elizabeth anne geib | db 15 february 2010
Elizabeth Anne Year 0 page Welcome, Elizabeth Anne!

February 19, 2010

Dear Elizabeth,

Welcome to our family! It is done!

The excitement – and now exhaustion – of the drama of your birth still surrounds us 48 hours after your birth, and I sit down to write you this letter to recount these events while all is still fresh in my mind.

But first a brief update on the present. We are heavily in the process of change: your mother adapts to new baby and challenges of breastfeeding, your sister to no longer always being the center of attention, and you to just about everything in your second day of life. Change, even positive change, brings with it unavoidable stress, tension, and pressure. It is hard. Already we are in that new infant state of mind where even five hours of sleep is a lot, keeping the house clean is next to impossible, and tempers tend to flare. A superheated time when everything good and bad are more so.

Elizabeth Anne, you were born on the President’s Day weekend of 2010. This was two weeks before your due date, an event not unforeseen by your mother (and even certain of her co-workers) who had premonitions of an early birth, even on this weekend in question. We traveled down to Orange County to visit family and enjoy a special Valentine’s Day choral concert. So we just arrived back home to Ventura, exhausted from our trip and hardly arrived back home, when events began to unfold. Your poor mother, so large and uncomfortable at 38 weeks pregnant, had barely fallen asleep around 12:30 a.m. early on Monday morning when it started. Our travel bags were sitting there untouched when your mother’s water broke, soaking the bed and raising the alarm. It had begun.

Luckily, in the previous few weeks your mother had a rush of “nesting” hormones and had rushed hither and thither preparing diapers, baby clothes, bassinet, swaddling blankets, etc. We had just installed the McEwen’s old changing table brought up from Orange County the evening your mother went into labor. I installed your car after I got back home from the hospital, and by mistake I put on the high chair covering on the baby seat. After we took it out of storage your mother had removed the baby car seat covering for washing and had not done so when you arrived, and so I tried to figure it out on my own. By that time your mother was nursing you in a hospital room, so I was left to try and figure it out myself. Your mother was not pleased when I showed up to the hospital with our baby seat covered by a high-chair covering. When we got home, she pulled out the correct baby seat cover from the laundry and put in on the car seat.

So we were taken a bit off balance by your early arrival. But not by much.

Your poor mother had no time off from work before your arrival. She had planned to take a week off of work starting February 19th and just rest and pamper herself before your due date. Fate conspired against us, and here we are checking you in the middle of the night to see if you are still breathing. I am still a bit afraid to hold you, as you are so small and delicate. It is still a time of transition and introductions.

To be exact, this new “time” commenced around 2 a.m. on Monday February 15th, 2010. Your mother woke me up by rushing out of bed into the bedroom. “My water has broken!” she exclaimed. And this breaking was not a trickle; it was more like a giant wave crashing onto our bed. The mattress was soaked with amniotic fluid that would continue coming out of your mother in less volume for the next few hours.

Labor had begun. But it was much different than how labor began with your older sister, as there never had been any such water breaking with Julia. Your mother then just had contractions that grew stronger and stronger. And Julia arrived a full one week after her due date, on March 14th, 2010.

Your mother entered into a frantic mode. With a towel between her legs, she spent much of the next three hours cleaning the house and putting the final touches on her substitute lesson plans. She was a bit angry at going into labor early, and I knew not to push too far in trying to pressure her to relax and prepare for labor. I knew your mother would need rest for what was to come, but I could not force it. There were female hormones flowing fast and heavy, and I stood back and let it run its natural course.

Your mother by 4 a.m. still had no contractions, although she said to me, “They will start once I sit down.” A few quick searches on the Internet informed me that after a mother’s water breaks, they will induce labor after 24 hours because of risk of fetal infection due to lack of amniotic fluid. “So at most we have 24 hours,” I reflected to myself. Within a day I would have two children in the family. Your mother called in her substitute teacher over the Internet for the next week, and then I did the same. I wrote a lengthy email with instructions for Diane Dowler, my substitute.

