Flashback: This really was my last meal.

I think it is just too crazy to think about how much emphasis I put on food throughout my pregnancy … especially as I came close to the end.  I became preoccupied with how much false labor I experienced, to the point where I would focus on practically every meal that I consumed – determined to make every item of food I chose really count, in case whatever meal I was currently eating would be the meal right before I would go into actual labor.  Now, to some, I suppose this might seem a bit silly.  However, I was more or less basing my concern about my “last meal” on the fact that I very well knew that once you go to the hospital in labor, they will not let you eat any solid foods.  Therefore, I felt like it was extremely important that I should evaluate what I was eating, so it would be worth it on a scale of foods that I would like to remember as my “last meal.”

On the evening of Thursday September 30th, while I was still in the triage part of the labor floor, I began discussing our dinner plans with John.  I was at the point where I knew that they were going to release me, since my labor was yet again simply false labor.  Even though I really was having actual contractions at the time, they were not strong enough in intensity to bring on any kind of cervical dilation.  So, it only seemed natural to me to want to discuss what would be on the menu for the night with John as I was preparing to leave the hospital.

Thanks to the glorious invention of smart phones with internet access and capabilities for communicating with text messaging, it became a true possibility to arrange the plans for my dinner right from the convenience of my hospital bed.  Due to the fact that John and I both have Blackberry cell phones, we routinely converse our thoughts back and forth via the Blackberry messenger service.  Basically, this technology is exactly like instant messaging one another in a way that I think is the fastest way to text with one other person in a constantly, flowing conversation.  Thank goodness, John did respond to my sincere desire to decide on some kind of take out food that I would be able to pick up on the way home from the hospital.  After sharing with him my current craving at the time for Italian food, he agreed to let me satisfy my desire for sauce and cheese, which I had been thinking about almost the entire day!  It is true, that for most of my pregnancy, the food that I always seemed to crave was definitely Italian food.  John usually agreed to let us eat it sparingly, which was very thoughtful of him.  I used to tease John, that since he is 100% Italian by nationality, then the baby that I was carrying only naturally would want me to eat Italian food.  Also, I am at least almost 1/8th Italian by my nationality, so that I always thought would have to count for something, too.

It was also very possible for me to look at the online menu for the Italian restaurant closest the hospital while I waited for all the paperwork for my discharge from the triage part of the labor floor to get completed.  I knew I definitely wanted stuffed shells, but I was on a mission to find something worthy for John to eat.  I settled on some rigatoni with chicken in a bolognese sauce, which John agreed sounded good to him.  As I was walking out of the hospital to my car, I called ahead and placed the order.  It was at this time that I reached the parking deck of the hospital and saw how unbelievably ugly the weather currently was.  It was very windy and rainy.  The kind of fall weather that reminds you to just be thankful that this isn’t snow yet!  This was going to make my simple idea of picking up food more involved than I thought.

Once I got to the restaurant, which was The Vineyard on Fiot Street in Bethlehem, I was so excited to patiently wait for my order to be ready.  This Italian restaurant in particular had been very good to me throughout my pregnancy.  During the early months of my baby’s gestation, I used to suffer almost daily from what was known as “evening sickness.”  I have to admit, I went to the Italian restaurant more than once straight from work because of how badly I was craving their food.  It seemed rather odd that the sensation of needing to throw up, could be calmed simply by eating food.  I would think that eating would be the last brilliant idea on the agenda to calm a nauseous tummy.  Thank goodness for the closeness to the hospital of the restaurant, because it was always quite convenient for me to stop by for the essential sauce and cheese dish before going home to my honey.  Also, for the record, I would pick up food for John, too – although I would often in more cases than one, have to eat my food as soon as I got out to my car because of how sick I felt.  Thank goodness John was very understanding about all of this.  He would even encourage me to eat something as soon as I started feeling the sickness coming on, so that I could prevent it from escalating to an even worse state.

