June 7, 2010

I mentioned, when Elise was born, that I’d write more later. I wrote something on 750Words.com a while back, but never went back to edit it. Here it is, still largely unedited, because Ruth mentioned that she really wanted to read what I had to say about it:


Around 9: 45 on Sunday morning, Maria called me in and said that she’d suddenly passed a bunch of liquid that wasn’t urine – that is, that her water had broken. Since we were at 35 weeks, too early to deliver at home, we determined that it was time to head to the hospital. We called the midwife, who was on vacation, and her assistant, who didn’t respond, and this confirmed our decision.

(I also missed the opportunity to insert Steve Martin’s quote here. “My water broke!” “It’s ok, we’ll get you another one.”)

We were, of course, very, very disappointed, having decided to do this at home, and quite looking forward to that experience. We had watched several videos of home deliveries, and I was getting quite excited about the experience.

We also called Kriss, our doula, who, amazingly, wasn’t away, but was sick. She said that she’d come, and tell them that it was allergies. Kriss is my favorite person in the world now.

We took our time getting ready. The kids got a change of clothes, and a few books, and we packed a few things for us and then headed to the hospital. Contractions hadn’t started, so there didn’t seem to be any immediate hurry.

We arrived at St. Joseph East, and checked in at the Women’s Hospital, where we were admitted to a lovely room. The place has only been open for less than month, and everything was brand new, with much still unfinished.

Our nurse came in and introduced herself – Kathleen, or Kate, and offered us another room, with a birthing tub, so we picked up everything and moved.

Isaiah wanted to go to a friend’s house, and they came and got him pretty quickly, but Sarah wanted to stay as long as she could.

Kriss showed up and made herself at home.

Then, for a long time, nothing much happened.

We told the nurses that we had intended to do this at home, and they assured us that they’d try as much as possible to make this like home. They promised not to offer any medication, and the night nurses, when they came around, put up a sign to that effect on the door.

As evening wore on and very little had happened – contractions had started, but were still pretty mild – Sarah’s friends the Franks came and picked her up for the night.

At one point, I heard singing in the hallway, and was pretty sure that it was a bantu African language. I went out to ask who it was, and saw two african women disappearing around the corner. I asked, and found out that they were from Congo/Zaire. Later in the evening, they showed up in our room and sang us a song, in Swahili, about how we live in God’s house, and so everything comes to us as a gift from God. It was so very kind of them, and one of the best memories of the whole experience.

And we waited. We walked around some, and at one point were told that if things didn’t progress pretty soon, they would start recommending some medication to induce labor. After walking around a little more, contractions started in earnest, and after a while, they filled up the hot tub.

While in the hot tub, the contractions were getting very strong. Maria moaned and groaned and made all sorts of other odd cow-like noises. It was fascinating to watch and listen to, but was plainly not a whole lot of fun.

Eventually the nurses came back in and said that they needed to get her on the monitors yet again – they had been doing this every couple of hours the whole time – to see how Elise was faring. They said she could get back in the tub when they were done. However, when they were done, Maria opted to stay on the bed, on her hands and knees, as that was pretty comfortable. She asked me to get behind her, apply pressure to her pelvis, and rub her lower back. I did that for most of the rest of the process, massaging her lower back, and leaning on her rear and pelvis, as this apparently relieved some pressure and pain.

Various people kept asking me if I was tired, if I wanted to take a break, if they could take over. I had no intention of letting anyone take over until it was over. That was what I was there for, and, quite possibly, what I’m here for – in the larger sense – here on earth, for that moment. It was wonderful to be able to participate in that.

Throughout all of this, the moaning and mooing got faster and louder. and was quite obviously more and more painful. During this stage, Maria loudly asserted that she couldn’t do it, but I don’t think I ever once doubted that she could in fact do it.

Eventually she ended up on her back, and the doctor and nurses lifted her legs and encouraged her to push, saying that there were just a few pushes left. Sure enough, out came a curly brown haired head, the opening stretching impossibly large, and looking … quite improbable. How that came out of there, I can’t quite imagine. And then, very suddenly, the rest of her came out, and Elise Marguerite came into the world. It was 2:27am on Monday, June 7, 2010.

I went around and cut the umbilical. I thought that this would be stomach-turning, but it seemed very natural, and I’m glad that I got to do that. They then whisked Elise over into the corner, where they started blowing oxygen in her face. I realized that she had been silent so far, and I started to get scared. I went over to where she was, and each breath that she tried to take, her chest sunk very deep. She was having a hard time with each breath, and they were suctioning liquid out of her lungs. After a little while doing this, she started crying, which was the most wonderful sound ever.

After this, I carried Elise to the NICU, and sat there with her for three hours while they told me every 20 minutes that it would just be 20 minutes and then we could go back to the room. Finally, Maria came in, in a wheelchair, and was able to hold Elise for a little while.

FINALLY, we headed back to the room. On the way, we had to stop in the nursery so that they could put on the security ankle bracelet. They promised she’d be in the room in five minutes, and shooed me off, despite my obvious unwillingness to leave her there. More than a half hour later, they delivered her to the room, and we were able to sit all together holding her. This was about 6am

We finally got a little sleep, but around 7:30 they came and wanted to take her away AGAIN. I was getting pretty fed up at this, but it was clear that they weren’t giving us an option. Mostly, however, after that, they let us keep her until we came home, with a few brief exceptions.

The rest of the time there was mostly us asking when we’d be allowed to go home, and not receiving a direct answer, right up until the very last minute. We were particularly impatient to get back home, since we really didn’t want to be at the hospital in the first place, and the folks there were clearly used to folks staying as long as they could. So we eventually came home the following morning.