Dear Labor and Delivery,
My only encounters with you were for the births of my own kiddos... until a few days ago when a whole new perspective unexpectedly crash landed on my existence as an auntie.
Last Friday, my sister-in-law went to the hospital in the morning to be induced for labor due to symptoms of preeclampsia. Upon hearing word of this, I went about my day planning to go visit her after the kiddos came home from school. During the day, I went to the Asian market to buy groceries to bring over; I went to the craft store to buy a huge pink ribbon for the Gigantor Teddy Bear we had bought for the new baby; I made a huge "welcome home" sign to go with the bear; and we packed up an entire cooler of food for the one hour drive over to see my SIL.
Little did I know.
When we got there, my brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and niece had just left to grab some dinner. My SIL had painless contractions throughout the day with no further progression of the labor. Within twenty minutes of our arrival, however, her contractions began to hurt exponentially. I could tell that her labor was going fast, but little did I know.
Little did I know that I was going to be the only
I know what it feels like--those full blown contractions--because I've been there. She was in the worst of it--her stiff body, her flushed cheeks, her death grip on the bed rail, and her tears told me so--when she had to bear the pain and wait for the doctor to come. The baby was coming, fast. Every second seemed like forever. I wanted to talk to her and distract her from feeling like she was being swallowed by a black hole of pain, and the only logical thing that came to mind was the time. I told her, "It's now 7:05 PM, and she'll be here very soon."
Little did I know that I was going to step over all the red liquid on the floor to the other side of the bed to be her delivery partner. That I was going to squeeze her hand until the pain subsided. That I would witness her baby girl enter this world all in her nakedness and tiny cries, in shock of the air and light and noise and space. And that her official time of delivery was 7:06 PM.
Little did I know that I would feel that incredible surge of emotion watching the doctor catch the baby. My nose soured and my eyes blinked from disbelief. I heard my SIL ask me if the baby was big. No words came out of my mouth. I don't know, I thought. I don't know. She asked me if the baby looked like her big sister. Again, my mouth opened and only air came out. I don't know. The doctor gently put the baby on my SIL and clipped her umbilical cord. Little did I know that he would hand me the scissors.
Little did I know I was going to have the honor of cutting my Dear Niece's cord. With a steady hand and a trembling heart, I disconnected the baby from her mother, and forever connected my heart with hers.
Finally, several blinks and many more breaths shook me back to reality. My job wasn't over: I went to the baby warming table to take pictures. These moments are so sacred--capture them now or they're gone forever.
Humbling is an understatement to how I felt moments afterwards. It was a life-changing experience. I had the privilege to take part in the birth of a baby into this world as a bystander. And now I know the perspective of dads in the delivery room. How different it is from what little I knew.
When you are the mom in labor, there is nothing on your mind other than getting through the pain and getting the baby out. When you're in that much pain, you don't think about What-Ifs or Something-Wrongs. You just focus on those contractions and pushes, because the faster you follow directions and get the pushing done, the faster you can end the Worst Pain of Your Life.
As a bystander, however, you are completely and utterly helpless. Looking on to someone you love go through that kind of pain is incredibly difficult. And since you're not in pain, you have all kinds of room in your helpless brain to think about all the What-Ifs and What's-Wrongs.
Inside my head before birth: Can't you see how much pain she's in? Don't you know that you can't hold in a baby when it's clearly descending the birth canal and about to come out? She's ready to freakin' deliver the baby! What if the doctor doesn't make it here in time?
Inside my head after birth: What if the nurse drops the baby? Why did the nurse ask if the mom had any medication during the delivery? Why did she look so determined as she listened to the baby's chest with her stethoscope? Why on earth is she being so quiet with that frown up there on her brows?
I found myself scared silly waiting for word on how the baby was doing. I worried about my SIL's blood pressure and stitches and swelling and pain. I fretted about the baby's tiny size and the tube stuck down her throat to suction out liquid. I wondered about her Apgar Scores and that oxygen mask shoved onto her tiny face. Yet all I could do was stand there, completely powerless and unable to answer any of those questions.
I glanced over at my SIL, who was now past all the labor pain, and she was calm and glowing. Smile and color returned to her face. Longing eyes peeked over at the baby warming bed. The adventures of a new mom has begun, already.
And as the auntie on the sideline, all I could think of was the lifetime of worries ahead carried by the burden of parents for this tiny little being, this fragile body, and this beautiful niece of mine. This new journey, experienced by all parents, all starts now.
The next day, we went back to visit with Gigantor Teddy Bear. It was literally more than ten times the size of the newborn baby. I held the baby, marveled at her smallness--all less than five pounds of life in my arms--and gazed at her peaceful sleep. I relived some of the crazy minutes from the day before, and gave thanks from my heart to be in this moment, holding my DN2, everyone safe and sound, and all our lives carrying on. DN1 and my DD and DS played and laughed around us. I can't wait for DN2 to join them one day.
So, Dear Labor and Delivery, I really was not anticipating encountering you again until I would become a grandma. But I am so grateful that I was able to accompany my SIL to bring a new life into this world. Now I have a beautiful story to tell, and will have this amazing experience etched into my memory. My life is just that much richer and meaningful because of it.
Happy Birth Day, DN2!