Tag Archives: Maya

Excommunication, Family-Style

“Listen to Daddy, Hana,” Maya says to her 1.5-year old baby sister.  “Or he’ll close the door.”

Close the door.  That sounds like a non-sequitur.  In our family, it signals the worst form of punishment: separation from mommy or daddy.  And it’s reserved for when our children throw a tantrum, stubbornly refuse to obey, or are being violent.  When Maya warned her sister, it is because she herself has a lot of experience with it.

I guess it’s a form of timeout, but I think it’s more than that.  I think it’s a taste of excommunication.  It’s a taste of Hell.  I mean, what’s worse than spending an eternity without God, the source of all that’s good?  What is excommunication, but separation from the family (i.e. Mother Church, Heavenly Father, our brothers & sisters in the parish, our Ideal Older Brother Christ)?  So, when I put Maya in her room and close the door, she is experiencing excommunication, family-style.

And, boy… does she feel it!

Maya would scream and scream and scream.  Then she would scream even louder.  So loud, that I wonder if our neighbors think there’s a massacre going on in our house.  When I open the door and tell her to calm down, she would shout with her mouth closed but still be jumping up and down.  She still would not obey; so, I would close the door.  New heights of screaming.  Maya would work herself up into a sweat.  It is, I’m sure, a horrible experience for her.  This is not any sort of timeout I’ve ever heard of.

After four of five times of opening and closing the door, Maya would repent.  She would say “I’m sorry” and acknowledge the lesson I’m trying to teach her.  Throughout this whole time I never have to raise my voice.  I calmly but firmly request what she needs to do in order to repent, and repeatedly close the door until she chooses to repent.  When she does repent, I would hug her and kiss her, which is what I wanted to do anyway.  But, discipline is the path to health and happiness.  So, the punishment — the family excommunication — was necessary.

Family excommunication would not work if Maya did not love being around me.  If she hated me, or merely had no desire to be around me, separation from her father would be a relief.  But, I deliberately die to my own selfishness so that I can be Maya’s source of joy, laughter, fun, giggles, silliness, and imagination.  I die to my self so that I can be her ultimate playfellow.  This is the source of power in “closing the door.”  Maya doesn’t want to lose this source of love.

Ecclesial excommunication works the same way.  If I don’t love Christ and His Church, then being separated from the Family of God would be a relief.

As my daughters grow in maturity within our domestic church, my hope is to draw their awareness to the true source of all their happiness, all their blessings.  Their father is so awesome not because he’s naturally so.  He’s naturally a sinner — a selfish, prideful, lustful, gluttonous man.  But by the grace of Our Good Lord, their daddy is awesome.  My hope is to draw their awareness to their talents, their beauty, their intellect as being gifts of God.  They didn’t have to be this way.  They didn’t have to be born into this family.  But they are incredible creatures, born into this wonderful family.  And they can thank no one but God.

I want to conclude, oddly enough, with a reflection on the Book of Numbers from the Old Testament.  The Book of Numbers is one of the five Books of Moses (called the Pentateuch) that is the basis for all of Judaism.  It is the story of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, in the desert land of Sinai, between Egypt and the promised land.  And it is painful to read — not because it’s boring — but because God literally kills tens of thousands of his own Chosen People.  Catholic teaching says that one person is of infinite value.  If that’s true, then why did God open up the ground and swallowed up men, women, children and babies (Num 16:26-32)?

That was the question I had during my lectio divina prayer on this chapter in Numbers.  Today, I thanked God for the consolation of an answer.  My thoughts ran together, but let me try to put them into logical order:

  • Bodily death loses its sting (1 Cor 15:55) with the hope of the Resurrection.
  • Christ descended into Hell for three days (Apostles’ Creed).  He preached the Gospel to the souls imprisoned there and freed the just who had gone before him (CCC 632-634).
  • A day is like a thousand years, a thousand years like a day to the Lord (2 Peter 3:8)
  • The innocent family members who died in the history recounted in Numbers 16 would have been freed by Christ when he descended into Hell.  In the timeframe of God, it would have been just ten minutes.
  • When I punish Maya with family excommunication (a.k.a. “closing the door”), it takes about ten minutes or so.
  • Just as I am a loving father and want my child to reconcile with me, so did God want to reconcile with His Chosen People who died in Numbers 16.  His 10 minutes may seem like an eternity to me, just like my 10 minutes may seem like an eternity to Maya.

