This is in response to a reader request. I cobbled together some entries from my journal and labor notebook and have recreated the 24 hours that changed my life forever. I dedicate this one to my wife, still the undisputed champion of the world.
Fireflies. Well, I grew up calling them lightning bugs, but I’ve always thought fireflies was a more romantic sounding name. Either way, they are out tonight. The first fireflies of the season. Born on the same day as my son. Fuck. Why do coincidences always feel like more than just coincidences? Why do random events always have so much meaning? I guess if you are lucky enough to have it all mean something for you, the only thing you can do is cherish every second. If I haven’t already, I am now. This does change everything.
Twenty-five hours ago Julie started the first of what would be 130 plus contractions over a nine hour period. I say 130 plus, because I stopped counting once we got into the car and drove over to the hospital. Those 130, however, are well documented. I have every second of every single one written down in my notebook. There’s some pretty bad math in there as well.
Twenty-seven hours ago we were at an Italian restaurant finally using a gift card from last Christmas. It would turn out to be the last meal we ever ate together as non-parents. I ordered a fish dish with capers and olives that was on special, something I would usually never order, and a glass of red wine. I ended up having to chug the red wine after my wife told me that something was going on “down there.”
Before we had left for the restaurant she told me that she thought she was leaking. “Leaking?” I asked. I had no idea what that meant or what it signified, but it was time to start getting serious. I scrawled a few lines in my journal, “6:43 PM: Julie is leaking. I’m not sure what that means, but she’s leaking. We shall see buddy, we shall see.” I stuffed my journal in my pocket and walked out to the car. I was getting nervous and excited. We went out for dinner anyways.
For some odd reason, I had it in my mind that if labor didn’t begin before I got out of work, it wouldn’t happen until the next day. Sometimes I can be pretty idiotic. Suddenly, there we were enjoying a free dinner, discussing the sort of things that soon to be parents discuss, when Julie suggested that we head home. “Really? Do you think something is happening?” I inquired.
“Well, I don’t really know. I’ve never gone into labor before,” she responded with laughter equal parts nervous and excited. I knew the feeling. I threw back the wine and looked around for our waitress. It was almost as if she disappeared. I didn’t see her anywhere. The anxiety kicked in quickly, but the red wine I just gulped kept it at bay for a minute or two. We were finally able to flag down our waitress as she scurried by with a handful of plates.
“Do you need anything?” she asked, obviously sensing a little bit of urgency.
“Have you ever delivered a baby?” I responded, answering her question with one of my own, “You may get your first chance if you don’t bring us our check as soon as you can.”
“You probably use that line all the time to get quicker service, don’t you?” she joked as she hurried off.
“She won’t be joking around when baby juice is all over her booth,” Julie said as we both counted the seconds until the waitress returned. We settled up and slid out of the booth. There was a wet streak where my wife was sitting. I wiped it up with one of the cloth napkins and walked behind her as we quickly headed for the car. Luckily she was wearing black pants.
“I can’t believe you just leaked all over the restaurant!” I said as I helped her into the shotgun seat in my Hyundai, “Try not to get your goo all over my car.”
“You better watch it, I might poop the kid out right here. They’ll have to total the car,” she smirked back.
Here we fucking go, I thought. Nervous driving is way worse than drunk driving. My concentration was in overdrive, trying to counterbalance my anxiety. I made the trek across town in record time despite hitting what seemed like every single red light. Unfortunately, I didn’t go fast enough.
“Um, I think my water just broke,” Julie said as we were stopped at one of the red lights.
“What do you mean, you think your water just broke?” I asked, “In the front seat of my car?”
“Either that or I just pissed myself without knowing it,” she responded, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, I blame the kid,” I joked to try to lighten up the nervousness we were both feeling, “We’ll never let him or her live it down. They will have to drive this car forever.”
“How about it? We can’t sell it now,” she said.
“Do you think that water breaking shows up on the Carfax report?” I asked as we pulled into the driveway. I helped her out of the front seat and walked her inside. The dog already knew something was up. I grabbed a towel to clean up the mess in my car, started sending some text messages, and updated my Facebook status. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I ran inside and checked out the situation. My wife was changing into her robe and trying to find her midwife’s number so we’d have it handy.
I walked out onto the back porch and called my parents. They answered the phone at the same time. It was straight out of an episode of Seinfeld. “I think something is happening,” I said to both of them, “We’ll probably know more by the time you get down here.” It was an annoying conversation. I couldn’t understand half of what they were saying. They sounded more nervous and excited than the two of us and kept talking over each other. They packed up their car as we spoke, both of them on separate cordless phones, and started on the two hour drive down to see us after hanging up. I was just hoping the baby didn’t get here before they did. My worries, it turned out, were completely asinine. This was going to be a long night.
