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Posted by: ErgoBaby   |   10/31/2012   |   Alaska

The Story of Silas, our Alaska Bush Baby

 
The Story of Silas, our Alaska Bush Baby

   

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In the early hours of October 10th I woke my husband Paul because it seemed that I was having contractions. I wanted to dismiss them as Braxton Hicks, but by 4 AM I knew that these contractions were becoming more substantive. I would have been thrilled to be at this moment five weeks in the future, but I had more than a month left before our son was due.
Thinking about delivering five weeks early in a Native Village in rural Alaska was unsettling. Iñupiaq Eskimo women don’t have babies in the village anymore. Babies are born in hospitals in urban areas. Too many things can go wrong. I got up in the dark and hastily searched for some factoid of assurance online defining what was real and false labor. There was none to be had; it was inconclusive.
My contractions were erratic at first. We continued to time them. 4 minutes. 4 minutes. 4 minutes. I called the health aid just after 5 AM. She asked me to meet her at the clinic.
I thought that it would be easiest to just walk to the clinic – a quarter mile away on the single dirt road. Though it was dark, cold, and snowing, that seemed to be the quickest choice. I pulled my coat on, grabbed my hat and mittens, gave Paul a kiss and walked into the darkness. He had urged me to get the four-wheeler out of the shed, but I resisted for time’s sake. I walked just past the shipping container beside our house. It crossed my mind that I should probably go back and get the Honda because I would prefer not to be eaten on my way to the clinic. Return? I did.
The health aid left the room to fax the information into doctors 60 miles and airplane ride away. She returned with the news that a med-evac would be coming. Dolly, a health aid-in-training and a familiar face, arrived at the clinic and assisted in getting my IV started. My contractions were continuing to progress. My worry got the better of me and my eyes overflowed with tears. I earnestly prayed that this baby would not be born in the Deering clinic. Early babies end up in the NICU. That was the LAST thing I wanted for my birth experience. I shuddered to think about what lay ahead.
During this time, contractions increased in intensity. The health aids were in contact with doctors in Kotzebue on speaker phone. I learned from one such conversation that the plane coming for me had turned around and returned to Kotzebue under the belief that the weather made it unsafe to land – another obstacle keeping me from a hospital.
Contractions and focused breathing filled the quiet room. The health aids leaned unobtrusively against the counters marking the intervals. By this time I was lying on my left side on a bed that was far from being equipped to accommodate a woman in labor. It was high off the ground and narrow, not to mention hard. More phone communication : The plane was coming back. They were planning to leave at 9 AM. They were bringing a midwife with them this time.
Our friend Denise watched our daughter allowing Paul to join me in the trauma room. Paul, with some medical background, had the most training to handle an emergency delivery. It was becoming abundantly clear that this baby was coming soon. This was not what I had expected or planned, but life often gives us no choice but acceptance.
At about 9:30 AM I felt the urge to push. We were now in video communication with an on-call doctor in Kotzebue. They told me to try NOT to push. I held out for another hour. In that time I heard the prop-plane buzz over. By 10:30 AM an EMT, a nurse, and a Mid-wife came through the door. My first question to the mid-wife was, “Can I push now?” Her quick response, “Let me wash my hands.” spoke of the imminent arrival of our baby.
At 11:19 AM Silas Paul Ipnatchiaq came into the world five weeks premature. He was laid on my chest and wrapped in warm towels. At 6 pounds 8 ounces he seemed the picture of health, but his lungs were not ready. Within a half hour of delivery, Silas and I were on an airplane skin to skin beneath borrowed baby blankets. On the runway we transferred to a jet equipped for just such an emergency. We flew to Anchorage where my new baby boy was taken to the NICU as I had dreaded. My heart felt the weight of grief as I was wheeled to a quiet corner room in the maternal recovery wing. I heard other women’s new babies squawking their needs. I saw clouds of balloons welcoming new lives. I sat on the edge of my hospital bed alone in a silent room and wept.
My son spent twelve days in the NICU, an eternity while in the midst of it, but so very short in comparison to his whole life. He is a healthy 2-year-old boy full of life and vitality.
This story was submitted by the Ergobaby Blog as part of the Every Mother Counts Birth Story Series http://blog.ergobaby.com/2012/10/every-mother-counts-silass-birth-story/