Friday, August 12, 2016

Please welcome Michael Robert Marion

My son, Michael Robert Marion, was born on August 8th at 9:05PM. He weighed in at 8lb 4oz and was 20.5 inches long. His birth was both a finish line and starting line: the end of months of pregnancy and the beginning of our lives together. This is his story.

Monday morning started off like any other week. Shower, brush teeth, make breakfast, drive to work. The only difference was that our baby was 5 days overdue. "You're still here?", came the amused reactions of co-workers upon seeing me at my desk. Just as I started typing an email my phone rang. It was Jenna. Her water broke. Game on.

I arrived home around 8:30AM to find Jenna and her Mom packing our hospital bags. Today was the big day. After months of waiting, wondering, and worrying, we'd finally meet our son. We said our goodbyes to the dogs, captured a few quick video moments, and were off to Maine Medical Center's OB triage wing.

I dropped Jenna off at the front and parked in the garage. We had practiced this run a few weeks earlier so I knew how to navigate the winding hallways and elevator stops. I arrived at the security desk, took a quick mugshot, and rode the elevator up to the second floor. I found Jenna lounging in a stylish blue hospital gown. She was still in good spirits. She was still smiling. We knew that was about to change.

After taking a few vitals, we were on our way to the main event: Labor and Delivery. Coincidentally, we were led to the same room we had visited on our Maine Medical Center tour just a few months earlier. As Jenna settled into the hospital bed I got the lay of the land: flatscreen TV, jacuzzi tub, private bathroom, couch, and view of Hadlock Field which is home to the Portland Seadogs baseball team. Jenna was still in good spirits. So far so good.

No sooner had Jenna shed the stuffy hospital gown, and changed into her own maternity gown, then the contractions began to come fast and furious. We had practiced pain management in our Birth Roots class but I was still nervous. So far her needs were straight forward: water, hold hands, and absolutely NO TALKING during contractions. The nurses flitted in and out to check the baby's heart rate and offer Jenna popsicles. They had three flavors: orange, red, and purple. Jenna chose orange.

Jenna spent the next few hours in the Jacuzzi tub. I tried to be useful. I offered the occasional granola bar or dried cherry. I fetched ice water from the hospital kitchen. I offered up my hand to be crushed during each contraction. The contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes. Jenna would close her eyes and moan in pain. We offered unending encouragement: good job, good work, you're so strong, you can do this. Our primary nurse, Jess, spent the whole day at Jenna's side. I followed her lead as she offered words of encouragement and pampered Jenna with cold compresses and crushed ice.

As the afternoon grew long the pain grew worse. We wanted to know our options. Jenna wanted to wait on the epidural. In the mean time, she was offered Nubain: a man-made opioid painkiller. Some love it, some hate it. Jenna hated it. Sleepy? Check. Loopy? Check. Pain free? No check. The contractions kept coming and Jenna kept soldiering through the pain. I was incredibly proud of her. In a few hours she would have a new title: Mom.

As each contraction ramped up, Jenna would double over, grit her teeth, and hold my hand. I watched a thin black line creep across the monitor, tracing the contraction peaks and valleys. The combination of the narcotic, and the intense pain, meant that Jenna was no longer mentally present. There was no conversation. There was no reflection on our grandiose experience. Just a merry-go-round of pain. It was time to call in backup.

Watching the anesthesiologists administer the epidural was an incredibly humbling experience. They were like a professional sports team in the ninth inning with the game on the line: calm, capable, and utterly in control. Donning green scrubs and surgical masks, they wheeled over a cart full of gleaming vials, catheters, syringes, and plastic tubes. They mixed liquids, prepared fluids, and helped Jenna ease into the proper position: seated, curled into a C shape, with back exposed. They were truly vested in our experience and offered congratulations and encouragement. As quickly as they had arrived they packed up their cart and left. We had the old Jenna back again. She was present. She was tired. She napped while I took one last stroll along the Western Promenade before my life would change forever.

In Hollywood movies, births are always a chaotic scene: screaming moms, bustling doctors, and someone fainting. The scene at Maine Medical Center was the exact opposite. All was quiet and peaceful. The room was mostly dark except for the setting sun which bathed us in a golden light. The nurses gave a quick check. It was 7:30PM. It was time to start pushing. It was time for us to become parents.

I will always remember the next 90 minutes for as long as I live. There is truly no experience like witnessing the birth of a human. It is sobering to be reminded of how we all started out in this world. We get too wrapped up in the day-to-day bustle and concerns of modern life. It was a reminder that despite our hopes, dreams, and insecurities, we all share a common beginning and that nature is a higher power to which we must all submit.

Michael's transition from womb to world took only a few seconds. With one last, mighty push his full head appeared, and his tiny body followed. He was immediately placed on Jenna's chest where he christened his arrival with the first of many bathroom breaks to come. "I think he just peed on me", Jenna laughed through her tears. I fumbled awkwardly with my phone, trying to record the moment, but decided the documentary could wait. Michael gave a short wail and began contentedly sucking his thumb.

Here was the being who had been kicking, punching, and hiccuping over the past few months. He was beautiful. He was perfect. He was our son.

We brought Michael home on Wednesday, August 10th, after two days in the hospital. The staff at Maine Medical Center were professional, encouraging, and deeply involved in our success as new parents. We could not have asked for a better experience.

I hope to use this blog to document my day-to-day experiences as a new father. Future posts will likely be shorter, and will serve as a log of the first months of Michael's life. It will be for family, friends, but most of all for me, Jenna, and Michael. Years from now, when he is a surly, invincible, and difficult teenager, we'll look back on these blogs and remember how it all began.

I can't wait for this journey to begin.