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In My Defense: A Birth Story

Irrefutable evidence

The events surrounding Ivan's birth were so thrilling that I was dying to tell the world the story as soon as we got home from the birth center but I knew I had to reserve that honor for Dinka, the woman who actually went through the labor (marvel at my generosity!). So now, the story has been told and it's a darn good read, but I'd like to add a few notes where I think they might be illuminating, specifically with regard to my portrayal.

  1. The most important thing to remember is that the only experience that we had to base our decisions on was the nearly 40-hour marathon that was Veronika's birth. We were told that things could be faster this time but at every step, I was carefully guarding myself (and Dinka, to the extent that I could) against falsely inflated hopes that might later lead to dramatic disappointment. As we learned with Veronika, the way a labor progresses against expectations (ours and the birth attendents') is a trying psychological test. This time, I figured that it would be better to keep our expectations lower and be pleasantly surprised than to anticipate smooth sailing. Hence my "don't be disappointed if you're not as far along as you think you should be" warnings in the car when Dinka was ready to start pushing.
  2. Since most of the labor took place at home, we have no real idea how fast things progressed as far as dilation is concerned. The contractions were three minutes apart (quite close) from breakfast on but only thirty seconds long (pretty short) until 11:30 or so. When we were on a walk at 10:45, it may very well have been "way too early" to go in, as far as measurement is concerned. Dinka could have been at three or four centimeters then, we just don't know. Then again, she could have been at six since the night before when her water broke.
  3. After the contractions started gaining strength, they were erratic in length and spacing, which is why I wanted to time five more before leaving. I was also trying to stay home as long as possible, which I still maintain is a good strategy, only now I know a little more about what a short(er) labor looks like for the future.
  4. Dinka was not that mean during labor, only a little bit, which let me know how serious things were getting.
  5. It did not matter which car we took. My thinking was that we should leave the car with the carseat installed home with Dinka's mom in case of emergency, even though she doesn't drive. Living five minutes from the birth center, I could have exchanged cars at any time, like when I picked up Veronika to come see her brother. I was not the spastic TV father-to-be, as has been claimed. However when I told Dinka that we were taking the other car, I did feel that moment was the closest I came to real physical danger.
  6. We live five minutes from the birth center. It would be very difficult to leave so late that the baby would be delivered in the car. If we lived a half-hour away, there's no way I would've advocated staying home so long.

Now that my reputation has been washed clean, on to more positive things. Being a part of this labor was truly awesome. Since everything progressed so quickly and on such a convenient timeline, there was no exhaustion or hunger or sleep deprivation to speak of, so I was able to be so much more engaged and focused on what was going on (not that I wasn't for the first birth, but I can't say my wits were fully about me after the first twenty-four hours). The efficient progression of things really impressed upon me the beauty and power of this natural process. We went through almost the entire labor by ourselves at home—eating at the right times, sleeping and relaxing in the beginning, walking in the middle, using the techniques and labor positions we learned near the end—and I am enormously proud of that. When we arrived at the birth center, it was such a relief to have our feelings and instincts about how things were progressing validated. Ten minutes later, Ivan arrived and we actually had the strength to be aware of how wonderful those first moments are.

And now on to my beautiful wife, who needs her own paragraph. Dinka handled this intense labor so well that at first it was hard to believe that it was progressing as fast as it was. Outside of some kind of Pitocin-induced frenzy, I imagine that the last half-hour of contractions were probably among the most difficult that one can experience and she handled it all by herself, at home (well, I was there too, but I can't pretend to take any credit for that part). She was absolutely ferocious in the pushing, doing an amount of work in ten minutes that I am not likely to know in my life. In the first few days after Ivan was born, it was remarkable to witness how much strength she had to cope with a demanding and very hungry baby, while I was left dragging my feet in the dust after pulling one 5:30 - 7:30 a.m. shift.

So that's my piece of the story. I still find it hard to believe that it all happened this way and I suspect that may be the case for a while. But he's here now, and that's kind of irrefutable evidence, isn't it?

