It’s been quite some time since I have written a guest post, but since my wife is laid-up in her postpartum state, I decided to write the birth story of our beautiful new daughter Eleanor Chara (pronounced KAH-rah). For you baby name origin enthusiasts, I will save you a search of your favorite baby name website. In keeping with our tradition of vintage first names, Eleanor was chosen due to its popularity in the early part of the 20th century. It plummeted to a US popularity ranking somewhere in the 700s in 1980, but since then has been steadily growing in popularity, now ranked #148 in the US. The meaning of Eleanor is “sun ray, or shining light.” Chara is the greek word for “joy, delight, or source of joy.” Another definition for Chara is “the awareness (of God’s) grace, favor; joy” and is one of the fruits of the spirit found in Galations 5:22, preceding not coincidentally Adele’s middle name, “Eirene” in the verse, (which means “peace.”)
I’ll start our story with what transpired in our household (the day before the birth) on Saturday. First was the Mommy/Adele “girls’ retreat” which was almost canceled due to indiscriminate scratches made on the headboard that mom had just painted. But since we didn’t know exactly when the baby was coming, we decided that time alone with Adele and Mommy before the baby came was important, so the retreat occurred as scheduled. They had a very nice lunch at the Country Cupboard and Tea Room in Kensington’s Antique Row. They each had a delicious meatball sandwich with ice cream for dessert. Then they had their nails painted, Adele’s fingernails and Mommy’s toe nails. They both returned home refreshed from their retreat, ready to tackle more household projects as we awaited the arrival of baby.
There have been two main projects that we wanted to finish before the baby came: the bookshelves and Adele’s room. Saturday evening I installed the final piece of baseboard trim on all five bookshelves. Although there are still a few more trim pieces to install on the bookshelves, I have completed what I considered to be the hardest part because it involved scribing baseboards and crown moulding. As far as Adele’s room was concerned, we had a ways to go. For over one month, she has been sleeping on her foam mattress on the floor. The bed frame we had in our last house broke in pieces during the move, which is not surprising since we had already patched it up several times and it was barely hanging on by a thread. So Nicole found a nice bed on Craiglist that I picked-up in downtown DC at about 5 PM Thursday evening. That’s right, picture the “honk, honk” stop-and-go of commuter rush-hour traffic in a major metropolitan area and me, with my SUV and rented U-Haul trailer in tow. Three hours after leaving the house, I completed the 18-mile round trip with the precious bed. To our dismay, we discovered that we couldn’t use our old system of 2 x 4 slats to support the foam mattress. Instead, we needed to buy a box spring so that Adele’s mattress wouldn’t fall to the ground unsupported. So the box spring, among other things, was on our shopping list for Saturday afternoon. We went grocery shopping, trim piece shopping at Lowe’s, saw our old house with a for sale sign (and Nicole’s beautiful flowers blooming that she planted last summer),
and box spring shopping at the mattress store. Our last stop of our 3 1/2 hour spree, pulling into the parking lot with Adele’s full size box spring tightly strapped to our roof rack, was Chipotle, our favorite quick bite to eat when we don’t feel like cooking. We tried a new trick that I recently learned from my coworker: instead of ordering a burrito and sharing it among the three of us (which has become less and less satisfying as Adele’s capacity to eat has increased), we ordered a burrito with the “tortilla on the side, oh and can I also have an extra tortilla on the side.” Then, generally what happens is that they give you a burrito bowl with twice the stuffing as a regular burrito and very often they won’t charge you for the extra tortilla. Although it wasn’t quite twice the stuffing, we did get more than usual and had leftovers when we were all done eating. If you’re still confused about what it means to have a burrito with the tortilla on the side, it took the people who worked there a minute to figure it out too (as it did me when I first heard it).
Quite a long, but I think necessary introduction to lay the framework for the part you have all been waiting for. Sunday morning I was awakened by moans from an already awake and upright Nicole around 5 AM. Now that in itself is not that unusual. Nicole has had contractions for weeks now, many of which have been pretty uncomfortable for her. At first, as with the contractions of the previous weeks, I would do my husbandly service by asking her if she was ok, then rolling over in an attempt to go back to sleep. But when these were happening every 10 minutes or so, I knew something was up (besides me). It was clear that Nicole was in denial when she said, “I’m excited to hear the personal testimonies in church this morning.” I had to tell her directly, “Honey, I’m sorry but we’re not going to church this morning.” There’s no way she was going to be groaning in agony every 10 minutes while people were praying, singing, or speaking at church. So, at 7:20 AM, after Nicole descended into the hot master bathtub, she called the midwife to tell her what was going on. The midwife told her to call her in an hour with an update. During the next hour, Nicole finished her bath and decided to take on the project that we started the day before when we picked up the box spring: Adele’s room. The recently-acquired bed frame was freshly painted and leaning up against the wall in pieces. Likewise, Adele’s rug was also leaning up against the wall and when I unfurled it, I wished I had taken my own advice to vacuum it before we moved. It was at that point that I told Nicole how ridiculous it was that we were finishing the project as she is going into labor. When she told me the midwife thought it was a good idea to “take her mind off of the painful contractions” I realized I was committed to completing the project right then. The midwife also said she would be there within the hour (more to follow on that one!) So we vacuumed both sides of the rug, put together the bed frame, and inserted the box spring with the foam mattress on top.
