On April 6, 2013, a wonderful spring day here in Istanbul, Sima gave birth to our second child, a daughter, Aylin Elizabeth Robertson. She weighed 8 pounds 13 ounces and measured 20 inches long.
We have been staying at Sima’s family home here in Istanbul. The due date was March 29, eight days earlier, but Sima hadn’t shown any indication that delivery was imminent back then. We were ready for the birth at any time, but Alexander came nine days late, and we felt this one would be late too.
Sima has educated herself on all matters of pregnancy and delivery, and knows her stuff. She kept herself fit during pregnancy, doing yoga and walking regularly. She watched what she ate.
Her approaches can sometimes seem unorthodox. But investigation reveals that the orthodox methods are often meant to make things easy for the hospital, physicians, or the insurance industry. Sima is meticulous about sorting out what is actually supported by sound evidence. Thus, for example, at birth there would be no vitamin K shots, no “delivery chair,” and, if she could help it, no IV or epidural.
We had convinced ourselves that an April 1st birth would be just fine, but were nonetheless relieved when that day passed. On April 4 and 5, good friends and fellow sailors Brian and Coralie Reynolds, came to visit. One cannot exactly plan a birth date, but we certainly wanted to enjoy their visit.
And so we awoke on Saturday, April 6, with our calendars clear.
Sima was scheduled to have a Fetal NonStress Test (an “NST”), which her doctor had been scheduling every three days since the passage of the due date. As we prepared to leave the house, at about noon, Sima felt the first twinges of real labor. She’d been having mini-contractions for a week, but these early clouds, albeit puffy and high, felt like the gathering storm.
We hesitated only momentarily about whether to leave the house. We both thought that it would be easier to pass the time outside than to pace back and forth at home. Sima agreed with the approach that she should distract herself through early labor, and that we need not head to the hospital until contractions were sufficiently uncomfortable that she was unable to talk through them. That was to be balanced with the fact that first timers typically go to the hospital too early, and second timers too late, because labor progresses more quickly the second time around. Off we went, balancing these factors, with a stop watch in hand.
As the early afternoon progressed, Sima’s labor continued. It was regular from the start, though not too painful. At the clinic, the NST confirmed that she was indeed contracting, and Sima began to wince a little sometimes.
The test finished, we sent the results to Sima’s doctor, and headed back outside. We were using public transportation, and grabbed another mini-bus in front of the clinic. All signs were that we had a while to go, and so half-way back to the house we got off the bus to run some errands.
We dropped off a cell-phone to be repaired. I got a haircut. Sima bought some cheese and bread. She chatted with the proprietor in the cheese shop, taking a break in the midst to walk off a contraction.
Errands finished, Sima really wanted “one last” leisurely lunch. But as we sat down at 2:45, it was becoming clear that we needed to get going. With no taxis available, we hopped on another bus towards home.
The ladies at the front of the bus spun their heads back and forth, first watching the tall foreigner shooting video, and then the near-bursting pregnant woman who seemed to be holding her breath every once in a while. After a ride of less than five minutes, we hopped off the bus, now about a mile from home. There was no bus for this last part, but we quickly found a taxi, and drove home.
It was now about 3:15. We went in the house to get our things for the hospital. Sima’s parents did their best to continue distracting us by waving their arms about, and encouraging us to “Hurry! Hurry!”
We had been talking by telephone to Sima’s doctor and the doula. The doula now headed to the hospital. When we had spoken with the doctor earlier, she had asked Sima to come to her office for an exam, so that she could see how far along Sima had come. We had initially said that we’d come in at 3:30, but as we talked about it, we concluded that we did not see this as sensible. We spoke on the phone again to the doctor, and explained our reservations — that her office was in the opposite direction of the hospital, that this had not been a planned step in the process, and that, if traffic were slow, it could add an hour or longer to the process. She responded that she didn’t want us to have to drive across the Bosphorus Bridge twice, if this were a false alarm, and that we could move to a hospital near her office, if Sima were ready to go.
