_Dear Noah – Del I

30. januar 2014

Når jeg har et projekt i tankerne, som jeg ikke rigtigt lige kan finde ud af at få neglet af den ene eller anden grund, beder jeg som oftest Mathias om hjælp. Fælles opgaver som “vi” skal have gjort, betyder herhjemme for det meste ting, som jeg synes at Mathias skal ordne. “Skatter, vi skal lige have gjort rent idag.” Derfor var han heller ikke sen til at nedskrive sin version af Noahs fødselshistorie, da jeg kort efter fødslen begyndte at snakke om, at “vi også snart skal have kigget på den fødselshistorie”. Vi var blevet opfordret til at skrive historien ned, da vi gik til fødselsforberedelse, og Shara nævnte, at hun meget gerne ville læse den, hvis vi fik det gjort. Tanken var faktisk at dele historien med hele holdet, men det er vi siden kommet fra igen. Det er dog derfor, at den er skrevet på engelsk.

Min version finder du i to afsnit HER og HER.

Dear Noah

This is your father writing. I’m writing this account on how you came into life so that one day you will be able to read it and understand how you got into this world. You are the protagonist of the story–this story is primarily about you. However, since it is me who gets to tell the story, I will tell it from my personal point of view, including some background details that I think add a little bit of richness to the narrative.

Therefore the story actually starts long before you were born. Long before I had even met your beautiful, gorgeous, amazing, brilliant, gifted, loving, caring and charming mother. It begins when I was 14 years old–a teenager in Denmark. Not exactly a loner, but also far from being the popular kid, I was a teenager who chose my own way and cared less about the opinions of others: I was a dedicated Boy Scout–probably the least cool thing a teenager could be doing at that time in Brabrand, a suburb outside of Aarhus. I loved the outdoor life and the challenges and in the fall of that year I participated in a special week long intensive training program called Diamond–because as they said: Diamonds are created under extreme pressure. As you probably know by now, mid-October in Denmark is usually cold, rainy, windy and grey but that didn’t prevent the organizers of the training from planning it as an outdoor camp where 36 participants were divided in six teams of six. We slept in tents, cooked our food over open fire and throughout the week we had to complete many different challenges, long hikes, without ever knowing the schedule ahead of us. We had to survive on very little sleep–often irregular and interrupted with more challenges. This (and many similar extreme challenges) was an amazing experience for me. We worked together in our little six person teams, constantly supporting and helping each other. Back then I had no idea that this would be the perfect training for fatherhood.

But let’s leave the cold and windy marshes of Denmark in the fall and jump to the beautiful spring in New York 2013.

In the meantime I had grown to be a 27 year old man with a clear mission in this world. Eight years before I had been seduced by your beautiful, gorgeous, amazing, brilliant, gifted, loving, caring and charming mother. How that happened, however, is a whole other story that I will write another day. What matters for now is that in those eight years we had moved in together, gotten married and migrated to New York to start a life in Brooklyn, and in the fall of 2012 I got her pregnant with you.

So we’re in this birth class somewhere in Williamsburg, together with six other expecting couples, learning about how to handle birth, contractions, etc. and we’ve just heard about post partum care–that is, how we were supposed to take care of you and ourselves in the weeks after you had been born. We had heard about how to relieve sore nipples from nursing, getting enough food and rest and staying in touch with family. We had also heard that newborns need nursing almost every hour and that if the nursing is difficult then it can take quite a while.

Leah, one of the other participants, raises her hand:

Ok, so let me just see if I understand this correctly: in those 15 minutes between nursing, I’m sitting on the toilet in this special bath for my sore perineum, with two shot glasses with salt water on my nipples, talking on the phone, while eating and getting a nap, before it all starts again?

The class erupted in laughter. None of us understood what we had gotten ourselves into, but at this point there was no turning back. We were excited and a little anxious.

Fast forward another two months. It’s Tuesday July 30th and I had been to a meeting at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel–my favourite place to drink tea and have long conversations with wonderful people–which is actually what I do for a living. This day the conversation had been particularly exciting and I was extremely happy. I got a text message from your mother (maybe when you’re old enough to read this, text messages are so antiquated that you don’t even know why anyone would ever send such a thing) that said that she wasn’t feeling too great and she asked if it would be OK to cancel on the friends that we had scheduled to come and visit us in the afternoon. I called her up and said that of course it was OK, and I would just stay in the city and hang with them for a bit instead and then come home later in the evening.