Once my order was ready, one of the waitresses at the restaurant insisted that she would carry the food out to my car.  This was such a nice gesture on her part, and I was so thankful for her kindness.  She also was a fellow coworker of mine from the hospital, so she felt somewhat more connected to me I think than if I was a complete stranger who wondered into the restaurant off the street.  The meals were all neatly arranged and in a nice, flat box that was perfect for transporting in my car.  The waitress placed the box on my front, passenger seat and wished me luck with my soon-to-be motherhood.  As I watched her run back into the restaurant away from the wind and rain, she reminded me of an angel who had just done an incredibly worthy deed that would definitely qualify for her to earn her wings!

When I finally got home with the wonderful Italian feast, I was so excited to prepare the meals for John and myself, simply meaning that I would serve them on our own plates and with real silverware.  There was so much of the rigatoni with chicken in the Bolognese sauce for John, it just barely fit into one of our salad bowls.  I simply could not wait, and the idea of eating my savory stuffed shells right out of the aluminum take-home container did not offend me.  I did however, put the meatballs that I ordered on the side on one of our plates, so that I could cut them with my fork and not worry about flipping the flimsy, aluminum container across our living room carpeted floor.  My senses of both smell and taste were losing their patience when I uncovered the toasted garlic bread that looked like it was right out of a food magazine.  Thank goodness John was ready to eat, because I was starving!  It even occurred to me, that I really had not eaten anything since about 11 o’clock in the morning when I was given a quick break at work.  Therefore, I was totally famished and felt like the food that was set before us in our humble living room that we would consume together while watching a movie was going to be absolutely awesome.

It is difficult to say if I actually realized then, that this was going to be my “last meal” before I actually went into what was going to be the real deal for my labor with Will.  I definitely had an enormous appetite that evening, consuming all of my delicious stuffed shells and the side of meat balls with some garlic bread.  Everything tasted so incredibly wonderful and it seemed like I could just keep on eating forever.  Some people claim that it can be difficult eating such large meals when you are at the end of your pregnancy, but thankfully for me, I never seemed to have much of a problem where that was concerned.  I was noticing while I came to the end of eating my memorable Italian food, that the intensity of my uterine contractions was definitely worsening.  This would not prevent me from enjoying a little bit of dessert, however.

One of the most wonderful secrets in our local grocery freezer section throughout my pregnancy has been this lovely little brand of ice-cream desserts called “Skinny Cow.”  Now, I am not a calorie-counting kind of person.  But, I do like to conserve my sugar intake when it comes to things like ice-cream, because you really don’t want to gamble with the possibility of getting gestational diabetes.  This would only possibly complicate the pregnancy and force you to stay on a strict diet that would be difficult for me to follow.  The way I look at, if you can settle for an item that still tastes good and is healthier for you, why not?  So, with the help of some patience of trying different items focusing on mint chocolate flavoring of course, I treated myself to not one, but two different dessert items following my Italian meal.  I even remember walking into our living room and stating to John, “this one is for me, and this one is for Will.”  ;o)  Hee.  The truth is, the ice-cream bars are both fairly small, so I didn’t feel too guilty having a little bit of sweetness with chocolate covered vanilla ice-cream with my first treat … and a chocolate drizzled frozen white mint chocolate bar to top it off.  I think I was even determined to still try to enjoy these desserts as much as I could, despite the fact that I was really starting to notice at this point how uncomfortable I was getting with how tight and rigid my tummy was getting with my contractions.  Some might suggest that it could have been from what I had just eaten.  But deep down, I was actually starting to thing to myself, could this really be it?

John did comment later on while we were watching a movie together to commemorate the recent passing of Tony Curtis (Operation Petticoat), that he was surprised I was able to stay awake and not give in to my narcolepsy sleeping disorder.  The honest truth is, I rarely am able to actually stay awake until the end of a movie when John and I get the chance to sit down and watch one together.  Sometimes, it is embarrassing to admit, that I can’t even make it through a 30-minute show without falling asleep during it.  Fortunately, this night was very different from just any ordinary night.  John even suggested that perhaps the pain and increasing discomfort from my contractions was helping me to stay awake.  I realized then, that he had just made an excellent point.

My one OBGYN doctor commented to me that I would not be able to sleep through real labor.  Even times when I was having false labor, the doctor’s recommendation for me was to try to go to sleep.  Now, for someone with narcolepsy, this should be a piece of cake.  For all the other times that I was in false labor, it did work.  Even though I would have several hours in a row of legitimate contractions, upon falling asleep they would diminish to nothing.  After a several hour nap, or a long night of sleep, I would awake with the contractions completely gone.  So, now I was starting to wonder if I could sleep through these contractions.