We continued to protest. We knew where we wanted to deliver, and the stutter-step of an office visit in the wrong direction seemed to be, well, a step in the wrong direction. So, with an inner sense of how things might play out, we stuck to our guns and insisted that we would now go straight to the hospital, and that she should go too.
Sima’s bags were packed, and mine were mostly so. By 3:40 p.m., we were in another taxi headed across the Bosphorus Bridge to the Fulya Acibadem Hospital. By 4:00 p.m., we were walking in the door.
The staff at the hospital was mostly wonderful, but there were some hiccups. But as we now had to surrender control to others, we anticipated that some things would go a little sideways, which they did. Like this:
We took our bags and an inflatable pool out of the taxi, and started to move them inside the main entrance. Two uniformed, polite gentlemen at the door moved to us and gestured at the bags. “Don’t worry about those. Just go. Those will be taken to your room.”
Their use of the passive tense should have tipped us off!
Inside, I hesitated for just a step in front of the reception desk, where no one sat. “No way,” said Sima, without breaking stride. “To the sixth floor [maternity] we go.”
Our doula was waiting for us in the room. Wonderful. But no doctor yet. A nurse midwife greeted us. No one asked about the timing of contractions, but Sima was set up for a pelvic exam.
Pelvic exams in the midst of contractions are not pleasant things, and Sima was not comfortable, crying out as it was done.
“Six to seven centimeters’ the nurse midwife reported. Sima stepped down, but thirty seconds later, the nurse midwife told her to get back in the exam chair. “I want to get a second opinion from another of the nurses.”
“No way,” we told her. This was not the time for exam practice. Sima went back to laboring against the bed. She was very much in control, but now having very painful contractions.
At 4:10, our bags were still missing. A nurse telephoned down stairs for us. “It’s Saturday,” she told us, frowning. “There is no one available to carry bags.” “Please have someone get them,” I said Another call was made, to no avail. By now there were eight or nine people milling about. Our doula, after another conversation with the nurses, intervened. “I’ll get them,” she said. “I can carry them up one-by-one.” “No,” I said, “Sima needs you. And she needs me. We stay. Please have someone else go get the bags.” We went through this loop yet another time a few minutes later, but finally, twenty-five minutes after we arrived, our bags and the pool arrived on a trolley.
The pool was taken out of its box, with a pump we had obtained. Sima wanted it, filled with hot water, to bathe in if labor became too painful. Now, at twenty past four, labor was getting painful.
During an earlier visit, the hospital had told us that staff would be available to set up the pool. But perhaps because the right staff was not readily available, two cleaning women were tasked with the job. After several minutes of pumping, however, they announced that the pump wasn’t working, and departed the room. I went over and saw that they had connected the hose to the pump’s inlet valve, and were sucking the air from an empty pool. A few minutes later, and I had the pool mostly filled.
Sima was an absolute champ. Between contractions, she caught her breath, relaxed, and chatted about how she was doing.
At their height, contractions last about 60 seconds. There is a 15-second buildup, 30 seconds of ache with a peak in the middle, and then 15 seconds of release. Sima had read of one approach that suggested treating the cycle like riding a big wave on the ocean. The wave would gently pick you up, raise you to a good but gentle height, and then slowly let you down again.
“What are you nuts?!” Sima said. “This was obviously written by someone who has never been to sea! Gentle waves my foot! Let me go up a sturdy mountain. I’ll reach the top and then coast back down the other side. Leave the sea for those who view it from the beach!”
Meanwhile, without the pool, Sima had moved into the shower, where the doula was caring for her. With my watch in hand, I worked her through contractions, moving up and down the mountains. Sima, now, reported the urge to push. “I think the baby is coming,” she reported excitedly, eagerly, anxiously.
There was commotion at the bathroom door. One of the nurses held the end of a garden hose in her hand, looking not unlike a fireman coming to put out the flames. She wanted Sima to get out of the shower, so that she could connect the hose and fill the pool. “Too late for that!” we told her.
