After hearing me tell the story of Joy’s birth from my own perspective several times now, my wife suggested that I write my own post for her blog. Here are my recollections about our daughter’s birth.
Part the First (in which we hem and haw and then get in the car)
Around 5:00 a.m., I woke up. I don’t remember what woke me, but I held Ezra while Kati went to the bathroom. Ezra and I were both getting over a nasty bug and apparently he’d had a rough night. Kati had been holding him a lot during the night. When Kati came back upstairs, she told me she might be having contractions. That woke me the rest of the way up. “I can’t tell if they are contractions or if I just have gas,” I remember her saying. She texted her doula, telling her she might be in labor, but wasn't sure. We timed a couple of contractions. They were close together, but only 25 seconds long. Ezra woke up again and started crying, so I brought him downstairs to where Kati’s mom was sleeping and put him in bed with her, telling her that Kati might be in labor. I got dressed, just in case. The doula said something along the lines of “keep me informed, let me know if the contractions start to get stronger” kind of thing. Kati decided to take a shower. I laid back down, thinking that if this was indeed early labor, and it turned out to be a long one, any more sleep I could get would be good. It was about 6:00. I didn't stay there long. A few minutes after I laid down, I heard Kati talking in the shower. I went into the bathroom to see if she was talking to me. She told me her contractions were getting stronger. We timed a few more. They were close together, not much more than two minutes; but still only half a minute long, peaking after 15 seconds. She told me she didn't have a towel. I brought her one. After she got out of the shower and put her clothes on, Kati wanted to sit on her yoga ball. She said she was going to ask the doula to come to our house, and said I should load our stuff in the car, so we would be ready to go when we decided to.
I went and got Ma’s car keys (we were taking her car), and grabbed the bag that Kati had packed for the hospital. Since I hadn’t packed a bag for the hospital, I threw a change of clothes in a bag. I put Kati’s bag in Ma’s car and came back inside. Meanwhile, Kati was having a text message conversation with the doula. While Kati sat on her ball, I looked up a chart in one of our books to review what it said about length and duration of contractions, and we timed a few more contractions. They were still short, but two minutes apart. At some point, Kati informed me that it was time to go to the hospital by walking toward the door and turning around to say teasingly, “are you coming?” “Oh!” I said, and jumped off the couch. I was feeling a swell of excitement as we got into the car and started driving to the hospital.
When I read Kati’s blog later, I read that she felt like she was waiting a long time for me to pack my bag. It sounded like she had been waiting on me, and this surprised me because we didn’t leave for half an hour after I loaded the car and was ready to go. When I asked her about it, she confirmed what I had suspected after reading her post -- that she was waiting for me to make the decision to go to the hospital while I was waiting for her to tell me! (Yikes!)
Part the Second (in which we switch to present tense verbs for dramatic emphasis).
As we are driving, Kati begins to moan. Loudly. Um… she doesn’t usually do that until very late first stage, when she’s getting close to transition. She might be farther along than we thought. I start to drive a little faster. I’m glad the hospital is only ten minutes away.
I drop Kati at the door and go to park the car. She asks me to come straight in, and not bother to bring in our stuff. “There’s nothing in that bag we need right now,” she says. We get to the door of labor and delivery at the same time, because I sprinted and she stopped for a contraction. She pushes the button on the intercom. “Hello, how can I help you?” the nurse’s voice comes over the speaker. “I’m about to have a baby can you please let me in?” They buzz the door and we go in. It’s 6:55.
As we walk down the hallway (which has never seemed longer), Kati stops for another contraction. There is no question now that these are serious contractions. When we get to the nurses’ station, I answer the questions that they are asking because Kati’s not really in a place to be talking. They check us in to the same room where Ezra was born. They check her dilation. She’s at 9cm. One nurse goes and calls the doctor while the other tries to get a fetal monitor reading.
I remember at some point, something Kati said prompted me to say to the nurse, “I think she’s in transition.” I don’t remember what the nurse said, but she seemed to be saying she didn’t think so. I wasn’t sure either -- when Ezra was born, there was no question when Kati went into transition. I swear she memorized all the things that our childbirth class’s textbook says that women in transition will say, because she said all of them. Verbatim. But not this time. This time there were very few clues from her emotions and behavior just how far along she was.
While the other nurse is still on the phone, Kati gets the urge to push. The nurse who is still with us tells her not to, she’s only dilated to nine and if she puts pressure on that last lip of cervix, we could end up with a c-section. This is where I start to feel afraid. Kati had a lip of cervix left with Ezra. The doctor had to push on it with her hand so that Kati could push. Now there is no doctor here to do that and Kati can’t keep from pushing. So at that point I’m wishing we had come in right away at 5:00 when we first started paying attention. Are we going to have a caesarean because we waited too long to come in?
So Kati tries not to push. The nurse sees the head. She freaks a little bit. She shouts the other nurse’s name as loud as she can. On the next attempt not to push, Joy slides out onto the bed. All at once. Foomp. She’s already pink and cries immediately. I guess I can stop worrying about that c-section. This is suddenly very funny to me and I start laughing out loud. In my head I’m thinking “you can stop telling her not to push now.” The other nurse is getting into the room now, and the two of them are clamping the cord. They do not see the humor. I can tell that nurses DO NOT like to deliver a baby with no doctor in the house. For some reason, this makes it even funnier to me. Now wait a minute, didn't Kati want to delay cord clamping? Meh, they look freaked out enough, I’m not giving them special instructions. It’s 7:11.
Part the Third (in which we switch back to past tense and recap)
When Joy was born, they had not removed the part of the bed that they remove for delivery, and she slid out onto it. She came out suddenly, with so little warning, so no one was ready to catch her. I think that if Kati had been pushing hard, instead of trying not to, she would have slid all the way off the bed onto the floor. I remember when Ezra was born, how forcefully he shot out. I had never realized before then how literal the phrase “catch the baby” is meant. Ezra had to be literally caught. Like a fastball. If Joy had come out like he did, I think she’d have been on the floor. But no, she just slid gracefully out.
So just to recap on the timeline here:
5:00: “I might be having contractions, or I might just have gas”
6:00 “I’m going to take a shower”
6:45 “Are you coming?”
6:55 “Let me in I’m going to have a baby.”
7:10 “I’m trying not to push”
7:11 Joy to the world
If we ever have another child we are camping out in front of the hospital.