May 7, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush,

"A week ago right now, I was pushing," Janice said softly, still half asleep this morning around six. Two hours later, she'd be woken up again by our baby's soft calls, and she'd say it again: "A week ago, I was still pushing." We laughed, knowing that it would still be another hour before we could quietly wish our son a happy week-old birthday.

She pushed for hours Mr. Bush, and still, a week later, it's amazing to me that she could do it. After six days in labor, after well over 24 hours in active labor, and after false starts and dead ends, Janice began to push our son out--without the aid of drugs--in what was expected to be the last moments of a very long night. But those moments grew longer, as, in spite of her strong pushes, our baby's progress down the birth canal was slow--in fact, it was almost non-existant. As Janice would push, our baby would move down, but then, when she would let up, he would move backwards, negating most of the forward momentum the pushes were making. "It's like he's moving up three and back two," our midwife said, perplexed. In addition, his heart was being affected by the pushes more than was expected and needed constant monitoring.

After about an hour of pushing and watching his heart rate plunge and slowly recover, our midwife said, "There's something funky with that cord." She suggested getting him down low enough to do a forceps birth, and for the third time tonight her OB backup was called into the room. But because of the impossibly slow progress due to the back-and-forth pushes, he was still not low enough to grab with forceps, and so Janice pushed some more and we waited.

It continued like that, Mr. Bush, for what felt like an eternity: Janice slowly passing out between contractions, the incessant beep, beep, beep of the baby's heart monitor both reassuring and nerve wracking all at the same time. But due to her insistence on not giving up, Janice forced that baby down, even though he kept mysteriously moving back up. What began as two pushes per contraction slowly grew to three, which blossomed into four, and, by the end, she was giving five massive pushes per contraction with little more than a tiny breath between. The forceps were abandoned as her own power began to show real progress.

And it worked. She fought bizarre reverse motion, and slowly, painfully, our son was born one week ago this morning.

It has taken much of the week to be able to tell the story without crying, Mr. Bush, because there were so many points where it seemed things would not turn out well (and, in fact, they wouldn't have: the backwards momentum was our baby's own unusually short umbilical cord pulling him back up the birth canal--a cord that probably would have ripped had forceps been used). But this morning, one week later, we lay in bed and marveled not at what might have been, but instead at what was. "Happy Birthday, Roosevelt," we whispered and stroked his downy soft hair.



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