When I eventually got home she was having some pain in her body. It felt different, she said. I hugged her and comforted her and made some food. I’m pretty sure we went to bed early. However, throughout the night she kept moving around periodically. We weren’t really sure if this was just part of the normal pregnancy or if this was actually early labor contractions. Pernille was unsure if the pain was even actual contractions but at one point during the night I remember that she squeezed my hand so tightly and I thought “it’s definitely a contraction”, I just wasn’t sure if that meant labor. Pernille had told me and herself repeatedly that she was probably not very good at dealing with pain and although I had denied that every time, she had probably still partially convinced me that it was true. Thus, I thought that since she was so clearly handling it very well on her own it was probably just her body gearing up a little bit. Also, she was only 37 weeks pregnant so it was still just a little bit early to go into labor. When morning came she hadn’t slept much during the night, but she seemed OK and I decided to head to my 9am meeting in the city. She asked me when I would be back and I initially said that I would call her after the meeting and just check in with her. That prompted a pretty strong and clear reaction and I knew that I had to do a little bit better so I said “alright, I promise I will be back before noon”–she still wasn’t too thrilled but I decided that this would have to do. I love my job and really wanted to go to the meeting, and I was sure that she would be fine at least for a few hours. I thought about it as I was walking to the train. I think I could subtly sense that I was on the edge of something here.

I don’t believe in regrets, but daring to be honest with myself and with the clarity of hindsight, I admit that leaving her that morning was not my proudest moment.

My meeting was wonderful and I checked my phone after and saw a text from mom that just said “I need you”–I wrote her back that I was on my way home and that I would be there soon. I took the J-train from Canal St. back towards Brooklyn. Luckily it arrived just as I reached the platform. I had a strange feeling as I was heading home. On the train my friend Colman called me. I never really talk to anyone over the phone and consistently have my phone on “silent” and “do not disturb” so all calls go straight to voice mail. However, since I was actually using my phone it popped up and I looked at it for a little bit before I decided to take the call. Colman is a fellow Dane and I think that speaking my native Danish helps a lot when the cellular connection is poor and there is so much background noise, so it is not as draining as a the phone calls in English which I tend to avoid. We talked for a bit about this and that. Colman knew that mom was pregnant but was unsure when she was due. I can’t remember the whole conversation now, but I remember telling him that I was actually on my way home to Pernille now and that she had texted me that she needed me, so this could actually be it, but it could also just be nothing. We hung up and I walked home from the train.

When I got home I’m pretty sure that I made some grilled cheese for her and tried to get her to drink some water. We both feared that this was false alarm, maybe due to dehydration.

In preparation of the birth class I mentioned previously, we watched a video of an elephant giving birth. It was quite intense and involved huge amounts of blood and other liquids–elephants are pretty huge after all. As I watch your mother have contractions, I realize that she looks like the elephant in the video. She is closed into herself during contractions and her body is moving in strange ways. Sitting on all four. Curling forward or backwards. Suddenly straightening a leg and pushing it backwards. It looks as if her body knows exactly what to do without her mind being aware of it at all. It is actually quite beautiful to watch even though it also hurts to see her in pain.

I know that you can be in labor without your water breaking, but it does count as a sign that something is probably happening. However, mom’s water hasn’t broken yet. I try to time her contractions but she is already beyond communicating during contractions at that point, and I can just tell from her breathing that something is happening. I have no idea how intense it really is. I call her doctor to give him an early warning that we may be coming into the hospital later, but that it seems to be too early to tell yet. Then I pack our go bags, and given that it is the last day of the month and our rent is due, I also tell mom that I will leave for just 15 minutes to go and deliver a check to our landlord. He is a burly guy who can be pretty intense, but he seems to be softening in recent months as his own son bacame a father, making him a grandfather. “I’m officially old now” he told me the last time I was there, just after his grandson was born. He knows that she is pregnant and when I get there he asks me “are you a father yet?”, I tell him no, but that she is having a few contractions at home and that it could be happening soon. “Then what the hell are you doing here?” he asks, grinning. “Paying rent?!!” I say. “That’s not important!

