7.0 lbs, 20cm, and very healthy
Now that Frederick, quickly waxing fat with his infinite appetite, has reached his 12th day (and I am getting more than a few stolen hours of sleep on a good night), I can share our story with you.
It begins, as my stories so often do, with Timothy being smarter than me. He had been planning to go to Johannesburg, about a 3 hour drive from Polokwane, from Friday, December 26th – Thursday, January 31st, to visit some friends and pick Mary Jo up at the airport (31st). As I started gathering his things on Thursday, he grew really agitated and said he really didn’t think he should go. I told him, “Of course you should. This baby isn’t coming for two more weeks. Go see your friends while you can.” I told him this about a dozen more times over the following 24 hours. Eventually he said that he really didn’t feel like he should leave; he was staying through the weekend, just in case. Well, Saturday and Sunday passed without any sign of Baby, so the new plan was for him to leave on Monday.
I woke up early Monday morning with what I assumed was false labor (hey, it felt really different than it had with Monica!) I didn’t feel like getting up and walking, so I rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up every half hour or so with more “false labor” and rolled back into sleep each time. You would think that I would clue in eventually…. Nope.
I didn’t want to tell Tim that I was having contractions until I was sure it was labor. However, by 830, they still hadn’t gone away and had gotten down to about 10 minutes apart. I thought I better mention it… just in case… but I told him I was sure it was false labor (I clearly don’t get smarter with time. Can I blame that on the hormones?) He wasn’t concerned. The dear man took my word for it.
We had a few errands to run in town for our hosts, starting with the big wholesale grocery market. I sat Monica in a grocery cart and browsed while Timothy started working on the shopping list. At some point, he found me in the freezer section, panting over the handle bar of the cart, desperately trying to hang on to lucidity. He then realized that the wife was not thinking very clearly and informed me that we were going to forget the other errands and go back to the guesthouse immediately, as I was clearly in labor.
I hadn’t been timing any of the contractions, so Timothy did that when we got back to the car. His words at the second one: “ALREADY??? They’re less than five minutes apart!!! We’re going home.” (Although, we did have to stop on the way for biltong, the South African version of beef jerky, just in case he needed hospital snacks.) It was now about 10am.
When we got back to the guesthouse, Timothy called the lady we had lined up for babysitting… only to find that she was in another city, 4 hours away, and wouldn’t be back for several days. OK…. what now… we don’t know anyone in Polokwane!!! Fortunately, she called back a few minutes later and told Timothy that Monica could go to her sister’s daycare just down the road (Monica had a blast there and didn’t appear to miss us at all.)
Timothy then sped out the gate with Monica while I continued to pace out our room. I don’t remember a whole lot about that time, or even how long he was gone… but I do remember pounding the couch with my fists, gritting my teeth, and chanting, “I don’t need an epidural; I DON’T NEED AN EPIDURAL.” While thinking in the background, “If this is how much early labor hurts, what am I going to do six hours from now???” Little did I know…
Once he got back, we gathered our bags and walked to the hospital. It’s about a quarter mile (or about four contractions) away from the guesthouse. By this time, even I had figured out that I was in real labor.
As we arrived at the hospital, we presented our “pre booking” registration that we had made in October, guaranteeing a room. Well… if the beds are full… the beds are full. That’s right, a tale as old as, well, the Bible: there’s no room in the inn. They were ready to turn us out, but Timothy wouldn’t move until they helped us make a plan B. So, they sent us to the emergency ward (where all the people with pink eye and axes in their head go), but the one empty bed was taken by the time we got there. Reaching a point of desperation, Timothy asked them to call our doctor and see what she wanted us to do. She asked us to come to her office (just across the street), where she could see how far along I was. A few hundred yards and half a dozen contractions later, she checked me out and found, to her dismay, that I was NOT a few centimeters dilated as expected… but close to 9cm and finishing quickly. Even the doctor was scared now that the baby would be delivered on her tile floor. (I was relieved to discover that my couch pounding had not been in vain, and was somewhat proud of myself for transitioning on my own.)
After making a few phone calls, she found an “acute care” clinic (they handle cancer patients, vision surgery patients, etc) that had space for me. Ironically, this care center was next door to the guesthouse that we are staying in. I’m not even kidding. That night, through my window, I could hear Monica and Tim having dinner together on the lawn.
