Natural Birth: Papa’s Version (Mama’s tomorrow!)

by Svea Boyda-Vikander on August 6, 2013

This birth story comes from two angles. Today, we share papa’s version of the events. Check back tomorrow to read it from mama’s perspective – and find out just what she was doing with the midwife while her hubby cleaned the car.

“Janna came out of the bedroom at 9am.  Saying she thought that her water broke but wasn’t sure.  She also thought she was having contractions but wasn’t sure.  They were 30 minutes apart, maybe.  So I fed the cats and we set off for a mile long walk.  Not like the movies, is it?  We’re halfway down the street and she tells me, “Oh that was definitely the water breaking, there.”  “OK, honey, maybe we’d better limit this one to a half mile”, I said.

I don’t even remember what we had for breakfast.  Her contractions were still kind of crazy.  Was that one?  Are they four minutes apart? Are they 40 minutes apart?  Was that one 15 seconds long or five minutes long?   Bah, let’s just call Bernadette, the midwife.  This was Saturday, and Bernadette was working on some stuff in the office so she told us to come on in.  Just in case, I loaded up the candles, music, towels, change of clothes and all that stuff.  Plus we had a bunch of snacks and food.  It looked like we were going on a romantic picnic.

Bernadette examined Janna, and she was four centimeters dilated and still contracting sporadically.  Bernadette looks up at me and says, “Looks like we are going to have a baby, today!  Maybe around 10 pm.  You guys go home, get some lunch and a nap and call me when the contractions are five minutes apart.”  Then she gave Janna a special labor tea with X,Y and Z in it.  It’s about 1:30 or so by this point.

We get back in the car to head home and BANG!
OK, THAT was a contraction.
Janna bends over and groans.
Ok, we’ll time this one.
BANG! Another contraction.
What was that, like three minutes?  What the heck happened?  Should I turn around?  Bernadette said we were still hours away.  OK.  Janna will be fine.
BANG!
Six minutes?  I don’t know.  I can’t drive and time the contractions.
Now the engineer kicks in.
Do you measure from peak to peak or from trough to peak?
BANG!  “Ok..sweetie, we’ll be home in 10 minutes, that’s two contractions from now.”

Why was I thinking that they’d get better?
When we got home, she went off to do something and I heated up the only thing we had readily available that sounded even remotely appetizing to a contracting pregnant woman:  garlic mashed potatoes and meatloaf. I would regret that.

She had three more contractions in 10 minutes while eating, so I called Bernadette and told her we were coming back.

Now we’re back in the car and I’m driving back north to the birth center.  On Highway 3 she says she might be sick.  I should know her well enough by now to know that ‘might be sick’ means ‘I’m going to hurl right now’.  I roll down the window but don’t slow down.  Torn between a high speed vomit and getting to the birthing center.  Sitting in the car is making contractions very painful for her. I just want to get the drive over with.

Oh, there she goes.  I can see it streaming back past the back window at 50 mph.  I pull off onto the shoulder and slow down, but another contraction brings her head back in the window. I cut across two lanes of traffic and get in the left turn lane next to a family in their shiny family car.  First the kid looks over, eyes go wide, and he points at the car.  The mom looks over and then snaps her head back around to the boy and slaps his hand down.  She doesn’t turn fast enough to prevent me from seeing her horrified look.  It wasn’t until much later that I saw what she saw.

Time is now measured in contractions.  I figure we have about five contractions to go until we make it there.  Not stressed out that we’re going to have a baby or anything.

We pull into the parking lot and I hop out to help her out.  I walk around the back of the car, and…oh God…put down what you are eating…the whole passenger side of the Murano has a translucent sheen speckled with chunks.  None of the paint is showing aft of the firewall, and it’s all down in the window channel too…I guess I’ll be washing the car as my first dad chore…Nothing I can do but laugh at that poor lady in the car next to us at the stoplight and help my wife inside.

It takes several trips to get everything in.  Zune player, speakers, wires, candles, more candles, lighter, cooler with food, bag with snacks, water bottles, Pedialyte pops, camera, charger, video camera, tripod, small tripod, change of clothes, bathing suits, change of shoes.

I got everything set up in the room, and I have no idea what Janna was doing.  She was off with the midwife.  I put candles around the room, thought about it some and then moved the candle that was next to the oxygen tank, set up the player and speaker, lit the candles, put the video camera up in the corner where it would catch most of everything and hit record.

The hot tub is already ready and the room is clean.  The birth center has these rooms setup like your bedroom, if your bedroom had fluorescent tube lighting and a hot tub in it.  But the paint is nice and the bed is a real bed with real sheets and a real comforter.  We turn out the lights and Janna gets in the tub to the flickering candle light.  Very, very nice.

