Explanation about what follows: I wrote the following journal in a Microsoft Word document before coming to my Blog site. This evening, there will be a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, Emily (actually it is for her daughter Ruthie, who will be born in September). As part of a Native-American tradition, those who attend the shower are to take a bead for each of their children. The beads will be strung as a necklace (?) that will be presented to Ruthie at a later time in her life. The participants are also to write a story about the birth of their own children, to be gathered together in a notebook. I enjoy writing much more than Rose does, so she asked me to write something about the birth of Greg. Charissa is mentioned here as well, just as a comparative ease or difficulty of the two childbirths. Kim is not mentioned in the story. I am just too verbose. I did not have time to write about her birth. That will have to come at a later date. She is one of the three readers of this blog, so I wanted to put the disclaimer up front. Kim, I may not have written an account of your birth, but your older siblings will not have the privilege of making a cross-country road trip to Las Vegas next month. You also are very much loved.
A long time ago (December 2, 1980) in a land far, far away from southwest Missouri (Chile, South America), Gregory Robert Fish (McGill) was born. His parents were eager for his arrival. Unlike the birth of his older sister, Charissa, this time his mother’s mother (Mary Ruth McGill) would be present to help the inept father with the household chores, and to help take care of her daughter.
By the way, though, it is not relevant to the story of his birth to include a short mention of the birth of his older sister, Charissa, but as I contemplate the pangs of childbirth that women experience, Charissa’s birth was a proverbial piece of cake, compared to the birth of Ruthie’s father. You see, when Charissa was born, neither of the parents had a clue what giving birth to a child in a far-off land was like. They were both over-cautious, nervous, and called the doctor at the drop of a hat. When Charissa was about to be born, Rose spotted a little earlier in the day, and off they ran to the clinic. Dr. Stacchetti, an Italian doctor who migrated to Chile after years of practice in Italy (and who always reminded us of Robert Young’s character, Dr. Marcus Welby), assured us that the birth was imminent, but not to worry. “Enjoy your day; go to a park; take a nap; go to a movie! I imagine that I’ll see you here tonight.” I don’t remember if we went to a park, or took a nap, but I do remember going to a movie. We saw a World War II movie, Cross of Iron (Sam Peckinpah, 1977). I don’t remember much about the movie—only that it chronicled the atrocities of war in a tremendously intense way. It was a benefit that the movie was so intense, because Rose was in labor during the entire movie, but because of the intense images of war, did not realize it. The movie ended (we were seated in the balcony), and as we stood up, her water broke, and we flooded the theater (that was an example of uncalled-for hyperbole). I must assure you that now we were really spooked. We drove from the theater directly to the clinic. Rose was checked in (she was already dilated about 5 cm), and I had to run home to get the suitcase that we had packed earlier for the clinic, but which was not in the car. I made it back to the clinic, and about an hour and a half later, Charissa was born. We barely had time to practice our Lamaze-inspired Yankee Doodle breathing. Piece of cake!
Not so her younger brother! The first childbirth was easy. We really had no problems. The second pregnancy was afflicted by many problems. Several months before Greg was born, Rose started leaking amniotic fluid. Dr. Stacchetti recommended bed rest for several weeks. Her mother left her home (at that time in Ft. Myers, FL) to come to Chile to help out. She also suffered edema in the ankles, and high blood pressure. It was described as pre-eclampsia. Because of her condition, a date was set at which labor would be induced, should Greg not have decided to come naturally. The edema and the hypertension were pregnancy-related problems, and would be resolved as soon as he was born. He was at full term (I should hope so—He weighed 9 lbs. 12 oz. at birth!), but was not showing signs of coming on his own. We checked into the clinic, and the IV drip to induce labor was started. Rose was in induced labor for about 15 hours. I don’t think that VCRs had been invented yet (maybe Betamax was in existence, but not for poor people like we were)—we could have used an intense war movie to take her attention off of her hard labor.
The labor went on and on and on. Progress was very slow. The pains were intense. Now, it should probably be stated that though Rose’s mother was in Chile, she was not present for any of this. She was on the other side of the big city, taking care of Charissa. So we had been doing the hard work (actually I had been doing the hard waiting; Rose had been doing the hard work), and her mother was with Charissa on the other side of town. We had paid nearly $1000 (a year in advance!) to get a telephone in our house, but at the time it had not been installed. During all that time, we had no way to let Rose’s mother know what was going on. Her labor went so long and hard that they almost decided to shut it down in order to wait for the next day. But, late in the evening, she started making some progress, and they decided to continue it. She was doing great!1 Now, I must make a comment about the Lamaze method. We read the books. We practiced our breathing. It was our intention to use the methodology, and for this child (just as Charissa) to be born without the use of anesthesia. Greg’s birth process needed some kind of kick-starting, but once she got going, she was going so well, that they sent the anesthesiologist (there in case he was needed) home. After all, it was after midnight! Life has taught me that Murphy is right more times than not—“If anything can go wrong, it will.” All I can say is that they never should have sent the anesthesiologist home. We left her room upstairs, to go to the delivery room downstairs. The contractions became more and more intense. They were so strong she was begging for an epidural. That’s when we found out that Dr. Stacchetti (also working off of his memory of the piece of cake delivery of older sister, Charissa) had sent the anesthesiologist back home. He was called back in. She was really in need of the epidural at that time. The good doctor arrived, got prepped quickly, prepared the epidural, and administered it. Rose’s reaction? The pain was gone. Almost immediately, she went to sleep.
That’s when things really got crazy. I was there, and these are my recollections. I am the father who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true (for those who are not Bible scholars, that last statement borders on plagiarism, adapted from John 21:24). She was fully dilated. Greg was ready to be born. I was exhausted. She was sleeping. The doctors were screaming. “Wake up! Wake up! You’ve got to push!” We threw water on her face. One of the doctors even slapped her in the face. She woke up enough to push, and out came our baby boy. He had been in birth position longer than was optimum. The neonatologist was on hand, and they rushed Greg off to the other room. I’m not sure what they did to him, but it saved his life. Rose was exhausted. I was pretty tired too. I was usually the one to talk to the doctors, since I was more conversant in technical language Spanish. The neonatologist came in and told me what had happened. His problems were because he had been in the birth canal, ready to be born, for a longer period of time than what was good for him. His APGAR rating at birth was only 2. They said about the only thing he really had going for him was a strong heartbeat. He recovered very quickly, as his 5-minute APGAR rating was up to 9. When the doctor came in to talk to me, I heard the words, but was too tired to understand. Basically all I understood that night was that there were some problems, but that he was going to be all right.
Now, there is one more pertinent detail. We were well within the first decade of the right-wing military dictatorship, and the country was still under a toque de queda (curfew). It was too late for me to go home to tell Rose’s mom what had happened. My best option was to sleep for a couple hours, then get up at the crack of dawn when the curfew was lifted (5 AM?), and drive across town with the news. I slept a few hours, got up, and crossed Santiago. There was very little traffic out as I drove across the city. The next day, I would have a cogent conversation with the neonatologist and comprehend how serious the situation had been. At 5 AM I remember reflecting on what had happened as I drove. Nearly thirty years later, I can produce the same emotion. I was overwhelmed by an incredible sense of God’s blessing. Through tears of thanksgiving I sang praises to God. My son could have died, but he would be all right. God indeed was good to us.1
During the past year, she has been battling with breast cancer, and I (the husband of Rose and the father of Greg) have been amazed at her strength. She has bounced back from her surgeries with incredible speed. She is a strong lady. I love her!