Why the edginess? This was Carrie’s sixth child, and it had been nearly a decade since her stillborn baby boy had briefly entered our lives. Between then and now, there had been four live births, perfect babies. Still, there it was, a feeling I couldn’t shake.
“The doctor’s probably going to do a C-section,” Carrie had said a few days earlier. I sensed the apprehension in her voice and assured her that I would be there, not just for the delivery but also to help out with the other children afterwards.
As my daughter Elizabeth and I sped down I-95 that July morning, it was already muggy outside. Another scorcher! Neither of us knew what to expect or even how to think about the upcoming birth, so we mostly rode in silence.
“Want to stop at Cracker Barrel?” I asked.
“Not really,” she said.
“Me either. Let’s just get there.
Arriving in Savannah a couple of hours later, we squeezed into a skinny parking spot in the hospital’s parking garage, and darted over to the hospital. After getting our stickers allowing entrance to the maternity ward, we hustled down the hall looking for Carrie. But where was she? By now, she should be getting prepped for surgery, but where?
We soon found our way to her room, and there she sat looking a little anxious and preoccupied, almost fragile.
“Whew. Glad we got here before they took you to the OR. I’d have been upset if I’d missed you,” I said, giving her a fierce hug.
“No danger of that,” she replied with a wry smile.
“Why? Are they backed up in the operating room?”
“No, nothing like that. The doctor came in, and since he was able to turn the baby, he thinks I should try a vaginal birth.”
“So that’s good, isn’t it?”
“Well, yeah…unless Seth decides to move again before we can get the ball rolling.”
“We’ll just have to trust the doctor, Sweetie.”
“I know, I know. I just wish someone would come and start the Pitocin.”
Carrie had barely spoken when someone came in and whisked her away to another room. Small, the room had a huge window on the far side and a bed square in the middle of the tiled floor. For hours, we took turns waltzing in and out of Carrie’s room, chatting and waiting, waiting, waiting.
Finally, the moment of birth approached, and the doctor shooed everyone out of the room except for Seth’s parents and a nurse.
“Gee, I hate to leave. I’ve never really seen a live birth,” I said for the third or fourth time that day.
No invitation was forthcoming so I joined Seth’s granddaddy and aunt right outside of the room. The granddaddy chuckled and said, “Did you really think that hint was going to help?”
“I was hoping,” I said.
Just then, the door cracked open and Rich said, “Hey Jayne, Want to come inside?”
“You mean it?”
“Sure. Come on in.”
The atmosphere in the room was electric, tense, serious. The nurse counted, and the doctor said, “Push.” Many times.
“I see the head! One more push ought to do it,” the doctor said.
I took a peek and nearly gasped. I could see Seth’s head, but something was wrong. His head was blue. His little blue, limp body followed moments later.
The doctor called for the NICU nurses, and within seconds there were two or three extra nurses in the room with us. Two or three? I truly can’t recall. The atmosphere was charged with tension as the capable nurses worked with the baby and the machines.
I leaned over the tiny, still body on the table and began whispering to him as one of the nurses worked with him.
In the most calm, gentle voice I could muster, I said something like, “Hello Sweet Boy. I’m so glad to see you. I already love you so much. We’ve been waiting for you a long time and came all the way down here this morning just to see you. Wake up, now. I want you to look at me when I tell you how precious you are, how lucky you are to be born to parents who love you so much.”
From the bed, “Mama, what’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying? Is everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine,” I said. “He’s just being a lazy little guy.”
“When can I see him?”
“In just a minute. I have to talk to him some more first.”
As I continued to speak to Seth in the soothing tones used by women in all corners of the world when comforting a child, his skin gradually became rosy. My throat tightened. I gulped before speaking again.
“Come on, Buddy. I want to see your pretty eyes.”
I was down on his level, inches from his small pink face.
Seth opened his eyes and stared straight into mine. We held the mutual gaze for several moments, and I heard the nurse tell the doctor that all was well. Amazingly, his APGAR score at birth had been 2 on a scale of 1-10.
I laughed and cried with joy. Seth was alive and well, and I was the first human he had seen on this earth.
When I told a friend of mine about the experience later, she looked into my eyes and said, “You communicated spirit to spirit. He knew who you were.”
That was three years ago. This amazing, precocious, adorable little boy doesn’t remember his grandmother coaxing him into life. But she does. It’s something she’ll never forget.