At 4:35, everything was ready. Mostly. There was no doctor. I told the doula to get one from the hospital. “Sima’s doctor is here now,” the doula said. “Where!?” I asked. “Here I am,’ said the doctor, peering around the bathroom door, an easy smile on her face.
“Take over!” And so, expertly, she did.
The doctor moved Sima out of the shower, though Sima didn’t want to go anywhere at first. The nurses set up a delivery chair. Sima didn’t want that, we reminded them, and so they stopped
From there, things moved quite quickly. Sima gave birth within ten minutes of the doctor’s arrival.
“Kiz!” someone said. It was a girl! One of the nurses began to wipe the baby clean, but the doula shooed her away, and the doctor placed our daughter into Sima’s arms twenty seconds after birth.
We noted that the baby was having problem clearing fluid from her airways, and was told to take her to the neonatal care room to be examined more closely. A probe was placed on her leg, checking oxygen levels. It showed that she was getting plenty of air, and we were then allowed to take her back to our room with us.
We asked how the baby had done on her APGAR’s. The pediatrician hestitated, conferred with a nurse, and then, with a wide grin, said “Ten-Ten-Ten!” This was great news, we thought, but then realized that the baby had never left our sight, and had not been APGARed at birth or at any time thereafter.
“You know,” Sima said later, “I think I did pretty well today.” What an understatement.
Sima’s family arrived with Alexander a couple of hours later. He interacted playfully and lovingly with his new little sister from the start, giving her kisses and sharing his dinner.
We put together a video telling the story of Aylin’s arrival, which can be found here:
We went to sleep a happy family at the hospital that night, though it took an excited Alexander a while to calm down.
The next day, Sima and I thought about a name. We are not ones to have one ready-picked before the baby arrives. We need to see the child first! Besides, we hadn’t known the gender before arrival.
We chose “Aylin Elizabeth.”
Her middle name comes from her great, great, great, great grandmother, Elizabeth (Harborn) Robertson, a strong character from maritime Canada who raised five kids on her own after the death of her husband at a relatively young age.
For her first name, we wanted something that showed her Turkish heritage but would also be easy on the ear in other countries. In Turkish, it is pronounced “EYE LEEN,” the second syllable being a shorter more clipped version of its English equivalent. In English, it is “EYE LYN,” or, perhaps, however else folks choose to pronounce it.
Many Turkish first names have literal meanings. The male name “Aslan” means lion, and the female names “Ilknur, “Su,” and “Gamze” mean “first light,” “water” and “dimple,” respectively. Each of these words appear in the dictionary, defined as noted
Aylin supposedly mean’s “the light around the moon” or “halo,” according to various name sites that we consulted. But it doesn’t really. No such word appears in the Turkish dictionary. “Ay” is the word for moon, but “lin” is a nonsensical suffix in Turkish. (In Gaelic, on the other hand, “lin” means water or pool (“Dublin” or “dubh lin” means “Blackpool.). My home town of Lynn, MA derives from that word, and we thought that was a nice touch.)
A related Turkish girl’s name, the more popular “Ayla,” is a real word and does appear in the dictionary. It literally means “with the moon,” and is the dictionary entry for “light around the moon” or “halo.” “
“Aylin” is probably a made up name, a play on “Ayla.” We read “aylin” also means halo in Persian, but were not able to drill down deep enough to learn if it evolved in the same way as did its Turkish equivalent.
There are related names in Gaelic, although determining their origins might take considerable study. We read that “Ailean,” a male given name, means green or meadow. “Eilean,” the word for island, may come from the Norse word of the same meaning, “eyeland.”
“Eileen” is a girl’s given name, and is reportedly the anglicized version of the Gaelic “Eibhlin,” which, in turn, is a form of the older Irish Gaelic “Aibhilin” or “Eilin.” It supposedly means “light.” From “Eilin’s” roots are reportedly in the Norman French “Aveline,” meaning “desired,” or the Greek “Helen.” The feminine Greek name “Helen,” finally, possibly derives from the Greek “Selene,” meaning, wouldn’t you know it, “moon.”
That, it seems to us, leads us in a nice circle.