The New Guy

20 Oct 2006

Please welcome a relatively recent addition to the family, Samuel Ambrose Potts!

Sam was born 40 minutes past midnight on Friday the 13th, so his birthday is actually Saturday the 14th. There’s a goofy low-budget horror movie parody from 1981 with that title. I saw it a long time ago. It isn’t very good, but we’ll have to put it in our Netflix queue anyway!

The birth was mostly uneventful. Grace went tentatively into labor on Thursday morning, but then her contractions stopped, so I went ahead and went in to work, although I was a bit late. Then very early Friday morning the same thing happened again, but this time her water broke. When that happens there is no turning back, so Grace called the hospital. We did not race in — I took the time to get a shower and we picked up coffees on the way, for which I was grateful — I knew I wouldn’t be getting a decent meal for some time. There was no huge rush; after having gone through the full process with Vernonica two years ago I did not feel quite as wired up this time.

We waited around for a while and were then moved into one of St. Joe’s very nice labor and delivery rooms. The staff monitored Grace had us wait for a bit to see if she might start spontaneous contractions again, but she didn’t, so around 1:30 in the afternoon they started oxytocin. Then it was just mostly a matter of waiting. The labor and delivery rooms are very nice for dads, and they have food and coffee available. This is all well and good, but inevitably after pacing around and eating commercially made packaged sandwiches for 12 hours you will be sick of it. I managed to finish a novel called “In the Miso Soup” by Ryu Murakami. The two Murakamis, Haruki and Ryu, are among my favorite writers, but this was a disturbing, gore-drenched novel about an American serial killer in Japan; probably not the best thing to be reading! I also read to Grace for a while; we read from Julia Child’s autobiography “My Life in France.” Partially ghost-written, it is incredibly evocative, mixing food writing and biography — a terrific book. What an amazing, charmed life she led!

Anyway, this labor was a little more complicated than the last one. First off, little Sam experienced a noticeable drop in heart rate with each contraction, which was slightly worrying. To help resolve this, the nurses set up an extra saline infusion through the little probe that measured Sam’s heart rate and Grace’s contractions, to refill the “pool” a bit and cushion Sam. (I referred to this as the “automatic bedwetting machine,” since it basically was putting in fluid that was gradually draining out). This helped some, and although Sam’s heart rate continued to drop a bit with each contraction it always bounced back. It just made me jumpy, and I was constantly watching his heart rate on the monitor. This also meant that they ramped up the oxytocin more slowly than usual, which meant that we had longer to wait.

The second minor complication was that Grace’s edpidural anesthetic did not work as well as last time — basically it seemed as if one side of her body was not actually anesthetized at all. So she had a bit of a struggle with that, and had to get a couple of “bolus” doses of additional anesthetic pushed into the epidural catheter, with multiple visits from the anesthesiologist.

The third minor complication was that there was some uncertainty whether the amniotic fluid was contaminated with meconium (baby poop). When it is, which often happens with babies who are late, they get together a team to do some extra suctioning of the nose and throat in case the baby may have inhaled the fluid, to try to avoid nasty infection. In Vernonica’s case the fluid was definitely contaminated, and it was easy to see this when the obstetrician forcibly broke Grace’s water upon starting oxytocin. In Sam’s case the fluid came out a bit at a time, and it was not so obvious whether it was or wasn’t dirty. Our obstetrician finally made the call that it wasn’t, so nothing special was needed. Sam was not “sniffly” like Veronica was right after birth. But then again, he was only six days late, while Vera was fifteen days late. In fact, Sam was born on Veronica’s due date, two years later.

The fourth and last minor complication was that Sam was upside-down. (Head down, towards the cervix, but facing Grace’s spine instead of her belly). The nurses tried to get Grace into some acrobatic positions in order to convince him to flip over, but things got complicated when the pain medication didn’t work well. Grace needed to try lying on one side for a while to see if the eipidural medication would flow downward and numb up the side that wasn’t already numb, so they gave up on the acrobatics. Instead, just before the baby was born, our obstetrician pretty much just reached in and flipped him over, using some combination of a hand on the baby’s head and another on Grace’s belly. I’m not quite sure how he did this, but it seemed impressive at the time! I guess that’s the kind of thing that obstetricians train to do. I seem to remember that Veronica came out face down, but I might be mis-remembering this.

When it came time to push things went very quickly, and Sam was out after only two or three rounds of pushing, which only took perhaps fifteen minutes, with the obstetrician goading Grace (I think he said “The nurse was being polite, but come on, that wasn’t much of a push! You can do better than that!”) Unfortunately Grace had to feel a little more of the pain than she did last time, but fortunately Sam was not that large, so there was no great difficulty getting him out.

When Sam actually popped out we found that he was quite wrapped up in the umbilical cord, which meant that every time he was squeezed, his blood supply from the placenta would get a little compromised. Fortunately it was not around his neck; he was a little purple but not blue or gray, and pinked up immediately, and had a high APGAR score (nine or better), so as far as we can tell no harm was done. He started peeing as soon as he hit the cold air. They did not rush him to the table immediately but let him sit on Grace’s belly. The stereotypical image is that of the obstetrician smacking the newly delivered baby’s rear end, which makes it immediately cry. They don’t seem to do it that way any more. Both Sam and Veronica did not cry that much at first; instead, it was like they were gradually waking up, looking a little disoriented, and only crying a bit.

