THE BEGINNING OF THE PROLOGUE!!
In starting this journal now, before the baby is even born, I'm already changing my original idea of what the journal would contain. Initially, perhaps inspired by my brother's blog, I conceived the purpose of getting down my memories of what it would be like to raise a kid. However, having gone through a bit of the exciting and daunting experience of what it's like to watch one's wife carry a kid around for nine months (or less), I thought telling this experience would be an important part of the whole picture. I begin this story, like all good stories, in the middle (pretentious, much?): I am beginning to write this on Tuesday 3/29/05. My wife is getting very near to her ninth month, she's on bed rest, she's taking piles of drugs, and is currently watching a DVD of The Muppet Show which my brother lent us. Because of the "middle of the story" aspect of this, I don't have really good dates for anything that I will describe here--this isn't in the journal format of the rest of the site. But maybe it will be a good story that I'll want to remember, so here goes.
CONCEPTION (THE CLEAN VERSION) (8/04)
Evelyn really wanted to have a child--without consulting her about this comment before making it, I will hazard a guess that it has been one of the main goals of her life. It was very important to her, in other words. But she didn't want to have one until she was settled in a house, in a neighborhood with a fairly good school system and a nice front yard. So we stuck it out three years in our apartment in North Brunswick--having seen other couples raising children in our apartment complex, we both were decided that it was not the ideal location for such stuff. (I of course also wanted to have a kid. At the age of 24 I had had what could probably be termed a "quarter-life crisis," and having children had become more important to me--continuing the Genzano Genes, as it were.)
In late May of 2004, we moved into a house in Edison. Within months, we had acquired two cats (North Village Apartments did not allow big pets--only gerbils) and we were trying to get pregnant. This was our first obstacle (rude comment here). After a certain amount of tests and such, in which I was not much involved (except for the sperm test--and given the mixed company of the internet, the less said about that the better), it was decided between Evelyn and her ob/gyn that she would start taking a fertility drug to help in the whole baby-making process (again, the less said the better).
Evelyn had just started taking this drug when we decided to take a vacation to the Lake George region of upstate New York (this was 8/16-8/20/04). We stayed at a bed and breakfast for a week; I took my keyboard, we went hiking, our room had a jacuzzi, we had a fight over a game of Monopoly, and we ate fairly well. When we got back, one of the first things I did was to check the messages on the answering machine. One of them was from Doctor Burbella's office (the ob/gyn--more about him later!). It was a rather cryptic message from a nurse at his office claiming to have "good news" about something. Evelyn was confused, since usually if the office needed to tell her that her standard tests came back ok, they would just say so. Did this mean we were pregnant? If so, should Evelyn continue taking the fertility drug? Of course, we couldn't ask any of these questions because it was the weekend and the doctor had no office hours. In a panic (the first of many), Ev rushed out and picked up some pregnancy tests. They read positive. We were stuck with the question of whether she should keep taking the fertility drug until we could get a hold of the doctor.
It turned out that the message on the phone was merely to tell Evelyn that her standard tests had come back ok--the office had no idea that Evelyn was pregnant. But by a coincidence we had discovered that she was. Conception, it was later estimated, had occurred some time in the first or second week of August--before the trip to New York. I'm still not sure whether it happened before or after she started taking the fertility drug. Our due date was placed at May 4 (a later, detailed ultrasound put it at April 29--it's starting to look like it will be several weeks earlier than this).
TELLING PEOPLE (8-9/04)
The next step was to tell people. But how? We decided that some kind of special occasion might be nice, and my father's birthday was the closest one. Evelyn told her parents first, the day before my father's birthday. I remember that her mother knew before Evelyn actually said it, and without her having to say it, that we were having a kid--Ev just said she had "good news." News began to leak to other members of Evelyn's family after this. The next step was to tell my parents. We had decided to see them (for my father's birthday) with the ulterior motive of breaking it to them in person. The day we were to have this get-together, however, Evie had some bleeding. We became very concerned that a miscarriage could be happening--the materials we looked at suggested that any "implantation bleeding" would have gotten done with long since. I called the parents and ended up telling them over the phone what we had been planning, and why we had to cancel our get-together. Then I went down to the basement and, convinced we were going to lose our child, I cried. Then I went up to the bedroom, hugged Evelyn, and cried.