Praise God, for He is the source of all wisdom, goodness and love.

The Hidden Life of Jesus

"Dreams," painting by Akiane Kramarik
“Dreams,” painting by Akiane Kramarik

I don’t like being interrupted during “me time.”  Unfortunately, sacrificing “me time” is part of the covenant when I said, “I do.”  By the grace of the Holy Spirit, I find myself being happy instead of frustrated.  Please witness:

I’m engrossed in a short biography of Larry Page from the Business Insider.  I’m sitting in our oversized, super-cushioned rocking chair and the lighting is soft and relaxing.  The house is quiet.  I thought my wife and daughters were asleep and it was only 8:30pm.  I was going to enjoy a lot of “me time” tonight!

Then my wife storms out of our bedroom.  She throws down the Ergo Baby carrier like a gauntlet and Hana slides down her leg and onto the floor.  My wife isn’t mad at me, but she’s frustrated that Hana isn’t falling asleep.  It’s my turn.

Hana runs to me with a squeal of joy.  Her big, round eyes hide behind wispy long black hair.  Hana’s pink jammies are all bunched up on her chunky baby legs.  I chuckle and smile at her, put away the article, and pick her up just as she hugs my leg.

If I was a man without the Holy Spirit, I would not find joy in this interruption.  I would have been slightly irritated that my wife was unsuccessful in putting Hana to sleep.  I would have resented the need to put both our daughters to sleep for the past few evenings.  I suffered a screaming shower session and would just like a little time to unwind.

Thanks to the Holy Spirit, those thoughts didn’t even cross my mind.  Actually, I had to force myself to think that way just now in order to draw a contrast.  I’m a changed man because of continual conversion into Christ.  The fruit of my faith can be seen in the joy, patience and charity I experience instead of the anger, impatience and “counting the cost” that the old me would have done.

Hana snuggles the side of her face against my chest as I carry her.  When I change her into a fresh diaper, I have to tell her to not laugh or talk because big sister is sleeping.  I pick her up and kiss her for the hundredth time that day and then strap her onto my chest with the Ergo Baby.  I can see the anticipation of my baby daughter’s eyes as the plastic “click, click” of the buckles lock around my waste and shoulders.  After turning off the lights around the house, we walk to the kitchen.  I turn on the stove-oven ventilator to create the magical white noise.  Hana clonks her head against my chest, like she was hypnotized.  I pace back and forth as she starts to relax.  Hana stretches out her small hands and absent-mindedly caresses the stubble on my chin.  From the broken pale light streaming in across from our neighbor’s porch, I could see that Hana’s eyes were drooping.  I kiss her forehead and stroke the bridge of her nose with my thumb.  Hana can resist no longer: her hand goes limp against my stubbly chin.

I often wondered why the Gospel writers left so much of Jesus’ childhood and teenage years to the imagination.  Folks called this the “hidden life” of Jesus.  Being a father, I questioned why God didn’t give more guidance on how to imitate the Holy Family.  How did Joseph and Mary deal with a whining toddler?  How did they counsel other parents who had rebellious teenagers, even if the teenage Jesus was obedient?

These moments I have with Maya and Hana give me such profound joy.  It is a kind of joy that escapes description.  It’s fleeting and easy to miss if I worshipped money, fame, power or beauty instead of God.  As it is, I’m blessed.  Dozens of moments like these happen in the course of a full day with my children.  I can’t remember them all, but I trust that Heaven is recording them even if I don’t have the camera on my smartphone ready.  I may forget these small moments, but they all add up to this emotion, this absolute certainty of love.  What I feel towards my children is merely a shadow of what God feels for me.  I cannot touch, see, hear or measure this love I have for my daughters, but I’m experiencing it.  So, it’s true.  I cannot touch, see, hear or measure the love that God has for me, but with eyes of faith, I see.  So, it’s true.

