Ten years on
My daughter always had a bit of a wild streak, even as she twisted, turned and kicked in utero. When it was finally time to leave the comfort of the womb and feel the first rays of sunlight on her face, Skyler took control and stepped on the accelerator. Apparently the moment – exactly 9 months to the day from Sept. 11, 2001 – was right.

Rachael’s water broke with a resounding pop on that fateful afternoon. “I think it’s happening,” she whispered before wincing, tightly gripping my shoulder and adding “oh shit!” as she rode out the first contraction. Needless to say, our “birth bag” was unpacked and all our overnight necessities were strewn around the house.

Don’t worry, this birth partner told himself, labor takes days, right? We’ll just hang in the garden and relax at home for a spell. There’ll be plenty of time to repack the bag, finish the final chapters of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, assemble the crib, affix the outlet covers, assemble the breast pump, call the in-laws . . . .

But the baby had other ideas. Rather than the 12 hours of build-up our birthing class had prepped us for, Skyler sent Rachael straight into another heavy contraction. As my wife rode a series of waves with steep crests, I frantically dialed the hospital, packed the four-pack of Guinness my bride had been waiting nearly a year to drink and paced nervously.

“Put down the phone, get in the car and drive to the hospital immediately,” our midwife said after hearing my birther grunting in the background.

Six minutes later, my exhausted wife was doubled over a desk in the maternity ward and belly deep in a bout of heavy breathing. “We’d like to check in,” I politely said to the nurse on duty. On cue, Rachael howled through another contraction

“That might be a problem,” he stuttered nervously. “You won’t believe this, but all of the birth rooms are full.”

The team at Mercy jumped to action and quickly whisked a freshly born baby and his beaming mother out of the nearest room. We entered just behind the cleaning staff and not a moment too soon. After a handful of extremely intense “rushes” and more than a few heavy moans from mom, Skyler wiggled her way into the world. From the second Rachael’s water broke to the instant I snipped the umbilical cord took just under 60 minutes. And it was only a few more minutes before we had to give up the coveted birthing room to make way for the next lucky contestant.

When it was all said and done, Mercy Medical Center handled 15 births during that June 11 baby boom, not bad for a Durango hospital that was accustomed to two births per day. As parents who had conceived nine months earlier, we all knew the secret – the day was an antidote, our answer to the disaster that was Sept. 11.

That evening, my wife, new daughter and I shared a room with a couple from Kline. Their new baby had taken the slow lane and arrived after 18 hours of labor. Grandma, grandpa, an aunt and two cousins were on hand to celebrate the occasion. Once the bubbly vanished, that extended family suggested that the new parents name the young lady “America” in honor of the occasion. When mom politely shook her head, they took a different approach, asking

“What about Independencia?” in unison. (At the moment, Rachael and I quietly chose the name “Skyler,” not for the backdrop on Old Glory but for our daughter’s deep blue eyes).

The Kliners were not alone. Throughout hallways and in waiting rooms, people were reflecting on the not-so-distant tragedy. But it was not a somber affair. The packed maternity ward was celebrating new life and moving toward a fresh start.

In the days following our new beginning, I heard tales of other baby booms around the country. I also read a strange rationalization claiming the loss of 2,977 innocent lives on Sept. 11 had shown us that life is dangerous and unpredictable – couples on the fence had decided to stop waiting.

My participation in the June 11 baby boom had a different trigger. For Rachael and I, Sept. 11 sent another message – a call for regeneration. We left the parental fence in the hopes of shining a little light through the dark. We became parents for the sake of replacing destruction and despair with at least one hopeful future.

Like everyone, we’ve now spent a decade moving beyond the tragedy. On this Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, the Sands family will mark 10 years since my daughter’s conception (how’s that for an auspicious anniversary). And I know that Durango has at least 15 reasons to look toward increasingly bright days. One of those, my daughter Skyler, is still on that wild streak, and she’s been embracing life for every one of the nine years and three months since she first opened those baby blues.
– Will Sands