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Monday, August 30, 2004

Labor Day

In a matter of five minutes, the room had...evolved. The party had gone on for some time as a small gathering of me and three pretty women, each with their own job and demeanor. Now, the group had grown. Another man had shown up and started running the show. Blue smocks, ancient torture devices, and a curious sucking machine had come into play. And for some reason the guy had a interesting pair of scissors. Something was happening and I didn't know whether to cheer or run from the room in terror.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. About 17 hours ahead of myself, actually.

I've always found anticipation to be a great natural drug. Waiting for a train, waiting for a table, waiting for a woman. The mind plays tricks on you when you've waited for a while. You feel later, hungrier, and pardon me, but hornier than you probably actually are. It makes the actual moment seem somehow more important, more grand, as if it's something you've wanted your whole life and now, yes, now, it's actually happening. When the train pulls in, the hostess signals, or the woman succumbs, it's as if someone has fired a starter's pistol and the race is finally, finally on.

Waiting for my wife to go into labor was nothing like that.

Unlike many couples, we never had a trip to the hospital that resulted in our being sent back home. Unlike many couples, my wife didn't shake me awake in the middle of the night and say definitively, "This is it."

Instead, there were days upon days of frustrating contractions that came and went with the fickleness of a dog and a basket of play toys. Never did birth seem imminent. Even when we sat in Joe's Crab Shack--shoveling fried shrimp into our gullets in between contractions--did we actually believe the baby was on its way. No, we simply waited out the contractions, waiting for some great sign (clouds parting, baby's head poking out, the voice of God, etc) that it was time to go to the hospital.

A preliminary due date passed, then the definitive due date passed. We ate shrimp and ice cream (separately, of course), walked around the neighborhood, yay, verily, verily had sex, and danced before a barometric idols. We had done all we could do. Which meant this: More waiting.

As August 12 passed and Friday the 13th began, I had slipped into a funk. The train wasn't coming, the table wasn't going to open up, and the woman was sitting next to me a mountainous hump of growing frustration.

The weekend promised little in way of respite. There was a small poker game on Saturday and party that night, but I was sure I wouldn't enjoy either. Both poker and party require a certain amount of concentration and dedication that I simply couldn't offer.

Work on the morning of Friday the 13th required the same concentration and dedication and I had none of it. I sat at my computer, deflecting supervisor inquiries about projects, and hoping the time read-out on the face of my desk phone would quickly read 6:30pm so I could go home and wait in my underwear (if I have to wait, I'd rather be comfortable).

As I stared at the phone's LED screen, watching minutes plod by, I was startled to find my own phone number popping up on the caller ID. This was the moment. This is how it happens. I'll answer with an expectant "Hello?" and she'll say, "It's time."

That's not how it happened.

In fact, something else was happening and it didn't sound good. In the course of a woman's pregnancy there is a lot of analysis on fluids, colors, and the combination of the two. In the nine or so months since the process began, there had only been one point when--and forgive me here--the color and the fluid didn't match up. That time had resulted in an emergency trip to the doctor who had said, in effect, "Everything's fine. Stop worrying."

This was the second time that a fluid/color analysis didn't seem right. Strangely, the wife didn't seem all that concerned when she called at 10:30am. She just wanted to let me know it was happening (just in case I came home and found her dead, I suppose). Her phone call served that purpose and one other: It completely distracted me from anything else happening at work. I became a virtual news reporter, functioning in only the loosest definition of the word.

A little less than 90 minutes later, I called home to check in. She answered with a slightly more worried tone in her voice. She was calling the doctor, presumably to have the docotr tell us, "Everything is fine. Stop worrying."

Of course, I was going to stop worrying. I had been planning for nine months on how to be Cool Otis when faced with imminent kid or imminent problems. This seemed like something was happening, so I planned to remain Cool Otis.

I sat at my desk for approximately 45 seconds waiting for a return phone call. Then, in a flurry of activity and excuses that turned me into a decidely UnCool Otis, I escaped work, leaving my work station open and a lot of confused people in my wake.

I traveled all of 1.8 miles toward home before calling again. Mrs. Otis answered with the following: "They want me to go to the hospital."

