Starting about two weeks before our due date, Julie and I began to feel that Mayhem’s arrival was imminent. Every time Julie got up in the middle of the night to pee or stretched out and groaned on the couch my antennae would prick up and I would prepare mentally to go to DEFCON 1.
And we were SO prepared. Like the good little doobees we are, we had choreographed everything. We’d done the Bradley classes, though the information imparted had ranged from laughably bad to downright dangerous. We’d been watching the birth shows on the Discovery Channel for nine months. We’d read the books, asked our friends, dotted every I and crossed every T.
Julie’s bag had been packed for a month with everything she would need for the long ordeal in the hospital. She planned to labor at home in the tub for as long as possible, and then once we’d made our way to the hospital would walk the halls in a specially chosen fluffy bathrobe and slippers(check and check) connected only by wireless monitoring (check…GW did offer that). I had packed the Netflix queue with movies like Airplane and Best in show (check) and we’d laid in a supply of shot blox and cliff bars (check check). In my mind the whole labor was going to play out like this Rube Goldberg contraption. All that was missing was for that first marble to go rolling down the ramp and knock over the domino throwing us all into action.
But Mayhem was proving reluctant. Thanksgiving came, and Julie’s mother Judy arrived for The Big Event. We had a lovely holiday with my family, and then waited for the due date two days later.
For the past week I’d been leaving work every day reminding my co-workers that it was entirely possible that the balloon would go up and they wouldn’t see me the next day. Before Thanksgiving I’d set up my out of office assistant, cleared my desk, undocked my laptop and brought it home, assuming I wouldn’t be back for some time.
I was back on Friday.
When you are in limbo like this everyone who has given birth, is married to someone who has given birth, or has ever even HEARD of the process of birth giving feels compelled to share their story of “what sent them into labor.” Obviously everyone has SOMETHING that they were doing/eating/shaving/jousting right before the process started, and under the iron clad rules of post hoc ergo propter hoc this MUST have been what started the process.
We began joking about it. “Well,” I said, “Maybe if I eat pad thai with chocolate sauce and then try a primrose suppository it’ll send you into labor.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m the one who is supposed to be trying all those things,” said Julie dryly.
“I think it works just as well if I do them,” I said.
By the week after Thanksgiving I’d stopped undocking my laptop and bringing it home every night. We’d long since stopped our running joke of turning in saying, “Maybe THIS will be the last night of blissfully uninterrupted sleep we ever get.”
We knew intellectually that there was no way the kid would NOT come. In fact, we knew the span and measure of her days remaining in the womb.
“The eviction papers have been drawn up…if she doesn’t come out on her own by Pearl Harbor Day, we’re sending in the sheriff,” I joked with the girls at Lululemon who had been following Julie’s pregnancy since the day six months ago when I walked in and asked for their “stretchiest, most expandable yoga pants possible.”
“She’s in the launch tube,” I told neighborhood friends I ran into walking Buford. “We’re just waiting for her to slam her hand down on the big red button.”
But truly it seemed as if this might last forever. I hadn’t ceased to scry Julie’s every movement or discomfort as a sign of that first domino falling. But pregnant women in their 9th month and after do a LOT of grabbing furniture or a nearby spouse or pet and saying, “Ooooh…..OOOOOH!” Which, if television and movies have taught us anything, is a surefire sign that you should send Miss Kitty down to get Doc Parsons out of the Saloon and start boiling some water. And I’d begun taking those all in stride rather than leaping to alert.
So on Wednesday evening when Julie said, “I think I just left some moisture on this chair,” I was deliberately blasé.
I had just finished decorating our Christmas tree and setting up the nativity and angel choir. I knew that once the big show started, we would most likely have very little spare bandwidth for festive decking of halls.
A little bit of moisture wasn’t call for throwing everything into action, but it was cause for optimism. Julie was also having the occasional proto-contraction, though she’d been having those for weeks.
We’d been watching the annual “Punkin’ Chunkin” contest on the Discovery Channel, which chronicles the efforts of true American heroes to propel squash almost a mile through the air over the fields of Delaware by means of compressed air cannons, medieval trebuchets, torsion siege engines, and other devices. We finished that and began watching a documentary about Pixar that had surfaced on our DVR. Julie sat on a thickly folded towel in case of further leakage. Her mother suggested a panty liner. Julie shook her head. “If I wear one how will I know if I’m leaking more?”
