Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Surprise School Reunion!

Note to "Life On The Beach" regulars - Today's entry is a bit of a departure from my normal fare. Instead of bitching about how the arrival of President Obama has done nothing so far to promote bipartisanship (it hasn't), or discussing the Postal Service's desire to go to five-day-a week delivery (a good idea), today I present an essay. It's part of a newly-launched writing project I'm doing with my high school friends on Facebook. Enjoy!

The date was September 8, 1993. I was at a pretty good place in life. I was the morning drive news reporter at WMAL and living in Silver Spring with my wife of three years, Robin. Robin and I had been living in our brand-new townhouse behind Leisure World for just under a year, and we were looking forward to the birth of our first child, who was due sometime around Thanksgiving. We were scheduled, in fact, to start Lamaze classes the following week.

Robin had a pretty rough day at work - not so much because of her job, per se, but because she just didn't feel good. Pregnancy did not agree with my wife. She never did quite get rid of her morning sickness, and she had been diagnosed with pregancy-onset diabetes, which meant she had to test her blood several times a day. Mama wasn't a happy mama! When Robin got home, she complained of feeling like she had to go to the bathroom, but that wasn't it. A call to the obstatrician confirmed that my seven-month-pregnant wife was likely in labor.

We took a drive over to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital to get Robin checked out, under the assumption that they would stop the labor and send her back home. But by the time we got to Shady Grove, it was too late to stop the baby. He or she was coming!

My brave wife allowed herself about 30 seconds of grief before she set her mind to the next task at hand - undergoing natural childbirth without a minute of training for it, We were taken to a private delivery room to await the unknown.

A couple of minutes later, a nurse came in, and introduced herself - "Hello, my name is Sue". I took one look at her, and smiled. "Susan Berenter! It's been a long time!" I had gone to school with Sue Berenter all the way from Kindergarten at Cresthaven through graduation at Springbrook. We had never been close friends, but you don't share schools with someone for 13 years without having at least some sort of bond.

As Sue and I quickly caught up on old times - what I was doing for a living, how long she'd been a nurse, etc., we heard a groan. Oh yes... Robin.

I introduced Sue to my wife, and Sue snapped instantly into professional mode. She did a great job of calming mother and father down, and giving us the five-cent Lamase "pant, pant, blow" course in about ten minutes. Then she went about doing what nurses do before a woman gives birth... Setting up warming trays and machines that go "BING" and all of that other good stuff - all the while encouraging Robin and keeping her calm.

I don't know if every childbirth goes like this, but it did for both of our kids. The nurse does everything until it's time for the Mom to push. Then - and only then - the doctor comes in and basically catches the baby. It was great having Sue as our delivery nurse, even if the reunion was in front of my wife's gaping ... uh, well... you know. It was comforting to me to have a familiar face in the room to help us in a situation we had not expected. And it was comforting to Robin to have someone who was so good at what she did. Sue was a real pro!

Bradley Philip Matthews was born at 1:49am on September 9, 1993 - two months premature, but at 4 pounds, 9 ounces and 18 inches in length, still quite big for his gestational age. Brad was in the hospital for two weeks and had to wear a breathing monitor for six months, but beyond that, he was a real trooper! And we have Susan Berenter to thank for that!

Thanks, Sue - Wherever you are!

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