I believe it was the next evening, but possibly that same evening, that Evelyn went to the doctor. I was at home watching a DVD about the Police, trying to calm myself. I was to call my mother as soon as I heard anything. Evelyn called me (I put the Police on pause) and said that not only was nothing wrong, but instead of seeing one little egg on the ultrasound (Evelyn was to have many, many ultrasounds), the doctor had seen TWO. Twins! Being a twin myself, this was pretty darn exciting. My mother was also very relieved and overjoyed to hear it. I hadn't realized how much it really meant to her until I heard her reaction over the phone when I told her that. It was very memorable. Evelyn had already told me though, the first time she spoke to me on the phone, that 20% of all pregnancies start out as twins--they don't all end up that way.
THE FIRST VISIT TO THE HOSPITAL (9/04)
It was some time in September (that's as specific as I'm able to get--sorry) one evening when Evelyn walked away suddenly and told me to finish washing the dishes. I put on some loud music and happily washed away, unaware that the reason she had walked away was because she was feeling cramps, and she experienced more bleeding. Eventually she got this through to me, I stopped singing loudly, and lo and behold, we were on our way to the emergency room.
Evelyn's ob/gyn, Burbella, was one she had acquired while at college (Trenton State College--The College of New Jersey--The College), in Trenton. Burbella was in Trenton, and so was the hospital he was affiliated with--both of them about an hour away from our house in Edison. Off we raced to experience Capital Health System (Mercer Campus) for the first time. It was not a particularly thrilling first impression, mostly because we had to go in through the Emergency Room entrance--not the prettiest part of any hospital. The admitting person was not very personable, and we waited a long time in a crowded waiting room before going up to a private room, where we waited a very long time until Burbella arrived, his coat thrown casually over his shoulder, making an energetic entrance and predicting that Evelyn's was going to be a problem pregnancy. We (Evelyn and I) were very worried once again that we were going to lose both of our children. So that, at least for me, when Burbella set up the ultrasound machine and told us that we had lost one of the fertilized eggs, I felt little else but relief. I was so glad that one was ok, and I had already been prepared for this possiblity, that it didn't really upset me. In retrospect, it was disappointing--we had already received a couple of congratulatory cards from people based around the idea of us having twins--but much of the emotional trauma I might have felt at losing a potential child was smoothed over by that pure relief that one of them was still safe.
After this discovery, there was a lengthy anticlimax as we waited a further several hours for a shot to be gotten from the hospital's pharmacy and administered to Evelyn. The shot, the first in a series, was given because she has rh negative blood; the shot is to prevent her body making antibodies against a second child, in the event that Evelyn has a second child and it has rh positive blood. It was the first of many late nights.
INTERLUDE (9/04-3/21/05) -- The mural, the gender, the name, the classes
It's really at this point that the slow escalation began. We had one kid, and it was hanging in there. We started the buying of pregnancy books, the planning of registries, and perhaps somewhere around here was where the germ of the idea for painting the baby's bedroom was born. Unlike half the pregnant women in the world, Ev experienced no morning sickness, which we were both very glad about. For a while the pregnancy was pretty easy. She just slowly got bigger. We both tried very hard to eat right and Ev kept track of how much iron she ate, how much carbs, etc. After a while we stopped writing stuff down, but we still tried to eat right. Ev gamely went out to the gym for quite a while; she was partly guilt-tripped into it by various people who kept telling her how good it was of her to keep going to the gym. She stuck it out going to the gym until well into the eighth month--a real trooper. In November my brother Jim was suddenly married to Sarah Gormley. Thanksgiving was held at our house, and we did our second annual live reading of A Christmas Carol in late December. For Christmas Evelyn tried to convince people to buy her baby stuff, but didn't get a whole lot of takers. Some notable exceptions: my mother got Ev the Kick 'n' Play bouncer, Evelyn's favorite item so far and one of the first we registered for. Claire gave us a really cool musical octopus which plays different notes depending on which of its legs you squeeze. For New Years she still had enough energy to put together a great load of food for our yearly movie-fest (this one's theme: time travel).
I think it was the new year before we really got down to business on the baby's room. Since we had moved in, the baby's room had been where we stuck all the junk we didn't know where to put. Now however we were forced to clear it out, and did so, quicker than I thought. Then I went through a cool book Claire had given us one holiday called the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, and started book-marking a ridiculous number of famous mythical locations from literature for possible inclusion on the walls of the baby's bedroom. The idea was to give the baby a fairytale room with lots of imaginative characters and colorful things, while giving me a chance to exercise my creative itch. Fortunately for us all, Ev's parents and Claire helped to an amazing extent. First we painted in big stripes to fill in a generic skyline and land area, then I started very slowly and painstakingly filling in parts of the land of Oz. At first it was just me and I only worked for a few hours each weekend--progress was incredibly slow. Then we started realizing that time was getting short, and Claire helped out. The other walls of the room started getting some treatments. Evelyn was creative director. Then Ev's mother (Janet) got into the action with some clouds. This extended to a beanstalk, various Wonderland characters, some fairytale locales, and other nice landscape touches. Claire added a castle, little woodland creatures, some amazing winged horses, and many other nice flourishes. Photographic evidence is available here.
