Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Hospital Pt. 1: Running And Doing

Gradually coming down from that incredible high, although still overjoyed by our new child, we spent the next hour or so still in the delivery room, enjoying Stella. More or less.

Of course there were still a few more minor details of the birth to go through, like passing the placenta. I’d always wanted to see it, but it happened while I was cutting the cord, so I missed that one. In all honesty it was kind of an anti-climax after the actual birth.

But I’ve always had special feeling for placentas. First of all because, like most typically ignorant guys, I had no idea what a placenta even was until I saw film of a live birth at sometime in my 20s, and then I was like, “what the hell is that?” Ever since then I thought we would save ours when the occasion came up.

Now, after the birth, I finally saw a real live placenta in person. The hospital staffers had put it in a little plastic tub, and it resembled a massive, veined, purple liver. In all honesty it looked just rich in iron and other healthy stuff. I didn’t know what I wanted us to do with it, but it was all a moot point, anyway, as we weren’t going to get it. The hospital makes you fill out so many forms, and go through so many hoops to get your own wife’s placenta, that you can tell they think of it more as some kind of contaminated, possibly nuclear, waste than something that just came from a human body.

So, with a small amount of regret, I had to let the placenta go.

With that came a larger issue, though. Today new parents have the option of saving blood from the umbilical cord, and freezing it at the cost of a least $1000. Later if a disease comes up with your child this precious blood can help them treat it. It, in my opinion, sets up an inevitable class conflict where rich people get another thing that poor or middle class people can’t afford that could save their baby’s lives. In all honesty we knew we couldn’t do it—we’d discussed it beforehand—so we regretfully had to pass on this. But it didn’t feel like an economic issue: it felt like an emotional one. Why can’t we just spend the money on our child? But we couldn’t, so we had to that let that go, too. For one of the first times in my life I found myself on the other side of a class conflict when it really mattered, and it felt terrible.

Anne also had to sew up part of Randi’s baby area, because she had a minor tear. This happened so fast, I barely even knew it was taking place. You’d think a needle going through that, of all areas, would kill someone, but Randi seemed to barely even notice. The tears were relatively minor, and Anne applied some anesthetic, but mainly, Randi dealt with it so well because it was such a small procedure when compared to birth. To which I say: wow, needles in the fun area, and it doesn’t hurt? In that case, having a baby must really, really hurt.

After these issues, though, we finally got to start to enjoy and love our child.

First of all, everyone got to hold her. And many photos were snapped.

At this point, Julie did us a huge favor by running out to buy us breakfast, which consisted of bagels, juice and, at least in my case, lox spread. This was really sweet, and really unexpected, but very much appreciated.

Also, as could be predicted, various phone calls were made to family and friends, with the understanding that they would get here as soon as was feasible.

But, I also had a job to do. We’d decided that we wanted a private room for our stay in the hospital. It was extra money, and, honestly, it pinched a little bit, but we decided it was worth it. Primarily because I wanted to sleep in the room with Randi and Stella the next two nights—the length of the hospital stay—and it wouldn’t be allowed if we shared a room with someone else.

So by 8:30 a.m., or so, I was on my way downstairs to the registration desk to make it happen. But it was still hard to move on from what I had just seen.

“I’m a new dad,” I confessed to a thoroughly unmoved orderly in the elevator as we went down.

“Just today.” The orderly, a young black man, barely nodded and waited for his floor.

Downstairs the functionaries behind the desk where I was to get the private room told me that, somehow, I had already done it all wrong. These functionaries were women, of indeterminate age, typical bureaucrats from their looks and actions.

“You can’t get the private room from us,” they said, handing me several sheets of paper to be filled out. “You have to bring these to the nurse on assignment upstairs, and get her to see if there’s room. Then you can have a room.”

“Also, how much will this all cost?” I asked. The nurse upstairs had told me it would be an extra $100 for the room, period. Now I found out it would be an extra $100 per night. But there was no going back. I thanked them for the information, and got going.

