After nine months of pregnancy, Melissa had come to her limit. She was sick of being spherical. Every move she made was an exercise in physics and fashion was more a matter of size than style. Her thoughts ranged from, “How do I effectively move the most mass using the smallest angle and still create the least tension and fully ignore the effects of gravity?” Or the more concise, “I cannot freaking move!”
Melissa was more than thrilled when her OBGYN suggested induction. The anxiety of a mad dash to the hospital (over an hour away in the middle of Nashville) and the dreaded prospect of going late would be removed. Now a date could be set and the minutest preparations could be made.
Saul was due November 5th, so I knew there was an outside chance that he would be born on my birthday. I had harbored this hope knowing that the prospects were slim. Then after Melissa’s last check up, a note was delivered to my classroom at Central Middle. It read, “Teply, Wife will be induced November 2nd, Your Birthday.”
The morning of Wednesday November 2nd, 2005 was quiet and foggy. Melissa and I were in her Ford Escape and moving toward Nashville before anything else stirred for the day. During most of the trip we sat in a stunned silence. I gripped Melissa’s hand and tried to comfort her as she dealt with her innumerable fears.
It was business as usual at Baptist Hospital in downtown Nashville. No one came out to greet us after parking and no band played as we drug our way through the wide automatic doors. The receptionist robotically gave us the forms to fill out and answered a few of our questions. Melissa had difficulty even signing her name. Her arms shook from the shoulders down making the pen hop from one spot on the signature blank to another.
We were shown to the spacious room where the delivery was planned. Melissa changed into her “hospital grade lingerie” and I went back to the garage for our baggage. When I returned, Melissa was in bed with a nurse in attendance. The Pitocin (the drug used to conjure the act of labor) was started at 8:00 AM, an event that was largely anticlimactic. She was then hooked up to a monitor that gauged Saul’s heartbeat and the strength and frequency of her contractions. From this point forward, Melissa was leashed to the bed and her bedpan. I took a seat on the couch, and we waited in vain for the miracle to begin.
Events from this point to 3:00 PM included two attempts to break Melissa’s water (one being successful), a couple of visitors, and Melissa exhausting her entertainment options. At any point during this wait, I halfway believed that the OBGYN would stroll in and tell us to come back another day. It really didn’t seem like anything was really happening.
After 3:00, Melissa’s contractions began to pick up as well as the discomfort and anticipation. She was dilating at an agonizingly slow pace. She had reached 4 cm, a long distance from the needed 10cm. The attachments from the monitor had become uncomfortable and a long day in bed made her feel stiff. Friends had now joined the wait but the anxiety for both of us was inescapable.
Melissa waved the white flag near 4:00 PM and the epidural was requested. A short while later a young, uncomfortable looking man brought a medical cart into the room. He introduced himself as an anesthesiologist trainee. He then requested permission to perform the procedure. To my mild surprise, Melissa agreed and I could feel my stress level again reaching headache levels.
The epidural itself was tense but routine. Melissa sat up while the anesthesiologist probed her back for the correct location. Melissa even had the good humor to inquire about the cost for a full massage (and a Diet Coke). I had placed my hands on Melissa’s knees in an effort to comfort and steady her. As the epidural continued, I gradually began transferring my building stress into the grip on her knees. Before it was finished, Melissa was ordering me to step back.
Henceforth, life became more pleasant if not more exciting. Melissa would make offhanded, jubilant comments every time a yellow peak on the monitor registered an intense contraction. She laughed and conversed while her body worked and thanked Heaven for the wonder of numbness.
The good times ended just before 10:00 PM. Dr. Wise (the OBGYN) again checked Melissa’s progress and reported that she was just 6cm. The same dilation she achieved hours ago. Saul’s head was apparently jammed in the birth canal and was starting to swell under the pressure from Melissa’s near constant contractions. Saul’s shoulder blades were caught behind Melissa’s pelvis further complicating the delivery. Dr. Wise suggested the possibility of delivering by caesarian.
By 11:00 PM it was apparent Melissa had stalled at 6cm and with Saul under increasing stress it was decided that a C-section would be necessary. This was a setback considering Melissa’s hope for a quick recovery. She had a similar operation to remove an ovarian cyst a few years after we married and knew the healing process would be lengthy.
Now I started pondering the remaining possibilities of Saul’s arrival on my birthday. The clock and I had been locked in a staring contest all day. My will was losing the battle to impede the quartz driven movement. At 11:15 the clock seemed satisfied that victory was in hand (minute hand, that is). The surgical staff began preparing Melissa for the operation. I stood aside with my fingers crossed behind my back.
I was given a set of disposable scrubs and lead to the quiet hallway outside the operating room. At 11:40, I was ushered in. Melissa was on her back with a curtain set up from her shoulders down. In an effort to comfort her, I took a stool next to her head and began rubbing her temples. The epidural caused Melissa to shake but otherwise she seemed perfectly calm. I spoke with her about the excitement of meeting Saul and the conclusion of nine months of preparation. All the while keeping one eye on a minute hand creeping closer to twelve.
I heard the doctors cue each other to begin the incision. Not long after, the sound of electricity and then the less than subtle smell of burning flesh. I knew what they were doing and I hoped that Melissa was too drugged to realize what the odor was.
“Are they cauterizing me?” she asked.
“You know what? It smells like Fritos.” I smiled and Dr. Wise voiced her agreement.
Just minutes later, Dr. Wise asked, “Daddy, do you want to see this?”
The Matt of any other juncture in time would have respectively declined. However, the one time offer of seeing my first-born son being yanked into the world was to valuable to miss. I sprang from my stool and peeked over the curtain.
Through an incision in Melissa’s midsection peeped a scrunched purple head with the pale yellow length of an umbilical cord wrapped around it. Moments later, the rest of Saul’s 21 inch, purple, valen (the white mucus that protects baby’s skin from the amniotic fluid) smeared length burst into the world.
Saul’s head was frightfully swollen off to one side and bleeding slightly. The shortened length of his leftover umbilical protruded from his belly like a stunted appendage. His color was more violet than anything resembling normal flesh. Every corner was filled with his cries of discontent and the instant he was laid horizontal a healthy stream of urine sprayed anything nearby. I couldn’t help shedding a few prideful tears.
Saul’s eviction notice was delivered and enacted at 11:52 PM November 2nd, 2005. My long contest with the clock was over and now I have the unique joy of forever sharing my birthday with Saul James. Wait…Is this a good thing?