Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcoming the Next Generation

My excitement began last Spring.  My daughter called to let me know that she and her husband were expecting their first child.  This fabulous news meant that I was to become a grandmother for the first time.

Jenn and Ben decided to use a midwife and have a home birth, if at all possible.  They researched the options carefully and prepared themselves for that special day.

On Saturday, December 10, 2011, at 3:15 AM, my cell phone rang.  As it would happen, I was just getting ready to go to bed, but I saw the number and picked up right away.  "Hi, Jenn, what's up?" Jenn calmly told me that her water had broken.

I had a great deal of trouble getting to sleep that night, though Jenn had insisted I should wait to make the drive until after I'd gotten some sleep.  She assured me she was not yet in labor.  I did get about three hours of sleep and then was up, preparing for the trip to participate in the birth.  Jenn had decided she'd like me to make a big pot of spit pea soup while we awaited the new arrival, so, as I headed out of town, I stopped at the local grocery store to pick up the ingredients.

The drive was beautiful.  Though it was well into December, the temperatures were more fall-like, with a crisp blue sky and bright sun.  I took pictures along the way, wanting to remember the weather the day my first grandchild was born.
Heading out of Gloucester
A Peaceful Two Lane Road
Lovely Trees and Fences
Glorious Blue Skies

Arriving at Ben and Jenn's House

When I arrived, early afternoon, they were still waiting for "real" contractions to begin.  Jenn and Ben had decided they'd take this time to find a Christmas tree and decorate it -- their first Christmas tree in their new home.  So we all got in their van and headed out to find the tree.  It didn't take long and within a couple of hours we were back at the house, the tree trimmed and in place, and strung with Christmas lights.  Decorating more would have to wait until later.

First Christmas Tree

We ate the split pea soup I'd made, and decided to go to bed early, hoping Jenn could get some rest while the contractions were still irregular and tolerable.  I slept until 5 AM when I awoke to the smells of delicious Italian seems Jenn had slept until 1 AM and awakened with regular she decided to make eggplant parmesan... perfectly logical, right?

Through the morning Sunday, December 11, the contractions continued but were still not very close together.  Her midwife visited a couple of times, measuring her progress and ensuring that Jenn and Ben were the ones calling the shots on how long to wait at home before deciding to transfer to the hospital.  Because Jenn's water had broken, there was a real time limit on how long they could wait, as the baby was no longer protected by the amniotic sac and risk of infection rose with every hour that passed without giving birth.

Finally, after baking chocolate chip cookies, going for a two mile walk with Ben, their dog Talice and me, Jenn went into hard labor.  I was given the job of official "timer." Using my cellphone timer, I kept track of each contraction, how duration, time lapse between contractions, etc.  We notified the midwife that Jenn was in real labor, and she returned to the house for the third time that day.
Along Our Two Mile Walk
Timing Contractions
It was interesting to watch Jenn and Ben as she worked through the contractions.  For more than eight hours the labor continued, and the midwife began to get concerned.  We were approaching 48 hours since the amniotic sac had ruptured, and the baby was still not born.  At about 11PM she did an internal exam and determined that for all Jenn's labor, she'd only dilated to 4 cm.  With an average dilation of 1 cm per hour, it would be well past the 48 hour outside limit for safe delivery, so they made the decision to transfer to the hospital.
Jenn and Ben Working Through Contractions
Tired but Tender
Talice, Ever Vigil
We arrived at the hospital at just about midnight Sunday night.  Thankfully, everyone at the hospital was great and the birthing room was very "homey."  Jenn was immediately started on antibiotics and fluids, delivered intravenously, because she was so dehydrated.   As it turned out, the transfer to the hospital was a good decision -- it isn't likely the baby would have been delivered successfully without the assistance of the doctors. Jenn's labor continued for over twelve hours more before she finally delivered a beautiful baby. Tears flowed all around as we all laid our eyes, for the first time, on this miracle.

New Baby
The baby was immediately laid, wrapped in a blanket, at her mother's breast, umbilical cord still unsevered, and we watched as the skin color changed rapidly from a dusky blue to a bright healthy pink.  After a minute or two, the doctor suggested that Benoit might want to take a peek to see whether the child was a boy or a girl.  All of us laughed, because, it had occurred to none of us to check -- so happy had we been with the successful, healthy birth!  When Ben pulled back the blanket and looked, his announcement, "Girl" was met with another round of tears of joy.  Jenn had always "felt" she was carrying a girl, but they'd both wanted to keep the gender a surprise.  They had also kept their choice of names under wraps.  So I asked Ben, "what is her name?"  And with a soft voice, he replied, "Eloise."

Eloise and Ben (Papa)
I would never have thought of that name.  I think it is beautiful, almost as beautiful as the child herself.

Baby Eloise came into the world weighing 7 lbs 10 1/2 oz and measuring 19 inches long.  She was healthy and alert from the start, but because of the long duration in the ruptured amniotic sac, she and Jenn had to stay two days at the hospital. Meanwhile, I returned home the day after Eloise was born.
Holding Tight onto Papa's Finger
Tomorrow I will travel back to visit them. Tuesday we will drive up to MD to visit my mother and stepfather, who is at home, in Hospice care as he is dying of cancer.  It is a difficult journey to make -- on the one hand, so happy about the new birth, and on the other, knowing we are bidding farewell to and old friend.  Life has been nothing, if not eventful these past few weeks.

And, back on the old farm, we have the animals snug in their winter quarters, the house is inching closer and closer to "livable" and we are bracing ourselves for the "real" cold weather which is, no doubt, just around the corner.

Goats and Chickens -- Happy Together
Wintery Sky Over Farmhouse

Judy Stacking Wood
 No matter what, though, I have, undoubtedly, received the best Christmas present I could ever hope for ... the start of a new generation!