Summer 1981 in Oregon was hot, sweaty, uncomfortable...or maybe it was just me, 9 months pregnant, anxious to deliver my third child. She was due July 15, and since my first two babies had been born 10-14 days early, I was disappointed when she didn't arrive on the 4th. Or the 5th. Or any of the other days, up until Friday, July 10, when we went out for the evening for a picnic dinner by the river with our church.
It was the annual summer church campout, but we weren't planning to camp this year, what with a baby on the way and all. Still, some of our friends tried to convince us to stay the night, offering to share their tent with us, and I admit I was tempted. It was cooler there by the river than back home at the house. But sleeping on the ground didn't seem like the greatest idea in my delicate condition, and the park locked the gate at 10:00 pm--not reopening again until 6:00 am--and that was the deal breaker. What if I went into labor in the middle of the night, and we couldn't get out?
Smart thinking. My contractions began in earnest about 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 11. We didn't need to hurry off to the hospital, because we were planning to have this baby at home. I had been seeing Elizabeth, a chiropractor-midwife for most of the pregnancy, and my husband called her to let her know I was in labor. She and her assistant came to the house about 4:00 a.m., and our little baby girl was born about 10:00 am.
Happy Birth Day, Kendra! She was named for my father (Kendall), with a middle name, Maxine, from her paternal grandpa Max. She was a coordinated child, born on 7-11 and weighing 7 lb., 11 oz.
But she didn't breathe on her own. A few tense seconds--it seemed much longer than that--and then Elizabeth gave her some oxygen, and Kendra gave her first little cry. I began to breathe then, too, and I realized that until that moment, it had never occurred to me that my baby might die.
Elizabeth's assistant tucked Kendra into a warm receiving blanket, and I cradled her at my breast, getting to know my brand new daughter, and encouraging her to begin suckling for colostrum. I felt waves of relief, thrilled with this tiny new person, and so glad that everything had worked out well for having the birth the way I wanted it, natural and without interference, right in my own home.
Except for one thing. Thirty minutes later, Kendra still wasn't breathing very well. Her lips still had a slightly blueish tinge, and her little chest was sucking in too deep with her breaths. Elizabeth gave her more oxygen while the assistant tended to me. The oxygen helped Kendra a little, but both women still had a worried crease in their foreheads.
Less than an hour after she was born, we were on our way to the hospital. In 1981, the only hospital in the Portland area that was friendly to home-birth families was in Forest Grove, an hour's drive away from Oregon City. Elizabeth called to tell them we were coming, and then she and her assistant got into her car, and we tucked Kendra into her new car seat in ours, and we were on our way in caravan.
At Forest Grove Hospital, Kendra was admitted into the "suspect nursery," because they were afraid she might have something contagious, and they didn't want to have to disinfect their entire hospital nursery. They did a spinal tap on this little baby less than three hours old, and shaved her beautiful dark newborn hair on both sides of her forehead--the only veins big enough to allow an IV to be inserted--and began giving her IV antibiotics in case she had meningitis. For the next three days, she and I stayed in a little room by ourselves. It took that long to get the lab results back.
So much for the wonderful, natural home birth experience! Kendra was the only one of my five children to spend that much time in the hospital as a newborn. Poor baby, she had aspirated some amniotic fluid during the birth, and that interfered with her breathing for the first day or so. (That, of course, would have happened with a hospital birth, too.) It turned out that everything else was fine, so after the three days, we were released to finally get to be a family at home.
(I was so grateful that my mother had come ahead of time to help out when the new baby arrived! She stayed home with Julia and Polly while my husband went back to work and Kendra and I were at the hospital.)
I have photos from that era, but they are in albums, and I can't get my scanner to work this morning. Rats.
Kendra was born here, in the house that has been our family home for over thirty years. (Photo from last summer's family reunion.)
here. If you really like the books, you can contact her to purchase her work.)