Monday, August 10, 2015

Mariama's big debut

Christy and her mom on the day before Mariama came
It was the day we had been anticipating for nine months.  Only the day after her due date, the excitement started.

Now, if you are like me, prior to this experience, you may be asking yourself, why do people, especially women, talk so excitedly and in so much detail about birthing experiences?  Is it really that interesting?  Isn't it a bit of a private subject?

Well, now, I know from experience--as a husband that is.  It is incredibly exciting, a little bit scary, and if you have read up on the subject when your turn comes, you are less worried about the decisions you will have to make--and that others may make for you.

You all have been praying for Christy and I as we anticipate Mariama's birth.  Let me attempt to share the story, so you can better praise God with us.

* * *
Christy hard at work. The park pictured above in distance.

We had just finished a nice dinner at our friends' house and Christy was driving home when suddenly her water broke.  She and her mom got quite excited.  Just as we had prayed, God was sending Mariama close to her due date, so Mommy and Daddy Watkin would enjoy having baby around.  (We didn't know her name would be Mariama yet, because we still had three sets of names we were considering.)

Christy called our helpers, Renee and Jody, and they arrived around 9:30pm or so.  Renee and Jody are answers to prayer, too.  When we came to Nigeria, we had no idea that Renee, one of my old friends from when I first came to Africa, was also a Doula and glad to help us.  Then, three weeks before the due date, Jody showed up in the country, a Canadian labor and delivery nurse.

Christy with Renee and Jody
The contractions were already starting.  I was glad about that.  Once the water breaks, Renee told us we only have 24 hours until the baby should be born.  Still, although Christy was quite excited and bustling about, it was time to sleep. We all needed strength for tomorrow.

Speaking of strength, of all days for Mariama to come, I was thinking to myself, "why does it happen when I am feeling like this?'   I had just left Christy's laptop computer out in the rain all day, along with a book I had borrowed from a friend.  I found out later that the laptop worked (miraculously!), and Christy's dad read the borrowed book for the next two weeks.  But at that moment I was just feeling really stupid and really tired.

But, thank God, the next morning I was feeling ready for the adventure.  And boy it was an adventure.  Renee and Jody said since Christy was at 4 or 5cm, it was probably time to head for the hospital.  It was still only 5am?  We arrived at 6am, to a locked gate, but the person on night duty opened for us and called Dr. Sule.

* * *

Dr. Sule, by the way, is another answer to prayer. While we were in the US, we had been advised to consider delaying coming back to Nigeria.  There were many reasons, but one was that the doctors were on strike.  Christy used Facebook to reach some of our colleagues in the office to get another perspective.  That's when she got Dr. Sule's number.  We had never heard of him before.

I thought, "well, lets try calling him".  I picked up our phone, which up to that point couldn't get reception in my parent's house. But at that moment, I saw it was showing a bar or two of connection.  Christy tried it and dialed straight to Nigeria.  She had been warned that Dr. Sule is busy and may not answer on the first call ... but he did!  He spoke so gently with Christy, encouraging her that not all the doctors were on strike and that she didn't need to worry about having her baby in Nigeria.  Christy took that call as encouragement from God that our baby was in his hands.

* * *

We thought that our baby might be coming right away and were eager for Dr. Sule to get there.  When he finally arrived he was a gentle and professional as ever.  He hadn't even put on his formal doctor's clothes, he had come out so fast.  As humble as ever!  We love how open Dr. Sule is to all of our questions and preferences.  He really was a key player in this event!

Things get pretty foggy around then for the next few hours, I don't remember exactly what happened.  From 6 am to 12 noon, Christy got more and more tired.  The doctors came and went.  We kept looking for progress, pushing Christy to keep moving, so the contractions would be frequent (I was timing them for her on her Contraction Timer app!)  Finally, at twelve, we realized that she had been at 8 cm for too long, maybe three or four hours?  The doctors suggested we use intravenous oxytocin, a steroid much like the pitoicn that birthing mothers naturally produce to speed their labor.  Christy and I had wanted to avoid this.  After some discussion (I'll spare you the details) we decided, it was an hour of walking for Christy and if there was no progress, then we'd use the oxytocin.

We sent out a prayer request by text message to our families, asking for strength.  Praise God!  The sleepy Christy suddenly woke up and seemed to have lots of energy to work had.  She walked up and down the street outside the hospital.  We walked and walked.  She felt like she need to go the bathroom in a really bad way, but of course we all knew it was really the baby coming.  It really felt like we were making progress!

