I remember the day back in March when I sat down to write my first entry to this blog after learning Kayla was pregnant, that memory of writing from the couch in our living room to document the events leading up to a new life.
Tonight I’m doing something similar, but this time from a hospital room with the newest member of our family, Kate.
She’s the love of our lives, and this is the story of the day she was born.
Kayla was scheduled to visit her doctor that afternoon, and be induced that evening if all looked well. Surprise! we didn’t make it to that appointment.
At around 2:30 a.m., Kayla was busy making a list of things to do on what would hopefully be her last day before Kate got here. Her water broke in bed.
We were both up like rockets, minds racing.
In that moment, deer-in-the-headlights syndrome struck. We took birthing classes, read books, listened to podcasts, and asked the internet several questions. All that info was immediately forgotten.
Kayla showered while I got the bags ready to go. A bag has been sitting at the foot of our bed for about two weeks, but needed topped off with some last minute things. Like backup phone chargers for our backup phone chargers.
Our bags may have been 50 percent cords. Phones, computers, a speaker, Chromecast. Yep, it’s 2017. You got it, we can charge it.
In the chaos, Kayla decided to do a last minute load of laundry. Don’t worry, we used the speed wash setting to get a backup outfit for Kate and some other items ready to go. One outfit went in the washer as it sat, hanger and all.
That morning I proceeded to sit in the puddle where her water broke. “Great way to start the day,” I remember thinking.
Other thoughts from the morning include:
I wonder if they would let me cut the cord with my pocket knife?
No cop would ticket me for speeding in this circumstance, right?
Is my daughter going to be born the day Charlie Manson died?
(No, the day after.)
There was a debate as to when we should actually go to the hospital. The water was broke, but Kayla wasn’t feeling any contractions. We called our doctor’s office, and were told to go in and get checked out just to be safe. We got there, Kayla was examined and taken to a labor and delivery room
I figured we’d be one of the crazy couples who went in way too early for no reason and wound up spending a lot of time in the hospital. I was right, but it was worth it to know everything was OK. Plus, free hospital breakfast! Kayla, who isn’t allowed to eat anything until the baby comes, cringed as I ordered bacon. I felt pretty bad about that one, but who can resist bacon.
I probably shouldn’t say free bacon, since nothing about a hospital visit is free. Don’t worry, I got other food, too.
At around 7, we called the immediate family with the news, shortly before making a more public Snapchat announcement.
By about 8:30 in the morning, restlessness was setting in. Kayla was tidying up the room between contractions and answering work emails, which she assured me were just to keep her mind off everything that was going on. I was just as guilty of doing work stuff, myself. On impulse I found myself pulling up the court schedule around the regular time.
They say the birth of a child is one of the most miraculous things you’ll ever see. It is, but the impact of drugs is right up there. Kayla had a dose of Fentanyl long before the epidural. Talk about a 180. From a frightened girl out to break my fingers with her contraction-inspired death grip, to the giggly, more confident girl we all know and love.
“I love drugs,” she said shortly after the first dose, before proceeding to think of names.
If there’s one piece of advice I would offer from a man’s perspective, it’s don’t wait for the epidural. Seriously. I can’t say I know how Kayla felt during the stronger contractions, but I’m betting it’s similar to thumb wrestling Hulk Hogan in the glory days of the 1980s. Just get the epidural when they say you’re able to.
But all the drugs in the world can’t cure everything, and labor is work, time and terror.
In Kayla’s case, labor from the time we got to the hospital lasted around 17 hours and was filled with curve balls.
First up, as when Kayla got the epidural. After getting the procedure she wasn’t feeling well and lost all color from her face as her blood pressure fell. We weren’t told exactly why, but she was hooked up to oxygen and quickly recovered. Thank God.
She hit 9 cm at around 2 p.m. and the real pushing started four hours later. And I mean pushing. A nurse and I held her feet back while she gave it all she had. Then again. Then again. This went on for 3 ½ hours. Not a great sign, especially with no progress.
The doctor made the decision to do an unscheduled cesarean section because he couldn’t tell how the baby was situated, so it would have been risky to try and pull her out.
Kayla cracked jokes through the process, but we were both terrified of the unexpected. When you have nine months to think about such a big event, you think about it often. You think about things like having a natural birth on the original Nov. 18 due date. When that doesn’t happen, it shakes you.
Kayla needed a cesarean section, and fast. We eventually found out that Kate had essentially rolled over on the inside and her head wasn’t in the right position, meaning she couldn’t come out naturally under Kayla’s or her own power. Also, Kate’s heart rate had dropped a bit, likely due to stress of labor. To the operating room we go.
I think this is a good place to take an intermission before we dive into surgery and instead talk for a few paragraphs about something else, Something friends, family and dedicated readers may want to know. Let’s talk about the name Kate. Up to now we’ve been calling her B.K. for baby Koperski. I realized after starting this post she has a real name now and I should call her that.