Anytime my parents refer to the moments leading up to my birth, it's always one of two stories. First, my mom was folding towels when her water broke, Second, I was born in a blinding snow storm in Mid-Missouri. Beyond that, I don't know much about that December day 30 years ago.

So, as I navigated through Friday lunchtime traffic, hiding behind a pair of cheap shades and driving ever-so-slightly faster than I should, I started taking note of what was happening in the world.

Hurricane Charley was barreling toward Ft. Meyers, Florida and preparing to slap the Florida coast with one of the costliest natural disasters in American history. Charley would eventually cross the Sunshine State and head for the South Carolina coast. In the meantime, it was cloudy and hot in GreenVegas and I was wearing an increasingly sweat-soaked Ralph Lauren suit. There was a button missing inside the pants.

"Calm down," Mrs. Otis said from the passenger seat. Though our bags had been packed for several weeks, they remained on the dining room table at home. I had insisted we leave too quickly for loading them into the SUV.

"I'm calm," I said, lying. "I'm Cool Otis."


"Cool Otis can handle this." I slipped into a third person dialogue, describing how Cool Otis wore shades when it was cloudy, how Cool Otis could maneuver through traffic effortlessly, even though the fluid had missed a color code mark by a few shades and he was currently losing his damned mind.

In the days before this one, a 100-year flood had fallen on Greenville causing millions of dollars in damage. Forecasters were worried that the one-two punch of Hurricane Bonnie and Hurricane Charley would eventually cause more rain in Upstate South Carolina. Cool Otis wasn't thinking much about that because people just weren't freakin' aggressive enough in the turn lane at East North and Pleasantburg and why the hell does it back up so damned much at lunch time when people should be eating a sandwich at their desk...breathe, man. It's all just colors man. Life is about colors. Get your chakra right, or something because you are becoming way too UnCool.

Phish--live from Charlotte July 2003--slipped out of the sterao speakers as I finally made my way on the last stretch to the hospital. I was trying to decide of this was an Emergency with a capital "E" and if so, the best way to navigate into the emergency entrance at the hospital. Or maybe this was just the false alarm I'd been waiting for and I should find another entrance for Cool fathers-to-be.

Mrs. Otis' face grimaced.

Yeah, that was a contraction.

In just a couple of hours, the opening ceremonies for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens would begin. I'd never been a big fan of the Olympics and especially the Opening Cermonies. And as far as Athens went, I'd had a damned good time in Athens, GA a few years back. I sort of wished I was that carefree as I...

MOVE, man! Why the hell don't people accelerate through their turns anymore? There should be a law...maybe an ammendment.

Cool Otis had left the building.

The old bitch behind the check-in desk didn't seem to understand the urgency of the situation. See, my wife here has a fluid and the color isn't right and I've given up on being Cool Otis. So, please, with some amount of haste, let's get this show on the road.

We chose to park in the regular parking lot, but walk into the emergency entrance. It was a confusing situation, so why not add a little more ambiguity to it, eh?

The security officer at the front door asked if Mrs. Otis needed a wheelchair. She answered, "No?" A question more than an answer. What the hell did we know?

As we walked to the front desk, I tried to explain that my wife wasn't necessarily in labor, but we were told to come to the hopsital for a labor check. The old bitch looked confused, as if to say, "but, she's not in a wheelchair." I didn't want to go into fluid talk and color talk, but I was going to if the lady didn't put some pep in her step. Finally she summoned someone who took one look in my eye and knew I was on the verge of becoming Beligerent Otis (B.O. is baaad). The new lady looked at my wife, "Does she need a wheelchair?"

Five minutes later, we were in a room with cavernous ceilings and exceptionally fine fixtures. I was personally impressed with the wand bidet that was next to the toilet until I was told it wasn't for my use. I came to find out that few things in the room were actually for me. Staff kitchen? Open to Mrs. Otis. Cool Otis was supposed to get his stuff from the vending machines. Bed operation remote control? Stay away from it. And keep my grubby male fingers off the handheld bidet, no matter how neat it might feel on my bum.