My love is only a shadow of God’s love.  This fact compels me to love even more.  It is the only natural response to someone who loves you this much.  It’s not easy to go from loving just your daughters to loving even the people who persecute you.  Yet, if the Holy Spirit can convert me from a man who loves his “me time” to a father who can give it up without even a second thought, then I trust He can convert me as I grow into Christ even more.  As I live out the hidden life of Jesus in my own family, grow in my belief of the Eucharist and progress in my prayer life, I am drawn deeper into Christ.

Dammit, My Wife is Holier than Me

My wife had to go back to the U.S. to attend a funeral and I had to take care of our two children for five days.  It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life.  It was only five days for me, but my wife has been doing this for over three years.  The experience was humbling.  Now, I have a profound respect for my wife.  Single-parents — I can’t even imagine — must have heroic virtue just to survive day-to-day, let alone help their children thrive.

We are blessed to live a life where the cost-of-living permits us to have part-time household help.  Although I never brought it up to my wife, I always wondered why she would say she didn’t have enough time to do certain things when we have Lorie to help around the house for half the day.  The purpose was to give Anne Marie more free time, but she would claim not to have any.  Now I know.  Even with the extra hours that Lorie put in, I could barely check my emails once a day, let alone get any time to read, think or relax.

Taking care of one’s children full-time and going to work full-time are really not the same thing.  For one, I get breaks at work.  There could be a lull in demands and I could check the news.  I can go off to lunch by myself and read for a whole hour.  That doesn’t happen with one’s children.  Not my children.  Not with daddy.  I’m like a honey pot and they are like Winnie the Pooh times two.  To top it off, they’re jealous of each other.  Maya could be happily playing in one corner, but as soon as she sees me holding Hana, she’d storm over and complain about having a “tummy ache” and wants me to carry her.

Another difference between work full-time and children full-time is intellectual and emotional detachment.  Screwing up at work is one thing.  Screwing up with your kids has a different magnitude of consequences.  While I have pride in my work, I don’t love my work.  I do love my children and so the amount of self-giving is that much greater.  That’s the thing… it’s the self-giving that is required with one’s children that is not required with people at work (i.e. supervisors, co-workers, clients, etc.)  Caring for one’s children is physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually draining.  And that’s on the good days.  Even on the worst days at work, I only complain about being mentally drained.

These five days with my children has been humbling spiritually.  In “The Three Ages of the Interior Life,” Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “The great sign of love of God is precisely love of one’s neighbor.  A saint who has little learning in theological matters but who has a very great love of God, is certainly more perfect than a theologian who has a lesser charity.”  I have more theological knowledge than my wife.  I never realized it until now, but I thought that made me more holy.  It’s not knowledge that makes one holy, but self-giving to others, especially the less fortunate and the helpless (like one’s children).  My wife has given a tremendous amount of herself these past three years for our daughters.  Just these five days gave me a taste of the cross that she continues to bear for our family.  Taking care of our girls is not torture (per se), but there’s a lot of self-sacrifice.  All the virtues are practiced (faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance).  Many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are exercised.  I’ve come to realize that despite all my book knowledge about God, my wife loves Him more than me because she gives of herself more than I, especially for our children.

If I am to pursue the holiness, I need to exceed the charity that my wife exhibits.  A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt.  The prize is the Beatific Vision.

