The hospital bags were only half packed. I mean, given that first-time mothers usually go through at least 12 hours of labor, we figured one of the perfect distractors for the early stage would be to finish packing for the hospital. It was Sunday, October 24th, and probably the coldest day we had had yet. Since Robyn's 6 hour stretch of "false labor" on October 10th, I had been asking her each morning how she felt, and if she had any contractions in the night. The answer was always the same - a few miscellaneous contractions, but nothing consistent; just a simple annoyance. The big bag of muscles that is her uterus was simply practicing for the big day.
As we woke up and got ready for church, I tripped on a pair of boots Robyn had neglected to put away. I snapped at her as I walked away, and as I turned around with a little smile to let her know I wasn't truly angry, I found she was crying! Now, it must be said that these are absolutely the first tears I have seen my wife cry since before we were married over a year ago. I found it very strange that her surge of emotion didn't quite match my level of meanness. I apologized and comforted her, and it turns out this was the first sign that 10/24/10 was not going to be a normal day!
We arrived at church at 11:23 (later than normal) and snuck into the back. After a short time, Robyn rose to use the restroom, and didn't come back for over 20 minutes. Just before we had walked in the building, she did say she was having contractions; I hoped she was feeling okay. When she sat down, she told me she had been walking around in the lobby, listening to the sermon on the speakers out there. I later discovered she had timed a couple of her contractions to find they were erratic. We had planned on having friends over for lunch, but Robyn wasn't feeling up to it by now. We whispered back and forth, and a decision was made to leave as soon as the sermon was over (rather than staying to chat for the usual hour with friends). 12:25 came, and we bolted.
At home, it was business as usual, but now we had a family sized lasagna to eat by ourselves! Robyn was still contracting, but her discomfort was escalating. We prepared lunch for ourselves and I tried distracting my bride from her slowly increasing pain. I think this is where I began to think this might be the real thing, but I still assumed we wouldn't be leaving for the hospital for another 6 hours. I suggested Robyn finish that hospital bag (I had done the first half, but the latter was mostly her day-to-day stuff; and who wants to live out of a suitcase for weeks?) I think she made a move to start it, but feeling a little antsy, she didn't get far. After a couple more suggestions at things she could do, and reminding her to relax her body through the contractions and let her uterus do its thing, she ended up finding a comfy seat on the couch while I got on my laptop. We probably sat in silence for a half hour or more.*
By now it's about 2pm. Robyn had started sweating and shedding layers - she didn't think she was doing anything strenuous, but her uterus would beg to differ! I decided to get up and finish packing the hospital bag for her. I reviewed the lists with my wife, and put them on my iPhone so I could take it from room to room. Shortly after I got started, she told me it was hurting worse now and she could hardly take it. I suggested she try being on her hands and knees - taking that pressure off her hips should help, and different positions in general is usually a good idea. She then gets on her knees on the floor with her head resting on her arms on the ottoman. Meanwhile, I pick up the pace to get these bags finished!
It's relatively quiet in the apartment while we're doing our separate things. Since her pain level has risen, I assume she'll need my help with pressure points shortly, so I figured I had better get everything in the car and ready to go. The bags are just about done. Then, she screams through a contraction... whoa! I did not see that coming. I raced back to where she was and asked how I could help. She didn't know, so I squeezed her hips until my upper body strength gave out - I knew this wasn't going to work for long. When the contraction was over, Robyn immediately said "I want to go to the hospital, and I want drugs!"** I responded "Okay, that's fine - put your pants back on, and we'll go!" While I had hoped she wouldn't request an epidural or meds (because pain medication inevitably drugs up your baby, among many other potential issues), I would be okay if she felt it was necessary. I also thought her pain would lessen or I may be able to talk her out of it before we got there. Another contraction came quite quickly, and since I knew my upper body strength wouldn't last, I stood over Robyn and squeezed her hips with my knees. This actually worked quite well, and left my hands free to also put pressure on her tailbone simultaneously.
As her contraction ended, I raced to get the final things for the hospital bags, until the next time she would yell for my help. By now it was about 2:30, and Robyn tells me she thinks she's going to explode (she had just read about the possibility of diarrhea during birth). I reassured her that it's fine, and we'd clean it up. As the contraction reaches its peak, she pushes out of compulsion, and her water breaks. She felt like a gallon of water had sprayed 18 feet, but it was honestly about 1/2 cup of fluid. No big deal; I got her a towel, and we did the cycle once or twice more.
