So Dani wakes me up around 3am and tells me I need to start setting up the birthing tub. Nothing she says makes any sense. I’m still thinking about the new AMC show I’ve been binge-watching called The Terror, based on the historic voyage of two British ships in 1845. “What?” I ask, groggy. “I think you need to get the birthing tub ready,” she says. “Are you in labor?” It’s the only question I can think to ask. An avalanche of words falls out of her mouth: “I got up to pee and was having some cramps so I tried distracting myself with some television but the cramping got worse so I started timing it and I think they’re contractions so I called our midwife but I can’t bring in the birthing tub so I need you to get up and come help me.” I understand very little of what she says, but slowly my brain comes to the startling and awful realization that I’m not going to get any more sleep.
“Are you sure?” I ask in secret desperate hope that maybe this is one of those pregnant lady false alarm thingies. “Pretty sure.” I sighed. Pretty sure isn’t sure. As I think about filling up a birthing tub with 150 gallons of hot water, my mind darts to our checking account. If this is false labor, this month’s electric bill is going to be awesome!
Wrestling around with a large birthing tub isn’t the kind of thing anyone should be doing at 3am. I pretend I’m one of those poor stranded seamen on The Terror, dragging lifeboats across unforgiving tundra. Back in the kitchen, I see my wife walking around rubbing her belly. She stops to lean against the kitchen table and do some deep breathing stuff. She looks like she’s in pain, but it passes after about 10 seconds, so I figure she’s fine. Maybe this will all go away and I can crawl back into bed and return to dreamland. The next thing my wife says shatters any and all hope I have of going back to bed: “The midwife is almost here.” I should probably mention that we’re doing a home birth. This is because we’re evil people who don’t care whether our baby lives. Just kidding, we care, just not enough to go to the hospital and give birth like normal people do with doctors and medicine and sterile environments and such.
I set the lifeboat in the kitchen and start filling it up with hot water. After 20 minutes the tub is barely half full and the hot water heater is empty. I start heating up pots of water on the stove. I bet those guys on The Terror wish they could’ve heated up water on a stove. The midwife arrives with more work for me. She’s got about six thousand bags and small suitcases filled with enough medical supplies to help a third world country. As I drag it all into the house, the midwife checks Dani. She’s only 4 centimeters dilated. I have no idea what that means other than she still has a long way to go. I know this because my wife whimpers and says, “That’s all?” At this point, I figure, the baby is coming whether we like it or not. We’ve passed the point of no return. Time to bunker down and brace for the long haul.
I decide to make a sandwich. I think about offering to make one for my wife, but when I look at her she’s hunched over the birthing tub doing another deep breathing thing, except she’s kind of crying. Oh, and we’re low on mayonnaise.
Dani crawls into the birthing tub. Her contractions are coming closer together. I think she’s a little nuts to not want a hospital birth with an epidural, but, as I’ve learned, when she sets her mind on something there’s little anyone can do to change it. I kneel behind her outside the birthing tub and rub her shoulders. I don’t know why. There’s literally nothing I can do to help except pray that everything goes smoothly. Couldn’t I just go back to bed and come out when they need me to lift something heavy?
Around 6am, the sun starts to rise, and then things get really dramatic, like the third act of a Jason Bourne movie. There’s a lot of grunting and pain and moving around while my wife tries to push the baby out. The water in the birthing tub fills with gloopy stuff as the baby pokes his head into the world. Then the midwife says, “Get out of the tub! Get out now!” “Finally,” I think, “something to do!” I hook my arms under my wife’s armpits and lift her up like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. I’m Liam Neeson and Action Jackson all in the same moment. I set my wife on the floor. Mission accomplished! I think about celebrating with another sandwich, but… dang it, no mayo.
“Push!” Says the midwife. “Push, push, push!” Dani gives it her all. She even screams at the end like Wonder Woman. My Wonder Woman! The baby slides out, a slimy, disgusting mess of blood and fluids and floppy little limbs. A mutant lizard baby. Dani hugs him to her chest and lies back, her voice trembling as she mutters, “Hey, Theodore! I’m your mommy.” I can barely process what I’m feeling at this moment. I’m still stuck on how much I miss my bed, and how horrific that demon polar bear is on The Terror. As I look down at our mutant lizard son, all yucky and gross, tears fill my eyes. I’ve known this was coming for quite some time, but nothing can really prepare you for that moment when your whole world totally changes.
Theodore Isaac Grant. Eight pounds, 21 inches, blue eyes, black hair, and perfect, if not kind of smelly. I cut the umbilical cord, happy to have something else to do, and then Dani pushes out the placenta, which looks like the mutilated remains of many horror movie victims. Later, the midwife shows me the ooze-covered placenta, holding it open over my kitchen sink describing its function. Oy. I don’t care so much that I can’t even form the words to explain how much I don’t care. I just hope she’ll disinfect the sink when she’s done doing whatever she’s doing because I’m going to make breakfast there soon. I take the baby while the midwife sees to Dani. He’s here, guys. My second son. My little buddy. I’m thrilled and pallid and half wishing this is all just some kind of nightmare. But no such luck. This is all real. This is all real. He’s here to stay and now it’s time to go make that sandwich.
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Image Credit: Jacob Grant