Curtis Autery, pretty ok husband, dad, and software writer.

Adelaide

Adelaide Lenora Allerding
October 14, 2011 4:20am
6lbs 12oz, 19.5"

As I mentioned a while back, my wife and I decided to have a baby. It's an easy time for us to have a baby, because I have a stable job, I'm still young enough and healthy enough, our marriage is strong, Liberty and I agree on most things, and Liberty has a strong support network of family and friends. It's a hard time for us to have a baby because I am no longer happy working corporate IT, or living in Ohio, Liberty is unemployed and has a mountain of student loan debt, the house is falling apart, and although I'm healthy now at 40, I'm worried about what my health will be in 10 years at 50. The more I dwell on these negatives, in fact, the grayer my hair seems to get.

In our shared opinion, the easy outweighed the hard, but if we didn't think that was so, we probably would have had a baby anyway. Because we both love babies, and each other, and, you know... come at me, bro. Just bring it, world. Rain some more bad on us and see who's still standing tomorrow.

Liberty was originally due on October 12, according to the pregnancy wheel used by our CHOICE midwife, Audra. We planned to drive down to "The Farm" in Tennessee, home to Ina May Gaskin, and rent one of their birthing cabins for a month and have the baby there. (Even though we are the 99%, as the protest saying goes, and it would have taken more cash than I could comfortably afford, with no guarantee that insurance would cover any of it -- see "come at me, bro" above.) We would see local midwives here at the CHOICE center, and when she seemed close to ready for labor, we would truck on down south to spend a month on The Farm. That was the plan, anyway.

Throughout the pregnancy, Liberty had stomach pains that were pretty severe. She was diagnosed as having H. Pylori, easily treated with some hard core antibiotics whose side effects include birth defects and miscarriages. So instead she suffered the entire pregnancy, nursing her way through the pain with probiotics, red raspberry/nettle tea, and other herbal stomach aids.

Whether a direct result of the stomach problem or coincidental to it, the baby was the wrong size late in the second trimester. The midwives weren't sure if the due date was correct, if a lull in growth was baseline for how Liberty made babies, or if there was a nutrition or development problem. So we did what we had been trying explicitly to avoid: started medicalizing the pregnancy. We got a few ultrasounds over the next month, Liberty started making appointments at the Department of Health for various tests and labwork, and The Farm dropped us as clients.

The last was a bad blow, and Liberty was inconsolable for a few days. "I tried to do everything right," she said during the worst of it. A guy needs to fix things, it's just how we're made, and I could do nothing to either attack the problem or comfort my wife. I still get a little choked up when I think about it.

CHOICE kept us as clients, and the baby made up for lost time over the next few weeks, due either to providence's original plan, or Liberty forcing down food she knew was going to make her feel like hell in a couple hours. As the original due date approached, the baby was the right size, no problems were indicated on ultrasound or blood tests, and we planned for a home birth. Audra and another midwife, Amy, came for a home visit, gave us a kit of baby making stuff including pads to catch blood and stuff, instructions I was to memorize in case we couldn't get help in time ("if the umbilical cord seems looped around the neck..." I was really hoping it wouldn't come down to me being Liberty's only help in delivery), and the ominous infant resuscitation board. Just in case.

Just imagine living with your pregnant wife for a couple months with an infant resuscitation board in your bedroom. Just think about that for a minute.

On Thursday, October 13 at about 10pm, Liberty's behavior changed, and her contractions were visibly making her more uncomfortable than usual. (For those not in the know, pregnant women have contractions pretty much all the time in the third trimester. Not constantly, but most days there will be at least a few, growing in regularity and duration. When this happens, the stomach gets rock hard. It's pretty wild.) Anyway, I figured this was it, so I went down and made some coffee, got re-dressed, and started pitching the idea of calling Audra.

At 11, Liberty made the first call. With a midwife now on standby, Liberty tried to take a warm bath to see if the contractions would pass. I drank my coffee, and went in to check on Scout. She was awake, as we were making plenty of noise. "I think your mom's in labor," I said to her, "this can take a long time, so try to get some rest, and I'll come wake you up if anything interesting happens." Naturally she didn't sleep any more, nor, I'm pretty sure, did she try to.

The bath didn't help. Liberty's pain level got worse, and the contractions got stronger. I made the second call to Audra at about 12:15, as Liberty was reduced to communicating through head nods and shakes. "I think we need you," I said, and hearing Liberty's cries in the background, she said she would get ready and come over. She showed up about a half hour later, and Amy shortly after that.

At about 1:30, I could hear Scout rustling around, and I checked on her again. She wanted to come help. Liberty and the midwives were all OK with her coming in, so she did. Throughout the labor, little Scout was ..and again, I'm choking up just thinking about it... the absolute best that humanity has to offer. She watched quietly, whispered a few questions to Amy, held mom's hand and patted her hair, ran to get water or juice when mom was thirsty, and held it to her mouth so she could drink from the straw if she didn't have a free hand to hold her own cup. I told her later how proud I was of her, and I swear I felt as much love for her then as I did when little Stacey explained to me how the sunset was medicine for the sky.

It was a little scary for Scout, watching her mom in pain, and I geared up to give her the following consoling speech: "Angel, do you see how the midwives faces are all calm and relaxed? They've seen a lot of deliveries before, and they know this is all normal. See how they don't looked worried?" Before I started to say that, though, I looked at their faces. I saw something hiding behind the relaxed expressions. Concern. Worry. The feeling that something isn't right. The problem was that everything seemed to be going normally, but Liberty was in much more pain than she should be. So I withheld my reassuring speech, and waited for the problem to reveal itself.