It was around 1:20pm on Friday the 13th. The flood in Greenville had receded. The USA Men's Basketball team didn't know it was on its way to humilation of Olympic proportions. Hurricane Charley was getting ready to unleash himself on the world.

If there was a better time for producing a baby, I don't know what time it would be.

Apparently several--several--hours later.

The next 12 hours were intensely personal. One might think that--what with all my talk of fluid and color and all--I'd be up for a blow by blow of every gory detail, every embarassing moment. I've found, though, in a marriage there becomes a tacit understanding that some things will always remain soley between husband and wife. Those things I shall keep to myself.

As the 13th passed into the 14th and centimeters and cervices (actually, as I recall, there was only one cervix) slowed down, unspoken rumors (if there is such a thing) began to float around the hospital room. There was a little concern that the good doctor didn't think the baby's window to the world would open wide enough. The nurses, however, believed otherwise and--though they never said so--set out to prove the rumor incorrect.

For more than 12 hours, I had been watching a fetal heart monitor skip around 130 beats per minute, up to 170 beats, back to 130, and so on. At the same time, another monitor tracked Mrs. Otis' heartbeat at a steady 65-75 BPM. It had become a calming, soothing, schizophrenic metronome of distraction. So, as the nurses started the hard work and Mrs. Otis set about the task of actually bringing the child into the world, I focused harder on the heart monitor.

About 45 minutes into the hard stuff, Mrs. Otis was otherwise occupied and didn't notice the concerned looks being exchanged between the two nurses in the room. She didn't notice the head nurse and two other nurses barge into the room with equally concerned looks. I, however, did.

And I figured it had something to with the fetal heart monitor that bumped next to my wife's head and, similarly, out at the nurse's station.

The baby's heart rate had dropped into the 70s and wasn't climbing. It had dropped before, but had always come back up very quickly. This time it was not coming back up and the nurses were starting to develop a very professional look of panic. I started to envision something I would actually see two days later: A doctor getting paged STAT as a woman is wheeled in emergency mode into an operating room, a colection of scrubs-clad nurses sprinting behind.

This 70 beats per minute thing seemed to last forever, but in all likelyhood it was less than a few minutes. Then, Mrs. Otis shifted in bed and the nurses smiled. They almost laughed as the baby's heart rate skyrocketed. My first assumption was that Mrs. Otis' position in bed was cutting off something vital to the baby. It was nothing so serious.

In fact, the fetal heart monitor had slipped and started recording the mother's heartbeat at a steady 72 BPM.

Then, the only heart rate that had a problem was yours truly.

Labor is not a short process.

It was around 5:20am that life seemd to get silly again and where we again reach this point:

In a matter of five minutes, the room had...evolved. The party had gone on for some time as a small gathering of me and three pretty women, each with their own job and demeanor. Now, the group had grown. Another man had shown up and started running the show. Blue smocks, ancient torture devices, and a curious sucking machine had come into play. And for some reason the guy had a interesting pair of scissors. Something was happening and I didn't know whether to cheer or run from the room in terror.

The doctor announced that my kid couldn't wait to take a dump until he entered our world. That being, the kid was swimming around and breathing in his own mess. I felt embarassed for him, knowing that someday I would tell the story in front of a prom date or something. Then the doctor told me they were bringing in the neonatal team...just as a precaution.

I don't like when people tell me they are doing things as a precaution.

Then the world started moving fast. In a flurry of scissors, sucking machines, screaming, sweating, moaning and pushing, Doctor Matt pulled my kid headfirst into the world, introducing me to a cone headed, penis-wielding, grayish mammal that simultaneously made me want to scream, laugh, cry and run.

But something was missing.


Though the doctor had announced we had a boy on our hands, he made no mention of why it was so quiet. I didn't expect Dylan to start crying immediately, but I expected it to hapen before the doctor turned and said, "Do you want to cut the cord?"

This was one decision I had not made in advance, so when I was posed the question, I had a hard time answering. More than that, I wanted my increasingly gray kid to make some damned noise. Even on the screwed up TLC shows where something always seems to go terribly wrong, the kid cries pretty quickly after being sucked into our airpace. But Dylan made no noise and didn't move at all.

