The birth of our youngest son, David, provided us with a glimpse of the transcendent and even eternal nature of the family. “The baby’s in trouble,” the doctor said. I saw deep concern on her face as she leaned over the delivery table on which I lay. “We’ll have to take it Cesarean.” I felt great relief to hear it. After six hours of hard labor with my fourth child, I knew that something was wrong, and that I was not going to be able to deliver this child without help.
The news wasn’t really a surprise either. I had experienced a sense of uneasiness during the last several months of my pregnancy. It was a feeling, a premonition, and it was laced with fear. Something about the delivery was going to be very difficult. The pregnancy had been healthy, yet I anticipated the delivery with unmistakable anxiety rather than the eager excitement I had felt before the births of my other children. Let the other women in my Lamaze classes talk about their midwives and their home deliveries. Just get me to a hospital with all of the latest technology available.
The next few moments were a collage of impressions: swarms of people in green masks seemingly coming out of nowhere; an oxygen mask clamped on my face; an IV; an internal fetal heart monitor; a shot of Maalox; the kindly voice of an anesthesiologist explaining the procedures as best he could; my pubic area shaved; a permission form for me or my husband to sign; always the contractions coming in great painful waves, yet lessened somehow by all the distractions around me; a frantic ride on a cart to somewhere (the delivery room?); a prayer; my husband’s frightened face; the calm authoritative voice of my doctor; oblivion.
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Bob reports it this way:
I wasn’t doing a whole lot at the time except saying “damn it” repeatedly while cleaning up the bottle of pop that had broken when I dropped the plastic bag with Ellen’s stuff in it. The doctor took me outside and explained what the problem could be: a partially detached placenta, the umbilical cord stuck in the birth canal. “Mostly we just don’t know what is going on,” she said. “The baby is in trouble.” I told her to do whatever she had to do.
Still surrounded by people clad in green, the bed began to roll—out the door, down the hall, through the double doors with me walking beside it, trying to squeeze through openings that were too small for both the bed and me. I would have waltzed right into the delivery room, but a nurse took me aside and said I would have to wait until the baby was delivered. She took me back to the pending room, assuring me that things were OK. “I’m trying to be reassured,” I said, “but I am not.” I looked out the doorway and saw the pediatrician rushing to get into his scrubs. The nurse returned and said, “The baby is out, and he’s fine.” “He?” I asked. It was so much information in a single word. The baby was okay, and it was a boy, my fourth son. I was flooded with pride, joy and relief and began to sob uncontrollably.
I cried all the way back to the delivery room,with the nurse patting me on the back and comforting me. I babbled something about Ellen, and the nurse said that she was fine. I choked out questions, and everyone responded with information, smiles, and congratulations. Through the delivery room window I could see the baby screaming his lungs out and my wife, laid out on the operating table, one arm slung out with IVs in it, a tube down her throat, and about a half dozen hands, holding, sponging and sewing up her bleeding bowels. Our doctor, Jody, looked up and saw me at the window and gave me the OK sign. I struggled to return the signal.
I was finally allowed into the delivery room. The pediatrician offered his congratulations as I bent over the warming tray with our baby in it. I listened to his lusty cries and tried out a very plausible name: Luciano Pavarotti Toronto. I saw Ellen stretched out on the operating table and knew it would be a long time before she woke up. “I’m going to have to be your mother,” I said to David. “I’m going to hold you for a long, long time.”
I stood by the baby, talking softly to him and reassuring him while they did all those unspeakable things to him—probing, poking, tapping, taking blood, giving shots, weighing, measuring, and washing. When everything was done, the nurse wrapped the baby up and gave him to me and pulled out a big rocking chair. I sat, holding the baby close for a very long time, thinking over the events of the day and wiping away an occasional tear.
There are no words for the experience of holding my newborn son. It was like he was me, and I was him—bonded. Feelings of calm, peace, softness, beauty, contentment, innermost joy, goodness, relief, love, all of the above, come to mind. The only thing that could tear me away was the wish to check on Ellen. So it went. I would go see Ellen, talk to the attending nurse, and go back to the nursery for more bonding with my son. I recall feeling that this is the way it should be, that heaven does exist and this is it. Over the remainder of the night I must have spent two hours or more with David, holding and bonding.
I came back to check on Ellen, and she was awake. We talked for a while and discovered a new depth of feeling between us, a subtle and sobering depth. It was not the happiness and excitement that we had experienced with the birth of our other children, but rather the weathering of an earthly experience, the camaraderie of having feared and conquered a potentially destructive reality. She felt afraid and asked me to stay with her. The night nurse brought me a blanket and pillow, and I slept on the floor till 7:00 a.m. Another nurse awakened me, and I went home to the frantically busy business of being both mom and dad to my other three sons.
The delivery and the aftermath led to an eternal moment in our family. Next time!
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Toronto, E. (2013). #30 Delivery. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 24, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/see-saw-parenting/2013/10/30-delivery/