At about 9:15 she returned from the bathroom and announced that her undies were definitely super wet. Though still not enough to make us break glass in case of emergency, I did give Buford his evening walk a little earlier than normal in case we had to haul ass to the hospital.
At 9:25 Julie said, “I think we need to start timing these contractions.”
“GIMME A GO NO GO FOR LAUNCH! BOOSTERS…GO! RETRO…GO!”
I hit pause on the DVR, and whipped out my Droid where I’d downloaded a contraction timer ap.
Anticipation built up as we puttered around. Abruptly I realized that though Julie’s bag had been packed for months I’d neglected to pack one for myself. Since it was going to be almost entirely electronics that were in regular use, this was understandable. But now I began throwing things in a messenger bag. Laptop, video camera, still camera, cable for connecting still camera and video camera to laptop, chargers, deodorant, chargers, change of clothes, a couple more chargers…in retrospect I’m lucky I didn’t pack the Cuisinart just because it had a cord and a plug.
Julie was also puttering around getting ready. Periodically she’d shout out “CONTRACTION!” and I’d leap for wherever I’d left my Droid, scurrying to unlock it and hit GO on the contraction timer. I’d start it late, and then 4 minutes later ask Julie, “Is it still going on? That’s one long contraction!” She’d say, “Oh no, it stopped a couple of minutes ago, sorry, I forgot to tell you.”
She also said, “WOW. Why would ANYONE experiencing this NOT opt to throw a switch and make it go away? I’m so glad we’ve decided to get painkillers.”
We’d been conditioned to expect a long ramping up time, completely with iPod playlist and soaking in the tub with a specially purchased bath bomb. But now, for all of our preparation, we were scrambling around frantically and throwing things into bags.
By now the contractions were stronger and causing Julie quite a bit of what the Bradley classes termed “sensation” and the rest of the universe calls “pain.”
Lying on the bed in our room, we looked at the charting of the contraction app. Though we had a LOT of error in the measuring process, it looked like they were about a minute long and two minutes apart. We’d been tracking them for only 45 minutes. Our training had been to come to the hospital at 4-1-1: contractions a minute long, four minutes apart, for one hour. This was…what, ahead of that? But we hadn’t measured for the full hour yet.
Julie said, “I think we need to go. Even if I’m not ready to go yet they can get the epidural all hooked up so that we’re ready to go.”
“OK,” I said. “I haven’t packed the digital picture frame with our honeymoon and babymoon pictures yet.” We’d planned on setting that up in the delivery room to be a soothing influence during the long hours of labor ahead.
“Leave it,” said Julie, making a snap judgement.
Go time. I updated my Facebook status to “Gentlemen, start your engines” and we headed out the door.
We scrambled to hail a cab. We passed a neighbor walking his dog. “How’s it going?” he inquired. “This is it,” I said. “We’re off to the hospital!” The notion felt unreal.
When you’re a kid waiting for Christmas, time seems to slow to a crawl and gets even shorter the closer you get to the event. On actual Christmas Eve, there’s an element of disbelief that it’s FINALLY here. We were those kids who had waited and waited only to find our due date devoid of presents and Santa Clause. So as we cabbed over to the hospital, I could hardly wrap my head around the fact that THIS WAS IT, it was finally happening.
On the ride over my mother in law joked with the cabbie and told him that we were having a baby. “In the cab?” he joked. “Are you trained?” she asked. “Of course!” he said jocularly. “You have to be to drive a cab!”
In the cab my phone rang. It was my mom, who had seen the Facebook update. I’d started to text her on the way out the door but was carrying so many bags that it wasn’t possible. I’m sure I will never hear the end of it that she learned of the incipient birth of her first grandchild from freakin’ Facebook. She wanted to know if she should head over to the hospital to meet us. I stammered, trying to figure out what to tell her. We assumed that this was just the start of a process that might go until noon the next day, and I didn’t know what to tell her. “I’ll call you from the hospital once we get admitted and checked,” I finally said.
We arrived at the hospital at just past 10, and found the main lobby closed. “We’re going to have to walk around to the Emergency entrance,” I said. By now Julie was wracked with another contraction and not in the mood for more walking or conversation. We slowed to her pace as we walked in.
