Chatter #48: October 17, 2001

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM


Well, I'm back.

And we have a baby! John Sebastian Maranci was born at 10:28 PM on October 5th, 2001. He was 8 lbs. 9 oz. and 20 & 3/4 inches long at birth. He's healthy, (usually) happy, and ridiculously cute—which is quite odd, because everyone says he looks just like me. But who am I to argue?

There's so much to tell! Some of which I can't tell, because, well, even if I don't care about my privacy I do care about his and Teri's. Still, here's the story, as much as I can remember.

We went in to the hospital on Thursday evening. The admission process went quite smoothly; we were put into a private room on the 5th floor. There was a moderately comfortable chair which converted into a narrow, low bed for me. We also had a private shower and bathroom; but I was not allowed to use them, since they were for patients only.

(Parenthetically, one thing that would DEFINITELY be a good idea for birthing hospitals is some sort of shower facility for fathers/coaches. I was at the hospital for five days, and there was no opportunity for a shower that whole time! And that was less of a problem for us than for other families, I suspect, because our delivery was planned. I was eventually able to drive home for a few hours and take a shower, incidentally, but I'd have paid good money for the chance to shower at the hospital.)

A managing nurse came in to see us once we were settled. She explained that they would be "gelling" Teri twice to encourage the cervix to ripen; once right away and again in the middle of the night. The nurse did the first gelling herself. The process was surprisingly painful, but tolerable. Teri and I were both quite nervous, although naturally she was more nervous than I was.

The nurse popped in and chatted with us often before her shift ended. Like almost every nurse at the hospital (Rhode Island Women & Infants') she was extremely nice. I've always been nervous about hospitals, but my experiences of late have changed my mind. Every one of them has been so pleasant, and the people have been so nice, that I kind of wish I could work in a hospital!

We got a little sleep in the evening, but knew that we'd be gelled again around 1 AM. Unfortunately our nurse would be off duty by then, so a resident would have to perform the procedure. Teri was worried that it would be a man; she prefers women doctors, which is understandable, I guess. Although personally I'm probably more comfortable with women doctors than with men. Come to think of it, I'm more comfortable with women in general than with men; we're more simpatico, I think (although I'm straight, if you were wondering).

The resident turned up at 1, and sure enough he was male. But he was very gentle and nice, and oddly enough of all the procedures that Teri had during our stay, this was the least painful—even though all of the other procedures were performed by women. An interesting lesson about stereotypes, I'd say. He even took the time to explain why they were called "residents", which I'd been wondering about aloud to distract Teri. Apparently medical schools used to only teach general medicine; specialties were not taught there. But in the 1920's or 1930's the schools started teaching the various medical specialties, and students who were learning them had apartments actually in the teaching hospitals—they were actually residents of the school, in other words. I assume that prior to that they roomed outside of the hospital.

We slept nervously after the second gelling, and in the morning they told us that there had been a bit of progress. Induction would take place that morning. They brought us to the labor & delivery room on the second floor and got things ready. Need I say that Teri was extremely nervous? And so was I, although I tried not to show it.

They put in an IV, which was painful and uncomfortable; I could sympathize, since I'd had one myself the month before for my operation. The IV was spiked with Pitosin, which induces labor; this was a bit scary, since we'd heard that pitosin causes BIG contractions which can be incredibly painful. It wasn't long before we found out that this was true.

The contractions started fairly strong, and built up. Although we hadn't practiced our breathing anywhere near as much as we could, Teri started in on it like a pro—I was amazed at how well she did it. I did my best to coach, but of course there wasn't much to do except keep her company and keep an eye on her breathing. Early on Teri's OB came in and broke her water. That committed us: once the water is broken the baby must come out within 24 hours. Incidentally, Teri had been very apprehensive about that procedure, but it was actually almost painless and easy.

The contractions got worse and worse. We varied breathing techniques as we'd been told, and they helped for a little while, but the pain of the contractions was soon too intense for breathing alone to handle; she just couldn't take it (I should mention that Teri is normally something of an iron woman, and can take a lot more pain than I can). She needed something to help her cope, so they gave her Stadol.