March 29, 2006 | Comments (2)

Introducing Ivan

Welcome, son.  We have so much to do.

After waiting until 41 weeks on the button and making his parents worry about things like induction and castor oil (just like his big sister Veronika), our baby boy finally decided to make his grand entrance into the world today. And if his birth is any indicator of what he'll be like in the future, when he decides to get something done, it will get done and fast. That thrilling story is soon to come. For now, just the facts:

And now for the boring practical information. Since we were pretty sure that posting picture sets simultaneously on two kids' sites would be unmanageable, we've decided to switch formats. All kids pictures will be posted on the new Souzek Kids site, updated daily, but with one picture at a higher resolution (go D50, go!) instead of the weekly 8 - 10 of old. We will still maintain a separate site for Ivan, which will contain the most recent pictures of him from the Souzek Kids page as well as some gushing text from the parents and other miscellaneous information and media (Veronika's site will soon follow suit).

So, I hope you enjoy the new format and sites. I'm off to enjoy my paternity leave with my baby boy and do my best to wear out that new camera taking pictures of him.

March 22, 2006 | Comments (3)

Is It Rolling, Bob?

The two months before a baby is born are kind of a cruel test for the parents involved. This is how they have gone for me so far. At 32 weeks (in a world in which 40 weeks is considered full-term for a pregnancy), I have my first panicked thoughts: "Nothing's ready and the baby will be here in only two months!" I lose maybe one night of sleep and a week's worth of fingernail growth before successfully pushing the thoughts aside to continue on. At about 35 weeks, the worries in my head start to grow teeth and I am no longer able to suppress them. I run around like a madman trying to get everything done: buy furniture, put furniture together, install car seat, prepare website, study childbirth literature, conduct final talks with birth attendents, wrap things up at work in case of sudden departure, etc. By about 38 weeks, I'm ready (thank you, children, for not coming dramatically early, so far).

Which brings us to now, inching toward 40 weeks and little unsure of what to do with ourselves. Conventional advice, which we need surprisingly little of around here lately, says to "Relax!" and "Enjoy your last days together before the baby is born and your lives change forever!" (yes, all child-related advice is enthusiastically followed by an exclamation point). Since this is not as easy as it sounds, especially when it's not your first child, what you end up with is two people trying desperately to distract themselves while half-maintaining the intensity and preparedness to drop everything at a moment's notice and go through a labor and delivery that will totally earn a gold star from the midwives. And then you have the early contractions, which provide a test run of the whole procedure, but namely of Dinka's uterus and my digestive tract.

I count to thirty a lot these days—for my Workrave-prompted micro-breaks, my five-times-daily hand/wrist/arm stretches prescribed by my doctor, my nightly running stretches, etc. This can be a maddening exercise when I'm impatiently trying to get back to something but it's forced me to accept the value of taking a deep breath, relaxing my shoulders, and quieting all the nagging voices in my head, if only for thirty seconds. So that sound that you're hearing now is me exhaling a deep breath and closing my eyes. I'm not even counting. Thirty will arrive, all I need to do is quiet my mind and wait.

(For those of you not currently listening to Nashville Skyline, the title is from Dylan's comment to producer Bob Johnston at the beginning of "To Be Alone with You.")

March 11, 2006

Camera Graduation

This is no longer a game

The story of my journey into photography is as typical as it gets these days:

And so, after one year of deliberating, six months of deciding, three months of yearning and three months of scraping together the funds (or what was left after a bunch of generous contributions from family for Christmas), the Souzeks have finally upgraded to a new camera: the Nikon D50. It arrived a couple of weeks ago and—having never used an SLR before—I've been trying to figure out how to most effectively use it since then. Veronika would have been a great first subject to practice on but most of my free time has come after her bedtime. So I chose the next best and closest thing:

Digby: New Camera, Same Sleepy Dog

March 02, 2006 | Comments (1)