BIRTH OF THE SECOND
For quite a while after the Birth of the First, I wasn't very receptive to the idea of a second pregnancy. It seemed that most everything that could go wrong during delivery DID. Even for months Baby Jeffrey refused to sleep through the night. It seemed as if any time his eyes were open, so was his mouth,,,,,, screaming! Finally, somewhere along the line, before his first birthday, things calmed down. He became the happy baby we had dreamed about. And amazingly enough, there came a day when our lives became semi-normal again. Those sleepless nights were a faded memory and the first painful delivery a completely forgotten. Jeffrey was well into his Terrible Twos when we had a moment of insanity and decided that it was time to have a baby sister or brother.
So, once again began the quest to make a baby. Several months later, we were still trying with no success. My husband, Don and I, agreed that the practice was enjoyable but the months turned into a year and then a second year and a third. Just as we did the first time, we gave up. We convinced ourselves that we had been blessed with one healthy baby and that would be enough. We gave up trying almost every night, much to my husband’s disappointment, and went about our everyday lives. After all we were busy, trying to live the American Dream. We had a little house and a little boy. Life was good.
Jeffrey was six years old when I realized that something was going on with my body. My monthly cycle had always been extremely regular and suddenly nothing happened on that particular day of the month when I was expecting that it would. Quite a few days went by before the light bulb appeared over my head. Could I be pregnant again?
My personal secret goal had always been to have my children before I was thirty years old. I began to count the months on my fingers. IF, by some crazy chance I WAS
pregnant, the birth would occur shortly before my thirtieth birthday. Keeping my thoughts to myself, I began searching for a new ob/gyn. Once that chore was taken care of my husband, Don, and I quickly adjusted to the idea of a second child and began to plan in earnest. We had long conversations about future children and the fact that the first baby took almost five years, the second, almost seven. If we continued along this path, I’d again be pregnant in nine years when I was getting pretty close to forty years old with a teen-ager and a nine year old. This did not sound appealing to either of us. We liked having a plan. Surprise babies in our 40s was not part of our plan.
So in addition to preparing for new life, we began to think about how to make absolutely sure that this was the end of our baby-making. On the recommendation of a nurse friend of mine, Dr. Barnes, who ran a clinic at the University of Michigan Women’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was my new doctor. I made an appointment for Don and I to see him to discuss our options. As a matter of fact, we saw him together, several times and had long talks, listing pros and cons, before we finally came to our decision.
It was decided that after the delivery of this baby, I would have my tubes tied. We wrestled with this but once the decision was made, we were happy with it. I suspect that secretly, my husband was probably thrilled beyond belief that he would not be the one under the knife. It seemed to make sense for me to take that extra step while I was there in the hospital. One stay, two missions accomplished.
The due date for Baby Number Two was February 9, 1979. February 9th was my mother’s birthday so I thought that would be a nice gift for Nana to have a grandchild born on her birthday. But we all know that babies arrive when they’re good and ready, not a second before. As we prepared for the big day, February 9th came and went with no new arrivals.
I saw Dr. Barnes on the 10th. Everything seemed fine and dandy until he told me he hoped I would not be delivering for a couple of weeks yet because the next day he would be leaving on vacation. What? Did I still have a couple of weeks? Was he really going on vacation? Oh no! What if the baby didn’t wait? I actually LIKED this doctor. I didn’t want a stranger to deliver our baby. I’d been through that whole confusion of delivery without my doctor around and I did NOT want to do that again. I went home in quite a quandary, oddly enough hoping the doctor was right and that the baby really would wait a couple of weeks. I was hoping that Dr. Barnes would be by my side. Foolish me!!
In the wee hours of the morning of Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1979, I woke Don telling him that it was time for us to go to the hospital. This time there was no wondering if this was labor or not. I KNEW it was labor and I KNEW we had things to do, people to call and places to go. Dr. Barnes had given me a phone number to call, just in case he was still on vacation, which, of course he was, much to my displeasure. He assured me that all personnel had been alerted to my condition and that I would receive excellent care whether he was there or not. To assure me, he went through step by step what would happen, even showing me the ‘file’ and the instructions to tie my tubes after the delivery. I tried to be reassured and tried not feel that he was abandoning me.
