Just got back last night from our trip through Romania and Italy. Our last week was spent running around the Italian peninsula and not having internet, which was why I haven’t blogged. I also just finished Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, which I’ll be blogging about later based on my notes. But for now, attempting to recover.

My wife and I arrived last night in Romania, where we’ll be spending the next month (minus a week when we’ll be in Italy). We’re glad to be here, but getting here… is a little more difficult. Especially because my wife gets terribly nauseous on the plane. And that 16 hours of flying are followed by 8 hours of driving, all to reach my in-laws.

Some thoughts on travel:

  • Airplane food isn’t good, exactly, but it’s free, and it also breaks up the monotony of sitting in that chair. Therefore I find that I look for much more than its quality deserves.
  • Ciprian was a wonderful baby to fly with. He slept most of the time and happily played in his car-seat the rest of the time. And he flirted with the flight attendants to get whatever he wanted from them.
  • Romania has potato chips flavored with Baked Chicken, Paprika, and Wild Mushrooms and Sour Cream. The mushroom flavored chips are delicious.

Back from a wonderful holiday in Colorado, which was inexplicably less snowy than the Seattle. (Snowpocalyptic Seattle: A ghastly wasteland covered in a mysterious white powder, rendering vehicles ineffective and striking terror into the hearts of everyone who dared venture outside.) I got to see my brother and his wife and their new baby, which was the highlight of the trip, plus I played Rock Band and Wii Sports.

(Aside: my parents bought a Wii. What kind of world is this where my parents buy video games for themselves? I may have more to say about this later.)

However, the first piece of fiction that I want to commend to you all is Sisters of the Blessed Diving Order of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew. The title does not contain a typo. Read it.

This was a nice surprise: I got an email from Strange Horizons the other day letting me know that I had won. Evidently there was some sort of prize involved. I had given some money to their fundraising drive back when they were having it, which entered me in a drawing for an incredibly awesome list of prizes. A few of the items were already claimed by the time I got to pick, but nonetheless I’m walking away with a brand-new copy of Twenty Epics edited by Susan Groppi.

Thanks, Strange Horizons!

What have I been doing? Not blogging, that’s what. Here’s some snippets:

  • Women are amazing. First, they have the ability to keep tiny people alive inside themselves for months at a time. Then they endure incredible amounts of pain to bring those people out to where they can breathe on their own. When that’s done, they shrug it off and start feeding the creatures with food they make from their own bodies. I have never been more in awe of my wife than in the past few weeks.
  • Ciprian is wonderful. He sleeps plenty, eats pretty well, and is extremely cute. The only problem is that he doesn’t always nurse as much as he needs to and has remained pretty small. But we’re addressing that as best we can.
  • I stopped writing the previous WIP, and moved on to a new one. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t get excited about what I was writing, which is pretty much a death knell for any creative work. I took a while off to write two short stories (which turned out very well), thinking that I would get my muse back for the novel afterwards. That was a failure: the further I got from the novel, the more I dreaded going back to it. When I got started on the thing I’m working on now, I admitted the obvious. The project is dead.
  • But I have a new project! It involves prison and vampires and zombies. And I am LOVING it. This is the most fun I’ve had writing something in a long time.
  • Today was the first day I biked to work. Well, not all the way to work. That’s like eight miles, man. I’m not about to do that every day. I’ll probably talk about this more in the future.

Larisa has her weekly checkup for the baby, which our midwife asks us to do at the hospital, since she’s there delivering another baby. I drop her off and head into work. I’m there for about 15 minutes when I get a call from Larisa. “The midwife says not to worry, but I’m dialated to four centimeters already.”

Don’t worry. Right.

I come in and pick her up at our church, which is only a few blocks from the hospital. She’s attending our midweek Eucharist, with a half-dozen other people. I get in near the end, but we stay through the prayers and take communion. Afterwards everyone prays for Larisa and me, which gets things off to a great start.

The midwife has told Larisa to go home and wait for her contractions to pick up. We head in, pack our bags and get the car ready. In the early afternoon her contractions are coming consistently every five minutes, so we called the midwife and were formally admitted to the hospital.

Things progressed well, but slowly. Larisa’s contractions pick up and slack off intermittently. They never become very painful or powerful, though she does get dialated to 6cm. We wait until that evening, and sleep intermittently through the night.

In the morning, the midwife talks to us. Larisa’s contractions have slacked off through the night, but she’s plenty dialated. We can either go home and wait for her labor to speed up on its own, or we can have her break Larisa’s water, which will provoke active labor. We take an hour’s walk to discuss it, and agree to have her break Larisa’s water. So at 7am the midwife uses something that looks like a giant knitting needle to break the amniotic sac, and the fluid gushes out.

Things pick up almost right away. The contractions start coming more frequent and strong, and pretty soon Larisa’s in a lot of pain. We move into the jacuzzi room, which alas doesn’t help Larisa very much. It becomes difficult for her to walk, and she keeps moving into different positions trying to find something that’s more comfortable. The nurses keep telling her that she’s doing great, but that doesn’t relieve her agony much.

At 2pm, seven hours after her water broke, the midwife checks Larisa’s cervix again. She’s only dialated to 7cm. As soon as the midwife leaves, Larisa starts to cry. She’s been in excruciating pain for hours already, and has made hardly any progress since her water broke. She tells me she wants an elective caesarean. She is done. She wants this baby out.

We talk to the nurse, who sets Larisa up with an IV to prepare her for whatever procedures are to come. The midwife is out for an hour (doing a C-section, ironically), and when she gets back I relay Larisa’s desires to the midwife. She strongly suggests that we not do that. Gradually, she talks Larisa down off the ledge. They’ll give her painkillers to help her relax and take away much of the pain, then she can re-evaluate if she really wants a C-section or wants to keep going for a vaginal birth.

Drugs are great. We were originally going to attempt an unmedicated birth, but avoiding a C-section is a much higher priority. Larisa feels better almost immediately after they give her the narcotics. She also feels rather sleepy. Before the narcotics wear off the nurse anaesthetist comes in and sets up Larisa’s epidural. It’s fascinating actually: they thread a tiny tube directly into Larisa’s spinal column, and drip small continuous doses of anaesthetic that desensitizes the lower body. The effect is remarkably specific: Larisa can feel her feet and knows when she’s having a contraction, but there is little actual pain.

The next five hours pass pretty quickly. The anaesthetist has to adjust Larisa’s dose a couple of times, but her ability to keep up and her relaxation increase dramatically. The labor picks up–by eight pm she’s almost fully dialated and the baby has descended. At eight thirty the midwife checks again and makes the announcement: it’s time to push.

Larisa is a champion pusher. I hold her legs and shout encouragement while she grunts and groans and pushes. Pretty quickly I can see the top of the baby’s head. Larisa pushes a bit more, and soon we see eyes, ears, shoulders, the whole body. She’s done! They wipe the baby down quickly, and a few seconds after being born the baby is resting and whimpering on Larisa’s chest.

So Ciprian Alexander Bangs was born on May 22, 2008, at 9:15pm, weighing 6 lbs. 12 oz, and 19 inches long. He’s resting with his mother a few feet from me right now.