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The Caleb Years
Copyright © 2014 by David Ingerson
Published by Word & Spirit Publishing
Printed in the United States of America. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. Contents and/or cover may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without the express written consent of the Publisher.
Caleb, “The Fighter”
Ten minutes before six, I sluggishly awoke to the sound of my wife dressing in our small half-bathroom. I reached out, stretched, and as I dropped my arms to the bed, I heard and felt a distinct “splash!” She heard it too. “What was that?” I demanded to know as I bolted up, suddenly wide-awake.“I had a dream,“ my wife of eleven years began.
“I dreamed I was at the beach, floating on the water, riding the rolling waves up and down; surrounded by crystal clear water...then I woke up and realized I really was surrounded by water.
“Does this mean...? Is...i-it time?” I stammered.
“Yes; it’s time,” Kathy resolutely replied.
Due to my service in the U.S. Air Force, we’d been living on the lush tropical island of Okinawa, Japan, for over three and a half years. Often visiting the many beaches near our home at Kadena Air Base, we enjoyed watching the azure blue waves roll onto the beach. But the roiling waves of Kathy’s dream were different. Since her membranes had ruptured in the night, these waves signified what had happened to Kathy physically—the waters of childbirth broke as she slept. In the months ahead we would come to see the gently rolling waves in an altogether different way - as representing a tender divine presence sweeping over us, carrying us along through treacherous waters; waters through which we would not and could not carry ourselves.
The first thing I did after the "waves" swept over me was grab our telephone to call Sandy, a special friend and fellow church member who had volunteered to come stay at our home and care for our other three children when Kathy delivered the baby. For the past two weeks, “Aunt Sandy,” as she was affectionately known to our children, daily called asking, “Is it time?” Since the baby was five days overdue, I was getting tired of the daily routine of repeatedly replying that indeed it was, “Not yet—time.” This time I phoned her and simply said, “Aunt Sandy, it’s time!”
Aunt Sandy anxiously rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, hastily dressed, and speed-drove the short distance to our military family housing apartment. While waiting for Sandy to arrive, I called the naval hospital to notify them of the situation. “Yes,” the military charge nurse routinely replied, “if her membranes have indeed ruptured you may bring her in.”
The military nurse’s nonchalant demeanor did not match my more urgently excited state of mind—“Oh, they ruptured alright,” I insisted; “In fact we woke swimming in the amniotic fluid!”
After hanging up, I thought to myself, these military medical personnel just don’t get it!
After Aunt Sandy arrived at our home, we set off for the naval hospital on Camp Lester, the very hospital where this baby’s elder sister, Hannah Joy, had been born nearly three years before. Although the drive was less than seven kilometers, and the expected “off base” traffic between the two military installations was light before six thirty in the morning, the drive to the hospital seemed to take longer than it should have. We found a parking spot near the main entrance and calmly walked into the stark white ship-shaped structure. The hospital “mate” who greeted us at the information desk seemed inordinately concerned when I told her that my wife’s membranes had broken and that we needed to get to the labor and delivery “deck” (unavoidable terminology in a naval hospital). She anxiously insisted Kathy be transported to the fourth deck in a wheelchair. Despite the hospital mate’s obvious apprehension, now that we were in the familiar hospital, we calmed ourselves and lost any previous nervousness. With three healthy young children, we’d done this several times before; what could possibly go wrong this time?
Upon arriving on the labor and delivery deck, we noted the overworked staff abuzz with fast-paced activity. A distracted nurse automatically pointed to an empty labor room and told my wife to go, put on a hospital gown, and get in the bed. The familiar tiled floor, sterile white walls, and the sound of our footsteps echoing down the Spartan halls brought back a wave of nostalgic memories of Hannah Joy’s birth two years and nine months before.
For Hannah Joy’s birth, we’d stayed home as long as possible after Kathy’s labor began. I was at my office on a Friday about noon when Kathy called to ask me to come home and take her to the hospital. In response to her request to come home, I asked how soon she thought I should be there. She replied that as long as I came fairly soon, it would be fine. As often happens when distracted by work responsibilities, my idea of fairly soon and hers were not entirely congruent. An hour and a half later, a concerned coworker who overheard my half of the aforementioned phone conversation (a father of two himself) gently prodded me, “Don’t you think you ought to be going? Aren’t you going to have a baby today?”
Glancing at my watch, I nonchalantly replied that perhaps he was right. Hence, I casually set out from the office to collect my bride of eight years and head to the hospital for the third time to welcome into our home a new baby.
By the time I returned home to gather my wife and her overnight bag, she was pacing the room and panting between strong contractions. The look of concern on her face when not contorted in labor pains told me we’d better not delay any further. The short drive to the naval hospital frustrated me in that it seemed to take much longer than usual. The “off-base” Friday afternoon traffic was extremely congested on this small, tropical Japanese island. As I approached the symbolically seafaring hospital, between gasps due to her intense labor contractions—now less than three minutes apart—Kathy instructed me to,
I objected, stating that the sign posted a three-hour parking maximum. My pained wife’s response was final, “That....ll...huh....be...long...huh...enough;... just...PARK!”
As we rushed inside the ER, Kathy began experiencing another hard contraction. As she proceeded to squat to relieve her intense abdominal pressure, an ER medical technician shrieked, “Get this woman up to the labor and delivery deck STAT!”