Then I created your Facebook account, an activity I had been waiting for one week before your due date to perform. I created it hurriedly, with an ultrasound photo for a picture, and the status bar, “I am busy being born.” Although it was not yet dawn, correspondents all over the Internet started chiming in. Your mother’s good friend Patty Zelaya called Maria on her phone almost immediately after the news was announced on Facebook -- so go births in the age of Facebook.

So the early hours of February 15th passed.

Around 5 a.m. your mother started having contractions. I was relieved.

I pled with your mother to get some rest, and she finally acceded. Our bed was soaked with amniotic fluid, so we all crawled into Julia’s smaller bed and slept for about forty five minutes. Julia slept through almost all of this nocturnal activity.

Your mother then started having contractions powerful enough to garner her full attention. I had breakfast, showered, and shaved. Your mother was still working to complete her sub plans just the way she wanted them, even as her contractions by then were so painful she had to stop working and concentrate on her breathing.

Watching her do this, I thought she was nuts: But I had long since learned to respect the hormones involved in a woman’s pregnancy: gout out of the way, if at all possible, and let the mother do what she needs to do. Be supportive and do anything needed, but respect a biochemical process you are far from understanding – that is what experience has taught me.

I remembered well how with Julia and the beginning of labor, Maria had swore at me and claimed she was going to have the baby in the car if I did not drive faster. When we arrived at the maternity ward and the nurses checked Maria, they informed us we were still in the very earliest stages of labor. I was determined this time to stay home as long as possible, as we would be waiting around the hospital long enough already. “Let’s try to wait for Liz when she arrives at 8:30,” I told Maria. But by 8:00 a.m. Maria was in so much pain that she could wait no longer. But we could not leave Julia home alone – she was awake and watching her mom endure painful contractions. In fact, Julia held onto her mother’s leg and tried to copy her breathing during the contractions.

Finally by 8:45 a.m. Maria had had enough, and she ordered me to put Julia in the car and drive to the hospital, even as Liz’s arrival was imminent. It did not matter. “Go now!” Maria yelled. I drove away with Julia in her car seat still wearing her pajamas. Coming down the street as we pulled away from our house, I signaled Liz to follow us to the hospital in her car.

The entire trip Maria took our her wrath on me. “You @3#(4$%@&*%#(*!” If she arrived to the hospital too late to get an epidural, there would be hell to pay. She ranted and raved, quiet only as she grimaced during contractions. It was a terse ride, to say the least. Finally, we arrived at the hospital with Liz right behind us. Maria exited the vehicle and without looking at Liz or anyone made straight for the main hospital entrance. I handed Julia to Liz and ran after Maria. I kept my anger in check at being thoroughly cussed out by Maria. “If ever a person gets a free pass, a pregnant woman in labor gets one,” I thought. It was like something out of a movie: cascades of fluid tsunami-style as her water breaks, wife screaming in pain at her husband.

I put Maria into a wheel chair and got her into the elevator to go to the 2nd floor of Community Memorial Hospital Labor and Delivery Room. I put my hand on her should to comfort Maria and she snapped at me, “Don’t touch me!” There were three elderly women in the elevator and they all looked at me on the sly, amusement and a knowing smile on their faces.

When we arrived at labor and delivery, Maria immediately expressed how her contractions were very closely spaces and that she hoped it was not too late to get an epidural – and, if so, her husband would pay. She implied the baby might come any minute. The nurses, in contrast, were calm, welcoming, and reassuring. The brought Maria into a room and checked her out, informing us that Maria was already dilated 4 centimeters. I knew fully well Maria was neither arrived too late to get an epidural nor was going to drop a baby anytime soon, but I was more than a bit surprised she was that far towards pushing. (A woman pushes when she gets to 10 cm dilation.) I suspected that all her cleaning and storming this way and that had moved labor along more quickly than I had thought. Or maybe it was moving more quickly because it was Maria’s second pregnancy? Both?

