Open Letter to My Newborn Daughter

First of all, thank you for joining us. It’s been a long 40 weeks and I missed you the whole time you were away. This is made more odd (and hence affecting) by the fact that I’d never met you, and was going off of grainy black and white pictures that made you look like an alien half the time. The other half of the time, we could see glimpses, tantalizing snapshots of how you would look:¬†how long your hair was, how big your cheeks were, your eyes. All of these did nothing to make that missing any less keen, or the waiting take any less time.

Last Wednesday evening, your mother and I (we weren’t quite your parents at that point) checked into the hospital and dressed on our comfiest clothes. She took a pill, intended to hasten the inevitable labor, and we settled in for the night. The nurses woke her up at 1am and gave her a second pill. That’s when the contractions started. They got worse, and I watched her try to breathe through it. We did everything they told us to do in the classes; we walked the halls, we got in a warm shower, we sat on the exercise ball. Throughout it all, I felt powerless to prevent her pain, to relieve it, or to even help her face it. She was trying so hard, her shoulders and chin shaking like she was caught in a blizzard (while I sat inside and watched). She threw up. Her water broke. We were spent.

Your aunt Stephanie came, and thank God she did. She had insight, she had techniques, and she was able to give permission to your mother. Permission to take care of herself, to get an epidural. The quieted things down a lot, and we all got some sleep. In Sudan, where I’m from, where mama Sameira is from, where you’re from in the end, they call it the sleep of the rooster on the clothes line. Falling off, waking up, falling asleep, falling off. In the light of day, I looked at what was to come and it seemed daunting.

Your mother wasn’t moving much, which turns to to be a good thing, because when she did move finally, we were treated to the sight of three nurses busting into the room. They shifted her from left to right, right to left, frantically and in silence. They stared at the monitors that had been on her all night and they seemed worried. Your heart rate was dropping, from 140 to 70, and that was scaring them. You finally stabilized, on your mother’s left side. They explained that they’d been monitoring and hadn’t had time to talk us through it. That’s how worried they were … but you were fine now.

And that’s how it stayed, for a while. Your heart rate was strong, but dipping with contractions as it should have been. Until they came in again, this time the dips in the heart rate were coming a bit late. The doctor was concerned, she said you were getting tired, that maybe your umbilical cord was wrapped around your neck. She was thinking that we might have to get a Caesarean. The ‘C’ word scared me, and it scared your mother. She was getting sore too, and the doctor seemed to know what she was talking about. Thank goodness for the doula. She advocated for you, she asked about options, she asked why we couldn’t do an amnio infusion. The doctor was reluctant but nurse Marion seemed convinced, and she caught up to recommend it be done. In the end, that stabilized you and we could wait for the contractions to be closer together.

A few hours later they still weren’t. Your mother’s back was hurting. We all stood around, or paced, in my case. It was so hard to wait. Nurses and doctors came and went, our lady Ob/Gyn was almost at the end of her shift. More talk of Caesareans, more fear. “If we’re going to push, we need to start NOW,” the doctor said. So we got your mother ready, and she started. I was afraid, so I stayed by her face, trying to stay encouraging, trying to stay strong for her and for you. Your mother, she pushed like a pro. Such strength, such focus. The nurses remarked that she was like a woman who’d done this before. The reports from the business end were encouraging. More and more of your head was appearing in the window, and soon your hair was visible. You did have long hair! Just like the ultrasound technician said! I told your mother to keep going, we were nearly there. Time dilated, you crowned, we cajoled, we encouraged. I looked at your mother’s face, I looked down, I looked at her face, I looked and there you were. Welcome, tiny rhino, we’re so glad you could be here.

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