Isabella is now 2 months old. And finally I think I may have time to sit down and record a bit of background and the events of her coming into the world.
As most of you know, Sam is a doctor at the mission hospital here in Lubango, Angola. And although many babies are born there, and we trust and love the doctors there, the hospital just doesn't have the equipment and resources it needs to provide for anything that might go wrong, especially concerning the baby's aftercare, etc. so when we learned we were going to be parents, we knew that we would plan on having the baby at a hospital in Namibia.
In mid October Sam and I made the +/- 16 hour drive (with an overnight partway there) down to Windhoek. The drive was good – the 30 or 40 kms of off-roading went OK considering my big watermelon belly, even the border crossing was fairly straightforward this time and didn't take too long. We spent some time together in Windhoek until Sam had to return to Angola for a few weeks, while I waited things out in Namibia. I prayed often during that time of separation that Isabella would hang in there and not arrive before he could return. She did, and we were both VERY grateful, especially considering how things unfolded when she did decide to make her appearance.
Flash forward to November 18th - a day after my due date. My best friend, Amber, had flown in to be with me with the hopes of being there when baby arrived. [It's helpful to note that, in addition to being my best friend, she is also a doula (labour coach), a labour and delivery nurse, AND she is in her final semester of mid-wifery training.] This girl LOVES all things mother and baby! She had been there for a week and was nearing the end of her stay – with a return flight on the 20th November. I think both of us were starting to get nervous that she might have to leave without greeting our little one. So what did we do? We went on safari of course. Even though she had been to Namibia before and her main purpose in coming was baby-related, you simply can't come to Namibia without doing a game drive! So the three of us went to Okapuka and climbed up into the back of this lovely vehicle: (not the easiest thing to do at 9 months pregnant, I might add!) and we commenced bouncing and bumping and taking in the wonder that is the Namibian outdoors and wildlife. I think that both Sam and Amber were secretly hoping the terrain would get baby moving and yet hoping she wouldn't get moving while actually ON the game drive.
On our drive back to Okahandja (where we were staying) we made a stop at Monkey Mountain for a photo op. Because what else should you be doing at 9 months pregnant, a day past your due date, and in flip flops and a skirt? Scrambling up and over rocks! We had not had any maternity photos taken yet and it was dusk and the Namibian sunset was at it's finest. And it didn't hurt that Amber also happens to be an amazing amateur photographer. The Result:
Well, no baby that night, but I did wake up around 3am with some slight cramps thinking, “I wonder...” The next morning the cramps were still there, but no big deal – not even as bad as some menstrual cramps – and we had plans in the city. We ran errands in Windhoek and had a nice lunch – returning to Okahandja in the late afternoon. As we made and ate dinner I noted that the cramps were getting a little stronger and decided that my hunch was correct and that we would finally be meeting our baby girl. We finished dinner around 9:30 and we sat down to watch sitcoms as a distraction from what I now could decidedly call “contractions”. I remember thinking that the pains seemed to be much closer together and more intense than I imagined they would be at the start of things. I also clearly remember Amber saying, “on a scale of 1-10 think of these beginning contractions as like a 1 or 2.” and I remember thinking to myself, “If that is the case....I am in trouble.” A few more contractions after hearing this I could no longer be distracted by or pay any attention to the show were were watching, and I decided to take a warm shower.
The flat we were staying in is part of the Christ's Hope International center. This is the organization that Sam worked for and I volunteered with when I took my first mission trip to Namibia. It is where he and I first met. The flat we were staying in has a tub, but no shower, and the flat where Amber was staying does have a shower, so I was planning to go use the shower there. As I collected my things and headed to the door Amber asked, “Do you want me to come down with you and hang out there, just in case?” Considering how I was feeling I decided that would be a good idea so we headed downstairs together. I took a shower and realized that it was rather difficult to stand up straight during contractions and in my mind I kept hearing Amber say, “think of these like a 1 or 2....”
