(I meant to update last night, but couldn’t access [site name removed] from the hospital — a warning popped up and said it was flagged as an “adult site.” Perhaps [site name removed] should contact the hospital? EDIT: This bit referred to my old blog host.)
Last week, my sister Shari arrived back in the States from her three-year sojourn in England. Along with her husband Bob and seven children, she went to stay at our parents’ house while they shopped for a van and a home. Since I’d been missing all of them, I drove up to see them.
Marline was still doing fine at 33 weeks of pregnancy, and encouraged me to go.
So Saturday morning (Oct. 9) at 8:20 a.m., I left the house alone. By 10:00 a.m., I’d made it to Italy, Texas, and filled up with gas. At noon I stopped in Gainesville and picked up lunch at McDonald’s. That was my last stop, and I arrived at Seminole’s Best Western hotel at 2:20 p.m. (exactly six hours for the whole trip).
After checking in, I drove out to my parents’ house and got reacquainted with my nieces and nephews: Taryn, Naysha, Azariah, Cedwryck, Elisabeth, and William, and met my newest nephew Elijah for the first time. The four oldest ones remembered me, but said I looked “different” and “older.” The youngest three seemed to like me okay too.
I took a bunch of pictures (which I will eventually post on Flickr….) and we celebrated William’s third birthday (he was an infant the last time I saw him). We had hot dogs and hamburgers for supper, which is what he’d requested for his birthday meal.
After the kids went to bed, I played Phase 10 (card game) with the other adults till after midnight, then returned to the hotel.
First thing in the morning, Marline called to say she’d passed her mucus plug. This was expected, but not quite so early. She said she was still having bad “gas pains” but was doing fine.
I drove out to my parents’ house to pick up a bumper pad for our crib, but it turned out they’d taken it with them to church, so I drove back through Seminole (10:00 a.m.) and down toward Bowlegs, getting gas at the Willis Quick Stop #2 at the Maud Y at 10:15 a.m. and arriving at the Bowlegs United Methodist Church at 10:25 a.m.
I picked up the bumper pad, said bye to my parents and Pastor Amanda, who’d donated a pile of maternity clothes to my wife (thanks, Pastor!)
At 10:45 a.m., I stopped in the IGA grocery store in Konawa to buy sunglasses. My old pair was old and scratched, and I’d let Elijah carry them away the night before. The sky was cloudless and bright and I needed the shade on my eyes.
At 12:55 p.m., I ate at McDonald’s in Sanger, Texas, and headed south. I again stopped at Italy for gas, and made it home by 4:55 p.m.
Marline had worked a 10-hour shift that day (Sunday, Oct. 10), but was home already, watching TV. She said she was still having gas pains and some brown spotting. She cooked an amazing casserole for supper and we ate at 6:30 p.m. or so then sat down to watch pro football. At about 7:30 p.m., we decided the games were lame and put in the “Toothfairy” DVD, which will now be forever emblazoned in our memories.
At 8:30 p.m., she suddenly sat up straight with a worried look on her face. “I think my water just broke,” she said. I’d never seen her face look like that — wide eyed, unsure of herself. She hopped up, checked, and then said, “I think we need to go to the hospital.”
I cannot tell you what went through my mind at that moment; I simply don’t remember. What I said was, “Are you sure?”
She ran to the bathroom and there was indeed some water, but not a lot. It wasn’t a gusher like you see in the movies; just about half a cupful soaked into her clothes. She called Metroplex Hospital here in Killeen, which is where we were scheduled to give birth. They said, “If you *are* going into labor this early, you’ll want to go to Scott & White in Temple. We don’t have a NICU, so the baby would be transported there anyway.”
Marline told me; I said fine. She took a shower while I threw some clothes in a bag, grabbed the camera case, made sure everything in the house was turned off.
We left the house at about 9:10 p.m. and made it to Temple by 9:35 p.m. (I drove by the rules). We’d brought some towels in the car, but no more water came out. We checked in at 9:40 p.m., and waited about 15 minutes. She couldn’t sit down; she said the “gas pains” were getting worse, and maybe they were contractions.
