Two days ago I would have told you I would never, ever, ever watch a baby being born voluntarily. No thank you, no way. I didn't even want to deliver my own children, I was such a wimp about all things childbirth. I don't like it, I don't think it's cool, sweet, amazing, or any other adjectives people come up to describe the birth of a little, squishy, gooey baby.
However, a strange thing happens when your nearly term buddy, who has no husband or boyfriend, tells you, on the day before what turns out to be her early delivery day, that you are going to be her "team". You agree. You don't say no. You don't balk. You don't scream and cry and throw a fit about the unfairness of this request. Because? Because she is a friend. Because she is your adventure buddy in an adventure neither one of you signed up for. And you step up and stand strong for a friend. You don't back down. You don't make an excuse. You don't panic. You simply say yes.
BUT, you don't think it's going to happen the next morning. You think you have time to prepare, to process, to plan and get ready. Time to tell your husband about your next adventure. Time to process what being on this Team Delivery means. Time to talk strategy with your new teammate, Lisa Hayes.
Well, babies don't work that way, and on Thursday morning, without so much as conversation with John about any of this, Lisa called to say Baby was on the way! Oh, by the way honey, I forgot to mention to you that I am helping deliver a baby today and might not be back home for...oh...maybe the weekend. Love you. Yeah, right. Like I even had time to say that.
I rushed out of the house to work, trying to tie up loose ends, figuring out coverage for a full calendar of court hearings that afternoon. Lisa took a slowly laboring Mama Kris to her house, following a quick trip to the doctor's office. Kris decided to labor outside the hospital in Lisa's living room at 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Who does that? What baby isn't almost dropping out at 5 cms? And we joked that Kris better not have the baby in the driveway or in the back yard or in the living room of Lisa's house because I was having None of THAT hanky panky. Labor really never kicked in, but by 5 o'clock we found ourselves resigned to the fact that we needed to be at the hospital to figure this out. Lisa and I jockeyed for position of hand holder for the eval room. I won that round. Lisa stewed out in the lobby until we were finally able to be Team Delivery once again upon admittance. Room 14 was where the party was to be. And thankfully Kris was nervous, anxious and a bit hesitant enough to decide that she wanted an epidural for this event. (I silently did a ginormous baby dance in my head and heart upon this news, but tried to keep the "supportive with whatever decision" look on my face). It took time to get checked in, time to get the paperwork done, time for the nurse to contact the the epidural guru and then not call him, time for the doctor to decide to check to see that the epidural dude had been called (he hadn't been), time for the doctor to finish his dinner with the other epidural guru on OR rotation. It played out in slow motion, or at least that's what we all agreed on. When the epidural doc finally arrived, I felt a slight bit better. Knowing that this would provide relief to Kris was a huge blessing, and took a lot off my nerves. Lisa continued to change out the washcloths and I held her hand and stroked her face through the procedure. Did I point out that I am one of those girls who HATES needles? And now the count is One ugly IV procedure and ONE Largest Needle in the World Going in to Her Spine procedure? Yep, we were living the party one procedure at a time.
By 10 o'clock Team Delivery was called in to action, or at least more action than cloth swapping and hand holding. Kris got down to business, and this started our rotation as leg supports and shoulder holders. By this I mean that Lisa and I would lean over the bed, place one of kris's knees into our chest while at the same time pulling her shoulder up so she could bare down and try pushing. Over and over and over Kris did this. We broke it up with breaks to switch out washcloths, hold various pieces of stuff for the nursing staff and do whatever we could quickly do before once again assuming the pushing position. At some point Kris required oxygen. Lisa and I were quick to give each other a "look", like we could silently convey some heightened level of awareness or concern by this "look". At another point, Kris was warned that we were two hours in to this funny business, and needed to get down to stern business apparently, garnering yet another "look" between Team Delivery. Nurse Erin gave me directions. "You want my hand where?" I wanted to ask. "And I also need to continue to hold her hand?" "And you think I am somehow qualified to help in any of this?" I thought frantically. But Team Delivery does not fail, and yes, I found my hand holding a monitor very, very close to where baby would be exiting, while holding Kris's hand with my other hand and kneeling precariously on the tile floor in a very unladylike position. I want to blame my finest hour on Lisa, who forced us to switch positions on the bedside so that we wouldn't tire out too quickly. At one point, while Kris gasped for air between pushing, then was pushing and Lisa and I were leaning over her with leg-in-chest-and-shoulder-pull position, somehow my belly hit the Down button on Kris's bed, sending her jolting downward----mid push. Can you imagine? You are pushing down with all your focus, with all your might....and your bed goes jerking downward? Lisa was able to contain her snickering while we held position, but I could not. I giggled. Flat out giggled while my friend continued to grimace and push this baby out. I pulled myself together and Team Delivery continued on, with neither Nurse Erin or Nurse Eleanor chastising me at all. Nothing to see here, nothing to see here.....is what I thought in the moment.
Kris continued to push, and continued to be denied much movement with her pushing. It was exhausting just going through the process on our end, much less her amazing effort, as the hours went on. Finally, several other nurses joined the party, and the mood turned serious. Kris had 30 minutes...or....no one wanted to say it out loud, but we all knew Lisa and I would be paper-rock-scissoring for c-section duty. As I looked at my friend's face, with the oxygen mask masking her exhaustion, I prayed and prayed for this to end. I prayed something would work, somehow this baby would rock out. Dr. Dowling came in one more time, and this time she saw something she liked, something that had her quickly pulling off the covers of her table of instruments and gowning up. Nurse Trene whispered to us, "It's a good sign when the doctor doesn't leave," and I felt enormous relieve, coupled with even bigger fear. This was going to happen? The baby would come? What then?
There wasn't time to panic, because after almost 3 hours of pushing, and pushing the absolute limits of a guaranteed c-section, Baby Karina finally slid home! Kris did it! I frantically gestured for Lisa to get the camera going, and tried to help comfort Kris while the baby was being taken care of. No interventions were needed and Karina was able to stay with Kris for the cleanup. When the doctor asked us to cut the cord, I didn't know what to do. You want me to cut what? The cord? Are you kidding me?!!! Without thought, I grabbed Lisa's hand folded over the scissors and we shared in what certainly will be a once in a lifetime event. We cut Karina's umbilical cord. I will say, it was a little hard when a bit of blood squirted on my hands, but I didn't pass out or anything silly like that. I think I actually wiped it on my jeans, maybe in a little bit of shock? I don't know. There wasn't a manual in the room on how to cut your friend's baby's umbilical cord gracefully.
I think it took me at least a good day to recover. I say this with a smirk, as I know it was Kris who actually did the work. However, it was exhausting. It was emotional. It was foreign and unknown, scary and exhilarating. It was an event I never imagined, a position that I would have never seen myself in. Team Delivery made it through it. We saw things we've probably never imagined. We saw our friend at her finest...bringing her precious daughter into this world. That is a treasure that can't be repeated. And I'd say- Team Delivery did not fail our friend.