I dried off, got dressed and figured that Amber and I would go back upstairs...but the contractions seemed to be so close together and I couldn't imagine trying to walk up the steps. So I just sat there facing Amber, sort of bowing my head, closing my eyes and trying not to hold my breath as she encouraged and talked me through contractions. We talked about, “should head to the hospital?” I remember her saying it was really up to me, about what I felt comfortable with – how long to wait before going – because, you see, we had a 45 minute drive from where we were to where the hospital was. I remember saying, “I just don't want to go too early.” for several reasons – 1) if we were too early and they turned us away, where would we go? 2) if they admitted me, Amber wouldn't be allowed in and I was really appreciating her encouragement and knowledge through the contractions. A few more contractions and I decided that it was time to go to the hospital – mostly because I was having a hard time imagining what that 45 minute car ride was going to be like if I waited any longer.
Amber went upstairs to tell Sam to put the bags in the car. I'm not sure what time it was at this point – probably after 11 - it had been maybe an hour, hour and a half since I had come down stairs for the shower. Amber was gone maybe 5 minutes, and in that time...my water broke. When she came back and asked how I was I remember tell her, “I think my water broke” and I remember her asking me where I wanted to be, if I wanted to change positions, etc....and I said, “I don't know!” Ha. I just remember feeling like whatever place and position I was in I didn't want to move. At this point Amber decided to check my progress and Sam had the car ready and had just come in the room where I was. Amber checked me and there was a moment – this was the “I feel like I'm in a movie” moment. I felt like it got very quiet....as Amber announced, “Uh.... you are complete. You're having this baby now.” and then the classic line that I will never forget – she looked at Sam and said, “get towels and boil some water!” I may have even laughed out loud. I don't know if I actually did, or just felt like it. It just felt so surreal.
So Sam was sent off to gather everything needed to deliver a baby – his baby. He will be the first to tell you that it's a lot easier at the hospital where they have everything you need lined up for you, rather than running all over trying to find everything. I vividly remember Amber telling him they'd need something to clamp and then cut the cord with. And there was some discussion about sewing thread and then Sam remembering he had some suture he could use to tie, and as for cutting the cord, “Well....I have my Leatherman!” Wouldn't that make for a nice commercial? (in the end they decided on boiling the scissors instead).
So with Sam gathering things, Amber kept encouraging and helping me through the contractions, which I have to mention were way beyond a 1 or 2 at this point! ; ) She asked if I felt the need to push - which I did – and so it began. Sam did come back at some point around here and helped. I don't know how many times I pushed, but it really wasn't many, till Amber said she could see the top of her head - and she had lots of hair. I pushed again and there she was – all of her at once! Amber caught her and placed her on my chest. And I looked into my beautiful baby's eyes. Such a flood of emotions. Sam tied the cord off with suture thread and cut it with the boiled kitchen scissors.
Holding Isabella for the first time was surprisingly so completely normal – as if this was exactly where she belonged – so natural and at the same time it was so completely strange – is this really happening?? I was a mix of relief, excitement, love and an immediate sense that I needed to protect her. I didn't want to stop holding her and looking at her sweet face.
Logistically speaking though, I had to. Sam took her and cleaned her up and got her dressed while I did the same for myself, taking a lot of care to hold on to things and move slowly, as I had lost/was losing a fair amount of blood and was feeling pretty light headed. Soon we were all ready, and we climbed in the truck for that 45 minutes drive to the hospital. Once there, I waited while Sam got to continue playing his role in my movie as he walked into the hospital and proclaimed, “My wife just had a baby. We need a wheelchair.”
Here is where I'd like to share just how Isabella's birth was so beautifully orchestrated by God. How His fingerprints were all over it. Months before making the trip to Namibia for the birth, Sam and I had been discussing where we would stay during our time there. Although we planned to stay in Okahandja, I was nervous about how far away from the hospital we would be. I spent a number of weeks with my ladies praying about it. And then, somehow I just got a peace about it and felt that no matter what, God would provide, whatever happened would be part of His plan, and it would be fine. And it was. It so was. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.
And that, dear friends is how our little Isabella made her debut. For us, life has always been an adventure. And we wouldn't have it any other way.