Friday, May 27, 2005

When a Broken Toe Sounds Like Labor

I'm writing from home, where the phone line connections is just too slow to support any significant surfing. I'm so spoiled having an ethernet connection at work. So instead of news around the world, I'll write about the main event in my little household.

Fridays are my day at home with my younger son. In theory, at least. Instead they end up being the days I schedule dentist appointments, attend executive committee meetings for the board I'm on, and handle any number of errands I can't do on the weekends.

Today, however, the stars aligned, and I and my toddler had a 70-degree day to play with. We spent the morning working around the yard, trimming shrubs and vines that had overgrown the neighbors yard, encroaching on several feet of our driveway. Then we went to the park and swang, ran the bases at the softball field, and played in the drinking fountain for many, many minutes.

When we walked in the door for lunch, the phone was ringing. I assumed it was T$, calling to tell me about the birth she unexpectedly attended as a backup yesterday. I answered and heard very deep breathing. Not pervert breathing, no. I heard the breathing of a woman in transition. Thinking back to the interview I had Tuesday with a woman in her 37th week who was having signs of early labor ("If you go into labor before you find a doula, call me," I'd said on my way out the door), I thought it might be her. Or else the friend I have who has been contracting daily the past 2 weeks with the impending birth of her second child. Maybe she was finally rolling.

"Hello?" I prompted. A familiar voice said, "Oooooh, I think I broke my toe." M. is a childhood friend whose son shares a middle name with my younger boy (both in honor of her grandfather, a gentle man I knew growing up). We grew up on the same block. We spent a college summer as roommates. I knew her pain voice.

After a shelf with her computer fell on her toe while she was cleaning, she had tried calling her husband, sister, mother and brother-in-law, none of whom were answering. She didn't seem to know what she needed out of a phone call to me, except that when she'd tried to go get ice for her toe, she nearly passed out. I said I'd be right over.

When I got there, she'd pulled herself up onto a couch and was breathing normally. "Once I knew you were coming, I felt a lot better," she said, smiling weakly and rolling her eyes. She'd also been able to talk to her husband, an ER doc. Following his orders, I set her up with an ice pack and some anti-inflammatory drugs. I got her a snack and pretty quickly left to get my little guy home for nap.

It was a reminder that a lot of the value in doulas is their simple presence as an extra set of hands, a listening ear, an opportunity to connect with the outside world, if necessary. Knowing a friend was coming was enough for her to regroup. I've noticed that same change in some clients: they're anxious on the phone, but calm by the time I get there.

The beauty of our friendship is knowing that if I ever needed the same from her, she would give it just as easily and immediately. Actually, she already has. She was the person who came at 1 a.m. and stayed with my older son when we went to the hospital to have our second baby. The next morning, my son awoke and climbed in bed with her, telling her how we'd bought, "like, eight boxes of oatmeal" because they were on sale. He said he liked oatmeal. She said she did, too.

For that alone I am endebted to her. Some other time I'll write about our other 35 years of history together.


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