Of course we knew we were having a baby soon. And of course we knew that the due date of June 27th was approximate. But I think we had expected some kind of warning signs like contractions or the baby dropping to at least have a couple days warning. On Tuesday evening, May 29th, we had a typical night; JooYeon was studying auditing as she scratched her poison ivy that was still all over her. I was down to the final two weeks of my quarter, immersed in papers and exams. We went to bed around midnight, a typical time for us.
And then, BAM! At 2:30 a.m., JooYeon turned to me in bed and said, "Can you pass me a tissue?" It took us (mostly me) until 3:00 to realize that her water might have really broken and so we grabbed some of our baby stuff and drove to the hospital.
At this point, we didn't know anything about the childbirth process - about the breathing, the choices we might have to make, the medication, etc. Joo was stunned when the nurses told her she couldn't eat until after giving birth. You see, my plan had been to finish up finals and then cram hard for having a baby and all the things we might need to know.
By about 7:00 or 8:00 am that morning, it began sinking in to both of us that this was it. All the months of waiting - when Ellie seemed so far away - were over. And we would meet her within 12 hours (since Joo's water broke before the contractions, they were going to get her out one way or another within that time frame).
We rearranged our priorities - emailed professors - called family - and then the wait began. The minute hand was flying around the clock, so it really didn't seem like much of a wait. But the contractions still weren't coming.
Mom and Heather, who had made a beeline down to Athens after receiving our call, arrived and gave JooYeon some much-needed female reassurance. But still no contractions (or at least ones that JooYeon could feel).
And then, they finally began to kick in so JooYeon did some deep breaths like she had learned in her YouTube yoga video. The only other pregnant woman in the delivery wing gave birth, leaving us to go at it alone.
She decided she would withstand as much as possible before getting an epidural, and for once, all went according to plan. Throughout the day, JooYeon had an incredible nurse (Geri) counseling her and providing her all the reassurance that I might have been able to do had I studied up on the labor process. Geri's 26 years of experience and calm word were enough to set JooYeon's mind at ease as the process intensified.
And then, the pushing began. Some hair, some more hair, the doctor arrived, a last-minute epesiotomy, and suddenly Ellie burst out into the world!
At 19.5" and 5 lb, 13 oz., she was small, but not too small. Her body heat was low for awhile so we used a contraption with warming tubes that allowed us to hold her for awhile.
After that, the nurses encouraged as much skin-to-skin contact with Ellie as possible, both from JooYeon and from me. One interesting thing I learned through that process was that males heat up a newborn more quickly than females, but with no cutoff switch. A male's body will continue to heat the baby up to dangerous temperatures, whereas a female's body will self-regulate the temperature to keep the baby at just the right temperature.
I went outside for a breath of fresh air. I know it's cliche, but it had been the most emotional day of my life; I shed more tears that day than I have in my entire adult life combined. It struck unexpectedly, like when I picked up my phone to call my parents and tell them that Ellie was born safely. Or when I replayed the furrows on JooYeon's brow when she was pushing Ellie out. Or when I told Mom and Heather the miraculous lightning bug story (you'll have to ask for that one in person).
So, here she is. Elizabeth (Ellie) Kate Showalter. Despite what people say, I personally don't see any resemblance to either JooYeon or me in there yet, but I'm sure it'll come with time.
We started receiving visitors right away - well above our allotted limit, and at all hours of the day and night, but the hospital staff was willing to please. They were also sensitive about Korean cultural traditions, which are very different than Western ones after birth. For example, Korean tradition dictates a three-week period after delivery in which the woman must not shower, wash her hair, or even brush her teeth. She must also avoid anything cold, whether in foods, liquids, or air temperature. Navigating these traditions, which ones to keep and which ones to relax on, has been one of the biggest topics for the past week since Ellie's birth.
And so we thought that was that, and that we were ready to go home and relax for a bit. Then came the tests.
The first one that Ellie failed was the car seat test. They put her in the car seat, hooked her up to lots of sensors, and then waited to see how her body would respond. Apparently, she wasn't getting enough oxygen, so that was strike one. The second was the jaundice test. Being premature and partly Asian, she had double risk factors, and so they put her under an ultraviolet light. From that point on, we could only take her out for feedings.
She looked so lonely and tiny there in the blue box. The worst part was that the sunglasses kept slipping off of her head and we were afraid the light would damage her eyes if the glasses slipped off while we were sleeping . . . so we just didn't sleep much, and took turns watching Ellie.
The one nice thing about staying in the hospital a couple extra days was that it helped to have lots of medical staff on hand to ask questions. JooYeon and I are both quasi-hypochondriacs, so it was much better to have reassuring medical answers for all of our questions instead of whatever a Google search might pull up had we been at home during that time frame.
If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle. - Vincent van Gogh