As the mural slowly grew and filled out, Evelyn was filling out as well. We were trying to come up with good names for the baby, whether it was a boy or a girl, with the help of a name book my parents gave us. We were very easily able to exclude lots of names, but deciding on good ones was much harder. Ev spent a lot of time on a web site which keeps records of the most popular names for boys and girls over a range of years. She was sure we couldn't use a popular name, because it would be lame to have a kid with the same name as all the other kids at school. I thought Benjamin was a good boy name. We decided not to use any names that had already been used in either of our families--I had kind of thought about getting the traditional Genzano name of "James" in there somewhere, or possibly reusing "Thomas" (my middle name and my maternal grandfather's name) as a middle name, but we decided not to go that way--and, since the baby turned out a girl, it was probably for the best!
The gender of the baby we figured out by having a detailed ultrasound done. It was not done at the ob/gyn's office or at his hospital, but at a medical office near the Menlo Park Mall in our area. A bilingual nurse used a lot of that blue gel stuff on Ev's belly and I got to see the limbs and the head and the heart and all kinds of parts of the baby. Evelyn remarked that next time I would have the baby, so that she would be able to see the videoscreen of the ultrasound better. Eventually the nurse revealed to us that we were looking at a female baby. We had both decided pretty early on that we wanted to know the sex of the baby as soon as possible--why wait? It made it easier to buy products for the baby. It also made it easier to pick a name. One day Ev sent me an email: why not Carolyn? I gave it the ok. Elizabeth, though a fairly popular name, is a really nice name, and seemed to roll off the tongue when we said the whole name out. For a while I wanted to keep our options open and still think about the name, but it really seemed to fit and we both liked it, so I decided not to fight it.
In early to mid March, my co-worker Carol was nice enough to drive to our house and have her son assemble a pretty bassinet. Apparently the bassinet has had many different babies in it over the years, so maybe it has some good luck. At first our cat Shelby was so terrified of the bassinet that she hid in the furthest part of the basement, and would wriggle out of my arms if I tried to carry her upstairs. When she finally ventured out of the basement, it was with great trepidation, and she would not enter the room where the bassinet was. Lately, I've caught her lounging in the thing; what a brave kitty. We also got a playpen for the baby, which I figured out how to assemble--and having already spent some time in Babies R Us collapsing strollers, I was beginning to feel adept at such things.
Also in March we finally got ourselves to some infant care and childbirth classes. Long, all day affairs at a fancy big New Brunswick hospital, they were taught by a woman who introduced herself as "Berry like strawberry" and who had a charming Bronx accent and a nice store of knowledge from many years of nursing. We learned about the methods of Dr. Lamaze (I drew a hypothetical portrait of Lamaze which Evelyn declares is the highlight of the notes I took for the classes), and about the kinds of medical supplies we should keep in store for the baby once it got home. We discovered that the hospital had a terrible parking deck. We watched a movie about breastfeeding with lots of women's breasts in it. We got fake baby dolls which the men dutifully swaddled. Then we got a graduation certificate. There was much more information than this, I'm just supplying the highlights.
Not long after our graduation, Ev and I went to my cousin's wedding. It was a beautiful thing, but by this time my wife was tiring very easily and suffering from digestive problems seemingly exacerbated by the baby inside her (which, I had learned from drawings passed around during our classes, had smooshed her stomach into a tiny space, jumbled her intestines, and made her bladder incredibly tiny). We didn't make it to the end of the night. We had passed our childcare classes, but had not yet had a tour of the hospital, something informative that was free to all expectant couples--but we were about to get it. Just not the "official" tour.