And of course he is right. Paying rent on time is not important when your first son is about to be born. However, I think this speaks not only to both your mother and my own strong desire for proper behaviour and inherent respect for systems that involve transactions of money, but also to the fact that at this time I simply am not sure if this is really it.

However, I do write a little note to myself on my phone to try to capture the feeling I had as I was walking back from the landlord’s office.

Maybe this is it. Maybe this is labor. Maybe it is now. Time.

It is overwhelming but also awesome. I feel this rush through my body. “We can do this. I can do what I need to do. I know what I need to do. My instincts know. Get the house in order. Pack the bags. Ready to go. Be close. Listen. Pay attention.

I send a text message to Jordan, our wonderful doula, around 1pm to get her opinion, and we decide to speak for a bit on the phone. Your mom doesn’t want to talk. We decide to see how it progresses and check in again later. Jordan suggests that we can get her into the shower and that warm water may help comfort her and make the contractions more regular. Pernille can hardly imagine how she can make it all the way from our bedroom to the shower. I have a sense that we could actually be pretty far along in labor but I don’t trust my instincts. The signals are still too mixed.

At 3:15pm I send this text to Jordan: “Ok, I think that I would really appreciate if you would come over. It feels like they are getting more and more intense and frequent. Very short breaks between. And she is very absent. I’m calm and here and supporting her but I find it very hard to tell where we are in this process.” Jordan writes back that she is on her way.

In the meantime we actually manage to get your mother from the bedroom and into our tiny little shower. We use a yoga mat on the floor and she lays down and curls up. Thinking back now, it seems utterly absurd, but at the time it was apparently what we thought was best. The shower head is fixed in the wall, however, it does twist a little bit. With her curled up in the shower, and the shower doors closed to avoid too much water on the bathroom floor, I stand on the toilet, leaning in over the shower and gently wiggles the shower head back and forth so that the water massages her gently. She likes it. I think we are in the shower for at least 30 minutes. In her moments of clarity between contractions, your mother, always a friend of the animals and the earth, suddenly worries about how much water we are “wasting” and if this is really reasonable. I try to remind her that birthing babies is a relatively unique event that doesn’t happen that frequently, and that I think it will be OK for this one time. I’m unsure if she agrees with my rationale or if she is simply taken over by the next contraction.

Jordan arrives at 4:30pm. We’re out of the shower and back in the bedroom. Her water still hasn’t broken, but the contractions are getting more intense. Jordan sits with her for a bit to get a sense of how the contractions are coming and then begins to experiment with ways to comfort her. Squeezing her hips, massaging her back and saying things to calm her. She has the softest and most soothing voice I have ever heard.  She uses her phone to get a sense of the frequency of the contractions, and after maybe 20 minutes of her arrival she says in her soothing voice that whenever we both feel ready, we should probably begin making our way to the hospital.

I call her doctor again to say that we are heading to the hospital. “Wow wow wow, wait a second” says the receptionist. She wants to know how far apart the contractions are. I put the phone down and ask Jordan. “about two minutes”, she says. I relay the information into the phone and all I hear is “OK, then GO!

We begin wrapping up and help Pernille walk to the front door where she lays down on the floor and curls up with the next contraction. Jordan says “it looks like we’re having a baby today” and I am filled with relief, but I don’t think mom hears her, so I kneel down and tell mom that Jordan thinks that you will be coming out today. She smiles.

I call the car service. Five minutes, they say. We grab the bags and I walk downstairs. Jordan helps mom. It’s a very slow process getting her down the stairs. One step at a time. When I get down the cab is not there yet and there is a lot of traffic on Myrtle Ave. I remain somewhat calm and very intensely focused. I cannot let anything stop me right now. As the traffic halts at the red light I knock on the windows of every cab and limo that drives by “are you free?” but they are all either full or off duty. I probably also look slightly desperate. It feels like an eternity.

Finally the car is here. We get Pernille and Jordan in the back seat. I sit in the front. I know this will likely be the longest cab ride of my life.

Anden del af “Dear Noah” kommer senere.