Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Arrival of Sarah H. Elizabeth

We found out that Sarah Elizabeth was on the way last December. The pregnancy was somewhat eventful. In the spring, Debi had a scare when pre-cancer cells were found in a routine exam. Miraculously, these cells disappeared a couple of months later.

Later, toward the end of the pregnancy, Debi’s blood pressure trended high. This necessitated numerous extra trips to both the doctor and the hospital, including one middle-of-the-night trip to the triage center at the birthing hospital. The doctor’s continually threatened to deliver Sarah earlier than the planned c-section date of July 28.

The final nail-biter was not health related. Continuing a tradition of almost not being at the birth, I planned to work until Sunday, July 27, and then come home for the birth the next day. I pre-arranged this with the company before starting that week’s tour.

On Saturday, July 26, our aircraft developed a fuel leak that grounded us in the tiny town of Easton on the eastern shore of Maryland. The company said that they would get me out the next day because they needed me to stay with the airplane just in case something came up with another Sovereign that also happened to be in Easton.

Sunday morning came and I called to check on my trip home. I was told that they were working on it and should have something in a couple of hours. Two hours came and went with no word. I called back and found that somehow my name had been dropped from the list of crewmembers traveling home.

A few minutes later, I received a frantic phone call from the travel office telling me to start heading toward the Baltimore airport, which was 90 minutes away. I called a taxi and, by the time he got there, I had a flight on Air Tran at 4:30 pm. It was now 2:00 pm.

The taxi driver scrambled toward BWI. As we approached the airport, the weather deteriorated. We went through one thunderstorm so heavy that it was difficult to see the road. When we finally arrived at BWI, I had less than an hour to check in and get to the gate.

Even though the Air Tran check-in line moved painfully slow, I quickly learned that my flight was delayed until after 7 pm. This was actually a good thing because, when I finally got to check in, I got the dreaded “SSSS” on my boarding pass. This, of course, denoted me as a selectee for additional TSA screening (in spite of my history as an FFDO and passing three FAA background checks). Several hours later, I finally boarded my flight to Atlanta. By the time I arrived, collected my bag, and drove home, it was Monday.

About five hours after that, the alarm went off. Debi actually woke up before the alarm. She had not dreamed about the baby for the whole pregnancy, but that night, she dreamed that she saw Sarah. In the dream, she looked a lot like Baby Ethan, but with gray eyes and a round face. The only time that I dreamed about Sarah, she was a toddler with shoulder-length, frizzy red hair. She looked like a baby Carrot Top.

So off we went. Debi was a good sport, when I stopped to get a biscuit. She couldn’t eat before the surgery, but I was hungry after my adventures the previous day. We pulled into Cobb Hospital in Austell, Georgia right on schedule around 7 am.

Debi checked in and got her ID bracelet, then they sent her up to the second floor. She marched to the nurse’s desk and proclaimed something to the effect of “I’m here to have a baby. Let’s get started!”

The nurses were a bit surprised at her enthusiasm, and took her into the pre-op area. They put in the IV and started going over the medical history forms. Debi put on a hospital gown and I put on scrubs. It was much more relaxed and less hurried than our experience with Ethan. I got a real kick out of the questionnaire that asked, “Do you think you might be pregnant?” As a last second thought, Debi told me to grab our camera.

The doctor, Scott Reynolds, showed up early and I joked that he must have a tee time that he had to make later. Everything was all set so the doctor decided to get started early. They wheeled Debi into the operating room and told me to cool my heels until they called for me. I remembered my experience with Ethan’s birth in which I sat my chair leg on an apparently very important cord in the operating room and vowed not to repeat it.

At long last, I was summoned into the operating room. Very carefully, I made my way up to Debi’s head. I congratulated myself when no alarms sounded. Shortly after, they started making the incision. I didn’t see this before, and noted that it was made with some sort of burning instrument. Debi noted it as well. She could tell that they were cutting and said so. Since she didn’t seem to be in pain, the doctors said that she would feel some pulling and prodding.

It wasn’t long before I heard Sarah cry. She cried before she was ever pulled out. When I finally saw her, the first thing that struck me was how long her toes were. The second thing I noticed was that she looked like Ethan. I remember the doctor saying that Sarah had made her first bowel movement as she was being born.

The medical people took her to a small table to check her out. Debi asked if I could cut the cord. I think that she was thinking more clearly than I was, because, like the camera, this had not occurred to me. I did cut the cord and a nurse took a picture of me doing so.

