Monday, May 6, 2013

Childbirths 2

There was a time when couples were encouraged to space their children at around two year intervals. They said it was healthier for the mother and easier on the pocket. All sorts of information were presented that we were convinced that it was the way to go.

Two years after Erika was born, we decided we were ready for another kid. We stopped controlling and waited for Loida's visits to stop so we could test for pregnancy. Several test kits and false alarms later, we began to think that we'd never have another child. The months turned into years until, finally, four years after Erika was born, the test kit showed positive. Baby number two was on the way.

There are all sorts of stories about looking for signs to tell if the kid's a boy or a girl. In the previous pregnancy, more people predicted a boy but it turned out to be a girl (Erika). This time everyone again said it was going to be a boy. We weren't really concerned with that. Whatever the Lord gave us, we'd accept, but it was an exciting day when we went to the hospital for an ultrasound (things had changed in just four years eh?).

The doctor let me in the ultrasound examination room so I can see what the kid was going to be. Being a technical person, I was just as curious about the ultrasound equipment as well as the procedure. I knew the principle of how it operated but it was still fascinating to see. I watched as the doctor began to move the transducer all over Loida's abdomen and shapes began to appear on the monitor.

I had seen ultrasound pictures before and expected to see a hazy but unmistakable image of a baby on the screen. Try as I might, however, I could not recognize anything on the green monitor. The doctor kept pushing buttons, clicking the mouse, doing whatever it was doctors do with ultrasound equipment but the shapes were formless. Suddenly, the doctor said, "it's a boy!"

I was startled by the doctor's statement. On the screen were two large roundish smudges that looked nothing like a baby. I leaned closer but it was hopeless. I couldn't see any telltale signs that this was a baby boy.

"Ah, doc? How can you tell it's a boy," I asked. She pointed at the two large blobs on the screen.

"Those are his nuts!"

Maybe I should've fainted dead away or something similarly dramatic but I didn't. All I was thinking of was the image that I'd be cradling my son in my arms using his nuts as a pillow.

If my face betrayed anything, the doctor didn't notice because she went back to whatever she was doing. Presently she explained that she was measuring the head or something. It would help her determine how far along the child was. Using this information, she estimated that our son would be born around the third week of August.

During her previous pregnancy, I had sent Loida to Iligan so there would be relatives and friends who could help her when the time came. This time, with the lessons of the previous childbirth in hand, we decided that Loida could stay in CDO. Her sister volunteered to come over to look after Erika when we entered the hospital.

The months flew by and the third week of August came and went. The kid was taking his sweet time. Hoping to accelerate things, Loida and I took a walk around the subdivision which is a hilly place. The exertion seemed to have worked because, that night, Loida woke me up to tell me that the contractions had started.

I almost jumped off the bed, thinking we had to go right that moment. She calmed me down saying it would take a several hours before the baby came and we could go to the hospital in the morning.

"Are you sure," I asked. My greatest fear was that I would have to bring my son into this world with my own hands. I had missed first baby's birth so I was the most inexperienced between us.

"Yes," she said, "go back to sleep."

I slept fitfully that night. Come daybreak, we got up and prepared everything though my movements had a certain amount of urgency in them. I desperately wanted to get Loida to the hospital as quickly as possible and let the hospital staff take charge. We already had a bag prepared so we were good and ready in record time. We called for a taxi to take us to Polymedic General Hospital on Velez St.

The driver didn't drive off immediately. He turned to us and said, "I can't take you there."

"What! But why?"

"There's a parade going on in Velez St. and they're not allowing vehicles to pass through there."

Why was there a parade? August 27 is the day before CDO's fiesta. Different schools and organizations parade through the city's streets during the celebration and Velez is the main thoroughfare going to Divisoria, where the parade usually ends.

I tried to explain that this was an emergency and that we needed to get to the hospital quickly but the driver was not willing to accommodate us. The best he could do was to take us to the City Central School on Yacapin Street which is three blocks away from the hospital. There was no choice for us but to agree.

