We get the call at 3:17 am Saturday morning. It is our son-in-law, “The contractions are starting.” He didn’t have to say anything else. This is what we were waiting for…our daughter had already missed her due date two days ago, and missed the solstice, which if you’re into numbers would have been one to remember…12-21-2012…two’s and one’s…but hey, nothing wrong with the next day, still two’s and one’s. 12-22-2012. Hummm, early in the morning means there’s plenty of time to get that date.
We feed dogs, cats, ourselves…lock up house and jump in car for 3 hours of driving in rain, wind, excitement. Should we go to the house or hospital? Call daughter…”come to house, contractions still far apart.” Reach house by 8 am, get served breakfast of eggs and toast by son-in-law, daughter bouncing on exercise ball. Pick up son-in-law’s parents who have traveled from two states away (1600 miles) This is their very first grandchild. It’s a big day we agree, one that they were not sure would ever happen. Now the line can go on. The name can continue. Pressure from 10 siblings has been brutal.
We met son-in-law’s parents about 3 years ago. She is Korean and was serving as an on-base translator, he is from the states, met her while stationed in Korea. When our daughter and their son got married a year later in our back yard I wanted to know what Korean word described the relationship of the two sets of parents. “Sadun.” I’m not altogether sure this is a word meaning in-laws or specifically “parents of the bride and groom,” either way we are all sadun. Her siblings live in countries spanning from Korea to Germany and she is in frequent contact with them.
Daughter…”Walking is supposed to help, let’s walk to the river.” Good time to go, rain has stopped. We walk about a mile, Mom and Dad can finally keep up with her at nine months pregnant. Get back home, time contractions…about five minutes apart, getting stronger. Daughter, “I think I’ll call doula. What the heck is a doula? Doula arrives in 5 minutes. We find out what a doula is…a very patient knowledgeble person who knows what to do during a birth. She has met with daughter to work out a birthing plan which can be presented to physician at hospital. Natural birth, no pain medication, darkened room, no noise. NO TV. While daughter bounces on big inflatable rubber ball, we interview doula. “How did you happen to get into this?” “I felt there was a need because many times women don’t know what to ask their doctors or what to expect at the hospital.” “Did you have to take a course or something?” ” I took a correspondence course.” Alarm bells start clanging loudly. “Wellll, how many births have you attended?” “This is number 12.” Alarm bells quiet down. Daughter has picked her out. If daughter has faith in her, so do we. “Is it okay with your family to just leave and help our daughter?” “My husband can take care of the kids, and if he is gone, my mom lives real close and she can watch them.” Doula waits quietly, no phone calls, no fiddling with electronic devices, totally focused on daughter’s needs. We wait awhile until the decision is made to go to hospital.
Son-in-law takes daughter in one car, we arrive about 6 pm in our car, check through security, find waiting room.
We go through security, check at the nursing desk, “Your daughter is in triage, waiting room is around the corner.”
Chairs look comfortable enough, we settle in. Son-in-law’s Dad opens his newly purchased used text book on Invertebrates. We wonder, “What is daughter doing in triage?” Ask nursing station, “she wasn’t far enough along.” We message son-in-law…”What’s going on?” “Only 2 cm dilated. We’re walking around, trying to get things started.”
8:01 pm…”Cafeteria is closing in an hour, doctor going to dinner, no news for awhile.”
8:54pm…”Update: looks like 3 cm+ dilated so we’re staying, not going home. Progressing nicely if not a little slowly.” Didn’t know going home was an option at this point. I message back…”We’re excited, betting on delivery time.” We each take a different time. Knowing my luck with betting I use reverse psychology…”I say 3 am tomorrow,” hoping my bad luck doesn’t fail me. Wife takes 2 am, our sadun take before midnight.
