On Thursday afternoon Oct. 11th, 2002, we got the dreaded word for Lisa´s OBGYN (Dr. Carlos) that entering her 8th month of pregnancy she was 2 centimeters dialated, a natural occurence he assured us, but that she would have to STOP EXERCISING! I said to myself, now here is a Doctor who does not know his patient. Asking Lisa to stop exercising is like asking the Amazon river to suddenly stop the water from flowing. However, firm in my belief that I was not ready to have this kid popping out any time soon, I asked him to reenforce this need to stop being active with her, to the point of beating her senseless with it if need be.
The good Doctor obliged and Lisa left the Dr.´s office distressed about what she was going to do for the next 4 weeks with out any type of physical activity. Before leaving, the Doctor suggested that we schedule the birthing classes and the how-to class for caring for a newborn baby with his nurse/midwife, get all of the emergency numbers for his staff, and schedule a visit to the hospital. In the back and forth attempt to schedule the classes, we finally settled on Tuesday, Oct. 16th and Thursday Oct. 18th and then left the office to go to lunch.
Being that Friday was a holiday in Brasil, we had planned months in advance to rent a house at the beach with our friends Mark and Katie. However, on a three day weekend, everyone from São Paulo (a city of 20 million people) leaves town at the same time, and many go to the beach. To avoid spending 6-9 hours in a traffic nightmare, it is best to make the 2 and a half hour trip very late at night. Our excuse to do this came in the form of Eric Clapton, who was in town on Thursday night to give a concert. This was a concert that Lisa had very much wanted to attend. So, the plan was hatched, that Lisa, Katie, and I would go to the concert (Mark having enough good taste not to want to attend) and then we would meet Mark outside of the concert at 11:30pm with all of the dogs (our one and Katie and Mark´s three) and we would caravan down to the beach.
The concert turned out to be, just what the Doctor ordered, literally, a real snore. Lisa and Katie sat together in the row in front of me, as I was unable to get 3 seats together in the same row. In typical Lisa and Katie style, they chatted through the entire concert. I on the other hand, sat directly behind them, sandwiched between a 65 year old man and an 18 year kid. The 65 year old was with his wife and they felt the urge to practice there best Saturday Night Fever moves to the Clapton oldies inadvertently jabbing me in the ribs every time his John Travolta meets Lawerence Welk dance move required a pointed finger, arm extension for emphasis.
The 18 year old kid was with a group of 4 other friends who had all spent entirely too much time in one of their bedrooms, getting high under black lights while looking at old album covers and practicing Clapton air guitar moves while screeching the worst impression of english lyrics know to man. With their recently purchased Eric Clapton headbands in place, it was clear that they were waiting for Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison Janis Joplin and Bob Marley to all come out on stage with the deceased members of Lynrd Skynrd and let Clapton lead a guitar filled, earth – shaking medly of “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Free Bird”. “Eric Clapton rocks!!!!!!!!” They screamed at the end of “Layla”.
Lisa and Katie continued chatting, with Lisa sliding in the comment, “Oh, I like this song.” as everyone around them was on their feet doing a standing ovation, with lighter in hand, and the flame extended toward the evening sky. At 11:30pm we left the stadium, just before the first encore, in order to meet Mark and head to the beach.
We still hit traffic on the way to the beach, but the trip only took the standard two and a half hours. After unpacking and settling in, we crashed into bed about 3:00am.
The next day, Friday, October 12th, was spent surfing (me), reading, napping, walking on the beach and generally taking it easy. After the Doctor´s visit, I had made it a point to get caught up in the pregnancy book I was reading as I had left off in month 7 and what the Doctor had said scared me enough to try and get caught up to month nine.
In the evening, we sat down to play cards. Lisa was winning when we took a bathroom/drink-mixing break. When Lisa called me into the bathroom, I commented to Mark, “This couldn´t be good”, and indeed it wasn´t. Lisa had a larger than normal vaginal discharge (sorry for those weak of stomach).
It was at this moment that we realized that we had forgetten to get the emergency telephone numbers for the Doctor´s staff. Because our cellular phones do not get service at the beach house, I loaded Katie and Lisa into the car and we drove towards town to get phone service and to call Katie´s sister Abby, in the US, who is a doula. We were able to get ahold of her and explained the situation. Abby informed us that it sounded like Lisa´s mucus cap had broken, which is ok and that as long as her water didn´t break, she would be ok. She said that Lisa needed to stay in bed and rest.
