[caption id="attachment_1663" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Labor with a chance of tornadoes. This won't be fun."][/caption]
The morning of May 24th, 2011 had barely dawned and already the weathermen were calling for super-cell thunderstorms that could spawn monster tornadoes and hail the size of hen’s eggs by evening rush hour. I left my elderly parents to rouse themselves and made the trek across the city, arriving at Norman Regional Hospital to help my son-in-law Devin coach my second-born, Kala, through labor and delivery of her first-born. And after the events of this fateful day had come to a close, quite possibly her last!
Ever mindful of the tragedy in Joplin three days earlier, we were briefed within moments of arrival on emergency procedures should similar conditions happen here. Spoiler alert: they did. But it was abundantly apparent that these so-called "plans" were dreamed up by no born-and-bred Okie:
When a tornado watch is issued, all doors must closed and the curtains be drawn.
What the...? In this state, tornado warning sirens are a signal for you to either a) rush outside and try to spot the funnel cloud, or in the event of rain or hail, b) rush to the nearest window(s) and attempt the same. Drawn curtains do not facilitate this activity. And what sort of protection would drawn curtains provide, anyhow? I've seen the damage a tornado/hail/wind storm can actually do. Drawing the curtains on 8-foot high windows is akin to the proverbial flea f*cking an elephant! Pardon my French.
[caption id="attachment_1664" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Surely it won't come here, right? Wrong."][/caption]
Just after noon, my husband arrived at the hospital with my parents. Because birth is a spectator sport. Not long after, Mother Nature began her furious spectacle state-wide, and we began checking on old hometowns and current hometowns as residents buttoned-up to wait out the growing fury. Glued to the television we were, fascinated by another of Mike Morgan’s severe weather ties. In the waiting room, strangers became chatty, sharing where each other lived, where family was, and prognosticating which areas might get the worst damage. If misery loves company, the potential of mile-wide swaths of devastation loves a cocktail party. Well, a dry cocktail party at least.
By 5:30PM, Kala continued to labor. But baby boy Phillips was playing his own game of hide-and-go-seek in Mom’s womb. Hey, my grandson is not stupid. He could hear those warnings, those conversations, those predictions of doom; why should he come out now? Instead he turned face up, laughing in the face of danger. For the uninitiated, "face up" means "back labor", something no woman should go through. So we joined forces with the nurse in an attempt to flip my daughter onto her tummy; no simple feat. Our efforts, however, were ultimately successful, resulting in the baby assuming the desired position.
[caption id="attachment_1667" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Yes, that says "baby in the basement"."][/caption]
But with that good news came the announcement from the tube: Tornado warnings for Norman, OK. One tornado was already on the ground in Chickasha, and the super-cell that spawned it was on a track for a direct collision-course with the hospital. Grazing blow or bulls-eye? Too soon to tell. But too close for comfort. Nurses rushed in, unhooked Kala from all her monitors and equipment, told us to grab our things, and rushed us out into the hall. But wait! Other nurses in the hall, those with no faith in the newfangled television, informed us that the hospital PA was the arbiter of our fate. So we return to the room with the more skittish nurses, who re-hooked Kala to her monitors and equipment. For about three minutes. Because that's when the omniscient PA system caught up to the weathermen and began blaring the EVACUATE TO THE BASEMENT orders. Surprise!
My parents had left for the cafeteria minutes earlier. I put them out of my mind, as the cafeteria was conveniently located in the basement. So I ambled along with the queue of moms soon-to-be and moms recently made, some with newborns in their arms and all with adoring, worried families in tow. Point of interest. You can fit exactly 7 people in an elevator along side a maternity bed. Who knew?
[caption id="attachment_1666" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Now where did I leave those great-grandparents?"][/caption]
Now that my laboring daughter and I were safely in the basement, I began the questing for the Greats in a sea of confusion. I was transported back to childhood bomb drills as I stepped gingerly over people sitting and lying in the bowels of the hospital, threading my way from hall to hall. I finally located the cafeteria, but the Greats were nowhere to be seen. After sticking my head in every room off every hall, a last-ditch effort to reach them on their cell phone was miraculously successful. Mom said she wasn't sure where they were, but that they were in the basement tucked safely way under a stairwell. Good enough for now. They've lived through worse.
I headed back to locate my own progeny and found the nurses and staff making a labor/delivery room out of the large supply/storage area. You might want to read that sentence again. My husband was there, hovering over Kala like an avenging angel. This would be his second grandson (his first from his other daughter), though this one was coming under slightly more strained conditions. His demeanor was quite understandable, especially for an ex-cop. I proudly proclaimed to my daughter that, should the need arise, we family members (five of us), the two nurses and her ob/gyn would form a human wall to provide a modicum of privacy as she delivered in the midst of the crowded supply closet. Oh, look. Another sentence you might want to read again.
[caption id="attachment_1668" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Making friends through adversity"][/caption]
Down here in the nether regions of a concrete building and with cell towers above suffering the wrath of a tempest, the voice-portion of mobile phones were spotty at best. Texts were still coming through and Kala’s ob/gyn adopted a casual demeanor, sitting at the end of her bed with a newly acquired iPhone, chatting up my daughter about the vagaries of their common communication devices. Damned odd. But it reminded me that phones today are much more than just phones, so I took advantage of the lull in the action and started taking pictures and videos. This was a blatant violation of hospital policy. "No photos until after the baby is born" sayeth the sign in the labor room. But we weren't in the labor room. And let's be realistic; this is the stuff of which legends are. Soon others took note of my disregard of propriety, and now we are all forever recorded in each other’s lives and the lives of those babies Born in the Storm.
And through it all, my ultra-type-A, overachieving, the-world-will-bend-to-my-will daughter Kala was the proverbial calm in the storm. Too bad we can't say the same for my impending grandson. Frustrated no doubt by all the commotion, he turned right back around and remained steadfast. Here: good. There: bad. And who could blame him? I later learned from my mother, a resident of this state for some 80 years who has been through more than one tornado, that she had never felt such pressure on her ears, huddling under the stairwell as the tornado passed just south of us. This one, it seems, was a doozy. And a close doozy, at that.
[caption id="attachment_1670" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Now that we won't all die..."][/caption]
Finally the all clear was given and we were shuffled back to the 2nd floor. My grandson, it seems, would not be born in a storage closet. Which is just a step up from manger, I'm told. Out the window we saw skies clearing and no damage/debris in our immediate view. All praise the magic storm-deflecting curtains, indeed. And though Kala had quite the supportive crowd during the ordeal and was forced to go with the flow, I fear said ordeal imprinted the family-passed stubborn streak more strongly to my delayed grandson than it exists for the rest of us. Suddenly finding prehensile toes with which to grab kidney, duodenum and/or spleen, baby boy made it clear he was not coming out into this type of insanity.
[caption id="attachment_1669" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Hail, Cesar. There is irony in that."][/caption]
At 10:43 PM, medical science won over determination and an uncooperative cervix, and my grandson was yanked out by c-section. His response to this rather abrupt and unceremonious arrival was immediate. He pissed on the doctor. Twice! At nine pounds eight ounces and sporting skis for feet, I am pretty sure he would have asked for a cheeseburger had he known the language. And for rapid expatriation to a locale with a more stable climate.
[caption id="attachment_1672" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="The effort pays off at the end."][/caption]
Welcome to the world, Landon. May the rest of your days live up to the excitement that heralded your arrival.