John was being very understanding about the discomfort that I was having, and like many nights following our dinner and a movie, the plan was for me to sleep on the couch.  This provided back support to help me stay sleeping on my left side, and also allowed for him to have peace and quite when he eventually went to bed upstairs in our bedroom.  What I was about to find out, however, was that I was not going to be able to sleep on the couch.  This night things were different, and the contractions that I used to be able to tolerate while sleeping on my side, I no longer could withstand.  I found myself having to get up from the couch in a sitting position in order to be able to tolerate the contractions.  Now, in my sleepy disillusioned state of mind, I kept thinking that I would just try to go back to sleep and maybe the labor would indeed pass.  Unfortunately, this was not going to happen.  Because, like I mentioned before … tonight was unlike any other night before!  ;o)

Flashback: Off to the Hospital

As we adjust to having a cranky, insatiable miniature person in our home, I though I’d revisit last week’s events that led up to Will’s big entrance. This is the untold story.

Last Thursday night, Sept. 30, Amy had been struggling with more intense contractions than usual and decided to get checked out after work. They informed her that she was still only 1cm dilated… Which showed no progression in 3 weeks! Her due date was Oct. 4 and time was getting down to the wire and we had BOTH been growing very uncomfortable. Docs had told Amy a month ago that she would deliver and here she was still pregnant, in a lot of pain and showing no progress. Thanks, Doc.

That night, she picked up some Italian food from a restaurant near the hospital that she works at and we sat down to watch a movie (upon learning that one of our favorite actors, Tony Curtis had died the night before, we decided to honor him by watching Operation Petticoat). As Amy often does after eating, she passed out on the couch while I went upstairs to my office to work. Over the course of the next several hours, I could hear her usual pregnant snoring, but this time, it was different… She was stirring more while sleeping and even groaning in pain. The contractions were getting much worse.

The next morning, I awoke uncharacteristically early to find that Amy was staying home from work – something she just doesn’t do. I think if our city was being ravaged by a hundred foot marshmallow man, she’d still feel compelled to report for work (after all, a cataclysmic event like that one would likely cause injuries… so they’d need a nurse, right?). I carried on with my usual work duties, feeling that there was a very good chance we could end up on the labor and delivery unit soon. Just as I was wrapping up my work, I received a text message from my wife… “Are you getting my messages??”

See… Amy and I both have Blackberry phones, so we have this addicting little way of communicating from anywhere we might be in the world… by Blackberry Messenger. But since Blackberrys really aren’t very good phones, they tend to lock up or run out of memory faster than Superman changing into his jammies. So, apparently, when she needed me to be receiving her messages the most… I just wasn’t.

Upon receiving the text, I dashed to the bedroom where she was sitting in her bathroom using labor breathing techniques to get through a contraction. She told me to call my mom and let her know that it’s time to go to the hospital. What was serious about that was – she’d been having contractions for well over a month. We’d hoped it was “time” many, many nights. And every time she got a nasty contraction, she insisted it wasn’t time and that they’d have to get a lot worse. And now they had.

Things needed to be done before we could leave, so we carried on with getting showered and packed and ready to go… in the most calm way you’d not expect, actually. No running around frantically. No leaving the mom and driving off to the hospital without her. We actually kept our wits about us!

Around 12:30/1pm ish, I drove Amy to the hospital… which was maybe 5 minutes away, and played some soothing tracks from Jars Of Clay’s latest album, The Shelter, as she used labor breathing throughout the car ride. We parked and, despite calling ahead for a wheelchair, we were not met with an escort at the hospital entrance. As we walked down the hallway, I stopped a wonderful nurse who ran off to get Amy a wheelchair. Before long, we were at the Triage, and me, Amy, and my mom found ourselves in a closet-sized hospital room in the Triage. It was stuffy, tiny, and extremely uncomfortable. Even Amy’s hospital bed was much too small for her. The poor girl rolled back and forth in discomfort as she tried to get through the breathing. The nurse watched her breathing technique in awe and remarked that we should have a video camera to tape her breathing as an example for other women in labor to use. Nice, but not practical. “Hey hon. Look here! Yup. SMILE! No, no… not grimace…. stop rolling… you’re gonna look goofy on this video!” Yeah, I don’t think that would have worked out. And she probably would have had me swallow the electronic device quite forcefully. (I jest.)