After getting back to the house and getting Lisa settled in on the couch, she remebered that her friend Leen had her baby with Dr. Carlos´s partner and that she might have the emergency numbers. So Mark and I trekked up to the highest point next to the house and managed to get cell phone service. I got a hold of Leen and her husband Sascha gave me all of the emergency numbers.
I called and spoke to nurse Rosalee who said the same thing that Abby had told us. As long as the water didn´t break everything was ok and that Lisa would have to stay in bed and rest. She added that if the water did break, that we would need to go back to São Paulo and have her looked at by a Doctor because she was one month early and the baby could be at risk.
Mark and I returned to the house and had something to eat and the four of us watched a very funny Ben Stiller movie on Mark´s DVD player/laptop. Unfortunately, the events of the evening had distracted us all too much to concentrate on the movie and Lisa and I went to bed worried.
At 4:30am Lisa woke me up saying that she could not sleep and that she was uncomfortable. I gave her a back and shoulder massage, and she managed to go back to sleep for a little while. At 6:00 am she got up to go to the bathroom. From the bathroom I she yelled to me:
“Scott, my water just broke!”
With those five words, the chase was on. I had read in my pregnancy book that the worst thing that “expecting fathers” can do is panic after hearing these words. I had also read that after the water breaks, labor can last anywhere from 4 hours to 5 days. I was hell bent on maintaining my calm knowing that we were 2 and a half hours from the hospital and there was no immediate help available.
So, I got up and started packing the car. At 6:15am, Lisa, still on the toilet, had her first contraction (she called it a cramp). I woke up Katie and Mark to tell them we were headed back to SP. Lisa wanted Katie to come with us in case something happened on the way and I couldn´t help her and drive at the same time. At 6:20 am Lisa, Katie, Canela (our dog) and I left the beach house. Mark was going to stay to pack up and close up the house.
The roads on the North Coast of the State of São Paulo are characterized by lots of curves, speed bumps and potholes. However, they are heavenly in comparison to the dirt roads that run into and through the small towns that dot the coastline. Some of these roads take 20 minutes or more to navigate to a specific point in the town.
Bearing this in mind, I had to go at a snail´s pace, as Lisa was not taking the bouncing and jostling well. At the same time her contractions were coming more frequently, about every 3 minutes, and she made me stop every time she had one. In the back of my mind I was trying to do the math of how long it would take us to get back to SP,having to stop every 3 minutes.
The distance between Point A and Point B is 180 kilometers. Car One is traveling at 100 kilometers an hour, but has to reduce that speed down to 0 every three minutes, how long will it take car one to arrive at the hospital?
Multiple choice: A) Before the baby arrives B) After the baby arrivesC) Impossible to tell without knowing the duration of the contractions and the number of centimeters dialated, but it doesn´t look good.
At about 6:35am, we called Nurse Rosalee and told her what was happening. She informed us that we would not likely have time to return to SP and that we would have to do something else. At that point, she remembered that Dr. Carlos was in Juquei, the beach town only 20 minutes from where we were. She said she would call him and see if he was indeed there and then call us back.
During Lisa´s pregnancy, we had both read that women who had music playing during the birth had more relaxing births and that the babies seemed to adapt to the real world better, than those who did not have music. Subsequently, I pulled out the Crash Test Dummies CD “And God Shuffled His Feet” and put it on. It was the mellowest CD I had in the car and thought it might calm Lisa a little.
I was shot down during the next contraction as she screamed, “Please turn that music DOWN!”.
At about 6:45am, Rosalee called us back and informed us that Dr. Carlos was indeed at his beach house in Juquei a mere 15 minutes away and off we went.
If the road out of Camburi was long and bumpy, the road into Juquei made it look like the Autobahn, and Dr. Carlos´house was at the VERY END of the road. At this point and time, two things happened that made me realize we were in it deep. The first was that I missed my turn for the main road to down the beach, which forced us to take an even bumpier road. Lisa screamed at me, “Get on the main road to the beach, it´s OVER THERE, TURN LEFT!!!!!!!” The second was when I hit a really big pothole and Lisa screamed, “This baby is coming, I WANT TO PUSH!!!
“Whatever you do, don´t push, keep that thing inside of you,” I retorted. Pretty good I thought, remembering that this was the patented response of any Doctor on TV when a women said this during the TV birthing process. “I´m not a real Doctor, but I play one on TV” I thought to myself.