She sits in the tub and kind of rests in the center of it.  Definitely a resting pose, not a relaxing pose.  It looks like she has just finished running an 800m dash.  When a contraction hits she leans forward on her knees and rests her head on the side of the tub.  SO much better than in the car.  She’s kind of moaning softly through the contraction and then when it is over, rocking back on her knees and sitting up to rest again.  I don’t mean to be weird, but the contractions were much more sexual than crazy TV pain like.  If I had to describe it, it was more intense than painful… looking.

While things are still quiet, I go out to wipe down the car.  Do a two minute car wash with a rag and a bucket and get most of the chunks off.  I use an Oxy Clean type of thing and douse the interior so that we won’t have to get into a RANK car with the new baby later.   I am only mostly successful.  Welcome to parenthood!

Once back inside I alternate between taking artfully composed and flattering pictures, running to get cold bottled water from the kitchen, and feeding Janna Pedialyte pops.  I am constantly moving.  Then when she hits a contraction I jump over to her and put pressure on her lower back.  LOTS of pressure.  Like I was trying to push the baby out myself.  After about an hour Janna has had enough of the photos.  My  full time job now is taking care of Janna.

Put pressure on her back. Get fresh cold rag for her forehead.  Get Pedialyte pop.  Swap barf tubs and rinse out vomit.  She throws up about every fifth or 10th contraction.  She’s moaning, and looks like she is working, but she looks in control.  She looks beautiful.  She looks like she is working hard, but on a mission.  I am also on a mission.  Anything I can do to take care of her I do.

At some point her whole family comes in, but Janna wanted this to be private.   I shoo them away.  It’s me, her, the midwife and the midwife’s assistant.  Family waits in the waiting room with the TV and couches.  Janna never even notices.  Sometimes I catch Claire or Donna sneakily peaking around the corner.  I wave and smile and they smile and disappear back around the corner.

Beforehand, so many things seemed important.  The right music, candles, having family there, pictures.  Now when everything is happening, none of that matters.  It is just me and her and the quiet.

Things progress this way for a few hours.  Nothing like a hospital birth on TV.  No machines that went ‘bleep’, no bright lights, no screaming, and no urgently protesting nurses.  Bernadette needs Janna on her back to do the first examination.  We help Janna up onto the bed and give her some pillows to lay on.  The baby’s heart rate is good, momma is good, and then a contraction hits like a truck.  She’s begging to get back in the water.  We turn her on her side so I can push on her lower back.  I’m lying on the bed beside her pushing with all my might.  She’s trying to hold her knee to her ear.  That helps a little.  I remember clearly feeling very sorry for women strapped on their backs at the hospital.

Janna hops back in the tub for another hour or so.  I really have no concept of time.  It’s like going on a ten hour run without a watch or any mile markers.  You just never know where you are or how long things are taking.  You never know how close you are to the finish line.  And that’s just me.  I can’t imagine what Janna is thinking.  A few times she’s asked the midwife if it will get worse and the midwife said no.  I can hear just the hint of anxiety in her voice, but when a contraction hits she refocuses and recovers. You get the sense that she is struggling but going to make it.  I am very proud.

labor support

more labor support in tub

Things basically continue until the next examination.  She is back up on the bed on her side.  I am doing my best to push against her contractions.  I am shaking and sweating I am pushing so hard.  I am also trying to hold up her leg.  I am exhausted.  You know what though?  I wouldn’t DARE take a break.  There is no way I am going to leave her here.  They will carry me out before I give up.  What kind of a sissy am I?  Push harder you sissy man!

This time there is a problem.  She has an ‘anterior lip’.  Part of the cervix is hanging up on Ethan’s head.  I look at Bernadette, and she is intent on Janna’s cervix.  Definite concern on Bernadette’s face.  I watch with increasing anxiety as Bernadette tries and tries to push the cervix passed Ethan’s head.  She is clearly having trouble.  This lasts through a couple of contractions.  When a contraction comes the lip starts to come off and then when the contraction ends it snaps back.  I’m starting to panic on the inside, knowing full well that it is my duty to remain perfectly calm and help Janna.  I try very hard to not give any hint that I am scared for the first time.  Then, a contraction hits and Janna moves her leg and pop, there it goes.  Everything is suddenly OK, just like that.

It’s time to move to the birthing stool, and time to start pushing.  This was one of the things that I really didn’t understand about child birth.  The contractions aren’t pushing.  Pushing doesn’t happen until the end. The birthing stool is about a foot high, has handles, and is kind of like a wooden toilet with no front.  Bernadette is lying on the ground in front of Janna and I am behind her.  I rub her neck when she’s not pushing and just hold on to her when she is.  That’s all she wants now… For me to stand behind her and hold her.

