Thursday, December 30, 2004

An Early Christmas Gift

Well, gentle readers, a lot has happened since last I posted. Christmas is over, all of my family has departed, and I finally have some time to update my blog. The big news is that I gave birth to our son Preston Roy Hahn on December 14th, 2004. He weighed in at 8 lbs. 8.6 oz and measured 22 inches in length. He’s a tall and lanky child, just like his parents.

The delivery was no picnic, I tell you. My due date was Saturday, December 11th, but it came and went with nary a labor pain. My OB didn’t want me going more than a week past my due date, so she scheduled me for an induction on Tuesday, December 14th. In retrospect, I’m thankful for that, because Preston would have been even larger a week later! My mom had flown down from Utah for the birth, so she went with us to the hospital that morning. We got there at 6:30 a.m. and about an hour later, I started having labor contractions on my own, but I was still given a small dose of pitocin to speed things along. The early labor contractions were surprising mild. I didn’t feel much unless I laid on my back. I thought, “No problem. This isn’t going to be so bad.” WRONG!

I had planned with my OB to have an epidural, but it turned out that the anesthesiologist on duty that day wouldn’t touch me with a ten-foot pole because I had had a spinal fusion five years earlier at the L4/5 level (which is where the epidural is typically inserted). I had been assured by my OB and the nurse in my childbirth class that it wouldn’t be a problem to insert the epidural at one level higher, L3/4. I was a little nervous about getting an epidural because I don’t like needles being stuck into my back. My spine had been poked and prodded with needles for several years while the docs tried to treat my back problems with little success. Anyway, the anesthesiologist heard the phrase “back surgery” and decided he didn’t want to be sued if my back started acting up after the procedure. So I was forced to give birth without any pain relief and I had not prepared at all for a natural birth. What fun!

The OB broke my water at 1 p.m. and about two hours later at 3:08 p.m., Preston emerged into the blinding lights of this world. It was the most painful experience of my life, but mercifully the labor was very short. My OB didn’t expect me to progress so quickly and had gone back to her clinic in a neighboring building. She literally had to run from her clinic to my delivery room to be there in time for the delivery. While we were waiting for her, the nurse kept saying, “Don’t push!” and I was yelling, “I can’t help it!” It was beyond my control at that point as my involuntary uterus muscles just took over. My husband said he and the nurse were getting awfully nervous waiting for the OB, and thought that they might be the ones delivering Preston.

Anyway, Preston was delivered very quickly and I got to hold him briefly before he was whisked away by the nurses for tests. We didn’t get to see him again for several hours, and then I got to breastfeed him for the first time. Breastfeeding seemed alien to me at first—my own body providing food for another human being--but once I got the hang of it, it seemed totally natural.

My husband was a real help to me throughout the delivery. He comforted me and appeared calm and cool the whole time, even though I know inside he was thinking “Oh my heck! What do I do now?!” He was very angry at the anesthesiologist, and kept muttering something about punching his lights out if he ever ran into him. It’s so cute when your significant other is so protective of you.

Preston is the most adorable baby boy ever (isn’t that what every parent thinks?), and he’s a relatively calm baby. It’s been exhausting learning how to care for him, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it and I’ve never felt happier. I think graduate school has helped prepare me for motherhood in several ways. It helped my organizational and multi-tasking skills considerably. A daily “To Do” list is indispensable, and I set up a regular feeding schedule so I feed him every 3 hours during the day and 4 hours at night. I feel pretty tired most days, but I’m having a blast finally being able to be “domestic” instead of analytical all day long. I must admit, though, that sometimes I read articles from Science magazine to Preston at bedtime. They put him right to sleep every time, and I get to keep up on the latest scientific discoveries. Now this is the life!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Human Developmental Biology In Action

Well, I saw my OB today, and it seems things are progressing rather rapidly. I won't bore you with the details, but basically Jr. could come at any time so I probably won't be posting for a while. But when I return, I'm sure I'll have some amusing delivery anecdotes to share, like ripping my husband's shirt off in the delievery room or something. In the meantime, I'm just going to freak out. I'M HAVING A BABY!!!! NO WAY!!!!

Freak-out afterthought: Bloggers are always blogging live events. Has anyone blogged a birth yet? That would be beyond super-geeky. And if my husband did it while I was giving birth, I would probably hurt him.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Of Christmas and the Sublime

Christmas always seems to sneak up on me. Between school and church activities, it always seemed like I've never had enough time to really prepare for it. This year will be quite different from past Christmases since I'll be a new mother before it, and for the first time since high school I'll be unemployed and not in school. Last weekend, my husband and I put up a tree and all our Christmas decorations. I'm going to complete all my Christmas shopping this weekend so I won't have to worry about it after our son, Preston, is born.

I've had more time lately to reflect on the "real" meaning of Christmas. As a Christian, more particularly a Latter-day Saint (or Mormon), Christmas has a special meaning for us. Although we don't believe Jesus Christ was born on December 25th per say, we do revere Christmas as a celebration of his birth, and his life's mission. My favorite part of Christmas is the traditional Christmas carols and hymns. Musically, I'd fit perfectly in the mid-1800's because I just love Christmas (and other) music from that period and earlier. There are few modern Christmas pieces that I really enjoy. There just seems to be something missing from songs like "White Christmas" compared to "Silent Night."

Music has a interesting way of touching the human heart, for good or ill. When I think of the word sublime as a descriptor, the first thing I think of is music. I guess really good chocolate or other type of tasty food could be described as sublime, but I've never been moved to tears by anything that I've eaten. A woman in my church sang "O Divine Redeemer" by Charles Gounod a few weeks ago, and I was in tears throughout the whole song. It wasn't just the words or the melody that moved me, but I felt some uplifting of my heart, a look beyond the often depressing here and now of the world. I can't explain the feeling, but it's similar to the joy I've felt on the best days of my life, my wedding day for example. I'm sure that I will feel similar feelings when I meet Preston for the first time. Music composers of the past (and maybe a couple modern ones) seem to be able to capture that feeling of sublimety. I don't know if this is because of their belief in God or due to their unique talents that perhaps aren't as prevalent now (do we have a modern-day Mozart, Bach or Beethoven?).

Bach is one of my favorite composers, and he seemed particularly able to capture the sublime in his music. He wrote a lot of religious music, but even his non-religious music seems to have the same quality. For instance, his piece "Air on G String" touches me as much as "Jesu, Joy of His Desiring" although the former does not have any lyrics or any outright references to religious topics.

Of course, as the nerdy biologist I am, I'm extremely curious about the biological processes involved in emotion and spirituality. Why does some music touch some individuals and not others? Which centers of the brain produce feelings of sublimety or spirituality, and how do they vary from person to person? I'm sure that similar topics have been studied by behavioral neuroscientists, so I'll have to do a little research and report my findings. In the meantime, if you're having a bad day, might I suggest popping in your favorite CD and reflecting on the blessings of great music?