Valor is here.
I know…. We were shocked too. The actual pushing portion of his birth was ultra-fast (like so fast I wasn’t even there), but the whole story is far more epic than the push.
Did you really expect anything else from The Kleinjungs?
Any of you who have had children in recent years have heard of things called “baby-moons.” Essentially what this is a way for wives to con their husbands into taking a trip right before the baby comes, so they can “center” themselves … or something. Anyway, Katie and I decided to take a baby-moon to get ready for Valor’s birth. We’ve had a really crazy couple of years and the idea of taking a small breather after major surgery, JUST HAVING A DIFFERENT BABY, moving across the world… you know normal stuff… before the birth of our second child actually sounded really great. Besides, Katie wasn’t due for over two weeks what could go wrong?
…thanks a lot Murphy…
So the Tuesday before Valor’s birth we packed our bags and headed to Chiang Rai to go to a beautiful resort where we would have a private villa with our own pool for two nights (off season rate: $90 a night. I tell you that for two reasons, 1) I don’t want you to think we are partying with donor money all the time and 2) DANG THAILAND IS CHEAP. Come visit us!!). What you can’t really see from the map above is that the trip is almost 100% through mountains. Steep, narrow, two lane roads that wind up and down “the hills” … Let’s just say that the interstate system here in Thailand is NOT the same as the states. Also the car “lane” is really more of a theory here, as are “no passing zones.” Here’s how passing works here: do I currently see a car? If the answer is no, I should swerve into the oncoming lane and try to speed past the person in front of me. It doesn’t matter if I can’t see more than a quarter mile in front of me, or I’m going around a blind corner. Also, if I want to drive in between lanes, because… well “cuz”… then I will. The drive was less than 140 miles and took about 4 hrs.
As we pulled into the A-Star Phulare I had an innocent and yet prophetic thought “Gee, Stephen, driving through that unfamiliar narrow road at night would be really hard. I’m glad I don’t have to do that.”
We check in and get our bags into our room (which was gorgeous btw), lay Shepherd down for a nap, and proceed to lounge, HARD, by our private pool. After a few hours of this we are getting ready to go to dinner and that’s when it happens, Katie turns to me and says, innocently:
“I don’t want you to panic or anything, but I’m having small contractions. I don’t think they’re Braxton Hicks.”
Immediate panic. Heart racing, sweat inducing panic.
Me: “Are you sure? Do you want to go back?”
Katie: “No it’s fine I’m sure they’ll stop.”
We go have dinner. We look at the stars and take a nice walk back to our villa. We lay Shepherd down for bed and we start to watch a movie. About 15 minutes in:
Katie: “Don’t be mad at me, but I think I want to go to bed…” (Side note here: why would I be mad at her you ask? Well it’s because every show, movie, or video we ever watch Katie decides she only wants to watch a quarter to a half of it, basically as long as it takes for me to get invested in the story, and then wants to go to bed. It’s a real problem in our marriage. Please donate to our counseling fund. Or donate in general (shameless plug). Anyway, back to the story.)
Katie: “Don’t be mad at me, but I think I want to go to bed. The contractions haven’t stopped and I think maybe going to sleep will help.”
…sense of panic deepens…
Me: “Sure whatever you need.”
This was 9pm. Katie wakes me up at 10:30pm:
“We need to leave. Now.”
Frick. I jump out of bed.
Me: “Ok, ok, ok. No big deal. Let’s do this. Are you sure you don’t want to go to a hospital here?” (That’s a logical question right?)
Katie: “No, I want to be home. I need to be home.”
Me: “Alright, I’ll go check out. Start packing what you can.”
I sprint to the front desk. Let me just tell you that trying to explain to the Thai teenage girls running the front desk that I wanted to check out immediately and why without speaking any of their language was really fun. I basically have become a master at charades since living here. I sign for the bill and sprint back to our villa.
We finish up packing and start loading things onto a golf cart with a confused bellman to take our things to our car, when it starts POURING rain.
We basically peal out as I speed away from the resort which is when I remember, we have less than a quarter tank of gas. We’re not going to make it home. It’s 11pm, every gas station we’ve passed is closed. The panic deepens again: do they have 24hr gas stations in Thailand? I’m a 30 year old parent, I haven’t been outside the house after 10pm since moving here.
Finally the last gas station before leaving town for the dark civilizationless mountain road (ok, there is civilization but I sure am not going to be able to communicate or find my way around so it might as well be the MOON) was open and we fill the tank. Katie’s contractions are coming just about 5 minutes apart and they are increasing in pain to the point that she can’t really talk when they are happening. This is when it really starts to sink in: this is not a drill; this will not stop; we are having a baby.