But we weren't.  We were all gathered back upstairs in Christys room.  Actually there were so many people and so much stuff that we filled up two of the small inpatient rooms of Oasis Medical Center.  In addition to those I have already mentioned (Renee, Jody, Dr. Sule, Christy and myself) Christy's mom, the gynecologist  and midwife were also there.

This is where it got really intense.  I reviewed the facts with Renee and Jody.  God had answered our prayer and given Christy strength, but it didn't seem to be helping.  We had no apparent progress and more pushing and walking wouldn't help.  Christy had been vomiting during the contractions since last night at 9pm, so naturally she felt completely wiped out. She hadn't eaten anything, except about a half cup of juice.  All she wanted to do was sleep, but if she slept then the contractions would slow down.  It was now 1:30 pm.  Renee and Jody both said the oxytocin wasn't such a bad idea, and at this point I was agreeing.  I really didn't want to get in a situation where Christy was too tired to deliver the baby, and didn't like the idea of that leading to a C-section (though I knew that Dr. Jibrin could do it if necessary).  So I said we should go ahead with the oxytocin.

As the midwife put in the IV and administered it, I suddenly realized now was the time for me to do what I had been practicing, that is, to help Christy to relax.  I would speak calmly to hear, telling to "relax your forehead, cheeks, your jaw, your lips, your neck, . . . " all the way down to her toes.  It actually worked!  I was amazed at how relaxed Christy was, even falling asleep between the oxytocin-induced contractions.  I was so focused on Christy and helping her relax, that I didn't even notice the time going by.  I guess it was an hour later we got the good news that Christy was free to push that baby out!

The next hour was truly incredible.  Christy actually used a squatting position (which she had been practicing for months) to help bring a baby down. (This by the way, was the position that the patriarch Job's mother used to birth him, and is still used in many villages today.)  However, for Dr. Jibrin and the new daddy to be (that's me) to see the progress, our little baby was finally born while Christy was in a sort of sitting position leaning against Renee.  Christy kept saying--okay, shouting--"she is not coming, she is not coming".  I could see and feel our little baby's progress and kept telling her (along with everyone else in the room) that actually she was coming and would be born soon.  I could see her hair for a long time--which was all wet and looked nothing like a cute little babies' hair.  Finally at 4:25pm--over nineteen hours after this adventure began, I was suddenly holding our little babies head, and (as I had heard so many times before) only moments later her whole body.

She was a rather purplish color, which is just what I expected, from what we read.  She didn't breathe right away either, which again is expected.  I was glad to have known all of this!  Dr. Jibrin was used to doing a few things with the baby at the mother's feet, but I put her right up on Christy's chest.  All of this had been arranged in advance, though there still was a little discussion as we did it.  We rubbed our new baby down and patted her so she would start breathing.  It was only a few seconds before she started breathing, but Christy was still anxious for that first cry.  "Don't worry," I was telling her "you know she still doesn't need to breath yet, the umbilical cord hasn't yet been cut, everything is okay."  And she did start to cry, first a little bit and then that wonderful sound of her crying.  I hardly even noticed that her color was changing, but it is quite clear in the photographs!  From dark purple-ish, to a bright pink.

I had no idea  newborn baby could be so beautiful (don't worry if you disagree with me, I always thought the most beautiful babies were not the newborn ones, but those who had grown a bit older).  Christy whispered to me "I am thinking the four names", and I nodded.  Those were the names I had been thinking of, too.  So our baby was born and at the same time her name was chosen, Mariama.

It was amazing to see the change that came over Christy.  Just like Jesus had said, Christy had forgotten all of her tiredness and pain.  She was so delighted to have Mariama in her hands. Thank God for a healthy mother and a healthy baby, born here in Nigeria! Thank you God!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

* * *

Well, there are a ton more details I remember vividly, some of which should really not be typed on a blog.  Let me just add one final note of thanksgiving to God.  Christy's mom was there through the whole process.  She tried singing, which was the only time that both she and I could hardly keep from crying, so the singing didn't really happen, though it was quite moving!  She also took pictures over everything, which is why I have only one picture of her, but lots of pictures of the birth.  As I write this, they have just arrived safely home this last weekend!  Thank God for the wonderful blessing of having them here for such a key time in our lives! Visas, travel, all the details worked out as open doors  Thank God!

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