Saturday, December 3, 2016

Birth Is Not For the Weak

All of us have days we will never forget.  Sometimes these memories are worth remembering and other times we wish we could forget them.  Last Sunday was a day that will be etched into my memory bank forever.  Not only for the course of events that day but the observations I made regarding human behavior, especially of young children.

I have been forever proud of my daughter, Rochelle, and that pride grows the more I observe her as a mother of two small children and caregiver to her many pets.

Rochelle's husband works in the arctic north and is gone weeks at a stretch.  They live on a hobby farm that includes livestock and five dogs.  She has rescued animals from abusive situations since she was a young girl and has become educated in the art of nurturing these creatures back to health through sheer hands-on experiences.

Bernese Mountain DogTwo years ago, Rochelle rescued a Bernese Mountain dog who had been living in a kennel too small for her 80-pound body.  The dog had zero knowledge of boundaries, boundless energy and was not the sharpest tool in the shed.  But she was one of the happiest dogs you could ever meet.  She loved everyone and showed it with kisses that were not necessarily welcomed.  My grandson adopted her as 'his' dog and named her "Charrrrrrlie."

Although she weighed 80 pounds, she was still a puppy and had 'accidents.'  One time she had to pee and not making it to the front door in time,  she peed in the kitchen while shaking her large frame shooting pee across the room and spraying everyone and everything within close vicinity.

At the time she was also in heat and couldn't be left outside without supervision. Because she was in heat, Rochelle put a pair of men's underwear on her. She tied Charlie up to the bedpost while cleaning the mess only to turn around to find her standing there with her leash in her mouth.  She had gnawed through it in the course of a few minutes.  The underwear was twisted around her ankles.  You couldn't help but love this hilarious dog.  She's the one in diapers below:

Motley crew

Charlie had some health issues and serious behavioral issues when Rochelle rescued her but began to improve rapidly and before the year was up, she became one of the best-behaved dogs Rochelle ever owned.  Being a social creature, Charlie often jumped the fence that surrounded the 11-acre property so she could visit the neighbors.

It may have been one of these escapes when she became pregnant. We were all excited and now that she was a healthy dog Rochelle did not anticipate any physical problems with the pregnancy or birth.

When it was time for Charlie to deliver, Rochelle asked if I would be able to stay with them for a few days to help with the children -- just in case.  It's those 'just-in-case' moments that make you glad you listened to your instincts and had some back-up.

Last Saturday, Rochelle put the children to bed and we settled in to watch a movie.  Almost immediately, Charlie started panting loudly and we knew it was 'time.'  Rochelle had made a 'birthing station' in the hallway with all the necessary equipment and bedding we might need.  For some reason, we both thought this was going to happen very quickly.  We could not have been more wrong.

Scared and not sure what to do

Charlie appeared to be in hard labor but nothing was happening. Around two in the morning, I told Rochelle to go to bed so she could tend to her baby and get a couple hours sleep.  I sat with Charlie but the babies were not coming.  If you want good solid NEGATIVE medical advice - turn to the internet, especially in the middle of the night when your lack of sleep makes you even more paranoid. The net showed every possible bad scenario.  So I texted my hubby who assured me that twelve hours of labor was not unusual for a big dog giving birth for the first time.

Nothing changed by mid-morning on Sunday.  Rochelle knew what an emergency trip to the vet on a weekend was going to cost but it became apparent we had no choice.  The vet hospital was an hour away but Charlie was obviously in distress and we knew it was time.  We had to go NOW.

Rochelle had Charlie lay down between the two car seats in her vehicle and we hoped we would make it to the vet in time.  When we made the decision to go, there was no time to change our clothes.  I was in my grubbies (basically old pajamas to use for such an event), hadn't washed my hair in a couple days and of course, was not wearing any make-up.  In other words, scary!

"No problem," I thought "I'll just wait in the car."  It wasn't that funny at the time but now.....

Rochelle drove as fast as she could and when we arrived she opened the back door of the SUV to see that not only had Charlie thrown up, but had given birth to a puppy.  The hospital staff ran to the car with a gurney and tried to get Charlie out.  It was almost impossible.  She weighed over 100 pounds and did not want to get up, let alone climb around the car seats.  They tried to get her out two different doors. They had determined that the first baby was stillborn and one of the staff took the pup inside trying to revive her.  No luck.

Weird how memories are triggered

At that precise moment, I was pole-vaulted back in time.  I thought of my friends who had lost babies before they had a chance to live.  I thought about women who have had to abort their babies for one reason or another.  My emotions were all over the map.   This was "just a dog."  But in reality, it represented so much more.  The right to life.  I cried silently.

It was obvious that I was not going to be able to "wait" in the car.   The three of us, William my five-year-old grandson, Aubrie, my nine-month-old granddaughter and me in my jammies, followed Rochelle into the hospital.

Two vets were tending to Charlie.  She got a shot to calm her and one to speed up the process of birth. I stayed in the waiting room. This was a very busy hospital and the only one open on a Sunday.  I was thankful that at least I was wearing a bra!

