Saturday, December 26, 2015

the Early Morning Miles

I stand in the driveway in the early morning dark
watching bits of my breath vaporize into the cold night air
What will I do today?
How will I respond to the challenges of the day?


In the early morning hours of this past Saturday, my wife woke me up. She had been having irregular contractions all week, but they were coming stronger and more frequently. Still not frequently enough to go to the hospital, but we started really talking about what we were going to do should we have to go in that night.

I had made plans to get some work done around the house, and I held to that a bit. We went out to breakfast, came back, and I got to work fixing up the toilet in our downstairs bathroom. It has really needed to be fixed since we moved in, but now with the additional guests and visitors I've been planning to use it as my main bathroom, and so that if we have people visiting in the finished part of our basement they won't have to trek all the way upstairs to our main bathroom. I also figured that since the baby was overdue, I might be able to jinx her into coming by making plans that I would then have to break.

Sure enough, the contractions continued into the night and we decided to go our for dinner with some friends who live up the street. Honestly, I imagined that even though the contractions were pretty serious my wife would still end up going until Tuesday when they had talked about induction. Induction, as I've learned, isn't preferred. But I figured that would be the luck we would have. We made it out to dinner and all the way home. We even stopped into our friends' house to visit a bit before heading home. The contractions were consistent, but not spaced too close together.

After we got back I decided to get my miles in. Those of you following my holiday running streak have seen how it has gone so far -- not my highest mileage year, but I've still remained fastidious in getting the miles done. This dedication is important to me. It is something that changed my life several years ago when I found it.

I went out for 2.1 miles, covered the distance in a moderate amount of time, came home, and showered. I laid down in bed for a couple of hours. My wife woke me up -- around 11. The contractions were really strong now. She even found an app that helped to time the frequency and duration of each one -- so we made a deal that when they started averaging close to 5 minutes we would call the doctor. The doctor told us not to come in until my wife was having trouble speaking because of the strength of the contractions -- and a couple of hours after that we were headed to triage.

It turns out that the best time to go to triage is not the early morning hours of Sunday. We arrived at about 1 am. My wife stood around at the desk for what felt like forever (was probably closer to 6 minutes) and then was seen. We both got brought back into a room, where they hooked up some sensors, told us they would be back, and then promptly forgot about us. I shouldn't say forgot about us, but due to the lack of information we certainly felt that way. An hour passed. Another hour. Finally a doctor and nurse came in to check my wife out, gave us no information, and left. Another hour passed. We paged for water a few times. No one ever came. It was scary, infuriating, and really, really unpleasant. You have to realize, this is our first child. I don't know if the lack of information or communication is par for the course here or due to a tremendous workload, but in any event I can only respond to the situation as I experienced it. I was ready to start yelling at people.

Finally at around 4 am a different doctor and nurse came in. They explained that there had been a long line of folks heading to delivery, so they were waiting for a room to open up. We waited another hour or so, and then we were brought up. From the time we stepped into the labor room I felt much more at ease. The LDR nurses were very, very kind to us and answered every question, and guided us through the choreography of the early parts of labor. When shifts changed, they would introduce us to the new staff. We got to know our staff well, and we really appreciated them.

The adrenaline hits my system
my body devours the miles
the awake hours
welcomes no sleep
I run for longer than I imagined possible
I imagine never stopping

Once we got into the LDR we slept for about twenty minutes or so. The adrenaline in my system made it really hard for me to sleep for long periods, and so I was up. I was watching my wife, staring at the monitors, thinking how useful it would have been to have gone to medical school. I didn't feel helpless -- I just felt strange. How long were we going to be there? And also, what the hell day was it? As we approached 10 am, things started to get real. The nurse started to prep us for what laboring would be like, and was in and out of the room with the doctor on call. During the in between moments my wife and I shared some very nervous exchanges -- I did my level best to be a very strong presence and put her at ease. I couldn't do much more than that, but expressed my commitment to her in the strongest way possible. The true importance of our union felt very apparent to me in this moment.

The nurse had prepped us that it might be a very long time. We had only been in the LDR for six hours or so, but when you considered we'd been at the hospital for closer to ten, and the labor had gone on for much longer than that, my wife was ready to be done. The epidural took the edge off her pain, but it was time to meet our child. The nurse had prepped us that it could be hours of pushing. It ended up only being about ten minutes. Our daughter came into the world, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life, cried, opened her eyes, and immediately was skin-to-skin with my wife.

Now the sensation of ease with the new level of work 
I busy myself for hours 
revel in the joy of the motion 
the miles sing in my bones 
and thrum in my heart

I have no words for what happened inside me. The adrenaline continued to stay kicked up, I draped my arms over my wife and daughter, and I have never been so happy in my life. A little later the nurse cleaned up the baby, took her foot print, weighed her, gave her her antibiotic, swaddled her and handed her to me. The ballet of the LDR is a really incredible one -- I'm not certain you fully understand it until you see it. The nurses work so much harder than anyone you've seen, while retaining compassion. You watch your birthing partner do something so incredible, and if you are me, you wonder how anyone thinks running 26.2 is hard compared to this incredible act of creation.

I only found out later that my wife had photographed the exact moment I first held our child -- I looked into her little eyes, "My long-expected child," I said. I stroked her hair. I smiled, and I told her I loved her.I felt euphoric, and I felt love for many people in that moment.

In the marathon we look within ourselves to find another level of strength. We look within ourselves to find a way to comfort ourselves through pain and trying times. I felt like this was that exact moment -- all of the stressors placed on my wife and I, all of the adrenaline and hormones and everything else you go through in the last stages of expecting -- I was drained from having been awake for so long. I hadn't seen a real meal in sixteen hours (and neither had my lady love, who did all the really hard stuff.) I looked into that little peanut's eyes, and I found another gear. I dug deep.

The next gear opens up 
I search for even more to do 
Doing more and more than I thought possible 
My legs revel in the fatigue 
as does my heart 
We yearn for hard work 
to earn our rest

The next twelve hours were a whirlwind. We were moved up to our room after two hours or so. I fed my wife while she fed my daughter. Family came to visit. Friends. I headed home while my daughter's god parents were up so I could grab some things we forgot in the go bag, and to get my mile in, and to bring some food up to my wife. I came back completely drained, and powered on into the night. We tried to work sleep in in shifts. At about 2 in the morning, I went out cold. Nothing woke me up until 7 am the next morning.

The next day was similar. Tests, doctors, feeding my wife while she fed my daughter. Coming home to attend to the house and make sure it would be ready for our return the next day. Getting in my mile before coming home. Continuing on into the night, trying to get my wife a few hours of sleep before I went out cold. Absolutely loving our child. Our perfect, perfect child.

We have been home for a couple of days now, and starting to hit our stride. We sleep in shifts, have split up some of the chores without even talking about it, and have had really excellent support from our friends and family. Simultaneously to the birth of this child my wife's family has been going through some turmoil due to illness, so it is difficult for her to not be able to be there as much. This child is our priority, and everyone understands, but it is hard to not be involved when you have been so very involved in the past.

Rests now, the heart 
which realizes that the race is not run 
it has only begun 
and ever busy shall be the body 
the mind 
the soul

My wife is an incredible person. I worked so much harder seeing what she did, because I felt that I could do nothing but support her, so I wanted to do it 150%. The child is incredible. I welcome the shifts where I get to spend time with her, comfort her cries, feed her, and sing to her. I know that there will be many nights ahead which are sleepless, and much work to be done which will be very difficult. I welcome it. I welcome the challenge and the rigors it will place on me. I want to go the extra mile for this child.

Fatherhood is my new endurance sport. I aim to be an elite at it.

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