Till the Wheels Come Off

Ravenna West, Part One
September 4, 2012, 2:19 am
Filed under: Family, Love, Photo

I asked my husband to write today’s post. So without further ado, here’s my better half:


I’m a recovering homebirth skeptic. There, I said it. Until Monday evening, August 7th, 2012, if you told me about your homebirth experience, I probably listened politely and said something about your bravery and sense of adventure. Afterwards, in conversation with my wife, I likely exchanged “bravery” for “crazy” and “sense of adventure” for “scents of hippie.”

But don’t get too offended yet, Courageous Granolas. My Enlightenment was imminent.

As sure as I was that Rocco was going to be a boy, I was equally, albeit indefensibly, positive that the second would not. Although we had the name Ravenna chosen well before either of their arrivals, it wasn’t until I had a growing belly to direct my thoughts toward that I began to imagine her personality, temperament and favorites: everything from records and seasons to cereal.

As the months progressed, Rocco began to identify with his semi-existent little sister. He’d pause at dinner with his fork mid-transit and ask us if we heard her talking to him; if we heard her ask to come out and play with him. Now, this boy can easily recite our planet’s oceans, continents and monuments, along with several facts about the make-up of our universe, but he also has some invisible friends, Bob and Mary, who are raising their very tiny family in the living room carpet about three feet from the fireplace. So it’s safe to say that the kid has one foot in this world and the other… well, the other is elsewhere.

Still, as freshly-minted parents, we read every possible interpretation of the tea leaves in our dialogue with the Little Man and treasured them all. And we couldn’t wait to eavesdrop on Our Kids’ conversations once there actually was a conversation on which to eavesdrop.

When Ravenna did arrive, she made her entrance in as different a manner from her brother’s as possible, as is expected of siblings. But, as all siblings know, the harder we try to distinguish ourselves from our irritating genetic sidekicks, the deeper our roots seem to extend. We can choose to head in opposite directions of the compass in search of some exotic destination, but half a globe later, we’ll inevitably find ourselves in some far-off place, face to face with one of our kin who’d been hoping for the same escape, and yet, unexpectedly, happy at the arrival of some good company in such a weird town. Thus, Ravenna did her best to distinguish her birth from Roc’s (likely so that she’d have a better story to tell—isn’t that why any of us do anything?), but they both still managed to have Hallstrom written all over them.

Rocco’s arrival was determined at the beginning by the fretful, tut-tuting of a decidedly American doctor armed with a schedule and an idea much better than our own, and then, at the end, by an awe-inspiring, elbows-deep Cesarean sectioning of my wife’s body. In went the blue-clad forearms and out of a potential tragedy came a tiny little breathing life. Heart-stealing, breath-stopping, squalling, vernex-covered life. I remember becoming instantly and hyper-aware of my own frailty; of my own responsibility to serve as but one of myriad pairs of dads and sons; and, especially, of his unexpected—and uncanny—resemblance to me. Not to Baby Tom but Now Tom. He had my mouth, my eyes. He was part of me. Part of us, as time would assuredly reveal, but on that day when he came from her, he looked like me.

Ravenna, on the other hand, wouldn’t have her arrival dictated by a doctor’s vacation schedule or preference. That’s simply not her style. She likes to arrive unexpectedly, with a banging door and a Kramer slide. “Hey, guys! Did you miss me?”

Although Kate really wanted to attempt a normal delivery, a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is considered “high-risk” and, thus, not most hospitals’ preference. So, once again, for 39 weeks we trudged up the familiar path to the top of Mt. Evergreen.

Evergreen is as convenient as it is sensible. Not only is it the closest hospital to our home, but it has nice, sizable rooms. And it’s quite convenient for visitors. Admittedly, it’s a great hospital. They’ve repaired a number of my own—and my siblings’—body parts. And quite well, I might add. So, despite being a frustratingly familiar (and potentially identical) experience, we figured that this hospital was our best bet for a safe and reliable delivery.

Knowing what was likely in store for us, I began praying on a daily basis for the pregnancy and the delivery. I didn’t pray specifically for a successful VBAC, I simply asked that we would have wisdom to know when to head to the hospital and, whether Kate ended up in surgery or not, that she would know she’d given her best shot at a natural delivery. I racked up quite a few miles around my office building during lunch hours thanking God for our daughter and asking for her safe arrival.

At the beginning of the fortieth week of Ravenna’s pregnancy, we were referred by a friend to a midwife who specialized in VBACs, multiples and breach deliveries. When Kate told me about this “Carmon” woman’s specialty, I imagined a smiling, scrubs-clad Rosie the Riveter with a stethoscope around her neck and a “Yes we can!” fist-pump.

But we had one week to go, folks. One. Week. Many babies have already been staking a claim on their preferred sleeping quarters by this time. But we picked up the phone anyway, because we have a healthy streak of “Ready! Fire! Aim!” in our blood.

When we opened our front door later that night to an undeniably lovely, very non-granola 30-something who stepped into our house, held both of Kate’s hands in her own and greeted her with a smile and a kiss, we knew we were either smitten or in trouble.

After a few hours of conversation, we learned that she had delivered over 400 babies here in the States (and even more in Haiti and the Philippines, thereby causing the two of us to seriously reassess our own meager personal accomplishments). She said that she had no reservations about Kate’s ability to have the kind of birth she was hoping for and that she thought the late-term of Kate’s pregnancy was of little concern to God’s sovereignty as He wasn’t likely too concerned about the timing of our introduction to each other. She also said that during early labor, she could help us identify the best time to go to the hospital, although a home delivery wasn’t entirely out of the question and should be prepared for as these situations tend to unfold on their own timetable.

When Carmon left that night, Kate and I both had that feeling you get when you leave a dinner party at some new neighbor’s or friends’ house and you get in the car, look at each other and say, “I dig those people.”

In praying for wisdom, we had expected knowledge rather than a person. But having learned long since not to be picky in how our prayers are answered, we both agreed that whatever went down in the coming weeks, we wanted Carmon on our team.


Part 2 coming tomorrow…


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Amazing! Sending this to my husband immediately 😉

Comment by Brittany

This is such a great story .. can’t wait for part 2!!!!!! 🙂

Comment by Sarah Davis

Such a great post, Tom and Kate. I gave a giggle at Rocco’s imaginary friends living by the fireplace. Love it.

Comment by Elsa

Can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. It’s funny my Husband is who turned me on to homebirth. We did it with both of mine and wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s been beautiful.

Comment by Emily Kay

Well done to all 3 in welcoming Ravenna to this world, before we’re all together in the next. Tom, amazing writing from where I sit.

Comment by jayhallstrom

God was pretty kind to you in giving you such an incredible, redemptive birth…and giving you such a badass husband.
And? I need to meet Bob and Mary.

Comment by kaylee@life chasers

[…] story to tell.  (Kate, you are my hero) Well, her husband told it and you need to read it. part one. part two. part three. I’ve read it several times myself and it is extraordinary. […]

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