I huffed along behind the beefy hospital corpsman who hurled the wheelchair containing my roiling wife up the long alternating ramps to the labor and delivery deck. The harried charge nurse directed us to an examination room since all the labor rooms were full.
Upon examination, she screeched as she discovered Kathy was 100% dilated and the baby was crowning. "Get this woman in the delivery room; she’s ready NOW!”
They rushed Kathy into a large well-lighted, sterile, green tiled delivery room. Within moments, the half dozen buzzing medical staff had Kathy positioned on the delivery table. Suddenly, in the middle of a hard contraction, her membranes ruptured, spraying amniotic fluid across the delivery room dousing everyone in its path.
“Yea Kathy! Go Kathy!” I roared with exhilaration as I observed the amazed staff unsuccessfully attempting to scurry out of range of the spewing fountain of clear fluid. Meanwhile, as the drenched medics regained their composure, Kathy shrieked, “I’m pushing—I’m pushing—somebody better come catch this BABY!”
Within minutes, a pink little girl to be named Hannah Joy emerged in one lightning-quick contraction. The attending doctor who arrived just in time to be baptized in Hannah Joy’s amniotic fluid declared, “It’s a girl! Official birth time: 15:46!” As I heard this dramatic pronouncement, I immediately looked at my watch and noted that I’d last observed the time as we entered the labor and delivery deck area at 15:35; just eleven minutes before the delivery! What an exhilarating lightning-speed birthing experience that was! Surely this new baby’s birth could not rival the excitement of Hannah Joy’s ruckus arrival.
The next several hours were eerily mundane. Having arrived at the labor and delivery deck before 0700 hours, as noon approached, Kathy still was not contracting and she was becoming increasingly restless. Given that the baby was now more than five days overdue, we thought it best to request to induce labor. We requested Pitocin, a drug we’d used to induce labor when our second child’s membranes ruptured two weeks before his due date. Kathy’s experience with the drug when she gave birth to our son, Andrew, was that it worked for her very effectively and rapidly. The attending obstetrician gladly agreed to prescribe the drug. Although Kathy warned the distracted nurse who administered the medication that she expected the drug to work very quickly based on her past experience with the medicine, the preoccupied nurse nonchalantly replied with mild disinterest, “Fine. We’ll check you in a couple of hours.”
Within minutes, Kathy’s quiet uterus began churning with induced labor contractions. More painful than normal labor, the induced labor would surely be over soon. As we attempted to notify the nursing staff that Kathy was progressing quickly, they let us know in no uncertain terms that they were very busy and would come back to check on her the next hour. A little more than one hour later, I pushed the nurse call button next to the bed when Kathy suddenly climbed out of bed and began to squat and simultaneously exclaimed, “Hey, I’m pushing! I’m pu-u-u-shi-i-ing.”
When the nurse who responded to our call saw Kathy squatting, she took seriously our calls to get ready. She unsuccessfully implored Kathy to wait for the doctor—“Don’t push yet!”
“No! You don’t understand!” Kathy cried. “If you don’t get a doctor in here immediately, you’re going to deliver this baby!”
“Okay, okay, I’ll go find a doctor, but try not to push!” the harried nurse pleaded as she ran out into the hallway to find a doctor.
After the nurse darted away, I tried to reassure my wife and soon-to-be-mother-of-four that after watching her give birth to the other three children, I thought I could handle delivering our fourth baby by myself if necessary. For some reason my attempts at offering these comforting words didn’t console Kathy as I expected they would. She merely cried, “Oooh, get me a doooctoooor! This baby’s coming!”
Moments later, the nurse returned and informed us a doctor was on his way. When I inquired who it was, she matter-of-factly informed me that he was an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist who just happened to be in the hallway nearby when she went in search of a physician. “He’s changing into his scrubs,” the nurse nervously notified.
A few moments later, the hastily appointed delivery doctor walked in humming and began to scrub up. In response to my inquiry as to how many babies he’d delivered, the congenial doctor elusively replied that he’d assisted in delivering a certain number of babies while on an OB rotation during his residency program. The graying hair of this more-than-a-little jovial doctor told me that although his residency wasn’t yesterday, he must be a well-experienced military doctor. I mused that between the two of us, we had plenty of experience. Besides, I thought to myself, childbirth is one of the most natural things in the world. What could possibly go wrong?
Less than ten minutes later, on March 4th, 1997, at 12:23 P.M., five days overdue, our fourth child was born. Since we’d named him over seven months before, there was no reason to delay declaring his special name. Therefore, when the exultant ad hoc delivery doctor pronounced, “It’s a boy!” and asked us if we knew what we planned to name him, I triumphantly declared, “His name is Caleb, Caleb Stephen-Alwin Ingerson. Caleb, in Hebrew means ‘Fighter.’”
Strength from the Rock
No sooner had the doctor acknowledged my reply than he handed me the scissors to perform the time-honored fatherhood duty of cutting the cord, which for nearly ten months had tethered this child to his mother providing life-giving nourishment, oxygenated blood, and removing waste. Now it was time for Caleb’s five pound eleven ounce body to function on its own, apart from the protective nurturing his mother’s womb had provided. As I cut the cord with more heart-felt elation than any Grand Opening ribbon cutting ceremony, the delighted doctor gently placed Caleb in my arms to carry him over to the pre-warmed incubator where the energetic medical technician would commence her initial assessments and treatments.
As I watched the tech merrily perform her standard examination, I suddenly had the most peculiar and irresistible urge...