The Ballad of “Cannonball” Baldwin

First of all: a metric gazillion thanks to the countless people who wrote email and posted notes of congratulations after the birth. It was all quite overwhelming. I plan to print out the comments from announcement and save them so, when The Squirrelly gets older, I can show them to him and say “I know this is going to be hard to believe, but on the day you were born, this is how many people were surfing the Internet instead of doing work.”

The authors of several of the aforementioned emails kindly notified me of some finer points of etiquette. When announcing the birth of a child, for example, you are apparently expected to mention specifics like weight and height, not just post pictures of your newborn preyed upon by roving packs of felines.

Who knew? Allow me to make amends.

The Squirrelly, a boy, was born at 2:42 AM on February 22nd in the Seattle Group Health Central campus. His birth weight was 7 lbs and 6 oz., he was 19.5 inches long, and, right from the get-go, it was clear that he’d inherited his father’s boundless reverence for breasts.

The Queen’s rhythmic contractions began just before midnight on the night prior. (The mathletes in the audience will have already deduced that this adds up to a three-hour labor, but let’s not ruin the ending for everyone.) She had been feeling irregular contractions for days, but at 11:30 PM they become so eerily punctual that I, with the stopwatch, was soon telling her when they would begin. (“Okay, we’re at three minutes, fifty-five seconds, so you’re going to get another contraction in four, three, two, one …”) We had been told to go to the hospital after an hour of this, but after 30 minutes we were so certain that this was for really real that we declared ourselves above the law and hit the road.

Now, in movies, when a father drives an expectant mother to the hospital, he is invariably zooming along at 85 mph and blowing through stoplights. In reality — at least for me — the exact opposite was true: that was probably the safest, least reckless 15 minutes of defensive driving I have ever embarked upon. I would not have been any more scrupulous if a cop had tailed me the entire way. I imagine that if, in college, I had once smoked a lot of pot at a party and then drove back to my dorm at an average speed of little over one mile an hour, this would have reminded me a lot of that completely hypothetical time.

To put this next part in context, you need to know that a woman dilates during labor, culminating in a dilation of approximately 10 centimeters, at which point the baby can make his jailbreak. Most women arrive at the hospital at around 5 or 6 centimeters dilated; those who are less than 5 centimeters are often told to go home and return later.

So when we arrived at the maternity ward, the nurse checked The Queen’s dilation to make sure we belonged there. Upon completion of the exam, she looked at us with an expression of amazement and said, “Okay, I’m not even going to tell you the results until I do it a second time, ” After the second pass she said, “Yeah — so, you’re nine centimeters dilated.”

(When retelling this part of the story to my relatives in the sleepless weeks following the birth, I consistently misstated the exam results as 9 inches of dilation, which was always good for a gasp and some bulging eyes on the part of the listener.)

After that it was just a whirlwind of birthin’. We were whisked to the Delivery Room where things progressed at a furious rate. The question of whether to use pain medication — something we’d been debating for months — was already moot, since the whole point of an epidural is to get you to eight or nine centimeters — a step The Queen had apparently taken care of during the car ride. Likewise, most of the stuff we I had learned in our Childbirth Class was rendered equally irrelevant. I’d say “okay, at this stage you’re s’posed to take short, distracting breaths,” and The Queen would say “too late: now I feel the urge to push.” So I’d say “Uh, okay then, at this stage we were taught to …” and the doctor would say, “Too late: here comes the head!”

And so, at 2:42 AM, The Squirrelly made his grand debut. He celebrated the big event, moments after entering the world, by pooping. Maybe that’s what all the rush was about.

Anyhow, yeah: babies. Crazy. I’ll be sure to give you the scoop on this whole parenting scam over the next couple weeks. The Queen and I have already worked out a pretty good formula for the division of labor: Mama’s in charge of what goes into baby, Papa’s in charge of what comes out of baby. As for what’s going to happen with this site, expect more of the same, although perhaps not as frequently updated (for a spell) and with a renewed emphasis on poop.

Confidential to Dooce: Labor story jinx! You owe me a coke.