12 October 2012

Meeting Madeleine at 10 Centimeters

Last weekend we celebrated the first birthday of Menorah.

Madeleine & Menorah

And the 1st Anniversary of a wild adventure for Jill and Sarah. About a year ago I asked my French tutor Tchic if I, along the new girl in town (who also happened to be our favorite labor and delivery nurse) could come to the birth of his daughter.

Tchic & Menorah
 That's not a weird request, right? For whatever reason, Tchic was game.

So on the day Tchic's wife Madeleine went into labor, he gave us a call. Moments later Jill and I were bumping down narrow dirt roads, rolling down the window for every stranger to ask directions to the tiny clinic. We finally found CELPA, which was not more than a cinder block building and Tchic waiting for us outside.

As Jill and I sat waiting for permission to go in, I thought of an old study I read that said anyone could gain access to top secret locations by acting confident and carrying a clip board. I demanded Jill put her stethoscope around her neck. "Just do it! Act confident. They'll let us in." And sure enough, even though regulations prohibit the father of the baby from entering the delivery room, two white girls who had never met the mother were ushered back like royalty.

We first met Madeleine at 10 centimeters pushing her  heart out on a rusty table half her width. The room had to have been about 95 degrees. Everyone was dripping sweat all over each other. Mind you, I was fresh from having Annais so I brought what I thought any woman would want during labor. A fan and a cooler full of ice packs.

Jill got to work doing her thing and I tried my darndest to keep that woman cool. I remember thinking I wish I knew the words for "freezer burn" in French so I could confirm with Madeleine that I wasn't freezer-burning her temples. In retrospect I think that was the least of her worries.

It turned out Menorah was a big baby weighing over 9lbs, and it wasn't a pleasant labor. At one point a nurse was up on the table practically jumping on Madeleine's uterus to get her out. I was so disturbed I swear I started having sympathy contractions.

Nonetheless Jill and I kept shouting our best French labor coaching phrases. The nurses and doctor thought we were truly ridiculous. By the expressions on their faces, I'm quite certain they thought the ice packs and cheerleading were the strangest things they'd ever seen. It was clear they were not there for emotional support.

Finally Menorah was born and took her first giant breath after Jill sucked her nose out with the same bulb syringe I brought from Ani's birth at Martha Jefferson. Babies forever bonded by bulb syringe.

Afterward we escorted ourselves out, kind of wondering what on earth had just happened. And imagined Madeleine (who we were not convinced even knew who we were) being totally confused too. Who were those crazy white girls? They just appeared and disappeared!

A few days later Tchic confirmed Madeleine was truly grateful for the support and was not suffering from freezer burn. Menorah is a healthy, happy girl who I hope has no memory of the broken "French" cheers shouted at her mother during her birth.

Note from Jill: Wondering why she's named "Menorah?"  According to Tchic, it's to signify light after the seven years of "darkness" (a.k.a. no babies) between his older son, Ariel, and new addition, Menorah.  And no, Tchic's not Jewish.  


  1. Beautiful girl and well done to all! I gather there's not a lot of handholding kind of support during the birth here either. My Kenyan friends constantly tell me that women are cajoled and admonished for crying or complaining during labor. And I wonder what she thought of the nose sucker. Another friend told me his mom just used to suck the gunk right out of his nose.

  2. Wonderful truly multi cultural birth. The place, the people present, the styles of support, the protocol of who is present at the birth and the baby's beautiful name with is special significance. Thank for this postcard from abroad.


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