The ER admitting nurse asked us how he could help us. “Just having a baby,” Julie said breezily and walked past him. “Someone will escort you up to Labor and Delivery,” he said.
In L&D on the third floor, we were buzzed in and given forms to fill out. The nurse began asking questions like, “Latex allergy? Date of last period?” Hell, I thought, we’ve given this information before. One of the things we liked about GW was that they had a totally computerized medical record information system and anyone should be able to pull this all up instantly. Why did we have to cover this again?
Julie’s contractions were too intense to fill out the paperwork, so I grabbed it and wrote in everything but her signature. Her contraction was so intense that I was contemplating faking that also.
In the middle of the contraction, the admitting nurse came up and started looking over the forms. “OK,” she said. “Latex allergy? Date of last period?”
Hell, it’s on the paper in front of you, I thought but didn’t say.
Julie answered her questions patiently as the contraction wracked her body.
The nurse reached the end of her form. “And so what brings you in today?” It was as casual as a GP talking to a patient they hadn’t seen in a while. But here was a pregnant woman wracked with contractions IN THE LABOR AND DELIVERY WARD, and this rocket scientist, who was holding a sheet of paper with information about Julie’s contractions and symptoms in her hand, and she apparently wasn’t making the connection.
“Oh, just thought I’d drop by for a social visit,” Julie said, the sarcasm dripping off her words and pooling on the floor as she spoke through the contractions. The nurse looked at her with the blank dead eyes normally only found in Wal-Mart cashiers and career politicians.
“I’M IN LABOR,” Julie hissed through clenched teeth.
The nurse relented and sent her past the triage exam room and into Delivery Room 7. Lucky 7.
A competent and businesslike nurse named Michelle came in and ran us through the batter of questions again. “Latex allergy? Last period?”
A perky blond doctor popped in and introduced herself as the chief resident. We’re now at the stage of life where people in positions of responsibility and authority are younger than us, and sometimes it’s slightly disconcerting.
She greeted us in a warm friendly manner and proceeded down the same checklist we’d already done twice since arriving. “Latex allergy? Last period? Due date?” Sheesh. Then she asked if she could palpate (expensive doctorese for ‘feel’) the baby and guess the weight. “SURE!” we said.
She guessed a healthy eight and a half pounds, which cheered us immeasurably. Only two days earlier we’d been dismayed when an ultrasound came back at six pounds and change. Though we knew that this, as much as the ultrasound, was about as accurate as pulling scrabble tiles out of a bag, we were still reassured.
My phone rang. It was my sister. As I tried to tell her what was going on and follow the results of the exam simultaneously I stammered incoherently. I saw my mother in law hold up a hand with five fingers and mouth ‘five’ to indicate that the doc said that Julie was opening up and was in active labor.
Finally I told my sister, “Sure, come if you like,” and hung up. Hurriedly I texted my mom, “come now.”
Julie told the Resident that she’s like some pain go bye bye juice as quickly as possible.
“The anesthesiologist is on his way,” she assured us.
Things were happening quickly now. Julie was having serious contractions, and Michelle the nurse showed me how to apply counterpressure, pushing hard with the palms of my hands into the small of her back, which actually provided some relief. I felt glad that I could do something to help. The love of my life was wracked with horrible pain and was groaning loudly, and I was totally superfluous.
We were getting antsy for the anesthesiologist to show up for the epidural. Whenever the door open we said, “YAAAAY!!!” only to realize it was Michelle pushing some piece of equipment or some other person. GW is a teaching hospital and a doctor came in with a couple med students.
One began taking Julie’s history once again. “Latex allergy? Date of last period?” He then asked, “Father?” I said, “Yes.” “Present,” he said, marking a box. “And involved,” making another check.
It amused me that the hospitals forms contemplated the possibility of a father being present but not involved. Presumably that mean going off in the corner to play game boy while the baby was delivered.
Whenever Julie groaned I would apply counterpressure with as much strength as I could manage. Me man, strong! Make pregnant wife not hurt! GWAAAAOR!
