Story of Hana’s Birth

Hana Therese Chiang was born on a rainy evening, November 29th, 2012.  We barely made it to the Methodist Hospital in time; my wife already felt the need to push as we went down the elevator to Labor & Delivery.  All told, we were in the hospital less than 30 minutes when our second child came into the world.

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We didn’t intend to cut it so close.  We wanted to put our two-year old, Maya Elise, to sleep at my parents’ home before going to the hospital.  Maya wouldn’t fall asleep even after an hour.  We could hear her voice faintly in the cool and calm evening, screaming abandonment at our sudden departure.  I wiped the sad raindrops from our windshield as we left Maya with my parents.

We should’ve gone immediately to the hospital after Maya’s dinner and bath.  The contractions were getting closer, but still manageable at that point.  Had we done so, the hospital staff would have had time to get my wife a proper bed, prepared her with an IV solution in her arm, filled out the standard intake forms and Dr. Morrison would not have already gone home for the evening.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  There was no sense in beating ourselves up.  The contractions were doing a fine job of that already.  Our immediate task was to divert attention away from the pain with breathing and visualizations.  Think happy thoughts.

It’s not exactly hypnosis, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  I didn’t use a gold watch and ask my wife to follow it with her eyes as I swung it back and forth.  I did use my most calm and soothing voice and insist that she look at me and breathe with me.  “Take a deep breath and moan when you exhale,” I’d say.  The contractions were hitting her hard while we were on the road.  My wife was getting nervous.  “We’re almost there, sweetheart — breathe with me!”  Her sweaty hands clenched mine tightly as I drove the wet roads with my other hand.  “Don’t worry, my love, we’re still an hour away from active labor.”  That, of course, turned out not to be true.

The nurses were scrambling for a bed and equipment while I tried to keep her from pushing.  My wife dropped to her knees in pain.  She held onto my hands, but gave me a look of fear.  “I want to push!”

One of the nurses stopped what she was doing, “Don’t push, dear, the doctor’s not here, yet!”

“Deep breath… Moan!  Uhhhhhhh!”  I moaned right alongside her.  “Relax… Deep breath… don’t push, relax the muscles — moan, uhhhhhhh!”

The water broke.  The nurses came into the room with a delivery bed and my wife immodestly ripped off her clothes and slipped into the hospital gown.

“There’s myconium,” a nurse said as she checked my wife’s labor.  I looked between my wife’s legs: yes, that looks like baby poo to me, too.  This means fetal distress and usually calls for a C-section.  Fortunately, we were too far along active labor for that.  There was a real emergency, though, because Hana could end up breathing the myconium into her lungs.  The nurse will stick a tube down Hana’s throat, suck out the afterbirth, and check to see if there’s any signs of myconium in the lungs.

“Where’s Dr. Morrison?”  My wife a asked.
“He’s on his a way,” replied a nurse.
“Should we get the epidural?”  she asked me.  Her brow was already covered with huge drops of sweat.
“Dr. Morrison is almost here,” I replied.  “Only a few more minutes.  The epidural will delay for an hour or more.”  My wife nodded in agreement.  The need to push came again.

My wife is literally a hero.  Courage, endurance and patience against an onslaught of pain.  Between each contraction, I tried to focus her on breathing, relaxing and preparing for the next wave.  I described visuals of Guam, Hawaii, and Moganshan.  I reassured her that Hana was okay.

Her eyes would bulge as she stared into mine.  I smiled, “You’re doing great!  I’m so proud of you.  You’re amazing!  Breathe with me — deep breath, uhhhhh!”  We kept that up for over 20 minutes.

When the doctor finally arrived, my wife only needed a few pushes and Hana was out.  We didn’t need to push with Maya.  The doctor we had then, Dr. Fong, insisted that we not push and let the uterus do the pushing.  Perhaps there was more of an urgency this time because of signs of fetal distress.  The pushing caused a bit of tearing.  Hana was also bigger than Maya at birth: 7lbs, 6oz compared to 5lbs, 3oz.

Hana latched on quickly.  I was back at my parents’ home before midnight to put Maya to sleep.

Forgetting Sex is Sacred

It’s easy for me to forget that sex is sacred.  Twenty-first century U.S. society has redefined sex: at best, it’s the culmination of a unrequited romantic courtship; at worst, it’s a commodity to be traded, a tool for violence.  The messages that surround me is that sex is a normal biological process, a form of recreation, and a right to happiness that needs to be protected/defended.  I rarely hear that sex is sacred.

I forget that sex is sacred, but I’m reminded of this truth today through the birth of my second daughter.  God, thank you.  You blessed me with an awareness that I pray I can articulate here in this journal entry.