THE SECOND VISIT TO THE HOSPITAL (3/22/05-3/25/05)
Early in the week of 3/20/05, Ev was feeling what she described at first as cramps. At first, she reassured me and I tried not to worry about it. On Tuesday, 3/22, Evelyn had her shower, held for her by her co-workers--it was lucky, because it ended up being her last day at work. They gave her piles of stuff, fantastic gifts and a big gift card for Babies R Us. These I helped take inside when I came home. By that time, she had called her doctor to notify him about her cramps, and was asked to come down for a check-up. The woman on the phone advised us to come right away, and not pause even for me to eat my dinner. So I ate a quick dinner and we went down to Texas Avenue, past the Dollar Store, to the doctor's office. By now, having been to a few appointments and seen a few pretty good ultrasounds (as well as hearing the weird doppler thing which makes some weird noises that are supposed to be the baby's heartbeat), I could almost get to the office without having to ask Evelyn when to turn. The waiting room was full; before we were asked in, it was so full that there were no more seats left for all the patients to sit in. We got into a room, Burbella arrived and told Evelyn she was having contractions; in fact, what is called "Threatened Premature Labor," and that we had to go right away to the hospital. Fortunately, it was only 9 pm, so we didn't have to go in through the emergency room entrance. We were given a nice map with highlighted directions, Ev told me when to turn, and we arrived safely--it was the first of many trips back and forth to the hospital for me, and it wasn't long before I was able to get there without making a wrong turn or muttering any curse words to myself. After some incorrect directions from a security guard who was hard of hearing, we arrived at "OB triage," the section of the hospital where they stick ladies in labor. It was a nice big room and I had a favorable impression of where we would be for the real labor--which would hopefully be a few weeks from now! Ev was hooked to an IV and various friendly nurses asked her questions. She was wheeled to the Antepartum ward and a smaller room, having already been given a shot of "Brethine," the drug which would help stop her premature contractions.
To the surprise of perhaps both of us, Evelyn ended up staying in the hospital until the afternoon of Friday, 3/25. It all depended on the hospital staff and Burbella deciding on what was the best dosage of Brethine to put Ev on so that she would not have too many contractions. Burbella, we discovered, has very strange operating hours, and would visit Evelyn at very odd times--for instance, one night he appeared on her bed at 12:30 am. I was sleeping on a convertible recliner chair and it took a few moments to understand who it was in our room--hospital staff were in and out all night anyway to check her life signs and that of the baby's, as well as to administer her medication. The staff were already aware of Burbella's cavalier habit of tossing his coat over his shoulder and striding around like that. Evelyn received various meals from the hospital, not all of which exaclty matched the paper menus she got beforehand. I bought some trashy novels from the gift store, having forgotten to bring the much better book I could have been reading her from home. Ev's parents hung out with her a bit and gave her some nice flowers. My mom called a lot to check up on us and was very supportive. I experienced the hospital cafeteria--they had a nice chicken cheese steak. After several days of visiting Ev, I knew the ins and outs of the hospital--where I had to get a pass, how the parking worked, the kind of things I should have brought for her to have in her room, and even how to deal with the recalcitrant vending machine on the first floor that refused to take my dollar. It was probably more informative than the tour would have been.
Finally, and as a great relief to Evelyn, though it was scary, we were given the ok to get her out of the hospital. We signed the papers, she put on her shoes, got in the wheelchair, and I pulled up the car. Back home. Our troubles were not yet over.
BED REST (3/25/05-3/30/05)
Evelyn was now on bed rest, with bathroom privileges. She was allowed to go downstairs once a day. We cancelled many of April's social engagements, including Easter and a get-together with my brother and our friends which we'd been looking forward to. The baby shower, which my wife wasn't supposed to know about but which I had ended up revealing to her through a scheduling debacle (the first date my mother picked, which I initially said was ok, turned out to be on the same day we had to go see the New Jersey Nets play one of the worst games of their NBA career), was supposed to be down in South Jersey on April 2. This had to be adjusted. We are currently planning to have it in Evelyn's bedroom on the same day.
Meanwhile, Evelyn was beginning to have trouble eating, and was feeling exhausted all the time and very weak. We had been aware that her weight was a little down. I experienced a new level of responsibility, since it was now my job to do everything around the house that both of us used to do: cook, wash dishes, take care of the cats, take care of my wife, bring in the mail, go to work! And so on. Evelyn figured out how to use the intercom on our phone to summon me. We got a TV from my parents and a DVD player from Ev's parents which are now set up in the bedroom. Ev was forced to get up twice a night to continue taking her Brethine. I had had to visit two different drug stores in order to get her Brethine and bring it back to her on the day she got back from the hospital, just in time for her to take her next dose. My eating habits became very uneven, as I wolfed various things down when I got a chance. Various parents made us great food to eat, including Ev's mother's macaroni and cheese and biscuits. My mother made us some ham and a corn casserole for Easter dinner. We had a giant panda cake made by one of Evelyn's colleagues at school, which made for great eating.
