This week, I, Steve, decided that I was tired of sleep (isn't that a beautiful oximoron?), so I stayed up till two or three every night, working on projects, and woke up early in the morning to take Teresa to school. Last night, it was 2:00 AM, and I was enjoying that aching feeling in my frontal lobe, a triumph over the natural man, when I found myself teetering at the brink of my physical limits. Perhaps it was time to be reasonable and go to bed. When Teresa woke me up two hours later, moaning in pain, I wasn't very attentive. I assumed that she was just having more false contractions.
"Steve, there's this giant spider in the bathroom," she said a short time later. "It's the biggest spider I've ever seen!" I asked, "Do you want me to kill it?" - "No, it's all right." Then, climbing back into bed, she continued to moan. I'd grown accustomed to her sounds of agony, so I would have been able to sleep were it not for the thought of a gargantuan spider haunting our bathroom. There it loomed in my thoughts, taunting me. I rolled over, then over again, until I threw off my covers, determined to slay this vile intruder. And I did. It was a considerably-sized pest, but having served a mission where giant banana spiders frequently found their way into my shower, it was far from the biggest spider I'd ever seen.
Content that I'd fulfilled my manly lot, I returned to the bedroom, eager to cash in on some well-deserved sleep. But then Teresa announced that my coveted prize of thoughtless euphoria would have to wait even longer, for this was the real deal. Little Gashler was on her way. Her contractions were now consistent, requiring constant back rubs, and between this and her hustle and bustle to prepare for the hospital, my exasperated flirtations with sleep were vain.
But my second--actually fourth--wind came to the rescue, and soon the two of us were eagerly timing her contractions, hoping that we'd qualify for the five minute gaps that warranted hospital entry. This was exciting. For Teresa it meant the climactic relief from her long-suffering. For me it meant an exciting day in a flashy building of modern scientific wonder. I used to shun hospitals, loathing their smells and everything about them that reminded me of my mortality. But now they inspire me as edifices of knowledge, science and humanity. Honestly our morning anxiety was very akin to the feelings I remembered from childhood before boarding a plane on a trip to Disney World. We called the OBGYN office, and they told us that they'd call us back. 10, 20, 30, 40 minutes went by without any word from them. Teresa's contractions were teetering between 5 and 8 minute gaps. We knew that technically we weren't supposed to go yet.
"Heck to that!" announced Teresa. So we went to the hospital and were immediately admitted. I have no idea what that "we'll call you" nonsense was about. We were taken to a spacious and extravagant room on the fifth floor with a great view of Provo, and my childlike excitement was not abated. The nurse told us that Teresa had dialated two centemeters, and everything looked well. At first.
"She's breach," the nurses pronounced after an ultrasound, meaning that the baby's head was facing up. This neccesitated a Cesarian section, for turning the baby up-side-down, especially in a first pregnancy, is very dangerous. Not long after this gloomy pronouncement, the monitors indicated that Teresa had already dialated to four centemeters. This meant that she needed to be taken to the operating room as soon as possible, for full dialations during C-sections are big complications.
This is where the story gets awesome. At Disney World you only get to see guys in space suits, but I actually got to wear one. Teresa and I had just watched a documentary about Apollo 8, and this was the real deal. Well, not really, but it was still awesome. They pushed Teresa's bed to the operating room, and still slipping on my final space accessories, I chased after.
If you wouldn't like to read about a Cesarean Section, skip this paragraph; it's graphic but very interesting. First the doctor, without any formal measuring, took a quick slice at Teresa's lower abdomen. Blood trickled out, and he pried her flesh open. I saw Teresa's fat, which was made of lots of yellow goobers, just like on beef. The doctors craftily snipped and burned their way through layers of who-knows-what with some space-age tools, until they came to her frontal abdominal muscles. They simply had to pry those out of the way, not cutting anything. Next was the bladder, to which the doctor said, "We just need to move this." Who knew they could do that? It wasn't like a game of Operation, it was more like Mr. Potato Head! Then they were to the uterus--snip snip--then to the placenta. When a spurt of liquid shot up and splashed one of the doctors in the face, I wondered if something was wrong. Then I saw a large gushing of amniotic fluid, and I knew that all was well. Baby was only moments away. (Seeing the insides of a person, especially one's spouse, has an unavoidable effect of inspiring a sense of interconnection.) Lastly was the most astonishing part of all. The doctor warned Teresa--who, of course, was numbed to any pain--that she would feel a lot of pressure. He then plunged his hand into my wife's innards and felt around for the baby. It was so clumsy, it seemed like quackery! But I guess the whole process is messy. He soon produced a limb, and through a procedure of tugs and maneuvering that was anything but graceful, he welcomed our daughter to earth.
She was slimy and purple, but after some basic cleaning, I marvelled at how perfect and well-formed she looked. Of course a parent's anxiety in these moments is in wondering what their child will look like. But when I saw her face, I didn't know what to think. She was a beautiful, healthy baby, but I couldn't say that she had my nose or Teresa's eyes. She was just a baby. It was like meeting a long-lost brother that you knew nothing about or a mail-order bride. In such situations, one can't say, "I've missed you so much!" but rather, what can be said other than "huh." I don't know anything about this little girl. After staring at her and holding her for hours, I still don't think I'd necessarily be able to recognize her in a room full of a hundred unidentified babies, and I have no idea what her personality's like. Yet of course I love her, knowing nothing more about her than this simple fact: she's my daughter.
What if, like Robin Hood's policy of never eating dinner until he'd performed a great deed for the day, we weren't allowed to lay ourselves to rest until we'd similarly accomplished something worthy of it? Would bringing a baby into the world count? Oh wait, Teresa really did all the work. Hmm, what about wearing a space suit? That space suit was so awesome, I hope to have many more kids so I can wear it again. It made enduring nine months of a pregnant wife worth it. Well, in any case, I'm going to bed. Good night, world. Good night, Teresa. Good night, Ariah.
(Apparently the premortal world is much more interesting.)