The next item of business was to let Debi see Sarah. They put the two of them together and another nurse snapped pictures of them with their heads together. Debi immediately noted that Sarah looked just as she had appeared in her dream that morning.

Then it was time to take Sarah to post-op. Debi asked me to go with her and I did. The respiratory specialist noted that she was making sounds like singing, which was actually fluid in her lungs. They put a mask on her and he tapped her back to expel the fluid. This made me flash back to my only surgery. After it was complete, I developed pneumonia and had to have a respiratory person beat on my back for several days.
I called the grandparents from the post-op room and let them hear their new granddaughter for the first time. By then, Debi was being wheeled out. She got to hold Sarah and I took their picture together again.

Gammy and Papa called to say that they were on the way with Ethan. They said that Ethan wanted to be there when she was born, in spite of the fact he cried when he saw Debi give a blood sample and threw up when he saw me get a shot. Oops. We thought we had prepared for every eventuality, but not that one! We finally explained to him that we needed to go ahead and let Sarah be born so that he could see her when he got to the hospital.

When we got to the room, the Mimi and Pops were in the waiting room. I took them to the room to see little Sarah and her mom. Gammy, Papa, and Aunt Genea arrived with Ethan a short time later. The first thing Ethan asked me was, “Did you tell the doctors I want to be an army man when I grow up?” I told him no, that he could tell them himself.

The second thing he asked me was, “Why are you a doctor?” I still had on my scrubs. And I must say, I did look a bit like George Clooney. At least in my own mind, I did.

From the very first moment, Ethan fell in love with his little sister. He wanted to hold her and hold her. He also wanted to pick her up and carry her. We drew the line at holding her, and he did that well. To distract him a little, Sarah gave him a gift of Revolutionary War army men and Lego army trucks. They say you can’t buy love, but a little bribe never hurts.

Times have changed. There was wireless internet in the hospital room, so I was able to email birth announcements and photos almost immediately. A small point of contention arose when I headlined the announcement with my chosen nickname for the baby: Sara Beth. We had agreed on the name Sarah Elizabeth, spelled with an “h.” Everybody thought it was a mistake when I dropped the “h” on the announcement. My point of view was that Sara Beth is a nickname and you can spell it more efficiently. We finally compromised that the spelling for the nickname would be “Sarah Beth.”

When I say “we,” I mean Debi and myself. Ethan did not like the nickname. To him, her name was “Sarah Elizabeth” and it was not going to be shortened. He liked the “h” too. At one point, he told me in no uncertain terms that her name was “Sarah H. Elizabeth.”

That afternoon, when it was time for Ethan to go home with his grandparents, it came as quite a surprise to him that Sarah would be staying in the hospital with Mama and Daddy. He was really upset that he had to go home without her. It took several attempts to explain to him that his little sister would be home in a couple of days. Even then, he still didn’t like it.

Sarah slept pretty well that night. After so much excitement on about five hours of sleep, so did I.

Debi’s pain continued for the next couple of days. Finally, on Tuesday night, alarms kept going off on some of the medical equipment. The nurses examined the epidural, which had been left in for pain control. After something leaked onto the bed, one of them finally noticed that the epidural line was kinked and that much of the medicine was not going to Debi. The pain and pressure that she felt during the c-section were not her imagination.

After the epidural was removed, things improved. Debi got up and around. Sarah learned to nurse. On Wednesday, we were finally cleared to go home. We dressed Sarah in the same pink outfit that Debi had worn when she went home from the hospital as a baby.

Since Debi had craved barbecue during the entire pregnancy and a Sonny’s was located beside the hospital, Sarah Beth made her public debut at the Sonny’s Barbecue in Austell, Georgia. She slept through the entire visit.

When we arrived at home, Ethan once again lavished hugs and kisses on Sarah. At one point, he surprised, and frightened, everyone when he walked over to her crib, reached inside, and picked her up. He was quickly and sternly instructed not to do that again.

Sarah Beth settled into a routine of sleeping, eating, and pooping. Frequently, she did more than one at a time. Occasionally, she did all three at the same time.

The routine was broken by a checkup with her new pediatrician. The doctor noticed a dimple on her rump that she examined closely. She informed us that this dimple was nothing to worry about, but that it was very similar to spina bifida. We thanked God that she was healthy.

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