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Monday, February 14, 2011

Prepared for the Worst Case Scenario

I have always taken the Boy Scout motto of being prepared very seriously. Even before I was a Scout, the idea of being prepared for things that might happen was very important to me. I remember being a child carrying a shoebox filled with baseball cards and a Bug Zoo with my pet grasshopper during every Tornado Warning just in case the worst case scenario became a reality.
I might suffer from WCSS, Worst Case Scenario Syndrome, causing the worst possible outcome for any situation to spring into my mind. No longer was I a normal person that read over and signed off on a two page birth plan. Why did I feel the need to have a sixteen page birth plan for the birth of my third child that was complete with maps, annotations, assignments of various duties to people, checklists, contingencies for severe weather and alternate routes just in case trains blocked the railroad crossings when they derailed?
Worst Case Scenario Syndrome isn't a true mental illness but a tongue in cheek way of making fun of my over-preparedness and reflex to think of the worst thing that could ever possibly happen. Ironically, I don't always end up prepared for any eventuality, and that is part of what drives my problem. Yes, I remember what drove me to a sixteen page long birth plan, I still remember that fateful, funny and memorable day.
It was the type of warm spring day that makes the blood in my veins flow with the beat of new life. All around me green leaves were bursting up through barren black dirt and out of naked tree branches. As I was finishing my work for the day a storm was springing up out of the thin air. The air was thin only in appearance, but in reality was filled with moisture and the excitement that pressed heavily upon my body and invaded my mind with anticipation for the building storm.
Being a volunteer for the local emergency management I started driving towards the storm so I could observe it for severe and tornadic conditions. The excitement built in me with every strike of lightning, electrifying my soul with anticipation of what I was going to see this time out. Maybe this would be the time I would get on the back side of a wall cloud and see a tornado being born.
The musical 8-bit tone of my phone ringing interrupted my excitement.
"What are you doing?" asked my wife.
"I'm getting ready to drive into a storm," I said.
"I need you to come home."
"But," I tried to rebuff and keep my chance at seeing a tornado today alive.
"I'm in labor."
I rushed home quicker than any storm could rise up across the wide open prairie. My second child would soon be born and I needed to be home for that event. Part of the rush was due to the fact that one of my fears starting to come true. What if we were stuck at home and couldn't get to the hospital because of the bad weather?
My wife had always dismissed my fears as being too extreme and not realistic, but now I was driving in a severe thunderstorm to my wife who was in labor. Fortunately, my fears were alleviated as I arrived home to find my wife still in very early labor. I wouldn’t have to drive through a hailstorm to get my wife to a hospital before our baby was born.
My wife and I discussed how labor was progressing, I watched the weather from my base station at the house, my parents came and picked up our oldest daughter before her bedtime rolled around and then I took a nap. My wife's labor just kept rolling along, slow and steady, with no real progress. Everything was prepared for; my wife and I were both resting, ready for a long drawn out labor.
The waiting and worry that this would be a long labor led me to jump when my wife woke me up a few hours later saying that labor was getting harder and she needed my help. We called our doula to come to the house to help us and began using the things we had learned in our childbirth class to help my wife labor through the contractions.
My wife and I had hired a doula, a hired labor coach, to help my wife labor through the contractions without medication. My get tough, you-can-do-this approach did not translate well to my wife as a motivational speech. The doula was another way for us to better prepare for this birth.
I talked to the doula when she arrived and she thought my wife and I were doing fine and said that it was up to us when we wanted to go the hospital. We didn't really know when the right time to go the hospital was because we didn't want to go too soon and have labor stop and we didn't want to go too late and give birth in the car or at home, eventualities we had not prepared for.
Even though my wife's water had not broken we decided it was time to go to the hospital as the contractions were intensifying. The doula worked with my wife while I loaded all of the things we had planned to take to the hospital. This was a chore as we had planned to bring a large variety of things in preparation for anything that might happen. We needed a crock-pot to keep some compresses warm, CD player, CD's, clothes, toiletry bag and of course a copy of our four page long birth plan.
As I was coming back into the house I called my brother, who was living at home in my parent's basement, telling him to go upstairs and let my mom and dad know that we were going to the hospital soon. I told my wife it was time to get up so we could go to the hospital and she informed me that she couldn't move. I tried to help her up and she let everyone in the county know that she needed to push. In an attempt to stay calm I recalled the fact that with our first child it took my wife forty-five minutes to push the baby out. Doing some quick math I realized we had nothing to worry about, fifteen minutes to the hospital, fifteen minutes to get upstairs, no problems, time to spare.
"I can't move," slipped past my wife's breathless lips.
"You need to decide right now if we are going to have this baby here or in the hospital," ordered the doula.
"I need to puuuuuuush," she loudly replied.
"We need to check and see if we can see the baby," said our doula.
We moved down to see if the baby was coming out and the bulging motion was a clear indicator that time was short. The doula ordered me to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance and I went in to auto-pilot. I picked up the cordless phone to call for an ambulance, talking to the dispatcher over my wife's guttural womanly screams as nature swept over and took control of her body. As I picked up my cell phone I realized my parents would be going to the hospital and not find us. Obviously, this would cause some type of evil and negative consequence that I just didn't have time to think up and so I called my half asleep brother back. All I had time to tell him between putting towels in the dryer to keep the baby warm and answering a few questions for the 9-1-1 dispatcher was that we weren't making it to the hospital.
I hung up with 9-1-1 after I told them that I had my hands full. At this point I saw what looked like a balloon appear out of thin air and knew that the storm of labor was getting more intense all around me. Upon seeing the baby's head come out, I remembered that my wife's water had not broken yet. This presented a whole new problem I had never planned for, I needed something to break the bag of waters with and I needed it to be in my hand. My first thought was of the long steel camping knife right behind me in the closet, not what I wanted my wife to see me holding right then.
At this point the house phone rang causing the doula to beg me not to answer it. I picked it up knowing that no one calls my house at three-something in the morning unless it is really, and I mean really important. Not that anything important was happening, right? I answered the phone to my mom wanting to know what was happening. She asked if I had called for an ambulance and I told her that I had called for one, was staring at a baby's head and needed to go. I hung up the phone and I am certain I set it down but I had other things I needed to spend my precious half-seconds paying attention too.
I urgently ran down the hallway to the laundry room to find something, really just about anything, to break the bag of waters. Thankfully, as I stepped around the corner into the laundry room I came across my one and a half foot long silver screwdriver. Grabbing it, I jogged back to the bedroom and my wife's side. The doula informed me that she had ruptured the bag of waters and I responded by grabbing my wife's hand as I hid the screwdriver on the end table hoping my wife didn't see it. As my daughter slid out into this chaotic world everything turned into a blur of memories.
I remember wrapping towels around the baby, rubbing her back to stimulate breathing, hearing her sweet and joyful cry reach into the night while realizing the ambulance hadn't made it to our house. I ran outside to see the ambulance crew down the road from our house circling in the intersection.
The world returned to normal as I talked to the paramedics and told them how my wife and new daughter were okay. Everything was fine, I hadn't been prepared but I had made it through. Everything had turned out wonderful and I held my beautiful baby as the ambulance crew loaded my wife onto the cot for the trip to the hospital.
It's amazing how calm the world is at almost four in the morning. The sun isn't up and hardly anyone is out driving on the road. Almost no activity, nothing bad could happen in this stillness. As I was thinking these thoughts I realized that I needed to call my boss and let him know that I wouldn't be in to work. I would hate to get fired for forgetting that! That may seem far fetched to you and I do admit, that it is probably the worst case scenario.

Matthew S.

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