Stadol is a lot like two martinis, I guess, although I've never had a martini (nor Stadol, come to think of it) so I wouldn't know. In other words, the effect is supposedly like being drunk (something else I haven't experienced). Certainly Teri became quite groggy; she fell asleep between contractions (they were about two minutes apart at this point) and woke up to breathe through the peaks. Even drugged out of her mind, she breathed like a champ. It seemed to help, too.

I should stop here and make two suggestions for expectant dads:

  1. Take ALL the prep classes you can before childbirth (& read every book & watch every video), and

  2. Remember that the real thing is NOTHING LIKE ANY VIDEO OR TV SHOW YOU'VE EVER SEEN.

Also, listen and prepare carefully. We had a lot of powerful breath mints (Myntz!) and I used them liberally. Damn good thing, too. Be ready to do anything you can to help her, but there are times when you simply MUST back off. Don't leave the room, however, unless ordered to by a doctor or nurse. She may tell you to leave, but that really means "Don't touch me"—if you actually leave the room, she probably won't forgive you later.

Bring everything that you absolutely HAVE to have in the delivery-room bag, by the way. You won't be able to pop in and out easily—it can be hard even to get a couple of minutes to go to the bathroom, and the bathroom for dads is often not all that close to the delivery room. If the hospital allows you to have a backup coach, GET ONE—even if they only stand in for a few minutes, that can make the difference between watching your baby being born and watching your baby being born while trying to cope with the agony of a bursting bladder.

I did get a couple of chances to leave the room during the day while Teri's mother spelled me. Each time I ran downstairs to the hospital cafeteria, bought a bunch of hot dogs, chips, and a GIANT coke and wolfed it all down. It can be hard to get regular meals when you're having a baby (although it's worse for women—the mother's digestive system actually shuts down during labor, in order to devote all energy to the birthing process!). I also ran outside to call a few people with updates. You can't bring a cell phone into the hospital, and that's not just bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo—wireless devices can interfere with computer-controlled medication delivery systems, and in theory you could actually accidentally kill someone with your phone!

While I was outside making calls at around 1 PM or so I was surprised to see my parents right there in the parking lot! They'd just arrived. I brought them to the lobby, since you're not allowed visitors in the delivery room. Then I went back upstairs and resumed coaching.

The Stadol was starting to wear off; it only lasts about two hours or so. Right on the dot the Stadol wore off, and Teri needed pain medicine RIGHT NOW. She'd been averse to the idea of an epidural, but suddenly a needle next to your spine is a whole lot less scary when you actually feel real contractions turning you inside out. They brought on the epidural, placed a small catheter next to her spinal column, and within 20 minutes most of the pain was washed away. It was wonderful to see Teri relax after all those hours of agony.

You know, an epidural is really an amazing thing. It takes the edge off pain extremely effectively, but leaves the sensation of pressure and the ability to push. It can make the process of birth tolerable (almost), without taking away much sensation. There are a lot of women who I suspect would marry the person who invented the epidural, sight unseen.

I should mention that we've been told that an epidural doesn't work for every woman, although usually it does. Frankly, I can't imagine how women manage or managed without painkillers of some sort. That the vast majority of all the human births ever completed were done medication-free amazes me. I really don't know how this species survived. If I went through what I saw Teri experience, I don't think I'd ever want to have sex again.

Even with the epidural, the pain soon became intense. I should explain that one of the most difficult things about labor (as I understand it) is that there comes a point when you simply HAVE to push. It's almost irresistible. But that urge MUST be resisted until the cervix has fully opened, because otherwise each push will simply bash the baby's head against the blocked opening—and in addition to being bad for the baby, this causes the cervix itself to swell, making the opening smaller and increasing the time of labor.

I can't recall if it happened during the Stadol or the epidural, but one of those medications had a wonderful side effect: by allowing Teri to relax, it allowed her to dilate almost completely, in only a few hours. We'd been stuck between 1 and 3 centimeters for a long, long time (you have to be dilated to 10cm in order to give birth), but suddenly we were at 7 and increasing.

Soon it was time to begin pushing. Now, I'd seen a lot of videos, and Teri and I watched "A Baby Story" often on the Learning Channel, so I assumed that the pushing wouldn't be too bad; painful, yes, some screaming, maybe, but over in an hour at the most.

