The Story of Marina

October 13, 2005

Shortly after we returned from our Christmas/New Years trip to the Galapagos, Arti knew she was pregnant. A home pregnancy test and a trip to the doctor confirmed this. This was great news, since we had decided to take the next step and "pulled the goalie" a few months back. That was cool -- a baby conceived in the Land of Darwin, a group of islands on the equator and full of unique animals.

After a few weeks, we had an appointment with our midwife for our first ultrasound.
Looking at that tiny, rasberry sized creature on the screen was unreal. We could watch the tiny heart valves opening and closing so quickly. The magnitude of the situation hadn't really set in though. Our baby was just a little tadpole on a TV screen.

In February, we took another trip -- this time we went to Kauai with Derek & Emily, as well as Todd, Becca, Nate, and Chloe. This was a fantastic trip, and very relaxing. It was lots of fun to be in such a beautiful place with good friends and family. Arti was feeling a little bit of morning sickness at this point, but for the most part we could cavort without taking special "pregnant" precautions.

One very quiet night in our cozy house I had a dream about our new baby. It was a quick dream -- very succinct. An old figure approached me on the bed from the other side of the room. [S]he said plainly "you are going to have a daughter and you should name her Marina". This figure had visited me in dreams before, and has given good advice, so I took this very seriously.

I woke up immediately and woke up Arti. I told her about this dream. She thought it was interesting, but not as prophetic as I had seen it. I wasn't suprised, since I'd have a hard time putting a lot of faith in someone else's dream guide. ;-)

After Kauai, we had a few more appointments with the midwife. At the 20 week appointment, we were scheduled for another ultrasound. We would likely be able to see the gender of our baby at this appointment. I was a little less excited than Arti, since I already knew we were having a girl ;-).

We got a couple of baby name books, and got many good suggestions from family and friends. Our cousin Vishal was particularly interested in the name we would choose, and had several well thought out ideas he presented to us. No other name sat with me like Marina though. It just fit so well -- not only the sound of it, but its connection with the ocean (and the Galapagos), as well as the breadth of cultures that embrace the name. I've heard of Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Russian women with this name. That was good for us, I thought, since I wanted her to have a name that reflected her international lineage.

Time passed, and Arti's belly grew and grew. We grew to admire our midwives (there are two that work at the office we would go to) and appreciate that we were able to go through this experience with them. The work they do is so important, since giving birth is not necessarily a medical procedure.

The name "Marina" sunk in slowly into the mind of Arti and others in our families. We didn't want to commit to a name before we saw her face, so we didn't really talk about it like it was going to be her name (but, again, I knew it should be ;-).

Fast forward to September. Our due date, as predicted by the ultrasound computer was September 12. Early September brought only a little bit of apprehension to our house. Our midwives were so relaxed and reassuring that things were going just fine, so our anxiety was really minimal. My mom arrived from Washington to stay with us to help with the delivery and post-delivery fun.

We talked a few times about middle names. I suggested that we select a name of an important member of her family. Since she was stuck with "Steinkamp" at the end of her name, an Indian name would be a good balance. After reviewing some candidates, I really liked her maternal grandmother's name "Kailash". It sounded nice, and I thought that it was a respectful gesture to Arti's grandmother. My friend AJ turned me on to the name's significance.

The due date came and went with Arti feeling only mild, occasional Braxton-Hicks contractions. It was 9 days later that things really got rolling.

Arti knew something was brewing in her belly the morning of September 21. The contractions seemed to be coming from lower in her belly, and were a tiny bit sharper than the ones she had felt in the previous days. They still weren't sharp enough to stop her in her tracks, so we went about our day. The three of us went to lunch, and decided a walk would help jump-start things. While walking on the paths behind Yahoo! the contractions got strong enough so that Arti had to pause to let it pass. We knew the time was near!

At 5pm or so, things were really heating up. In the middle of a contraction, Arti said, "I think we better get to the hospital". We called her mom, then Lin the midwife at about 6pm. We arranged to meet Lin at the hospital at 7pm. I wolfed down dinner, then we got in the car. Our moms followed shortly after.

