Tragedy Comes Very Near
Once in the delivery room Dr. Halverson took his place. I was already fully dilated the full ten centimeters. I was ready to push. I hadn’t seen Jane since the Emergency Room. I was alone, all alone. I assumed she was somewhere. I was pretty sure she was praying. It was a very good thing that she was.
While I was ready to welcome this new member to my family, I was worried about our future. I knew God. I’d known Him since I was a child. I had received Jesus as my savior many times. I was always riddled with guilt so I almost always responded to an altar call. One can’t be too careful about one’s salvation if you are full of guilt.
I really felt my life was over. Alvin and I had remarried. I had such hope. I thought sure we were going to be that couple with the great testimony. Eventually, I would be the preacher’s wife. I would be respected. But here I was, ready to bring another child into the world. We had no money. I didn’t even have a telephone in the trailer I lived in. I had a roof over my head, but it was sparse. I had no job. I lived on welfare, food stamps and WIC. My AFDC (welfare) check was $150 a month. I would get a $20 raise for this next child. In return for this money I would go every six months to be reevaluated for welfare. It was a demoralizing but necessary experience.
Push. Push. I kept pushing. My feet were high in the stirrups. Masked faces of strangers gave instructions. The baby’s heart was being monitored. It stopped. With lightening reflexes Dr. Halverson grabbed the forceps. I had no anesthesia, no epidural, nothing. Everything began to blur. With precision he pulled the baby out of me. It was so quick that I was amazed to see a ball of flesh being whisked across the room by the doctor.
Was that my baby? Was my baby born? The pediatricians attended to the baby. Dr. Halverson began to repair my torn flesh. I asked him, is the baby alright? He said, I don’t know. Then I said what was it? Is it a boy or a girl? His answer terrified me. He said I don’t know. It was so quick I didn’t look. It’s not good.
As he walked over to the warmer where the pediatricians were suctioning and checking vitals, he came back and said, It’s a girl. Delighted all I could think of was, I have a daughter, a daughter… He looked at me again and said, Don’t get too excited, it’s not good. I don’t think she is going to make it.
The pain, the noise, the smells of the delivery room all mixed with my emotions. Should I be happy? I had a girl. Should I hold my emotions in fear that she wouldn’t live? Would I get to hold her? I said her name to myself, Bethany Joy.
Quickly before taking her to the ICU they showed her to me. No touching. No breastfeeding right after birth. Just a quick glimpse of my daughter was all I was allowed. I felt so all alone. I was scared. I didn’t know if I could handle much more.
Birthing was dealt with much like surgery in 1975. I was taken to the recovery room. Several sleeping mothers were in that room with me. I couldn’t sleep. Saying my bladder was full they inserted a catheter. Then Jane appeared.
I was so glad to see her. She was a spiritual rock. If there was any hope for my daughter’s life, I thought her prayers would do it. She smiled. I said it’s a girl. The Glory Hallelujahs rolled out of her mouth. Tongues followed. The nurse came in and told us to be quiet.
I said Jane, it’s not good. She said God is able. I clung to that. In the morning they took me to a private room. This was a luxury never given to a woman on welfare. They said I still had a fever and a UTI. The truth was, they feared Bethany would die. They didn’t want me in a room with other women as they held and caressed their newborn babies.
Bethany had aspirated just before she was born. She was born with pneumonia. She was three weeks early. Small but over 5 lbs she laid in the Isolette in the same hospital as her brother had six years before.
It was Saturday morning. Commencement exercises were going on across Stadium Blvd. I could see it from my window. My peers were capped and gowned ready to launch into the world armed with an education. I watched them with tears streaming down my face. There was no future for me. I was a single mother with two sons and daughter who might not live.
Alvin was nowhere to be found.