It was around 5 p.m. on a Tuesday and I found my wife upstairs in our apartment balancing on a yoga ball, her head resting on the bed and both our 12 pound dogs perched on either side of her looking concerned.
I had left work early. Amanda was two weeks past the due date and had said she was cutting short a walk with the dogs to get home because she was feeling intense pressure.
I went in and rubbed her back. She wasn’t quite there.
“Have you called Michelle?”
“No, I don’t think it’s time yet,” she said. “I don’t want to bother her.”
I went downstairs, called Michelle and ran out to the deli behind our house and bought a sandwich. I knew I’d need it. We had the other supplies already: popsicles, juice, watermelon.
Michelle was driving down from Saratoga where she’d been training. We had some time. I hadn’t yet filled the water tub. First I had to blow it up. Amanda shifted onto the bed and I turned on the air pump. Immediately, I realized I should’ve already done this.
The air was slow to fill, there were multiple sections and then I’d still have to fill it with water. At least I had done a trial run with the hose. I knew it would reach and I knew how to connect it to the sink.
Michelle arrived with Sara to lend a hand. The tub was still being filled with air. Amanda wasn’t, to say the least, pleased with the sound.
If I was going to be unprepared for something, though, at least it was just the tub. We had taken 12 weeks of Bradley Method classes. Had it not been for them, we wouldn’t even have been at home.
Amanda had always wanted a home birth. I didn’t. I was afraid that something could happen to her, or the baby. If we were at home, far from the doctors and machinery of a hospital, how would they survive?
When we started the Bradley class, Amanda was already nearing the end of her second trimester. We had settled in on a doctor and hospital to handle the birth. I wanted the very best. Then, I began to learn.
I learned that hospitals had quadruple the rate of c-sections as midwives at home. I learned that if she went to the one we were scheduled to deliver in, she had a 50 percent chance of getting cut open. I l learned that at a hospital, her choices, and even her ability to say no, would be limited. We would be under pressure. I learned that delivering a baby is natural and it’s a slow process; most things that can go wrong can be seen coming from a distance. I learned that a well-trained midwife would have the tools on hand to deal with an emergency.
I opened my ears, listened to my wife and switched gears. After all, it was she that would be doing the work. It was her body that could get cut open. I also wanted what was best for my baby, and a life starting out at her own pace, without being drugged, seemed like it’d give her a leg up right away.
So, we had met with midwives and settled on Michelle. And now, here we were.
The tub was filled with air, finally, and I had opened the tap to load it with water. Amanda moved to the bathroom. She wouldn’t let anyone in, except for Sara, when she delivered watermelon. When she came out, she was lost in a daze.
I held her on the floor as the contractions took over her body. She leaned back with her head against my chest, her body along the floor. In between, waves of pressure, she would joke and smile. I was locked entirely into the moment, focused on nothing but her.
She got into the tub, finally filled with warm water. And that’s when things changed. As Michelle and I chatted, which calmed my nerves, Amanda closed her eyes and got quiet.
It was around 9 pm when she got out and she couldn’t really talk. She went on the bed. I got on next to her. We were in the same spots where we’d practiced breathing and relaxing for months. We shifted to that. Me next to her, breathing steadily, rubbing her back.
Then, she threw up. Just once and quick. And things began to move. Michelle was at her side, Sara, too. I didn’t quite know where to go. Someone suggested I go to the end of the bed, where I rubbed Amanda’s legs, and tried to keep in mind all the Bradley training.
I yawned. That wasn’t smart. Amanda caught me. “Is this not exciting enough for you?” she snapped. I was embarrassed. It was past 10 pm now, maybe ticking toward 11. I had lost track. There was blood now, here and there. Michelle had put down paper mats to soak it up. The bed would go unscathed.
Amanda shifted to the floor. More blood and amniotic fluid was coming out of her. The smell was strong, kind of like poop, but sweet, too.
I was holding Amanda’s legs as she pushed. Pushed hard now and more goop came out of her. And then there was a head, or what I Michelle said was a head. It was brown and wrinkly and it was coming out of my wife’s vagina. Slowly. It’d come out a little, then dart back in. She pushed. She moaned, but not the screaming I’d seen in movies. Amanda was calm, focused and simply incredible.
And then it happened. The head came all the way out, and there was a face. But no crying. Michelle pulled the tiny thing to her. A very long umbilical chord had wrapped around the baby’s chest. Swiftly, Michelle unwrapped the chord, and her chest began moving in out. Her eyes opened and she was given to her mama. Her beautiful blue eyes, bright, and ready for the world. And they snuggled, and nursed. We all crawled onto the bed. We had our Avital and she was perfect.
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