Happy 15th Birthday! -- 05/16/00

It seems impossible to grasp that my son is fifteen years old today.

His birth is still so vivid in my mind. How could fifteen years have passed so quickly?

But wait! You say I used those exact words to begin my entry describing my daughter's birth? Yes, I did... because they are equally true...

We had been bothered by the fact that Jennifer had been delivered by Caesarian. We read many books and articles on the subject (I guess today we would be all over the Internet searching for information) and wondered if a Caesarian could have been avoided. Nancy switched to an different ob/gyn, to a woman instead of a man, to a woman whose own children had been delivered via Caesarians and who said she wished that someone had given her the chance to attempt a vaginal delivery for her second and third children. We also got involved in concepts of natural childbirth. Instead of Lamaze classes we began attending VBAC classes (Vaginal Birth After Caesarian). These classes, conducted by nurse/midwives, were usually held in one of the instructor's homes, but sometimes members of the group hosted the meetings. These classes were very helpful and informative (and some of the homework exercises were fun *grin*). The night we watched childbirth films the class was held at our house... Jennifer, not quite three at the time, sat through part of the presentation, so I guess you might say she not only knew where babies came from, she'd watched it on film. There was an unofficial subtext running through these meetings: some of us had become quite suspicious of hospital procedures and felt that entering the hospital meant surrender to the hospital bureacracy and to a probable repeat Caesarian. Thus, Nancy and I (as well as a few others) were really thinking about childbirth at home.

We lived just three blocks from the hospital where Jennifer had been born and where our ob/gyn had planned for Nancy to go when she went into labor. Nancy's idea was to attempt a home birth. "Hello, doctor, could you please come by my house. Yes, the baby just seemed to pop right out." And, if there were any problems, we could get to the hospital very quickly. This was not going to be an unattended birth; we had made arrangements to have midife support for this.

Nancy went into labor in the morning of May 15th and we began the attempt at home birth. Our living room became the center of activity: we had two nurse-midwives (i.e., full registered nurses who were also trained as midwives) plus a birthing coach plus an apprentice birthing coach plus various babies and toddlers (including Jennifer). Two of these women were breast-feeding their children. As you can imagine, there was a certain overwhelming female aura about our living room. (Adam, my eldest, who had moved in with us a couple years earlier, came home from high school, took one look and announced that he was spending the night at his mother's house.)

Labor continued through the afternoon and into the evening and into the night and into the small hours of the morning... familiar sounding discussions about how many centimeters of dilation... massages... warm baths... and labor continued as the sky lightened and the sun rose... and labor continued... and Nancy began to try to persuade one of our midwives to break her water in an attempt to induce labor... that had a very familiar sound to it, but now the request was coming from the mother-to-be... our midwives objected to this, partly because of the non-sterile, non-hospital surroundings, and partly out of fear of legal consequences... I do not know what the current situation is, but at that time nurse-midwives could only legally practice as midwives in New York under the "guidance" of an obstetrian... They could not only be fined, they could actually lose their nursing licenses, if they attempted to function as midwives. In our case we were working under the fiction that they were only present to serve as birthing coaches. Now if Nancy actually delivered at home, we could claim that there had been no time to get to the hospital and (if they couldn't slip out the back door as the doctor came in the front) that they had simply helped out in this emergency situation. Time passed... labor continued... noon... early afternoon... mid-afternoon... By now, our midwives are growing concerned. Since noon they have been dropping hints about going to the hospital... the later it gets, the more they push the idea of going to the hospital... They are getting worried about Nancy's strength... She has been in labor for more than thirty hours now but doesn't seem any closer than yesterday afternoon... They grow more insistent... Finally Nancy gives in and agrees to call her doctor to say she has gone into labor.

At the hospital, Nancy is hooked up to an IV drip. She is exhausted and in pain and all she wants is to give up and be knocked out and to wake up and find she has a baby. Vaginal delivery is no longer her goal; she wants a Caesarian. Her doctor, however, does not know that she has been in labor more than thirty-four hours at this point and so she is being upbeat and encouraging... knowing how much avoiding Caesarian meant to Nancy. She does wonder, however, why one of our nurse-midwives has accompanied us to the hospital... but then apparently figures things out when our midwive indicates that she has reason to believe that Nancy has been in labor for longer than she had indicated. The doctor thanks her and suggests that she should leave before some of the senior hospital people see her there, that ever since she just happened to be with a couple who came very close to giving birth on the way to the hospital there had been suspicions that she might be assisting with home births and they might go after her license. [A few months later, our other midwive had been present at a home birth where the baby had been stillborn and, despite the testimony of experts that the result would have been even if the birth had taken place in a hospital and the fact that this would not have been a mark against any ob/gyn, she was charged with manslaughter. She was found not guilty -- we were among the many who contributed to her defense fund -- but it was an indication of the dangers facing midwives from the medical establishment.]

