the new babe arrives...
As I write this post, I am sitting in a house on top of the Rift Valley escarpment, looking down into the valley below, the view of Mt. Longonot, the grasslands of the lower plains dotted with trees and villages and life that continues on day after day…. and as I asked in the last post that my heart be stretched with gratitude, today, I reflect my heart is full. I have been stretched and filled with so many things in the past few weeks, with wonder, thankfulness, peace and joy.
I sit beside my newborn daughter, days old, sucking and puckering her lips in sleep, wrinkling her brows and wiggling her new toes, and I marvel how lucky we are to have her, Eve, “life”. It was not an anticipated birth, in theory we had it all planned out, and even accounted for an early and precipitous arrival, but well, we can never account for all the possibilities out there. I was hanging on for turkey dinner at Mayfield guesthouse. It was November 27th, and from the early morning hours I smelled turkey cooking… turkey is quite rare and precious here in Kenya for us hard core Canadian ‘feasters’. There was to be real thanksgiving turkey to be served at noon (in honour of the US holiday) with jello and stuffing and sweet rolls. I daren’t tell Jay that I woke up to some signs of labour. But as the morning pressed on, I realized it was only due diligence to get a check up. I was 35 weeks + 2days, and not quite ready for the arrival of another new little Callaghan. I spent the morning with Jay at the Nairobi Hospital waiting for assessment and an ultrasound in somewhat of denial as I happily sipped my Java house coffee and ate my almond croissant that Jay was more than happy to get if it meant he could escape the hospital room for a few moments. The young doctor concurred that labour was upon us, and it would only be a matter of time until delivery. I put my coffee down,- with flashbacks of ‘natural’ labour. There would be no usual assistance with epidural anesthesia (in my last labour I literally told the anesthetist he was my, “new best friend”. I also sent him a “Tim’s coffee card” ). Our decision to deliver at the Kijabe Mission Hospital in part was influenced by the thought that I might have some time to sweet talk the anesthetist into making a Christmas epidural exception for a pathetic labouring woman. No time for sweet talk…. meant no epidural. The doctor at Nairobi Hospital gave us enough time to get to Kijabe an hour away. the only thing standing in the way of a delivery was the turkey dinner at Mayfield. The kids had been looking forward to this dinner for months. We booked our dates into the city corresponding to roasted bird and pumpkin pie, I would not let them down….
As the kids and I stuffed our faces with turkey dinner, Jay stuffed the car full of our suitcases. We hastily sped off to Kijabe and sat in Nairobi traffic. The drive from Nairobi to Kijabe is probably one of the most precarious and beautiful drives you can make in the country. The escarpment of the Rift Valley unfolds and drops off to your left, as you battle your way dodging matatus and Toyota Landcruisers who are playing ‘chicken’ passing each other against the flow of oncoming traffic on a narrow road. As we make our turn off to Kijabe, the road leading down to the hospital is perhaps the worst road in Kenya. In fact, I heard there was an article on the high numbers of women who give birth on this road never quite making it to the hospital. There are potholes with potholes. There is a corner as you wind your way down the mountain, where our children squeeze their eyes shut as the road narrows and looms dangerously close to the edge, a boulder seems to be the only structure that keeps us on the road and not tumbling over the side. We make it, barely and drive to Dr. Pete and Libby’s house. We are met by friendly familiar faces and our children leap out of the car while Jay takes me down to the hospital, the kids unconcerned with the drama of delivery, just happy they are not tossing and bumping any longer. Dr. Pete with a wheelchair at the ready drives me to consult with the OBGYN. Admission leaves me sitting in a 6 bed ward listening to the music of labouring mother’s calling out, screeching. It is rather a cultural shift for me to be privy to the labours of others so open about the room. I am not sure if it is comforting or distressing. I seem to be the quiet white girl in the corner content to lie on the bed with her knitting. A few stares a few smiles as we share a moment of collective motherhood. The cell phone phenomenon here, means that every one has a cell at their side, ringing quite loudly and often with a variation of dance and praise music. Add a revolving flashing light and it would be a mini disco with mama’s moving, music blaring and the occasional ear-piercing scream (followed by an infant squeal). Thankfully my friend Katy at the bedside brings a smile, chai and some BBC Food magazines. I sip the chai between random contractions that are rather mild in the early labour euphoria.
A turn for the worst… and the best….
So in the midst of our small talk and chatting there is a wild shift to the easy labour. Abruption, which in medical terms translates to, “uh oh”. Fast forward to the events following. Jay who had been checking on the kids rushes back, looking at his face, the doctor’s calm and my friend’s distress as the baby’s heart rate dips and dives, I realize that things are going terribly wrong. A whirlwind to the OR, funny the things you remember. Taking of rings, and necklaces, looking at the sterile lights of the OR, watching the green mackintosh being put up as a screen before me, feeling the cold of the surgical prep, the warm of the blankets, the upside down face of the anesthetist looking down, the particular shade of blue of their scrub cap, looking out the OR door windows for any vision of Jay. I did, in the midst of it all, make my request of an epidural… debated about a spinal until I reluctantly accepted general anesthetic and the quiet, warm blackness that follows.
Awaken I think to Jay, he looks funny with green gown and cap on. A smile on his face. “how’s the baby?” I asked, “She’s great”. Thankful tears. sigh, eyes close again. It was a few hours later before I got to see Eve. Eve which means “life” and middle name of Violet as Jay thought she looked so purple when they first met, she would make a great little African violet. 5 lbs 11 oz. beautiful.
And I am resting these days in gratitude, joy and wonder as I look into her face, as I understand the blessing of life, of birth, of family. The kids adore her. Jesse quite possessive regarding her as “HIS baby sister”, Lily had some tears of happiness in those first few moments of meeting, a sister finally! The boys, in their candour and excitement gently touch her tiny fingers as she responds to grip their hands and their hearts. A big brother’s responsibility has begun.
I hear the words of the Christmas song, “All is well” and can echo that indeed all is well for me, for Eve and for the family, and yet knowing deeply that all is well, because of another baby born, because of another child whose name means Life. We are filled with joy and gratitude because we celebrate not only Eve’s arrival but that of Emmanuel.
All is well, all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light
Sing A-le, sing Alleluia
All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on Earth
Christ has come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le, sing Alleluia
All is well, all is well
Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia, sing Alleluia, all is well
Michael W. Smith –