I have no baby pictures: my digital camera decided to not work. Sam has promised to email me some when he gets home.
Arwen had to go to the hospital because she tested positive for type-B Streptoccocal bacteria and she had to be placed on an antibiotic. Makes for a bummer of a birth experience when you want to have a midwife-delivered all-natural childbirth experience, but that’s OK. This hospital had incredible staff, very knowledgeable staff, and Arwen had a wonderful doula to help her. So despite the IV that had to be plugged in every four hours, everything looked pretty cool.
But the contractions were just mild little things, hardly enough to catch her breath and not enough to dilate her. We walked a lot. In circles, around the maternity ward. In comparison, I had a scenic place to walk when I was in labor and it wasn’t progressing: I walked around downtown Milwaukie, Oregon. But when you’re pregnant and huge, scenery isn’t really what you have in mind.
There was another couple taking walks around the maternity ward: east Indian in appearance, both were tall and slender except for the round ball of baby that she was carrying in her womb. We never spoke to them: they had eyes only for each other and walked steadily around and around, wrapped up in their love and the imminent birth of their child.
All day, babies were born. Crowds of people filled thee outer waiting room, then moved on as mothers and infants were moved to the post-partum rooms. Don and I took Sam to lunch. We took Sam to dinner. We waited. Played cards. Walked. By mid-afternoon, Arwen was tired and weepy and frustrated that her body wasn’t moving very fast. She was tired physically and tired of being pregnant and swollen and huge. We tried to let her sleep, but the contractions were enough to keep her awake.
The nurse midwife presented Arwen with some options later in the evening, options which were not really in Arwen’s plan for her birth but which were perhaps more practical. She showered and thought on it. She prayed. Late, late at night, she decided to allow the staff to put a low-dose of pitocin in her IV, to soften the cervix and remind her body that there was still a job to do. We left her there, in the capable hands of her doula and her beloved, Sam.
Early this morning, we started the 40-minute drive back to the hospital. Halfway there, Sam called to say that Arwen was dilated to 8cm and would we mind staying in the waiting area when we arrived? Not a problem. It was quiet and only one other person was sitting out there, waiting: a beautiful woman from India who looked to be a grandmother. We shared a few smiles across the room, and at one point, she asked me a few questions in her broken English.
She flew out here from her home in India to be at her oldest daughter’s side when she gave birth to the first grandchild. Her daughter was named Shilba and it was she who had been walking the halls, endlessly, at the same time Arwen was. She was admitted early Monday morning and was now in the final stages of labor. This beautiful woman said “we must pray God for safe birth. Pray God, yes?” Yes, I agreed, we must pray to God.
I’d like the story to continue quietly on, but around 10, the waiting room filled with people. There were two groups of Caucasion Americans with toddlers in tow. They were not necessarily boistrous, but the volume increased exponentially. At the same time, a small family group of two women, a dignified older man and a simply adorable little girl came into the waiting room. They were of some Mediterranean descent, speaking in a fast-paced romance based language that I could not discern, and they were boistrously loud but trying to be quiet. They took over the table where my Indian friend sat, but she smiled and took it all in. The little girl was adorable – did I say that? She was adorable and obviously well-loved. Her father came out with a camcorder and showed the family pictures of the new baby, then he took her back to see if her mother was ready for visitors. Somewhere in there, I smiled and mentioned she was adorable. When she returned, the women who were watching her, her very loving extended family members – they had her tell me “thank you.” I melted.
I wasn’t sure I could deal with the noise level, adorable little girl or new acquaintance from India or not. But then a teary-eyed pick-bloused woman came bursting into the room, desperately searching for the waiting grandparents… And we leaped to our feet, shouting “Are we grandparents?” And Patricia, the doula, burst into joyful tears. She could barely speak. They needed someone to cut the umbilical cord because Sam just couldn’t do it.
So we met our grandson as the midwife and nurse cleaned up the afterbirth. Don cut the cord, just like he cut Arwen’s cord, and Levi’s after her. Arwen was in a stupor of love and exhaustion, holding onto her son with a gentle but formidable grip and staring into his eyes. Sam said he’d begun to cry when he saw Zephan crown, and he’d only now begun to calm down. Sam doesn’t calm down much. he looked shell-shocked, and until he was able to stand and touch Zephan all over, I don’t think it seemed very real to him.
Arwen pushed for thirty minutes. Once Zephan was in the birth canal, he was all business and came so quickly the midwife almost missed him. He was right on time, still waxy with vernix and sporting a fine red-brown fuzz atop his perfectly round little head. Yes, his head was round, quickly healing from the journey. He was aware, amazed, calm, active. He knew instinctively how to nurse and latched on with a thirst. I was a little jealous of that “Oh!” Arwen made when he first latched on and she felt the first let-down: I remember that sensation.
So he is here. Everyone has been called except my brother and I will probably do that soon. The kids stayed at the hospital, asking that no guests come to visit except the God-parents. Don and I returned home to life is normal – except now we wear the title of “Grand” before our names.
As we left the maternity ward for the last time, I chanced to see my friend from India sitting at the table. She, too, was a grandmother for the first time by then, and was waiting for her daughter to be moved to the post-partum ward. She will be here for four months to help her girl out. I stopped to say good-bye and she stood up to say farewell. An awkward half second, then we embraced, gently, and she said, “I hope we meet again.”
I do, too.