Monday, April 20, 2009

The Birth: A Recap

            I was playing soccer with some friends after church when Michelle pulled up and started walking toward us with the baby in one arm, a cardboard box in the other, and a big smile on her face. I ran off the field and said, “Did you…?”
            For an answer, she held the box out to me for me to look inside to see the most silly-looking black kitten I’ve ever seen. I say “silly-looking” because she has these massive eyes that look like they’re popping out of the skull. I glanced up at Michelle skeptically, but instantly knew that she’d already fallen in love so I held my words. “Are we going to name it Felix?” I asked.
            She smiled. It’s actually a long story, and it begins before Celia was born. Her due date was September 29th, and by August we were getting worried that Michelle’s medical coverage wouldn’t happen in time. You see, I’m a dual-citizen and she’s American. When we got married, she had the clearance to live in Canada with me (obviously), but the paperwork took her months to send in. They wanted information on everywhere she’d lived and worked since 18 years old! Plus physicals, FBI and police checks, letters of reference, income statements, etc. By the time September rolled around, we were told by the medical plan that they’d cover her when they received word from Immigration that they’ve received her application. But when we called Immigration they used language like “sea of paperwork” and “just opening the mail from February”.
You can imagine we freaked out. I sent a mass email to my friends with the subject “Tragic” so they would know and pray for us. It was interesting the differences in response. Okay, it was definitely the wrong word to use in the subject line when we’re talking about child-birth. I admit. But the Americans mostly replied with things like, “Hey, what’s the big deal? I had to pay for my kids to be born. Isn’t it cheaper in Canada?” And my Canadian friends replied with outrage. “We need to alert the newspapers! Send a message to our Premier!” That’s the difference between living in the US and Canada. Medical coverage goes from being a privilege to a right.
Either way, it didn’t get us medical coverage, and we certainly couldn’t afford a hefty hospital bill. A few days later Michelle and I prayed together before going to sleep, and that night she had a crazy dream about a black cat named Felix who made all things happy and right. Felix, for those of you who aren’t aware (like I wasn’t) is Latin for “happy.”
In the morning she told me about the dream, which I thought was unusual, and I told her to call Immigration again. “You never know,” I said. “Maybe they’ve waded through some of the sea of paperwork.”
She called and reached a pleasant man named Felix who then proceeded to inform her that her application is now opened and this is the reference number to give your medical plan. Michelle sobbed on the phone with this man for half an hour. She finally said, between gasps, “Have you ever had to deal with this before? A sobbing pregnant woman who’s trying to get medical coverage?”
Felix replied politely and calmly, “Yes ma’am. I have”
Michelle almost didn’t want to hang up with him, she was so happy, and he was so pleasant. But the moment passed and she called the medical people, who then told her they’d cover her starting October 1st. “But the baby is due September 29th!” she exclaimed.
“Too bad,” the curt woman replied. “We’ll cover you the 1st.” Amazing the difference between the two. Both people are subject to the rules of the system, but one seemed to have so much more humanity and understanding. It goes to show, we really do need good people in all areas of society. People who treat others not as another cog in the system, but as humans, with compassion.
The rest of that month was a waiting and praying time for us. We kept saying to our unborn daughter, “We’re so excited to meet you, but just wait, okay?”
And she did.
October 1st was a crazy day. I had a very important work meeting early that morning. Michelle finally felt like she could relax, and started going into labor. And then the landlord came by (of course), but what we didn’t expect was he finally decided it was time to fix the plumbing in the back room for the laundry hookups. I’d been getting on his case to do that for months, knowing we’d want working laundry with a baby. But why, of all days, he had to come by on the day Michelle was going into labor, I’ll never know.
Michelle told him, “I’m going into labor Mr. Wong,” as she patted her belly.
Mr. Wong is an elderly Chinese man with halted English and who loves to talk. “Oh! Good!” he said, and then said, “I’ll only be ten minutes!” He brought in some tools and began making a racket.
We’d actually put a lot of thought into the whole labor process. We’d gone to classes, and Michelle had picked out calming music. She’d cleaned the house, and made every attempt to make it the most relaxing and comforting environment possible. We had all these anticipations of how lovely it would be when she finally did go into labor with our new arrival.
Mr. Wong took three hours. He had to shut off the water, run to the store, do some welding. Michelle was frantic. The smell of welding permeated the house. She wanted to sit on the toilet during the labor, but of course, the water was turned off and Mr. Wong had blocked the bathroom door with all sorts of clutter. She asked him, “Are you done yet?”
“Yes, two more minutes,” he said, then he turned on the water only to see the pipes spraying everywhere, so he turned the water off and ran to the store again. Michelle kept texting me while I was in my important meeting, “Get over here now!”
I was finally able to excuse myself from work and rush home, only to shake Mr. Wong’s hand as he finally said his goodbye’s. Michelle was livid with him, but I was secretly glad he’d finally gotten around to it. I gave her a big hug, then we relaxed on the front porch and held hands quietly.
Celia was born that next morning. We not only had full medical coverage, it was a natural birth and the happiest day of my life. I had no idea it would be the happiest day of my life going into it. When people would say that kind of thing before I’d just kind of wonder, “How can they actually say that? How can you truly know, of all the days you’ve lived, that one day is the happiest?” But I was sure. I held her in my arms and sang random phrases of love to her. “Welcome to our world, little one. Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you.”
And something tells me it’ll be good to have a reminder around. Something to help us recall the whole experience, feeling helpless yet hopeful, praying, waiting, wondering, and then finally to have all our needs met with such bountiful abundance. And when I saw that little black kitten with googly eyes, I thought to myself, “Sure, why not?” Felix. Happy.
Michelle picked up the little scrawny black kitten and held it up for all my soccer friends to see. “Sure,” she said knowingly. “Felix is a good name.”

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