February 3, 2021

It would have been easier if the patio didn’t collapse

It would have been easier if the patio didn't collapse

This blog is about three weeks late. I’ve been busy.

Three weeks ago, I was overseeing reconstruction of our collapsed patio cover. You see, there was a major hailstorm that blew through Southern California in early January, and the aged, rusted, not-well-secured patio cover attached to our 1931 home collapsed in the storm. So about a week after that, reconstruction of our patio cover commenced.

But that’s not what this blog is about. You already knew that from the picture.

My last entry here was not quite a year ago. 2020 was by any measure a tough year for most people. Our personal isolation came with a special kind of anticipation and anxiety: we were expecting our first child in January. Take it from us, gestating a baby during a pandemic is not a recipe for calm.

We didn’t even know at first if I’d be allowed at the birth. Then we were told I would, but I’d be locked in, I couldn’t even leave to bring back some take-out or anything else. As a way to minimize exposure, it was unfortunate, but it made sense under the circumstances.

Now, leaving our house for a few days isn’t an easy thing to do. As you would have gathered by reading previous posts, we have two very large dogs; a nearly 90-pound giant schnauzer who is very territorial and wouldn’t allow any but a known friend onto the property, and a nearly 160-pound Irish wolfhound, who is a sweetheart but extremely intimidating to people not used to large dogs—and he’s not a good eater, so generally needs to be hand fed.

Since our baby was breech (basically, folded over with her feet by her head), the doctors had all recommended a c-section, which meant that we had scheduled a date in advance: Friday, January 15th, 2021. This meant that I would be able to leisurely drive my wife to the hospital, we had time to set up weekend dog care, and I could arrange patio repair around the date.

Any woman over forty who is pregnant is considered high risk. Then you add hypertension and gestational diabetes, and it meant she was being monitored closely, sometimes keeping her for hours to make sure that there are no risks to mother or baby. She had been to many such monitoring sessions, and even when they kept her a while for observation, they always sent her home. On the morning of Wednesday, January 13th, when she took the one car that we’ve been driving to her appointment with her OB/GYN, she said to me “I’m sure they won’t keep me today, I’ll be home soon.”

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Wednesday afternoon, I got a text that I was going to need a ride to the hospital, and we were going to have to hope our friend could at least spend Wednesday night at our house to feed and care for the dogs. Turns out, the doctors decided that since her blood pressure was high—but nothing had gone wrong yet—the smart move was to have the c-section that day, when conditions were good, rather than wait for something to go wrong.

Thankfully, a neighbor who teaches in the same district as my wife was able to drive me to the hospital, and our friend was able to stay that night with the dogs. He would of course have to go to work Thursday morning, and we still had workers coming to our house (which, again, the dogs wouldn’t tolerate if one of us wasn’t there) but we’d figure that out later.

We were both extremely anxious going into the procedure, but in hindsight we had nothing to worry about. It went swimmingly well, no complications. Moreover it was fast. It seemed like I’d only been in the operating theater a few minutes when I heard the doctor say “and there’s the butt!”

And so it was, at 7:02pm on January 13th, 2021, our daughter was born—butt first.

The look of sheer relief and love on my wife’s face as they placed our daughter next to her shone through her anesthetic haze. I got choked up, too. I was asked later if I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was amazed, overjoyed, relieved it went well, but not overwhelmed. I think the birth of your child is, in my completely biased opinion, an appropriate occasion to feel whelmed by emotion.

When a woman has a c-section without complications, the hospital typically keeps her for two days, or until Friday evening (as the surgeon, who had an absolutely charming and engaging personality put it, “we’ll keep you here until you can do two things on your own: pee and fart”). Once we were settled into the postpartum wing, we explained our situation to the attendant nurse—we had no daytime dog care set up, there were still workers scheduled, so I wanted to leave in the morning, but return. The nurses in the operating theater thought I might be able to leave and return one time. Well, they were mistaken, Covid rules were that once I left, I couldn’t come back. However, I asked really, really nicely. So the attendant nurse asked the managing nurse, and she gave me dispensation to leave Thursday morning and return Thursday night.

Not all the nurses were on board, and I understood their position—I was screened before I entered the hospital, but if I left and returned, I could be exposed to Covid and then bring it into the postpartum wing, which could be devastating. Because of this I was (and am) even more grateful that flexibility won the day and they allowed me to return. Our friend was able to watch the dogs again on Thursday night, so I could be at our house during the day and stay with my wife and daughter both nights they were in the hospital.

The evening of Friday, January 15th—the day that we’d initially scheduled the c-section—I was instead driving my wife and daughter home from the hospital. It didn’t quite happen the way we’d planned, but we wouldn’t change a thing.

And hey, the patio cover looks really nice, too.