Curie’s Birth Story

A couple of things up front: our due date was September 29, the sonogram was measuring about 5.2 pounds, which was on target (the app we were using was way too high), our last visit was on target. We had attended the child bearing class, inadvertently gone to the infant care class, and went to the lactation class. We did not make the CPR class, though we had several appointments. Bern and Agnes had given us the car seat already and we had the crib. We had not packed our bag yet, though we had planned to.

We visit the doctor on September 9 and Dr. Armstrong is measuring the baby. The baby won’t move to let Dr. Armstrong measure her head. He tries a few different ways and in retrospect this is when he senses something is wrong. He then measures Erin’s amniotic fluid and finds that it is low. He tells us it is nothing to worry about but we might need to go to the hospital (Dr. Armstrong’s bedside manner is impeccable). He tells us in his office, that this might be the day. Erin has her golf tournament she has been working on that Monday, and I have not made arrangements at work yet. Dr. Armstrong makes arrangements at the hospital with Dr. Solomon who is on call to admit us.

On our drive, we don’t rush, it is a little surreal with the two of us in the car saying “I guess this is happening.” We don’t have a bag packed, in fact, the weekend before we were just saying that we needed to pack a bag. We don’t even have a camera which is in of itself amazing. That is not altogether true, we have our camera phones and I have a back-up camera, a point-and-shoot – what we don’t have is an SLR.

We called our parents to let them know what is happening. Erin’s parents had planned to come down for the birth so when we call them and let them know what is happening we initially tell them to wait and that we would call them back once we knew what would happen next. Albert then suggests that they start driving down even if just to keep their minds occupied, and so begins a drive from Massachusetts to Virginia. We later tell Erin’s sister Julie and her boyfriend Steve and they arrange to come down the next day.

We arrive at the hospital and walk down the corridors as they told us to do in class. We get to the nurses’ station in Labor and Delivery and are asked to sit in the makeshift waiting area near surgery, later I would be sitting there by myself. We call Erin’s parents on the way letting them know that we are probably having the baby. While we wait, we decide to tell them to start driving down, if anything, to give them something to do.

They finally give us a room near the nurse’s station, Erin is admitted, and we bring our ViaCord box. The room is one without a couch but the chair pulls open fine. Erin is dressed in a hospital gown and is given sensors and tubes. When our nurse leaves it is just the two of us and there is a moment of quiet and peace that comes with that. It is the last day that it is just the two of us, and quite frankly it would become the nicest day we have spent together. Kaitlin, a very nice nurse who gets us settled writes, “Healthy Mommy and Baby Girl” as the goal for us on the board.

Erin wanted to feel what labor was like but did not insist on natural birth. We had decided that whatever the doctor said, we would do if it was best for the baby. Erin also didn’t want an epidural because she was afraid of the catheter. Because the baby was 37 weeks, Erin would need to be induced so we figured Albert had time to run home and get the camera, and pack a bag. While Albert went home, Erin received her first dose from Dr. Solomon.

Albert came back with Racky, Erin’s stuffed animal since she was two, blankets, clothes, Nintendo DSs, and a bunch of other stuff. Then it was time to settle in and wait for the baby to be born.

Erin read on her Droid, Albert got comfortable on the couch. We raided the kitchen for jello and broth since Erin couldn’t eat solid foods at this point. Albert had a sandwich. Sometimes Albert would give Erin a massage, others we would relax in the respective bed and couch.

The contractions started to come and for a while Erin was not too uncomfortable. There is a monitor in the room where you can see the contractions and you can see the contractions in other rooms. It was fascinating to see the intensity of the contractions for some of the people. At the time we didn’t realize the intensity was not the driving factor as much as the frequency. In any case Erin became a bit competitive when it came to contractions. Also, if she would have a big contraction, then she would ask to see it, and since it was out of her line of sight, I would take a picture of the screen for her. The sensors kept coming off and if we missed one, Erin would feel robbed, especially if it was a good one.

Albert realizes the next day would be 9/10/11 which would be a great birthday for the baby and tells Erin that if she could hold on it would be great. Of course it wasn’t up to us.

Several hours later we are induced again, and we kept watch. Albert went to the cafeteria looking for the chocolate parfait, but it wasn’t there. We had a nursing shift change and the next nurse was very attentive. The staff was fantastic. At some point the contractions became too much and Erin asked for the epidural. She got the catheter and found that she liked it. She joked that she should have it all the time. With the epidural she could feel the contractions, but not the pain. We talked and waited, there is a focus in waiting for your baby to be born that is nice and unhurried. It felt like we were in our own world yet being taken care of by the nurses and doctors. Later Dr. Hennessey came on call.

Erin’s parents arrive just after midnight and come to visit. The hospital is fantastic about letting family come see people. We give them keys to the house. Erin’s mother predicts that the baby will be born at 3:30.

Dr. Hennessy comes in to check on us and at this point it is 15 hours into labor. She says things are coming along nicely, but she is worried that the baby is getting tired and wants to schedule a c-section. We trust her judgement and make the decision. Then things go very fast. The anesthesiologist comes in and helps Erin, Albert is instructed to put on a mask, hair cover, and scrubs, Erin is wheeled into surgery and Albert waits in the waiting area outside. He asks if he should bring his camera.

Erin is laying prepped on the table, Albert is led into the operating room and goes to hold Erin’s hand. Unlike other births that we have seen in class, TV, or the movies, we are tented away from the actual surgery. The team is introduced to us, and like clockwork they go in to action. Erin can feel what they are doing but without pain. This is when we are pretty nervous. Albert holds Erin’s hand and squeezes it rhythmically. Erin later tells Albert that this let her focus on something other than the surgery. For six months we had been worried about a soft marker in the baby’s sonogram and we had cried and prayed every day even though Albert is not a praying person.

Until the baby is pronounced healthy, it is a very frightening thing. The doctors are at work. We realize that Dr. Hennessey who was very fast when talking to us is a fighter pilot and a surgeon. She is quick, efficient and capable and in moments, the baby is out. But we don’t hear a cry. Albert is squeezing Erin’s hand, his heart is in his throat. Will she be okay? Will she be healthy, please God, let her be healthy. We wait for an interminable minute, and then the cry. What a relief, but it is not over, we don’t know how heavy, if there are complications, and never mind that they have to take out the placenta and close the incision. That is longer than we had thought.

Albert watches but doesn’t let go of Erin’s hand until she tells him to take pictures. At 3:33 AM on 9/10/11, Curie Huangzhao Chen is born. 4 pounds 7 ounces, 17 inches, a peanut and healthy. She is lighter than we thought and would go to NICU for a while. She has a full shock of hair, Albert did too, Erin was bald until she was two, and very alert eyes, even at day one. We had named her two years before, we have a boy’s name too. During the pregnancy we decided not to name her until she was born just in case we had complications. We understood that the Jewish tradition was not to name the baby until birth when they became a person. There is some comfort in that.

Albert’s father named Curie’s middle name. It means “empress of a trillion years.” It is a big name. Albert’s was “supreme person,” Erin means “Irish goddess.” It runs in the family.. Curie was named after Marie Curie because Albert was named after Einstein and Schwitzer. Naming her after a scientist would give her pride for math and science we hope. Also we wanted a name that was not popular, so though we liked Marie, we liked Curie better. The hope is so that she is not popular in high school but blossoms later in college or grad school (sorry Curie).

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