Once upon a time, my German sister Bianka created this angel-winged American sweater for our new son Ethan. Since I’m not an artsy-craftsy person, this was the only piece of hand-made apparel my son ever got, poor neglected thing.
Many years have passed since he outgrew his auntie’s present. Now the family is preparing for the next generation to be born. Since we live in France yet this new Leon-Liu family member was expected in Austin, Texas, I had to get off my retired duff and travel across the Atlantic. The baby’s due date had been calculated for January 30th, so I planned for an arrival around the 27th. Well, as it turned out, the best-priced ticket for this journey was for January 23. Thinking babies do often arrive earlier than expected, including my own son, it’d be neither here nor there and I might as well get in early. Which I did.
Fortunately, and may there be blessings heaped upon their heads, we have family in Houston, Texas, my port of arrival. These generous cousins not only picked my up from the airport but hosted me for the following week, while we waited for news from Austin. It made no sense for me to rush up to our Texas capital because our daughter-in-law is one of these tough cookie business women, who actually work full time straight up to their due date!
The due date came and went and we waited and waited some more, taking long walks along the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk, hoping “IT” would happen any minute now.
It didn’t. Full stop.
Labor had to be induced in the 42nd week.
While dad-to-be waited with mom-to-be, grandma-to-be paced the hallways,
gaining all sorts of interesting insights into hospital life. For example, did you know that there are scrub dispenser machines, not to mention scrub disposal machines, all of them synched to any given employee’s account, which specifies her or his allowance of professional apparel. The machines tally the dispensed number of scrubs against the returned number for each employee. What if a patient spills an extra dose of blood and gore all over you? Do you get an emergency ‘jail free’ pass for an additional set of scrubs? How strange this world of ours has become when I wasn’t looking.
And so very high-tech. There’s also a drug dispensing unit on each floor, which keeps track of every aspirin or opiate dispensed when and to whom over the course of a shift.
When not pacing, I rested my back on an elderly vinyl couch two and a half hallways over from my kid’s birthing room.
While languishing on vinyl, I purchased and downloaded a book by Simon Goodman titled “The Orpheus Clock” and started reading the first chapter of his gripping family saga of lives taken and fortunes stolen by the nazi regime. Since I knew Simon’s father, his narrative affected me very deeply and was quite overwhelming. Back to pacing, then, interspersed with brief reading sessions. The hours stretched, no fetal advancement. Finally I received a text announcing the doctor’s decision to execute a forceps delivery. Darn it. I hurriedly left my vinyl perch and began a hovering vigil in the proximity of their door.
The first thing I noticed was a team of three fully gowned personnel pushing a shrouded, low cart into my kid’s room. The forceps team, no doubt. Then – Yeah! – my son’s text: “she’s out”! Did I mention that we were expecting a girl?
It appeared Harper Isabel Leon had finally arrived, which was confirmed in the next little while by intermittent infant wails emerging from their room.
But why wasn’t I called in? The expectant mom had specifically asked me to take pictures of their newborn daughter with her dad, to record this first encounter between father and daughter for posterity. Yet, no word from the birthing room. Instead, a flurry of ominous activity built up in proximity of the room. I hovered a few steps down the hall, attempting to loiter inconspicuously in a space marked every few feet with signs cautioning “Do Not Stand in Hallway, protect moms’ privacy”. Yet there I was, dancing to and fro, trying to stay out of everyone’s way while my granddaughter’s room turned into a medical Grand Central Station with people dashing in and out after quick stops in adjacent supply closets. When the gaudy pink ‘blood cart’ was wheeled into the room closely followed by a gowned fellow with a determined demeanor, slipping his blood-splatter goggles into place as he entered the room, I knew something bad was up. After all, I didn’t work in assorted medical schools half of my life without picking up the occasional hint regarding procedure.
A perceived eternity later, one of the dashing people took pity on me and, after reassuring herself that I wasn’t the hysterical type, confirmed that there was a bleeding issue with the new mom. We established a good rapport so she tossed me snippets of information whenever she had a chance, which helped me a great deal to preserve composure. Eventually, the crisis was under control and I was allowed into the room. The wait for Izzy was over.
After a brief quiet moment hospital routine took over again and Baby Harper needed to be ‘processed’. The mandatory post-partem medications were administered by a neonatal nurse, including the not especially graciously received antibiotic ointment in her eyes.
A full sponge bath under the strong heating lamps wasn’t much appreciated either by our young lady,
but the nurse managed to complete the job despite Harper’s vigorous protest. Before dressing and swaddling her again, the nurse also attached a baby alarm to the umbilical cord stump, something I had never seen before. As a safety measure to prevent baby theft, the doors to the moms-&-babies wing of the hospital are outfitted with alarm sensors, which will go off if a baby with an umbilical tag is taken too close to the doors.
The new family remained in the birthing room overnight since mom needed to be closely monitored. Only the next day, Izzy and her parents moved to a room in the mom and babe section, where they enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere relative to the drama of the birthing wing.