My wife is now the toughest person I know.
And the best.
It’s been nearly nine years since our first was born. My wife, under the influence of au naturale birthing advocates, thought she’d attempt to do an unmedicated birth.
Here’s the thing–you don’t “think” about doing an unmedicated birth. In the words of the great philosopher Yoda–“Think not. Do, or do not. There is no think.”
You have to be committed to that beast.
Nine years ago, the moment the first strong contractions came, she cried uncle, aunt, cousin, and great-grandpa. After the epidural, we spent the remainder of Corban’s birth (my first) nearly asleep. Quite peaceful, that.
And so it went with the following two boys.
About a week ago, she started having strong contractions. At 11pm we took the 40 minute trip to the hospital. Alas, the place was like a contraction neutralizer–they stopped as soon as we entered the hospital.
Fast forward to last night. We spent the evening at a movie theater. The contractions began.
Not wanting to cry wolf, she breathed through them and we went home. I went to bed at about 11. Amber said she was going to stay awake, drink some water, and see if the contractions subsided.
At 3am, I woke to loud moaning, which turned to yelps, which turned to clipped screams.
“I don’t want to cry wolf. Let’s give it a bit,” she said.
Um….no. We’re going NOW!
We rushed to the car, or tried to rush. With each contraction, everything stopped. Put on some pants, wait through a contraction. Put on a shirt, wait through a contraction. Gather the hospital bag, wait again.
We get in the car and the contractions build more.
“Talk to me, talk to me, talk to me!” She shouts.
“What did the goat say to the cow?” I ask.
She shakes her head, clenching through the pain.
“Okay….what happens when you cross–”
“No jokes. Tell me I can do it.”
She yelps through the pain.
Talk without jokes? Is that possible?
“You can do it,” I said. But she can’t hear me. She’s too busy moaning.
“I’m going to give birth in the car,” she says. “I won’t be able to have an epidural.”
“We’ll make it.”
I accelerate, going 20 over, daring the cops to try to pull this minivan over. Cuz I ain’t stopping.
She squeezed my hand. She nearly breaks it.
“You can do it! You can do it! You’re finally having a daughter. You can do it!”
Eight minutes to destination.
She moans louder, squeezes my hand harder. I’m shouting something about her being strong and going to be a great mother and she finally gets her girl and I don’t know what I’m saying so I just keep talking and hoping something I’m saying will quell the moaning–the moaning, the incessant moaning.
Every shout stabs my heart. I want to take the pain away, numb it, soothe it, but the only thing I can do is keep talking about how the pain will be worth it.
Why must words escape me now?
We arrive, unload with breaks for contractions, and leave our van parked illegally. The security dude didn’t even check for IDs this time. Her yelps fill the empty atrium, bouncing, echoing, amplifying.
Moan, moan, moan.
I shoulder a camera bag, a hospital bag, two cell phones, and a set of car keys while my hand continues to be pressed like the dregs of olive oil.
We check in.
“Epi–epidural,” she shouts.
“We’ve got to get your IV in you, dear,” the nurse says.
We sit in a room and wait. 10 minutes, maybe 20.
“Honey, you’re at an nine. The anesthesiologist–he’s at a c-section right now. It might not happen.”
My stomach twisted in knots. Amber’s face contorted and she started to cry.
No more “thinking.” This was really happening.
She was going unmedicated.
With a nod, her face relaxed, her shoulders melted, and she began breathing.
And boy, did she breathe. I’ve never seen such intense focus. Eyebrows lowered in concentration, she inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled. She rocked–forward and back, monotonous and rhythmic. She swayed her head back and forth, like Ray Charles while playing his piano. She tickled the air with her toe nails–back and forth, back and forth.
“Do you need water?” I asked.
“Is the fan too cold?”
That girl was focused.
I’ve never been more proud of her. Her moans and screams turned to steady exhales and inhales–whoooooooooosh. Whiiish, whoooooooooosh. Whiiiish, whoooooooosh.
Zen, baby, zen.
I’ve never been so proud of her.
She was going to do it.
From about 4-5:15, the sounds coming from her were no louder than the breaths of a marathon runner, punctuated by sparse moments where the pain became intolerable and she yelped.
But invariably, she returned to those steady breaths. Whiiish, whoooooosh. Whiiish, whooooosh.
To all you men–maybe you’ve never been a dad. If so, there’s something priceless that’s missing–watching that blue-tinted infant exit the womb and take the first breath. I’m not a crying man, but every time it’s happened, my throat has tightened and my eyes have glistened.
I helped create that. And this is just the beginning of one of a handful of the best possible relationships I’ll ever have.
A-mazing. Beautiful. Priceless.
So with that, let me introduce you to Aspen Joi Fife–my daughter. And if she’s half the woman her mother is, then I have the privilege of knowing the two finest women in the solar system.
And now I’ll call the nurse for more morphine. Amber deserves it!