YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

SPECIAL DELIVERY : THE BIRTH PROCESS HAS BECOME A FAMILY AFFAIR : One Family's Way: Birth Is a Labor of Love With 7-Year-Old Son as Coach

March 12, 1988|ALETHA ANDERSON | Aletha Anderson, a free-lance writer from North Tustin, gave birth to her first child in December.

Josh Greenhalgh had practiced, and it showed. He sat next to Rita Greenhalgh's hospital bed, with his head close to hers. He held her hand and when a contraction started, he talked to her and helped her through it.

It was about 10:30 on a Sunday morning, and Rita was in the early stages of labor and, although just 7 years old, Josh was his mother's childbirth coach.

His father, Tony, was there too, reminding the boy to keep an eye on the fetal monitor equipment. "Let Mommy know when it's going down.

"I went through Lamaze classes with her the first time," Tony said, and he had been with his wife when Joshua was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1980 at the Naval Air Station in Guam. But for this pregnancy--because of his Navy duties and a desire to involve Josh in the experience--Dad stepped aside. He practiced breathing techniques with Rita at home, but it was Josh who went with her to the childbirth classes at the hospital, Los Alamitos Medical Center, just a few blocks from their home.

"He was the star of the class," Rita said with pride, relaxing while her contractions were still minutes apart. "He got his own personal certificate" after completing the course.

Now that the big day was here--it happened to be Valentine's Day--Josh was calm.

"Mom, I want more cranberry juice," he said. When that was arranged, he revealed that "how to hold the baby" had been his favorite part of childbirth classes.

The Greenhalghs were as relaxed as possible, considering the situation. Their surroundings helped. They were using the hospital's LDR room, a private room where a woman has her labor, delivery and recovery in one bed. LDR rooms, which are becoming widely available in county hospitals, give families the opportunity to share the moment of birth with mother and newborn.

The spacious room had flowered wallpaper in warm colors. Framed prints on the wall added decoration and also helped to conceal access to medical equipment. From her bed, Rita could watch a wooden wall clock tick away the minutes between contractions. There was a bathroom. A color TV in the corner was tuned to coverage of the Winter Olympics in Calgary.

"You feel like you're in a nice hotel," is how Tony described the room.

"But this is probably the most important reason right here," he said, gesturing to Josh, who was spinning on a stool. "We were able to get him so much involved. You hear so many stories about the kids being left out. It was real important to the both of us that he be included."

Tony is a radioman first class with the Navy, assigned to the Wadsworth in Long Beach. He said Josh is a "good student" in the second grade at St. Hedwigs Roman Catholic School in Los Alamitos. He also pitches and plays shortstop on a baseball team his dad coaches.

As father and son chatted about the rebuilding their team needs this season, Diane Garman, the registered nurse assigned to Rita this morning at the hospital's Birthing Center, bustled into the room to check on her again. It was a few minutes before 11.

"You're really progressing," she said, and left to call the obstetrician, Dr. Lawrence Hansen, for the impending birth.

Within five minutes, Rita's contractions were a minute apart, and Tony was on one side of his wife's bed, reminding Josh on the other side to "squeeze Mommy's hand." They blew out exaggerated breaths along with Rita, as they had practiced in childbirth classes and at home, to help her through the painful contractions.

At 11:21 a.m., the newest Greenhalgh--Amanda Kate--greeted her parents and brother with a healthy cry. Hansen allowed Tony to cut the baby's umbilical cord.

Josh watched as Garman checked over Amanda--who weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces--in her isolette a few feet from her mother's bed. Josh said he thought his new sister was "neat."

Spreading out his fingers for emphasis, the young coach said proudly that his mom "only had five pushes" when it came time to deliver Amanda.

"I thought she flopped on the floor," he said. "I thought she slipped (out of) the doctor's hands." (Of course, it just looked that way--Amanda was never out his grasp.)

Within half an hour, the baby was nursing at her mother's breast. Tony and Josh went for a walk to make telephone calls.

Rita said that "when Josh was born they took him away right away" to the nursery and that "it seemed forever" before they brought him back. She also remembered being moved from the labor room to a delivery room when Josh was born.

This time, Rita would have the luxury of staying in the same bed and the same room with her baby until they left the hospital. Approved by her physician for an early discharge, they would go home Monday morning. The only change in her room would be a foam mattress added to her birthing bed for comfort.

"She's still sucking? She knows what's good," said nurse Garman on her first check.

Los Angeles Times Articles