Finally, at 10 p.m., we were admitted to the Labor & Delivery department and taken to a triage room. They monitored her for a few minutes, and I could see on the contraction monitor that she was indeed having regular contractions, about every four to six minutes. The baby’s heartbeat was more agitated than usual. Instead of the always-steady 150 bpm we’d always seen, little Rebecca’s heartbeat was ranging wildly from 120 to 180. I told Marline, “You need to calm down. The baby can feel your worry. She’s feeding off you.”
Marline took control of herself and calmed down. Immediately, the baby’s heartbeat calmed too, staying in the 140-160 bpm range, and finally settling near 150 bpm.
A doctor (resident) came in; he said, “Well, your little girl has brown hair. I can see the top of her head.” Well, Marline almost flipped out with surprise.
We learned she was dilated to 2 centimeters already, so they moved her to a delivery room (after drawing blood and taking samples of amniotic fluid) and we settled in to wait for test results. During the next few contractions, a lot more water gushed out, soaking several towels.
I watched the monitor and held Marline’s hand. The contractions quickly moved to about every two minutes and slowly began to increase in strength, but nothing else happened for about two hours.
The test results came in about midnight, and the doctor said the baby’s lungs would not be developed enough to survive on her own. They gave Marline a steroid shot in the bottom, to help the baby’s lungs develop. They said she’d probably be in the hospital for several days, and hopefully the baby wouldn’t be born until Friday or so.
Marline turned on the TV and started watching the new Star Trek movie; I bedded down on the tiny couch.
I think I finally dozed off about 1:30 a.m., but woke up at 2 a.m. at the sound of Marline’s startled voice. “I really feel like I have to take a large poop,” she told the nurse who was in the room at the time. The nurse quickly called for a doctor and within 15 seconds people started filing into the room.
The doctor checked her and said, with a little surprise: “You’re dilated to 10 centimeters. You’re ready to go.”
Marline asked, “Is it too late to change my mind about the epidural?” with more worry than I’ve ever heard in her voice. I already knew the answer: yes, it was too late. The baby was kicking against Marline’s rib cage, trying to push herself out; her head was crowning.
About 12 people were in the room, including the NICU nurses with their portable baby station at the ready, and the doctor started telling Marline to push. I checked my watch; it was still 2 a.m. — less than 60 seconds had passed from the time Marline had called for the doctor.
She pushed; I held her hand and told her she was doing great, while the nurses and doctors gave her instructions. Two burly female nurses helped hold her legs back while Marline put permanent fingerprints in the handles attached to her bed.
By 2:05 a.m., I could see Rebecca’s head too (and I was still standing next to Marline’s shoulder!) It looked small and hairy; about the size of a peach. A few more pushes, and I realized the head was larger than that — more was coming out.
At about 2:12 a.m., during a really hard push, Marline yelled, “I’m never having sex again!” sending a twitter of laughter through the room.
Between pushes, she suddenly looked worried, and said, “I can’t hear the baby talking.” I saw a few confused glances among the staff, and then a young male nurse told her calmly, “She’s not all the way out yet,” and that seemed to calm Marline down. (Edit: She doesn’t remember saying that, so I still have no idea what she was thinking…)
At 2:18 a.m., during a particularly large push, Rebecca came out smoothly and immediately cried. While the staff cleared mucus from the baby’s mouth and got to work on the cord, I continued to hold Marline’s hand and head, trying to stay out of the way.
In a matter of seconds, they’d cut the cord and moved the baby to the NICU table in the corner of the room. Marline delivered her placenta about two minutes later. The doctor said she had a small tear and was going to start stitching it up. I didn’t look down there on purpose, but I did see blood splattered on the doctor’s gown and on the floor.
The NICU nurses wiped the baby and brought her to Marline to hold . They asked if I wanted to take pictures, and I realized I completely was not prepared… My newspaper training kicked in, and it took me about 20 seconds to find the camera case, change to a low-light lens and get the settings right.
We both said at that moment that Rebecca’s face reminded us of Marline’s brother, Jean-Pierre. Marline counted the baby’s fingers and toes, which she’d always said would be the first thing she’d do when she saw her baby. “Because you have to check,” she told me.
Then they had to take Rebecca down the hall to the NICU. “Is Dad going with baby or staying with Mom?” they asked. I looked at Marline, who said, “He’ll go with the baby; I’m fine.” So I went with baby, and didn’t see my wife for about an hour.
