Because I started out writing it as a reply to her post, it's mostly addressed to her. In other words, she's the "you" I'm talking to. And if it isn't obvious, she's a "you" I love very much. :-)
It's interesting to me that you knew that it was the real thing the night before, even before your water broke. You had been having contractions for weeks, and we had long since stopped getting excited about them. We had even begun to joke that it would never happen, on purpose, so we wouldn't be exhausted from anticipation, and so the time would pass faster.
But that night, you said, "These are different. I think these are the real thing. I think we might have a baby boy tomorrow." Of course, you weren't exactly right. We were going to have a baby boy the day after the next day, but you were right that it was real.
You woke me up just before 6 (5:50) to tell me your water had broken. I meant to write a post at some point about how interesting it is how many of the big moments in the course of our relationship happened first thing in the morning. Besides the birth experience...
- I gave you your engagement ring and proposed to you at 8:00 AM one year (to the day) from the day we met, because that was the day I had decided I was going to do it, and I couldn't wait a moment longer than the advent of consciousness on that day.
- You woke me up at about 6 AM on the day you did the pregnancy test. It was three days after you'd had what you suspected was "implantation bleeding", and 10 days after your estimated first day of ovulation... the first possible day that a pregnancy test would be likely to read positive if it had happened. And naturally you couldn't wait to find out. So you got right up to find out. Your words to me when you woke me up: "Babe, I think you better come in here." And when I came in there: "We've got two blue lines." :-) (The happiest words I'd ever heard, with the exception of your "Yes" after the marriage proposal.)
I don't think I was still vacuuming when Rosanna got there. I think I had already gotten done and was finishing up the kitchen. But I might be wrong about that. Anyway, I did it because I remember conversations after your uncle died about how in the worst possible moments like that, women think crazy things, like, "All the people are coming over, and my toilet is filthy!", and I remember your aunt's friend describing coming over almost without discussion about it, and just going to work cleaning your aunt's house, and what a simple but nice thing that was for her. Also, I expected you were going to be walking around the house naked a lot, and I just couldn't stand the thought of having you do it in a dirty house.
The early labor was definitely a peaceful, happy time. You were feeling physically sucky, but tolerating it. And the sun was shining outside. And the Simon and Garfunkel DVD set such a beautiful mood. I'm so glad Tommy waited until after November 4 to be born, so that we got to go and see their reunion concert before his birth. I think that put me in a brain state that lasted the whole month. Their music is so beautiful, and happy, and life-affirming. Even the supposedly dark and brooding songs evoke feelings of happiness and nostalgia in us (not to mention most of the over-30 population in the U.S.). I have no specific memories of it, but I have the general impression that I was singing their songs in my head through that whole first few weeks of sleep deprivation.
It's just too bad my plans to pay them to be onsite performing live during the concert didn't pan out. Apparently their fees are too high for anyone but Bill Gates and God to afford, so it just wasn't meant to be.
Surprisingly, I don't think I had a moment of fear throughout the entire labor process. You did such a good thing in hiring Rosanna. She (along with Deb and your mom) gave me such a feeling of confidence. I definitely prefer the "birth partner" label to "birth coach" for my role. I was there to help you get you through it, but being certain there was no danger, that everything was definitely going to be okay, none of that was really on me. We had hired experts for that. I was just there to be your number one helper, your primary advocate, and the muscle if some shit happened that required it.
I didn't expect to need it, but I definitely also was prepared to provide The Wrath Of Derek if someone wanted to bully the pregnant lady into doing something she didn't want. I'm so glad nothing like that was necessary, but it's kind of interesting to me to remember back to being in that state of mind. "What do we need right now? The midwives are bullying you? This doctor needs some cajoling? This car needs to be lifted? Heaven and Earth are no longer alighed properly? Just give me some room here, people! ..."
While the early part of labor (mostly in the living room) was beautiful and sometimes fun for me, the later part (mostly in the bedroom) was serious and grave. But it was still beautiful. Watching you cope with the increased pain, the all-too-rapid contractions, and the encroaching exhaustion was definitely hard in some ways. But mostly I was just in amazement at your coping with it, and determined to be as useful as I could in every way possible.
There was no time or room for worry on my part. I did my job getting you regular sips of water, bringing food, letting you hold onto me, rubbing your back, etc. Whatever you needed. It felt good to be needed so much. It felt good that there was actually something I could do that would improve things.
