Born 8:04 PM on June 15, 2007. 7.12 lbs., 19.5 inches, a full head of black hair.
But let’s start earlier in the day.
Erin had a medical appointment at 9:45 AM, where we learned that after several days of irregular contractions she was still only 3 CM dilated. Oh well, baby will show up when baby will show up.
After a quick stop to return some items and see some folks at Sprague, we came home. I felt quite unwell (food poisoning, I think, but don’t ask me what caused it). While I recouped, others went off to participate in the Relay for Life at McKay High School. (Liz, Erin’s mom, is a cancer survivor.) Erin started having more serious contractions around 1 PM right after finishing the walk.
These contractions did not stop Erin from coming home and doing several hours of gardening work. I am at this point reminded of the diaries of pioneer women on wagon trains with entries like “washed clothes, cooked dinner, had baby, fought Indians, fed kids.” Erin gardened with alacrityâ€”a phrase that doesn’t come along very oftenâ€”the last few seeds not being as precisely planted as the rest, before coming into the house to tell me it was time to go to the hospital.
Apparently a good cure for food poisoning is adrenaline. I had felt unwell on both ends of the spectrum if you take my veiled meaning, but as soon as Erin said it was time to go, I am happy to report that much of my queasiness dissipated. Some events you just don’t want to miss, and apparently sometimes desire counts for a lot when it comes to physical well-being.
When we got the hospital we learned that we’d come at a busy time. The previous Monday night when Erin’s body had tricked us into thinking it was ready for delivery there’d been maybe four expectant mothers on the whole floor. Now, the place was teeming with them, all in various stages of delivery. Erin was checked out first thing. Cervix at 6 CM. Hurray! We get to stay and not go home. And hurray! She’s doubled since the doctor visit this morning.
We worked through steadily increasing contractions over the next hour or so. Erin had some fentanyl which was supposed to take the edge off the pain, but ended up just making her a bit loopy and faint more than anything else.
She was checked again around 7:45 PM and had made it to 9 CM. Baby coming soon!
Our pain management plan was roughly the same as it was for Elisha: Once Erin couldn’t do anything other than scream her way through contractions, it was time for meds. She sat up on the side of the bed for a spinal blockâ€”there wasn’t time for a full-on epidural. As she did that and got the shot, she had a contraction and her water broke. This was later to result in several days of a so-called “epidural headache” wherein spinal fluid leaks from the hole in your back and causes mind-crushing headaches whenever you stand. All happily resolved now.
To return to the action at hand: Things began to get a bit fast-paced. The delivery doctor was in the room now, and everybody started moving tables, chairs, and equipment around trying to get ready for the baby, because Erin was ready to go. The doctor told her to try not to push yetâ€”nine months of waiting, and this is what she hearsâ€”as he was busy helping set up the bed for delivery, something that the nurses usually do, but baby was coming faster than anticipated.
The medical staff got everything set up, and Erin pushed with the next contraction. I was on her side holding her left leg in one of the leg rests, and I could see baby crown with Erin’s push. Most of a head of black hair was out. The doctor said, “One more push and you’ve got a baby” and he was right. With one more thrust, Erin brought a daughter, Jillian Elizabeth Davison, into the world.
Whether it was premeditated (which I doubt) or part of the emotion of the instant (which seems more likely), Erin chose this moment to switch into speaking French. She had, of course, spoken plenty of it to Jillian when she was in utero, but seeing her for the first time face-to-face, Erin launched full bore into a dialogue (monologue?) with Jillian which I, with my limited French, only partially grasped and which moved most medical staff in the room into something approaching a stunned silence. So unexpected was this lingual transition that they were probably wondering if she’d had a stroke or were somehow reliving a past life. Jillian seemed fine with it, though, and gradually the medical staff came around to it too once they realized everything was all right.
I think that all fathers are smitten with their daughters. At least I know I am. So I don’t want to make too much of this next bit, but after they wrapped up Jillian and laid her on Erin’s stomach, the doctor asked if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I’d cut the cord for Jonah and Elisha, so you bet. The doctor handed me some surgical scissors and pointed out where to cut. As I went to sever the lifeline, Jillian reached over and grabbed my fingers and part of the scissor handle with a vice-like little grip.
It’s tempting to read more into this than a newborn blindly grasping about in her new environment. The humorous interpretation is something along the lines of Jillian saying, “Hey there, Pops, I’m not ready for you to be cutting that.”
But I prefer to think that in her first moments in a completely strange and utterly new reality, having rushed her way down the birth canal into the light of the unknown, Jillian reached out instinctively or not for some suggestion of safety and connection and found me there ready and waiting. In some measure, I imagine that we, neither of us, shall ever let go.