Evelyn, unfortunately, did not experience much of the panda. Monday night, she had some lunch meat and almost immediately threw it up. The following morning she had nothing but pills and some water, and threw those up. Fortunately she had a doctor's appointment that morning which I took off of work to drive her to. As it turned out, Ev had lost about nine pounds in one week. Burbella decided her gastroenterologist (whose name is Rapisarda--he looks like Bruce Campbell) was the best person to figure out what to do. Already predicting yet a third visit to the hospital, we had packed up a bag again with books and snacks and toiletries. Instead, we had to go to the hospital to get a blood test and receive medicine, then we drove back to Burbella's so he could inject the medicine, then we drove to Rapisarda, who gave Evelyn a new drug to take: prednisone (again, I'm guessing on my spelling here). This was to help her gain weight. Ironically, one of the side effects is nausea. So far, Evelyn is fighting to eat small amounts of food--food was something she always really enjoyed, and now she has lost a lot of her enjoyment in it. One thing Rapisarda said, while folding his legs on top of each other in a very awkward way from what I could tell, was that "the baby gets what it needs," so even though Ev was losing weight, all the important healthy nutrients were getting through to Carolyn. This of course left Evelyn what she herself described as "an empty shell." She is shaky and weak. Today, she exhausted herself just taking a shower.
That day (Tuesday, 3/29), while taking the medical tour of New Jersey from around 8:15 to around 3, I read two different magazine articles while waiting in various waiting rooms. This is pretty funny, because I had been taking in our newspapers for days without reading a single word of them. For reading material, I had stuck myself with a silly spy novel about Nazis and Jessie Owens which I had bought at the hospital gift store--it was exactly at my reading level. It took me an hour to read a three page article about weblogs in one waiting room (in the background, I was distracted by an episode of the talkshow "The View," which featured strange interviews with Jeff Goldblum and Bo Derek), and I didn't finish an article about the rising importance of the Virgin Mary in Protestant teaching that was in the gastroenterologist's waiting room (in the background, I was distracted by an episode of some soap opera, in which two sisters really didn't want to go away to a college even though their father was forcing them; it was weird).
Tonight (Wednesday, 3/30), I made Ev some pasta of which she ate a small amount, and we just finished listening to the Nets actually win a game--they're trying to make the playoffs. Ev listens from up in the bedroom while I have the living room TV on, because the cable doesn't seem to work in the bedroom. I listened to the game because I couldn't watch it while I was typing this. Ev is tired and sleepy. The doctor (Burbella, he of the coat-over-the-shoulder and the strange office hours) told us that once Evelyn's Brethine runs out, she will most likely go into labor. This will be in probably less than a week from today. We hope that we can at least get the shower out of the way before she pops, but it will be better for us all, I think, if we get this thing over with sooner. I just hope she holds out until we get the baby's room a bit closer to ready. We bought a dresser at the wonderful store of Mattress Cowboys--it had just arrived in the store and they had kicked a hole in the back of it while bringing it in, which probably helped to lower the price--we have the crib, unassembled, with a mattress, and the mural is now done. We forgot to sign it, but yesterday Ev's parents sprayed it with a lethal chemical which will hopefully keep it from getting scratched or smeared. Had we signed it, Claire, Janet, me, and Evelyn would get on there, since all of us contributed a lot to it--I estimate we each provided 50%. George, Evelyn's dad, might get his name on as support and as the photographic documenter--he took some nice fake shots of people pretending to paint it, and helped spray the stuff on the walls at the end, and almost got his fingers chopped off trying to pick up the fan we used to blow the chemical smell out of the room.
Tomorrow, my parents will come up and maybe help us get the baby's room more put together, and perhaps assemble the crib. Then Evelyn's mother will help clean the house for the shower (we've already started receiving some shower gifts from our long-distance relatives; on Tuesday I tested a baby monitor sent by my aunt in New Mexico). I hope to be able to at least vacuum. It's interesting to think of how we're trying to bring our kid into the world, and hoping to take good care of it, and meanwhile our parents are still taking good care of us. Heck, they just helped me do my taxes. Anyways, now that I've brought us up to the present, perhaps it's time to shift into a journal format for the remaining days of T-Minus, into blastoff. I just have to submit this to the wife for a review before it's good to go public.