Sunday, May 29, 2016

Born on a Mother's Day

My previous entry regarding Adam's baby was just a placeholder while I did some research.  Three weeks ago, we were all set up to have a brunch with my Mother, when unforeseen (yet inevitable) circumstances arose - my sister had contractions the day before.

I complained that my sister couldn't hold it in long enough to make it to brunch.  I was later told that pregnancy doesn't work the same way as holding in a crap, even though it feels like crapping a watermelon.
Incidentally, there was a clothing store selling maternity bras called Melons & Clementines that I renamed Blueberries & Watermelons, for the varying sizes between flat-chested and plastic surgery.  As our plans were thrown asunder, the rest of the family was left with me, and I'm hardly the most sociable person even under the best of times.  Not to mention my sister's pregnancy easily beat my dinky greetings card.  There's no way I could possibly compete with that.

The whole incident started when she was feeling what felt like cramps at her husband's sister's BBQ, which apparently was fancy enough to accommodate not just a hot tub, but a trampoline as well.  That's one big backyard.  My sister didn't know it was labor pains at that point - she just worried that the baby might be late.  While I was thinking "j'accuse", she didn't go for a jacuzzi bath, but thought that it might be fun to jump on the trampoline, but opted for small bounces, so the baby wouldn't be violently ejected in mid-air.

If cramps come in regular intervals, that's a sure sign that you're in labor.  If cramps keep acting up, the recommended thing to do is take a warm bath.  Either the contractions will stop or increase.  That wasn't why my sister didn't go in the hot tub earlier - the water was TOO hot.  So when they got home and ran a mid-temperature bath, the contractions didn't stop.  So obviously, she was in labor.  The husband called the hospital at 10 PM, but the contractions were considered too light and far apart to be of any use.  Their analytic method was; if the expectant mother could still talk rationally, then she's not in enough pain to be in labor.

At 2:00 AM, after unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep, the contractions became too painful, so they went to the hospital.  For the most part, the staff was warm and accommodating, save for one woman, the medical examiner.  This woman had long nails on her hands.  Long long long false fingernails that she pulled up over her surgical gloves.  And she stuck those very pointy fingers deep up the other end where the sun doesn't shine.  She kept exploring the exit area, trying and failing to feel her way through if the cervix was ready enough, but kept having trouble.  Finally, she handed her duty over to the doctor, saying she couldn't feel anything.  (Because of the false fingernails)  After all that, the doctor did a quick cursory check, and found out the cervix was dilated to a good... zero centimeters.

In order for the hospital to admit any pregnant mothers, the cervix needs to be dilated a good 4 out of 10 centimeters wide, and my sister was nowhere close to approaching a failing grade, so they sent her home until she could get better results.

To make matters worse, this was not just a regular pregnancy pain, but a Back Labor pain.  Back Labor hurt because the baby is positioned at a sideways angle instead of flat on their front or back.  So every time she had a contraction, her husband would have to lean forward and press down hard on her back to relieve the tension.  In the olden days, trying to signal extreme discomfort could only be accomplished via a telepathic bond between soulmates.  This would be an exercise in futility were it not for the help of a phone App, Full Term, which when pressed, would signal when her contraction started, and when it ended.  Then it would record how long these contractions started and stopped.  The husband literally had her back.

In between contractions, she felt fine.  [Nothing - PAIN - Noting - PAIN]: Goto Line 10, Rinse & repeat.  While in the midst of enduring this faulty genetic human code, she coped by walking up and down stairs to help her labor go faster.  All of this was accomplished in the comfort of home.  By the time they'd gotten through the routine, and was developing contractions every minute, she was still only dilated to three centimeters.

Before leaving for the hospital again, my sister told her husband to eat first, because she didn't know how long she'd take.  Fortunately, there were still leftovers from the Barbecue yesterday, and the hubby reheated some hotdogs and hamburgers onto a combined sandwich plate special.  He started eating his first bites when my sister started having contractions right in front of him, so he had to get up and press down on her back until the pain went away, before sitting down and continue his meal.  Then the contractions started again... possibly as a result of seeing him eat so much meat right in front of her face.  This was repeated several times, though it probably would've been easier to just eat off her back instead of at the table.

Getting to the hospital was just as much of a struggle, because she developed contractions in the front seat with no surefire way to comfortably press on her back without letting one hand free of the steering wheel.
Eventually, they arrived at the hospital without having to be chauffeured by an ambulance, but there was another unexpected obstacle.  The first time they'd arrived, they had to pay for parking.  Now that they'd come again during the daytime, they were no longer eligible for the same spot they'd got last time, and had to pay a higher fee, which was quite the racket.

