On January 7 at 4:25 PM, Eleanor Blythe Kellner came into the world a wrinkly, squished, bloody, crying mess; she was perfect.
Wait, let me back up.
Shannon had been having contractions on and off for weeks. Like so many things, this was a different experience from when we had Miles. With Miles, Shannon never had any of this stuff. Time just kept on passing and she kept on not being in labor. Which led to an induction and 22 hours of natural labor and pushing before taking an epidural, more pushing, and then a c-section. This time, with Eleanor, Shannon had varying degrees of contractions with no real, consistent pattern for weeks. We had doctor’s appointment after doctor’s appointment as Shannon went to 3 cm dilated to 6 cm dilated with no active labor in sight. The worst feelings we had were in the run up to the end of the year when the differences between yearly insurance deductibles and tax rebates appeared overwhelming. Sometime on the 30th or 31st, Shannon made peace with the whole process. I did too. Anyone who has a kid knows you can’t be in it for the financial benefits, focusing on that will only lead to stress and misery.
On the morning of Tuesday, January 7th, we learned, first hand, that diesel gels at colder temperatures. I went out to warm the car out in sub-zero weather only to hear it turn over but never fire up. Most days I walk Miles to daycare but it seemed too cold to do that, so I assumed I was having a battery issue and went inside to call AAA. I was informed that I would have a ten hour wait. Not content to sit around, I went out and pulled the battery in impossibly cold conditions. It really did hurt. As I finally got the battery out of the car, my phone buzzed, telling me our technician was 15 minutes away. When he arrived, he told me he has no idea how I showed up on the list so fast; his previous call had been waiting since 4 in the morning. He charged the battery and we were able to get the car moving. I drove it around for a while before coming back home to put the battery cover on in the driveway. It was a little after noon. And as I was completing these last steps, Shannon banged on the window yelling, “My water broke!” Apparently in her rush to find me she was also attempting to call my phone, only to accidentally call our animal control expert. We are unaware if she actually left the message for him that she was in labor; he did continue to catch the raccoons living under our porch, though I am not sure the issues are connected.
You might ask, why was Shannon banging on the side door window to announce Eleanor’s impending birth? Well, since Miles couldn’t go to school due to problematic transportation, he was in Shannon’s care. He decided that he needed to poop and wouldn’t surrender his position on the toilet when Shannon thought her water broke. Shannon, well aware of the ancient rule of “I was here first”, caved on her demands to acquire the toilet through imminent domain and fled for the basement bathroom where she saw me out the door window, puttering away in the driveway like a buffoon. I came into the house finding Shannon on the phone with our doula, Jen. Jen advised Shannon to take a shower and get some lunch; we were not to rush to the hospital. I fired up our now-working car and drove down the street to pick up our friend Verónica so she could sit with a napping Miles until Shannon’s parents arrived. After some small talk with Verónica, Shannon told me to get our bags that had been packed for three weeks into the car and that, perhaps, we should get going.
I should say that I have been working hard on my conceptions and notions of gender identity…but I must admit have never felt more like a man than when I drove Shannon to the hospital. I was in charge, damn it. I used the turn signal like a total pro and I made jokes to Shannon when she needed jokes and comforted her when she needed comfort. When I pulled up to the valet and found that there was no place to leave the car, I made my own spot, and confidently sauntered into the hospital to tell the attendants that my wife was in labor and what, exactly, were they going to do with our car while I finished being the best husband ever.
From here, everything was kind of a blur. I know we walked in and checked in with not much fuss. They wanted to check Shannon before they gave us our room. Her contractions were really starting to ramp up. It turns out that she was already about 8cm dilated by that time and just cruising along with everything. Of course, this was all in my mind. I thought, “Wow, Shannon is doing great.” and I imagine she thought, “Wow, Michael has absolutely no idea what I am actually going through right now.” She kept her humor throughout.
When we finally were assigned a room, our doula joined us. Now let us praise famous Jen’s. In the run up to all of this I wasn’t sure I really wanted a doula. To be completely honest, I thought she would replace me in the delivery room and I would be there, like a buffoon, drinking scotch and yucking it up with the staff like I was in Mad Men or something. I was, as I often am, wrong. Jen was amazing throughout the labor. She made sure Shannon had something to drink. She took notes about every step of the process. She told me what I could do to help Shannon and reassured me that Shannon was doing everything great. It was amazing and I highly recommend Jen to everyone. She is the best.
Shannon was so excited about this whole process that she kind of scared our nurse. I am sure “excited” is not the word Shannon would use, but this whole experience went much, much faster than we could have ever imagined. Shannon was ready to push before our Doctor Ronda Gaiser (also the best) was even there. I could see our nurse freaking out a bit that she might need to grab someone because this was all faster than she thought. But what I will remember more than anything was the look on Shannon’s face when Dr. Gaiser walked in and we were all together. Shannon said, “Is this it? Am I really going to do this?” with a tear in her eye. Everyone said yes and I don’t think I have ever been more proud of someone in my entire life.
I will spare everyone the rest of the details. To quote my friend Aaron: “Birth is a wild scene.” But about 4 hours after Shannon’s water broke, Lena came into the world. She rested on Shannon’s chest and we were able to stay together just like we wanted. And when we walked through the waiting room, my parents, Shannon’s parents and Miles were all able to walk with us to our room. Somethings end up better than I could imagine.