Regarding your finally having to toss your cookies, it's hard to convey the hilarity of the athletic amazingness you and I both displayed in that moment. You were looking increasingly uncomfortable, and you had even mentioned that you were feeling nauseous and worried about hurling. So I was on high alert already. But then when it actually happened, you made some head and body motions that game me the clear signal I needed to leap into action.
So as you were getting up, I had to jump from supporting about a 1/3 of your weight at the end of the bed over to grab the garbage can at the side of the bed. At that point, I was totally afraid I had waited too long before getting it, like I was moving too slowly. But then it all came together in one magical moment.
As I'm jumping back in your direction with the can, you're just starting to let go, but you arch your head back and kind of jump upwards and forwards yourself, sending it on a nice easy arc to follow, like a lob pass. You totally telegraph the direction and momentum, making it easy for me to swoop from underneath and grab a whole long line of it in mid-air, all at once, then provide a nice, soft landing place for all the rest of what follows.
And the crowd went wild. And the people did greatly rejoice. For nary a drop was spilled, and many a laugh was heard to have been had.
And funnily enough, right after that came the best part of the real labor for us. (I'm not counting the post-epidural time as real labor.) The relief was good for you, and shortly after we went straight to the shower with you. I helped you each time you were in the shower that day, mainly with getting in and out of the awkward tub, and transporting and (afterwards, drying) the birth ball so you could have a place to sit down and rest under the water. But the time after the hurling was the best time, because you were feeling better than you had in some time. That, plus the additional benefit of the shower, meant you were almost back to normal in terms of outwardly-directed awareness, attitude, and sense of humor. So that turned out to be one of the only times during the real labor when I got to joke around with you.
Those reading this who haven't gone through birthing training might not be aware that making the woman laugh (and more specifically when not to try that) is one of the things they talk about. Some say that when the mom loses her sense of humor is a sign that active labor has started. I worried about this a little bit in advance, because humor is definitely one of my primary coping mechanisms in stressful situations. Lift the spirits a little bit, and then everyone can think a little more clearly. Not having that tool meant I'd be awash in a sea of serious strangeness.
Of course, I wasn't really worried, in the sense of being afraid I would blow it. But I was definitely conscious of it to the point of discussing with nearly everyone we talked about the upcoming birth with, and reminding myself constantly during the actual labor not to blow it. Anyway, making you laugh in the shower after the hurling is one of my most precious memories from the birth.
After that, I guess it was another few hours of seriousness, leading up to the decision to go to the hospital. By that time, I, too, was glad we were going. I had always been a little bit leery of the dangers of home birth, albeit determined to support you whatever your decision. Some probably find it interesting (or misguided) for me to call it your decision, but that's definitely how I felt about most of the things to be decided about birthing options. Although we both had a shared interest in the health of our little boy, you were the only one required to put your life on the line for it. So it seemed completely clear to me that you should have the most say in just about everything, most especially the biggest decisions on birthing options.
For the last few weeks before the birth, and on the very day of the labor, I'd had a constantly running list of "things left to do". Fortunately, your wonderful obsession with preparation generally meant the list was always very short. Nevertheless, there was never a moment when I couldn't think of something left undone, something I wished I'd already taken care of so that I just relax and wait. And even though we kept accomplishing things and taking care of logistics and contingency planning right up until it happened, the day of the labor was no different.
I'd been a little worried specifically that we didn't have everything taken care of to get the house ready for the birth process. I worried that we'd make a helluva a mess, or that you'd be caught unexpectedly and have your water gush out right on the carpet. (Not that the carpet in our house didn't totally need replacing anyway, just that I was worried we'd force the issue and have work to do later, and a not-so-nice house for a while.) But that turned out not to be a problem. (Yay.) For one thing, you never really gushed like in some of those videos we saw. But more importantly, we had plenty of those magical chux pads (a phrase I never expected to type), and that's all that really mattered. This was a nice surprise... no big mess to clean up after we came home with the baby.
The main other things I could think of that had been left undone was that I hadn't yet packed up a ready-to-go-and-stay-at-the-hospital bag for myself, and I hadn't verified for certain that you had everything you needed in the one you'd already packed for yourself. You did turn out to have all your stuff, so that was good. But all day during the labor, I kept thinking to myself, "If we have to transfer to the hospital, I don't have my bag packed! Ack!"
