Remembering my daughter just before her 27th birthday.
22 March 1989
Jenni was a planned birth. Before she was born there were signs that this child would be special. I was 41 and had a tubal reversal so I could conceive a child. If you have ever TRIED to have a baby the act of love-making can devolve into perfunctory action and test one’s resolve to conceive. This was the place my husband, Neil, and I found ourselves. One night I had a dream, an angel spoke to me and said I should upon waking make love to my husband. I did this with enthusiasm for the next three days. Thus Jenni was conceived within the first cycle after my operation.
Since I was an older mother many tests were done to assure a normal pregnancy and genetic viability. With the first ultra-sound we knew we were having a girl. I was told by my husbands Jewish parents I should call her Rose. I balked! One day at work I heard the name Jessica Rose and called Neil to tell him. By the time I got home he and my son, Kris, had remembered it as Jennifer Rose and so she was from that moment. The pregnancy went relatively smooth. I found a woman I liked to be my OB/GYN and discussed at length my wish for a low intervention birth.
As the due date approached I took maternity leave and spent many a languid hour on the papasan chair with the new puppy we bought. It was getting towards two weeks overdue and talk of an induced delivery were being voiced. This was the last option I wanted so Neil and I took a long walk one warm March day. The next day I thought my water had broken but wasn’t really sure. I called the doctor and she told me to come in immediately. Probably nothing to worry about.
When Neil returned home with the only car we had at the time, we left immediately. I didn’t pack a bag as this wasn’t going to be it. I didn’t have contractions so I couldn’t be in labor. A test was done to determine if my water had broken and then my doctor walked me across the street to my labor and delivery room.
Having a baby is like getting on a roller coaster. Once the ride starts there is no getting off till it’s over. This little cart had crested the hill and we were on our way down. I never did start contractions so I had a Pitocin drip to induce labor. In normal labor the contractions start slow and build. With Pitocin it depends on the amount delivered. The hope was it would kick-start my own body to begin contractions. No such luck!
We arrived around 5:30 pm and as the evening wore on so did my luke-warm contractions. I had consented to a fetal monitor belt and eventually to one placed inside. I don’t remember this too much but somehow think it is attached to the baby’s head.
Around midnight the nurses were concerned that her heart beat was low they called in a specialist. He needed some equipment that the hospital didn’t have and so he placed a phone (old school) on my uterus and had the nurse call. I asked, “Is this a wake-up call?” He laughed and said “Yes”. They decided she was just sleeping. Jenni always does things in her own time!
Morning came and the Pitocin was increased. I could watch the contraction meter and they were over the top with no breaks in between. It is like being slammed against a wall over and over again. My legs felt like mush. I thought if I was in transition I would muddle through. I insisted the nurse check me – four centimeters dilated with six more to go. I gave up on my low intervention birth and asked for an epidural. From there things went quicker till it was time to push. They stopped the Pitocin.
Jenni’s head was turned sideways which is why she wouldn’t drop down and initiate labor. It is also why I pushed for three hours. At one point I was ready to give up. There had been several times when I thought if I was a pioneer woman I would have had them shoot me and take the baby out. Good thing I’m living now. Both my doctor and the anesthesiologist were in the room. I can still see them, leaning against the wall to my right. The anesthesiologist said it was like a race. Once I stopped, it was over. He words spoke to me and I pushed non-stop till she finally crowned.
Neil cut the umbilical chord and the doctors checked her APGAR. She was a little blue from the birthing process and so received oxygen. Pink again, everything else was fine except the muscles on the side of her neck opposite to the turn of her head, they were weak. In came the next set of specialist. They made me think of ghost busters. One was tall and the other short, dark-rimmed glasses, and they looked like nerds. A good thing when you want someone who achieves on their brains and not their looks. I think they gave her some physical therapy.
Two days without sleep and details are fuzzy. It seems in those next hours there were more tests as I recall thinking she has seen more doctors in her first few hours than I had in my life.
Finally it was time to nurse. Something low tech that women and babies have been doing for millennia. My first child had been a breeze but again Jenni does things in her own time. She wouldn’t stay latched on. Just as my milk began to flow (never a problem for me) she would pull away. Years later when Jenni didn’t want to eat the food I cooked (if I made home-made chili, she would open a can of store bought chili) I remembered her nursing style.
True to this day, Jenni keeps her own counsel and does things in her own time. As a young child Jenni joined the young Christian group at school (I’m a Buddhist), she loved fashion, make-up and hair products (I was a hippie and love back-to-the-earth ideals), and always preferred to eat out (I love to cook from scratch). As she has matured Jenni has embraced the values I hold dear, but has made them her own. Always unique to herself and in her own time.