We got there, and sure enough Arti was dialated 4cm. "So we don't have to go home and wait?", I asked Lin. "Nope, we're going to have a baby tonight!", Lin said in her lovely British voice.

Over the course of the next 6 hours, Arti's contractions got stronger and stronger. There was a shower in the room's bathroom, which we made use of to help Arti through the tough contractions. I brought my swim trunks (the nurses don't want to see husbands without clothes! ;-) so I could be in there with her to rub her back and give her support. The shower was a godsend -- I can't imagine dealing with the strong contractions without it.

The midwives were great, not only at guiding me and the moms through comforting Arti, but also in making sure her and I had some good "alone time" (sans-moms) in this special occasion. That was really nice -- the moms were great and helpful, don't get me wrong, but it was nice to just have some time with my wife.

Once it became time to push, we all sharpened our focus. No other time in my life have I been so present in the moment, so focused on the here-and-now. It was absolutely incredible. All of us were rooting Arti on. Really rooting -- shouting and hooting. It was just fantastic.

After about 30 minutes of pushing, Lin waved me over to look at the baby's head. Her hair was just visible inside of Arti. This was encouraging to Arti when I described what I saw, and just floored me.

Another 15 minutes or so, and her head began to crown. Arti could now reach down and feel the baby's hair. This gave her even more reason to give another 150% of effort to push that baby out.

I got to watch her head emerge, and saw her face as it was out in the air for the first time. She was a purply color and turned to the side. She was just beautiful. So this was the little rascal that had been kicking and punching Arti's ribs and bladder for the past 9 months? Well, we can forgive her.

The rest of her came out pretty quickly. A great exhale of releif and exhaustion echoed through the room. Lin handed the baby to me to place on Arti's stomach. She was so wet and slippery, but I knew I wouldn't drop her. It was really a moment I will never forget. I had thought I would be a bawling wreck at this point, but I think the adrenaline and the exhaustion were stronger that that. I was just happy to have a healthy baby girl.

I got to cut the umbilical cord, and Lin helped Arti deliver the placenta shortly after. We put Marina on the scale -- 9 lbs 2 ozs. A big, healthy girl!

The hospital was super busy that night, so there were no private maternity rooms left. This means that I had to go home! Bummer! After taking Marina to get her first bath, I took Marina to the nursery and left the hospital at 5am. This was really difficult, but both Arti and I needed the sleep.

I was barely able to sleep, and woke up at 8am or so. I got in the shower, and just lost it. I was just bawling like a little kid. The magnitude of the situation really hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn't know if I was happy, or scared, or what. I just needed a good, long cry. I got dressed and went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. My mom and Arti's mom had come back to the house at about 3am, and they were both still here. I saw my mom and just lost it again. I gave her a big, sobbing hug. It was a really special moment.

I gathered myself together and had some coffee, and went back to the hospital. Arti looked great, considering what she had just been through. She was happy and excited to come home. Hospital protocol dictated that she stay one more day, but she was never one to adhere to protocol. We called Lin and asked her if we could leave early. "Oh yes. Of course you can my darling. Let me make some calls." She called us back a short time later, and explained that the pediatrician cleared us to go home that afternoon, with the stipulation that we take Marina to the pediatrician's office the next day. No problemo... Home we went!

The next hours were a blur. Lots of staring at Marina, with amazement at everything she would do. I know we went to sleep that night, and slept only a little bit. The trip to the pediatrician the next day was easy.

I had the next two weeks off from work, which was great. I would have rather taken three or four or fifteen weeks off, but it's tough to be gone for that long.

It seems that it's been months since she was born, rather than weeks. Every day she changes a bit -- whether it's her eyes getting more color, or her reactions to things, or how she recognized me or Arti.

I'm sure I'll have lots more stories to tell. I wanted to get this one down though so that one day Marina can read it.

Marina Hams