This is Part 1 of a four-part series. Click above for the rest of the story.
The Miracle of Birth. It’s a phrase I’ve heard periodically in life. And until one goes through the birth experience, it can be difficult to understand what the phrase fully means. Even after experiencing my son’s birth, I still sometimes have trouble reconciling what happened on June 23rd in 2016. In hindsight, it was exactly what everyone says. A miracle.
My wife, Allison, was 39 weeks pregnant and was chomping at the bit to not be pregnant anymore. The discomfort kept her awake through the warm nights, made it pure hell to go to work, and even made the easiest of activities seem like a nuisance. Like sitting, for example.
Wednesday afternoon, Allison and I went for a walk around the neighborhood after I’d gotten home from work. She was dreading the idea of having to carry our son for up to three more weeks. The Braxton-Hicks she had been feeling earlier in the week had all but stopped, and she just had a feeling that our baby was going to take his dear sweet time making his grand entrance into this world.
Sometime around 3AM the following morning, we both wondered if her intuition had been wrong. Allison was awakened by the rising level of discomfort she felt. My first reaction, while helping her as best I could, was to assuage any ideas that she was actually in labor. Only a handful of hours earlier, my wife was lamenting the idea of carrying this baby past his due date. And now this? Really, I just didn’t want her to get her hopes up.
Well. I was wrong. It was labor.
Not only was Allison in labor, we would later learn that she was in the final stages of labor. At one point, she quickly rolled out of bed and dashed for the trashcan, barely making it in time to vomit into it. This prompted her to instruct me to call the midwife on call. I was leaving a short voicemail, but the midwife called me back before I could finish.
I switched over to the incoming call and told the sleepy voice what was happening. She nonchalantly said it would probably be best to come on in to the hospital, but wanted to talk to Allison first. I handed the phone to my wife, but the action was futile. Allison wasn’t able to focus on anything the midwife said. Seemingly irritated, she handed the phone back to me and told me to talk to the midwife. Upon hearing my wife babble incoherently for no longer than two seconds, the midwife implored us to come to the hospital, a little more sternly this time.
All the books tell you to have a “go bag”. This is a duffel bag with all the essentials you could possibly ever need. Starting the week prior, I slowly started accumulating things for our “go bag”, but it was far from being completely ready. For the next fifteen minutes, I stumbled around the house trying to collect everything we would need. Just in case this was the real thing. At this point, the adrenaline had me completely awake. I wouldn’t say I was thinking clearly by any stretch of the imagination. But at the very least I was alert.
I had thrown the “go bag” into the car and was collecting a few more things from our kitchen counter when I saw Allison out of the corner of my eye racing to the car. A few minutes before, she was immobile, sprawled helplessly on the bathroom floor. The sight of her surprised me. Then it scared me. This was the first time that I really understood that this was, indeed, the real thing.
The reason for this realization stemmed from something I’d learned in our birthing class. Our instructor mentioned that during the labor process, there will come a point when the mom gets a feeling: this is happening. Now.
We made the fifteen minute drive to the hospital in relative silence. I asked Allison a few questions without getting a response, so I learned from that and kept quiet. Every so often she would seemingly have a contraction, but they were sporadic and unpredictable. In the back of my mind I was preparing myself for the marathon my wife was about to go through. I had read the books about labor and I knew that it’s fairly typical to have a relatively long labor with a first pregnancy.
My inaccurate expectation is what made the rest of the morning such a blur.
Mercifully, we got to the hospital only having hit one red light. By this time, Allison was in an incredible amount of discomfort, barely able to talk, and definitely not able to think about anything other than what was going on with her body. And with her baby. At exactly 6:00AM, we pulled into the hospital parking lot and I asked Allison where I should park. Again, this is a perfect example of me not understanding the gravity of the situation. “Are you freaking kidding me? I’m not walking anywhere!”
I remember smirking a little – It was the first time she’d spoken to me since we left the house. I pulled under the portico at the hospital’s maternity wing and ran inside to get a wheelchair.
I eased her into the wheelchair and decided I’d come back to move the car once we were checked in. I definitely wasn’t going to ask Allison if I could go park real quick. I pushed her just inside the double doors where a nurse was chatting with someone. When she looked up, I gave her a real casual “yeah, this is happening today” look, and she smiled excitedly back at me. The expression on her face changed immediately once she saw Allison. It struck me like a rogue wave. She immediately affected an urgent expression, and her voice was stern. “Okay,” she stated, “we need to get you checked in, ASAP.”
She pointed me to where I was supposed to wheel my wife, and she went around a different corner to get into the office where she would have us sign all the proper paperwork. She sat down across the desk from us and signed into her computer terminal quickly. She made a file while she waited for the system to load, and within a minute, she was explaining the different forms that Allison was absently signing. The nurse rushed through the process, because she knew something that I didn’t.
Just as I was wondering why the nurse seemed so hurried, I realized Allison’s water bottle had tipped over and was leaking on the floor. I reached to pick it up only to realize it was still in my car. Allison’s water had just broken. I jumped back reflexively, then felt an incredible urge to clean up the mess. The nurse must have known what happened, because without looking away from the computer screen, she simply said, “leave it, we can clean that up later.” Another thirty seconds later and the nurse directed me to another set of doors leading back to the labor and delivery section of the maternity wing.
Yeah, this was the real thing. ♦