A few nights ago, a deep groaning noise startled me from sleep around 3:00AM. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and scanned the room expecting to see the dog heaving up her dinner. Instead, I discovered Christina, my pregnant wife, silhouetted in the doorway and bent over in pain. She took a moment to catch her breath and then spoke in a shaky voice: "I think we need to go to the hospital".
A surge of adrenaline came from seeing her in pain. It kicked me instantly into wakefulness and full comprehension of the moment’s gravity quickly followed. Is this it? Christina was doubtful despite the pain she felt. It was a full month before our due date and her water hadn’t yet broken. I argued that there was precedent; I myself was born a month early. Say what you want about a mother’s intuition but I had to convince her to bring our pre-packed bags and the car seat with us. We set out into the blackness and fog of early morning and calmly made our way to the hospital.
After some poking and prodding by the doctors, they determined the embryonic sac had sprung a leak. This caused Christina’s body to initiate contractions. The doctor delivered this diagnosis as if she were examining a sprained pinky. And, by this point, the contractions dissipated, so a wave of relief washed over us both. Whew, this isn’t it. Then, the doc casually mentioned that, of course, they would have to induce labor within 48 hours. Christina stiffened and our eyes met. This was it!
How we arrived from that moment to cradling Angie in our arms is a long story with many twists and turns over two days time. It helped that we had done our homework during the preceding seven months—books, birthing classes, online forums, and pumping friends for advice. We nervously navigated the maze of complex questions and difficult choices during those 48 hours with help from our friends, family, and the Internet. The uncertainty and sleep deprivation made it all feel like a strange dream.
As we approached the final delivery, the chaos resolved. Our room became a calm, extraordinarily beautiful setting and Angelina arrived safe, healthy, and ready to take on the world. She was a tiny thing but loud and strong. When I first held her thin, delicate body in my hands, our future life together flashed through my mind. I immediately felt the enormity of what she was capable of. The magnitude of those swirling thoughts overwhelmed me as I placed her in her mother's arms for the first time. It was a profound experience that no blog post could ever do justice.
When I said before that our room was an extraordinarily beautiful setting, that wasn't hyperbole. UCSF's Benioff Children's Hospital is perched high on Parnassus hill and offers astounding views of San Francisco. After bribing the nurses with tasty snacks, we sweet-talked our way into what must be one of the finest birthing suites on Earth. The "corner office", as I nicknamed it, features a mesmerizing 180-degree view stretching from the bay to the ocean with just about every San Francisco landmark visible at once. The sun, a blazing fireball against a clear morning sky, was just ascending from behind the Marin headlands and over the Golden Gate bridge when Christina started to push. I could not have imagined a more stunning backdrop for this life-changing experience (see photos).
We worked with dozens of staff members at UCSF during our stay and the care was excellent at every level. Their patience, the quality of their advice and the warmth with which it was administered made us feel supported and informed throughout. I left the hospital thinking that a labor doctor would be a wonderful job for my little girl some day. Our friends and family were also tremendous, contributing support, advice, and sustenance to new parents just beginning life's most amazing journey.