Julie called her midwife to fill her in on the water breaking and whatnot. The midwife told her to call her in the morning. I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt totally helpless and out of my element. I drove up to the gas station on the corner and grabbed a newspaper, some candy, a meatstick, a couple of Redbulls, a Rolling Stone, and some gum. It was impulse buying at its finest. I didn’t really know what I was doing. All I knew was that it made me feel like I was being productive.
“My wife’s having a baby, wish me luck,” I said to the clerk as I swiped my debit card. I hopped in the car with my haul and raced back to the house. I ran into the house and found Julie pacing the hallway.
“What’s going on? How are you?” I asked, still completely out of my element.
“Everything is the same, but I think I had a real contraction,” she answered.
“Here we fucking go,” I responded, grabbing my notebook from out of my pocket, ready to record the next contraction.
“You’re tellin’ me,” she said, “Oh…I think I’m having another one.”
I looked at the watch Julie bought me just for the occasion. 8:47 PM. It lasted 30 seconds. Then came another one at 8:52 for 35 seconds. I had done my homework. I knew how to time them. I new how to average them. I was going to be the master of the contraction. 8:57, 9:00, 9:03, 9:09, 9:14, 9:17, 9:19, 9:22. They just kept coming. My wife kept pacing and breathing. I kept timing, and writing, and trying to do math. I probably asked her if she needed anything every other minute. I kept walking in and out of the house. My dog was getting nervous. 9:54, 9:56, 9:59, 10:04, 10:10, 10:16. More pacing, more breathing, more anxiety; all mine. Julie was as relaxed as could be, using her yoga training and meditative breathing. It was all we had to go on.
Julie wanted to do this the natural way. As little hospital as possible. No drugs. We had both read a few chapters about The Bradley Method and other natural birth options. We chose a few highlights to remember, and figured we’d wing it. I was more worried about it than she was. She seemed to have it all under control. At 10:30, the contractions were on average a little more than four minutes apart and were lasting about 47 seconds a piece. They kept coming. My parents arrived to find us both sitting in the kitchen. We would spend almost the entire night there. Me alternately sitting and pacing, Julie sitting backwards on a chair, leaning over the back, eyes closed and concentrating. She was rocking it. 11:18, 11:21, 11:24, 11:26, 11:28. I made a pot of coffee. 11:49, 11:52, 11:54, 11:56, Midnight. Our kid was going to be born on May 19th if everything kept progressing. 12:10, 12:15, 12:17, 12:19, 12:22, 12:25. The contractions kept coming. They lasted longer and happened faster. We called the midwife to give her an update. She told me a few things I already knew and said that she’d call us in the morning.
We both knew that things seemed to be progressing a bit quicker than the midwife was letting on. 12:42, 12:44, 12:47, 12:49, 12:51, 12:53. By 1AM the contractions were averaging 51 seconds a piece and two and a half minutes apart. My dad was asleep on the couch. My mom dozed off on the living room floor with the dog. Julie and I were still holding strong in the kitchen. The contractions kept coming and I kept timing them while trying to help out as much as I could, mostly with encouragement. It’s amazing how quickly time flies when you’re recording almost every second of it. 2:29, 2:32, 2:35, 2:40, 2:41, 2:44. The contractions were becoming relentless. Julie was pacing the hallway. She started to lean against the wall in the bathroom. I felt so helpless. We called the midwife. She told us that we probably still had a ways to go. She said we were probably half way.
“I call bullshit on that,” Julie screamed from the other room, “If we’re only half way, there’s no way I can do this!”
My empathy was overflowing, yet it seemed inadequate. I felt so bad for her. I would have gone to the hospital and taken the drugs after ten minutes, but here we were seven hours in and she was still going strong with the yoga breathing. She went to the bathroom and noticed some blood. She climbed into a hot shower to try to ease the pain. She breathed in the shower while yelling out for me to mark the start and peak of the continuing contractions. 3:09, 3:12, 3:13. The contractions were now almost unceasing. Something was up. I was seeing more blood and starting to freak out. We both agreed that it was probably time to head to the hospital. I helped her out of the shower and into her robe. I woke up my parents and they loaded up the car.
Julie started to scream in agony every thirty seconds. It was unnerving. We managed to guide her into the car among yelps of pain. It seemed like my dad took an hour to get out of the driveway. Julie started to yell at him and me. It was mildly humorous, actually. We pulled up to the stop light on the corner and it was red. We waited for what seemed like forever until Julie screamed at my dad to run the light. He did. My wife was becoming Don Rickles in the backseat of my dad’s car. She was tossing barbs at each of us. I tried not to laugh. I had never seen her like this. My dad stepped on the gas and ran two more lights on the way to the hospital. We were all nervous. I stopped keeping track of the contractions. It was a lost cause.