Shortly after that Lisa, with the sheets from the bed around her, informed us that she had to pee. Katie told her, “ it´s ok girl, you just go ahead and pee right there, you have the sheet around you, go ahead.” “Its ok, go ahead,” I found myself chiming in thinking in the back of my head, at least they’re leather seats and should clean up ok.
At 7:00am we finally arrived at the good Doctor´s house, he was waiting in the street in front of the house. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt, blue jeans and New Balance Running shoes (oh well, you can´t get them all). He started waving his hands like a traffic cop for us to pull in the driveway and follow him up to the house. He took off running in front of us.
When we arrived at the front door, Dr. Carlos opened the door and in between Lisa´s screams managed to tell her that he need to take a look. He then took her into the house and sat her on the sofa.
I parked the car, cracked the windows for Canela and went into the house where, sitting on the couch Dr. Carlos said to Lisa and I in a very calm voice, “Ok, there is no time to get to a hospital, we are going to do this right here, right now.”
At that point and time he turned to his maid and said, “Start boiling water and get some towels” He said to his wife, “get the kids up and out of the house.” He said to Katie, “call and see if there is a helicopter available to take Lisa and the baby back to São Paulo and call the closest first aid station and see if they have an ambulance with sterile supplies.” Then he looked at me and said, “go upstairs and wash your hands.”
Now we all know that Lisa has a loud voice and an even louder laugh, but I have never heard her, or any human being for that matter, scream as loud as she did during the next half hour or so. Due to her screaming, and the fact that it was 7:00am on a Saturday morning of a holiday weekend, the entire condominium was soon awake trying to find out what was happening. Before we knew it, blankets, towels, a heater, a bathing tub and baby clothes were arriving at the door as all who lived within shouting distance wanted to help.
After a few more blood curtling screams, a couple of “Oh God, please no, this really hurts” and one “I´m really sorry about your couch”, Flynn was born at 7:50am. Dr. Carlos checked him out quickly and told Katie that she could cancel the helicopter because the baby was fine. About 10 minutes later the VW Bus “ambulance” arrived with sterile blankets and a sterile medical kit. Dr. Carlos clamped the umbilical cord and I cut it.
At this point the Doctor explained that we all needed to relax and stay calm and keep the baby warm. Despite his explication, his wife offered us champagne and whiskey, which we turned down as we were still in shock over the events of the morning, which was just now reaching 8:00am. Shortly there after, their sons were brought back into the house and the 10 year old, Johnathan, looked at the baby and promptly left the house again. A few minutes later he came back in with a bouquet of handpicked flowers for Lisa.
After a while, Katie and I left to take Canela back to the beach house and to get Mark. Katie and I could not stop talking about what had happen and then Mark called. He had finally received Katie´s messages giving him updates of what had happened. Katie then told him the whole story and as she was telling him, we both began to cry.
Upon leaving Canela at the beach house with the other dogs and getting Mark, we returned to the scene of the crime. By this time, the entire condominium was up and active. As we walked up the driveway about 30 people gathered around us and started cheering and clapping and yelling congratulations. It was an unbelievable scene.
We entered into the house to Mozart music playing, Lisa holding Flynn on the couch and the good Doctor reading a book on the Dali Lama while drinking coffee. The entire scene was very surreal. After calming down, Dr. Carlos went for a walk on the beach. Upon his return, he suggested that I do the same, and I did.
I remember thinking, how can all of these people just go on with their day? Don´t they know what just happened? Don´t they know the amazing miracle that had just happened a few blocks from where they were laying in the sun? Then it dawned on me, I was them just a few hours ago. It seems that the events of others rarely touch our lives. Something has to happen to us, or close to us for it to have an impact. This does not make us bad people for not stopping to experience the events of others, because they are in fact, just that, the events of others. We are called into these experiences when the time is right. The thing that brought peace to me was the the sun reflecting off the perfect waves and a group of surfers who were out enjoying the great conditions on their longboards. It was their event, their experience. Hopefully they will remember it as much as I will mine of that same day.
At about 1:30pm, Dr. Carlos gave us the ok to load up the car and head back to SP for the hospital. I think I might have lasted about 45 minutes before the adrenalin caught up with me and I asked Katie to drive. I passed out immediately and two hours later we arrived at the hospital.
Although, it was only 4:30 pm it felt like it was 10:00pm at night. I would like to say that things like this don´t happen to us very often, but they seem to happen with frequency. Hopefully Flynn´s life will be blessed with many moments as exciting as his birth. Moments like these are what define life and make it worth living.
So, here´s to Flynn. As an American-Irish-Brasilian, the borders of the world are open to you.
Live it up!