Since this is all going a bit fast, I knew we really should be getting to the hospital. Contrary to popular theory/opinion/hollywood-assumed-expertise, it has nothing to do with the fact that contractions had started, her water had broken, or that she was in pain. These are not reasons to go to a hospital, as if giving birth was a medical emergency; it most certainly is not. This is a natural process, and God made Robyn's body to do this very thing. It's the product of sin in the world that makes it a painful bloody mess, but it's natural, nonetheless. Ah, but that is a topic for another post. The reason we should be getting to the hospital is because she is progressing fairly quickly, and since we planned to give birth in a hospital, it's probably about time to go accept the help we've paid for. Going too early would likely have subjected us to a cascade of unnecessary interventions that we would have to fight to avoid. Now feels just about right.
I reminded Robyn she needed to get her pants back on so we can go. It was almost 3pm now. She told me she really needed to go to the bathroom first and then we'd go. I would much rather she pooped in the car than waited any longer, but I rolled my eyes slightly and helped her to the toilet. Her contractions were easier now, and coming further apart.*** After 3 or 4 contractions while sitting on the toilet, I went to check on her, and she was so confused why she wasn't able to go. She looked in the toilet and saw mostly blood. We both just kinda didn't get it. I decided I should check to see if I could see any of the baby's head (not that either of expected that to be the case). As Robyn put one foot up on the bathtub, I wasn't sure I saw what I saw, so I told her I needed her to lie down on the bathroom rug. After getting her some pillows for her back, I checked again, and OH MAN - I most certainly saw about the size of a quarter of my son's skull. Without alarming Robyn, I told her what I saw, and that I was going to be calling Adrianna, our Bradley birth instructor.
Now, why wouldn't I call our midwife? That's a very good question. It was Sunday afternoon, and our midwife was 6 hours south on vacation! Not only that, but her office (where there was another midwife on call) is closed, and would have probably taken at least 10 minutes to get hold of her. I needed an answer fast, and I knew I could count on Adrianna to answer her phone. So I called Adrianna, and told her the situation, asking "can we make it to the hospital?" She laughed slightly as she answered, "absolutely not, call 911, and keep me posted!" This conversation was had while I walked in the other room due to my wife screaming through another pushing contraction. I walked back in the bathroom to see the revealed portion of my son's head go from the size of a quarter to about the size of a silver dollar. I quickly called 911, and walked out of the room again while Robyn screamed once more. I gave the operator my address, and told her the situation, while I put her on speaker phone.
Back in the bathroom, little David was crowning. I rushed to put my hands down to his head and in another minute, Robyn was having another contraction. The 911 operator was blabbing something, but neither of us were paying much attention - I think we both felt very prepared by our Bradley classes, and I didn't feel I needed to be talked through this. As I saw little David's head emerge, he was faced down (which is normal), so I immediately checked to make sure he could breathe and wasn't choking on any fluid. There was no cord around his neck, and everything looked good. I locked eyes with Robyn and said "one more push and he's out; you're almost done!" She looked back with confusion, as if she didn't know how to push. It seems every push up to this point had been involuntary. In another 10 seconds or so, the urge to push came, and his shoulders were released. He came out like a bullet, which I fully expected. I had my hands ready to catch him, and he landed perfectly in them on his back. The way his little body and Robyn's body are formed, he corkscrewed out just the way we were taught he would! I quickly examined him to make sure he was breathing, and his airways weren't clogged, and that the cord wasn't wrapping any part of his body and was long enough to put him on his mommy. I put him up on Robyn's belly and heard the 911 operator say something about a blanket. Robyn glanced up at the towel on the rack, so I grabbed it and covered them up.
It was 3:17pm on October 24th, 2010. A family of two had become a family of three.
*After the fact, I identified this as the second emotional signpost of labor: Seriousness. I'll recognize it next time!
**As soon as she said this, I should have known she was starting the "transition" phase of labor. This is the third emotional signpost of labor: Self-Doubt, as well as generally the most painful part. I'll catch it next time! (no pun intended)
***In all of our education, we can't remember anybody mentioning that the urge to push can feel exactly like the urge to poop. This is such an important piece of information. To be honest, we may have heard it and forgotten. We will never forget, though, and never fail to tell our friends!
†If there are discrepancies between this account and Robyn's account of the same story, that is no reason to believe it didn't happen. There is overwhelming evidence in favor of the story being true.