After much too long, we were moved to her actual delivery room and the waiting began. When asked if she’d take an epidural, Amy emphatically replied, “YES!” which surprised me after all the talk she’d had about not wanting one. Yep, poor kid. The pain was that bad…

I waited around with my parents while Amy adjusted to the epidural and even nodded off for an hour or two of sleep. Later that evening, before 6:30pm, her doctor came in to check her. She was 8cm dilated (we needed her to be at 10) and he broke her water. The waiting game continued… At around 8:15pm, we were told she was officially 9cm dilated… but the waiting had to continue.

When she had reached 10cm, it was around 11pm and they began prepping her for pushing. See folks, I know my limits. I have a weak stomach when it comes to blood and gross stuff. I don’t like gory movies or stories about hospital procedures. I’m a wuss. I know I am. I’m okay with that. So when it came to watching the birth, I checked out. Sure, I was in the room. In fact, I was beside Amy’s bed all the way… by her head… and kinda behind the bed a bit. My mom was the real trooper. Amy had wanted her to kind of be her support coach of sorts through the delivery and so she helped Amy with the pushing and did a phenomenal job. I, on the other hand, did not emerge from my hiding place until everything was cleaned up. Yeap.

“Have you been bad?” a nurse peeked around my mom to confront little old me in the corner.

“No, no. I’m a wuss!” She seemed to understand.

At around 11:25pm, Amy began pushing. With each push, the nurses and doctors kept expressing their amazement at how strong of a pusher she was. I believe “Power Pusher” are the words they used.

And a power pusher indeed! They said it took most mothers a half hour to get as far as she did with her FIRST push! And at 11:59pm, little William “Will” Peter DiBiase was born! Crazy.

I could hear him cry, and my fears felt the same way… life would never be the same! Then I could tell that the nurses had some concern in their voices… he was breathing heavily with his abdomen. Apparently, that’s no good.

As they cleaned up both mom and baby, I kept hearing a nurse express how much poop Will kept dispelling. Apparently every time she got him clean, he pooped again. Each time, her voice became more and more surprised, “HE POOPED AGAIN?!!!!?!!” It was pretty funny. But I was concerned about their concern for his breathing.

After he was cleaned up, they handed him to Amy and after a few minutes, they handed him to me.

For the first time ever, I was holding my son. MY son. Wait… my son?! He was fussing a bit and looking around, making little grunting noises. Then he looked directly at me and froze. It was as if he knew who I was? He then looked away and started to fuss and then did it once more… looked at me and stopped. It was pretty cool. And if it weren’t for that connection, I think I would haven’t felt any connection at all.

They soon took him away to weigh him and then take him to the nursery. Will weighed 7lbs, 9 oz and was 20 inches long.

My parents left soon afterwords and Amy and I were left alone in the delivery room. After more waiting, a nurse came in to inform us that Will had pneumothorax — pockets of air in his chest that didn’t belong there. They were concerned enough to admit him to the NICU… and Amy’s greatest fear was realized… she’d have to go to home without her baby.

Will spent the next couple days in the NICU. I slept on the midget-sized couch in the delivery room the first night, not getting any good sleep and feeling more like the living dead the next day than a new dad. I had gotten the weird opportunity that night of following the nurse as they delivered Will to the NICU. It was such a bizarre feeling. We were no strangers to having pets in intensive care (oh, you pet owners understand!), but this was weird… a baby… that was ours somehow… was now in a situation we’re kind of familiar with. It was odd.

But on Sunday night, October 3rd, after both mother and baby had shown a lot of improvement, Amy was allowed to come home, but Will had to stay in the NICU. On Monday, Amy spent most of the day at the NICU to care for him, and they finally had taken the ugly feeding tube out of his nose. Then, by Tuesday night, October 5th, I was able to pick up Amy (who was visiting him) and baby at the NICU to take little Will home. And so our adventure began