The name of my new daughter (pronounced LIE-la, not LAY-la). She arrived on Sunday, 8 July, 2007 (3.42 kilos/7.5 lbs.; 49 cm./19.3 in.). Carla started having contractions at about 3:00 AM. We left for Liberia Hospital an hour later and arrived at 5:00 AM. At 11:06 AM, she was born. The whole experience was quite wonderful.
As I stated in a previous blog entry (Doctores, Clinicas y la Farmacia/Nov. 2006), Costa Ricans enjoy great healthcare at a very reasonable price. Even so, many of my gringo friends were shocked that we would have a baby in a public hospital and not a private clinic. I wasn't worried. And I wasn't disappointed. The service and atmosphere was bright, courteous and very professional. Total cost: $0.00.
After checking into the Emergency Room, Carla was taken to a private office where her paperwork was processed. It took about 15 minutes before she was wheeled to Maternity. We had both been sick with the gripe (pronounced, GREE-pay), or cold/flu, for two days and hadn't slept much for two nights. Now, we were on our third sleepless night. I waited in the sala and tried to catch some z's by reclining on a row of bucket-seat chairs - very uncomfortable. At about 10:00 AM I could hear Carla's labor pains. It was for real! She was having our baby!
One funny thing I noticed: I went to the bathroom because I had to blow my nose. There was no toilet paper nor a paper towel to be found. So I searched in another bathroom. No luck. I blew my nose in the sink and washed up. On my way back to the waiting room, I noticed people who were visiting patients or checking in, arriving with rolls of toilet paper in plastic bags. Didn't register right away. But then the lightbulb flickered and illuminated: toilet paper and towels get ripped off! So it's B.Y.O.T.P. at the hospital! Hilarious!
At about 10:30 AM I was awoken abruptly from my REM sleep to the call of, "Mike!". It was one of the nurses. The moment had arrived. Carla was moved from a private waiting area to the birthing room. A female doctor greeted me with a smile. She was egging Carla on, telling her to "Get angry and push! Get that baby out! Blame it on him!" After a few minutes I could see Laila's head, then the big push and her head was out, another Herculean effort and her shoulders appeared. Then the rest of Laila followed as the doctor performed an effortless catch-and-release onto a cloth covered table in a single, unbroken flowing motion reminiscent of a pro outfielder fielding a grounder and throwing it on the run to the infield in stride. It was poetry.
Carla was beat but incredibly relieved of the burden and pain. I broke into tears. It was overwhelming. Words can't describe that feeling, so I won't even try. I took some phone video of this newly arrived life form while still in a dream state (I had left my camera at home after Carla told me that they would refuse me entry if I had it - the doctor told me she was wrong. I was too happy to be bummed). After cutting the cord, cleaning up a bit, and placing a baby bracelet on little Laila, I followed the nurse to the Nursery where Laila was further aspirated, given a Hepatitis B vaccination, a vitamin injection, measured, weighed and then swaddled. I brought her back to the birthing room where Carla was still being cleaned up and attended to. She had done it with no drugs, no epesiotomy and no crying. Not bad for a woman of such small physical stature (she was back at home the next day too). ¡Muy pura vida!
I exited to the waiting room where some of my family had arrived. The hospital only grants access to two family members at a time (excepting the father). So I showed the phone vids to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. They were impressed. The baby was "big". She didn't look like a newborn. She looked like a person. I must say that I had to agree with them. The kid looked a month or two old. They were allowed to visit Carla one-by-one. I went to a soda across the street from the hospital to make phone calls and suck down a mango natural. It was a happy day!!
Carla and Laila were then wheeled to recovery and we all followed. The baby immediately started nursing. We left them to rest and I exited the hospital the happiest man on the face of this Blue Planet.
It made the toilet paper run I was about to go on seem like something incredibly special. ¡Pura vida!