the doctor, Horyon was brought into the family delivery room where her mother and I were waiting. She was pretty sweaty, but I've seen her look more tired after hiking. She told me that it didn't really hurt that much, it was just some strange pressure. I felt much better hearing that, though I figured that we were in for a marathon night.

The next three hours went by pretty quickly. Horyon and I talked, and then I coached her through her contractions. Due to our sparse practice schedule, which mostly involved talking about the breathing techniques rather than actually doing them, I had to be reminded of what to tell her to do. Luckily, she remembered. She's always been a better student than I.

The only parts that seemed to drag for me were when the nurses came in to do stuff. They would pull a curtain around her bed and kick me out. When I hovered too closely they would shoo me out. When they started gearing up for the serious part of the operation I got really antsy. They set up the stirrups and other stuff without letting me hold her hand or see her. I felt like it would be too pitiful to talk to her through the curtain, and was afraid of interrupting their questions for her.

Those of you who have had children in the States may be a bit taken aback by this. Understandable. If I thought there had been any chance of communicating my distress and the reasons for it to the nurses or doctor without distracting them from their work, I would have. But the fact is that these family birth rooms represents a very large paradigm shift for Korea. As recently as five years ago, it was virtually unheard of for the father to be present at the birth of his own children. He paced around in the waiting room, just like in "old" t.v. shows and movies back in the states. (My apologies to those of you who don't think they are that old. I just happened to have grown up in a time when it has been expected that the father would be with the mother as she gave birth.)

Horyon told me afterwards that the hardest times were when they kicked me out. She wasn't sure that she could have had Maxine without me. I reassured her that she could have, and made some tacky joke about conceiving Maxine without me.

Back to the story. Whenever they kicked me out, I had trouble relaxing. Finally I found that if I sat on the stool just this side of the curtain, I could see the reflection of the proceedings in the t.v. set provided in the room.

(That's right. There was a t.v. in there. We never turned it on, and I sort of wondered who would want to watch t.v. under these circumstances?)

I found it much easier to relax being able to see what was going on. I won't describe what I could see in that reflection. Suffice it to say that I have a better understanding of why they don't allow husbands to watch. Personally, I was impressed, and any sense of disgust or shame was way in the back of my mind. All of you mothers out there have an even higher respect from me now.

And so I was allowed to stand by Horyon for the climactic moment. I couldn't hold her hand, because they had installed hand grips on her bed, which Horyon didn't let go of. I didn't see Maxine's head first come out, but I did see as Horyon pushed out the rest of her body. The doctor quickly held her upside down to drain the fluid from her lungs. She came out long and thin, slightly grey, very wrinkled, and covered in slime. And I fell completely, head over heels in love with her, right that very moment. The tears ran down my face as I struggled to put words together. "She's so beautiful," I managed. There has been nothing in my life to compare to that moment. Falling in love with Horyon took weeks, and was overwhelming again and again. Maxine grabbed me all at once, demanding that I surrender everything to her. And this powerless little being who couldn't even focus her eyes yet, managed to overpower me.

They toweled Maxine off a bit, then let her suckle at Horyon's breast. They also let me hold her for a few minutes, finally justifying the little blue robe that they made me wear the whole time. She weighed 2.68 kg, just over 5 lbs. Under 2.5 kg they put babies in the incubator immediately, but Maxine managed to be just big enough to avoid that indignity. I later heard that she spent a few hours in the incubator, just to help her stay warm. I'm afraid I can't tell you how long she was. I looked in the little booklet the hospital gave us, and there were a number of numbers that may have been the correct one, but I wasn't sure, and neither was Horyon. So you get nothing.

I wanted to attach some pictures, but I'm having problems with my internet connection right now, so they will have to wait until next time. Instead, I offer this snapshot from my notebook, written late that night:

First impressions of being a father:

It's amazing to fall completely in love with someone at first sight. To see a wrinkled, grey, tiny human, covered with blood and slime, and instantly know that she is the most beautiful person in the world.
To meet the new most important person in my life.
To hold such a tiny baby in my arms, and know that she will only be mine for 20 or 30 years before she finds someone to love more than me, or at least love differently.
Holy cow. I'm a father. A tired father.

There you have it. The rest is pretty anticlimactic. As the drugs wore off, Horyon began to realize how truly painful it is to have a baby. Over the next couple of days she told me that she didn't notice any pain while holding Maxine, but as soon as she was alone it hurt.

I don't believe that I can make anyone understand this if they haven't gone through it themselves. It was as intense as a religious experience, yet as solid and real as a physical injury. I now understand the fathers who have told me that being at the birth of their child was the highlight of their life.

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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.