The night little Alton arrived was life-changing for all of us. What a night!
Friday felt like the day - the day Monica would go into labor and this “Peanut” would enter the outer world. Maybe because it would have been my mom’s birthday and a bit of me was hoping he might be born in her honor. In the weeks leading up to this day, there had been nervous anticipation. Peanut was found to be breech; sitting upright at a time when upside-down was optimum. Breech babies eliminate home birth as an option so a Peanut-turning was performed, a procedure referred to as “external version”. Not pleasant for Monica but a successful rearrangement of this child meant a home birth was once-again in sight. When Monica called just before eight in the evening on Friday to say her water had broke, I eagerly and anxiously headed that way. My first grandchild was coming and I would be there to welcome him or her into existence.
Beautiful Violet, Monica's friend and doula, had already accompanied a neighborhood stroll earlier in the day and when I arrived, it was clear the birthing was moving along nicely. Contractions that had actually begun gently in the morning were becoming more earnest and uncomfortable. The first of the two midwives arrived and did an exam to see how things were progressing and, although Monica was feeling the need to push, the exam told the midwife it was not yet time for that. As another contraction began, Violet told Monica she should “blow” this one off and I laughed. For the men out there, you’ll have to take my word that someone TELLING you NOT to push during childbirth does nothing and it just angers the bear. . Monica laughed, too, because she had heard my story of a once-upon-a-time labor when a nurse named Shelly told me to “blow it off” and I responded with “YOU blow it off, Shell....”.
When the need to push began, I had called Monica’s sisters who also intended to attend the birth. They gathered up Papa and the three of them sat dutifully in the living-/waiting- room muffling the sounds of labor with the umteenth viewing of Lion King, reciting dialogue and joking to calm their nerves. Mark did not like hearing his daughter yell through labor pains and really didn’t plan to “see” the birth up close but he did want to be nearby. As mom, the moans were also difficult to hear and not be able to help. This child whom I had nurtured through the pains of youth was now an adult - an adult with an adult partner who was doing an admirable job of calming and soothing. My experience was useless in this situation as the “hee hee hoos” of my long-past birthing experiences have been replaced with “huh huh huh” and I hesitated to offer suggestions that would confuse at an already stressful time. I could press on the small of her back to help her through the “back labor” I recognized and presumed I was helping since my had was not swatted away. I could rest my hand gently on a foot, being careful not to agitate already over-stimulated nerve endings. I could fetch cool washclothes and respond to the midwives. I could not take away my child’s pain. Not this time.
Several hours passed. It was well past my bedtime in the range of “Jay Leno is over why is the TV still on”.... As it approached two in the morning, the midwives once again examined and discussed and eventually made the decision that this party should move to the hospital to be safe. This birthing was going to Mad River; we were in Myrtletown. Mark decided he was best qualified to “drive the ambulance” and commandeered Gloria’s (my old) xB since the doors opened wide and it sat lower making the loading of a birthing mother easier, a selling point that Scion should consider in their marketing. He launched from the front lawn with a midwife, Daddy Gabe and Monica, yelling with contractions every few minutes.
Five cars left that neighborhood at 2:15 in the morning,. After hanging back to check the door, I found myself alone and jumped into my car after everyone else had driven off. I felt sure I would hit Myrtle just about the time they all passed by but, when I reached the stop sign, I looked both directions and saw NO headlights, no tail lights. Wha....? I turned right, feeling sure I would see the caravan as I progressed but there were NO cars on the road that I could see. I was pretty sure I knew where we were headed so I would catch up to them on the highway....As I entered northbound 101 at V Street....no cars in sight. Still.
I really hoped I knew where I was going. Surely I would find them once I entered the “corridor” where the speed limit was 50. I glanced at my clock and saw 2:23 and thought sure I would be pulled over by cops on “bars are closed” patrol but no CHP were visible nor were there tail lights to be seen for miles ahead.
Eventually, I pulled into the Mad River Hospital parking lot, following directions I had only barely listened to weeks earlier when I had asked Monica where the birthing center was. I spotted Hope’s car as she pulled in next to “the ambulance” which, as it turned out, had exceeded the posted limit a bit, in 5 mile-an-hour increments as each contraction came and who had given himself a point after which he had already decided he would NOT stop for flashing lights. He had decided that, once he hit the hospital off ramp, he would put on emergency flashers and let a cop follow him into the hospital. He WOULD. NOT. STOP. Luckily, he didn’t have to resort to that plan and made it with no law enforcement assistance, positive or negative.
The room had been prepared and Monica was hoisted and labor continued. Harder than it should have been. A doctor was brought in to consult. Nurses and midwives fussed. Intravenous lines were run. Heart rates were monitored. Medical personnel spoke in hushed tones. Nothing was tragically wrong but they wanted to be sure all was well with my grandchild. Just in case.
The early pushing was exhausting Monica. She was growing too tired to fight the urge. Options were laid out, the only one of which she wanted to consider - push this baby out without unnatural means. When asked if she wanted anything, she warmly responded, muffled through the oxygen mask, “Yes, get this baby OUT”. In the final hour, the doctor was encouraging the baby’s exit and Hope, who remained in the birthing room, texted her dad with “this is the scariest thing I’ve ever seen...”. I told her she could join Dad and Glo in the waiting room but she likened it to the proverbial train wreck from which you cannot avert your eyes. She would stay.
We encouraged. We “huh huh huh”ed in rhythm and in concert with everyone else in the room when Monica was attempting NOT to do what her body wanted to do. We marveled. The baby’s head began to emerge. "Look"....”Is that really the head?”. “Oh my God”. We cried. We marveled some more. Finally, long past dawn, on the seventh day of the the seventh month but well past the 7:07 of the morning Humboldt Moment, the doctor moved aside and called Gabe into position to catch his child. Gabe came around and giggled as he accepted his son into the world and placed him on Monica’s chest. A boy. “Are you sure?”. Nurse? Somebody? “Yes. It’s a boy”. Holy cow. “I have a son!”. A boy! We have a boy! I have a grandson. Go get Papa - WE have a grandson. Hope and Gloria have a nephew. Alton Chord Gabriel Paredes. Named in honor of Alton Ellis, a pioneer of "rocksteady" music, a Jamaican R&B, of which his parents are particularly fond. Alton is gorgeous!