Today is Thursday, January 27th, 2011. One week ago today, at 9:49 AM, I was sitting in the hospital, on a gurney pulled into a Labor and Delivery room just two hours before. I was basking in the glow and body warmth of our tiny little miracle, together with my supporter and best friend. Tamar Martha came to us with gusto. Living up to her name, she demonstrated strength in her entry to this world.
She was born on a Thursday morning in Yokosuka, Japan. The night before she came, I had awoken several times to go to the bathroom, more than was typical for me, even at 39 weeks pregnant. I had felt a slight crampy discomfort a few times and wrote it off to the spicy food I had eaten the night before and a long walk David and I had taken to get home from dinner at a friend’s house on base.
At my 4 am awakening however, I began to notice a pattern. Surges of cramping and relief. So, by 4:15AM, I thought I better start counting and timing them. Using an iPhone App, I began to hit START and STOP to the pattern of the surges. I fell into the breathing and relaxation that I had practiced, and I focused all my efforts on relaxing through the surges.
At 5:15 am, David’s alarm clock went off, and a few minutes later, he was awake beside me. He noticed my deep breathing, and asked if everything was OK, to which I responded that it was. He leaned toward me, as is common each morning, to soak in one last moment of togetherness and body heat. As soon as he touched me, I whispered with haste and a shocking strength, “Please don’t.”
At those words, he knew this morning was different. As I laid and continued the START and STOP of the program, he jumped up and into the shower to get ready for the day—for work he thought, or maybe something else. He asked if he should stay home. I recommended that he just take the car to work so I could call him if labor had progressed and he could more easily make his way home to get me. I was hungry, so he offered to make breakfast—scrambled eggs and OJ was the order.
While David worked on breakfast, I continued to lay and breath and count. Moments later, however, I got the overwhelming urge to use the bathroom. I hopped up between surges, and taking my iPhone with me, sat in the bathroom. Perhaps it is too much information, but to stay accurate, I must record that I emptied my insides that moment. Everything within me, besides the baby, was relieved into the toilet. There was some minor relief in that, yet it also brought on strong surges that took deeper, stronger, more focused breathing to relax.
Several minutes later, David appeared with the breakfast I had asked for. He assessed the situation, and with some uncertainty, offered the eggs. I refused them with a new sense of disgust, to which he humbly responded. As he returned to the kitchen to scarf down his own breakfast, he simultaneously made the decision to stay home with me.
At 6:26 AM, he sent out messages to his boss and co-workers, finished his eggs, and returned to me.
Still in the bathroom, I was grateful for his reappearance, and not wanting to spend the rest of the day there (though it did offer some relief from the pressure), he helped me to the bed and turned on the heater. Though I anticipated it would be a welcoming respite, my body strongly resisted the bed, telling me not to enter it.
So, I assumed a position beside the bed—standing, leaning over the edge of the bed, using my arms to support my torso. And there, I labored. Still marking the START and STOP of the surges, they came with greater intensity, though never more than a minute long. And, slowly, they crept closer together. David, hearing the now low moans emanating in waves, was filled with a sense of fear and uncertainty, paralleled with resolve and strength. He went into action. He gathered our “go” bag and other items and then made the first trip down to the car. He retrieved it from the parking structure and pulled it around out front. It was now ready to transport us the 35-minute drive to the US Naval Hospital on the base in Yokosuka.
When he returned from outside, he found me in the same place—standing over the bed—but with increasingly louder and stronger moans. My sensations were skyrocketing. I began to think that perhaps I was not as tough or prepared for this as I had thought I was. If I was in for ten more hours of this, I was not sure I could handle it—because, based on the time, I must only be at the beginning of the Active phase of Stage I labor.
Based on the signs of my body, however, I was in Transition. And then, I felt what I thought to be crowning. Being my first, what do I really know about the feeling of crowning, so perhaps it was the sensation of dilation?
“We Have GOT to Go.”
Either way, when David returned to my side, I propelled an urgent whisper, “We have got to go.” He watched me, with a sense of helplessness, vomit the cranberry juice I had chosen in place of the eggs. Resisting his own uncertainty, he filled himself with genuine support and confidence and encouraged me—I was doing great, I was going to make it, I was strong. The strength of his support sustained me.
Then, having gathered all of our labor and post-partum necessities, David grabbed my boots and brought them to me. Seeing that I could not possibly put them on with my own efforts, he helped me into them. Still feeling the crowning sensation, I reached my hand to my crotch, and I felt something—something soft and squishy—and with the next surge, my water broke. David scrambled to get a towel for the floor and one for the car ride. Wet from the waist down, I repeated, “We have got to go.”
The trek to the car was dreadfully slow. From the bedside, I moved between surges. I made it to the hall before I fell to my knees, David beside me. The surges were intense and the sensation below disarming. I crawled to the front door, pausing with each elevating surge. Filled with a slight sense of terror, I repeated, “We have got to go.”
At the end of the next surge, I forced myself to my feet and out the door. David followed, carrying two large bags. From my perspective, I sprinted to the elevator, while from David’s perspective behind me, he observed a laboring waddle. Another surge came upon me as we reached our lobby. The ceiling is vaulted, the walls are tiled, so I used everything in me to stifle the moan.
We crossed paths with only one other mansion resident, to which David politely responded, “Ohaiyo Gozaimasu,” (Good Morning) as I suppressed my moan and thought about my wet pants. Outside the car, I threw down the towel on the seat and worked through one more surge. Then, we were off.