We were a little surprised to see the top of the mattress about three feet high, requiring a stepping stool for Adele to go to bed (we’re working on how to prevent her from falling in her sleep from such a high perch). Now we could finally say, Adele’s room was essentially done (her window seat still has some work to do though). That was all Nicole needed to push her into Stage II of labor.
When the iPhone contraction app said that we had reached the 20 contraction limit for the free app before we had to purchase the upgrade, I said I would clear the memory so that we could start recording again. Nicole said we didn’t need the app any more, the baby was coming. Unfortunately, the midwife was not (ok, she was coming, but she just hadn’t arrived yet). After a very brief moment of panic when Nicole stood at the side of the bed in agony declaring, “I want to push”, I realized I could not stop the baby from coming and I would have to deliver this baby on my own. I had to reach back 10 years to when I last delivered a baby as a medical student to attempt my newly-assigned, involuntary mission. Unfortunately, my medical memory doesn’t go back much more than four years, to the start of residency, my dermatology residency that is. So I told my wife to get on the bed and I did what all good doctors are trained to do — I washed my hands. When I came back, still thinking that the midwife would walk through the door at any minute, there was a head starting to come out. With just one push, the whole head popped out and baby spat some amniotic fluid out in my direction. So there she was, with her head popped out and her shoulders still inside. Her face was blue and she wasn’t showing any sign of breathing. I got a little nervous at this point because Nicole had stopped pushing (I had forgotten that the umbilical cord was still connected and as long as it wasn’t being compressed, the baby could still get oxygen.) Again, disregarding my medical training from the previous decade, I told Nicole to push to get the baby out. She wasn’t ready because the contraction was over. So an agonizing 30 seconds or so went by while I stared at the blue face of my almost born child. Then the next contraction finally came, Nicole gave a second push and the baby was easier to catch than a football gently place in a quarterback’s hands. I quickly observed that the umbilical cord was freely dangling from the belly button and was thankful to see a cough and a breath shortly after. I’m not sure whether I noticed the red hair first, or the fact that she was a girl. Either way, both were clearly visible. I didn’t know yet what her name was, though, because we had come up with two girl names: Eleanor and Vera — we said it would be a “game day decision.” At this point, I held the baby for a while not sure what to do with her. Should I just hold her until the midwife came? Should I hand her off, to continue the football analogy, to the running back, aka my wife who was reaching down and grabbing a foot? I decided that it could still be a while before the midwife came, so I somewhat awkwardly handed her off before I fumbled (yes, for those of you who read my last guest post, I am still off sports, I just couldn’t resist the analogy). When Nicole held her, she said “well hello Eleanor.” Thus, it was settled, Eleanor Chara became the newest member of the Handfield family arriving about 7 minutes before the midwife at 9:37 AM EDT, 27 April 2014. In addition to the “Handfield red” hair, her other notable feature is her chubby, round face.
This picture served as a birth announcement text, accompanied by the words “Eleanor Chara Handfield 0937. Midwife should be here any minute.”
Eleanor has been quite compliant thus far. Not only did she sport the red hair, as ordered by Mom and Dad, but she arrived almost exactly on her due date, or more precisely one day before her due date which happens to be the average between Adele (12 days early) and Everett (10 days late). Also, she decided to continue the trend of adding two ounces to the previous baby’s weight – Adele 7 lbs 14 oz, Everett 8 lbs even, Eleanor 8 lbs 2 oz. She fit all that weight into a stocky 19” long frame! By the time we had done all the postpartum/baby checks, and initial bonding time, it was about 12:30 PM. Thankfully Becky, our friend from church, came by about 20 minutes after Eleanor was born (after I texted her that the baby was coming soon). She graciously watched Adele and Everett throughout the proceedings and well into the afternoon. With the other Handfield babies, the first meal after birth was breakfast, for which I had the tradition of getting donuts. But since it was already afternoon, I had to postpone that tradition until the next day. For lunch I made bacon, cheddar, and grilled onion burgers for the four of us, which were a hit. This morning I made a run to our neighborhood bakery, “Donut King” where I bought a half a dozen donuts, most of which I ate myself. Mission accomplished.