Meanwhile we get some company. A lady from New York sits down quietly. A retired teacher she usually spends the Christmas time in sunny Florida where her husband and son have already gone. This will be her first grandchild, also a girl. I ask her, “how did you let your daughter up and marry someone so far away?” “She met him in college in New York. They both got teaching jobs here, and what could I do?” We appreciate our daughter being only three hours away.
NY son -in-law pops in, “Mom can you get me a big whopper? The cafeteria is closed and I’m starving. You’ll only have to drive a couple of miles.” We admire her willingness to venture out in a dark rainy night in a strange city.
Another lady pokes her head in the doorway. I take my feet off the chair. She sits down and we start again. “What is your daughter expecting?” “A girl, but not today. She fell at five months pregnant. She feels some pain. We want to get her checked out.” Later we see mom and daughter arm in arm, relieved smiles on their faces, black pony tails.
9:54 pm I hear the message chime on my iPod. (I’m so happy the hospital is wireless) “We were just admitted to the labor room. She’s getting an IV needle, second try by the nurse.” We knew that was the streptococcus antibiotic IV. Something my daughter did not want to do, but acquiesced when told her baby could be at risk.
NY lady returns. We’re happy she negotiated the whopper. Another lady pushes a stroller through the door. We all move over. She introduces her two year old grandson, JJ. We say “hi,” and start to engage. Her daughter is expecting a girl also. That will make 5 grandchildren.
11:46 pm ipod chimes…”Update: Last hour has been about trying to put in an IV. Four failed attempts including left hand. Calling in the IV expert. After it’s in and she has jacuzzi she can have visitors. Your daughter has amazing veins. Nurse says daughter’s veins just ‘retreated from the needle.'”
We visit with her, see the beautiful delivery room. Wood paneling in place of cold stainless steel cabinetry, soft lighting, jacuzzi. Quite a switch from 33 years ago when daughter was born. There was even a couch long enough to sleep on.
Daughter is smiling, happy to have so much support. Both sets of grandparents present. We’re happy that she wanted to have us there. “It helps with the pain and fear.” We return to the waiting room with a new appreciation of our daughter and what she is going through.
NY grandma has been joined by her in-state sadun. An anxious excitement fills the waiting room as they exchange greetings. “Won’t be long now,” they agree.
We wonder…what gives them the right to have their newborn before us? We’ve been here six hours, they have just gotten here. I feel like saying, “Listen here, you’ve got to earn it.” I’m silent.
An hour and a half later, they get the word…”baby’s been born.” They file out. The room is quiet. We maintain the watch. My counterpart is still soldiering through his invertebrate book. I admire his stamina. Turns out he taught this class 25 years ago and is reading this text book to catch up on all the changes. He’s retired now, but volunteers at the bird reserve and participates in all the bird counts…”missed the Christmas count this year to travel up here.”
Son-in-law enters the waiting room…asks my wife if she would like to take a turn with daughter while he takes a short break. Wife is touched by this thoughtful gesture and takes off. I decide to pace the empty hallways.
Wife returns half hour later and talks about her visit with daughter. “She smiles during her contractions, says she just has to ‘go with the pain’.” We talk about that time she was playing down the road as a kid on an old burn pile. She jumped from a log into what looked like a pile of dirt, but with smoldering coals underneath, burned both feet badly. Her doctor was very impressed by how she handled the pain.
We wonder aloud what the baby will look like as one quarter Korean. Will she have dark hair or blonde like our daughter? We tell our new in-laws how much we like their son. From the time we met him, how much he’s helped us out, how smart he is, “and he can cook,” my wife volunteers, an abject failing on my part. His mom says when she went to grad school, she asked each member of the family to cook at least one meal a week. That’s when he learned how to cook.
3:25 am Message to son-in-law… “How’s it going?”
3:45 am He writes, “She’s hot. She’s cold. She’s got the shivers. She’s warm again. This looks like a genuine progress. In between contractions she is getting good rest.”