I'd forgotten that TV shows are edited to fit an hour or half-hour schedule. Teri pushed for TWO AND A HALF HOURS! And there are women who've had to push for far longer than that. It reminded me of Aliens, actually; like the woman trapped in the reactor, I'm sure that if I had something inside me like that I too would beg to be killed. But there was no way out for Teri. For medical reasons the doctor couldn't even help with forceps or vacuum. Teri had to do all the pushing herself. If she couldn't, we faced something that both of us found particularly terrifying: a caesarian delivery.

About one in four or five births is a caesarian, actually, so the procedure is not all that rare and certainly far less dangerous than it used to be even twenty years ago—much less than in Julius Caesar's day, of course. Still, it's major surgery, far more major than the procedure I'd just had. It's an actual cutting into a woman's core, her center of gravity (or near it, in any case), so how can that not be frightening?

I'm going to let Teri see this before I post it; she has the absolute right to censor any part she wishes. Since I'd rather not waste time writing stuff that she'll delete, I'm going to skip some of the more gruesome details. Let me say that for two and a half hours she pushed. Pushed with a force that I really can't describe. Just coaching her, trying to help to whatever extent I could (and it wasn't much), I pulled muscle in my neck and stomach incision. But after two and a half hours, John Sebastian was born.

He was purple-blue, and his head was the shape (and color) of an eggplant; the umbilical cord had been looped around his neck, and the OB had to cut it quickly during the birthing process. They immediately took him into a nearby room to give him oxygen and stimulate him, before Teri could even hold him. She was frantic, asking why she couldn't hear him; I heard a little choking noise from him, and tried to reassure her. Then they had me go into the resuscitation room, which was basically a large closet attached to the room. The technicians were working on the baby there, putting a little mask on him and rubbing his arms and legs. They had me trim his umbilical, too. I'd no idea what an umbilical looked like; to my amazement it was clear and rubbery, for all the world like a yellowish length of clear plastic tubing. Before long John Sebastian looked much pinker, and started to cry. I held him for a moment, and then he was brought to Teri. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever seen in my life.

What more? Well, we had some complications that I won't detail; nothing at all life-threatening, but painful and inconvenient. As a result we ended up staying an extra day. In the days following, we had a few medical scares, including a hospital trip for the baby; but in each case everything turned out to be fine. There are things which you aren't told can happen, things that can scare the hell out of you, but it's important to remember to try and RELAX. Unfortunately I'm much better than Teri at relaxing, probably TOO good.

Now...we're home. John Sebastian lost weight for a little while, but he's been eating like a happy little pig and is doing well. He's incredibly cute, and every day we see changes. In the last two days he's learned two new ways of crying, for example, and three days ago he started looking at us with what really appears to be curiosity. He makes the funniest faces. Oh, he has red hair! That was a shock. Teri has dark hair, and my own red hair is something of a genetic oddity; the rest of my family has dark hair, except for my father's mustache. But John Sebastian has red hair, almost exactly my own color. That may well change—I was born with far redder hair, for example, and it gradually darkened to copper-gold—but it's still pretty neat. In many ways he looks amazingly like I did as a baby, although there's definitely a lot of Teri in him, too. For one thing, he has her father's bloodtype. This surprised us both: since we're both type A (she's negative, and I'm positive—which gave us some concern during the pregnancy), we assumed that the baby would be, too. But I looked it up, and apparently it's not at all unusual for type A's to produce a type O baby.

What else? He's a good baby, as far as I know. He sometimes sleeps as much as four or even five hours straight at night! Our pediatrician tells us that this is fine, since he's gaining weight and thriving. We still aren't getting as much sleep as we need, but it's not like the horror stories that so many people like to tell you. He cries, you wake up (or you were listening for the noises that indicate he's waking up and getting hungry—generally sucking and lip-smacking noises), you change his diaper, you feed him, and within an hour of getting up he's asleep again and you're back in bed. Sometimes he's fussy, or cries and we can't figure out why, but for the most part he's a good, cheerful baby who likes to eat, sleep, and pee.

Speaking of horror stories: you know, that's one of the things that really bothered me about this whole experience. Some people seem to positively relish telling you that your life is over, you'll never get any sleep again, you'll never see your friends again, and you'll spend the rest of your life worrying! It may be early for me to say this, but as far as I can tell so far a lot of this is sheer crap. Yes, we'll never be the same—I can't describe how it feels to have a child, but it has already made me laugh and cry more than once—but our lives are by no means over and we will be able to do many of the things that we used to do. It would be hard to dine out right now, but there are lots of good take-out places in the Woonsocket area so that's no problem. And we certainly aren't lacking for baby-sitting offers.