“Do you have a name picked out yet?” is probably the number one question you hear when expecting, quickly followed by “Can you tell me?”
We weren’t lying when we said we didn’t have a name until the very end, technically. There were three finalists, and Kate was number one from early on, I would say. I always liked the name, before we even found out Kayla was pregnant. Doesn’t it just sound nice? Kate. Kate Kate Kate. The name also follows a trend on Kayla’s side of first-born women having “K” sounding names. Catherine, Kay, Kathy, Kayla, and now Kate. It just fit. Unless Kayla just hasn’t admitted it to me, we made it the entire pregnancy without telling the name to anyone. Yay us!
Alright, intermission over. Now to the operating room.
I asked when it was all over if this was an emergency cesarean and was reassured that no, it was just unscheduled. Much like Kayla pooping while pushing, it just happened.
Our doc’s demeanor was unlike I’d ever seen him. This was no time for jokes. Kayla was out to be prepped. I was in a room alone, tossed a pair of scrubs to get into and told it would start in 10 minutes. 10 minutes pacing the now empty room, waiting for a nurse to come get me and lead the way to an operating room where Kayla was on a table, with a cloth divider separating her at the chest.
I had no idea just how quickly the baby comes during a cesarean section until an anesthesiologist asked if I wanted to see shortly after I sat down. I hesitated to look over the divider, expecting to see an initial incision. Instead, there she was. Kate, breathing fresh air for the first time in her life. She was beautiful.
Nurses took her to a nearby table to check her out and take measurements while I was told to go meet her. In that moment, I almost didn’t want to. For one, my feet felt like cement, bulky and heavy, unable to move. At this stage in the game I was right above Kayla’s head, with cords draped all around. I was terrified of tripping over one of them and sending the operating table to the floor with an open Kayla crashing to the ground. I quickly overcame this fear, but the second sensation was stronger.
I felt guilt. Part of that plan we’d set in our minds included skin to skin contact with Kayla. It’s common that the first place a baby goes is to the mother’s chest to establish a bond. She carried Kate for nine months. She dealt with the discomfort, the restricted diet and everything else for nine months. She spent 17 hours in labor doing everything she could to get that baby out. What did I have to do? She deserved to make first contact, not me.
If it were up to me I might have waited until it could have been both of us, but Kayla, fully conscious, told me to go to her.
I went, and looked back to see two tears run out Kayla’s eyes as I bent down to nervously meet my daughter.
She was beautiful. To look at. To hear screaming bloody murder. I’m pretty sure even her poop smelled good in that moment.
That incredible, blonde girl. That’s right, I said blonde. There was some initial debate among family members even after meeting her what color her hair would be, but it looked blonde to me and a nurse with 40-plus years of experience said the light eyebrows were a give away she’s going to sport golden locks. I had joked earlier that maybe Kate would get the best of both worlds and have her mother’s brown hair and father’s blonde beard. Guess not.
After first glance, I put a hand behind Kate’s neck and spoke to her. She immediately quit crying and listened. Looking back I wish I could remember what my first words were to her, or had something prepared. Pretty sure I ended up going with “Hi.”
Stick with the classics, children.
I kelp her company while nurses evaluated her, and doctors kept busy stuffing Kayla back together like the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz after the flying monkeys had their way with him.
But after everyone made sure Kate was OK, her mom got to say hello, too.
All the while, three doctors made small talk about their Thanksgiving plans. I made the mistake of looking that direction when they were stuffing what appeared to be organs back inside her stomach before the same anesthesiologist from before suggested I turn away.
After another 45 minutes or so in a recovery room, we went to the postpartum room, where the next three days would be spent. That’s where I changed my first diaper, which is not as intimidating as people make it sound, by the way. We swaddled Kate, learned to bathe her, and showered that girl with so much love.
Maybe I’m kidding myself or misremembering this, but leading up to being parents I wasn’t worried, even though I never really enjoyed kids. I mean I was worried, but not that worried. People always say it’s different when it’s your own kid. I always believed that, and still do to this day. I would love that girl to the moon and back even if she made a pile of dirty diapers that also stretched to the moon and back.
This post is about Kate. My life is now about Kate.
But there’s someone else I also need to talk about. Kayla has impressed me since the day I met her, in everything she does. I’ve never met anyone so motivated, so determined.
That determination has led to frustration at times when things don’t pan out as expected, but she always bounces back in the best way. Like when you’re being rushed for an unplanned cesarean section and cracking jokes to the doctors how she was about to lose 10 pounds, even though her heart was pounding.
She was determined through pregnancy to not let it impact her professional life, and she did it. Damned if she didn’t keep up her regular work pace, which is already more than I could do.
She impresses me in everything she does, and can now add being a fantastic mother to that list.
So here we are. Sitting in a hospital room. Kayla and I have always referred to ourselves as a family. Now that family is a little bigger, a little more complete and filled with more love than we thought possible.