FEATURE — The year was 1991, and the Christmas Season was fast-approaching. As with past holiday seasons, I was busy and in the Christmas spirit. Yet, this year was different.
I was expecting my second child whose due date was New Year’s Day. What a great way to top the old year’s celebrations and begin the new one, I thought to myself.
On Christmas Eve, I was one of the last patients my doctor was scheduled to see. He contemplated a recent sonogram. Even though my physician expected me to have a large baby, he pushed back my due date to Jan 6.
I was sore and growing impatient, and now, despite the news that the baby was just fine right where it was, this was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted a New Year’s baby! I was hoping to have the first infant of 1992 so that I could win some exciting prize. Still, I figured there was little I could do to change nature’s plans.
I asked the doctor if I could go on a short trip to eat Christmas dinner at my brother-in-law’s house in Lansing. At that time, Michigan’s state capital was nearly three hours away from Riverside Osteopathic, the Detroit-area hospital where my obstetrician practiced medicine. He reassured me there was nothing to be concerned about and even said I might have to wait a little longer than the due date. He wished me a “Merry Christmas” and called in his next patient.
Christmas morning I wished even more that the doctor hadn’t pushed back my due date. I was so sore I could barely walk or stand. I had shooting pains in my leg muscles. I wanted to stay in bed, but my brother-in-law Donald had just gotten married and this was the first time he and his wife would have my husband’s extended family over for Christmas. I couldn’t disappoint his new bride, Melanie. She was trying to impress her in-laws and wanted everyone there and everything to be perfect.
I also didn’t want to miss the joy of seeing Kadi, my toddler first-born, and her cousins opening their presents. This was my very favorite part of our yearly get-togethers.
On the drive up, I kept cramping, but it was no worse than the false labor I’d had off and on for nearly a month. By the time we arrived at Don and Melanie’s house, I was sore and hungry — very hungry. We joked during dinner about how I looked ready to “pop.” We asked if Don’s community had 911 and “is there a hospital nearby?” As we laughed it off, I ate more than I thought I could, huge abdomen notwithstanding.
After dinner, I figured I’d overdone it with the laughter and good food. I began to pace around Don’s modest mobile home. Then I began to walk from room to room, stepping as carefully as I could over small children and the enormous tree so beautifully decorated with its delicate ornaments.
I was told false labor would go away after a good walk, and it had before, but I was beginning to tire. In the back of my mind I was beginning to believe this was the “real thing” but I quickly chased that thought away. I wasn’t due for two weeks!
Don suggested I rest on his waterbed. My husband, David, followed me into the room to keep an eye on me. A half-dozen children entered shortly after this and began to jump on the bed. It sloshed from side to side. I could not believe this was happening to me. Don peeked in and said, “Okay everyone! We’re going to watch a video!” Out marched several lively children, followed by my husband. Good, now I could relax. So I did.
Within moments, I had a contraction. Another one came soon after.
“Hmm,” I thought, “that’s seven minutes apart.” For about an hour I timed them. They were still seven minutes apart, but coming stronger. I decided it was time to leave and attempted, unsuccessfully, to get out of the waterbed. I was stuck! I tried to roll out of the bed, first one way and the other. The resulting waves rolled me all around, and the frame supporting the mattress was higher than a normal bed. I couldn’t get out!
I yelled, “David!”
No answer came.
I yelled two more times, but the video and children on the other side of the trailer made so much noise that I could not be heard.
I was becoming desperate. What if I had my child, alone, on this bed? I couldn’t face that possibility. My firstborn had presented the wrong way and had gotten hung-up. I had to do something!
With one last effort and all the strength I could muster, I struggled to escape the waterbed and landed on my butt with a jolt. Success was followed by the urgent need to go to the potty. Once on the toilet, nothing happened. I continued to rest on the toilet seat but kept an eye on my watch. The contractions progressed quickly to five minutes apart. I realized this baby was, with very little doubt, coming.
I waddled to the living room and announced, “We’ve got to go — now!”
