Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Memory of Mercy

Way back in the summer of 1973 I was pregnant with our first son, Walker, and Winston was living several miles apart from me, at what they called "The Schools' Command" in a barracks on Pensacola Naval Air Station.

I wasn't yet 23 and trying to manage living alone for the first time in my life - in a new town in a different state from our home in Texas. Looking back, I was unsure of myself and timid and quite intimidated by those in the medical profession. I didn't have a lot of initiative or confidence and the entire having a baby prospect was exciting but also daunting. I certainly took it seriously.

I was of course scheduled to deliver in the hospital building on the navy base.

At my first OB appointment in Pensacola I was over 6 months along. Much to my dismay, instead of seeing a doctor I was seen instead by a rather brusque woman who was identified as a "nurse midwife". I had never heard of such a title and found her manner to be unsettling. When I asked her who would actually be delivering my baby, she said emphatically, "I will".

Now here I must explain that I had a feeling of foreboding.

I was absolutely and beyond any doubt certain that this woman should not preside over the birth of my child. I did not feel that she was competent!

I don't know why but I was suddenly convinced that I should just go to a civilian hospital when my time came.

I had no idea, however, that that would not be an option for me in Pensacola. Soon I learned that I would have no medical coverage unless I delivered at least (I think it was ) 30 miles away from a military base.

It was then that I decided to go home to Houston where I could have the OB who had seen me before the move to Pensacola. This meant that Winston would not be with me. This was a wrenching sacrifice for me.

It meant staying with my parents, which was unfortunately not going to be an ideal situation. But I was sure that I could not remain in Florida and let this woman deliver my baby.

As it turned out, Walker was 9 lbs. 13 oz. and had to be delivered by forceps. But he was absolutely unharmed and a very healthy, bright child.

Four years passed and we moved back to Pensacola after a tour of duty in Hawaii. One morning I looked at the newspaper and read an article entitled, "Navy Hospital Named in Lawsuit".

A month following my son's birth another little boy was born at the navy hospital and a lawsuit had apparently recently been filed by his mother.

To quote,

"She charged that officials negligently entrusted the care of herself to an uncertified and inadequately trained obstetrical nurse practitioner (midwife) for delivery of her child.

As a result, she said that her son suffered brain damage during the course of labor resulting in cerebral palsy and great disability of his mind, including but not limited to, paralysis or loss of use of both of his lower extremities and his upper extremities, muscle contractures and skeletal distortion requiring surgical correction, casting and cutting of nerves."

I have kept this article all these years as a reminder of how close I likely came to a true tragedy.

I have always felt that the unusual unrelenting boldness that came over me to take charge and change my situation was a blessing from God.

I am forever grateful for that strong Heavenly "nudge"!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Having a baby 1973 style

Winston was in Pensacola, Florida in Naval Aviation Officers' Candidate School. I was in Houston, staying with my parents for the event of my first child's birth. I made that choice almost by instinct and will post later about how it is that I learned (4 years later) that I had made a very, very wise decison. Praise God.

My parents were both alive and I was just newly 23. I washed my hair and it was about to my elbows and they didn't have a dryer so I stood in their backyard "swishing" my hair to get it to dry. I was cramping and feeling pretty anxious but you couldn't just go downtown with wet hair. Mother painted my toenails for me because I couldn't "reach". I packed two new Alfred Hitchcock short story paperbacks because I was under the impression that I would get bored all those hours waiting for the baby to be born.

My father was pacing around and finally, toes painted and hair dry, they drove me to the Medical Center in the same old green Pinto they had driven me in to my wedding two years earlier.

Daddy let Mother and me off at the ramp in front of Methodist Hospital and when I entered the elevator I looked so huge and miserable that two or three people got out to make it less crowded for me.

I never cracked the back of those paperbacks! It was like all aboard the pain train! from the minute those nurses got a hold of me.

Winston was called in Pensacola at the training command and he was pulled out of class so that he could go home and wait by the phone. After they had given me Demerol and I was loopy they wheeled my gurney out to the nurses' station so that I could take his call. (Boy, did we need cell phones back then! They weren't even portable.) I told him that I felt "like I've had 7 beers." I'd never had 7 beers in my life but that seemed like a good analogy.

I kept hearing other women in Labor and Delivery screaming and I imagined that the nurses and doctors were doing something to them and working their way down the hallway to do the same thing to me! Later after Walker was born and I had done my share of moaning I wondered what those women were SCREAMING about because I didn't think it was leg-sliced-off sort of pain at all. Hmmmm...

Meanwhile an hour or two had passed and my father had never showed up at the Methodist Hospital "Dad's Club" waiting area.

My mother (unbeknownst to me!) was trying to trick the staff into assuming she was my private duty nurse because she was wearing her nurse's uniform and hovering over me. It went fine until I said, "Mama..."

They kicked her out.

Now she realized that my father was not there in the waiting room and she thought he'd had a heart attack or something. She ran down to the ER to see if he was in there collapsed or worse. She didn't want to leave the floor I was on but she was worried about him, too.

Finally he sauntered in looking sheepish. He had driven around the massive Medical Center and parked and entered St. Luke's Hospital and spent a couple of hours in their "Stork Room" wondering where my mother was!

At 7:41 PM I became a mother.


Dr. Brown asks, "Penny, did you hear that?"

Still astoundingly clueless, I thought it was the squeaky hinge of some sort of a medical implement!

"Penny, that's your baby! It's a boy!"

Welcome to the world, my son Walker!