Theology of Parenthood

“Theology” is the study of the nature of God.  Being a parent has really helped me understand God’s nature more.  I’ve been compiling these personal anecdotes for a while and I’m afraid I’ll forget them if I don’t put it down on paper.  So, here are a few observations I’d like to share with you under this category:

  • When Maya was born, my heart was so full of love I felt like it was going to explode.  I had so many dreams for her, of what she can do, who she can become.  As I dream for my daughter, so God dreams for me.  He, too, has dreams of what I can do and who I can become.
  • My wife and I love each other so much that another person was born from this love.  God the Father and God the Son love each other so much, so perfectly, from eternity, that another Person results: the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Holy Spirit goes forth to help others enter the Kingdom, my wife and I will be raising our daughters so that they can grow up and help others enter God’s Kingdom.
  • I tell my daughters “I love you” all the time.  When they were babies, they didn’t understand the words.  As their father, I yearn to hear them say “I love you” back to me one day.  God has this same hope for me, too.  He also wants me to turn to Him and say “I love you” and mean it. 
  • My children learn to repeat “I love you, daddy” from their mother.  Christians learn to pray (“I love you, Abba”) from their Mother Church.  My children will one day contemplate the love they have for their father (and mother) in their hearts and this will guide how they will act.  When I start to contemplate the love I have for God, I am moved towards acts of virtue and away from vices.  I am moved to patiently suffer trials for the love of God.
  • My children do not need to give my wife and I anything because we are complete with each other and in God.  However, Maya and Hana can show their love for their parents by loving one another as sisters.  If they take care of one another, protect one another, and help each other grow, then we will know that they love us.  In the same way, I love God by loving my fellow human beings, who are my brothers & sisters in Christ (whether they know it or not).
  • This was true when Maya was a baby and true of Hana now when she is still a baby: sometimes I love them so much I feel like I want to eat them.  It’s a bizarre feeling.  Not like a cannibal.  I don’t want to cook them up or anything.  I just have this overwhelming desire to consume them out of love.  During this Christmas season, I was struck by the thought of Baby Jesus and the Eucharist.  Why can’t I desire to literally eat the Eucharist as I desire to figuratively eat my own babies?
  • Hana does this endearing act: every time I sit cross-legged on the floor, she would drop whatever she’s doing to crawl over and sit on my lap.  She would only crawl away to get a toy and then come back and just sit on my lap.  She likes being near me and the simple joy of being in the arms of her father.  This made me think about the contemplative life.  When I think about the mysteries of God (i.e. Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, Glorious, etc.), am I not like Hana sitting in the lap of my father?  Rather than rushing through my prayers, do I instead take the time to enjoy being in the lap of His presence as my daughter is in mine?

Obeying Out of Love or Fear?

obedience-out-of-love-or-fear-parenting
Obeying out of love or fear?

My eldest daughter, Maya, is the guinea pig for our different parenting styles.  Our bedtime routine for her is a good example of that difference.  I would classify my wife’s style as “obedience out of fear.”  I generously call mine “obedience out of love;” whether it’s truly love or just plain spoiling the child is something my wife contends.

For many months, I’ve been responsible for putting Maya to bed.  The routine after dinner is simple: take a bath, drink 8-oz of milk, read 2 to 3 books, brush teeth, read 2 to 3 more books, pray and then get tucked-in by 8:30pm or so.  Maya also has two 8-oz bottles of water on her nightstand that she would ask me to refill before she even finishes with one of them.

Obedience Out of Fear or Love?

Not surprisingly, Maya needs to potty three to five times before finally falling to sleep.  This means she’s not sleeping until 9:30 or 10pm on some nights.  Often, around 2am or 4am, she would wet her pull-up diapers completely, cry, and ask me to change her into a new one.

I do all of this without complaining.  I admit it’s a bit inconvenient for me.  Occasionally I put my foot down (i.e. refusing to tuck her in three times in one night), but I usually do everything she asks because it’s our idiosyncratic bedtime routine.  I know that this behavior will eventually pass and all of it would make a great story when she’s older.  Also, quite simply, love means self-sacrifice — giving up my preferences for the benefit of another.

