The Birth of Willie
By Alice Carlton
I sat on the examination table in Dr. Dingfelder’s office waiting for him. I rested my hands on the top of my belly but soon had to put my hands behind me and lean on my arms. I never knew it was possible to be this big. I was so ready for this baby to be on the outside of me. I was a beached whale, two days past my due date. I felt a rolling and kicking inside me. Surely he was also ready to come out. I ran one hand over the huge curve of my belly to soothe the restless creature inside.
In came Dr. Ding smiling broadly at me. “Well, let’s take a look at you and see if there’s any progress.”
I leaned back and propped my feet in the stirrups. He pulled the rolling lamp into place and looked. “Hmm, two or three centimeters dilated. Let me see....” He put his fingers inside me and twisted them. I nearly jumped off the table. “Sometimes this will get things moving.” He gave me a big smile which I returned half-way. “Go home and get a good night’s sleep,” he advised.
The next morning I felt gentle contractions, not much more than menstrual cramps. I told James as we sat at the breakfast table. He frowned. “What should I do?”
“Go to work, but stay close to the phone,” I said.
He left me on the couch on top of mounds of towels he insisted on placing there. I thought he was overdoing it, but what did I know? He’d been through this twice before, and this was my first time.
After he left, I decided to time the contractions. They continued steadily every three minutes. I called Dr. Ding’s office and was told he wanted to see me around noon. A few hours later, I was in the stirrups again.
“Four centimeters,” Dr. Ding reported. “Slow but steady. Go take a walk and come back at five pm. Exercise might move things along.”
We drove to a park and walked and walked. The weather was warm for the thirtieth of January, and the sun warmed me as we walked. Still the constant gentle contractions. This will be a piece of cake, I thought.
When we returned to the office, Judy, his wife and nurse, greeted us. She took one look at me and said, “You’re not in labor yet.” Dr. Ding agreed. Still only four centimeters. I had six more to go.
This time Judy gave the advice. “Go home, eat something light, get some sleep, and call us when something happens.” I couldn’t imagine this but tried my best. We had some soup. I retired to the bedroom. James watched TV in the living room. Around 11 pm, I got up, but he was ready for bed by that time. I surfed the channels for a while, bored and restless. An hour went by, maybe two. Then it hit me. The most severe pain I had ever experienced, then another, then another. I doubled over and staggered back to where he lay sleeping in our bed. I shook his shoulder and gasped, “Call Dr. Ding!” I could barely talk.
He was awake at once, guard dog on alert, and grabbed the phone. I moaned and lay on my side. Phone at his ear, he turned to me. “They want us to meet them at their office. It’ll save us hospital fees just in case.”
This time when I entered their office, I walked in doubled over. “Now that’s labor!” grinned Judy. A quick exam showed I was still only four centimeters, but they sent us on to the hospital. No birthing room for me. Things were moving so slowly, Ding wanted to put a fetal monitor on me. Soon I was in a labor room with an extremely calm dark-skinned nurse. She strapped me in, turned on the monitor and soon there it was blaring throughout the room, chuggachuggachuggachugga, my baby’s heartbeat.
I tried to remember how to breathe, slow and deep or fast, I wasn’t sure. The contractions were so intense, I decided fast. This must be close to the end. My calm nurse redirected me back to slow and deep. “Save your energy,” she said, “you’ve got a long way to go yet.”
Ding and Judy were there in a flash, all professional, taking charge. By this time it was approaching the predawn hours. Ding got between my legs again. “Time to break your water,” he said as he poked me. I felt warm liquid flow everywhere.
A fierce contraction gripped me. A startling silence filled the room. No more chuggachugga. Then the contraction ended and the heartbeat resumed.
Instant turmoil. Judy barked orders: “Call anesthesia! We’ll have to section her!” And to me: “Turn over, get on your knees!” I was dazed and confused. She repeated herself. Oh, yes, reverse gravity, the first childbirth class. With her help, I soon had my buns in the breeze, hospital gown flapping as they rolled me across the hall and into the operating room where they had me turn over onto my back.
Judy leaned close to my face, smiling, “We’re going to put you to sleep real fast and when you wake up, you’ll have a baby.”
The next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to see James’ smiling face. An oxygen mask covered my nose and mouth. My stomach throbbed. I looked at him. “My stomach hurts,” I whispered.
“I’ll bet it does,” he said. “The baby’s fine. I’ve already held him.”
“What’s his name?” I asked. We had discussed lots of names. I was too groggy to remember what we had decided.
“His name is William,” he said. “Willie.”
A nurse curled him into the crook of my arm. Willie’s eyes looked straight into mine. I was in love.
Time of birth: 4:56 am, January 31, 1987.
Alice Carlton - After my retirement from forty years as a clinical social worker, I took a few writing classes. My writing group, Novel Gazers, grew out of a novel writing class. I am a member of the NC Writers’ Network. I have published poems in Friends Journal, Iris: the UNC Journal of Medicine, Literature and Visual Art and The Scanner: Poems from the Art School’s Poetry Workshop. I am married with one adult son who now goes by the name of Will.