The Surprise Sleepover
The day started harmlessly enough. With about 4 days to go before our baby was 40 weeks, we went in for a regular check up only to be told by the doctor that my wife’s amniotic fluid was a little low and could be leaking. He wanted to play it safe and induce labor so we had to go home, prep and return to the hospital.
The first induction process was not bad, but the second one got real, really fast. My wife went from pacing up and down with slight moans to screaming, crouching and generally not knowing what to do with herself. Meanwhile, all I could do was hold her while she looked into my eyes for reassurance. I kept thinking, She is in torturous pain and all I can do is HOLD HER HAND! What kind of crap is that?
Going into labor, I knew I was supposed to be strong for her, but truthfully speaking, I was completely terrified. From the moment I found out she was pregnant, horror stories of pregnancy complications had been flying uncontrollably through my head and this escalated to new heights when we got to the hospital for the delivery. I had spent months researching, but here I was about to be a father and all the dos and don’ts and knowledge has gone out the window.
The Terror and the Invasion
At some point she managed to lie down and then her shivers started. Outwardly I kept it together. I calmly got off my bed, went over to cuddle her, and whispered to her, “It’s okay, it’ll pass”. On the inside, I was far from calm. What the hell was this new development? Nothing in the books mentioned shivering like she had been dumped into a frozen lake. How did I know it would pass? Where were these damned doctors? I was afraid to go out and call anyone because in my overly dramatic mind at that point, if I left her she would freeze to death.
The midwife came in and announced that it was time to check the dilation. I watched her slip on a glove and lubricate it. I was still trying to figure out what she was doing when this woman suddenly inserted 4 adult sized fingers into my wife’s vagina! She wailed and my thought was “Oh lord, they’re trying to kill her”.
I said reassuringly, “It’s okay, you’re doing great.” What I was really thinking was Chale, I need to slap this midwife. She was wailing and I had no answers. All my comforting remarks sounded empty to my own ears.
The Best Laid Plans
Eventually, my wife turned to me with exhaustion in her eyes and said “Baby, I want the epidural. What are we trying to prove?”
We had previously decided to do the natural birth with no epidural. At that point, if I had the power, I would have injected her with the damn thing ten times over, but it was too late for the epidural. All I kept thinking to myself was I put her in this position, I did this to her. I felt helpless, so as usual I did what I was quickly learning to do best. I grabbed her hand and lied through my teeth saying, “We’re almost there. You’re doing great. I’m so proud of you” (which I really was).
The Journey to “Panicville” and Back
I had just indulged in a fresh bout of dire thoughts about my wife’s life and the life of the baby. Then the midwife showed up to check on her and just like clockwork took me to a whole new level of terror. I noticed she was frantically moving the heart monitor device on my wife’s stomach all over the place. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “I can’t hear the baby’s heartbeat.”
The world stopped; time slowed down. I felt sick. I felt my heart sink and blood rush to my head at the same time. My wife looked at me with despair in her eyes, so I channeled all my strength to make sure I didn’t fall over from fear, looked down at her, and said, “No, it’s a mistake don’t worry”. I turned to the midwife and said as calmly as I could, “What do you mean? Check the volume of the machine.” She checked and noticed the volume was down.
I wanted to give this woman the biggest slap humanly possible. That ordeal alone had made me age 10 years. The sheer relief on my wife’s face and on mine made us completely forget the pain she was in for a couple of seconds.
To Push or Not to Push
After the midwife left, we continued moving around, trying to find a positon that would give her some relief. She would kneel and I would hold her, then she’d crouch and I’d be holding her; she’d lay back on me, she’d hug me. It felt like we tried every position possible but there was no relief for her and there I was again, unable to do anything but hold her. Eventually, her water broke. The mucous plug came out and then her water broke perhaps 20-30 minutes later. It was absolutely NOTHING like in the movies.
Soon after, my wife told me she had the urge to push. I looked at her like What do you mean? She said “Baby, I really need to push.” Then she let out a major scream and said, “I just pushed!” I dashed to the door and shouted for one of the nurses. She came in and kept saying “Oh no don’t push. It’s not time.”
I stood there torn between the health specialist and my screaming wife. I thought to myself, It’s her body so she knows something we could not possibly know. I told the nurse to check. She looked down there and immediately said “It’s time.”
The other nurses seemed puzzled as we moved her to the delivery room, but I was too frantic to care. We found out later that this was because of how quickly she had dilated from 6 cm to 10 cm within 30 minutes.
In the delivery room the midwife prepped her station and said “Push whenever you’re ready.” My wife pushed with so much force I momentarily envisioned the baby flying out. Two pushes later, the midwife shouted, “STOP PUSHING.” She said the umbilical cord was around the baby’s neck. My wife froze and stiffened immediately. I forgot all about our agreement for me to stand above her waist during the delivery and looked down instinctively.
I remember thinking it was quite graphic down there, but I only remembered that trauma after the birthing was over and my wife and baby were asleep. At the time, all I cared about was getting the chord loose so my baby could be safely delivered. I had managed to stay calm for a few seconds when I heard the midwife mumble “Jesus help me”. I looked at her like Heh! My friend! and then my heart rate picked up again like it was trying to fall out of my chest. I kept thinking, HOW MANY THINGS CAN KEEP HAPPENING?
Despite the serious situation, the midwife confidently took control and carefully unwrapped the chord. Our daughter was then safely delivered, cries and all. I was so relieved, I went over to my wife, kissed her forehead, told her I loved her and I was very proud of her and that she did it. She looked at me and said, “We did it”. She said I was encouraging and supportive and she could not have done it without me. I stared at her like she was crazy. ALL I COULD DO WAS HOLD HER HAND AND PRETEND TO BE CALM!
People say birthing is a miracle and after what I experienced and saw, I completely agree. As I saw my daughter’s head coming out, the vagina had completely undergone a metamorphosis. The sheer stretching ability alone was unfathomable and that’s before we talk about the many fluids and textures that can leave a lasting impression. I distinctly remember seeing a splatter of blood come out and thinking to myself What the F*** was that?! I have realized that there’s no room for logic when it comes to the abilities of the female body. It’s just a marvel and should be left at that.
All in all, it was a truly frightening experience not knowing what to expect. Seeing my little one at the end was definitely rewarding, but it was a gut wrenching, stomach churning, blood racing, and heart-pounding affair. You hear people say childbirth is beautiful; that so called beauty eludes me to this day.