IMR: 1998: January: 17 -- Saturday, 7:18 p.m.
Mom's Place, Mililani, Hawai`i
Labor day, take one.

Jen and I had a false alarm yesterday.

Well, obviously, because if it was the real thing, I wouldn't be sitting here typing. I'd (hopefully) be making cooing noises and massaging my wife's feet, saying for the fifth time, "Oh god, the poor thing got my nose!"

I was at work at the press, scanning book covers and retyping jacket copy. At about 3 p.m., my cellular phone died. Strangely.

Now, whenever the battery goes, it sings a little song. This time, the song sounded a little funny. Like maybe it was halfway through a ring before giving up the ghost.

"It would be my luck," I chuckle. "Only when I forget to charge the phone would Jen goes into labor."

Then the office phone rings.

I struggle to get to it... and what a struggle it was. In trying to get a pile of papers off my lap, they fall to the floor. "Hell with it," I say. Then I try to get off the chair, which was a lot more difficult than it should be, due to the fact that my desk chair is one of those mega-ergonomic, yoga-esque kneeling contraptions.

Unable to push back far enough to step out of the wooden monster, I just sort of fall out sideward. I stumble around my boss' desk and grab the phone.

Too late.

Now my mind is spinning. I remind myself, "Jen's not due for two weeks." I take a deep breath, and pick up the papers. I try to sort them out. I try to get back to work.

"Hell," I say.

I drop everything and try to check for messages on my cell phone, but the phones in the office don't seem to put out industry-standard tones. The same problem prevents me from checking messages at home.

I tell myself, "You're worrying for nothing."

Then the phone rings again.

"Journals," I answer.


The moment I hear Jen's voice, my heart skips a beat. Adrenaline floods into my system. "What's wrong?"

"I need to go to the doctor," she says.

Now I'm confused. She didn't say, "It's time." I ask her why.

"I don't know, I've been feeling weird pains," she says. "Dr. Boyens said I should come in. Is that okay? I'm sorry, I can catch a ride with someone else..."

"No, no, hey," I interrupt her. "Why are you apologizing? Just... take it easy, rest. I'll be there in..." -- I check my watch, it's 3:09 -- "...ten minutes."

I tornado around the office covering things and turning things off. I pop my head into the next office and say, "Gotta go!"

"Oh?" Keith asks. "That 'Gotta go' sounds pretty urgent."

"Well," I said. "We'll see. Bye!"

I sprint down the hill (quite a feat, since it's a steep grade) and across the street to my car. Somehow, I get from an obscure side street in Manoa Valley to Kahala Mall in nine minutes.

Jen explains the pain as a kind of tearing sensation. Lower left. She had one in the morning and ignored it, but they kept coming all day. One knocked her off her feet, so she called the doctor.

We roll onto the freeway... within a couple of minutes, we're stuck in rush hour traffic.

Jen and I chat, keeping calm. As we stop-and-go, we watch a helicopter hovering in the distance in a cloud of smoke. We would later find out that there was a fire at Century Center, across the new Convention Center.

Jen feels more sharp pains. I hold her hand. She's pretty sure what she's feeling isn't labor. I'm not sure if that's good news or bad news.

"Note to Katie," I say out loud. "When it's time to do this for real, don't come knocking at rush hour, okay?"

Jen mentions that she paged William when she didn't reach me the first time. For what little he could do trapped at work, Jen said she appreciated that he was there for us and kept calm.

Half an hour later, we're at Straub. Jen walks in from the rotunda while I park the car. When I get to the doctor's office, I'm ushered into the exam room.

It's cool. It's quiet. Jen and I sigh at each other.

"What if I'm having the baby?" she asks, overwhelmed. "What if we're parents tomorrow?"

"It'll be great," I say.

Dr. Boyens comes in, and Jen describes what she's feeling. No bleeding. No unusual discharge. He calls in a nurse and does a quick exam. "Your cervix is closed and thick," he pronounces. "Nowhere near ready for birth."

