My wife had been saying for weeks that she felt like the baby was just going to fall out of her at any moment. And unlike me, she isn’t one for her hyperbole, so I mostly believed her. We often argue about the timeline of our older son’s birth. If you ask me, we barely made it in time to the hospital, and if you ask her, we were there with two hours to spare. She claims that the more I tell his story, the less true it becomes, and yet I believe there can be many truths when telling stories.
However, with our daughter, we agree there is only one truth — she basically did fall out.
Our son Brian had barreled his way into the world, over a week early, in a spiffy two hour labor in which he kicked and screamed the entire way out. So we weren’t quite sure what to make of things when baby Caroline was still hanging out in there two days past her due date. Pregnancy is three trimesters, but I think the last two weeks should be carved out and given its own special designation. At this point, most of the wife’s interpersonal communication with other humans consisted of uncomfortable glances. She no longer spoke in sentences — she just sort of vocalized her pain in long groans. Getting up from the couch looked something like a teenage driver attempting a three point turn in a semi-truck.
The wife had one emotion left in life — it was BABY GET OUT NOW. They should make a baby and mom doll set called Baby Get Out Now. I can imagine the cool 1980s commercials for it. The jingle could be like “Mama feels like cow! Baby Get Out Now! By Mattel!” I’m also imagining a massive recall when the motor system that pushes baby out malfunctions and accidentally starts scalping kids. Actually, DON’T IMAGINE THAT. My second-born is three weeks old now and I haven’t been getting much sleep.
In the meantime, the wife had nothing going. No contractions, no excitement. We’d drop our first kid off at pre-school and go on dates to walk the mall and eat spicy food. Not much happened except for a stop at the candy store where I accidentally dropped thirty dollars on bulk candy. I’m still a little horrified. Thirty dollars can buy you a nice dinner out, a new pair of jeans, one of those pimped out Paw Patrol playsets… or you know, just a big ass bag of candy if you’re me.
Finally, on April 5th, contractions started. They were fifteen minutes apart and never really increased throughout the day, but the wife called the doctor anyway. They asked us to come in to check out how things looked, and we took our hospital bags and the three pound personal reserve of candy just in case. Wife: “Are you just going to be standing around eating candy while I’m in labor?” Me: “No, of course not.” (But inside, secretly, yes.)
At two o’clock in the afternoon, we arrived at the doctor office, casually, calmly, and generally unaware that the timeline was about accelerate into hyperspace.
Here’s a picture of what happened next:
2:10pm — Despite not really having very noticeable or regular contractions, the OB checks the wife, announces that she was 5-6cm and 100% effaced, and we needed to go to the hospital right away to have the baby.
2:11pm — The wife stands up, still undressed from the OB check, and her water broke in dramatic fashion. It was the sound of a balloon popping and then Niagara Falls.
My wife always makes fun of me for how I react in sudden situations — which is, I REACT SWIFTLY on a bizarre autopilot. For instance, when her water broke with our son (at home, in bed, at 4am), my reaction was to SECURE THE DOG IMMEDIATELY. I’m still not sure what I thought our tiny fifteen pound poodle mix was going to do — she was nestled comfortably in bed with us — but I yanked her up, marched downstairs, and gated her off in the dining room like I was executing a military drill.
This time, my reaction was to just RUN AND SECURE HELP. I ran out of the room shouting for help. I imagined the place would go into code red lockdown as alarms sounded and a team of doctors might assemble and race down the hall to tend to my wife. Instead they looked up puzzled at this frantic shouting person, and then started smiling and laughing. I sheepishly walked back into the room with my wife who was wondering why I’d just took off.
2:15pm — We’re making our way out to the parking lot, arguing over whether she should walk the 50 feet to the car or not. Her: “I’m totally fine, I can walk on my own.” Me: I can’t believe you declined the wheelchair! You can’t walk. I’m getting the car. Stand here! Her: (Totally used to me, resigns herself to waiting on the curb.) Me: (Runs to car like that kid in your high school who ran to all his classes in between bells.)
2:25pm — Making our way to the hospital across the street. Everybody is walking in slow motion across the parking lot and I’m starting to feel like I’m playing Mario Kart in real life dodging these agonizing objects.
2:30pm — Wife dropped off at curb, I consider my first homicide as still more people leisurely stroll at the crosswalk, car is finally parked, more awkward running, wife is still perfectly fine and normal, asks me to take my anxiety medication.
2:35pm — The next big boss battle: the woman at the check-in desk. I pace nervously while she takes 300 years to check in the person in front of us. I use my intimidating staring superpower to make her a little uncomfortable, but it does not make her shuffle through papers or answer phone calls any faster. The wife yells at me under her breath that I have the world’s most stressful energy that is transferable to EVERYTHING.
(Let it be known that the wife has considerably changed her story and tone in hindsight, agrees with me that the check in person was slow, that she had several intense contractions while we were waiting, and that she began to worry she might have the baby in the waiting area.
3:00pm — We’re finally in a room. It’s shift change and everyone is introducing themselves to us, but then telling us that they won’t be around by the time the baby comes. I try to be helpful and talk the wife through the contractions which are suddenly painful, but I’m more useful at making phone calls and arrangements to pick up our other kid from school.
3:15 — Our doula makes some sort of record speed time in driving around the beltway at the beginning of rush hour. Finally the wife has the calming, helpful presence she needs (and really, it’s the calming, helpful presence I need as well.)
3:30 — The doctor comes in to meet us, but again, because it’s shift change, she tells us that someone else will come back to check progress around 6pm.
3:35 — I start texting family telling them the baby will be here sometime this evening. The doula is trying to set up her gear like music and mood lighting, but the contractions are coming without pause now.
3:55 — Randomly, with zero warning, the wife seriously feels like pushing and tells me to go get ALL THE PEOPLE. I get to use that RUN AND SHOUT move I practiced earlier. In this case though, the crack team of doctors and nurses does assemble and race down the hall.
3:59 — Everyone finally makes it into the room and starts getting in the birthing riot gear. The wife is standing next to the bed, when suddenly she shouts that the baby is crowning.
4:00 — Nobody is ready. The doctor is still putting on the hat and gloves. Suddenly they’re all on top of the wife trying to push her back into the bed into birthing position. She doesn’t make it into the bed all the way, but instead ends up in a weird diagonal position with people holding her down while the doctor jumps in just in time to catch the baby, just 90 minutes after we’d casually went to the doctor office for a check-up.
Cut to me, standing there holding my head, holding my breath, really not believing that just happened that fast. The wife and I didn’t even really see the baby’s face for the first fifteen minutes as we processed WTF just happened. As we began to settle down, the wife lifted the baby from her chest and we looked into our daughter’s beautiful face for the first time. It was awesome!
Caroline Ann was born a “blue ribbon” 7 lbs, 4oz. That’s what they called her — “a blue ribbon baby,” and I’m not sure why I enjoy hokey little nurse sayings like that, but I do. We’re happy, in love, and now a family of four!