The minutes turned to hours and Charlie finally gave birth to puppy number two.  Healthy and ready to nurse!  I was walking around the waiting room pushing Aubrie's stroller so she would fall asleep and was completely oblivious to the fact that I had a long piece of toilet paper trailing behind my pants.  I was so grateful that these people will never see me again as long as I live.  But the day was far from over.
Dog giving birth

I chatted with the many moms and dads of dogs and cats who were there because of emergency situations.  It helped the time pass and all the while I was acutely aware that both Aubrie and William were not complaining -- not even once.  William was excited and concerned about Charlie.  Aubrie loved "talking" to people. Regardless, it was a long time to sit and do nothing for an adult. Imagine how long it seemed to a child.

Pride rose up in me as I watched the children and Rochelle take all of this in stride.  There was no stressing out, just a calmness.  This is the way Rochelle approaches life and her children are a direct reflection of that.

Puppy number three arrived and it was a boy.  William was allowed into the room and named the two pups.  Rochelle explained to him that they were not going to be keeping them so the new owners would be naming them.  So he gave them temporary names.  The boy was named "Cow" because he looked like a cow and the girl was named "Dog" because she looked like a dog.  That'll work!


It was dinner time and Rochelle ordered pizza.  I can only guess how this motley crew looked, sitting in the lobby of an emergency pet hospital which reeked of bleach and chemicals along with unpleasant doggie odors,........ eating dinner.

We were almost done eating when puppy number four was ready to come into the world.  William was excited because Mommy said he could watch this time.  But it was soon apparent that Charlie was having trouble and Rochelle asked me to take William out of the room.  She was right -- another stillborn.
Death is always sad --- even if it's 'just a dog'

I thought about what strength it takes for any creature to be born. The fight from conception to birth is not for the weak.  And many do not make it.  Both of the pups who died were fully formed and larger than the two who made it.  The vet guessed that it may have been from a lack of oxygen but we will never know.

More than eight hours at the hospital and not one negative word out of William's five-year-old mouth. I was absolutely amazed.  He never complained about how long it was taking or how tired he was. His only concern was for Charlie, the pups, and his little sister who was in her stroller most of the day.
two Bernese Mountain dog pups

They took Charlie to the back room to hose her down as she was a mess.  I think she was also thrilled that the ordeal was over and she could go home now.  On the way to the car, Charlie threw up.  It was not normal looking and concerned us all.  It seemed to take the last ounce of strength out of Charlie. Again, they cleaned her up and proceeded to get her into the car.

After everything.......was Charlie going to die?

Just as Rochelle was closing the back door of the vehicle, Charlie gave her a look that Rochelle will have embedded into her memory forever.  Charlie's eyes rolled back and she went limp.  She appeared dead.

Rochelle ran back into the hospital and once again, they came with a gurney but it was impossible to get Charlie out of the vehicle.  The vet ran some tests on her in the car.  He said that she might have lost all her calcium (which could be fatal) and her blood pressure had plummeted.  They gave her a shot and it became evident she would have to be hospitalized.  It didn't look good.  We were hoping she was merely exhausted but there were no guarantees.

The staff was finally able to get her into the hospital and gave her intravenous.  They would let us know when something changed.

By the time we got home and put the kids to bed it was around midnight.  The vet called.  Charlie was doing fine.  We could pick her up in the morning.


Why does it have to be so hard for some?

Giving birth was never easy in this family.  I was never supposed to make it and was so ill that I died at nine months old.  (A miracle I am here!)   Rochelle was never supposed to be born.  I spent my pregnancy in the hospital as there were five major complications and was told that one of us would probably not make it.  Every day brought more distress and worries.  But I never ever gave up hope and Rochelle was born six pounds, six ounces and six weeks early. She was a miracle in every respect.

Even though Rochelle is extremely healthy and takes better care of herself than anyone I know, her pregnancies have been just as dicey.  She almost lost her precious children due to complications during birth.  But she didn't lose them and they are strong, healthy and each one a miracle beyond comprehension.

So when Rochelle said "NO MORE BABIES OF ANY KIND IN THIS FAMILY" I had to agree even though we were laughing about it.  The stress of giving birth again seems unbearable.

Again, my emotions were stirred as I thought about all the unwanted babies in this world.  The word 'heartbreaking' does not begin to cover it.  My life, Rochelle's life, both of her children's lives, and now even Charlie's life had been at stake -- but the reward of persevering, of never giving up hope, of clinging to the promises God gives us, made every bit of it worthwhile.

I will also never forget what troopers William and Aubrie were during the entire episode and realize anew what an absolutely awesome person and mother Rochelle has become.

Rochelle kept saying, "Mom, what would I have done if you weren't there?"  As difficult as the situation had been and even with her two small children, Rochelle would have made it work. Because that is what she does.  And if anyone she knows is ever in need, Rochelle is the first one there to help. It is who she is!  She is self-sufficient, calm and wise beyond her years.  She is a mother to be honored, a woman to be respected, and I applaud her on every front.

How incredibly happy I was to see Aubrie's first steps the day before I headed back home.  Enjoy this cute video:

Do you have a birthing experience you would like to share?  I'd love to hear it!

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