Still, he decides to order an emergency ultrasound. The decision is easier said than done, as the ultrasound technician had apparently already left.

The doctor takes us down to radiology, and explains what he's looking for.

"Chances are, it's just regular baby pains; maybe she's moved lower, and you're not used to how it feels," he said. "Maybe there's a slight tear in the membrane, but I don't think so because nothing's coming out.

"What it could be is 'abruptio,' which is when the placenta separates from the uterine wall," he continues, more quietly now. "Usually this would mean there should be bleeding, but again there isn't any.

"Sometimes you can have it without bleeding, though," he said, and draws a diagram to show how a tear higher up the uterus could be blocking and pooling blood. "This is what we're going to look for. It's pretty easy to spot."

He explains that 'abruptio' is serious, and could be fatal. "If we see anything wrong, we're probably looking at bringing you to Kapi`olani and doing a C-section."

Jen nods confidently, but her grip on my hand becomes almost unbearable.

With the technician still on her way, we sit in the waiting room while Dr. Boyens returns to his practice. Pains come and go, but less intense now. We share a newspaper and have a snack. Most of the radiology staff say their goodbyes to each other and head home.

As we wait, we ponder what it would be like to be parents. To be a mommy and daddy before the weekend's through. We're still a little scared, but more excited than anything.

Finally the tech arrives, and we get the ultrasound. Unlike last month's in-and-out session, we have a full battery of scans. We see arms, legs, fingers and toes; we see a little beating heart, a little bladder, a stomach and diaphragm. The tech fills four double-sided image trays with six exposures each.

The tech gives us a little baby tour. When we get to her face, Jen coos. The tech gets a particularly good shot, and makes two Polaroid prints for us.

Dr. Boyens comes back, and disappears with the trays and another doctor for a few minutes. He comes back smiling.

"Everything's fine," he says. "The placenta's fully seated, and there's plenty of fluid around the baby."

He takes us back to his office for one last physical exam. The nurse comes in and quietly unwraps the first speculum I've ever seen up close. It didn't look like much fun, and by the look on Jen's face, it wasn't. The doctor takes a couple of swabs and we talk as the slides dry.

"I wouldn't mind if you gave birth this weekend," he says. "I've got no plans."

"Oh, we'd love it," Jen says. I nod.

"Well, if we find anything, we're going ahead with it," he says, almost hopeful.

See, Jen's due date is Jan. 25. This puts Dr. Boyens' birthing duties dangerously close to Super Bowl Sunday, as well as the much-touted Rolling Stones concert, to which he has tickets.

He takes the trays to check them out in a microscope. What he looks for are little crystalline structures that look like ferns, which is how amniotic fluid looks like when dry. If there are ferns, we've got a leak, and in 24 hours, we'll have a daughter.

No ferns.

He sends us home. We're almost disappointed.

So, Friday's adventure was just practice for the Real Big Day, which isn't that far away. Next time it will be less fear and more happy anticipation. And we finally packed our labor bag.

Jen returned to work today. Fortunately, the air conditioning is fixed. Hopefully she won't be quite as exhausted when she gets home.

I spent the day here at mom's. She and I put the crib together, where it now waits for Katie in the middle of the living room. We also cleaned out part of the family room, filling four bags of old magazines, computer manuals and school papers.

Then, while three loads of laundry spun and tumbled outside, we relaxed in front of the television. Todd, not yet gainfully employed, put on "The Princess Bride." For the first time in history, mom stayed awake through a movie, but Todd passed out halfway.

We're still not sure how long Jen and I will live here after Katie is born. A month, probably, but it depends on how long we can deal with sleeping on separate couches.

It will be nice to have some support as we adjust to parenthood. Part of me thinks it isn't just for us, though. The way mom has been collecting baby goods and cleaning up gives me the suspicion she's secretly looking forward to the whole grandmother thing.

Brett Butler's on Comedy Central right now, and it's time to go get Jen.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 17 January 1998 · Last Modified: 20 January 1998