Finally the anesthesiologist showed up. He was a young doctor who could not have been more bored. He ran through the usual litany of questions (“Latex allergy? Date of last period?”) and I went from incredulity to acceptance . I began to think of this ritual of verification as the modern equivalent of a medicine man in here burning a branch of sage and shaking a rattle to scare away evil spirits. Our anesthesiologist rattled his bones and did his perfunctory checks like a bored barista filling the one thousandth order of the day for an egg nogg latte with no whip. He seemed oblivious to the actual pain that Julie was suffering, and I continued to ram the heels of my palms into the small of her back as the contractions wracked her.
There was a knock on the door and my sister Katherine came in. The anesthesiologist was telling us that he was going to send all of us out of the room while he put in the epidural “because sometimes people faint, and we wouldn’t want you knocking over any critical machinery.” Whee.
I was torn. On one hand, from everything we’d heard and seen the insertion of the epidural catheter was painful and harder to watch than the actual birth, and I’d be happy to skip it. But on the other hand, I hated leaving Julie while she was in pain, even if this procedure promised an end to the pain.
As we walked out Katherine said, “Is that your doctor? He’s HOT!”
The door closed behind us and through it we could hear painful wracking noises. I imagined this was from the needle with the diameter of a number two pencil on which they were impaling my wife, though I knew they couldn’t have even swapped her down with bactine yet and this must actually be from a contraction.
Out in the waiting room I engaged in the traditional expectant father behavior of pacing, though hospitals no longer allow smoking for some strange reason. I can’t believe that fathers once went through the entire process like this, quivering uncertainly. I contented myself with checking the myriad of texts and Facebook messages of support and resisted the urge to post Too Much Information. “Andrew Martin is…happy to report that his SHPW is dilated to 5 cm!”
Mom came through the door of the waiting room and we hugged. I was glad to hear that she’d headed in after our clipped phone conversation in the cab rather than waiting for the text. We had quite a little retinue. Me, my sister, and both expectant grandmothers paced like caged tigers.
Finally the nurse gestured that we should come back into the delivery room. Julie looked haggard but relieved not to be in pain. “How are you?” I said. “Not in pain,” she said. “Ooops, nope, now I’m in pain again. AAAAAARRRGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”
The anesthesiologist said blandly, “If the next contraction is that bad, we’ll have to try rethreading the epidural.”
No one was paying much attention to him by now. The nurses knew there was no time to re-place the catheter. Mom and Judy knew there was no time. Buford, at home asleep on his doggy bed, probably knew this. Only Dr. Pain Go Bye Bye was unaware.
We rolled her over on her side so I could apply counterpressure to her back again, being sure not to disturb the thin catheter now taped there. As I applied pressure she said, “Oh god, it feels like I’m gushing blood!”
I looked down, and saw mostly clear fluid running into the absorbent pads put down for this purpose. “Nope,” I said. “I think it’s your water breaking.”
“Is it clear?” asked Julie.
I looked. It was hard to tell. She’d been passing her mucus plug also and things were a bit gruesome down there and it was tough to tell. The water wasn’t perfectly clear but it didn’t look bloody or worrisomely brown or yellow. Honestly I had no idea if this constituted “clear” or not.
“It’s clear,” is assured her. “Looks great.”
I told the Michelle the nurse that I thought her water had broken. The perky resident came and checked her out and said, “Yup. She’s at 9 cm. Ready to go.”
I was shocked. It was barely midnight. Wasn’t this supposed to take hours and hours? What about the iPod playlist? What about the video? We hadn’t even had time to angle the mirror on the stand in the corner so that Julie could watch the process unfolding.
At some point Dr. M., who had examined us on Monday, came in. Apparently he was going to be overseeing the team effort here. On Monday we’d found his manner excessively breezy and detached, and felt like he wasn’t taking the situation seriously. Now his manner was unchanged but EXACTLY what we needed. He was a calming presence and his bedside manner was attentive and reassuring.
Someone asked if we minded if the med students watched as well. Julie’s sense of inhibitions about people looking at her nethers had vanished hours, perhaps months ago.
The room, big as it was, had gotten pretty crowded. My sister cowered in one corner, visibly unsettled by the groans that the demon Pazuzu was uttering through Julie’s mouth. We had both grandmothers, Dr. M., Dr. Wecantrememberhernamebutshewasawesome, the nurse Michelle, the med students and the incompetent anestheseologist. There was no room for the video or mirror even if we’d had the time or inclination to set it up.