The second call was to my mother in Kentucky, who planned to come for a few days to help out. I reminded her to bring clothing this time and not just shoes. (When she arrived after Jeffrey was born, she had a suitcase with seven pairs of shoes and not one single change of clothes.) Finally we called a sitter to tell her we were on our way to drop off Jeffrey. We would call and let him know whether he had a sister or a brother.
It was just as cold in Michigan in February as it was in January when Jeffrey was born, perhaps even colder. I was feeling pretty good and told Don not to drop me off at the door that I would walk from the parking lot with him. Stupidly I thought that the exercise would be helpful in shortening our wait for the baby to arrive. About half way from the car to the hospital door, a labor pain struck that nearly took me to my knees and in a flash, instead of becoming the ‘little train that could’, I became the little train that ABSOLUTELY WOULD NOT.
I stopped dead in my tracks in the driving snow and announced that I could not walk another step. Don looked from me to the hospital, back to me and then to the car. “Can you stand here until I go back and get the car and then I’ll drive you the rest of the way?”
Before I could answer, another pain streaked through my body. “No, don’t leave me here!” All of the forgotten memories of the Birth of the First came flooding back and suddenly I was scared half to death and the only coherent plan I could form with my numbed brain cells was to keep Don next to me. Having a second baby now seemed a bad idea. I decided I didn’t want to do this after all.
Don gathered me close to him and held on to my unwieldy body and started inching me forward a tiny step at a time. At one point he actually tried to sooth me by saying, “It’s going to be alright. We’re almost there.”
Close to hysteria, I let him know that, “No, it is NOT going to be alright. We’re NOT almost there and I wish YOU were having this baby.” I seem to vaguely remember other mutterings, complaining, and perhaps even name calling. (Mothers-to-be in labor are not always nice people, but believe me, they don't have to be. They don't have to be nice and they don't have to make sense. They're busy trying to push a watermelon from a small opening so it's not smart to mess with a mother-to-be in labor.) Don wisely decided not to speak further and just kept inching me along the sidewalk, closer and closer to the door.
At last we staggered inside to be met by a flurry of excitement. A wheelchair appeared from nowhere and I seemed surrounded at last by competent medical staff instead of a husband who spouted silly talk, like, “It’s going to be alright.”
Seven years had passed since I’d delivered a baby. In that short time span, things had drastically changed. There was no shaving, no enema, no one asking me about a cesarean. What had not changed was the pain. What had not changed was the seeing the face of a doctor I’d never met. As a matter of fact, I didn’t lay eyes on him until I was “in position” on the delivery table and he was looking at me from between my knees, saying, “Ok now Mrs. Chandler, time to start pushing.”
I can still see the surprised look on his face when I said, with much conviction, “I DON’T WANT TO.”
“Now, Mrs. Chandler, this shouldn’t take long. Don’t fight against me now. We’re going to push our way through this.”
Wondering exactly who the ‘we’ would be that he continued to refer to, I answered with the thought utmost in my mind, “Give me drugs! Knock me out! Deliver this baby and then wake me up. I’m NOT going to push. You can’t make me.”
I’m not quite sure of how it all happened but without much help from me, a baby girl arrived that Valentine Day. I looked at her, thought she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, closed my eyes and fell into a deep sleep. It had been a long hard day for all involved.
When I next opened my eyes, a strange vision was trying to focus before me. Could this be Don with that silly grin on his face? What was he smiling about? HE didn’t do anything, but sit and wait. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember the doctor turning and saying, “Mr. Chandler, would you like to be in the delivery room with us?” But it seems he was speaking to empty space because Don had already disappeared faster than the speed of light.
“We had a girl.” said the new father with that silly look cemented in place.
“Yep, I was there.”
“Are you ok? Can I get you anything?”
“I’m fine and I’m going back to sleep.” Having regained the memories of the first baby, I think I was trying to stock up on my sleep because I knew once I was at home, there would be very little.
It seemed as if only seconds had passed when the screams of a baby once again dragged me from a pleasant and peaceful slumber. Alarmed, my eyes flew open to see where this baby was that was making so much noise. Sitting there next to the bed was my husband, holding a tiny, angry and hungry baby girl. When he saw that I was awake, he proudly proclaimed, “Look what I’ve got?”
