Brian James was born on Free Slurpee Day, or 7-11-14. This is another one of those life events where I have no idea how to narrate it or tell it. So I’ll just write without much thinking or editing, and we’ll see where it goes. There are too many words. There are not enough. Or as I dumbly put it to my wife while high on baby fumes, “I love this baby! Thank you for making him for me.”
Let’s back up a few weeks to where my wife was dragging me to all these birthing classes and hippy-dippy birthing seminars taking place in weird people’s attics. Add in the birth books and all the things read on the internet. Now I’ll just go ahead and throw all of that in the trashcan, because NOTHING HAPPENED THAT WAY AT ALL.
Now let’s back up to what would be our last date/dinner together as a childless, care-free couple. We had fallen into a “fast food at home” rut in the prior days, with the wife in constant pain and it always being approximately 3000 degrees outside. But feeling a burst of energy, we decided to go out to a new place together, a British pub with great food and spirits. We sat outside on a patio while some teenager played acoustic covers alt-90s songs with a nasally-emo twist. Kids today.
The air was cool and the sky was darkening as a thunderstorm slowly rolled in. We finished our meal just in time before the rain started. I had ordered the vegan burger — a quarter-pound patty of “premium vegan ground beef.” Which is a fancy way of saying it was a gigantic brick of pure fiber. Little did I know this dinner choice would come back to haunt me in just a few hours.
With still another week to go before our due date and no signs of labor, we weren’t expecting anything other than a weekend of sadly scrolling through everyone’s beach vacation posts on Facebook, while we sat at home with the curtains drawn. Instead, at 3:45 AM, the wife startled, stood up out of bed, and matter-of-factly announced her water broke. I love the next detail for some reason — she also said she had been having the most vivid dream of running naked and pregnant down the highway.
I immediately jumped up, grabbed the dog who sleeps in bed with us, carried her one-armed down the stairs, and secured her in the dining room area. I did this without words, automatically, as though it were some kind of tornado safety drill. I have no idea why I did that, but the important thing was THE DOG IS SECURED, even though it was completely unnecessary.
What was next? Mentally I began to run through the stuff we had learned in the classes. I remembered the very important lesson the burly nurse teaching the birthing class had told us about what happens when the water breaks first: “it only happens in about 10% of cases, so we’re not going to waste too much time going over that.”
Great. Well, I guess I was going to have to make up my own plan of action.
“Let’s call the doctor right now,” I said, with more firmness than fear in my voice, at least I like to think so.
“Calm down,” the wife said. I guess she heard more fear. “We have hours. I don’t even have contractions yet. I’ll call the doctor in a little bit.”
“Nope. We’re going to the hospital soon. Call now.”
“You didn’t read any of the baby books I wanted you to read, so now you’re freaking out because you have no idea how it works,” the wife lectured. “We have hours to go. I want to labor at home for awhile.”
I was hitting a wall with her. We WERE going to the hospital SOON, so I decided to just go ahead and plow through the rest of my action plan, including showering, changing, and packing the car.
Several minutes later, I was ready to leave, and the wife was casually alternating between casually brushing her hair and running to the toilet to casually gush out amniotic fluid. I won’t entail the next half-hour of events, but it involved escalating arguing about what the baby books said, ending with the wife crying hysterically in the shower, and me realizing I had to let her call the shots.
So we walked the dog…
…and I did the dishes…
…and the wife calmly packed a few extra things…
…while I watered the plants…
…and she slowly ate breakfast and checked email…
It was agonizing for me. But since she is also great at compromise, we did finally make it to the hospital by 7am. Besides, she had begun to have a few minor contractions. I called our families and told them we had hours. Hours. Don’t come until after lunchtime, maybe later.
This is the point where my stomach began to knot up and that gigantic brick of fiber began to rumble. But I will not entail any more of this, either. Let’s just say I made it to the bathroom in time. Oh, and I made it OUT of bathroom in time, too.
The wife began having stronger contractions. But she was still totally able to stand and talk, so there was no urgency. We casually sauntered back to triage and a nurse looked at where she was. This is where the casualness stopped.
The wife was already EIGHT CENTIMETERS DILATED AND 100% EFFACED. Suddenly a hospital team in full-blown riot/birthing gear stormed the room and rushed us into a delivery room. It was actually a terrifying moment, and I actually had a bit of PTSD with images of my mother in the ICU. I just have to acknowledge that this whole journey began nine months earlier, when we found out the wife was pregnant two days before my mother died in the hospital.
Seeing all those hospital workers storm the room and start working on the wife, I had a hard time separating what was happening. Was my mom dying again? Was my wife going to be okay? Would the baby be okay?
I panicked. “What’s happening? What’s going on?” I asked out loud to anyone who would answer.
Then a midwife stood in front of me and almost shook me a little bit. “You’re going to have a baby very soon,” she said.
It was a powerful moment, powerful enough to finally cleave the two hospital experiences into two separate events.
I called our families back. “Nevermind, come now. COME NOW.”
We did not have hours. In fact, we had ninety minutes, and then only thirty minutes more of pushing. I don’t want to be smug and say I was right. The wife talked about a pregnant mother’s intuition. Yeah, and I have a crazy person’s intuition. You know that babbling guy standing on the corner predicting that the world is going to end? Sure, he’s crazy, but he’s also not totally wrong.
The wife did it without meds or interventions. She is amazing. Watching my son be born is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Seeing his face for the first time was stunning. He was perfect, healthy, weighing eight pounds and four ounces. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you.
And now we are here at home with him, figuring this whole thing out together. I’m teaching him about life, and he’s teaching me about life. First lesson for me: there is such a thing as green liquid poop.