Saturday, February 28, 2004

Memories of our garden helped my wife through childbirth - originally published May 9, 2001 in the St. Catharines Standard

When Drew, our eldest son was born, Sheri and I lived in a little house on Queenston Street. The backyard was closed in on two sides with concrete walls and the yard itself was paved with patio stones. That summer, we turned that yard into the most beautiful cottage garden. During her labour with Drew, she had remained calm by visualizing our backyard, our little secret garden. All of this was going through my head as Sheri grasped down hard on my knuckles as she screamed in pain. We were having a baby. We had planned to have the birth at home, but something went wrong.
Sandy Knight, our midwife arrived at our home shortly after eleven the night of April 25, 2001. Ann Lovold, the other midwife, was to come over later to help with the birth. Sandy gave Sheri a quick check up and then sent her into the bath to relax. She was checking the baby’s heartbeat with an ultrasound monitor at regular intervals. You could hear the heartbeat thump, miss a beat, thump, thump. “It’s probably nothing to worry about,” she said. At 1:15am she broke the news to us. That thump, miss a beat, thump, thump, was arrhythmia in the baby’s heartbeat. There was a ninety-nine percent chance the baby would be fine but she suggested we go to the hospital just to be sure. That way, if there were any problems, we would have a pediatrician at our disposal. Sheri, who had been resting in the bath, and whose contractions were less than 3 minutes apart and getting more painful each contraction, was upset by this turn. She didn’t want to go to hospital, but the memory of her first daughter, who had died from a rare form of cancer, motivated her. “I don’t want to have any more dead babies. Let’s go.” 1:30 am we climbed into the car. Sandy followed behind us. She also arranged to have Ann meet us at the hospital. At 1:45 am we arrived in the Emergency carport at St. Catharines General Hospital. I jumped out to help Sheri, only to discover that she refused to get out of the car. Luckily Sandy arrived shortly with a wheelchair and just the right words to coax Sheri into the hospital. Sheri and Sandy rushed up to maternity while I signed Sheri in at admitting.
While I was admitting her, Sheri began pleading with Sandy and Ann, the other midwife who met us at the hospital, for drugs and lots of them. I found the room just in time to substitute for the drugs. If she had to feel pain, she’d be damned if she didn’t break my knuckles in the process.
All of our discussions about breathing and relaxation had gone out the car window on the way to the hospital. She said later that the pain was like all of reality smashed into little pieces and fell into a black void. Nothing would make sense to her again until she was holding our new baby Joey just minutes from now.
I looked to my right. The baby was crowning and the midwives were working together to ease the baby out. They asked me to use my right hand to hold Sheri’s leg up. I looked back at Sheri. This woman I loved, my wife, was in utter agony. If only I could say something to make it easier. I whispered in her ear. “Go to the garden honey…go to the garden.” “I can’t,” she said, “they tore it up when we moved. It’s gone.” “You have to remember the garden, baby. They can’t take away your memories.” “It hurts.” “I know it hurts, but you have to remember.” I was crying now too. I had no idea what to do. But then she told me. “Yes, fine, the garden,” she said, “Now please shut up. I’m trying to push.”
Joseph Michael John Fogel was born into the world At 2:15 the morning of April 26, 2001. He’s a quiet baby, with no signs of the heart arrhythmia that prompted our trip to the hospital. He’s got a full head of hair and except for the midnight feedings, he sleeps through the night. He hardly ever cries. Drew calls him “My baby” and when we go out, Drew is quick to introduce the baby as “My brother Joey”.
As for Sheri, she’s ecstatic to have another baby. And she never wants to hear about that garden again.


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