My 19 year old daughter, Natalie, left for China today. No specific agenda. She’s just always loved Asian culture. It’s been a dream of hers to one day visit China or Japan. When the opportunity presented itself in the form of a very affordable tour, she of course jumped at it. I did nothing. She made the down payment to reserve her spot. Then she paid off the entire balance ($1,500 for an all inclusive tour of China….unbelievable). She got her passport in order, made doctors appointments, updated her vaccines, went to work and school, packed her bags last night, and left this morning at 6:00 A.M.. Now, you must understand something. This is NOT unusual behavior for my Natalie. She has always been ambitious and independent. She’s a one of a kind, that girl. I truly don’t know anyone who compares to my daughter. Oh no…here it comes. I’m gonna get melancholy and reminiscent. I think I’m allowed that though. I mean goodness, she just left this morning to travel to the other side of the earth without her momma.
I was very young when Natalie was born…21 to be exact. Chris and I married young. I laugh when I look at our wedding pictures. I look like a child bride in a big, puffy sleeved wedding dress. We didn’t plan on having kids right away. But, it just so happened that we got the “itch” as we saw some of our other, newly married friends starting their families. So, I got pregnant. No problem there. Aside from the usual morning sickness and fatigue that comes with pregnancy, everything seemed move along normally. I will tell you though, I couldn’t wait to have this baby. I had always wanted to be a momma, just like my momma was a momma. We of course also wanted to do everything right. It would be natural child birth all the way. Like everyone else at that time, we took Lamaze classes. I remember one night in particular the class was called something like “Here’s what you don’t want to happen to you on your delivery day”. We discussed being prepared. Have a bag packed and waiting by the front door. Make sure the car is always full of gas. Pack a special “labor & delivery” bag complete with breath mints, chewing gum, playing cards (in case you get bored), something to use as your focal point, and the like. All of it was good information on being prepared. Then came the topic of being prepared to push properly when the time comes. Don’t push with your face or you’ll bust it all up. Be sure to curve your body into a “C” and use your “K” muscles to push. The instructor made it very clear that if we didn’t follow these very specific instructions, the baby would not come out the birth canal properly, and someone would have to apply “Fundal pressure” to your abdomen to help push the baby out. Or worse,and…oh no, not this. The dreaded vacuum sucker thingy. Nobody wants that to happen. She even had one of those things with her so we could all see and handle it. It had a little plastic cup at one end that fit on the baby’s head. It was connected to a tube with a hand pump on the other end. No way! I was not going to let that happen to my baby. Chris and I determined together to practice, practice, practice. It would be a text book, perfect delivery.
The baby was due to arrive May 3, 1988. But, as the Lord would have it, on April 10th at about 8:00 P.M., just as I had sat on the couch to have a snack and watch T.V., my water broke. I actually remember the way it felt. It was as though a water balloon popped inside me. I yelled to Chris that my water broke and we needed to get to the hospital. Of course he didn’t believe me. “It’s a month early.”, he laughed. “I know it’s a month early. Now get my bags and lets get in the car.”, I yelled. Oh no!, wait a minute. I had no bags packed yet. It was still early. I thought I had plenty of time. So, if I’m remembering correctly, we literally grabbed NOTHING and headed for the car. As soon as I sat in the front seat and buckled my seat belt, the contractions began. I thought to myself, “Wow, that was fast”. Chris got in the drivers seat and started the car. “Oh no!” he said. “We’re out of gas.” O.K., strike two on the “Here’s what you don’t want to happen to you on your delivery day” list. Chris, strangely enough, was very calm about this. My contractions came on even stronger as he drove to the nearest gas station. He pulled on in next to the pump and opened the door to get out. I turned to him and said, “Don’t leave me”. He very gently reminded me that if he didn’t get out to pump the gas, I would be having a baby in the front seat of our red Hyundai. The contractions were coming even harder now, and I remember thinking, “There’s no way this is happening to me. Not like this.” Yet, at the same time, I was so excited that in a short time, life would no longer just be the two of us…we would be three.