Once parked, my sister asked for a wheelchair because she was worried about getting hit by another contraction attack along the way to the entrance.  One was found, but it didn't have any footrests, so she had to keep her feet elevated, rather than run her legs underneath like a Flintstones vehicle.  When they finally made it to the front entrance, she was transferred to a better wheelchair, rushed to another floor, and then was told to walk to the examining table.  As if.  Fortunately, she was carried over, where she was examined by a nurse who was better qualified to check my sister's cervix with less stress.

It was still only 3 centimeters wide.

Fortunately, they didn't send them home after all that.  The nurse who made the width checkup stayed with them for the duration of the labor.  Once accepted, the first thing my sister asked for was an epidural.  However, in order to do so, they needed to monitor the baby's heart rate and her contractions for half an hour.  The only problem was, in order to do so, necessitated the expectant mother to be on her back.  Which just so happens to be the WORST possible position for someone experiencing Back Labor.

At this point, my sister's memory is a blank.  She vaguely recalls asking the nurse how much longer the procedure would take, and at the 20 minute mark, the nurse said it was fine.

Once the drugs started to take hold, they only worked on one side of her body at first, so they had to flip her over until both sides were equally under the influence.  After which, she and her husband was finally able to get some sleep after being internally tortured for almost a whole day.  This reprieve lasted two hours, after which the nurse rechecked her cervix again, which she noticed had swelled to "Oh wow, 10 cm!"  Even then, they had to wait another hour, because the baby's head was still too high.  They waited for gravity to take effect before starting pushing around 10:30.

Around this time, my sister really wanted her baby to be born before midnight, since it'd be so suitable and funny considering the holiday.  My sister's something of a procrastinator even under favorable circumstances, and works best under total deadline pressure, so she was really racing against the clock here.  Not to mention the nurse's shift ended at 12:00, but she was willing to stick around past then if it meant helping my sister just a little longer, since she'd stuck by her side all this time.

She juuuuust barely made it around 11:56, four minutes before midnight.  When the baby came out so suddenly, the husband took Lord's name in vain and my sister was so surprised to see the thing that'd been living inside her for so long that she said "Holy Crap!" (toned down for children in the audience).  The baby's head had been stretched out so much from squeezing through a small entrance that it looked like an alien.  Fortunately, babies are resilient, and bounce back easily, and her skull reshaped itself back to a more familiar form.

This meant that she was born not just on Mother's Day, but also on a Sunday, making her a suitable candidate for my variation of Monday's Child, which I'd created as a Take That to my sister who was born on a Thursday, while I was born on a Wednesday.  When the baby came out, she also was born with a surprising amount of hair.  My sister was similarly born with not just hair on her head but also on her back, making her "look like a monkey", according to my mother's words.

When removed from a safe cocoon so suddenly, blankets, as well as a hat was put on the baby's head to keep her warm.  This had the side benefit of absorbing her sweat, which would come in handy later.  After awhile, her husband took the cap off, and drove home and plopped it on the floor, so the cats would get used to the new arrival.  Since cats are generally resistant to any sudden changes, and have strong senses of smell, this was a smart move on his part.  Training cats is not like training dogs - they refuse to adhere to puny human demands.
From Jeffrey Brown's Little Things.
After some further tests, it was also noticed that the newborn baby had borderline jaundiced skin, and had to be put under a sunlamp (with protection wrapped around her eyes) until she got some colour into her cheeks.

But before all that, the mother held her baby girl in her bare arms for some skin-to-skin contact which was important to foster a bond between mother & child.  40 minutes later, she noticed a funny discolouring & smell.  The baby had pooped all over the mother.  She certainly didn't waste any time in relieving herself - a feat she has yet to let up on.  It took two nurses to clean up the mess - one for the mother and one for the baby.  Holy Crap indeed.

I've been told that the first month raising a child is the hardest - waking up every hour demanding to be fed & changed.  Then every two hours, then three.  After which, things would get theoretically easier.  Physically easier maybe, but not emotionally easier.  It's an endurance contest the parents can't possibly hope to win.  At least when my sister does her breastfeeding, she's assured that I'll be only looking at her lips.  Except for when she looks down to see if the baby's done.

For me, the hardest part is not being able to share any recommended comics with my sister, since she's so tired all the time from breastfeeding on demand.  I won't even be able to engage with the kid until she's able to talk and express her opinions.  I'm not very sociable, being woefully inexperienced in that field.  Nromal conversation drains my stamina.  Exercise routines bore me.  The only thing I can do is find suitable books that they'd like.  So what if the baby can't read right off the bat?  There's no disadvantage in getting a head start.

To that end, I looked far and wide in bazaars and garage sales for cardboard page books for early readers that had to follow several requirements:

  • Have appealing artwork
  • Be gender-neutral
  • Non-threatening
  • Not put undue pressure to uphold an ideal (Baby Einstein)
  • Have a diverse cast

I'd greatly identified with the main characters from Quick as a Cricket and Flight of the Navigator, both having worn a striped shirt like me, so it stood to reason that having a protagonist that looked like them would be of great interest to them.  I had to pass over a cardboard baby popup book because the stock baby was too white for my taste.