There is a mirror on the ground in front of her and I can see the head.  It comes down and then sucks back up.  Comes down and sucks up.  Every time it makes just the smallest progress.  This is really hard on Janna.  Still no screaming.  No weird breathing.  Just a grunt, and her whole body tenses.  She catches her breath and then pushes again.  Rests for a minute.  Two minutes?  I don’t know.  Then push.  This goes on for maybe an hour.

Bernadette lubes Janna up really well, but Janna can feel burning, tearing.  Bernadette tells her that she is doing everything she can to prevent a tear.  She really helped Janna get over her fear at that moment.

Then, Bernadette starts getting excited.  There is a huge mop of dark brown hair.  He is here.  He is here.  Just a couple more pushes.  Another push and I hear him slide out.  I look over Janna’s shoulder and I can hear liquid gushing, and feel it splashing against my bare feet.  Suddenly there is a baby in Bernadette’s hands and then it is in Janna’s.  I am surprised.  Surprised?  Why?

I knew that a baby was coming out, and I saw his head, but then all of a sudden there is this baby. Then all of a sudden, in my mind it is MY baby.  Holy shit, he is mine and he’s going to grow up someday to be like me.  This little thing is going to be my baby and then my boy and then my son.  I’m a daddy.

newborn in towel

Why did I feel so surprised?  Was it because we spent so many hours laboring and all of a sudden, bang, it’s done?  I don’t know.  Did I expect a kitty?  That’s what Janna kept dreaming about.  I don’t know.

I cry.  His mouth and nose are siphoned and Janna is holding him, and he looks perfect.  He cries.  It’s not so loud, but it is powerful.  It is strong.  Not annoying like you’d expect a loud crying baby to be.  It is wonderful.  It is life.  Everything is great.  You could slap me and I wouldn’t notice.

I don’t know what I thought about.  I don’t know what I felt.  I was totally lost in the moment.  I was holding momma who was holding baby.  That’s all I was doing.

I am snapped out of it by Bernadette telling Janna to push again.  There is a lot of blood.  I can feel it pooling at my feet.  Then there is a splash and a plop and the placenta is delivered.  It sounds gross, but it’s not.  Nothing could be gross at this moment.

Ethan passed a stool on his way out and the placenta comes out upside down.  Instead of just popping off the uterine wall, it slowly peeled off.  This causes intense bleeding and it shows. There is a huge mess and it all has to be cleaned up, and Janna has to be cleaned up.  We clean up Ethan a little, too.  He is a bit cone-headed, and has two big bumps on his head.  But so alert!  So alive!  With such great color!   Nothing like the health class videos I saw.

This is when we find out she also has a second degree tear.  Janna never notices with everything else going on down there.  She’s holding Ethan on the bed, on her breasts, while Bernadette shoots a local in her and sews her up.   I can’t resist and watch a few stitches.  She is so swollen and bleeding.  Poor girl.  But she is completely lost in Ethan.  Ethan is holding her and that’s the only thing in the world that matters.

We hold him for a while, and nurse him a bit.  When he is comfortable we take him and weigh him and measure him.  Eight pounds, 4oz and 21 inches; born at about 7:30 pm after five hours of really hard labor, including an hour or so of pushing.  It is so hard to measure time.

The family comes in, and there are photos taken of us lying in bed.  At some point, I get up and cut the cord.  What a strange thing.  I’m sorry for this description but it is much like squid sushi, or perhaps week old bubble gum in texture.  It is very difficult to cut.

cutting the cord

Janna needs help getting back and forth from the bathroom.  She is dizzy and exhausted.  She has lost a lot of blood, hasn’t eaten and thrown up everything she had to drink.  I hear giving birth is hard too.  She passes out on the toilet a couple of times, and we wake her with smelling salts, which she did not appreciate.  Once, helping her back, even I start to black out.  I have to dash for the bed and lie down for a second.   When was the last time I ate, anyway?

At around 10pm we are ready to go home, but Janna looks really pale.  We decide to put her on a couple of liters of IV fluid and spend the night.  Every couple of hours Ethan wakes to feed, but by morning all of us are feeling better.  I get dressed, go outside and hop in the c—Oh god what’s that smell?  Oh yeah, vomit in the window channels.  I pour another couple of cups of cleaning fluid down the window channels and clean up some spots I missed.

Then we load Ethan into his car seat for the very first time.  It seems special.  He is so tiny.  It’s cold so we have him bundled and I had the car’s heater on waiting for him.  We go home and enjoy the cold sunshine.  We are all doing great.  Janna is very tired, and much smaller than I am used to, but she is walking around and in pretty good shape.  Sit ups are out of the question and she has a large squishy area on her belly that used to be large and tight.  You can really feel where the baby was.  I am fascinated.

We even go out to get Thai food a couple of days later.  When people ask how old he is, we answer in days and they are amazed.

Looking back I still get a smile for the whole thing.”

Papa holding son

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