I push the pedal of our 1999 Hyundai Accent to the floor and peg the needle the highest it’s ever been as we scream up the first mountain road.
Something you need to know about Thailand to fully appreciate this story; they burn the mountain every year. More specifically the farmers burn the rice paddies and fields in the mountains to prepare for future planting. At night up close it’s actually kind of beautiful, but it presented an extra obstacle: smoke. Fairly thick smoke actually.
So there I am, night, smoke, rain slick, unfamiliar mountain road at about 70mph. I basically felt like Tokyo Drift: https://youtu.be/qOKE4dxjayU. Only substitute the heartfelt dialogue for my panicked breathing, Katie’s labored breathing and painful moans, and late 90’s Missy Elliot tracks.
I’m going to be honest, most of the drive was a blur, but I only remember a few wonky OMG moments and two rough turns. Finally we come down the back side of the mountain and into Chiang Mai and pull into our driveway at 1AM. For those of you paying attention, that’s 2 hours door to door. Yep, it took about 4 hours to get to the resort. Not wanting to deliver a baby on the side of the road is a powerful motivator.
We get into the house and Katie is still having contractions about 5 minutes apart so we decide to nap, both of us exhausted from our rally race experience.
Katie wakes me up at 7AM and says: “It’s time. Take Shepherd to the Tell’s house and come back to get me.”
Let me tell you a little about Joey and Jasmine Tell: they are basically angels as far as we are concerned. Katie had coffee with Jasmine once, and we both went to their house for dinner once. They have two little girls of their own, and at this point were basically just really nice strangers to Katie and I…but they INSISTED on taking Shepherd overnight for us and watching him while we were in the hospital. Shepherd really seemed to like playing with their little girls so we decided to go with it. (Another side note: they are involved in a foundation providing wheelchairs to people with disabilities and are in the process of adopting a child with Down’s syndrome from Eastern Europe. Yeah, angels, like I said. Please creep them on our Facebook and reach out and see if there is anything you can do to help them!)
I return home to find Katie leaning over a stack of pillows in our living room. I throw the bags in the car and run the Sriphat Hospital downtown. As we are about to pull passed Katie tells me she can’t make the walk from the parking lot (about six blocks) and she wants me to drop her off at the door…in a foreign country… where we don’t speak the language… and don’t know what’s happening.
To say that I wasn’t comfortable with this is the understatement of the century.
Katie was adamant though, and since I wasn’t inside of her body, I had to trust her. I left her with a nice Thai man who got her a wheelchair and upstairs to the labor floor. I parked the car and start running with all of the hospital bags back to the lobby.
This is where I learned something else about Thailand: elevators. There was a line stretching behind a wall leading almost to the front door of the lobby (150ft)… this was the line to get ONTO the elevator. At which point I would have to get to the 12th floor where the labor and delivery rooms are, which I would soon find out would require stopping on every floor on the way up. This is when my phone rings, it’s Katie: “My water broke! He’s coming!”
Me (lying): “I’m on the elelvator. I’m hurrying.”
Me (no longer on the phone, and yelling, which is very much not a thing you do in Thailand: “PREGNANT! PREGNANT! WIFE PREGNANT!”
You would think I was Moses at the edge of Red Sea, the people parted and a little Thai lady was holding an elevator door for me.
I crammed into the elevator with 20 other people (no exaggeration), looked at the floor numbers lit up like a Christmas tree, and let out a sigh. 2nd floor, stop; 3rd floor, stop; 4th floor, stop; 5th floor, stop … At the 6th floor Katie’s doctor got on the elevator. My blood pressure dropped just a bit. If her doctor is here she can’t have the baby right (spoiler alert: WRONG.) We proceed to stop on every floor between the 6th and 12th where Katie’s doctor SPRINTED out of the elevator, she was fast and I lost sight of her. I ran behind her and burst through the door to the labor area, disoriented, and heard a baby let out a cry. I ran into the room to find Katie on the bed, she looked at me shocked and said:
“We just had a baby!!”
I immediately started to cry. I had another son. I wasn’t there… but as my adrenaline subsided I realized if I hadn’t dropped Katie off we would have had the baby on the street in front of 7-Eleven. At least we made the right decision.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say, and Katie can fill in a lot of the blanks, but I want to let this story settle in before we hit you with another.
Valor Rex Kleinjung was born. It was unexpected. It was fast.
…if you ever hear me call him “Run” you’ll understand.