The Drive to The Hospital
At 7:19 AM, I dialed and David talked to the corpsman that answered the phone of the Labor and Delivery floor at the US Navy Hospital. They knew we were on our way. Driving safely, with focus and uncharacteristic speed, David concentrated on the drive and getting us there. He sensed the urgency. I sat on my right side, leaning up against David’s shoulder as he drove. Still timing my contractions, I was fully engulfed in the focus it took to relax through each one. I barely noticed nor remember the drive. I felt safe and supported up against my husband and my friend. Between surges, I sent out text messages to our family—copy and paste, copy and paste—“In labor. On way to hospital.”
Swiftly and politely, David slowed and paid two tolls along the way. And, I concentrated on our baby. After a welcomed break in the surges, strong sensations told my body to push, and with a scared resolve, supported by my own whispered and repeated prayers, I resisted, telling my body to relax instead—“Please God, Help God, Please God, Help God.” And, talking to my body during a surge, I reminded it, that now was not the time—“No, no, no, no, no,” are the whispers my husband heard, and he knew the time was near.
We Made It!
Traffic was thankfully light, and by 7:40 AM, David approached the gate to the base. The gate guard spied me in the car, and before he could threaten to ask for my ID card, David let him know I was in labor. He motioned us through. Moments later, we were in the circular drive outside of the hospital. David ran into the Quarterdeck, hurriedly requested a wheelchair, and asked them to contact Labor and Delivery.
He returned to me, affirming that a wheelchair was on its way. “That’s not going to work,” I responded. Without question, he turned with a greater sense of urgency and requested a gurney be brought out. In those moments, our baby decided to enter the world. No longer could I resist the urges and messages sent so strongly by my body. Perhaps, I let down my guard, knowing we had made it, or perhaps this would have been the moment no matter where we were.
Either way, I could no longer relax the strong, self-propelling movement of my uterus muscles, and our baby’s head was born. When David returned, he leaned in to reassure me that help was on its way. “I’m scared, I’m so scared, David. Pray for our baby, that it’s safe…our baby is here.” Somewhere between horrified and perplexed, David reached down, and through my red and completely soaked sweatpants, he felt our baby’s head, entirely out of my body.
David sprung into action. “We have to get your pants off,” he said. “My boots, my boots,” was all I could reply. Unfastening my boots at my insistence, he then pulled down my pants. As he did, the shocking sensation overtook me; our baby was entering the world, right now.
“Catch the Baby, Catch the Baby!”
Like a centerfielder calling a fly ball, David responded, “I’ve got the baby. I’ve got the baby.” And there, outside the hospital, in the passenger seat of the car, leaning on my side, our baby was born into my husband’s arms. He caught our precious baby. And in the cold of the January air, our baby cried. Relief overwhelmed me—our baby was crying.
David reassured me with his shaky but confident words, “The baby is here, the baby is strong, the baby is doing well.” “What is it?” I asked from within the car, and David, stunned by the surreality of the moment, looked down at our baby—“It’s a girl!” And, for 10 seconds, we were alone—the three of us together, our family—David and I and our baby girl. We think it was about 7:45AM, but at the time, no one looked at a clock—time seemed to be suspended.
The slow motion moment of our family togetherness faded into reality as a team of people poured out of the hospital—ER and OB physicians and staff. Immediately, they were in action. The OB physician (Quezada) had been scrubbed in to perform a scheduled c-section, so with our call, he came down in his surgical cap, bearing all his instruments. He took the lead. Encouraging David that he was doing a great job holding his new baby girl, the physician clamped and cut her umbilical cord. At the same time, a pediatrician (Foster) was walking by on the way back from a meeting, carrying his coffee and curious about the hectic activities outside the hospital’s front door.
Seeing David holding our crying, pink baby in 35-degree weather, he set his coffee aside to grab our little one with warm towels. He, along with David, carried her immediately upstairs to the Labor and Delivery floor to warm and assess her. She was healthy in every way. Back at the car, the OB physician turned his attention to me. On the count of three, he and a corpsman lifted me from the car to the gurney. And, before I knew it, I was wheeled into a Labor & Delivery room, still fully clothed (boots and all!) and quite cold. What seemed like moments later, I had delivered the placenta and was regaining warmth.
As the chaos was winding down and the nurse was attempting, with little success, to chart the experience, David returned holding our baby girl. He had stayed with her as she endured the pokes and prods of her initial assessment. He held her hand as she screamed and consoled her during her first moments of life. He continued to ask the doctors when it would be safe for him to bring the baby to her mama. Once she reached 97 degrees, they allowed him to transport her to my room. At about 8:15 AM, David came in the room carrying our little bundle, swaddled up and desperately trying to stay warm. I held her, and quietly soaked in the experience…this is the gift we have been waiting for, amazing and natural, all at once.
They warmed her under the heat lamps placed next to my bed for a few more minutes until a young corpsman suggested kangaroo warming may be the best remedy for both of us. I was relieved at the idea, and moments later, our little baby was on my chest, finishing warming up and attempting to get her first meal. She had no problems latching and both of us seemed instantly warm. I am not sure what goes through an infant’s mind in the traumatic moments after birth, but at that moment all her physical needs were met, she was warm, comforted, and fed. David snapped a few photos on his iPhone and was right beside us during the entire progression.
We were a family. We are a family.
David & Becky Hammond
Love birth stories? Here’s another: Loving Someone Rare: Lydia’s Birth Story