Soon the anesthesiologist arrived, and not long after he was done Maria was no longer in any pain at all. The epidural was excellent; Maria felt almost no pain at all during the rest of the delivery. But her contractions did slow down, so they have her pictocin to induce those. I thought, gauging Julia’s birth, that Elizabeth would arrive around 9 or 10 p.m. that evening. But I asked the nurse, and she surprised me by guestimating an arrival of two p.m. Wow! I went to the waiting room and called my father who packed his bag almost immediately and headed north to Ventura in his car. I then talked at length with my sub about lesson plans for that next week.

The nurses not long after informed Maria and I that it looked like a noon delivery. I was prepared to wait; actually, on our previous experience with Julia, I had thought delivery would be around ten that night. But before I knew it Dr. Lois Barnes wsa informing us it was time to push this baby out.

A nurse had Maria’s left leg, and I had the right one as mother pushed and pushed. Once again I watched a women try to push a skull through a smack hole, using brute muscle push past and stretch living flesh. Once again the baby would make two steps forward emerging as mother pushed during a contraction, fall back in one step afterwards as the mother relaxed. It was soon evident that little Elizabeth would be an OP (“occipito-posterior”) birth – her face facing the wrong direction. Elizabeth Anne was facing up rather than down.

And so soon your little head appeared, and then finally your head was half way out of your mother. But there at the end, you seemed a bit stuck. In fact, Dr. Barnes stated that you appeared to be in a bit of distress, turning from pale white to a slight shade of blue. The doctor told us that if in this last contraction your mother could not push you all the way out, she would make a cut (anepisiotomy”) and pull you out. That was all your mother needed. “Talk about incentive!” she wryly exclaimed out loud, and then she pushed you clean out.

The doctor examined you, and then she clamped the umbilical cord in two places and had me cut it. The nurses were a bit concerned with you, however. The claimed you were having trouble “transitioning” – a gurgling noise you were making, or something like that. They proceeded vigorously to rub you all over, especially on the back; this was to stimulate blood flow and “get things moving.” They gave you a 6-7 on the Apgar scale. A nurse from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit came down to check you out. She continued to manhandle you – rubbing your skin and massaging your back. “You had a tough time, eh?” The nurse asked you as she worked, referring to your birth. In fact, she was talking about those final moments when you seemed “stuck.”

I stood right next to her and watched everything attentively. I was concerned, but I would not let my mind get too far ahead of concrete information about any problem(s). Your mother, on the other hand, was still lying down as she doctor finished with the afterbirth and sewed her up: the former was done pretty quickly, but the latter required some time and many stitched inside your mother. She was crying and asking me over and over again, “Is she OK? Is our baby OK?” Your mother had hormones coursing throughout her body; giving birth is in this way like running a marathon. I said as little as I could to her and tried to focus on what the professionals had to say about you.

After a few minutes of vigorous massage, the NICO nurse left and brought you to your mother. As with your big sister, your mother was emotionally overwrought and afraid as I handed you to her. “I wish I had higher self-esteem!” she exclaimed tearfully. She held and then put you to breast to feed. It was just us and an occasional nurse entering the room to check on something, and the “red alert” status as to your difficult birth seemed to have been cancelled. Your grandparents entered into the room to be introduced to you, and then the real celebrating could begin. Within an hour you were officially transferred from Labor and Delivery to the maternity ward with your own room to share with Mommy.

Your big sister Julia was on the first floor crying bitterly because they would not let her upstairs to see you. They claimed to have barred any child visitors to the maternity floor because of the H1N1 Flu outbreak, a flimsy excuse. But Julia had been prepped all day long about this big event of finally meeting her little sister; she had a special handmade gift ready for you; and then at the last minute they tell her she can’t go upstairs to see us. She was bitterly disappointed and very tearful.

I went downstairs to comfort her. I told Julia that very soon you would be home, joining our family. Less than twenty four hours later this is exactly what happened.

The Richard James Geib family: Elizabeth Anne, Julia Emerson, Richard James, and Maria Geib.

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