We made it to the hospital and checked into a room. By the time they got me in the bed I was at 5 1/2 centimeters. 30 minutes later I was at 7. Things were moving a little too fast. An alarm sounded on the machine that monitors the baby’s heart rate. It had dropped considerably low. “What does that mean?” I asked. The doctor informed us that the baby had dropped too quickly into the birth canal and that the cord was probably wrapped around the neck. He quickly made a decision to tip the bed way back at an angle in hopes that the baby would move back up into the canal, thereby loosening the grip of the cord. The plan seemed to work, and her heart rate went back up to a normal pace. Never the less, nothing was going to stop this baby from making her way into this world just as fast as she could. Remember, I told you she was a one of a kind girl? So, my contractions came on harder than ever, and she continued on down. The alarm sounded again, signaling another drop in her heart rate. I screamed, “I need to push!” It wasn’t quite time to push yet, but I pushed anyway. There was just one problem. The baby stopped moving down, and her heart rate was still dropping. The next thing I knew, my husband was behind me bending my body into a “C” shape. The doctor had reached up inside me and cut the cord so it would not continue to choke the baby. This meant they needed to get her out fast. A nurse then came and pressed as hard as she could on my abdomen…Fundal Pressure. When all that didn’t work fast enough, the doctor used the vacuum and sucked her out by her head. I remember the absolute feeling of relief as she was pulled out of me. I waited, and I listened…nothing. No crying. I sat myself up the best I could to try to get a better look. Chris was standing by my bed. “It’s a girl.” the doctor said. But, still no cries. Then I saw her. I can still see her so clearly in my mind. She was so tiny. She wasn’t pink though. She was blue from the lack of oxygen. She was limp. Yet, I remember thinking to myself, “She’s so beautiful.” The doctor flipped her upside down and held her by the ankles. He then began to smack the bottoms of her feet with his hand. I could hear his gentle voice, “Come on, honey…you can do it. Give us a cry.” In what seemed to me to be an eternity, so many thoughts went through my head. “Wow, that baby was inside of me. Now she’s out…over there. Is she going to cry? Are You taking her from us, Lord? I need her here with me. Please let her stay here with us. Cry, cry…please cry.” It was surreal. Kind of like a dream. And then, we heard it. A high pitched squeal. And then a bunch of little coughs, and more squeals. She was breathing. That’s all that mattered. She weighed in at a teeny, tiny 5lbs 2oz. I think her total APGAR score was something like a 4. But I didn’t care. She was a 10 in my book. I was only allowed to hold her for a minute though. She was taken from me and placed in the Neonatal nursery. Her daddy went with her. I was left alone in the delivery room with the doctor as he finished “tidying” things up. Oh, how I wanted my baby. She was all I could think about, all I longed for at that moment. When all was finished with me, I was wheeled on a gurney to my new room. On our way we passed the Neonatal nursery. The nurse stopped right in front and told me they would bring the baby out for me to see. I looked up to see Chris carrying a little wrapped bundle out to me. It was my Natalie. He laid her on my chest. She was not crying, but I could tell that she had been. She actually had little tears in her eyes…or maybe it was the eye drops. They had put an I.V. in her forehead to give her necessary fluids. Her hands and arms were just too tiny for the needle. She had a little beanie cap on her head. I remember just staring at her sweet face. She had a little button nose. This was so unusual with my “big nose” Italian genes. But I’ll never forget her little lips. They looked just like pink painted rose buds. So perfect was she. It didn’t matter that her head was shaped like a cone from the vacuum, or that she had a needle in her forehead. We came refer to that needle as her little hat. She was absolutely perfect. And for just a few minutes, I lay there in the hallway and held my baby girl. I patted gently and whispered in her ear, “Shhhhh, Natalie…your mamma’s here.”
I stayed a full 3 days in the hospital to be close to my baby. We did end up having to go home without her though. She had some difficulties due to her low birth weight. When we did finally get to take her home on the 5th day, she only weighed 4lbs. 12oz.. She fit perfectly in the palm of Chris’ hand. With the help of mamma’s milk, she put on the pounds. Aside from some asthma problems, she continued to grow into a strong, very smart little girl. Even as a very small child, Natalie had a beautiful perspective on life and her surroundings. Now, this post is getting way too long, so I’ll end with this. When Natalie was 4 years old, she was sitting with her dad and I in our small apartment living room looking at the fish in our salt water fish tank. “Daddy?”, she said. “God is big, isn’t He?” “Yes, sweetie, God is big”, Chris answered. She went on, “Is He bigger than our house, daddy?” “Yes, Nat. He’s bigger than our house.” Both Chris and I wondered with anticipation what would come out of her next. “God’s bigger than our house…but He lives in my heart.”
I tell ya, she’s one of a kind.
Behold, Children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.”