Michelle was telling Julie how to breathe and stay on top of the contractions. That was the kind of helpful information we’d hoped to get from the Bradley classes. Julie panted a couple times and then said, “I don’t feel like I want to breath, I feel like I want to PUSH!”
Another exam confirmed it. “She’s at 9 cm. More, even.”
“OK,” said a voice. “Let’s break down the bed.”
Let me tell you, Optimus Prime has NOTHING on this bed. A couple of switches and levers thrown, and the bottom half of the bed transformed into two upright leg braces into which Julie could put her feet, with optional knee support. Below part of the bed folded down to sluice into a basin so that the ensuing yuckiness would be carried away with no fuss.
“Holy crap,” I thought. “This is IT!”
I kept wishing there were more that I could do. I was holding one of Julie’s legs and her mother was holding the other. I wasn’t about to tell Julie when to push and when to breath. For starters we didn’t know. And on the birth shows we’d always laughed at the clueless and ineffectual dads who said “Push Push!” only to be ignored completely by their wives as they were wracked with contractions.
I simply whispered in Julie’s ear telling her what was going on and that she was doing great. I told her how awesome she was and how she was kicking total ass. I told her how much in awe of her I was.
On the next contraction Julie bellowed and Michelle the nurse told her, “Don’t let it out, keep the energy in, keep the energy in. Bear down. One….two…three…”
This was exactly the guidance Julie needed. She bore down.
Dr. Pain Go Bye Bye looked at his fentynol drip. “This is off,” he said querulously.
“It wasn’t working so I turned it off,” said Michelle the super nurse. “It was in the way.”
OK, then. After all the talk we’d had about wanting the epi, Julie was going to get a natural childbirth by default.
Julie began groaning with another set of contractions. Michelle coached her, “OK, get ready to bear down. One..two…” I held Julie’s leg and hand and whispered in her ear.
I looked down at the business end of the operation, and was shocked to see a tuft of wet, matted black hair.
We’d seen her so many times on the ultrasounds. We’d talked about what she was like, and tried to communicate with her in utero by singing and talking. We’d interpreted her kicks and movements the way soothsayers interpret the flights of birds. Now I saw her directly with my own eyes. Only a bit, but there she was.
This was really going to happen.
I bent over Julie and whispered in her ear. “I see her, I can see our daughter. I can see Natalie!” It was the first time I had directly referred to her by her real name rather than by the nome de womb ‘Mayhem.’
“What?” gasped Julie incredulously. She was coming off the end of the contraction and wasn’t quite coherent.
“I can see Natalie,” I repeated. “She has your hair!” This empirical detailed seemed to me the final proof that would convince Julie. She was still slightly incredulous, understanding better than I did how far we should be from being able to see her.
“Decels,” said someone by the monitor, matter of factly.
“OK, ” said Dr. M. His voice conveyed empathy, a seriousness of purpose and just enough concern that we were convinced that his whole attention was fixed on the problem in front of him. “She may have the cord around her neck. And there was some meconium in the fluid. This means that the peds people are going to have to take a look at her immediately. We’ll cut the cord immediately and they’ll take her right over there to check her out, then we’ll bring her to you as soon as we can. Is that going to be ok?”
We readily assented. I’d wanted to cut the cord, but it was only a ritual, not a spiritual imperative. We were fine with whatever they thought was best for the baby. Julie asked if we’d be able to save the placenta. “We have plans for that,” she explained.
Dr. M. very calmly explained that they could show it to her but that since there was meconium in the fluid, they would have to send the placenta to pathology to look at. “Can we have it back after that?” asked Julie.
“No, they dispose of it,” he said.
I was not so secretly glad to have this distasteful problem removed. I hadn’t been looking forward to taking home a styrofoam cooler with this chunk of biowaste in it, and having it take up space in the freezer until Julie figured out what she wanted to do with it.
The peds team came in and unpacked their equipment on the other side of the room next to the french fry warmer where our baby would be taken for initial examination.
Another contraction came and Julie once more bore down. Michelle tried to get her to spread her legs more in the butterfly position.
The baby crowned, and came out almost to the ears. This is it, I thought.
Then the contraction passed, and Julie panted on the bed. The baby’s head retreated a bit back up the birth canal.
“Now Julie,” said Dr. M. “We need you to push. This isn’t about you now, this is about the baby. You need to do this for the baby. If you can’t push I’m going to have to use suction.” He held up a yellow disk attached to what looked like the back end of a ball point pen.