David’s sister Linda said, “Let’s turn off the VCR and open presents before you leave!” Her husband Brad turned on the video camera and taped the little cousins opening presents. When the lens turned toward me, I said “I am having this kid right here on the floor if we don’t leave right now!”
David’s family finally realized right then that I was not joking. We gathered our little Kadi in her red blanket and left to drive directly to the hospital. She cried over presents left behind and Christmas cookies left uneaten.
It was 5:45 p.m.
Now began a Hollywood-style adventure with our car zooming toward Riverside Osteopathic Hospital, which was located along the Detroit River. The cold evening air whipped by us, my husband frantically speeding and our little girl whining in the back seat.
An occasional large snowflake fluttered into the windshield — first one, then another and soon a few more. Despite their delicate beauty, they looked menacing to me. What if a cloud unleashed millions of them on the dark highway and our Ford spun out? I could end up having my child on the side of the road.
The snow stopped. David was single-minded. He whizzed along the highways that led us back downriver. The speed limit signs with their number 55 became little more than a blur. Despite other drivers trying to slow us down, including one old lady in the fast lane that purposely got in our lane and slowed her car, we drove quickly to the Wayne County line.
At 6:45 p.m. we realized we didn’t have enough gas and actually took the time to stop and fuel up. By now, my contractions were three and four minutes apart. Shortly after 7 o’clock we arrived at the hospital in one-third of the time it normally should have taken — and a good thing, too, because I began actual labor not long after reaching the labor ward.
I waited, alone, in a darkened room, while David made calls for someone from our church to take our Kadi to their home. A nurse came to help me change into a gown and I soon found out that my doctor was out of town. He’d left hours after my appointment the evening before!
Also, there were no records about this pregnancy. I’d never seen this nurse nor any of the on-duty staff before. She left, and before long I heard tipsy giggles down the hall. Whenever the occasional individual glanced into my hospital room, I demanded a C-section. I’d had one previously since Kadi had weighed in at 10 pounds, 3 ounces.
A physician came to my room. At last, someone actually checking my progress! She looked young. I checked her quick fingers for a wedding ring. Carefully, I asked her if she’d ever given birth. “Well, no,” answered the doctor. “None of us on-duty have had a baby, but we’ve attended many births. You’re in good hands.”
“So, you have no idea what I’m going through?” I cried.
“No, I don’t,” she said, leaving abruptly.
Finally, I was put on a gurney and wheeled down the hall on my way to the delivery room, still urging these strangers to listen to me. I saw David, gowned up. He, too, told them I’d had a cesarean. The doctor said, “In this hospital, we believe in V-BAC.”
V-BAC stands for vaginal birth after cesarean. Looking back, I am glad that none of these tipsy people came at me with a scalpel.
“But I know this is going to be a large baby!” I protested. The strange faces just smiled and nodded; obviously not one of them believed me.
One nurse whispered into my ear, a little too merrily, “Everyone says that, dear.” I heard more giggles as the doors parted, and I was surrounded by pink faces and bright lamps. I was convinced the staff had imbibed a little too much Christmas cheer that evening.
David was by my side coaching me, and at 10:20 p.m., I was told to push. At about 10:50 p.m. that Christmas night, a big beautiful baby with a mop of dark hair came into this world.
“Oh, she is a big baby,” the doctor said.
“Look at that whopper!” said the merry nurse. I wanted to strangle them all. I would start with that nurse, in particular.
Christine Marie measured at 23 inches long, and yes, I am not joking, 9 pounds, 11 ounces. I was too physically exhausted to hold my new baby. My arms were actually trembling. I was afraid that I’d drop her. Were the tipsy nurses any more or less competent?
Maybe, like me, David thought the staff might drop baby Marie. He followed them out and watched the nurses wash our newborn daughter. Hours later, she was brought to me, wrapped in a red Christmas stocking. There is no doubt about it, she was, and is, the best Christmas present that I’ve ever had – ever will have.
Submitted by LIESA SWEJKOSKI, St. George.