It did so very soon thereafter. Liberty became completely dilated and effaced, and as soon as she started pushing, the baby's heartbeat dropped to about 80, by my estimate. A midwife pitched her voice low and said softly to the other "that's too low." They gave Liberty oxygen, told her to lie on her left side (I think it was the left side), and try not to push for a minute. The baby's heart rate came back up, but not quite to where it should have been. The next push, the problem was still there. "We might need to go to the hospital," a midwife said.

I put on my socks and shoes, got some socks for Scout and told her to go put them on with her boots, and I ran down to get her a coat. By then, the plan was definite: we would leave for the hospital immediately. Liberty and Amy would ride in the back of my car, Audra would call the hospital, canvas the house, and follow. I helped Liberty, now in pain, scared, and confused ("what's happening?!" a near sob, "what are we doing?") out of the house to the car. Amy barked an order to remove Scout's car seat, which I did, and directed Liberty to get on her hands an knees in the back, which she did. Amy got in beside Liberty and reaffixed the oxygen mask, I got Scout buckled into her car seat in the front, made sure everyone was ready...

And I put the God-damned hammer down.

It was 4 in the morning, and the streets from my house to St. Ann's were nearly vacant. We pulled up to the hospital about 5 minutes after we left the house, including two blown stop signs, a left turn on red, and a 90 in a 45.

Amy went in to get a wheelchair, and I got Liberty out and started walking her to the door. Scout followed along, and had an almost pleasant look to her. Very calm, inquisitive even. "What's all this crazy driving and running to the hospital all about?" The ladies went in together while I parked the car, and by the time I made it in the hospital everyone was gone. I had a brief conversation with the security guard:

"Hey, there was a pregnant woman in a wheelchair..."

While pointing to the elevator, "Second floor."

I got off on the second floor, which on first glance was a ghost town. The receptionist's desk was empty, and the security doors allowing one back to the delivery rooms were closing. I dashed to them and grabbed one before it closed, and slipped into the secure area. I heard the sounds of people around a corner to my right, and headed over that way purposefully, damned near storming up to the nurse's station. "LIBERTY ALLERDING!" If you know me at all, you know that this is completely out of character for me. Yelling at people at a nurse's station is as unlikely a thing to happen as me pushing people out of the way at Disney World... which I also did when I realized 6 year old Stacey wasn't beside me any more. Issues with my kids tend to bring to the surface that testosterone response I'm always suppressing.

Anyway, before I leapt the desk and started rifling through charts, a very nice and polite lady told me where she was, and asked me first to come to the reception area to give them my insurance card, date of birth, and whatnot. She took the information quickly, and I went to the delivery room and caught the last bit of the action: My wife in exactly the position she had been trying to avoid for the entire pregnancy: surrounded by doctors, on a delivery table, legs in stirrups.

Strangely, the delivery at this point was completely uneventful. "Push!", "OK, I have the head, one more!", "Waah!". Adelaide was delivered naturally, all things considered, at 4:20am, a fact that will give all the heads she meets no end of giggles.

The St. Ann's staff was everything I thought they wouldn't be. They were polite, they took our direction (no episiotomy, leave the baby with us instead of taking it to the nursery), they waited for Adelaide to pink up before clamping the umbilical cord, and only offered token resistance when Liberty said not to stitch her tears up. Despite being lit up with testosterone and unable to keep my legs from shaking as I watched, I only said one cross thing to the staff: "She said no, leave it at that."

A side note here: This isn't my story, and while I'm writing it from my point of view, I don't intend for this to look like it was all about me. This is Liberty's story, slowly pushed off the course she had for a pregnancy and labor experience, but nonetheless emerging victorious. She did all the suffering, and my actions, despite their comedic value and reflection of how much I care for Liberty, could have been performed by a chauffeur just as easily. And a personal assistant. And a bodyguard. But still, her story. I'm not the hero, I can just only report what I saw.

We asked to be released from the hospital as soon as we could, which we thought at first was going to involve staying at least 24 hours for observation since the labor was problematic. At this point we realized that Liberty and Scout were wearing nightgowns, and Liberty didn't have her purse or shoes, and no one had a toothbrush. And little Adelaide had no clothes and her car seat was disassembled at the house, since we didn't expect to need it for a while. So I drove home, obeying many more traffic laws than the trip to the hospital, packed up a bag of stuff, put the car seat together, and came back to find that we were being released.

Adelaide's responses were all normal (I think someone said "8, 9, and 9", referring to some reflex/awareness test), the delivery was vaginal with no cutting, and mom was coherent, so there was no reason to keep us. Another plus for St. Ann's in my book: "You seem OK, take off and let us know if you need anything." So, good on them for being more supportive of moms and less interventionist. And good on the ladies at CHOICE who were humble enough to see when more help was needed, but strong enough to continue to advocate for Liberty at the hospital.

Naturally I'm proud of Liberty for enduring both monumental suffering and indignity, and little Adelaide for hanging in there and coming out healthy. But when I think back over the whole affair, my strongest memory is of Scout and a cup of juice held out to her mom, the fearlessness when things started to go wrong, and the excitement at getting to meet her sister.