Editor's Note: On March 27 Chris Dahlen became pregnant. In this three-part series, we follow his story. Incidentally, Dahlen's story takes place within the “multiverse” Second Life, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) with more than 165,000 users. Second Life, created by S.F.-based Linden Labs, recently received $11 million in venture capital funding.
I don't care if my giving birth just now felt only a thousandth as real as the real thing: My hands are shaking, my head is spinning, and there's sweat on my brow. I'm lying in the “recovery” room in the birth clinic while my new baby lies in a crib in the nursery down the hall. I can't wait to see her. That's right — it's a girl.
The whole delivery took exactly an hour: I showed up for my scheduled appointment and wham, we went straight upstairs and got started. I had a few gripes about the clinic: Shouldn't the woman who delivered my baby have tied back the silvery mane of hair that made her look like an alien love interest from an early episode of Star Trek? And is hip hop the best soundtrack for a delivery room? What expecting mother wants to hear Khia sing, “Lick my pussy and my crack”?
A buddy had agreed to show up and be my “coach,” and he and I threw on hospital scrubs while the physician's assistant directed me to the delivery table. I'm not the deftest Second Life player, and I kept sitting on the wrong part of the table or accidentally whipping off all my clothes in the middle of an ultrasound. Meanwhile, the assistant stuck with her role-playing, checking my temperature and blood pressure and asking if I'd had much morning sickness. It was start and stop for the first half-hour — but when she said I'd dilated to 4 centimeters, I knew it was showtime.
I threw my ankles in the stirrups and my full-term belly started to heave. “Breathe,” the assistant and the doctor told me, and so I started typing: “gnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. hnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. GNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.” We kept going, and I kept typing these long, rhythmic guttural outbursts as my coach leaned in and held my hand. The assistant and the doctor triggered animations all around the table, which means silver “touch” lines shot from their fingers and around my body as they directed me to keep pushing, to breathe, to bear down. Then they saw the head and shoulders, which I could just glimpse through the mess of bodies and apparatus. I gave one last push and at last came the message:
“We have a baby girl born at 5:18 p.m.!”
Holy shit! I was hoping for a daughter!
They took the baby to the nursery and had me walk (no gurney?) down the hall to the recovery room and get in bed. I'd already read that afternoon about how the baby works — that it's a simple, scripted animation that'll never grow older or more sophisticated. But it has needs and responses, and you can check how it's feeling, listen to it, play with it, and sooth and comfort it. It's surprising how performing an action makes your responsibilities feel real, even when they're not. I couldn't wait to get the kid back to my house and to the crib, but they said I had to: It was time to snooze for a few hours, and then we could go home.
I was still shaking when I logged off. What a crazy, astounding feeling: I brought a life into that world.