Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

The greatest moment of my life

The greatest moment of my life
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Amea had passed some kind of a threshold, and her strength and good spirits were starting to fade. She was now in her 15th hour of labour, and she was just tired. I could hardly do a thing other than hold her, ensure that she could take more gas when the contractions subsided, and remind her that she was doing well.

At times I feel that life is a bit of a strange and scary thing. Just as I start to become a part of something, the realization of its passing becomes clearer. The recent months have been what I would classify as a whirlwind. Two years ago, I had just met Amea; now, we seem to share everything imaginable.


In November of last year, Amea and I were engaged, and considered the possibility of starting a family a little earlier than we had planned. At this point, I believe that pragmatism was leading our thoughts. We knew that we had to start considering our options if we were in fact to have children, as we were both getting a bit older. Amea and I simply didn’t want to wait too long, but knew there were many factors to consider. As such, the planner in me suggested visiting the office to work the whole thing out in Project. I felt that this would allow us to really understand how we could fit a pregnancy in to our lives, and if we could stretch our finances to make it work.

The results of the planning left us frustrated. As little as we wanted finances to be pivotal in our decision, we knew that with the cost of living in Vancouver, we really did need a second pay cheque in order to make ends meet. Additionally, the timing just seemed bad. As much as we wanted to just get things started, it scared us that we wouldn’t be able to provide a reasonable life for our child.

We returned home after a long car ride. We spoke at some length on the topic, shared a couple of glasses of wine, and tried to stop worrying about everything so much. We conceived of Oscar that night at approximately 10:45.


We had no idea that at our age it would be so easy to get things cooking. As such, we were very surprised when that test had a little blue line in it. In fact, we were so taken aback that Amea just asked me if there was something wrong with it. I feel that day can be best described as a mixture of elation and bafflement.

The first months of a pregnancy are rather strange for everyone concerned. It’s well acknowledged that one should not announce anything for the first three months, so a little secret is formed between the Mom and Dad to be. That however has little bearing on the fact that I felt the deep desire to shout the news from the rooftops. I was overwhelmed for days—both hoping that all was well, while remaining excited by how this would change our lives, and connect our families even more. I particularly liked the idea that my father and I would both have shared this experience.

Although Amea’s body was changing, and she prepared emotionally to deal with the pregnancy, I started to feel as though everything was just as it always had been. Of course, I wasn’t physically experiencing any change, and I felt that I could do little to contribute. The initial emotional-rush had subsided, and I began to feel like a bystander. Although this at first seemed odd, I have learned others also shared the sensation.

In the months that followed

Small changes occurred for both of us. Amea of course, could not drink alcohol throughout the pregnancy, and I vowed to support her in this by abstaining from drink for the term. Good intentions however passed upon being seduced by a single-malt I do not feel at liberty to name at this time. In the months following I often noted, “Just as Amea is eating for two, I am drinking for two.”

Additionally, we entered my time of discontent, during which television viewing (none to mention sex) was sort of out of range, as Amea would routinely fall asleep at around seven o’clock. With time however, we adapted to this new routine and regained a degree or normalcy in our day-to-day activities; plus, with the arrival of the second trimester, Amea even began to eat spicy food again, and stay awake as late as nine or ten o’clock.

Nine months is both a long time, and no time at all. Over those months, life was as it normally is, with the addition of prenatal classes, stroller shopping, weird prenatal yoga sessions where people just seemed to cry too much, a healthy dollop of expectant parent worries, and endless speculation on the sex of our child from random individuals in the grocery store.


Amea worked up until a week of her due date, at which time she decided to retreat to our house and wait for the imminent arrival. In retrospect, she very well could have worked just a little longer as our child was in no hurry to join us. It was tough for her, as I expect it is for any expectant Mom. Her legs were quite sore and she found it progressively more difficult to sleep. As her due date came and passed, I believe that most every moment felt a little like a bad joke at her expense.

