Monday, June 23, 2008
23: A True Name and A Story of a Birth
Her first contraction came at three in the morning, and I was called in at seven. When I arrived at their house, I bounded up the stairs, ready to hug her like a puppy, ready to jump all over my friend who was having a baby.
She was leaning over the bathroom counter in the dark, and when I turned the corner, she looked up at me with circles under her eyes, exhausted and pained. She couldn't speak, just breathed in and leaned over her exercise ball again. Her husband and I alternated--calling a useless nurse help line, holding her as she panted and moaned through contractions, loading up the car with suitcase and whatnot--and her pain grew as we drove the twenty minutes to the hospital. We stopped three times in the hallway on her way up, her body pressed into mine, fists of shirt in her hands as she sobbed and braced herself, her body adjusting to these rapid changes.
She was five centimeters when she arrived, proud at having been able to hold out so long. Her threshold for pain has always been high, as has her stubbornness. There was no walking into her delivery room; she was wheeled along in a bed, eased into the new bed, her hands clenched down on my own and her husband's. It was a long wait at five centimeters, and after a prolonged wait for an epidural (they had an emergency, eight centimeter, breech c-section come in), they finally broke her bag of waters, which hurried her along a bit. She had to wait about three or four hours for that epidural, and during that time, all shame vanished, her hospital gowns hunched over as she born down against the pain, eventually trying out the deep jet bathtub, her manicured toes pushing against the tile as each contraction passed. The epidural changed her from this strained, agonized mama-to-be to someone a bit more serene; I watched as the epidural went in, and I'm not so sure I could be brave enough for that sort of insertion. (I'm not so sure I'd be brave enough to make it through a natural childbirth either.)
And then, all of a sudden, it was time. All those hours of waiting, of her goofily grinning through the medication, of my watching the contraction monitor raise and fall, of the word pressure being the only one to describe her numbed contractions, it was time.
The doctor arrived, the atmosphere shift, the grandfather-to-be was shuffled out of the room. And I held her foot as she braced herself, the nurse holding the other, and I watched as my best friend gave birth to her first child: It was phenomenal. I have never been witness to this sort of event, though I imagine even those who can tick off their presence at various births, it does not diminish in magic. I watched him crown, his gray head slick with squiggles of hair, and the head coming, coming, the plates creating a fold in his head, and there were maybe six big pushes, six moments where Kelly's face turned brilliant red, her face blowing up like a bullfrogs, Richard's face still with amazement as he held his wife's hand. One last push and Christian sprung out, a gush of amniotic fluid, his body a gray-blue, his cry a relief, and I depressed my shutter, set on motion, over and over, my glasses fogging over with tears. I turned to embrace Bonnie, Kelly's mother, and we were helpless to this moment, this something that will remain etched into the folds of my memory. There he was, and Kelly was cooing and crying at once, her voice wavering, her hands grasping for her child, her shock clear.
This is her son: ten fingers, ten toes. The sweetest face, little mewling noises like a kitten. An oversized blue hat, all coltish limbs. He is quiet and still, just as so many newborns are, rooting around when not sleeping, wanting any bit to suckle. He slept in the room with us last night; Richard went home, beaten from one of the longest days of his life.
I have pictures, so many, to share, but no cord to upload them. I'm on the wireless hospital network, and I had to get this down, these fleeting memories, because so many more will be made and push bits of this one out. As I type, Kelly is on the bed, digging through tissue papered gifts, her husband's Converse slung up on the bed, her mother holding this new life, her father leaning against the window. It's a new family now, a growing family.
Oh, and Ryan and I have been asked to be the godparents. :)
Welcome, welcome, welcome, little Christian. I'm already smitten.