The women had a skeptical, seen-it-all look, as they sent me on my way. Of course I had only gone to their desk to start with because a nurse upstairs had told me that I had to see them. Now I went back upstairs to find someone, anyone, who could help.

I brought my multiple sheets of paper to the desk of the birthing center, which was its usual, busy self, abuzz with young, tired-looking doctors, the much more seasoned, and less white, administrative staff and the occasional midwife.

In fact here came Anne now.

“I just wanted thank you for all you did for us,” I told Anne as I stood at the desk, waiting for someone to accost.

Anne was gracious, and understanding.

“Your wife has a very high tolerance for pain,” she said.

This was true, although it’s funny. No one screams louder when they step on a tack than Randi, but when it came time to siphon a Thanksgiving turkey through a pneumatic tube she came through with flying colors.

Still overcome I hugged Anne, who returned the hug, although with perhaps slightly less enthusiasm than I had administered it.

At the desk itself I was shuffled from staff person to staff person. Eventually I was told I had to talk to a woman named Rachel, and that she’d be here eventually. After five minutes I saw a youngish-looking staffer, and asked if she was the famed Rachel. She was, and immediately told me to speak to someone else, the head nurse on call at that time, Mona.

Mona was a strong-looking black woman in her mid-to-late 40s, but her face looked kind, and understanding. Sometimes, as you’ve probably already figured, hospital staffers can have an exhausted, jaded aspect to them, but I felt Mona would be different. And, let’s be honest, no one can resist a brand new parent. And I really sold it.

“Hi Mona,” I said, smiling. “My wife Randi just gave birth about 20 minutes ago.”

Mona cut me off.

“What’s her name?”

“Randi Skaggs.”

“And what’s your name?”

“David Serchuk.”

Randi kept her maiden name, you see, which is a minor point of contention between us.

“And, anyway,” I continued, “we would really, really like to get a private room, if it’s at all possible. Can you help us?”

“Why didn’t you do this downstairs?” she asked.

“They told me to come to you!”

She sighed, and took my papers.

“Alright,” she said. “I’ve got some room. Room 101 on the fifth floor.”


She smiled, happy to have already made someone’s day, and it was only 8:45 a.m.

“And congratulations!”

Mona now took the forms, filled them out, and, poof, it was done, we had our room.

Back in the delivery room everyone was now chowing down on their various breakfasts. I grabbed my pumpernickel bagel, and started to eat although I wasn’t even hungry. And, not long after that, my adrenaline started to slowly drain away, replaced with lethargy and tiredness.

Randi, by contrast, looked fresh as a daisy. And so did the baby, by the way. Not to go on too much about it, but here was a wholly unexpected benefit of the natural child birth; both mother and child were un-drugged and totally alert.

Soon our first flowers came, from Rachel and Seth, great people that we only see socially through our other friends, Alex and her husband Don. This was totally unexpected and wonderful; it’s amazing who steps up for the big moments of your life. It also made us realize how great Rachel and Seth are anyway, and how much more we would like to see them. (Hey, guys, if you’re reading, this is still the case!)

Soon yet another nurse came into the room, and informed us that she needed to take Stella and wash her up, weigh her, and generally do what they always do at hospitals, which is isolate the child from its mother almost immediately. Can’t this wait? I guess not. They’d wanted to do it while I was getting the room thing straight, and Judy was going to go, but they decided they would wait for dad. So now they took Stella, put her in a rolling bassinet, and Judy and I followed her upstairs to the baby aquarium.

1 comment:

Nora said...

Cannot believe all the caos crap with the private room... All you see here are private rooms with hardwood floors and nurses who typically act like your baby is the most precious baby they've ever seen. When Brian's sister had her baby, she was immediately given a menu for her and her husband to choose their first meal as parents and it had everything from steak to pizza and they said it was some of the best food they'd ever eaten. That's how it should be EVERYWHERE!