Like last time, Grace immediately got chills and began shivering. She had to be warmed up with heated blankets. We’re not quite sure what causes this, but since it happened last time, I was not terribly surprised. After an hour or so she warmed up; in fact, her body temperature spiked a bit. Strange, but it is a big change to have a baby!

I cut the cord, something I declined to do with Veronica (I had been feeling a little overwhelmed at that point in Veronica’s birth, after having been up all night; this time I was not nearly as tired). We confirmed that he was a boy! (We had not actually known for sure). We did not have him circumcised!

Grace was very hungry, and I suggested a pizza. So, after they moved us into the Mother/Baby unit, I called Pizza House and got her a sausage and mushroom pizza, which arrived around 3:30 a.m. I had to wait outside in the cold for a half hour, by the locked front entrance to St. Joe’s, to get it, but it was worth it!

We spent the rest of that first night in the Mother/Baby unit. I got perhaps two hours of broken sleep, and absolutely tortured my back in the uncomfortable chairs they have there. Later Saturday, Sam got his first bath and the usual clean-up, and we had our visitors: first, our family friend Olivia came, and then later that afternoon the Russos, who took care of Isaac and Veronica, came to visit, bringing the kids with them. Vera seemed fascinated by Sam.

Because everything was going so well, and Grace was recuperating quickly, and because my back was giving me terrible pain after trying to sleep on that uncomfortable chair, I actually went home that evening to sleep in my own bed. It did me a world of good to get a full night’s sleep on a real bed! On Sunday morning I went back in to the hospital, filled out paperwork, waited around, and took Sam home early that afternoon.

Sam is small — lighter than Vera, but slightly longer, so he seems a little skinny for a newborn. He is gaining weight, though. Although his head did not look too mashed, right after birth, you could feel ridges where the skull plates were actually overlapping, up to his soft spot and on the back of his head. That was a little weird, but it has gone away already. We were slightly concerned because on one of the ultrasounds, Sam had fluid on one side of his brain. There was no visible spinal column abnormality, but we thought “spina bifida” and “cerebral palsy” and “mentally retarded” and “shunt” and all kinds of things like that. Some extra ultraounds were done; by the last one, there was no visible fluid at all, so it seems like the problem went away on its own. Maybe his brain just grew slower than his skull did. I guess we’ll know if there is anything out of the ordinary by the time he takes his SAT!

Sam has a lot of straight very dark hair — he was born with even more hair than Veronica had. I don’t think it will remain straight, but I guess anything is possible! His eyes are very dark. The color looks like Veronica’s eye color, which was an odd metallic brown color, almost like cast iron (they have since lightened to a dark brown). His skin tone (so far) is very ruddy purplish-pink; I don’t think Vera was quite the same color. He’s had his first pediatric visit, and all seems well. His funny wrinkly knees are starting to look more normal. He has my hands, with long, delicate fingers. He seems to have more of a European nose, but we’ll have to look at photos of Veronica when she was just one week old. Putting him next to Veronica makes us realize with some amazement just how much Veronica has grown. We still call her a baby, but she is comically large next to Sam, and weighs almost thirty pounds now.

Sam is quite different in temperament than Veronica already. While Vera cried and fussed at the smallest little thing, Sam is generally quite content. He’ll cry when something bothers him, but as soon as the conditions change he will immediately quiet down. He is sleeping more than Veronica did, and nursing quite well. He gained back his early weight loss much faster than Veronica did, probably because Grace’s milk came in sooner, and also because he expends a lot less energy complaining than Veronica did! He has been quite easy to live with so far — we are not terribly sleep-deprived. He loves being carried in a sling carrier, even more than Vera did.

When she first met Sam at the hospital, Veronica seemed to take it much better than we expected. She loves to touch him and even to hold him, although we supervise that pretty carefully since she likes to say “baby eyes!” and stick her fingers in them. However, when it comes to taking turns nursing, she is not taking it terribly well, although after almost a week she seems to be gradually getting accustomed to having him around. We have both babies in our king-sized bed in the living room.

We were wondering what kind of nickname we would give Sam. Vera got called “Squeaker,” or “Baby Squeaks,” because of her characteristic high-pitched noises. So far the only thing Sam seems to be doing that is out of the ordinary is pooping with alarming frequency. So unfortunately we’re calling him “Little Pooper” or Baby Poops-a-lot. I hope we can find a better nickname soon!

I took a lot of photos, although I am not sure if any of them will be as good as the ones I got of Veronica, when she was only five minutes old, with her eyes wide open, starting straight at me. They should be ready on Monday, and I’ll get some of them posted as soon as I can.

I got a copy of Terry Pratchett’s book “Where’s My Cow,” since it features Samuel Vimes, head of the city watch and Duke of Ankh-Morpork, reading a children’s book to Samuel Vimes, Junior.

We are getting used to our new arrival and getting back into a routine. Friends have brought us all kinds of great food — baked spaghetti, roast Cornish hens, squash, chili, salad, biscuits, cookies, and turkey — so life has been good!

Welcome, Sam!

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