Ella’s Day

Elanora Willow Bruinooge was born a year ago today. I was just looking over the hastily-scrawled thoughts in my notebook from the time in the hospital. I can’t believe a year has already gone by, but on the other hand, that pre-Ella time seems incredibly distant — a lifetime away. Here’s some excerpts from what I wrote that day:

1:00 am: I realized today that I feel like Sam Gamgee. Suanna is Frodo — carrying a burden she can share with no one, uncertain of the future, exhausted, and unsure if she can manage to take even her next step. My job is to stay the course by her side — simultaneously helpless and crucial.

1:50 am: Thank God Suanna is tired. I was worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep. I just hope I’m able to. I’m not really keyed up, but my dreams were crazy last night, and there’s no reason they’d change. Mom said the one about the baby being a fish is classic parental-inadequacy stuff. Not surprising. The odd thing is that I’ve been having more of those teaching nightmares, where I show up to teach poetry and am completely unprepared and gradually lose control of the classroom.

7:50 am: In the Hospital Cafeteria

2:15 pm: Suanna just got her epidural. She’d been in considerable pain before then. The anesthesiologist is young, perky, talkative. At first I thought she was keeping Suanna talking just to keep her mind off the pain until the medication set in. But it became clear that she was just gregarious and didn’t have anywhere she needed to be just then. As I’m writing this Suanna’s talking cancer-care policy with her and is perfectly chipper. Night and day from where she was just a few minutes before.

5:55 pm: So strange. Childbirth is as natural a process as there is, something that a woman can do all by herself in the wilderness if she has to. And here’s Suanna, with monitors on her abdomen to track her contractions and Ella’s heartrate. A catheter. A blood pressure machine. The epidural cord. An IV. In a room, in a hospital with all sorts of high tech stuff around. I wouldn’t have it any other way. All the tech that’s here, from the medical stuff to having the laptop and camera handy — there’s no downside. It’s a win-win.

Suanna’s incredibly hungry, fantasizing about the cinnamon rolls Jen served on Friday morning.

6:55 pm: We’re almost there —

after 7:37 pm: I spent the last couple months worried not about the birth but about taking care of a baby afterward. But the labor was full of causes for worry and fret (all ultimately groundless), and as soon as I held Ella, taking care of her suddenly seemed like the easiest thing in the world.