Oh yes, food. Here's another tip for expectant fathers: after you come home, you will be totally wiped out. And the mother will be far more so. You have GOT to make sure that she eats, a good bit more than she used to; she needs the additional food to recover and heal, not to mention to nurse if she's nursing. She may not feel hungry; she may not be able to decide what she wants. Put food in front of her, though, and encourage her to eat as much as possible. Also, make sure she keeps taking her prenatal vitamins, and once those are gone get her a bottle of good multi-vitamins. Pregnancy takes an incredible toll on the body.

If you can get people to bring over hot food every night, great! Get all the help that you can. If you can't, I strongly suggest pre-preparing as many quick and easy meals as you can. Neither of you will have the time or energy to waste on cooking, so make the process as simple as possible. If people you trust are available to come over and take care of you both, don't be proud—accept immediately. And don't be ashamed to ask! Don't expect to feel human for a week or two, even with an easy delivery.

I understand that in some places there are services which will come over and prepare meals for you; if there are no other options and you can afford it, go for it.

Another thing that I'm quite angry about: even among professionals, everybody will give you different advice—and I'm talking about every doctor and nurse we spoke to. This seems to be worst when it comes to breast-feeding. "Feed the baby every two hours." "No, every three." "No, four—otherwise the baby will develop bad habits." "Feed him on demand." "Wake him and feed him by the clock." "Nurse him ten minutes on each side." "No, at least fifteen minutes." "It should be twenty." "Anything more than seven minutes is excessive." "That's formula-company propaganda." "That's breastfeeding-Nazism."



One last thing that surprised me about the whole experience: I'd been nervous about the many horrible things that I expected to see. They make jokes about fathers fainting during delivery, and the horrors of diaper changing. Well, I'm actually rather squeamish, but I saw most of the delivery (except afterwards, when I was with John Sebastian in the resuscitation room), and for some reason it didn't bother me at all! And diapers have been no problem at all so far. He pees all over the place if you're not careful, and there have certainly been some full diapers, but for some reason it's not disgusting at all—at least, not to me and Teri.

I'd made new address labels for us before the birth, but JSM's unexpected hair color invalidated them. So I've worked up a new one, and in the process made some modifications. Here it is:

FuncoLand Followup

I'd forgotten to mention that when I bought a used Nintendo 64 at FuncoLand last month (to while away my post-surgery recovery hours) it turned out not to work. So we brought it back later, and ended up getting a pretty cool-looking translucent "ice" model, factory-reconditioned. At Teri's insistence we checked it out right at the store, along with the cartridges we bought; and one of those was bad, too. It cost a bit more for the reconditioned unit ($60, which was $30 more than the used model), but it works fine, and it was worth it. I've already earned all 120 coins again on Super Mario 64, and if anything I'm even better at it than before. Even at something as stupid and time-wasting as this, my abilities do seem to be improving...I should put them to work on something meaningful!

Operation Followup

The incision is still red and there's a lot of scar tissue, but the pain is mostly gone both from the skin and the muscles—I hardly feel it at all any more. I can carry the baby in his car seat with no difficulty at all. So it looks like that worked out, too.

The Future?

As things get more settled in my life I plan to go back to adding to this site as often as possible! I'm not going away, believe me! There will be new roleplaying material AND baby updates! Don't worry, though, I'll keep the baby updates strictly on this page—and I'll try not to neglect gaming.

Previous Chatter

Chatter Index Next Chatter

Main Page

Roleplaying Adventures & HeroQuests

Generic & RQ Alternate & Add-On Rules
Alternate Rules

The Chaos Project: Magic Items, Found Items, & Chaos Features. Add yours!
Chaos Project

RQ3, RQ2, & CoC Character Sheets, a RQ Help Sheet, more
Character Sheets

NPC People, places, & Things
NPCs & More

Rune Art & the RQ Font

Random Thoughts From A Random Brain

Issues of my old zine, resurrected from paper
Rack & Rune

Battle Evil Online! Or get munched
Peasant's Progress

Game & Other Recommended Links

So what do you think?

[email protected] Copyright 2001 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 14, 2001. version 1.0