Our doctor, a very short, slightly rounded, woman with a delightful Indian accent, asked if an medical student who had been assigned to her could stay with her during Nancy's delivery. Nancy agreed, although at that point all she wanted was to be put to sleep and wake up to find her new baby and she didn't care about anything else. I was glad the student was there because I realized the doctor was being extremely upbeat and encouraging when she talked to Nancy... dilation was increasing... contractions were strong... won't be too much longer... etc. but then after certain other statements she would glance towards her student and say things like "That's true, you know" and I realized that this was a flag for acurate descriptions of the prcess as opposed to the upbeat things she was telling Nancy. She stepped aside for a moment to ask a nurse if the operating room was ready in case she had to do an emergency Caesarian. When told that the room was ready and the anesthesiologist was on standby, she snapped "I want him in the room and ready to go!" Uh, oh... She came back to Nancy, began to chatter about how active the baby was, and then that the baby was really pushing against the scar from her Caesarian and then she said "I think we had better think about another C-Section" and Nancy said okay just knock me out now and the doctor said "As soon as we get you to the operating room" and then we were off in a dash down the hall, just like on television, nurses and orderlies rushing the patient down the hall on a gurney... Our doctor almost running along, one hand on Nancy's hand, encouraging her...

I was left behind in the waiting area outside the operating room. Waiting. Worrying. Waiting. Finally a nurse came out with the news, mother and baby boy doing fine. The doctor stepped out to tell me everything was fine and that they were about to take our baby to the nursery, did I want to go along...

So I got to help wheel "Sean" to the newborn nursery and I got to hold him -- the nurses there saying they wanted to clean him up for me and then I could hold him but I said doctor's orders, I get to hold him now -- and I held this little newborn infant, just a few minutes old, my new baby boy.

Then I went back down to the recovery room so that I was there when Nancy came awake so I could tell her how beautiful our baby was. Although she had had to have another Caesarian, it was different this time because she knew that she had done everything possible to have a natural childbirth, there was no question about had the medical establishment somehow taken control away, the Caesarian had absolutely been needed.

In the morning I was able to come back with Jennifer and we washed up and put on hospital scrubs and were able to go into see Nancy and to see Sean... Jennifer got to sit in a chair and hold her new baby brother. (And she was quite annoyed when that evening, during the official maternity ward visiting hourse, she was not allowed to go in because visiting hours were restricted to those over twelve years of age... and even a three year old could see the contradiction here.)

Of course "Sean" is just the pseudonym used in my journal entries here (actually, Sean is his middle name)... but in real life, just as only having a girl's name picked out when Jennifer was born, we only had a boy's name picked out for Sean (we had chosen not to be told the gender from ultrasound, but we knew that he was a boy)

I had fixed up a bedroom for Sean -- it had been Adam's room, but he got pushed up to the attic (which he and I fixed up together) and so Adam had a very large bedroom that sometimes was too cold in winter and too hot in summer but was a very cool room. Sean's room had wallpaper with clouds and castles on it. He, too, spent his first weeks in the family heirloom crib.

I can remember the various birthday parties he has had, including a couple at the Discovery Center and one at the Roberson Museum and Science Center in Binghamton and of course the Ross Park Zoo. Others have been held at home. Some have been pool parties at the YMCA and one was at home followed by a trip to a bowling alley. We did do Chuck E. Cheese one year, but none have been at a McD's. This year I suggested that I would spring for Midnight Madness bowling (our local bowling alley has unlimited bowling Saturday nights from nine p.m until one a.m. with very loud rock music playing, strobe lights flashing, etc.) but he just looked at me and said "That's so junior high." So... family party tonight, cake and family presents... but I won't be there to join in the celebration... I'm thousands of miles away, in France on a business trip. I think he plans on having friends over on Friday night... but since he also plans on going on an overnight hike on Saturday (and he may have to work on Sunday) I hope he does get some sleep.

Happy birthday to my wonderful son... I love you and I am so proud of you!

(Note... this entry actually written and saved on May 13th (prior to leaving for France) but links to it were not added to index and journal pages until May 21st.)

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