Saturday, August 23, 2008

Part 4: Birth Memories

Third, we joyfully meditate on Jesus’ birth – the Nativity: Because of a ruling from the government, each family is required to return to their ancestral home for a census. Joseph (and we presume Mary as St. Luke intimates) can trace lineage to King David as an ancestor. So they travel to the village of Bethlehem, where the great king was born.

The Holy Family’s journey to Bethlehem comes about at the very time when Jesus is due to be born. The crowds and their poverty result in Mary and Joseph finding lodging only in a stable – in a cave with animals all around. The Holy Child’s first bed is made of the hay meant for the animals to eat.

Although most people around pay little heed to His birth, those we would least expect come to honor Him: shepherds from the surrounding fields, and some mysterious visitors from eastern lands.

In the end, however, the Family is forced to flee to Egypt because King Herod wants Him dead.

Both St. Matthew and St. Luke weave the story of Jesus’ birth.

As I meditated on the birth of God’s son, I found myself thinking about our own eldest son’s arrival in the world.

Since I recently healed from the ravages of endometriosis, my health was at its best when I became pregnant. Further, our diet was still top notch. I sailed through my first pregnancy with very little difficulty beyond those which come from the drastic changes in the structure of a body over such a short time.

We knew we wanted our birth experience to be as natural as possible, given my hyper sensitivity to various chemicals. Our new baby deserved the best start we could offer, too.

I was delighted to find a doctor within walking distance of our apartment. The group he belonged to had a birthing room, which offered promise of minimal medical intervention, but proximity to medical facilities -- in case of an emergency.

Full of optimism, I strolled to the doctor’s office for my first prenatal visit.

First, the necessary tests confirmed the pregnancy.

The doctor’s examination was a bit disappointing, as he barely spoke to me, dictating notes to the attending nurse. Some of his observations seemed trivial and irrelevant.

His only direct interaction with me was to ask: “Any nausea or morning sickness?”

I responded that I felt wonderful. The only nausea I had occurred one day when we headed out to a retreat in Alabama right after work, without stopping for a meal. By the time the two hour drive was over, my stomach hit serious rebellion. Of course, it settled down quickly once we ate our dinner.

“Well,” the doctor replied, barely acknowledging my response. “Here’s a prescription for Bendectin, just in case. There is no reason to be uncomfortable if you don’t have to.”

The following day, the New Orleans Time-Picayune posted an article that Bendectin was under investigation due to its association with birth defects and neurological problems. Needless to say, I never filled the prescription.

Three weeks later, when I was preparing for my next appointment, I got a call informing me that this doctor was no longer with the practice and that I would have to go to their other office in Covington, a 45 minute drive from my home. Later, I found out that my doctor was dismissed for reasons related to alcoholism.

We decided we needed to investigate the whole range of birth alternatives. After a good deal of research into the range of options, home birth emerged as our favorite choice.

That was when we met Dee Ann Dominick, nurse-midwife.

Every three weeks, we spent what seemed like hours waiting to see the doctor, only to spend five minutes in the exam room.

One week, the doctor looked at my chart, found I had gained four pounds (never mind that I had lost five previous to the last visit) and declared that I was gaining too much weight. He advised me to go on a diet. End of exam.

On the other hand, our three week check ups with Dee Ann were filled with information and fellowship. We discussed the biology of pregnancy, nutritional issues, the ins and outs of herbs, family relationships, and on and on.

When I related the ‘weight’ incident to her, she picked up my boney left arm and declared that the man didn’t even look at me. We all had a good laugh.

She delivered our second child, Honnah, as well.

We became fast friends with Dee Ann and her family. Later, Dee Ann took one of my herb classes. Now, that class is listed on her vitae. She became an integral part of our family for the next three years, until we moved to Virginia.

My mother was so excited about the birth of her third grand-baby. She was not sure about this home birth stuff, so scheduled to arrive after the baby was born to help out (and, she declared, to make sure this one got spoiled right from the start).

Arif was due June first in 1983. It seemed like he waited for his grandmother to arrive. We went into labor ten minutes after she walked in the door – at ten o’clock on Sunday night, the sixth. Mom later declared that if she knew what home birth was like, she would have had all six or hers at home.

The labor progressed uneventfully. I actually slept between contractions through the night, waking to breathe through the working phases, then drifting back into a dream-filled haze. In the morning, however, things really picked up. Arif made his entrance to this world an hour before lunch. And he was certainly hungry. He was such an avid nurser, relatives worried that i would have to go to college with him. They wondered if it would be embarrassing for his room mate.

We had all five of our children at home – not in a stable in some far away city. Dee Anne and each subsequent midwife declared ours to be among the easiest births she attended.

Each time, the children were able to attend as much of the birth experience as they found comfortable. Mostly, they got bored and wandered off until after Baby was born and ready to be passed around. We felt the atmosphere of family unity surrounding each sibling’s birth helped to forge strong bonds between them.

I prayed that God would keep those bonds intact as we faced whatever was ahead.

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