Birthing Baby James
We’ve already had the best Christmas presents ever, the best Thanksgiving. As noted here, our first grandchild was born in late September. A great and welcome gift!
Then on November 26, two days before Thanksgiving, our oldest daughter called about 12:30 a.m. She had finally gone into labor about 7:45 the night before, a day after her due date. They were at the hospital two and a half hours away from us. Did I want to come and labor with them?
Did I? Oh my! We had talked about it earlier briefly, but they had never said definitively that they would like that. I had been unfortunately out of town when grandson Sam finally arrived. Who knew if I would ever have another chance to witness a birth?
Sure! They were still in the early stages of labor, I likely had plenty of time to get there. Sleep was gone at that point anyway, so I got up and started packing, taking care of last minute things for the office via e-mail, finishing cleaning for the rest of my family who would arrive later that day for the Thanksgiving holiday, staying calm, and tendering my excitement. I packed my husband’s lunch and headed off into the night about 3:30 a.m.
Arriving at the semi-suburban/urban hospital near dawn, the adrenaline kicked up a notch. Walking the halls following the “Labor and Delivery” signs, seeing women large with child pacing the hall, spying an isolette crib or two: I was ecstatic. I had loved the whole birth experience when we had our three daughters and I felt a rush to be back amid the charged atmosphere.
But my daughter’s labor was progressing at a snail’s pace—not even a snail. (Does a snail slow down, go backwards?) At first she tolerated most contractions just with deep breathing, then pain got stiffer. Things started hurting. Three to four hours went by. My son-in-law and I alternated lunch times. I read, got on their laptop, made phone calls, answered phone calls. No news yet?
The doctor measured progress. Only one more centimeter gained. Some sixteen hours of labor and only one more centimeter than when she got to the hospital. Although she had not planned or wanted an epidural, she finally asked for one. The intensity of pain eased up. She was able to rest up. Her husband got a much needed nap. I paced and checked the contraction monitor. Through it all the baby’s heartbeat was robust; there did not appear to be any reason to be concerned about how he was handling it. He was fine. Just taking his time. Within a couple more hours, she was fully dilated.
By 6:15 p.m., the splendid nurses working with us suggested my daughter try pushing. And so it began, the real labor where we were all needed. After learning how to really give pushing all she had, we held legs, helped support her from the back through three long pushes for each contraction while the nurse counted slow … ly to ten. I found myself involuntarily pushing just as hard with my own abdominal muscles.
As a mother, you do all you can to help your child but this was one thing my daughter truly had to do herself. After each push, she rested. I fetched ice chips, applied Chapstick. Husband put cold compresses on her sweaty forehead. The nurse kept a positive chatter going, but there really wasn’t much progress. Contractions slowed to six minutes a part. A small amount of Picotin was added to pick up the pace of contractions. Real progress still evaded us.
By 9:30 p.m. or so, the doctor began discussing options. A C-section wasn’t needed, the baby seemed fine. But he had to have help getting out. They could use suction, a hand pumped device by a skillful doctor with a small suction cup applied to the head. Oh my! Decisions had to be made quickly. Was there a chance of skull or brain damage? Not on this doctor’s watch, ever, but he admitted that yes, it did happen.
Making a rapid decision in pain and stress and after laboring over 24 hours and knowing the baby has to somehow come out, you make the best decision you can. My son-in-law knew his wife was nearing exhaustion, beyond frustration. He didn’t want anything to happen to her, either. They gave the go ahead. The nurse said a team from the emergency room or operating room would come in to accompany and check the baby over immediately after birth. It was routine, they always did this when a suction cup was used. That was reassuring but also alarming: what if?
Then in a rush the baby’s head finally, gloriously appeared. I got my first glimpse of this new grandson. “His name is James,” my son-in-law announced. I practically crowed! Good name! Short, easy to say! I probably would have said the same thing if he had been named Thantatheopulis. The fancied up digital scales officially weighed him in at 8 lb 6 oz.
I looked over the almost-plumped-up squirming child, squalling at first, heartily, slightly blue, then rapidly getting pink as he got more air. His little eyes peered all around, checking out this new world! He was taken to the warming table, wiped off. I followed watching the process while the obstetrician sewed up my daughter on the other side of the room. “He has beautiful lips! His hair is a light brown like yours! He looks great, perfect,” I reassured them.
I was crazy grandma gone wild. The top of his head looked a mess, but they hadn’t wiped it off yet. I left the room a good long while to make some calls. I knew the baby and parents needed alone time, bonding time. I sat in the refreshment kitchen breathing my thankfulness to God and the blessed doctors and nurses who had been so helpful and kind and seemed just as charged by the excitement, even though they did this many many times a day. I hoped James would be all right. Surely they would have whisked him off to neonatal intensive care or somewhere if there had been any indication of problem or issue.
When I went back into the room, baby James was lying on my daughter’s chest, skin to skin which is so lovely and important. At that point his eyes had stopped roving all around the room. His ear was pinned to her chest, heart beating on heart. It was so obvious he was tuned into that heart beating just like he had heard for nine months in the womb. This was a sound he knew. This was home.
Waiting to be discharged on Thanksgiving Day.
Welcome baby James.
My daughter wrote about “being second” to have a baby in our family earlier this year in a guest column for Another Way.