Next time, if there's a next time, I promise to be more prepared about that. But this time, when the decision was finally made, I suddenly had a whole bunch of stuff to take care of in just a few minutes, at a time when you were really ready to get on the road.
One of the interesting things I had supposedly learned in the birthing training was that transfers to hospitals for births don't usually happen the way they're depicted in the movies (or in The Flintstones). You weren't going to suddenly say, "Honey, it's time!", and then I'm sprinting all around to get your bags and the car started and you in it, then running red lights to get there before the baby comes.
Labor is generally more gradual than that. Besides the often weeks of so-called false contractions, there is usually a more gradual progression from false to early to active labor. And the signs are numerous. And the primary mistake most couples make is going to the hospital too early, then having to wait around for many hours in a less comfortable environment than their own home. So we were wise to this. We'd been instructed to plan to labor at home as long as possible, and that's what we were planning for, even if we went to the hospital.
But in our case, since we were also trying to let that "labor at home as long as possible" turn into a "give birth at home if possible", it meant that by the time we actually were ready to go to the hospital, it was more or less an emergency. You were in active labor. You were having majorly hard contractions, and once the decision was made, you were ready to go! And me, with my not-yet-packed bag, and my not-sure-if-I've-remembered-everything To Do list in my head... I'm all nervous and anxious for the first time, because I knew I was going to have to hold up the show for at least five minutes while I got my bag ready, not to mention getting all of our important stuff into the Yukon.
So it turned out to be a lot more like the movies than we'd expected after all. Except, in our case, it wasn't just "honey" who was getting the bag and getting us moving, it was the whole first-stage birth crew: doula, mid-wife, best friend, Mom's mom, Dad, and Mom.
And then that's when Dad's mom finally walked through the door. :-) I was so happy to see her, but I could totally see from her face when she walked in that that she was stressed, and immediately she had to cry just a little bit. She has joked many times with me in the past about having a mental block of some kind about the Silicon Valley road system. (Which is understandable, because they're all crooked and nonsensical, especially if you don't live here, and especially if you're used to a square, predictable grid like Phoenix.) Most times she has come to visit me, she's taken a wrong turn somewhere, and usually it's the source of at least a little humor during her visit. But this time when that happened it felt bad, because she was trying so hard to be here in time to see the birth of her grandson.
Fortunately, though, you had her covered. You were able to labor a long, long time. And even if you didn't have her covered, Tommy did. He wasn't coming out the normal way, and we just didn't know it yet. Probably he just wanted to make sure all the grandmas were able to make it, so he was playing it safe. :-)
When she walked in, I said, "Heeey! Perfect timing! We're just leaving for the hospital. Can you take this bag and put it in the Yukon and then pile yourself in, too?" I thought, but didn't vocalize, "While I run around like a chicken whose wife is about to have a baby, but who didn't manage to already have his personal overnight bag packed?"
I felt relieved to see her, and at the same time I wanted to comfort her. I gave her a big hug and kiss, and felt overwhelmed by the need to tell her "It's okay. It's all going to be okay. You made it in time, and Mary is fine, and it's all going to be okay." Of course, upon seeing her, I also felt overwhelmed by the need to have her tell me the same thing. That's my mommy. And that was a time when I needed my mommy more than any other since childhood. I was so glad she was finally there.
[ To be continued... ]
NOTE: This entry was originally posted to my zderek journal.
On the subject of needing our mommy
2004-01-30 08:48 am
I really enjoyed reading Mary's birth story and I can't wait to hear the rest of your version. I could kind of relate to what you say at the end about needing your mommy. :) Before we had Jimmy, I wasn't really sure how I would feel about having anyone except Jim with me through labor and delivery. I felt that I wanted it to be a time focused on the two of us and our new baby coming into the world. Even as close as Mom and I were, I wasn't sure about her being there. Funny thing is that after a couple hours of labor and when things started to get tough, Mom came to see how I was doing and Jim and I both had the same response...Thank God you're here, what took you so long?!?!? It was such a huge relief and comfort that she was there! Mom's sure are great, aren't they?
Dereks Birth notes.
2004-02-17 05:39 pm
You guys should write a book this has been great reading.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these different views from the mommy and the daddy.
We Love you guys.
Makes me cry every time...
2004-09-29 10:31 pm
You are such a great dad. Every time I read this, I get such a joyful feeling. I am so glad you are a dad. Your son is a fortunate little man to be loved so much. I am also so pleased the two of your are so united in your love of each other and your son. Wonderful.