At 5:00am Hannah, Donna (Hannah’s Mother) and I, arrived at Parkridge East Hospital, just outside Chattanooga Tennessee, for Hannah to be induced. At this point our little girl was already a week late and Hannah’s OBGYN, Dr. Harnsberger, was concerned that Hannah’s placenta might begin to deteriorate. It seems as if the Lord has perfectly designed a woman’s body to carry a baby for forty weeks, and not a whole lot longer. When we arrived at the hospital we were escorted to delivery room number seven and Hannah was put on a drip of pitocin (a synthetic form of oxytocin) in order to induce labor. At this point she had been having mild contractions for several days and was already five centimeters dilated.
We were not excited about using an epidural because of the risks inherent in this powerful analgesic. As such, we had spent the last several months studying the Bradley Method of natural childbirth, commonly known as “husband coached childbirth.” However, with the introduction of pitocin into the equation, a drug that increases the intensity of contractions, we readjusted our expectations and made an attempt to hold out on the epidural as long as possible. Hannah courageously labored for several hours and made it to seven centimeters before asking for the epidural.
When the anesthesiologist administered the drug, Hannah’s relief was almost instantaneous and she was able to continue laboring with far less pain. A little after noon, Dr. Harnsberger announced that it was time to start pushing, and, with a little help from a vacuum extractor on the last push, our little girl arrived as blue as a smurf and slimy all over. Her color quickly changed to pink as she took her first few breaths.
Charis Alene Porcella was born at 1:57pm. She weighed 7lb and 10oz, and was 20.9in long at birth. Her name is pronounced “CARE-iss.” It is a Greek word (Χάρις), commonly used in the New Testament, meaning “grace,” because, after three years of infertility God graciously granted us a daughter. Charis as a given name is over two thousand years old, appearing in Greek and Roman mythology and in Homer’s Iliad. Her middle name Alene is for her mother, Hannah Alene Porcella.
For the first few minutes of her life, all seemed perfect. Hannah and I held her for a couple minutes and I made a few quick phone calls announcing her arrival to family. However, after about half an hour the nurses started to get a concerned looks on their faces and they whisked Charis away to the nursery for closer examination. Donna and I followed the nurses and we watched as half a dozen hospital staff crowded around our fragile little Charis, poking and prodding her with all manner of instruments.
After what seemed like an eternity, a Physician Assistant came and told me that she was concerned Charis might have a congenital birth defect called Esophageal Atresia, that they were transferring her to the intensive care unit, and that she might need immediate surgery. Needless to say, I was in agony. I walked back to our room and sat in silence next to Hannah, unable to share with her what I had just been told. Thankfully, by the end of the day things were looking much better. The doctors had ruled out Esophageal Atresia, and, after a chest radiograph, were leaning towards a diagnosis of Pneumonia.
The nurses graciously allowed Hannah to hold Charis for a few minutes in the NICU. Being in the NICU was heartbreaking – so many little fragile infants hooked up to so many machines. Charis was placed on intravenous therapy and oxygen, and was given a feeding tube. I did not want to leave her in such a place and I had to continuously remind myself that she was God’s child and in His loving hands. We went to sleep exhausted and feeling, perhaps for the first time, the type of worry that only a parent can really feel. Tomorrow, however, would bring better news.