I had a baby three days before Covid-19 hit Indiana. This proves that having a baby under normal circumstances is not something I know how to do anymore. (For all who may be unfamiliar with the circumstances, refer to Lucy Jean’s birth story.)
James Steven decided to arrive in typical chaotic fashion.
I had been having serious contractions for at least two weeks prior to the little man’s due date of March 4th. Half a dozen evenings I had my husband convinced that “tonight was the night!” and because Lucy Jean had arrived two weeks early, I had fast forwarded my own expectations a couple of weeks too early. But March 3rd dawned like every day before — with my bladder giving the impression that it was about to drop out of my cellophane-like stretched out body.
I took the kids to school and spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to get my former doula (a fellow school mom) to give me permission to schedule an induction. She just smiled and tried to reassure me that my little guy would arrive just when he was ready.
Drat. Well, hopefully, the chiropractor can help me out, I wished as I drove out of the school parking lot.
I had been visiting my chiropractor almost every week for the past month and many times prior. I have the deepest conviction that a good chiropractor can not only smooth out a rotten back, but also make a baby pop out of your body and cause the sky to rain chocolate smoothies.
My adjustment lasted the typical 5-10 minutes and there was nothing particularly remarkable about it, but at the very end, my chiropractor — a woman who seems like the big sister I never had — rubbed the air in a clockwise fashion over my bulging belly. Okay, baby come on, she uttered. I couldn’t tell if it was more of a prayer or a command. Either way, I hoped it would do the trick. I wasn’t overly optimistic.
I lugged my two-year-old out to the van and hoisted her yet again into her car seat, and headed up the road to IKEA to do a little shopping and meet up with my mom for lunch. As I pulled into the parking lot, a contraction ratcheted my abdomen into submission. It was a hard one.
We grabbed a shopping cart and entered the showroom. The day’s first shoppers were trickling in and Lucy and I made our way through the ever-enticing maze of Scandinavian home perfection. Another one. Hard again. I should start timing them.
I began picking out a few toys for the kids for when Jamey arrived. Lucy wanted the play cinnamon rolls. Another one. Seven minutes.
I picked out plastic plates and utensils. Another. Three minutes.
And then off to stock up on picture frames to replace the busted ones the kids have repeatedly knocked off the wall. Three minutes.
By the time I made it to the warehouse, they were coming on the two-minute mark. I picked up the pace of my waddle, the pain coming in waves. Still, I couldn’t help glancing in temptation at a stackable unit that would fit perfectly in my living room.
One and a half minutes.
As I reached check out, I grabbed a tray of real cinnamon rolls, the reality finally dawning on me that I would not be sharing Swedish meatballs with my mother in the IKEA cafeteria, but spending the lunch hour in the maternity ward.
My mom met us at the entrance, as I was on the phone with Michael, who, providentially, was attending a conference across the parking lot from IKEA. My mother took my toddler, and Michael picked me up as I shoved cinnamon rolls into my face. I know this might be my only meal for a while.
By the time we made it to triage, labor was in full swing. Despite my teeth clenching and the tell tale groaning, the nurses treated me like a 2-centimeter dilated first-timer making a premature scene. So, when they checked me and I was at 8 and rapidly progressing toward the finish line and they realized I’m not a white-knuckled newbie to the birthing show, they whipped out the wheelchair and got me to the closest delivery room.
My OB arrived as I was nearing 9.5, no more than an hour after arriving at the hospital. I had yet again almost decided that the epidural was my only chance at survival (like every woman feels at 9.5 who is about to push a baby through the birth canal). But then she tells me that baby is practically jumping out of me. And this woman — who has walked with me through four miscarriages, one of my previous births, and various other maladies common to the female state — could tell me to stand on my head in the middle of a three-ringed circus and I would do it. I trust her with my life.
And just like that — nevermind 10 minutes of a monster seemingly ripping my insides out — James Steven is placed on my chest and I collapse in utter relief.
“I am so glad I am no longer pregnant and never have to be ever again!” are the first words I say to my husband.
And so, that is how our fourth living child came into the world — a world that underwent a cosmic shift just days after James was born. One day after we left the hospital, Indiana’s first official Covid-19 patient checked himself into our very hospital.
That was exactly one month ago.
Since then more than 1,500 Hoosiers have tested positive for the disease, including 34 who have died. More than 1 million have contracted the illness worldwide, and those are only official cases.
The world has changed unalterably and it is the only one this baby of mine has known. And yet, his world extends no further than a mother’s breast and the snuggles of three doting siblings.
One day I will get to introduce him to you in person. But for now, meet James Steven Erler. Some might say the timing of his birth was unfortunate. But for those of us who get to be quarantined with him, he came right on time. He came just when he was supposed to.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.