3/52: Welcome, Small Soul



Oliver Owen arrived at 9:06 in the morning on September 27th. Our second Friday baby. Our second 8 pound, 11 ounce gift.

In a less rosy vein: it was the best of births, it was the worst of births. Any labor where your partner is upright, not vomiting from pain, and fully present has to be an improvement from our last go, but at the same time it had been a frustrating wait. The OB told me she expected me to be a week or two early… I ended up being induced a week late. The hospital told me to call at 4am the morning I was to be induced just to make sure there was a bed available… we called back every two hours until a bed finally opened up twelve hours later. The doctor said my body was ready for birth and it could still easily be a September 26 baby… we had the baby at 9 the next morning.

And after a 10 for 10 epidural experience the first time, I now understand a little bit why some people are wary of them. The anesthesiologist, a cheery man who told Carl to “bounce” when it was time to place the epidural because he’d had one too many fathers pass out during the procedure (yeah, it took us both a couple of seconds to understand what the heck he was talking about; one does not feel especially jaunty an hour before midnight while in labor)—he did his business with the needle just fine, but it was threading the tube that proved a challenge. I could literally feel it pushing into the very wrong areas of my spine. I don’t feel good, I said. The nurse held my hands encouragingly. No, I mean, I think I’m going to throw up. She got me a plastic bucket. No, I mean, I might pass out. I need to lie down. Now.

No, no! The doctor insisted brightly. You can’t do that. I’m almost done! Won’t be a minute!

I woke up to strong lights, a room full of medical personnel, and a crash cart a few seconds later. I was fine. The baby was fine. But it never ceases to surprise when people don’t take the hey, I faint thing seriously. This is not a too-much Victorian lit thing. I have lowish blood pressure and the genes for it. Sometimes I pass out. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. people. I don’t need the headache and nausea of returning blood to the brain on top of labor.

They let Carl back into the room a few minutes later. He said I had made groaning sounds like I was in excruciating pain and then somebody had yelled for ammonia salts and then a bunch of people had run down the hall. He said that we were done having kids.

But an hour later the epidural had kicked in and the adrenaline had kicked off, and we were both asleep. ALTHOUGH, I will say that the epidural continued to be annoying because even after all the issues getting the placement right it still wasn’t right, and when we hit transition the pain on my right side was manageable and on my left side I felt like my ribs were being crushed, my side torn up, and a horrible throbbing pain radiating down to my knee. So, probably normal transition pain? It was pretty awful. I can’t say I’m a fan.

At least it was over quickly. The doctor on the floor that morning is one of my favorites in the practice, a chipper woman in her early forties who genuinely likes her job. You’re fully dilated, she said, so just tell us when you feel like you want to push. Well, I never did feel like I wanted to push (the sense had been overwhelmingly obvious the first time around, so it caught me off guard this time). But I was pretty done with the contraction pain, so we caught the next one, and suddenly he was crowning. It had taken almost an hour of pushing with Iris to get to that point. Oliver was born within five minutes. So fast, in fact, that his forehead was bruised and his poor little eyes are still bloodshot. The body remembers its job, that’s all I’ve got on that front.

There’s no point trying to describe the feeling of having your baby placed on your chest after birth—a tiny, hearty, blood-spattered, crying, disoriented, perfectly complete human being you love but have never met before. I’ve never felt anything like it before or since or anywhere else. Which is probably true for a lot of things, but it does make it hard to describe.

I cried.

He looks just like Iris to me. Right down to the sweet mouth, the dime-sized chin lost in a cute swath of baby fat. He’s a sleepy baby so far, perfectly content if held and regularly fed, calm in the face of Iris’s exuberant affection. Our biggest challenge is keeping him awake long enough to eat a square meal.

We debated his name until the end, put off filling out the paperwork as long as possible, and—at least, I did—spent some time looking him over for clues. Nothing seemed right quite like Oliver.

So that’s what we named him.

We’ve liked the name for a while now, but I didn’t love it until I started thinking more about the meaning. Meanings are important to me, and I wanted his name to carry something special. I wanted it to be a good first birthday gift, one that would wear well through his life.

Oliver for olives, a symbol of peace and plenty.

I know that all children—at least those fortunate enough to grow up at all—have to grow up and decide for themselves who they are, who they aspire to be, how and where they want to spend their energy. But inasmuch as a parent is allowed to have hopes for her children, I hope ours fulfill in some quiet way the promise of their names. I hope they find the grace to turn outward now and then. I hope that like Saint Mary Magdalene and the goddess Iris they have a message to share in life, and if it’s going to be a message worth sharing, then I hope it’s a message of peace and the hope of prosperity.

Not the illusive prosperity of multi-national business tycoon crap, but the prosperity that is as tangible and simple as an olive grove, a life of rewarding work and peace both inside and out. Because it really doesn’t matter whether you see the world through a religious lens or a more secular one—I think the majority of us can all agree that the world would be a better place if we could learn to live more peaceably with ourselves and with others.

But until we reach such enlightened planes, I’m sure enjoying the trip.

I keep looking at Carl and being sort of astonished by how natural it feels and how good. We have kids! Plural! How did we ever get so lucky?

It’s nice to love the place you are.


6 thoughts on “3/52: Welcome, Small Soul

  1. Welcome to the world, sweet Oliver! We CAN’T wait to meet you! P.S. way to go, Kathryn! You’re an amazing woman. For realz. (Yes, so much so you get a Z on the end for emphasis.) Also – keep on writing! You are SO truly gifted. I absolutely LOVE reading what you write and share, friend. Thanks for sharing your gift (along with the story of your sweet little man’s arrival) with the rest of us. Praying for all of you! MUCH love!

  2. That is such a lovely (& frank) account of your labour experience. Thank you for sharing. My labours were very, very different, both in length & intensity. I had kind of mapped out in my head how this next labour would be but a phone call from the midwife has thrown a spanner in the works. As soon as I go into labour I have to head straight to the hospital to have antibiotics through an IV drip. Perhaps followed by 48 hours in the NICU for baby to be monitored. *sigh*.
    Both Iris and Isaac had jaundice. Isaac was so severe a blood dilution procedure was considered. Such a scary time for us all. Fingers crossed we avoid that this time. I think we’re due a bit of luck!
    Anyway, Welcome to the World Oliver! He is such a cutie pie. Making me very broody – only 5 weeks until we meet our new addition. :0)

    • It seems like births never go according to plan! I’m so sorry to hear about the NICU possibility. Here’s hoping things go smoothly for both you and your little one. I don’t know about you, but those last few weeks of waiting were killer hard for me. Hope it goes quickly for you!!

  3. Olive is one of my favorite names and Olive Schreiner, the English South African feminist-pacifist, one of my favorite writers. May Oliver know and be an advocate for peace.

  4. Yes, he does look a lot like Iris! So glad you are back home and seem to be doing well. I also had baby blues, but the sunshine helps! May God bless you all as a family.

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