Do you remember Kokoro, who is featured in the entry on her baby shower? Well, last week it happened: she gave birth!
I volunteer sporadically at a free clinic staffed entirely by UNC health professional students: social work, public health, pharmacy, nursing and med students. As I was pulling into the parking lot last Wednesday night for a few exciting hours of volunteerism, Marcos called with the news: "You won't be going to the clinic tonight; you're going to the hospital! Chris just called and Kokoro is going to have her baby!".
I was so excited. When I got to the hospital I literally ran across the parking lot to get to her room, and entered three of the wrong buildings on the way there. I think I had seen too many movies with the scene of the woman in the wheelchair being pushed haphazardly down the hall, and that vision of urgent delivery was running through my head. Although I'm sure some people have a similar experience with their delivery, Kokoro's birth was more typical: I arrived at 6pm Wednesday night, and little Ren was born almost 12 hours later, at about 6am the next morning.
After that long night I have a few thoughts about birth:
1) Wow, what a miracle. Making babies, delivering them, surviving the delivery, still liking the father of your child at the end of it all.... truly nothing short of a miracle.
2) Social work is so valuable. What a blessing that I get to learn how to communicate with people, and make sure they are validated and that they are happy and understand their options.
I wish I could say the same for other health professions, but I struggle. When I first arrived at Kokoro's room, my first reaction was to nearly cry because I had never seen her in so much pain, but once I gathered myself it must have seemed like I knew what I was doing because the attending nurse asked me if I was a doula (there is a volunteer doula program at UNC hospitals). I told her no, and that I was just a friend of Kokoro's. Then she proceeded to speak to me in this medical talk I didn't understand, and I finally had to look at her and say, "That doesn't mean very much to me. Can you say it in layman's terms?". That was the first of many versions of that same sentence I had to use throughout the night. One of the doctors made a concerted effort to be user-friendly and I appreciated him greatly, but when the epidural dude arrived and proceeded to try to get Kokoro's "informed consent" in the middle of a contraction when she was very clearly not in a position to consent to anything, much less understand anything from his well-rehearsed, bored spiel, I asked him to back off. We weren't bosom buddies after that, but sheesh! What does a woman have to do to get some respect? The whole experience of having to be at the mercy of doctors and nurses and even the midwife made me appreciate that a vital part of social work is communication and making sure that people understand their options, especially when it concerns their health.
3) I'm starting to have doubts about the plan we have for the future delivery of our babies. Our plan was for Marcos to read "delivery for dummies" or look up some tutorials on line, and then when it comes time for our babies to be born we would rent a van, and park it near the emergency room entrance or the hospital parking lot, where Marcos would deliver the babies. That way, we could potentially save money, and in the case of an emergency, we'd still be close enough for assistance should the need arise. Brilliant plan, right? Right! Totally brilliant, but after Kokoro's birth it was clear to me that even extremely healthy women can come up against some surprises. Our biggest surprise? Little Ren's size! As a petite Japanese woman, Kokoro was not expecting his entire 8 pounds 13 ounces!