I think I said something to the effect of, "Nah, you go ahead," but my head was screaming, "Make my kid cry, you bastard. Screw this ritualistic cord shit and make my kid cry!"

In a quick motion, the cord was cut and the neonatal team was employing a number sucking and warming machines. In the silence, I didn't want to be the one to speak. Though it was the last thing I wanted to consider, I knew that if my kid never took a breath, I'd never be able to rid my mind of the image of his motionless, gray body on the warming table.

Mrs. Otis broke the silence. I noticed she was refusing to look in the baby's direction. "Why isn't he crying?" I thought she was about to break down.

Dr. Matt simply said, "We don't want him to cry quite yet" then went on to talk about the old bowel movement in the womb thing and the need to clear his airways to prevent infection.

About the time pure panic was about to set in, Dylan's chest hitched. Then he wailed. And I could only say, "There it is."

Yeah, I cried a little.

I wrote this post over about six sittings, almost all of them interupted by a crying, hungry, or wet kid. Now, as he gets ready to enter his 17th living day, Dylan is snoring in a vibrating seat beside me.

I told a friend's mom the other day that I alternate between two different emotions: "Holy shit, this is the greatest thing I've ever done" and "Holy shit, what have I done?"

That hasn't changed yet, though I suspect the latter will fade in the coming months and years and the former will flourish.

Everyone said life would change and I guess that's what's happening.

I just realized that Rapid Eye Reality is three years old this week.

So, I guess this is one baby's introduction to another...and all of you.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Daddy's little rocker

...too little time to type (and fortunately, too little time to turn RER into a baby news site), but I thought all my friends and readers would want to see how Dylan Price turned out.

He's got the hair of a Ramone, the soul of Uncle Tupelo, and has alredy hippy danced to some Phish. Oh, and his attitude, as pictured below, is a little punk rock.

I'll be back to regularly scheduled Otis in a few days.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

Friday, August 13, 2004

I'm not naming my kid...

...Jason, if it is born today, Friday the 13th.
...Joe, even though Chelle had false labor in Joe's Crab Shack.
...Charley, even though a hurricane by the same name is getting ready to crush Florida.

On that note, our friend, The Misplaced Unrepentant Texan now lives on the Western Edge of Florida and almost directly in the path of Hurricane Charley. He'll be blogging his family's experience as long as his power and internet service hold up.

You can read that by clicking here: Heeeere's Charley!.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Dial "W" for Waiting
--------UPDATED BELOW--------

The end of this post contains the updated list of entries for the Baby Otis Watch. Frankie wants to rebuy for August 15th. I haven't decided how I feel about the fairness of that yet. And, frankly (no pun intended), if we hit August 15th without a birthdate, I think Mrs. Otis may just lose her damned mind.

The lights have painted my made-up face with the perfect soft glow of a television studio. I've been nervously re-adjusting my tie, eying myself in the monitor, and playing James Bond with the silhouettte that the technical guys have made out of my image. There's been a delay in the taping and all I can do is wait.

The phone in the weather center rings and the morning meteorologist answers.

"Brad," he says, "Beth says your cell phone is ringing and the phone reads "HOME."

I look at him blankly. The answer should be obvious. He stares back, apparently wanting me to say something. Inexplicably, I don't. I just keep staring, occasionally stealing a glance at what the tech guys are doing with the camera.

"She says your desk phone rang, too."

Giving up on the hope that the obvious will prevail, I simply say, "Answer it."

He hangs up.

It's at this time that I have the first real opportunity to practice Cool Otis. That's what I dubbed the personality I hope to undertake when Baby Otis makes his/her move toward the light.

It's the perfect time to have a virtual reflection of myself in a TV monitor. I don't look nearly as cool as I would've liked. And my tie is crooked.

Fortunately, within a couple of minutes, Beth arrives with my cell phone in hand.

"I couldn't answer before she hung up," she said.

There have been some rules established among the Otis clan. First call goes to my desk. Second goes to my cell phone. Third goes to the main office number, at which point I'm supposed to be paged on the in-house intercom. I haven't heard said page, so I'm not losing my damned mind yet.