“Where did you get her?”
“I walked down to the nursery and the nurse said I could bring her back to your room.”
“What? You’re kidding!”
“Nope, they said I could come and get her any time I wanted. It’s not like when Jeffrey was born and they wouldn’t even let the daddies on the same floor as the babies when they were with the mothers.”
“Well, take her back!”
As this point, he totally ignored me and started whispering sweet nothings to Baby Heather, “I think Mommy is a little bit cranky this afternoon.”
“Oh for crying out loud, give me the baby.” And when I looked down into that tiny screaming red face, all the weariness and irritation left my body to be replaced with a feeling of complete and unconditional love. We had a healthy son and now, a healthy daughter. We were truly living the American Dream.
You may think that this is the happy ending and the story stops here, but you’d be wrong.
The feeling of happiness and well-being enveloped me UNTIL a visit that evening, when Dr. Never-Seen-Before came by for a visit. He chatted for a minute, did the usual quick exam that doctors do and started to leave the room.
I stopped him mid stride by asking, “You tied my tubes after the delivery, right?”
“Oh no, I nearly forgot. That is something I was going to mention to you.”
“You didn’t do it?”
“No as a matter of fact, I didn’t.”
“Didn’t you see the instructions in my file.”
“Yes, I saw them but I decided that you should go home for six weeks or so. If you still want the procedure, you can come back and we’ll do it at a later date.”
Oh dear, this man did NOT know who he was dealing with. HE did not make MY decisions. My answer to him was a terse “The decision was already made. Dr. Barnes, my husband and I discussed it and we’ve already made the decision. The instructions were given and I WANT THE PROCEDURE before I leave this hospital.”
“Mrs. Chandler, it would be better if …………..”
“NO, you don’t get to decide. You don’t know all the conversations that have already gone on. You think it would be easy in six weeks to leave two children at home to come back to the hospital? Who’s going to take care of them? Are you coming over to do that? And while I’m recovering, what am I to do with a 7-year-old and a new baby?”
“Well, Mrs. Chandler, I can check and see if there’s an operating room available but if not then you’ll just have to come back. That’s all there is to it.”
“You didn’t understand what I said! I’M NOT COMING BACK! I am sitting right here in this hospital bed until an operating room IS available and if that takes six weeks, then fine and dandy, I’ll be right here.”
At this point, my voice had risen in volume to a near shout. Fire was spitting out of my eyes and steam was rolling out of my ears. Perhaps my hormones were out a balance just a tad but it didn't matter to me. I knew what we decided. I knew what was supposed to happen and it WAS going to happen before I sat one little toe outside this hospital. Doctor Never-Seen-Before quietly made his exit without uttering another word. As a matter of fact, I never ever saw him again.
A nurse came in just before I went to sleep for the night to tell me that my procedure had been scheduled for the first thing in the morning. I could almost feel my blood pressure lowering as I dozed off for a dreamless night of deep sleep.
With the morning light, I was whisked away to the operating room. Hours later as consciousness slowly returned, a nurse was pulling back the covers to check our stitches. Hearing her gasp instantly put me in Alert Mode. “Is something wrong,” I croaked, trying to find my voice.
“No Dear, I’m sure everything is fine. I was just startled by such a large bandage.” She began to chuckle as she removed layers of gauze. It seemed the good Doctor Never-Seen-Before had wrapped my middle like a mummy when all that was required was a medium sized Band-Aid.
When the nurse noticed my puzzled expression she explained, “Now Dear, don’t you worry about a thing. We’ve all heard about your discussion with the doctor. This big bandage is just his way of having the last word. Silly man, he should know better to buck a new mother.” And with that she laughingly left the room.
A couple of days later, we took our beautiful Valentine Baby Girl home. The very first night in her little white bassinet, she slept right through until morning. As if an alarm sounded, Don and I both woke around 6 a.m. and rushed to her side to make sure she was still breathing. She was “sleeping like a baby” and today at 32 years old, she is still my beautiful sweetheart
© copyright Donna Hale Chandler
DONNA HALE CHANDLER
LIFE HAPPENS (My Story)
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