Our sweet number two sleeps in the moses basket at my feet, while I nibble on chocolate chips and sip cider. Three weeks ago today, he was born. Late night feedings that lead to minutes and hours together lend to sleepy thoughts and grateful prayers. But this moment is perhaps the first one with breath enough to reflect, truly, on the events of his entry into our world, our lives, our family.
At 2:45 on Wednesday morning, November 28, after counting 6 swells from within me, I woke my sleeping husband. Now, I told him, was our time. We had toiled and prayed over the events of that moment—what we would do to get to the hospital in time, what our munchkin and soon-to-be big sister would do while her sibling was coming into the world, what our labor would look like this time around. There is a nervousness I felt, different from the first time. One that is filled with experienced anticipation of the hard work that is to come, and the complete lack of control over its beginning, middle or end. In some ways, the unknown was less frightening than the semi-known on which I was about to embark.
We gathered our bags, sent messages to family, contacted our midwife, gave our friend and babysitter a heads up that this morning was the morning. I changed clothes and drank water as we prepared to leave. And, then, when the car was pulled out of our structure, loaded with our packed bags and gear, and warming up to the chill of the fall night, we woke our sleeping girl. The evening before, I had let her know that if our baby was coming, we would wake her up to be a part of the experience. I guess the warning was well-timed. She woke with a sense of knowing. Knowing that the baby in “mama’s tummy” was soon to be a reality in her life. A sense that is beyond her 22 months and perhaps projected by her parents, but one which we have prayed for and hoped for since the blip on the ultrasound screen confirmed life. She is as much a part of his story as his mama and daddy.
Our drive to the hospital was relaxed and steady with conversation and strategizing throughout. I breathed softly through surges of pressure, keeping track of them by iPhone App—a steady one minute long, four and a half minutes apart. When we arrived in the stark parking lot of the Naval base hospital in Yokosuka at 4:30AM, we smiled with relief. No matter what happened now, we would be delivering our baby inside the hospital doors.
While David paved the way on the Labor and Delivery floor by letting them know we had arrived, setting up the pack-n-play crib in a post partum room for Tamar to finish her night’s sleep, and getting her settled there, I walked and breathed and prayed. I climbed and descended the 5 hospital flights dozens of times, concentrating on the text messages with family and the beginning and end of each swell.
When our Nurse Practitioner Midwife, Genie, arrived around 5:45AM, I finally showed my face on the L&D floor. She checked my dilation progress and began the admission process, then freeing me to walk the stairs for a while longer once she knew the baby was not imminent. Though, she revealed her anticipation of our baby’s quick arrival when she sent a corpsman to walk the stairs with me “just in case.” Twenty-five minutes later, I returned, with contractions more than one minute long and two and half minutes apart. After 20 minutes of baseline monitoring during my now more intense surges, I was free to labor as I desired. Primarily, I stood on my feet, leaning over the bed, swaying back and forth, using every effort and concentration to relax through each swell. Genie protected our room, allowing it to be a safe and free place to bring our child into the world. She stood beside us much of the time, speaking soft, slow words of relaxation and encouragement. My husband and life-supporter was there with me, reminding me to relax my toes, reminding me of the strength I had to make it through this effort beautifully.
Around 7:30AM, our friend, Zeina, arrived—our answer to prayer in care for T. Perfectly timed with her waking from her interrupted night’s sleep, David helped transition Tamar to her new playmate and sitter there in the hospital. When he returned, the surges had grown to a less bearable level. Each one a trial and temptation to despise the process, to swear off our future children, to bewilder the thought of no turning back. Yet, with the end of each swell came a moment of relief and a reminder that the process is perfect and natural and fantastic, an opportunity to surrender my entire being into the hands of our Maker. When the pressure grew and the urge to push set in, Genie encouraged me to position on the bed. I chose hands and knees, as my body rejected the thought of any other posture. Several intense surges later, Zeina brought Tamar into the room to join us as we expected our baby’s arrival. David held her while Z snapped iPhone photos to capture the moments that now sit slightly blurred in our memories.
Tamar was with us through the last three surges that expelled our baby into our world. She reacted strongly through the first swell, as she saw me under a countenance that she had never before experienced. Then, assured by her daddy and her midwife friend, she sat silently through the second and third swells. In that last swell, our baby and my body decided it was time. Seemingly all at once, he entered the world. Together with the bag of waters and excess blood, our baby was suddenly here with us. To almost everyone in the room except me, it was as if he had been hiding behind a curtain and jumped out with an enthusiastic shout. Tamar cried. David cried. I breathed and laughed in relief. Genie guided his slippery body to a soft landing on the bed below. Then, she lifted him to his daddy, and prompted him to exclaim, “It’s a boy!” Abraham “Bram” James was here, 8:54AM, Wednesday, November 28, 2012.
The moment he left my body and appeared in our world, exhilaration took the place of uncertainty, gratefulness the place of doubt. And his first moments with us were sweet. Abraham in my arms, still attached by a pulsing cord. Tamar and David right by our side, wiping tears and sliding in next to us, to get a closer look at our little boy, little son, little brother. Our little miracle. The room bustled on around us, helping my body through the afterbirth, as Bram nursed and cuddled and breathed his first breaths of our new life together. Our three had turned to four, and it was perfect.
My recovery was to be a long one, having lost more blood than expected, disabling me from standing without blacking out for most of the rest of the day. I took up a concerted and strong effort to nurse well and often, hoping to get his story of nourishment off to a more promising start than the first time around. Our hours that day were full and tiring and flew by quickly, as we adjusted to our post-partum room and the beginnings of what it was like to manage and love two instead of one. We were cared for by an outstanding team of caretakers—the corpsman, nurse, pediatrician, midwife, new friends. They lavished us with care, compassion, assurance, excellent communication, and much-appreciated fresh fruit and vegetables.
Just over 24 hours later, we were on our way home. We drove home as our family of four, singing Tamar-signature songs and celebrating the story that is in store for us in this continued adventure that is our life.
For our little guy, we pray that, like the Abraham of Old, he will grow to walk consistently by his genuine faith, even when the destination is unknown, the promise is elusive, and the road is difficult. And, like the Abraham of our great nation, we pray he will reflect perseverance, compassion, and conviction as he leads others in the way of freedom.
Welcome to the world, Abraham.
Some snapshots of our day…