We are so screwed.
Robin Anne Delgaard Boaden was born on 1 August 2018 at 2133 weighing six pounds, fourteen ounces and measuring nineteen inches long. By a stroke of luck and some good karma, my midwife Carmel (who just happened to be working that night) was able to deliver her after a very long and painful labor.
I began writing this blog nine days after Robin was born. She’s now over a month old. (This gives you a good idea of how little time you have to yourself when looking after a newborn. I’m happy if I can shower in any given 24-hour period.) There is so much to write, so much to relive and say and tell. What do I want to share? The pain. Oh, the pain was horrendous. How can I explain the agony? Contractions felt like someone was squeezing my stomach in a vice grip while also slashing my stomach with a dull knife over and over again. I might have been having back contractions (as in, Robin was spine-on-spine) and I certainly had double contractions (instead of the “standard” minute, mine were two minutes long with two peaks of pain). It was pain unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life – not during OCS, SERE school, or on deployment – and something I never wish upon anyone else. You want to know what torture is like? Go through labor.
What I want to emphasize is how much I appreciate and love and cherish my husband. Through all of my labor (let’s call it 24 hours), he was by my side. He massaged me when I wanted his touch; he left me alone when I shouted at him to stop. He championed my strength as a woman and a mother, praising me and cheerleading all the way. He gave me crackers when I was hungry (and brought in Oreos during my hospital stay) and made me take sips of Gatorade and water throughout the process, especially when I didn’t want anything. And he endured every shriek of pain, every bone-shattering wail of my contractions, for hour after nonstop hour. His torture was no less than mine, yet he couldn’t do anything about his. My outlet was volume. My outlet was concentrating so hard on the present I deafened not only everyone in the room, but myself as well. I never knew I could make such a violent noise.
One moment sticks in my memory of his suffering: I was at the end of laboring through five hours of what we would realize was zero progress. I was begging for the pain to end, for an epidural to stop my torture. I was able to open my eyes briefly and my husband’s face came into view. Somewhere in my shattered brain I recognized that he had been crying. His eyes were red and damp, and his overall expression was one I had never seen before: despair. His tears came because he couldn’t do anything about my pain. My torture was torturing him. Once I finally received the epidural (one of the longest twenty minutes of my life), he took leave of the midwives and left the room for five minutes. To this day, I would not trade places with him. Although I was in so much pain I would have probably shot myself if I had been given a gun, I feel my husband suffered more. Emotionally and mentally, absolutely. I don’t think I could have watched me go through all that pain. And yet he stayed with me.
There’s more to my labor and delivery story, but I won’t rehash it here. It wasn’t all agony; there were definitely funny moments, like when I received gas and air (Entonox) and started babbling like a drunk person. Or how I really wanted to make a Darth Vader joke about the respirator, but I just couldn’t string together the words. Or how I ended up peeing on my husband as he gamely held a bed pan under me while I was laboring on all fours because I couldn’t move to make it to the toilet. Or that time I vomited on the bed. Or pooed a little while pushing our child out. Dignity? What dignity? What matters is that Robin came out healthy and I remained healthy and our little family grew by one.
Switching gears, I’ve come to realize that the Marine Corps prepared me for having a child much better than I thought. Here are some revelations I’ve had over the past month:
1. Sleep deprivation. Nothing new. The military is great at keeping you awake doing silly things like duty, night flights, and crazy-early morning physical training sessions.
2. Duty schedules. Is your kid crying at three in the morning? Don’t worry, your baby duty shift started at midnight as you high-fived your husband off to bed.
3. Bodily functions. No need to shy away from poop, pee, blood, or any other excretion because the Corps has already forced you to see it all before.
4. Loud noises. What’s a newborn’s banshee cry of hunger compared to the roar of exploding grenades, a Drill Instructor’s reveille, or a Cobra’s 20mm cannon?
5. Dependants. I’m not saying babies are like little lost Lance Corporals, but…
6. Quick showers. The inventor of the five-minute, water-saving “Navy shower” was clearly a parent.
7. Brevity. Sleep deprivation means cranky, short-tempered parents, so brevity in communication is a must. Grunting counts.
8. Daily rig. Need to change another onesie because of spit-up/poop/pee? No problem, I’m used to uniform changes.
9. Time management. Appointment at ten? Gunny-time yourself to leave at nine and watch the clock eat up the buffer.
10. Tetris skills. Hum that Russian tune with me as I figure out how to stuff two adults, one newborn, one car seat, one stroller, one carry cot, one change bag, one nursing pillow, one bag of snacks, and two coffees into the car.
(Photo copyright Dannielle Reeder at daniellereederphotography.com.)