The driver let us off at the City Central School, as he said, and we started walking toward Velez. The driver was right, the street was filled with parading students and the sidewalks were jammed with people watching the festivities. I lifted the heavy bag to my shoulder and told Loida to follow me.

At a gap in the marching groups, I crossed the street with Loida at my heels. I pushed my way through the throng, saying, "excuse me," every two or three seconds. There were a few angry glances but when they saw Loida, they gave way. I've passed this way several times before and Yacapin Street doesn't usually seem very far from Polymedic. This time, however, I kept looking for the tall building like it was an oasis in the desert. I was breathless by the time we entered the hospital emergency room.

Since Loida still had a ways to go, they put us in the labor room to wait it out. Every now and then, a nurse would come in to check Loida's dilation. When the nurse pronounced that Loida was already at two centimeters, I thought it was much too small. Certainly too small for my son and his nuts.

Several hours later, another pregnant woman came into the labor room. Loida was looking forward to talking to someone in the same predicament but after reading a magazine for a few minutes, the woman got up and left the room. She did not return after about thirty minutes so when the nurse came in to check up on Loida, we asked about the woman who had entered and left. "Oh, she's given birth already!"

Loida and I were stunned. We had been in the labor room for hours while she was in there for only a few minutes and now she was done. It was unfair.

Soon, however, Loida's contractions got stronger and stronger until she was doubling up with pain. The doctor finally decided she was ready and they took her to the operating room. I left the labor room and stood outside the operating room doors, pacing back and forth, sitting down and standing up again. Just a few minutes later, the doctor came out a bit breathlessly and said, "Eric! The baby's heartbeat is getting faint with every contraction. I'm going to need to do a C-section. I need your permission."

In a daze, I nodded my head and said, yes. She disappeared behind the doors and left me standing there with my heart thumping. This was no normal childbirth anymore. It was now emergency surgery. Later, I learned that the baby's umbilical cord had wrapped itself around his neck and each contraction was strangling him.

For the next hour or so (can't remember anymore), I waited and prayed. No one came out to tell me anything, the doors remained obstinately closed. I was alone, there was no one there with whom I could share my fears or who could reassure me. It was the loneliest time of my life.

Suddenly, the door opened and the pediatrician peeped out with a smile on her face. "Eric! Your son is soooo white," she said and then closed the door again. What did that mean? Perhaps she meant he had white skin, like mine. Her smile meant he was alive but I had no news about Loida.

Soon after, Loida's ob-gyn came out looking tired. "Loida and the baby are fine. It was touch and go for a minute there but everything's alright now. They're going to take Loida to recovery. You can stay with her there."

After about an hour in the recovery room, they took Loida to her room. Loida was so weak and the wound from the operation was painful but she finally rested and I took the opportunity to get some shut eye.

Suddenly, I heard something. I woke up to find Loida struggling as if she was unable to breath! I bolted from the bench that I was using for a bed and tried to ask her what was wrong. She was unable to answer and made whimpering sounds in her throat. "I'm calling the nurse," I said but she held my arm, shaking her head.

"Why not? What's wrong?" I was almost crying. Then she answered weakly, "nasamid ako." Her saliva had irritated her throat and she was trying hard not to cough because the stitches on her stomach was very painful.

The feeling of relief was tremendous but it ended abruptly. Suddenly my vision started to swing around and I felt very faint. I had risen from the bench much too fast and the adrenalin rush had pumped me up and now things were settling down but my body was unable to adjust.

I went back to the bench and lay down. Women have to endure the pain of giving birth but men only need to worry. Worrying, however, is nothing to laugh at.

The next day, I went up to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) to look at my son. I didn't bump heads with the glass window this time. I'd learned my lesson. He was in a bed with a bright light on it. His eyes were covered. I can't remember why but the doctor had told me to expect that so I wasn't too concerned. Looking over my son, I was relieved to see that he had normal-sized nuts. (",)

Choosing a name, however, was not a problem. We already had a name for him.


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