Monday, May 25, 2009


It was December 3, 2000 when I carefully packed my video camera into the over-the-shoulder carrying case and made certain the extra, newly-charged battery was in its appropriate pouch. Extra battery? Check. Extra tapes? Check. Cord, just in case? Check. I was loaded and ready for this extra special event I had been commissioned to document. I have almost always been the designated family historian. My niece is usually my backup, but this was her event and she was going to be, well, very busy and preoccupied with other duties for this one; so I got in my car and made my way toward Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia for this happy and joyous occasion. My youngest niece had finally gone into labor with her first child.

I pulled into the visitors' parking lot and looked up at the big, white building where the event was already in progress without me. I was nervously hoping and praying that all would go well and we would soon have a healthy new addition to the family to dote on and spoil. I grabbed my purse and camera bag and hurried toward the automatic doors at the front entrance, tugging at the camera bag as it fought to slip off my sloped shoulder a hundred times. In the Maternity Ward, I inquired at the nurses' station and was directed to the room in which I could find my niece. She, her husband and my sister were already there and the pacing and fingernail chewing had already begun.

I dutifully documented the birthing room as I entered. A hospital-issue baby crib was on my right as I came through the door. Laying on the soft crib bedding was a baseball cap with "Doctors Hospital" emblazoned across the front. I assumed it was for the new, proud papa. As my lens swept the room it captured the decorator's attempt to fashion a cozy and homey atmosphere in a sterile environment. An oversized stuffed chair occupied one corner near the bed where my niece lay attached to whirring, clicking and beeping machines that monitored her various vital signs. My sister stood next to the bed as I made my way in and they both looked toward me and smiled. My niece's smile was warm, but weary. She had already been in labor for eight hours.

Nurses and doctors made their way in several times to check her vitals and her dilation progress. Things were not progressing as expected. She had dilated to a certain point and hadn't made the progression normally expected, so they gave her Pitocin to speed up the labor. It didn't work as expected. Finally, the doctor came in for another progress check and, after about 18 hours of labor, talked to my niece and her husband about the choices facing them. They could either let things continue for a few more hours and hope for some progress soon, or opt for an unexpected C-Section. The doctor felt the C-Section was the best option, as she did not anticipate any further progress in dilation. She left the room and left my niece and her husband to make the decision in private. It didn't take long for a decision to be reached. A C-Section it would be. It was not quite the birthing experience we were all expecting, but a necessary decision, nonetheless.

The doctor came back into the room a few minutes later and was informed that the C-Section was option A. She turned to my nephew-in-law and asked him if he would be accompanying her into surgery. His face turned ashen as his six-foot frame, draped in hospital cap, gown and booties, backed against the wall. "I'm not going in there!" he said. It was a final decision. My sister turned to my niece and asked her if she would like her to go in with her. "No, Mama," she said, "they only need one patient at a time to deal with." Sis doesn't do blood very well. The last thing they needed to deal with during the surgery was a fainted mother. I asked her if she would like me to go in with her and she said yes. Wow! I was going to go in and witness the birth of my brand new great-nephew or niece from a perspective I was so not anticipating! You see, sonograms had been inconclusive, so we still didn't know if it was a boy or girl.

They came in and did the epidural and whisked her away to prep her for surgery. In the meantime, I had been informed I would not be able to record the birth in the operating room. That was ok with me, as I didn't want to be distracted during the procedure. I was going in to support my niece and help keep her focused and calm. I donned the sexy cap, gown and booties that would clear me for access to the disinfected environment into which I was about to enter. I was nervous and in wonderment at the same time. I had never had children of my own, so I was about to experience childbirth vicariously for the first time in my life.

I watched the entire process in awe. They had my nieces arms splayed from her sides on narrow boards and I grasped her cold, shaking hand as I took in the experience. She was frightened and nervous. This was her first childbirth, too. A doctor moved into my line of sight and I could tell she was pushing down on the baby to force it into the alternate way out they had provided. As quickly as she had moved into my way, she moved back over to the side and I saw a moist head full of black hair come into view over the green surgery drape that rested on my niece's swollen belly. The doctor grasped the infant and raised it high above the belly and the umbilical cord stretched down into places I could not see.

Holding my breath, and forgetting the cold, nervous hand I held in mine I saw my nephew for the first time. "It's a boy, Becky! You have a son!" I said with a choked voice. I know she responded, but to be honest, I couldn't tell you what she said. The new baby boy squalled out for the first time. What a sweet sound!! It was 9:53pm.

He was being held butt-up and I noticed a stream of clear liquid spilling down onto the drape. "Oh! He's peeing!" I said with a laugh. "Are you sure he's peeing?" one of the operating team asked me. "Oh, yes, he's definitely peeing," I responded. One of the nurses began to make notes to indicate the baby's water works seemed to be in proper working order.

They whisked Baby Boy to a corner of the room and began poking and prodding every crevice and body cavity as they put goo in his eyes and syringed his mouth and nose. In the meantime, they began cleaning up my niece and putting her pieces back where they went. I'll spare you the details, *smile*, but I watched it all.

They finally left the room with the baby and my niece was doing well and the relief was apparent on her face, and probably mine, as well. She was a new mother now and would be facing new challenges and responsibilities. I was proud of her. And she had allowed me to experience one of the most awe-inspiring miracles I have ever witnessed in my life. It was an experience that is forever in my heart and one I will never, ever forget.

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