At least we're assured that the newborn has hearing.  Having a Deaf Grandchild would've been too much for my mother to deal with, after raising two Deaf children.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Return to Orbit

It's been a long time since I've delved into the adventures of Orbit & Co.  I've been scouring over old newspaper archives trying to fill in the holes after their last expedition.  Along the way, I was continuously sidetracked by other comics that I figured could be saved for posterity later.  Then I noticed later comics that gave earlier comics more significance, and then had to go back and find the comics page again, costing me more valuable time.
An early comic I managed to find,
back when Orbit first met Tyrone.
One thing that struck me while going through so many old comics was how exhausting and mind-numbing the experience was.  If a newspaper happened to be missing the date to a specific strip, I'd have to look into another newspaper, which might have their own varied comics, which'd I'd notice, involve more cross-referencing, have to take note of, and then start the whole process all over again.  In some cases, I might find a better copy of a comic I found, and then replace those with higher quality versions.

It doesn't help that I'm not exactly meticulous in keeping track of which days/months/years I've already gone through.  In some cases, it's easier to just start later in a year, then work your way backwards.  Since that involves breaking up narrative flow, I haven't dared to venture down that path.

The philosophical paradox of Theseus having all parts of the ship being replaced aside, Tyrone is already contemplating mutiny despite not knowing how to control a spaceship.

Even though this Sunday comic actually shows up a day earlier, I posted it here, because it segues into the next strip better than the last one.

Around her is where the last adventures of Orbit trailed off.  From here, it's venturing into familiar uncharted territory.

I've already got a month's worth of Orbit strips all lined up and ready to go, but I hesitate to post them up too soon.  I'd like to go back over the newspaper dates I've already covered, trying to find an elusive Hi & Lois comic possibly posted sometime between 1980-1987.  That's a lot of pages to sift through.

Friday, May 20, 2016

License Request: Key Moments in Comics History

One of the greatest joys while book-hunting is making valued finds in out-of-the-way locations in second-hand bookstores.  I once found some old Pogo books that were available for their cover price of $1.00 each.  (Some of which I've posted before) Then there's printed collections of stuff no longer available online, such as Jesse Reklaw's DreamToons (people's dreams retold as humourous comics), and a Harry Potter fanbook with amusing comics by Johane "Horus" Matte and Katie Shanahan & "Shagster".  Among these finds was the discovery of a minicomic; Key Moments from the History of Comics.

This illusionary thin square book consists of a single image and a description on each page.  There were only a thousand printed copies for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 2009, so stumbling onto this was somewhat of a stroke of luck.  The English translation is actually a compilation of two books, 28 Moments Clés de l'Histoire de la Bande Dessinée and Nouveaux Moments Clés de l'Histoire de la Bande Dessinée, both by Francois Aryoles, but published by different publishers.  (Le 9eme Monde [2004] and Alain Beaulet [2008])

For the most part, with little prompting, several names are easy enough to link to their prospective field alone, but others aren't quite as obvious.  Gustave Verbeck isn't instantly recognizable as a household name, but The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo would sound more familiar.

If there was a scientific equivalent, it would be along the likes of "Nikola Tesla strokes his cat."  By itself, this sentence would seem unremarkable, until you realize that Tesla's obsession with electricity started with being fascinated by the sparks flying off his cat's fur.  Unless you have knowledge of the cartoonist's background history and their achievements, most of the subliminal context is lost.

In fact, the one stumbling block would be that there's a high number of European artists that would be unknown to typical American audiences unfamiliar with exploring outside their comfort zone, most of the artists originating from Pilote Magazine.  The only woman mentioned, Claire Bretécher, is a famous feminist along the likes of Cathy, but with more biting political points.  Another comic history of cartoonists, Masterful Marks: Cartoonists who Changed the World was notably absent in any mention of influential women in it's pages, focusing more on middle-aged white men.  Surely there must've been other people worldwide who had just as much of an impact, but I suppose it's easier to look up historical facts regarding men.

From the wiki, it's well-established that Maurice Tillieux was all set out to do contribution to the war effort via his tour of South America, until a plane bombed ahead, forcing his ship to turn around and go home.  While this incident might have saved his life, there's no way to tell.  But his passion for telling stories centered around docks or the sea certainly made a lasting impression.

When I did a tally, I found there were about 8 artists missing from the first book, and more than a dozen from the second.  An expanded and complete version with reference notes in the back detailing who each cartoonist was, and their known history would help in explaining some of the more obscure references for those of us not fully versed in European Comics.