We arrived at Unicare, huffing and puffing (well, I was anyway, and I don’t really remember what anyone else was doing). They quickly took me to a room, and we all got ready to have a baby. Once I was off my feet and actually thinking about what was going on, labor, of course, slowed down. By which I mean that Frederick Douglas made his arrival about two hours after we walked through the door.
From the time we arrived at the clinic, we experienced the difference between American and South African medical conditions and practices. Allowing for the fact that this was an acute care facility, not a hospital and certainly not a labor/delivery facility, the staff were great and very helpful. I say “helpful” because Timothy did everything. He is definitely up for the Husband of the Year award! At the end, he looked as exhausted and pale as I was. (He didn’t even have time to eat his biltong!) The poor doctor on duty was openly scared that my OB wouldn’t make it on time and that she would have to deliver the baby herself. The only RN on duty was a man and was unceremoniously kicked out by the female staff (CNAs). But I had Tim, my time was up, and I really didn’t care who else was or was not present, as long as Baby came out post haste! My only real negative memory (aside from the earth shaking pain of pushing) was the nurse who, returning from her smoke break, kept shouting into my face “Breathe! Breathe! You must breathe!!” To which my mind kindly responded, “I AM breathing, as much as I can with a reeking ashtray puffing in my face!!!!!!!!!” Pushing doesn’t do much for a woman’s patience. And no offense to the nurse, who spent a great deal of her time rubbing my back between contractions.
By the time Baby was ready to make his arrival, I was so exhausted, I could barely move. Dr Henn, my OB (who did arrive on time, much to the relief of the staff doctor) was beginning to worry that she might have to use the suction machine to get Frederick out. However, with a last grasp for energy from me and a few creative maneuvers on Timothy’s part, we managed to squeeze Frederick safely into the world.
I was exhausted. But I was DONE. And Frederick Douglas, as we then chose his name to be, was (and is) absolutely beautiful.
The post partum care was also… different. The nurses apologized that the baby had to stay with me, since they didn’t have a nursery (I’m thinking, uh, YEAH, he’s staying with me!!) The baby cot was a metal frame on casters with what looked like a food service bucket as a bassinet. They had enough post partum mommy supplies to last me about an hour and no infant supplies whatsoever (aside from the umbilical clip, of which they had proudly informed us upon arrival.) They never checked Frederick’s or my vitals during our stay. My next day check up amounted to: “You look well, no?” However, the staff was some of the friendliest I have ever met, and they doted on both of us. We also saved about $400 by delivering there instead of at the hospital (happy Daddy).
Because they didn’t have any infant facilities, we had to take Frederick to the hospital the next day for his immunizations. At birth they give polio drops and a TB vaccine. The nurse who was administering these seemed really unsure of herself when it came to the TB stick. She finally went for it (on his right arm) and as she plunged the syringe, vaccine sprayed out everywhere- gah. She said she would need to do it again, so I said, “Ok, should I bring him back next week?” And she said, “No, no, I will do it now,” grabbed another syringe and carried on. !!!!!!!!!!!! My American sensibilities were rebelling mightily at this point and I, trying in vain to remain calm, asked if that wasn’t overdosing him. She coolly answered that no, about ½ of the first one went in and, “See?” she had only given about ½ of this one. !!!!!!!! What a shock. We’re not in America anymore, Ashley, if you hadn’t yet noticed! It was a nerve racking 48 hours for us, but he is fine and we praise God that he is in control of even the smallest details in life. (Not that a TB infection is a small detail!)
Throughout our entire birth experience, we were could see the Lord’s hand and His grace. You know how you sometimes have to search for what God is doing, and sometimes it is right there for you to see? This was the latter. Timothy had stayed with me (he probably wouldn’t have made it in time from Jo’burg, as I wouldn’t have called him until I was sure I was in labor), all the walking made labor go faster, staying at Unicare was much less costly and, because a birth was a novelty, we got all the attention and help we could hope for, Frederick’s delivery was uncomplicated, he is healthy, and Monica got to visit a lot, as we were right next door (not to mention that the hospital doesn’t allow children to visit at all!) In addition to all of this, Unicare couldn’t file Frederick’s birth certificate, so they sent us to the hospital. There we were told that they couldn’t file it either, as I wasn’t a citizen or resident. Tim had to go stand in line at Home Affairs. But, to our surprise, because he was at the regional office, they were able to issue the certificate directly… we didn’t have to wait a week! This meant that we could immediately file for Frederick’s birth certificate and passport. Praise God!!!
He is indeed good and has blessed us with a beautiful son, a straight arrow for my husband’s quiver, and a delight to all of us.