When I went on a week-long business trip several weeks ago, my wife had to put Maya to sleep.  She was surprised by how spoiled Maya was.  Since she also had to take care of Hana, our youngest, at the same time, my wife changed the routine to accommodate the extra burden.  No water refills.  Change your own pull-up diaper.  Go potty only once or twice.  And, no tucking in.  Maya, of course, threw a tantrum, and my wife would threaten to close her bedroom door completely — an act that Maya sees as heavy punishment.

Coming home, my wife still wanted to put Maya to sleep because she had to “re-train” her.  So, every night was a scream-fest with Maya and mommy.  While I agreed with my wife that we should ween Maya off from her peculiar bedtime requests, I disagreed with her use of tactics that we usually employed only as a last resort.  I also threaten to close her bedroom door for time-out, but only for major infractions (i.e. repeated rudeness, throwing a hysterical tantrum, etc.)  Most of all, I disagree with my wife’s tone when reprimanding Maya.

Don’t get me wrong, my wife is a sweet woman.  So, even her deeply disapproving reprimands are like lovely feminine frowns.  She’s exhausted and needs to tap me in, like a wrestler in a tag-team match.  Yet my wife insists on staying in the ring.  Her willpower to resist Maya’s demands only gets stronger the louder our daughter screams.  I love my wife for devising punishments Maya fears that doesn’t involve spanking.  They’re effective and I use them, too.  But, a parent’s threats to induce fear will need to get more severe as the child grows older.  Sure, right now, Maya fears time-out with her door closed.  She’s only two, now.  What happens when she’s nine?  Or fourteen-years old?  We need to use the heavy punishments sparingly.

I take a different approach, normally.  I want Maya to love me so much that it is my absence that she fears.  She usually complies with what I want her to do if I threaten to walk away.  My nuclear option is mommy, as in, “Okay, mommy will [feed you/give you a bath/brush your teeth, etc.]”  Yes, I realize it’s unfair to leverage my own wife this way.  It’s ironic, though: throughout history mothers would threaten their children with “Wait until your father gets home.”  Maya would probably shout, “Yay!”

When my wife and I are calmly talking about our different parenting styles, I point out how her “obedience out of fear” is like how the Church gets people to behave and my “obedience out of love” is like how our Heavenly Father gets us to behave.  This is the Father that Jesus reveals, of course.  The God in the Old Testament is pretty scary at times.  It’s from the Father that Jesus reveals that  I take my parenting cues.  I don’t spoil my children; I am merciful as Our Heavenly Father is merciful.  Doing God’s will out of fear leads to resentment, like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  In my spiritual life, I seek to love God so much that I want to do His will as a loving response.  So, my Father is to me, I am to my children.

I observe that this “obedience out of love” is incredibly inconvenient for me.  I need more patience compared to the fear method.  Sometimes it doesn’t work and Maya still disobeys.  This is no different than God’s experience.  Torture and death on the Cross is pretty inconvenient.  We still disobey quite often despite God’s infinite love for us.

I’ve come to conclude that both obedience out of fear and out of love have a place in parenting, just like we need the Church’s doctrine and God’s mercy in our spiritual life.  My wife may be harsh at times, but just like how the Church’s moral prescriptions may be harsh, they’re good for us.  She may be too strict, but they will always find mercy from me.  The Church’s doctrine may be too strict, but God’s mercy is greater.  Our children’s first experience of God will be through us.  Mommy’s discipline and Daddy’s forgiveness will build their character.  The Church’s discipline and God’s mercy will build their spirit.

Great Advice for Daughters

Muhammad Ali and Daughter
Muhammad Ali and Daughter

The following advice has been blogged about by various people.  I haven’t been able to find the original source.  So, if you happen to know, please comment and let me know.

The story allegedly comes from Muhammad Ali‘s daughter, Hana, a name that also happens to belong to my youngest daughter as well.  Ali’s daughter visited him one day, but was dressed indecently.  The story continues:

When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.

My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them.”

He looked at me with serious eyes. “Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too.”

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.

[instagram url=http://instagram.com/p/TkE_mDQKJ3/ width=400]

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.

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.