When last we spoke, I was 39 weeks and two days pregnant with our little daughter. In the past two weeks, just like almost exactly two years ago, we crossed the same border, took the same bus ride to the same city, where we stayed in the same hotel, ate in the same restaurant, took the same car ride to the same hostel by the same hospital and commenced the same waiting game. It would have been deja vu, except that we were accompanied by 23-month-old Wesley and our 20-something-year-old house girl, Adera.
Here's the recap of the adventure in all its gritty, sometimes hilarious, sometimes grimace-inducing detail:
Tuesday, 4th February
We had intended to set out for Kenya on Sunday morning, but Fred had been at a conference for the week prior and his bus coming back hit five cows on the highway, putting him about eight hours behind his intended arrival. After sleeping on the bus on the side of the road Friday night, he got home late Saturday night, and we decided it would be best to delay so that he could rest before we got back on a bus. Our goal was to leave at 7am Tuesday morning, but what with one thing and another (including the fact that Adera apparently didn't understand that she was going with us, so she hadn't packed at all and had to run home to throw clothes into a bag) we didn't leave until after 8am. We barely, barely made it onto one of the last buses from the border after I got stuck in the immigration line behind eight Canadian senior citizens. (Wesley, who has become fascinated with his Grandpa and Grandma who are white people kept asking "Grandpa?") We had a very reasonable bus ride, arrived in the evening and went to the same hotel where Fred and I had stayed when we were on our way to Kijabe for Wesley's birth.
Wednesday, 5th February
Fred had some errands to run for work, so after breakfast he took off to do those things. We checked out of our hotel room at 10am and moved our luggage to the lobby to wait for Fred. Two hours of Wesley screaming and crying and making me cry later, Fred checked in on us. We decided to split the errands, so Adera and Wesley and I walked to the supermarket, then we rushed off to Kijabe, a community about 30km away, where the African Inland Church-operated Kijabe Hospital is. We checked into rooms at the guest house...and waited.
Thursday, 6th February
Friday, 7th February
Fred went back to Nairobi for some more work stuff while I had a checkup at the hospital. Then, we waited.
Saturday, 8th February
Due date comes and goes while we wait.
Sunday, 9th February
Fred had been issued five days leave for work, meaning he had to check in on Monday or Tuesday. Since it seemed more likely that the baby would come on Wednesday than on Sunday, Fred left to go back to Shirati. This involves an hour to Nairobi, then eight hours to the border, then 90 minutes to Shirati. Fred made it to the border that night, while we waited.
Monday, 10th February
Fred rushed around putting out fires at the office, and we waited.
Tuesday, 11th February
We waited all day, anticipating Fred's arrival as the day progressed, only to find out that he had been delayed in Shirati for most of the day and had only reached the border that evening. Shortly after that disappointing conversation, I started to feel...uneasy. Although it wasn't painful or uncomfortable, I had a feeling I should probably go to the hospital. At 9.30pm, with Adera and Wesley in his pajamas, I walked down to the maternity ward to be checked. I asked them if I was okay to go back and sleep for a while, but they said no, I was already 4cm dilated and needed to be admitted. Adera and Wesley went back to the guest house, and I settled into a bed in the labor ward. My contractions were not very strong, even though I was well dilated, so I think they decided to give me "something" to strengthen contractions, which definitely made labor progress.
Wednesday, 12th February
By 2am I was in terrible pain with every contraction, and so tired that I would fall asleep between the contractions, only to awake 2 minutes later screaming. Around 2:30am they took me to delivery to start pushing, but I was so exhausted and in so much pain I could hardly listen to them. When I was giving birth to Wesley, and I reached the "I can't do it!" point, I was motivated by the thought of the baby on his way. With this baby, I was motivated by the thought "If only I can push her out, I can go to sleep!" That seemed to work, and a couple of big pushes later, our tiny Gretchen Charlotte was born, long and skinny at 7 lbs flat and 20 inches long at 2:50am. (By funny coincidence, our good friends, my boss and his wife, had their second baby, later the same day, so our daughters share a birthday!)
I spent the rest of the morning snuggling and napping with the baby, watching other women labor, and waiting for Fred. Adera brought Wesley for a visit, and he got meet baby "Grishon" for the first time. After a few more hours in the labor ward, they had to move me to the general ward. A general maternity ward is a large room with 25-30 beds in it, each holding a woman either on her way to or from delivering a baby. Visiting people in the hospital is a very important part of local culture, and every one of the women in general ward had at least one visitor...except me. I felt like a stranger walking into an Old West bar, because all conversation seemed to stop when I walked in with my little bundle of white baby. Eventually the high buzz returned, but every time I moved off my bed to use the disgusting shared toilet (if you drop anything, just throw it away...that's all I'll say) or fill my water bottle, every eye in the room turned to me. Fortunately, all we wanted to do was sleep, which got boring for most of the people. Fred arrived around 5pm with Adera and Wesley in tow, and pushed all the final details for them to release me to go "home" to the guest house. Wesley got to snuggle his baby sister a little bit before bedtime.
Thursday, 13th February
We checked out of the guest house in the morning and went back to Nairobi, where we checked into my favorite, favorite hotel: Kahama Hotel. I love the environment and the restaurant and the super comfortable rooms. I ate a hamburger for lunch, then Adera, Wesley, Gretchen and I went out to visit our friends, the Daggetts, who are teachers at Rosslyn Academy. Amanda Daggett is a midwife back in Oregon, and has always been very generous with advice and encouragement via chat and SMS. We had a bit of a hellish evening, because by the time we got back to the hotel and organized ourselves and ordered dinner and actually received our food, it was 10pm, and both kids were done. After some (understandable) crying and demands for attention, we finally got them both settled into bed.
Friday, 14th February
Our intention was to leave Nairobi by 11am, but in Africa travel (and everything else) starts later and takes longer than you hope or expect. We did get on the road before noon, and were really comfortable in the private car we'd hired to take us to the border...until Rongo. We were less than 100km from the border when we encountered a road block set up by striking university students. I have no idea what they were striking over, but we had to turn back and take the bumpy, rutted sugar cane farm roads around, adding about 30-40 minutes onto our trip. We reached the border at 7:20pm, which is just after dark here. Both of our kids, who had been angels for the whole trip, started fussing immediately when we reached the border, at literally the worst possible time. We tried to speed through Kenyan immigration while our favorite local taxi transferred our bags, but then we couldn't exit, because at dusk they lock the gate between Kenya and "no man's land." They did let us through (probably just feeling sorry for us), then we found ourselves locked out of Tanzania. We walked across to Immigration, where, by a true miracle, we found our friend, Emmanuel, who had arrived back from Dar that very day. He sped us through Immigration and tracked down the one guy with the gate key to come let our car through. Bouncing off to Shirati, we finally reached home around 9:30pm.
Now we're well-established at home, catching up on sleep as much as possible. We got our first official baby visitors this morning: our Dutch friends, Pim and Yvonne and their daughter, Daphne. Wesley got to show off his little sister to the only other little girl he knows. (He loves asking "Where Daphne?" every single day, then answering himself "Home.") They are the Dutch doctors who have been so helpful and kind throughout my pregnancy, and they brought us some of Daphne's hand-me-downs. Gretchen sleeps a lot still, and Wesley loves her so much and is trying to remember to "be gentle" and "be careful" not to jump on her in his enthusiasm. We're so happy to have this precious little girl with us, and really grateful for Wesley's good transition to big brother! In a few weeks we'll go back to Kenya to do paperwork and to introduce Inno to his baby sister.
Thank you all for your prayers and support!