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I love my wife.  She is a saint and she is helping me become one.  In marriage, I learned that self-giving is the inner life of the Trinity.  The self-giving needed to make a marriage work is a mystery to outsiders.  The self-giving in our marriage creates a loving bubble, protecting us from the world.  This loving bubble is a living cell within the Body of Christ.

Similar to the 40 days of Advent leading to Easter, my wife and I prepared for 40 weeks for the birth of our new child.  My wife and I were joined together as “one flesh” through marriage.  Our self-giving to each other is united and led by the love God has for each of us as individuals.  It is because God is forgiving, self-sacrificing and generous to me that I am forgiving, self-sacrificing and generous to my wife.  Our love for each other (wife, husband, God) form a triune body for the Holy Spirit.  The invisible reality of our love is made visible with the birth of another immortal soul: Hana Therese.

The invisible reality of the love between Christ and His Bride (the Church), is made visible through new Baptisms, Confirmations and First Communions.  As Hana takes to her mother’s breast for milk, so I take to the Church’s altar for the Eucharist.  As Maya (Hana’s older sister) has grown these past two years in a loving household, so has my soul grown within the loving household of God’s Church these past three years.

Sex is sacred because “it is the only door by which God himself regularly enters our world to do the miraculous deed he alone can do: creating new images of himself.  Sex images God because it makes new images of God.”

Families are the basic building blocks of Christ’s body, not the individual.  I cannot create immortal souls on my own.  My wife and I cannot create immortal souls together.  Only with God.

If I push you out of the bedroom, God, it’s because I’ve fallen victim to the world’s redefinition of sex as something profane, something vulgar… something I should be ashamed to let you see. Help me accept the presence of the Holy Spirit during sex because the act is sacred. We are creating immortal souls with you.

Story of Maya’s Birth

I thought I almost couldn’t make it.  I was in the City of Chino, giving a presentation to 30 companies about the export market in China.  I received a few missed calls around the time Anne Marie had our appointment with the OBGYN.  I have gone with her with every visit, except for today.  Of all days, it had to be today.  But, I made a commitment to Erica and the City of Chino.  If I didn’t show up, then I would have been disappointing a lot of people.  I spoke.  Everyone learned a lot and felt the China market was scary.  Many people complemented me on my presentation.  All I cared about was Anne Marie.  I checked my messages.  Anne Marie was crying, saying she had to be admitted to the hospital.  I couldn’t make out anything else she was saying, except that she wanted me to come immediately.  So, I left.

I didn’t know how to get there from Chino.  Driving in the general western direction, I was going through many country roads.  I was hesitant to use the GPS on my BlackBerry, fearing that the battery would die out again while Anne Marie needed to reach me.  I took the risk and found the 60 West.  While driving from the 60 to the 57 North to the 210 West towards Huntington Drive, I prayed.  I prayed and prayed and prayed the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Glory Be, the Fatima Prayer.  Over and over again, I prayed.  I asked my saintly friends in Heaven to join me in prayer: Saint Thomas More, Saint Joseph, Saint Jose Maria Escriva, Saint Therese de Liseux.  I was afraid that Anne Marie would give birth before I arrived, but not my will, but God’s be done.

I arrived and Nurse Skye was taking Anne Marie’s blood pressure.  It was in the 170’s over 110’s.  She was at risk of a seizure if she did not find some way to lower her blood pressure.  Oddly enough, her blood pressure started going down soon after I arrived.  It was down at the mid 160’s and high 150’s.  Dr. Fong eventually showed up and explained the situation.  We would have to induce labor, but we can still have a vaginal birth.  No episiotomy.  We would try to have as natural a birth as can be.  Even the magnesium sulfate would be held off until the last moment, so it would have the least affect on the baby.  But the IV drip would be necessary, as well as continuous EFM and the monitoring of Anne Marie’s blood pressure every 30 minutes.

My mother-in-law was with Anne Marie the whole time that I was not there.  After I arrived, she stayed in the background, brought us dinner.  She was a godsend.

Anne Marie took the Cervidil at around 10pm.  She ate her last solid meal at 9:30pm.  Bad choice.  She threw up later in the night.

The Cervidil was a low 25gram dosage that is inserted much like a tampon.  It slowly releases a chemical directly on the cervix that would “jumpstart” contractions.  At around 2am, Anne Marie woke me up saying she was having severe menstrual-like cramps.  They were non-stop.  So, it couldn’t be normal contractions.  Besides, we were told in our childbirth classes that contractions start at the top of the belly and moves down to the cervix.  These cramps were strictly located in the groin area.  Anne Marie’s menstrual cramps hit her like a constant rush of painful waves.  If they were contractions, it would have been pointless to keep track since there was no telling apart when one ended and another began.

