Charlie’s First Day

When my daughter was born three years ago, I wrote a post detailing the day as part of the blog I write to my children every day.

I did the same when my son was born three weeks ago, and it has just passed my wife’s rigorous vetting process.

For those who expressed interest (as well as those that did not), I give you Charlie’s First Day:


The cesarean section was planned for Friday, June 1, but our son decided to come two days early on May 30. Elysha began labor on Tuesday night, but she only realized this the next day.

The same thing happened with the birth of our daughter. It would seem that in terms of discomfort and pain, labor and indigestion are nearly indistinguishable to my wife.

The next morning, Elysha recognized that she was having contractions, but they were irregularly spaced and still not painful. She probably should have realized that something was wrong when she awoke at 3:15 AM and could not go back to sleep. She eventually went to the kitchen at 4:45 to eat breakfast, an hour of the morning that I don’t she’s ever seen before that day.

After Clara and I left for school, Elysha called the vet to make an appointment for Kaleigh, who was suffering from terrible allergies. Licking, scratching, and making us crazy. When the receptionist said that the earliest appointment was three days away, Elysha began crying. The receptionist then offered a Saturday appointment, which in her state of hormone insanity, she declined (creating problems for me later on). After hanging up the phone, she began crying hysterically until finally falling asleep in bed.

Looking back on that phone call, Elysha says this was the moment when she should have known that she was in labor.

When she awoke, she called the doctor’s office and spoke to a nurse who told her to drink two glasses of water and wait for a return call. When the nurse called back five minutes later, she asked if Elysha had drunk the water.

“I drank one,” she said.

“Don’t drink the other,” the nurse said. “Come in,”

When Elysha arrived at the doctor’s office that morning, she was already three centimeters dilated and 75 percent effaced. She may have difficulty delivering children naturally, but her ability to go through labor relatively pain-free is remarkable.

Charlie’s timing could not have been better, for a number of reasons.

First, I was at work when I received the call that the time had come. I had just finished my lunch and was minutes away from picking up my students from the cafeteria for an afternoon of teaching. This was to be followed by a district-wide curriculum meeting at Town Hall. I have always despised meetings, especially at the Town Hall where parking is near-impossible to find, so Charlie’s first act in this world was to extricate his father from something he would not have enjoyed.


His early arrival also pleased my wife. She was not happy with the prospect of another c-section for many reasons, mostly pertaining to the recovery, but she also never liked the idea of planning the birth date for our child. She’s always felt that a baby should be born when her body and the baby decide that the time is right. By coming two days early, Charlie did not allow doctors to choose his birthday. Like most children, he chose it for himself.

The early arrival also eliminated what would have surely been an anxiety-riddled Thursday night prior to the scheduled c-section, as well as the forced starvation that would have been required. Instead, Elysha enjoyed a relaxing Tuesday evening and even had some breakfast on Wednesday morning, not knowing that eight hours later, she would be in surgery, delivering her son.

Once the doctor realized that Elysha was in active labor, she sent her over to the hospital. I met her there, where she was waiting with Charlie’s soon-to-be godmother, Kim. Nurses and doctors came and went, checking vital signs, presenting us with consent forms, reminding us that surgery can sometimes end in death, and preparing Elysha for the procedure. It took almost two hours before we were ready for the delivery, but with the hustle and bustle involved with the preparations, the time flew by.

At one point we were asked if we wouldn’t mind allowing a Trinity College student to be present at the birth. He was doing a study on nurse interactions with patients and wanted to observe the ways in which the nurses assisted Elysha through the process. She consented, and so we were joined by Jake, who was only asked to leave (by Elysha) during the injection of Elysha’s spinal and when she nursed Charlie for the first time.

Eventually we were brought to the operating room. Elysha went in ahead of me while I waited in an adjacent room. Fathers are never invited into the operating room until the mother is lying on the operating table, strapped down and drugged up. I’m not sure why this is the case, since this seems to be one of the most frightening moments of the process for mothers, but I spent my time, about twenty minutes in all, reading email, checking Twitter, texting friends about the possibility of golf on Sunday, and taking notes on a memoir proposal that I hope to complete this summer.

During the birth of Clara, I actually wrote sections of my second book. Prior to the transition to a c-section, Elysha pushed for four hours, so in between contractions, I would roll across the room and work on the novel. I had less time to write during Charlie’s birth, but I managed to complete the outline of my memoir and add two additional scenes to it.

When I was finally invited inside the operating room, I was greeted by “Something” by The Beatles, playing on the Pandora station that Elysha had chosen for the delivery. This was the song that Elysha walked down the aisle to six years ago at our wedding, so it seemed like a good omen.

Like Elysha’s previous cesarean section, the actual delivery only took about ten minutes. Putting her back together took considerably longer.

Unlike the previous c-section, Elysha was not cold and the suction line that had been positioned in my field of vision had been moved to a position out of my direct line of sight. I eventually saw the line with all its gore, but at least I was able to avoid staring at it while I sat there.

Charlie was born at 3:09 PM as the song “Turn Turn Turn” was playing in the background. Serendipity at its finest. I’m not sure if we could’ve chosen a more perfect song.

“It’s a boy!” the doctor proclaimed and I began crying. A nurse explained that they had no tissues but offered me gauze to wipe my eyes. The doctor lifted him over the sheet as the nurse warned him not to “drip on us.” We took our first look at our son.

Someone in the room asked what his name was and my wife shouted, “Charlie!” Her words sounded so happy and so right.

Then the nurses’ work began. As they worked to measure and weigh and clean Charlie up, a nurse told us what was happening, step by step.

He weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce. He was 18 inches long.

He scored a 9 on the Apgar.

A nurse named Heather began taking photographs. We were told that she was especially good at delivery room photos, and this turned out to be true. Even my highly discerning father-in-law thought these photos were perfection.

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Charlie was grunting when he was born, a sign that his lungs were not yet clear of fluid, which is common for c-section babies. I was encouraged to hold him upright and pound on his back to make him cry, and when I was not deemed forceful enough, the self-proclaimed “mean” nurse took him away to attempt her own form of cruelty.

Eventually Charlie was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in order to clear his lungs, and after about thirty minutes, he was returned to us in the recovery room, where Elysha was able to hold him for the first time.

Welcome to the world, Charles Wallace Dicks!

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