We pulled up to the front doors of the emergency room while my wife was alternately screaming in pain and screaming at us. We ran inside to the admission desk and I gave some requisite information before a nurse came to take us to a delivery room. The nurse offered up a wheel chair but Julie refused. She refused to sit down and walked the hallway slowly while stopping every few feet to lean up against the wall. She was yelling at the nurse who was only trying to help, and I made sure to laugh loudly to cut the tension. I offered up the wheelchair again and my wife pushed it back at me.
“I told you I don’t fucking want the wheelchair,” she yelled. We got in the elevator and she almost dropped to the ground. The elevator seemed to take an eternity to reach the proper floor. Julie was getting meaner by the second. It was hilarious. She was in rare form by the time the nurse guided her onto the hospital bed. More nurses streamed in and after filling them in on the details, set to work scoping out what was going on between her legs.
“Call the midwife,” the head delivery nurse said to one of the younger nurses, “this baby is coming right now.”
“Right now?” Julie and I said at the same time. The look on Julie’s face was one of extreme joy at the news.
“See, you’re almost done,” I said to her as I played with her hair. We knew the midwife was out of her mind with her prediction, but we couldn’t believe it when the nurse said that she was fully dilated. If we had waited any longer, I’d have had to deliver the baby on my kitchen floor, our dog licking up the afterbirth. I breathed a sigh of relief. Julie screamed. The head nurse told her to start pushing if she wanted. She did. Twenty minutes or so passed and the midwife finally arrived.
“I guess you’re ready to go, huh?” she asked.
“Fuck!” Julie responded as she looked at my mom, “Sorry, I have a potty mouth.”
The pushing continued. The nurses and the midwife prodded and pulled my wife’s vagina like it was pizza dough.
“Jesus!” Julie screamed.
“Mary and Joseph,” my mom added.
“Oh God!” Julie yelled, “How’s that? Holy Shit!”
It was priceless. She was yelling at the midwife and the nurses as if they were purposefully inducing pain. I had never heard her yell at someone like that before. It was classic.
“You’re doing it on fucking purpose!” she said, “Can’t you stop that shit!”
Everyone was laughing, except for Julie of course, who was pushing towards the finish line. I stole a few glances at the scene between her legs. I had to sit down. I felt like I was going to pass out. I get nauseous at the sight of blood on TV, this was nuts. I tried to concentrate on my own breathing for awhile. Julie looked over at me, but quickly went back to pushing. The nurses and midwife were stretching and poking. The screams coming from my wife were hard to take. I offered my hand for her to squeeze. Then came the head.
I sucked it up, stood up, and took another quick look down below. It was the single most amazing and disgusting sight I had ever seen. I didn’t know if I should cry or vomit. I averted my eyes and looked directly into my wife’s. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Never before did life feel so real. I was never more alive. The head was out. Then more pushing, and I saw an arm. Next thing I know, the whole body slithered out. There was some commotion, I nearly fainted, and I burst into tears. I looked at my mom across the hospital room and she was crying as well. That didn’t help matters. I totally lost it. Everything was so intense. I tried to snap some pictures on my cell phone. I didn’t really know what to do. Then they handed me the scissors.
For months I had protested my mere appearance in the delivery room, nonetheless my cutting of the cord. But there I was, fighting back fainting, nausea, and vomiting, and stepping up to the plate. I had coached her through eight hours of labor at home. I was in the delivery room. I watched my baby come out. Now, I was about to do something that I never thought I’d have the stomach for. I was sure it was going to be the first of many brand new experiences that I never thought I’d be a part of. I cut the cord. Then, I immediately started balling again. I couldn’t believe it. It was a boy! At 5:12 AM on May 19th, 2009 I cut the cord and together with the love of my life, welcomed my son into the world. 7lbs and 19-1/2 inches of my flesh and blood. My Jack. I was speechless.
“Here we go,” I mouthed to my mom. They handed Jack to me and I lost it. I never thought something so bloody and slimy could be so beautiful. He wasn’t even crying. I was smitten and completely drained. All I had left were tears.
Then I heard my wife scream some more obscenities at the midwife again as the nursing crew tried to force the placenta out. It looked worse than delivering the baby. Shit, I was exhausted, I can’t even begin to imagine how she felt. Julie was a the undisputed champion of the world. I always knew she could handle anything, and the past twenty four hours solidified it. She will make the greatest mom in the world. I only hope to be half as good. But I will try my best to keep up.
Now I’m sitting here alone on my back porch, trying to absorb the last twenty some odd hours. I’ve been balling my eyes out randomly as a I hang out with my dog and a couple of extra tasty beers. I haven’t cried this much ever, and I’m a pretty big crier. Jack and Julie are spending the night in the hospital. I can’t stop thinking about them. I miss them. I miss my family. I have a family? Fuck. Sox won. They are undefeated since Jack has been born. Time to take it all in. Cheers!