Amber’s Story: Part I–Amber Lucia Etlinger [ALE] is born

Proud pappa. Daddy Darren with
Amber in hospital room.

Amber Lucia at first check up.
Nana (my mother) and ALE.
ALE in hospital room.
Tati holding baby-girl at first check up appointment.

Our little girl was born on Saturday, December 15th, much to our surprise and joy. She was supposed to arrive on the 23rd of December–a date altered just days before by our doctor who suggested that Amber would likely be a New Years baby rather than a Christmas baby, as was expected. Boy…or girl–was HE wrong! She decided to come two days after that Thursday meeting with the doctor. So much for BAbY New YEAR! Mommy and I were clueless and scared…because we didn’t REALLY think that she was coming so early; we were wondering at 12:30am and then again at 1:15am…are these really CONTRACTIONS or is it just something Tati ate? We had met with our doula the previous evening, Friday evening, when we expressed the doctor’s expectations about a later delivery,while also expressing fear and trepidation about “the uncertainty of pregnancy”. You just don’t know WHEN it will happen and thus the waiting game is a bit unnerving. All that uncertainty stopped around 2am when it simply became apparent these pains weren’t going to stop…and we would eventually be on our way to the hospital. We live on the west side of Houston; our hospital is located in the medical center, so we had to plan a bit to ensure we didn’t leave the house too soon, so as to not arrive at the hospital too early and set the stage for a long, protracted delivery. But we also didn’t want to stay at the house too long, leaving me to be Houston’s newest OBGYN. Our plan with our doula was to have her meet us at the house, guide Tatiana through the first two stages of pregnancy, and then head to the hospital when the timing was optimal to do so. Nixed that idea around 5am after measuring the timing between contractions–realizing that we initially went from 45 min between pangs to 15 minutes then to 10, 9, 8, 5 min, and finally 3 minutes–all within 4 hours. After a warm bath…that did really NOTHING to help Tati with the painful contractions–we hit the road! That was a bit comical while scary. My job was to get us safely to the hospital, so I was most definitely positioned at 10 and 2–with a healthy degree of anxiety to boot. On the drive, we called the Dr., who wasn’t on call, so we were put in contact with the Dr. who was. Not what we had hoped for, but then, we weren’t hoping for an early delivery, so life happens, right? I was supposed to play golf with my brother-in-law that morning; he has found a love for golf recently and we’d never played together over these past 4 years, so I called him earlier in the week suggesting we do so on Saturday morning–before his sister…and his wife have baby girls within the next 30 days. This may be our only chance to do so. So on the drive to the hospital, thinking about my drives from the tee that would not be, I had to let him know I had to cancel; when he received the call, he just knew I was canceling, which he said later he was disappointed to anticipate. In that thirty second transition of greetings, niceties and segued conversation, I got to the point. I said I wouldn’t be able to play today because his sister is having a baby and we are on our way to the hospital. Naturally, he was cool about it; naturally, he still played. He came by later in the day to wish Amber and Mommy well. He is a proud uncle…and a now very nervous father-to-be after realizing these things can develop so unexpectedly! On our way to the Medical Center, as I approached the 610S curve toward the Texans football stadium, the lit-alert-road-hazard signs noted that there was a major accident at Stella Link. Crap. I knew then the traffic would be horrible and the classic nightmare of getting to the hospital is potentially upon us. And it was. Red taillights abounded…at 6am on a Saturday. What. The. Hell. I drove over the grass median to the feeder road, as so many others were doing, to then find the feeder was backed up as well. It was a no win situation–never mind the agonizing screams coming from the passenger seat beside me.  Luckily, there was one stop-sign ahead, and thus one street, ahead of us; if we could get to that street, I felt we could find a way around the disaster and still make it in time for Tati to deliver more gracefully. Luck was on our side…and likely that God dude too. We made it there by roughly 6:30am. After screaming in the ear of the valet, we rolled our way into the reception area, where the receptionist pointed us toward the elevators; to the 3rd floor we went where another series of workers pointed further down the hallway saying to keep going and going and going. Finally, there. Into our room we went and the preparations began. Our substitute doctor stopped in sometime afterward; we weren’t too pleased with him, but after it was clear that the goal was an old-school natural birth and the added preparations were made to do so, and the modern procedures averted, he got on the phone to OUR doctor who arrived about an hour later. The contractions continued, and increased with time, but Tati’s mastery of the process, as well as the aid of the doula and the nurses who were present, made the goal of a natural birth a potential reality. 100 times she told us, beginning earlier at home in the bath–I don’t think I can do this! To which I, and we, repeatedly replied–YES you can! You’ve come this far, don’t stop now. She called on the ghost of her abuelita (her grandmother, who had 15 natural births herself!), to be with her and give her strength to make it through. “OOOOoooooooaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhssssssss” repeatedly resonated throughout the 3rd floor birthing room. “I don’t think I can do it,” she still said. She’d crossed the threshold; no going back. Too late for any drugs now. No pain killers. No inducement drugs. Just nature, encouragement, and my babies’ tenacity, endurance and determination! And she kicked ASS! The doctor put the baby on her chest, skin-to-skin, shortly after 10:24am. Tears. Such a proud momma. So proud of her newborn baby; even more proud of herself! As a father and a man, I never thought I would be so involved in my child’s delivery but involved I was. I was likely as involved as one could be. Supporting her head and neck with my left arm while pinning back and holding her right leg with my right, she pushed through each contraction with words of encouragement bouncing about –I was so very proud–of myself, my wife…and my new baby. Let the challenge begin. We love you Amber Lucia. Besos. TQM.

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