We got up very early and went to Baptist East Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky; I think we had to be there at 6:00 a.m. Debra was admitted to the hospital and, after the appropriate preparation work, they started administering the pitocin.
We had been through the childbirth classes together and so I was ready. I don’t remember what all I had in my “let me help my wife get through this” bag; I seem to recall tennis balls in a tube sock and baby powder. I was poised and ready to launch whenever those labor pains kicked in.
They didn’t. Debra had a constant backache but she never had labor pains. I was watching the monitor and when it would indicate the onset of a contraction I would grab my tennis balls and baby powder and get ready to jump on the bed. She would just look at me and I would back off. I was young but I was wise. This went on all morning.
Sometime around noon Debra sent me off to find some lunch. The Burger King near the hospital was selling four hamburgers for a dollar (this was 1984, mind you). When I saw that I danced a little Baptist seminary student jig; back then we needed all the financial breaks we could get. I took my sack of hamburgers back to the hospital and sat down in the maternity waiting room to eat. A couple that was waiting for the birth of a grandchild struck up a conversation with me. They asked if I was alone; I explained that all of our family lived several hundred miles away and that my in-laws were coming after we got the baby home. They said, “Well, we’ll just adopt you.” That was nice. I regret that I did not write their names down so that I could pay appropriate tribute to them.
After eating my hamburgers I returned to the labor and delivery area, hoping there had been progress. There hadn’t. The pitocin dosage had been steadily increased but nothing was happening. Finally, around 3:30, Dr. Schweitzer (not Albert) came in, checked things out, and said, “I think we’d better perform a Caesarean section. The nurses will start getting you ready.”
My mind went back to our childbirth classes. For the most part the course had been helpful and encouraging. One night, though, they showed us the C-section film. I leaned over to my good wife and whispered, “I think I can handle anything but that.” She patted me on the leg and smiled.
When the doctor said a C-section would be necessary, Debra cried a little bit. A nursing student who couldn’t have been a day over nineteen patted her hand and told her it would be ok. I don’t know how much her comfort helped but she did provide some comic relief—when she left the room we had a chuckle over someone so young and inexperienced trying to provide encouragement to veteran sufferers like us. We were in our mid-twenties, after all!
They wheeled Debra to the delivery room. A nurse helped me into a mask and gown and told me to wait in the hall. In a few minutes she came back to get me. Dr. Schweitzer had already made the incision. He said, “Are we ready?” I don’t think we answered because we were pretty sure it was a rhetorical question. The next thing I knew we were taking turns holding the glorious mess that was and is our son.
And that’s how Joshua Lee Ruffin came into this world, twenty three years ago today.