Hello From HawaiiPosted: February 25, 2011
My husband was lucky enough to grow up in Hawaii, and I was lucky enough to marry him. And here we are in Hawaii for the kids’ winter break, hanging out with Todd’s family. His parents are still here in Honolulu; one brother still lives on the island, his other brother is here from Seattle with his wife, and his sister and her son made the trip too, from San Diego. It’s rare to get the whole clan together, and it’s lovely.
Being away from the Northeast winter is kind of lovely, too. It’s in the high 80s right now, and the girls are in the backyard pool. We hiked up Diamond Head today and then all had lunch together, and shave ice (an island specialty — ice cream and red beans on bottom, shaved ice with three flavors of syrup on top). Last night there was a big Ping-Pong tournament in the garage: the Spangler siblings are really good. I held my own, sort of. They also really love cards around here; Hearts can go long into the night.
Holding together this contingent is my mother-in-law, Susan. She is someone I admire for really knowing how to live in the moment and get joy out of everything she does. I’ve always felt that way about her, but a little over five years ago, when I did one of the most spontaneous things I’ve ever done — had my daughter Sara not in Jersey, as planned, but here in Hawaii — my feelings about her really solidified.
It was Thanksgiving, and we’d bought our plane tickets in early February of that year, before I even knew I was pregnant (or maybe even before I was). Once we did conceive Sara, and once we figured out she’d been conceived — it was not exactly a planned event! — and that I was due in late December, I asked my ob-gyn if he thought it was okay for me to fly to Hawaii when I’d be about 35 weeks along. I pointed out to him that my father-in-law is an obstetrician, so I’d have a safety net on the other side. As long as there wasn’t any reason to think I’d go preterm, my doctor said, he was okay with it.
So Todd, 2-year-old Kate and I boarded a plane in Newark. Honestly, I never had a better flight. I was so good about drinking water and walking around to stretch my legs and avoid swelling in my ankles that I felt great when we landed. We went home and almost directly to sleep — the five-hour time difference is painful on a good day. In the wee hours of the morning, still half asleep, I had some cramps. And then, whoosh. My water broke.
I’d asked my doctor before we left whether, if anything did happen when we were away, Sara would be okay. He said she was done, and there wasn’t anything to worry about. So I wasn’t stressed about her well-being. If anything, I felt relief — I was good and ready to have this baby. Of course, I felt a little nervous too. It was like, okay, here we go.
When my in-laws woke and John called the hospital and his partner so we could head in, Susan giggled and hugged me and practically danced down the hall. “We’re having a baby!” she kept saying. She made me feel so relaxed and safe, I was able to get excited too.
Four hours later I had my baby, in a hospital thousands of miles away from home. I’d never met either of the doctors before. One was my father-in-law’s partner, Dr. Chang; the other was an awesome Irish guy named Dr. Foley. The nurses kept remarking how tall I was — they worried I wouldn’t fit on the operating table. (I did.) I later realized that compared with all the Asian women here, 5 feet 7 inches actually is pretty tall.
Everyone wondered whether the plane ride had triggered labor, but I don’t think it did. I think Sara was ready to come. I think I was probably more like 37 weeks pregnant (though my doc in New Jersey is still pretty sure his calculations were right). She was 5 pounds 11 ounces, not so small for a supposed preemie, a little bit jaundiced, and lovely.
Susan and my sister-in-law Amy bought us a car seat and onesies and blankets for Sara. We were already set to stay here for 10 days, and she was born the first day we arrived, so I recovered sitting out on the lanai by the pool. Kate had her grandparents, her cousin, and her aunt to keep her company while we were attending to her new sister. Sara went to the beach when she was about 5 days old, and rode her first plane at 10 days.
It all sounds crazy now, but honestly, we couldn’t have planned it better. In fact, that’s probably why it was all so perfect. We couldn’t have planned it. Come to think of it, no one can plan how any birth will go. Todd admitted he was freaking out after my water broke, thinking to himself that we were stupid to get on that plane. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. The Spanglers have lived in Hawaii for almost 40 years, and Sara is the first to be born here. She brought us all together like nothing else ever could.