Sunday, December 31, 2006

Julie Yvonne
December 31, 1965

My second experience of childbirth was distinctly different from my first. Instead of starting single and ending married, I started married and ended single. Instead of losing weight, I gained in anticipation of morning sickness that never happened. Instead of being delivered by an intern, Julie was delivered by an experienced doctor; and yet, he was unprepared for my behavior in the delivery room.

Julie was conceived when I thought I was already several weeks pregnant, resulting in my thinking she was overdue when she was actually premature. Instead of leading up to the event with false labor, because my water had broken and the placenta was parting, labor had to be induced. However, this was still a fast and easy birth, with a labor of just under an hour.

I got my interlocutory divorce and enrolled in college the day before Julie was born. Her birth completed the change in my life from working wife to single mother college student.

Because my mother was still recovering from a broken hip, my Aunt Flo came to stay with me for the birth. She was out with Richard at the laundromat when my water broke, and as soon as they returned we delivered Richard to the baby sitter and she drove me to meet the doctor at the hospital. This time I had health insurance and went to Alta Bates, a private hospital. At first, the doctor had me wait to see if labor would begin naturally. Aunt Flo and I told jokes and chatted.

My roommate in the labor room was pretty deeply into intense labor. She also had been born in China, and had only been in the U.S. for a couple of years, and was married to a Chinese American who spoke no Chinese. As her labor built, she forgot her flawless English. Being unable to make herself understood or to understand what people around her were saying frightened her. Luckily there was an elderly Chinese gentleman on the maintenance staff who they called in to translate. As soon as he arrived, my roommate calmed down and Aunt Flo and I could return to guilt free joke telling and family story swapping.

Towards morning the doctor decided to induce labor, which was done at that time with an IV in the back of the hand. (And as I remember Julie having Maya, it still is.) That was before I worked with the dentist to overcome my fear of needles, and when the nurse came to insert the IV, I tried to climb off the table and escape.

In much less than an hour, I was in the delivery room. The doctor, who had witnessed my humiliating performance with the needle, had assumed that he was going to have a problem with me, particularly since I was having natural childbirth. He was a little hesitant about allowing my aunt into the delivery room, but since she had trained to be a nurse he did. However, I was having an easy birth, I’m really pretty stoic about pain, and the needle part was over. Although Aunt Flo remembers me saying, “It hurts. It hurts. And it won’t stop,” for the most part I was a model patient, swapping jokes with her the whole time.

In just under an hour from the first pain, I had a baby. This experience was so far from the impersonal treatment I had received with Richard that when, instead of asking if it was a girl or a boy, I asked, “Who is it?” my doctor knew and answered, “Julie Yvonne.”

Breakfast had just been served when I got out of delivery, and I assumed I was going to have to wait for lunch. I couldn’t, after all, ask Aunt Flo to tear a hole in the lining of her coat and smuggle in food. But, they do things differently in private hospitals. When I was taken to my room, an aide was just bringing in my breakfast.

I was asleep when the doctor came to tell me that they wouldn’t be bringing Julie in to feed because she had to be in an isolet due to her size (five pounds, three ounces) and no one came in to do it again. They brought her baby to my roommate, who was now speaking very good English, but not to me. When a nurse came to pick up her baby, I asked where mine was and that was when they told me. The entire time I was in the hospital (three or four days, as I remember), I could only go and stand by the window and look at her, in an isolet that was bolted to the floor at the far end of the room. It was so far away I couldn’t see her features. I could, however, see the needles stuck into her scalp for IV feeding and that her little arms were tied down so she wouldn’t hit the tubes. It was heartbreaking. I’m not so stoic about my children, and I cried about it a lot.

It was, I discovered months later, much easier for me than for my Aunt, who had overheard two nurses who didn’t know who she was talking about how they had almost lost Julie and how she was having trouble swallowing without getting fluid in her lungs. How fortunate that Aunt Flo, who was after all in a town that was strange to her, knew my friends Tom and Cheryl and could go over to their house and have someone she could confide in.

Julie, like all newborns, lost weight at first. Normally, preemies weren’t allowed to go home until they were above five pounds; Julie went down to four seven, but then started gaining an ounce a day, and so they let her come home several ounces early. Finally I got to hold her. Finally I got to kiss her little belly and drown in her lovely eyes. Finally Richard got to meet his sister.


Ginnie said...

I love the picture of Richard kissing Julie. What an interesting post and it was so similar to my little Jody being born...also a preemie and had to be isolated from me and actually I had to leave her in the hospital for ten days before we could bring her home. Very scary time.
Maya must love your stories.

Deja Pseu said...

It's the worst, isn't it, when you can't hold your baby, and can't really comfort them? Fortunately Sam didn't have to be in an isolette, but when he was born he was hooked up to breathing and feeding tubes, and the most I could do for several days was stroke his head and hands and feet. Over a weekend, when he was a week old, one of the nicer nurses spent 30 minutes rearranging his tubes and wires and monitors so that I could hold him. It was wonderful.

Deja Pseu said...

Oh, and Happy Birthday Julie!

Joy Des Jardins said...

Happy Birthday Julie...from an adorable, sweet baby to a bright and beautiful adult. That's the hope of every mother. You did well J.

Suzann said...

Happy Birthday to Julie and Happy New Year to you J and to your entire family. I love your stories and pictures.

kenju said...

I love that photo too. What a nic story about Julie's birth. I hope she knows it - or will read it here. Happy New Year to all of you!

Jill said...

Happy Birthday Julie!!!!!!

Jill said...

Happy Birthday, Julie! And happy birthday to you too, Joycelyn, for you made it happen!

Mary Lou said...

Happy Birthday Julie, ANd Happy New Year "Granny"

Tabor said...

Happy New Year, Maya's Granny. What a lovely post. I was there wanting to hold your hand. Such an important time in our lives, the addition of our children to our lives.

Ted and Maya said...

We loved this story! And we now feel sorry for Julie, but she says "I've seemed to have recovered!" :-)

Happy birthday to Julie and Happy New Year to all!

Autumn's Mom said...

Happy Birthday to J. I love her baby pics, thanks for sharing.