After nearly two weeks of waiting and monitoring the baby’s progress in-utero, we were warned of a potentially dangerous situation. After a routine 42-week ultrasound, the doctor advised us that due to a severe shortage of amniotic fluid we would have to induce labour immediately, in order to stave-off some substantial dangers. We were exasperated by the quick change of events, and urged them to do whatever possible to ensure that Amea and the baby would remain safe.


We had not however anticipated that we would be in the midst of some small kind of baby boom. Even with the urgency expressed, no induction time could be confirmed. So, we waited by the phone at home, pacing, wondering why we couldn’t get in to the hospital. After two days, which seemed like months, we were admitted and things began. For 25 hours, I watched, as Amea moved from being herself, to the situation I described in the opening paragraph, right back to a state of post-epidural bliss. (I think I loved that epidural almost as much as she did.)

I, and Amea’s sister Frances, did all we could for her, but truly, there’s no place that I have ever felt as powerless, as I did watching my partner go through all that she did. I however, was able to admire Amea’s strength, as she worked through so much to birth our child. There was a beautiful little moment when after quite a tough bought the nurse told us that she could feel our baby’s hair. The idea of the baby being so close brought a wonderful smile to Amea’s face—in spite of all of her pain.

For all of her efforts, hour 25 marked little change in the situation. Her cervix had still only dilated just a little more than a centimeter. The midwife and doctor noted that things were starting to become more challenging, and then suggested we proceed with a Caesarean section.


In most of my life, I take an active role; however, as we waited for Amea to go in to surgery, I was unable to do anything other than wait. I was forced to remain in the lobby, as they prepared for the procedure. I sat, read, and re-read magazine articles which I still can’t remember, and finally was allowed in to the room. Here, a small army of medical professionals guided us through what felt like a great process.

I sat next to Amea and tried to soothe her. Something to do with the surgery caused her jaw to shake uncontrollably, and several days of little sleep left her exhausted. I remained just five inches from her face, trying to remind her that it was all moving along well. I remember thinking that I would someday have to find a way to express to her just how much I admired her—how humbled I was by her ability to do this. It was around this time that Dr. Unger asked if I might like to take a look at our child.

I stood up and looked past the curtain to see people in green and purple scrubs, equipment, pipes and hoses everywhere, my wife’s blood, and a wriggling, slimy, beautiful child. I couldn’t manage it all; it was simply more information that I could process. Not knowing whether I would laugh or cry, I believe that I was left quite dumbstruck. In that moment, I learned what it meant to have your breath taken away. My eyes welled-up, I cried uncontrollably, I tried to breathe, and worked to manage my trembling voice enough to say to Amea, “It’s Oscar.”

It’s good

As my friend Eric Shelkie once told me, “The trip home from the hospital with the baby was the slowest I have ever driven in my life.” The seeming fragility of this life in our care at first felt daunting. It was however mitigated by the sheer excitement of his presence.

In the days that followed, I managed to chat with my good friend Hans who recounted the experience he had when his son was born. He specifically brought forth the moment in which he walked in to the lobby of the hospital. As he looked outside, it felt as though the world was a better place somehow. I now entirely understood what he meant.

At the risk of this post bordering on the saccharin, I will say that I have never known a joy greater than that of Oscar’s arrival. It was a time of complete happiness. For many days following the event, I remarked to Amea that it felt as though every cell in my body had light in it. This may make little sense upon being read, but it’s how I can best articulate the feeling.

I find it somewhat odd to consider how much I have pursued some kind of happiness, and that nothing has ever moved me as this experience did; nevertheless, there is little exclusive about having a child. Most everyone has the capability to do so, and to feel the same things that Amea and I have. Perhaps it is one of life’s lessons: all of us share certain core experiences, regardless of our careers, aspirations or positions in life.

Oscar is now three weeks old. With each day he changes a little and seems to be awakening to life. It’s quite simply a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I wish such happiness for you. ideasonideas typically doesn’t have many photographs on it. Today is an exception. World, meet Oscar; Oscar, meet world.

oscar karjaluoto

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