I'm amazed at the dexterity of my fingers as they key in the number to the house. Mrs. Otis answers on the first ring.

I am amazed at how confident I sound when I say, "Um...hi?"

Mrs. Otis has the slightest amount of giddiness in her voice as she explains once of the most disgusting things I've heard yet about the pregnancy process. Without being too graphic, it's an unfortunately named symptom of impending labor. The British developed a euphemism for it, but, frankly, the euphemism may be worse than the actual phrase. Damned British.

She goes on to explain that she did what I always do when something new happens: She hit the Internet. Ever the savior, the Internet offered the most concise explanation of what role said ugly symptom played in labor. Simply, labor could begin presently or in a couple of weeks.

Science, I've come to realize, is stupid.

After century upon century of childbirth and scientific study, the greatest thinkers in the world can only offer a collective "I dunno" when asked to figure out when a baby will make its way out into the real world. Men on the moon, robots on mars, and low carb beer, and the best we can say is, "The baby will come when it wants to come."

Pardon me, but screw science and screw the doctors who practice it.

Okay, that's a little harsh.

Instead, allow me to offer a hardy "up yours" to all the OBs. And you GYN's better watch yourself, because I'm coming for you, too.

So, now I'm back at my desk, staring at my phone and waiting for it to ring. It's not making any noise. It is as if everyone I know professionally has decided that I don't need to be bothered. And Mrs. Otis doesn't want to call every time the dog barks. Silence in a television newsroom is one of the spookiest things. It's like when you go to a ballgame and they ask for a moment of silence and fifty thousand people shut up for ten seconds.


For five days we've gotten alternately excited and let down every time the wind blows in a new direction. To show for it, we have bags packed and by the door. We have video cameras and still cameras with charged batteries. We have tanks full of gas and safety seats in both of the Otis family cars.

We are, in short, ready.

And yet, hours pass like frat boys at midnight (quarterbacks in December?). Nothing happens. Mexican food, walks around the block, Japanese steakhouses. Nothing upon nothing.

It has relegated Mrs. Otis to short periods of extreme elation, followed by extends bouts of sheer disappointment. It's turned me into a walking, talking, bundle of unpronouncable mumbles.

And, so, we wait. And wonder. And wait some more.

Squeaky Wheel: July 28th

Tatwood: July 30th, (BOY) 7:45pm

Brian: July 31st (GIRL) 7:45 AM

BrotherHampton: August 1st, 3:45pm (BOY)

Frankie: August 1st (GIRL) 7lbs3oz

SPG: August 2nd (GIRL)

Aaron: August 2nd (BOY) 9:35 P.M.

CJ: August 3rd (BOY) 1:00am

Brad D: August 4th (BOY)

Cappy: August 4th (BOY)

Wife of RJ: August 4th (GIRL), 2:32 am, 7 lbs; 12 oz.

Two-Hands: August 4th (GIRL)

NOTE: For those following Baby Watch, Mt. Willis had a big time false alarm between 10:15pm and 1:30am. Alas, no kid.

Marty: August 5th, (BOY) 5:37am

Dr. Beaker: August 6th. (Girl)

Todd: August 6th, 3:55pm (BOY)

RJ: August 7th (GIRL) 10:59pm.

Ruth: August 8th (BOY)

Pauly: August 9th (GIRL)4:20 am, 7 lbs and 7 oz.

Chippy: August 9th (GIRL) 6:03pm, 8lbs and 8oz.

Sandra: August 10th (GIRL)

Drowned Rat: August 10th (BOY) 2:47am

For several hours last night, I was pretty sure it was going to happen. The evening began with a mariachi band, spicy food, and caffeine for Mrs. Otis. At mid-evening, I resorted to making foghorn noises into my wife's belly, signalling the baby toward shore. The contractions started at 11pm and didn't end for more than three hours. I thought it all had worked. Woulda been a great story. Suffice it to say, I'm tired and Mrs. Otis is now officially miserable.

NOTE: Otis picks August 13th, but doesn't get to participate

G-Rob: August 14th (BOY)

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