“This creates just a little bit of suction to help the baby come out.” he explained. “We may have to use it.”
“I can’t push,” said Julie weakly.
“OK,” Dr. M. “We can use the vacuum.”
“No,” said Julie. “I can’t push because I’m not having a contraction. Just wait a…”
“OK, it’s coming!” said Julie. She bore down. The nurse counted. The head came slowly, inexorably out, closer and closer to the widest point. The doctor grasped the head gently, and then abruptly the baby came out in a huge rush. I saw in a flash the little grey body. Not blue as I’d feared and been conditioned to expect from the birth shows. She was covered in yellowish vernix.
The doctors spoke in clipped, professional tones
“Cord around the neck?”
I saw them doing something on the side away from me, and then the cord was cut and clipped off a couple inches above her navel with a tool that looked like a chip clip. They whisked her away to where the Peds team was waiting.
I hadn’t let go of Julie’s hand and went up to look in her eye and whisper in her ear. “You did it. You did it. You did great!”
Natalie spared us the tense moment of waiting for her to draw breath by wailing immediately. But even these first cries sounded almost polite, not nearly as shrill and we’d heard on the shows.
I was eager and relieved. Over by the warmer I could see my sister taking pictures as they poked and prodded my little girl, assessing her health and general well being. I stayed with Julie. I was almost jealous that they were getting to meet her before I did, but at the moment almost everyone was paying attention to the baby and no one was with Julie. I held on to her hand tightly.
“Hear that?” I said. “That’s our little girl! That’s our daughter!”
The docs were explaining that there had been some tearing, and that they were going to have to stitch Julie up a bit. I still hadn’t held my daughter, but I didn’t want to let go of my wife’s hand.
I wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably as I’d expected I’d be, but I was DEFINITELY weepy.
“Seven pounds seven ounces!” came the cry from where they were examining Natalie. Lucky number 7.
I repeated it happily to Julie. “Seven pounds seven ounces!” This was a vindication over the worry that we’d felt when, just a couple days earlier, the supposedly incredibly scientific ultrasound measurement has told us that she would be a worrisomely scant six pounds and change.
Judy came up to us and said, “NOW will you tell us the name?”
“We have to tell her first,” Julie and I said in unison.
“Oh for pete’s sake,” she said in mock exasperation. She and my mom were weeping with happiness. I saw the two new grandmothers put their arms around each other as they gazed at the baby in the warmer.
Finally the brought her over, wrapped in a receiving blanket and wearing a tiny hat. Already she’d stopped wailing and was making softer noises.
I held it together long enough to hold her and whisper into her ear, “Your name is Natalie Eleanor Martin.”
I handed her to Julie, and she held her, almost sobbing.
They were still stitching Julie up. It was a whirlwind of joyous activity. Hugs, tears, congratulations. And at the center of it was Natalie.
Judy looked at me and said, “Well THAT was faster than we expected! It was like something from that Punkin’ Chunkin’ show.” I had to laugh. Yes, Natalie had come like a gourd shot out of a high powered air cannon over a field in Delaware.
Gradually family members realized that it was past 1am, and began to drift away. Eventually it was just me, Julie, Natalie, and Michelle the nurse. They told me that they were going to move Julie to the recovery room and take Natalie to the nursery.
“Dad, come along,” they said. It took me a moment to realize they were talking to me.
The hallway was eerily quiet as they wheeled Natalie down the hall in one of those clear plastic basinets. I felt detached and as if I were looking through a surreal haze. The hours of adrenaline, plus the fact that it WAS the wee hours, left me dazed. I felt the way I did after a long overnight flight to Europe. Eager, happy, tired, dazed all at the same time.
In the eerie quiet of the morning they wheeled her into the nursery and put a band on my wrist that matched the bands on both her legs.
There were perhaps 12 other newborns less than 2 days old slumbering quietly in basinets in the term nursery. Looking down on my daughter I was convinced that even without the bands they could have shuffled those basinets like the hide the ball game they play on the scoreboard at the ballpark and I’d still be able to recognize her.
Maybe it was the homemade ricotta cheese Julie had put on the pizza we had that night. Or the cherry tomatoes in the sauce.
Me, I think she was waiting for the Christmas tree to be decorated before coming out.