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The birth of a Boo-Boo

Our Tommy-Boo is seven today. Here is the story of his birth.

Tommy’s due date was 12/12/01. I thought this would make a nice birthday and was greatly disappointed when the day came and left. He was my fourth baby! He was supposed to come a little early or at least on his due date.

Aidan was in preschool at the time. On the night of the 13th, her school held its annual Christmas program. I will never forget sitting behind a family with a newborn named Julia. She had been born on the 8th, a week early. I knew the family and was happy for them, but I was ridiculously jealous too and could hardly pay attention to the small voices and sweet faces singing complicated carols on stage.

The next couple of days were spent moaning and complaining and talking to our nameless baby through my drum-tight tummy.

December 16th arrived. It was a Sunday, and I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was going to do laundry and feel sorry for myself. As I loaded a bundle of Ryley and Sam’s clothes into the washing machine, I felt my first contraction. It was 4am, which proves how ridiculous I was being—who is up at 4am doing laundry? The overdue pregnant woman.

Throughout the morning, my contractions became increasingly painful and regular. I packed my bag. By noon, I felt it was time to go to the hospital, so we called my brother and his wife to ask if they could come over to watch the three little ones. They had only been married for about 6 weeks and had little experience caring for gangs of small children. Aidan was 4, Ryley was 2.5, and Sam had just turned 17 months.

We arrived at the hospital at around 1:30 pm and I got to bypass triage, just like with Sam. Baby #4 had to come quickly, right? That’s what everyone thought. I was checked and determined to be about 2cm, but I was thinned out and having regular contractions, so they let me stay.

It was really quiet in the hospital that day. We walked the halls to encourage contractions and the only sounds I heard were the voices of the sportscasters working the Broncos vs. Chiefs game on TV. Every occupied room had the game blaring. When we went back to our room, we turned the game on, too. But the Broncos were losing, so I decided to get in the jetted tub.

The water felt nice, but didn’t affect my contractions—they didn’t stop and they didn’t worsen. I seemed to be on some sort of labor plateau with nothing happening of much interest. I got bored in the tub, so I rang for the nurse who helped me into bed for a bit of monitoring and a progress check. I was 4cm. Labor was much slower than anyone expected, but the fact I changed a little proved we were moving in the right direction.

The monitors showed something a little alarming, though. The baby’s heart rate was in the 180s and 190s. Occasionally, it would shoot up above 200 before quickly coming back down. I asked the doctor what could be wrong. She said she wasn’t worried at that point, but they were watching him closely. A few minutes later, she returned to the room and said she wanted to break my water to see if the fluid was clear.

It wasn’t. It was stained with meconium. This meant the pediatrics team would be present at delivery to suction his mouth and nose before he was fully delivered. His heart rate slowly returned to normal over the next couple of hours and my contractions began to become unbearable as he descended. I asked for an epidural, which was promptly delivered. I slept a little.

When I woke, I thought I’d see what was on TV, thinking it would be a good distraction. Titanic was airing on ABC, and what is more distracting than Jack and Rose falling deeply into love over the course of a day and a half? During this time, my husband called home to see how it was going with the little ones.

My brother and sister-in-law were just finishing cleaning up after Sam, who had taken a poopy diaper off in his crib after he woke from his afternoon nap. He painted himself, his sheets, and the wall with poo. I felt terrible they had to go through all of that and I predicted they’d wait to have kids for at least a dozen years. And then I laughed.

My doctor was bored. I could tell, because she hung around my room and talked about how she and the nurses spent the afternoon making microwave truffles in the breakroom. Did I want a couple? Sure! Not many doctors bring truffles to their patients, but mine did. I loved her more and more as the night wore on. She delivered the truffles, telling me I couldn’t eat them yet but I could as soon as the baby was born. I promised I wouldn’t if she would check me.

8 centimeters.

She left. I rolled over and felt tremendous, sudden pressure so intense I couldn’t speak. I clutched my husband’s hand and told him: Button!!!. He rightly discerned this meant I wanted him to press the call button. The nurse on the other end asked what I needed. All I could say was help.

The nurse strolled in a minute later and asked what was wrong. I could only repeat help. She noted the doctor just checked me, right? I nodded yes. Help. She pulled back the sheet and pushed the call button paging the doctor into the room. His head was “right there” as they like to say in Obstetrician School.

I went from 8 to 10 centimeters in about 1 minute. Must have been the promise of truffles? Rolling over? The alarming sight of Jack sketching Rose’s boobies on the TV screen? So many odd things converged at one time. I was placed in position and pushed twice. The doctor had me wait until the pediatrics team arrived because of the meconium. I was given the green light to deliver his noggin, which I did.

It was most unpleasant waiting for the suctioning to end. I’ve never had to maintain like that, if you know what I mean…

The pediatrics people were satisfied, finally, and I pushed the rest of our fourth child into the world. He was taken immediately to the warming table as a precaution.

They told me he had several skin tags on his ears and cheeks, plus one of his ears wasn’t fully developed. I had never heard of skin tags and underdeveloped ears (just one!) before, so I was concerned. They explained the problems were probably just cosmetic and easily taken care of.

When I first saw him, I realized his issues were truly no big deal. He did have the biggest skin tag surgically removed at 8 months when he had tubes put in his ears (which was the one non-cosmetic issue—his little ear’s canal was infected for 7 months and he had diagnosed moderate hearing loss in that ear). We had a consult about his little ear with a plastic surgeon, who recommended against surgery unless he was bothered by teasing or feeling overly self-conscious. That hasn’t happened yet.

After everyone cleared out of the room but our little trio, we discussed what to do about our naming responsibility. I always liked Thomas, especially the nickname Tommy. It’s one of those names everyone thinks is common, but when you stop to survey just how many Tommys you actually know? You can’t think of any. His middle name, Robert, was in honor of my husband’s grandfather: Tommy was born on the one-year anniversary of his great-grandfather’s death.


Tommy is a darling kiddo. He is sweet and thoughtful, ridiculously clever beyond his years, and very artistic. He prefers to be called Boo-Boo more than anything. That has been his nickname since he was a few days old.

Now he is seven. My throat catches when I think of him entering the big kid world. I’ve always perceived seven as the start of a new phase in childhood. It’s here.


Happy Birthday, baby.

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