4 am…Cafeteria opens. I feel strangely hungry. Let’s go down get a snack. My wife asks for a bowl of oatmeal. I spot a grilled cheese and turkey sandwich. What am I thinking??? I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t even eat cheese. I walk away from it and think about the oatmeal. I remember the time when my daughter was about 15. She and I would always fight over the slices of chicken left in the frying pan at dinner. That time she says, “That’s okay, Dad, you can take it.” I scoop them up, then suddenly realize something’s amiss. “Hey, what’s up?” “I’m not eating meat anymore.” We talk about it for awhile and decide then and there, none of us are going to eat meat anymore either. That was about 18 years ago. Eighteen years of no turkey sandwiches. I decide the birth of a granddaughter doesn’t come everyday and grab the grilled cheese on white bread, made-in-heaven, turkey sandwich. It was soooo good.
We return to the waiting room. Another stroller is pushed through the door accompanied by a teenage uncle. Grandmother leaves to check on daughter. They soon warm up to conversation as best they can at 7 am. Soon the youngster is sharing his stuffed animals with in-laws. Grandma returns, collects them, disappears.
The waiting room is ours once again. We feel we own it. Anyone who comes in ought to ask our permission.
9:08 am…message chime on ipod. “Water just broke. Complete. Doctor was just called. Smiley face.” We talk about when wife’s water broke on our first baby. “It was 12 hours before she delivered.” Collective groan. Shall we make any bets? No one is taking any chances. “What does he mean by ‘complete’?” We look it up…”Maybe he means she’s completely dilated at 10 cm.” Okay, good, NOW we’re making progress.
Another batch of people enter OUR waiting room. Silent permission is granted. They are expecting a daughter. Conversation leads to vegetarian diet. I sink in my chair not wanting to confess my recent transgression. Wife wonders if the hospital will sound the chimes when baby is born. They only do it during day. Soon we hear the first few notes of Brahm’s Lullaby. New batch is summoned.
WHEN IS IT OUR TURN? Wife says there ought to be a “Grandparents in Waiting Award.” We all agree. We’ve been here for 18 hours.
12:01 pm…message chime on ipod. “Baby is anterior. O position w/molding still needing to be done. Could be another hour or so.” This gives us something to work on. Look up anterior position…”Anterior is the favored baby position. It lets the baby most easily maneuver through your pelvis and out into the world.” Good news, but what does he mean by molding. I take it to the nursing station. “It’s like the head must ‘give a little’ to get through the opening.” I’m learning things I’m not sure I want to learn. How does the head ‘give a little’? I don’t really ask aloud, afraid of the answer. I smooth it over on my return to the waiting room. “Things have to give a little to get the head through,” hoping that sounds convincing.
12:54 pm…message chime on ipod. “MAJOR PROGRESS in turning the baby during the last contraction. She should be born sometime this year.” Obviously, son-in-law not taking any more chances with predictions. And what’s up with her needing to be ‘turned?’ I thought “anterior position” took care of all that. (Maybe son-in-law smoothing over for us?)
2:02 pm We hear Brahms! We know we still have to wait some time for baby to be ‘cleaned up,’ yet we can’t sit there any longer. Three of us get up to walk the corridors. We all head to daughter’s delivery room. We hear a baby cry and cheer in delight. That’s our new granddaughter. WHEN CAN WE SEE HER? Nurse is standing in nursing station. “When are they going to let us in??” She says “Oh, that’s YOUR daughter, I’m her doctor, your daughter did really well.” I ask if I can take her photo.
I want to brag up my two sisters that are medical doctors, one that specializes in delivering difficult births, but now doesn’t seem the right time.
She checks inside, gives us the okay. We get the fourth member of our team and return to see our beautiful dark-haired granddaughter. She’s already nursing! Our daughter is smiling, filled with joy over her accomplishment.
This was written with the understanding there would be no names or baby pictures. Final draft to be approved by daughter before publishing…”mommy brain” protection mode has already kicked in.