I helped Anne Marie detach her cables, get out of bed and hold on to her as she walked to her own private bathroom.  I stayed with her to help her sit down and get up.  The doctor wanted a 24-hour sample of Anne Marie’s urine.  So, each time she peed, it had to be caught in this plastic bowl in the toilet, where the contents would then be transferred into this one gallon orange jug.  I did the honors.  Anne Marie filled up two gallons from the time she was admitted at 10:30am on Thursday, Sept 9 until delivery the following day.

It turned out that Anne Marie’s non-stop cramps at 2am were actual contractions.  Those three hours before then was the only sleep I got.  Anne Marie had not slept at all due to nervousness.  From 2am until 7:38am, I was by my wife’s side, coaching her breathing, massaging her, reminding her to relax her muscles.  We thought that the cramps were the result of the Cervidil.  If the cramps were this painful, then the real contractions would be horrible.  As it turns out, a little after 6am, Anne Marie said she couldn’t take it anymore.  I was torn: on the one hand, we had hoped to avoid an epidural; on the other, I did not think Anne Marie would be able to survive the real contractions if these cramps were hurting her so.  I agreed and we asked for an epidural.  The nurse came in and checked her cervix.  It was dilated at 6cm.  I was confused.  How could this be?  Does this mean we were going through the contractions after all?  I told Anne Marie if she was sure she still wanted the epidural since this could mean we were in the transition period, less than an hour until the actual pushing stage.  We weren’t confident that we were in the transition period.  So, we still wanted the epidural.  We were still waiting for the epidural when Anne Marie said she wanted to push.  I was confused, but I knew she shouldn’t push at just 6cm.  We could delay labor by hours or more.  So, I desperately coached her to breathe and relax.  One of the nurses turned Anne Marie onto her side.  I continued to help her breathe and relax, but she was pouring sweat.  I thought someone poured a glass of water on the side of her bed.  Every few minutes, Anne Marie would tense up, look at me desperately in the eyes and said she wanted to push.  I would immediately take a deep breath with her, rub the hair stuck to the sweat on her forehead and remind her not to push.  She could not help but push.  One of the nurses said she saw miconium.  That’s bad news.  I hoped Anne Marie did not hear that prognosis.  I did not want her to get more nervous and increase her blood pressure.  By the time the technician came at 7am, Anne Marie’s cervix was already fully-dilated and effaced.  There was no time for an epidural.  The baby was coming.

Anne Marie continued to get uncontrollable feelings to push.  I asked her to look at me.  Our faces were only inches apart.  When we heard that she was fully-dilated and effaced, I smiled at my wife and happily said that we would soon see Maya!  I told her how much I loved her and what an amazing job she was doing.  I held her hand and cupped her face and looked deep into her eyes each time she got a break from wanting to push and smiled at her.  My love smiled back.  I couldn’t believe she could smile back in spite of all that pain.  One of the nurses called for one of the ER doctors to prepare to come down in case our OB doctor couldn’t make it.

Dr. Della Fong arrived at around 7:20am.  She was cheerful and reassuring.  All the nurses were busy around us converting the bed that Anne Marie was laboring in into a delivery table.  There were soft plastic stirrups that were designed to support the calves.  There was a table covered in hospital linen with all sorts of tools and scissors.  Bright lights turned on in the ceiling from wells that I never noticed before.

Dr. Fong asked me to hold on to Anne Marie’s left leg.  A nurse held Anne Marie’s right.  As I changed position from my intent connection with my wife, encouraging her not to push, I noticed that there was a pale sliver of hairy growth protruding from my wife’s vagina.  It was Maya’s head.  She was crowning!  I saw Dr. Fong massaging Anne Marie’s perineum.  I saw her pour buckets of this thick clear goo that I assumed was lubricant.  I held Anne Marie’s hand and kissed her forehead.  I continued to coach her in her breathing and relaxing.  Dr. Fong said not to push, but let the contractions push the baby out.  Every time the desire to push came, Anne Marie’s legs and arms would tense up.  I reminded her to relax and my wife tried her best not to kick the doctor in the face or pull herself up from the bed while holding my hand.

When Dr. Fong announced the head was out, I took a brief glance and returned to my wife, exclaiming with joy that Maya’s head was out.  As I finished saying it, Maya was out completely and the doctor handed this pale, gangly and wobbling baby onto Anne Marie’s belly.  The nurses came and covered them with a cloth.  They wiped Maya down and somehow got Anne Marie completely naked so the baby could be skin-to-skin with her mother.

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