Around here, we share our Irma stories a lot, even now. Everybody has one because the storm was an absolute monster. While some structures might have been relatively undamaged, there was no life in the BVI that was unchanged.
What fewer people talk about is the arrival, just 14 days later, of Hurricane Maria.
I really do remember it like it was yesterday. We had survived Irma, but were – ahem – significantly worse off. We knew Maria was coming. We had spent the days prior scavenging supplies and done our best to secure in all the ways we could but, there’s no other way to say it — I had funny feeling!
At some point in my pregnancy, the obstetrician had said that a mother’s intuition about her child is very often correct. A few days after Irma, while visiting some friends in an emergency shelter in town, a very kind nurse-midwife checked my blood pressure and asked me some things about how I was feeling. He thought I seemed in good shape, but he was concerned at how Irma had interrupted my regularly scheduled appointments. He gave me some signs to watch for and reminded me that I could always go in to the maternity ward in the hospital to be checked by a midwife. As we waited for Maria’s arrival in our boarded up little apartment, I thought of the long hours hunkered down in the bathroom while Irma passed. If my funny feeling turned into labor (or, God forbid, something worse) would I be compromising the health and safety of my baby?
“Let’s go to the hospital,” I told Husbae. He didn’t question it, just helped me gather up my bags (one for me, one for baby, just in case) and hustled me to the main entrance at the hospital.
Which was totally closed. A curfew was already on for the passage of Hurricane Maria. The security guard on duty misunderstood why we were there at first, but before long we were ushered up to the emergency room entrance and from there over to the maternity ward. They checked my blood pressure, baby’s movements, and both of our heart rates, and everything seemed well. The midwife said that as my obstetrician was on-duty, she’d bring him in too.
OB, a highly competent doctor whom I nonetheless would probably not have chosen for myself, had many questions. When had I been in to see him last? When was my last ultrasound? Had I not had xyz test done? My favorite question came at the end: “Was I satisfied with that?”
Bruh. I am a first time mom who barely knew what was going on before we got hit with a monster storm and I felt fine before today so how about you just go ahead and tell me what you’d be satisfied with? I didn’t say any of that, but it was all there on my face.
He thought that even though things seemed good, just to be sure, we should do an ultrasound. Did it come across a little like he wanted to break out a toy he hadn’t gotten to play with in a while? A bit, yes. Did I mind that in the least? Heck no! The ultrasound was set up and before long, we were hooked up and Husbae and I were looking at our actual baby on the little black and white screen. Neat!
OB was in his element now: There’s the head, up here, there’s the torso, there’s the penis…
OB: Oh, you didn’t know? Oops! Yep, it’s a boy. He’s also frank breech and hasn’t moved down toward the birth canal like we’d expect at this stage. And he’s really big. Big head, very big torso… Basically you’re like 36-37 weeks pregnant but he’s measuring like he’s 41 weeks.
Husbae: … ?
Me: Soooooo is that bad?
For context, I was trying to not scare myself so I wasn’t overdoing it on the birth and labor story reading, and I’d been doing a little bit of meditation. As far as I was concerned, my body would know what to do when it was time for the baby to be born (LOTS of the moms reading are laughing). I did know that first time moms would routinely pass the 40-week mark so that didn’t seem like a problem. Not knowing a damn thing about breech deliveries, I wasn’t concerned by any of this.
OB: Not bad, no. But based on his position and size, I recommend that we not wait and risk the possibility of having to do an emergency C-section. Let’s just schedule it for tomorrow, assuming there are no emergencies coming from the storm and the operating theater is available.
Husbae: … ?
In the moment, most likely due to post-traumatic stress and general feeling of disconnection from myself post-Irma, I genuinely had no preference. Having since learned some more of my family history, which includes a bunch of emergency c-sections (some scarier than others) and a blood transfusion, I’m really glad I didn’t fight his advice. I was admitted, but Husbae couldn’t stay overnight, so I passed the night a little lonely and worried about the state of our home.
As it turned out, at least around here, Maria wasn’t too bad. I got regular texts from Husbae to say all was well.
What did the light of day bring? Come back tomorrow for part 2.