Katy’s birth story really begins when I got a phone call at work. Actually, it was a friend of mine who got the call, I wasn’t answering my phone (I was in the middle of something!). “Katy is in labor!” My friend said. “What are you doing?? GO!”
So I went, with the whole office cheering me on. I honestly can’t remember all of the details at this point, but I met her at the hospital and the midwife and nurses were trying to stop Katy’s labor. Katy was only 32 weeks pregnant. Certainly not a life-threatening problem thanks to modern medicine, but still a bit undercooked, as far as babies go.
The midwife on duty made a comment to the effect of “by the time you hit 40 weeks you’re going to be wishing I hadn’t stopped your labor”. I recalled that sentiment frequently over the next 8 weeks.
When we got home from the hospital, Katy entered prodromal purgatory, an eternal period of waiting, suspended in early labor but never actually being in labor.
This lasted 2 months, and involved many false alarms and sleepless nights as Katy endured a seemingly endless wave of contractions. Finally, the day we hit 40 weeks, Katy went in for a checkup and had her membranes swept. Within a few hours, Katy’s contractions were feeling very intense and she called her mom and asked her to come stay with her. A couple of hours after that, and I left work to be with her as well.
As Katy’s contractions continued to progress throughout the afternoon, we began to realize that it was probably time to go to the hospital.
Babies are pretty rude. This is a well-regarded fact among parents, and it’s true of babies both inside and outside of the womb. If Jack had been more considerate, he would have had the courtesy to start trying to wiggle his way out at a more convenient time. A few hours before, or after, or even a few days earlier would have been much more accommodating.
In fact, the timing was so bad it almost felt spiteful, as though Jack was causing Katy to go into labor at that very moment as a calculated type of revenge. Revenge for what, I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask him when he’s older.
Regardless, it was clear that NOW was the right time to get Katy to the hospital. So, at 5:00 pm on a weekday, in the middle of rush hour, in the middle of a thunderstorm, we left for the hospital. The trip should have taken 25 minutes but it took an entire hour.
The bad weather, combined with the bad traffic, combined with the obvious and extreme discomfort Katy was experiencing swirled together to create a special kind of road rage. A dad-rage of sorts. On the outside I tried to be as gentle and soothing and calm as possible, in an attempt to keep Katy calm and relaxed. On the inside, I was feverishly fantasizing about driving a giant tank that I could use to crush all those who stood in the way of Katy and the hospital.
Eventually we arrived, just in time to get the last room, which means the poor couples who arrived after us got Joseph and Mary’ed into having a baby in a stack of hay somewhere. At this point in my life now, it would not come as a great surprise if Katy told me her next birth would be in a manger, however at this point of the story, I was not down for a birth experience that featured shepherds and wise men. I wanted to be in a hospital. Something about it just made me feel safe. Like it was impossible for things to go wrong as long as people wearing scrubs were only a button press away.
My biggest fear when we arrived was that they would send us back. Prodromal labor had brought us to the hospital on two other occasions, and going home each time felt something like running out of your room on Christmas morning only to discover Santa had left you a bag of gravel and a note that says “Better luck next time”. I don’t think we were psychologically healthy enough to handle another rejection like that.
For me, the turning point in Katy’s labor was shortly after we arrived, when our midwife Amanda told Katy that she was in real, bonafide, God-honest labor and that we were not going home without a baby.
In a lot of ways the hardest part of Katy’s labor was everything leading up to it. I know, I know. It’s a pretty bold move for a man to try and tell you what the hardest part of his wife’s labor was, but I think Katy would generally agree with me. Everything leading up to the labor was exhausting and stressful. The prodromal labor, the uncertainty, and finally that car ride where really I should have won an academy award for acting like man who was not about to lose his shit.
Once we were settled in to the labor room, I felt relieved. I felt like I could finally get excited. This was really it. This was really happening. Katy had been having so many contractions for so long, the early phase of her “real labor” felt routine. Katy and I spent the first few hours of labor doing all of the things we had already been doing for weeks. Except this time each contraction was exciting. It felt like we were making progress. The baby is getting closer!
Katy’s labor was easy for me. All I had to do was stand next to her, rub her back, squeeze her shoulders, just be there for her. It was very easy for me to be affectionate and loving to someone who I loved; someone who was working very hard to bring our son into the world.
Katy moved from the bed to walking the halls, then to the shower, the tub, and the shower again. I don’t know what the heating bill for the hospital was that month, but you probably could have filled an Olympic pool with the hot water Katy stood under all night.
If Katy’s birth was a play, it had 2 Acts. Act I was fun and carefree. It begins with lots of talking, joking and laughing. It ends when Amanda breaks Katy’s water. There’s no intermission. The tone of Act II is more serious, focused. As labor progressed, Katy began to go in a trance-like state between contractions, which were longer and closer than ever. I don’t think she really even noticed that we were there anymore at a certain point.
But the entire night felt tranquil, serene even. The family and staff who came and went from the labor room did so in increasingly hushed tones, in awe of what they were witnessing. Everyone around me whispered how amazed they were with Katy. She labored in a way that was graceful and beautiful. It was primal and divine.
At some point though Katy and I were both so tired that we could not keep our eyes open. I took a very brief nap in my wet clothes while Katy nodded off between contractions on the floor of the shower. This was probably the most intense part of the labor, and we absolutely could not have done it without our doula Ashley, who apparently does not get tired like most humans.
I was awoken by someone who told me that Katy was very close to pushing. I wasn’t really sure where I was or why I was there, but I got up off the little sofa in the labor room and followed them to the bathroom, where sure enough, Katy was on a birthing stool and getting close to pushing.
What happened next apparently took over an hour but it felt like 10 mins. Katy pushed Jack out, centimeter by centimeter. First the top of his head, then after a period of time somewhere between eternity and an instant, I could see his ears. Piece by piece he emerged.
At a certain point, Amanda the midwife grabbed my hands and pulled them directly underneath Katy. I was shocked by how slippery Jack was. I was terrified that he would slip out of my hands. But I managed to bring him, unharmed, into my arms, and then immediately into Katy’s, who looked so shocked it appeared as though she had blacked out for the last 14 hours and someone had very suddenly just handed her a baby.