But I got to watch them take good care of my daughter, weigh her, measure her, attach monitors all over her, start an IV in her hand, draw blood, put goo on her eyes, put breathing tubes in her nose, and other various things.
I also had to fill out a bit of paperwork at that point.
Let me interrupt my story here to say this:
Like most people, I’ve never liked hospitals. They’re scary places where people die, where the service is poor yet expensive, where nurses and doctors push you around and tell you what to do, and where you never get what you want. At least that was my experience at previous places.
The staff at Scott & White proved me wrong. Very wrong. Every one of the 30-plus people we met during the night was friendly, professional, knowledgeable, and accommodating. They assured us constantly that we had the right to refuse any service or treatment offered. They always offered choices and explained the choices. They answered a ridiculous amount of silly questions that Marline and I asked.
Every single time Marline pressed the call button, someone answered within 30 seconds, and within a minute they had performed the service requested. They were always smiling, always asking if they could do more.
I have never seen this kind of service any place before.
Back to my story:
By 3:15 a.m. or so, I was back in the room with Marline, and I think by 4 a.m. they’d moved her to a postpartum room, much closer to the NICU unit. She said she was feeling fine, and in no pain (she’d taken a painkiller right after delivering).
Marline insisted I call my mother. “She’ll want to wake up for this,” she said. So I called Mom, who had been praying for us since our first call at 10 p.m.
We tried to sleep, but the room was a little too cold, and nurses kept checking on Marline every fifteen minutes or so, then every half hour. Plus we were still pumped full of adrenaline.
I finally slept a little at about 6 a.m. We saw Rebecca together first thing in the morning, and then Marline had a full breakfast. She called family members and friends until we worried her cell phone would run out of power…
I returned to our house because we hadn’t brought everything we needed — Marline’s shower supplies, socks, laptop, chargers for our cell phones, etc. At home, I posted the first few pictures on Flickr, put up the blog post, and then heard the garbage truck coming and realized it was trash day so I got the container down to the curb just in time and then hurried to prepare the recycling. The recycling truck came a few minutes later.
I also watered the grass (not knowing that it would rain hard later that night), washed the dishes we’d left out from Marline’s casserole the night before, cleaned up a little, drank three or four cups of coffee, took a shower, gathered up stuff and returned to the hospital. I ate some chicken McNuggets on my way there.
Marline ate lunch. She said she’d already started using the hospital’s breast pump to provide breast milk for Rebecca; the nurses will feed it to her out of a syringe.
We went to NICU to see our daughter again. All things considered, she is doing just fine. All her arms and legs and toes and fingers work like they’re supposed to, and she opens her eyes occasionally if she’s being moved or fiddled with.
Marline learned how to change a diaper, and later in the afternoon we helped the nurse bathe Rebecca with soft cloths and baby soap. Afterward, we wrapped her up and each held her for a little while. She fell right back to sleep, and gurgled a little bit.
Marline’s supervisor Amy came to visit us, bringing some infant clothes. She told Marline not to worry about the unexpected schedule change (Marline was supposed to work 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. on Monday, and she’d called her boss while we were on the way to the hospital.) She assured Marline that she didn’t have to return to work until she was ready — yes, my wife was worrying about that quite a bit.
After Marline had supper, I returned home again. I hadn’t slept more than an hour all told since Sunday morning when I woke up in Oklahoma. By the time I got home, it was raining heavily, and hail started falling, almost completely covering our yard in ice pellets the size of dimes. I don’t think anything was damaged. I saw several toads hopping around in the yard trying to dodge the hail (it didn’t work).
My back yard held up to the rain this time; the grass has been there long enough to hold the soil in place.
After taking a shower (and forgetting to eat supper), I went to bed around 9 p.m. on Monday (Oct. 11) and slept until 7 a.m. this morning.
I called Marline; she said she’d had some skin-to-skin time with the baby, and changed another diaper, this time all by herself. They’re telling her she’ll be released this afternoon. So I’ve posted a few more pictures, and plan to return to the hospital about lunch time.
Thank you to all of you who’ve called, emailed, or left comments on the blog or on my Flickr pictures. We really appreciate all the love and support, all the advice, and so on.
I know some of you have been waiting for 38 years for this day, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that it finally came.