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A Dad’s Second Birth Story

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There I was in a college classroom full of students eagerly awaiting the words of an award-winning book author and researcher. I’d wanted to hear her speak for years and was finally about to when I heard a chant from the back of the classroom breakout in a rowdy sort of way… “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” I began to turn around to see what the banging on desks and fuss was about when I heard my wife gasp loudly. I had been dreaming about the classroom but my wife’s gasp in the real world woke me up.

“I think my water just broke!” she said in a startled tone.

Still trying to shake the sleep off of my being, I responded with a start, “Okay, let me check.” Sure enough. I helped her take the blankets off and saw her sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid. “Smell it” she said. “Does is smell like pee?” I responded, “Oh the parenting life.” And complied. She had not peed. It was indeed her water that had broken.

That next moment was when Abigail began to panic. “Holy S***.” she exclaimed. She started to go into a panic mode not because her water had just broken, or that we were about to have a baby. She was panicked because we had yet to pack our hospital bags. The house wasn’t clean nor presentable. The bassinet wasn’t set up. The clothes had not been taken out of the closet and washed. And that was just the start of the last-minute to-do list. She woke me up at 4:30 am. I emailed my work “Baby on the way!” at 4:46 am.

The next two hours were a flurry of phone calls to the midwife on call, Abigail’s mother, sister, and brother. Naomi, Abigail’s sister, offered to drive the 90 minutes out to see us from Indiana in order to watch Wes for the day. David, Abigail’s brother was originally scheduled to watch Wes but he was about to start his first day of work at a brand new job. Abigail’s mom was getting ready for the day and gave Abigail instructions to call her when she needed to leave to meet us at the hospital. It was around then that I posted to Facebook:

Wes was asleep while most of this was going on. Once plans had been settled I packed Wes’ bag for a few days’ stay (just in case) and woke him up. He spent a few minutes in our bed snuggling inside the bamboo sheets and chatting with us. “The baby is in his way today.”, Abigail told him. “You’re going to see your cousins and when we pick you up you’ll meet your new little brother.” Wes was all smiles. He asked to see her belly button. He’d been convinced that that was the door the baby would be entering the world through. She gently corrected him and sent him off to breakfast with me.

Our breakfast routine was pretty close to normal. Wes had his Eggo Waffles and strawberry Greek yogurt. We talked about how much fun he’d have seeing the cousins and what they would do together. The subject of the baby came up and Wes began to sing Happy Birthday. It was then off to the bathroom for taking care of business and then getting him dressed. Potty training had been going well for the last few weeks so the tradition continued. No sooner was he dressed than Naomi arrived to pick him up. I transferred his car seat from our car to their van. Abigail explained to need for Wes’ meds to treat the small ear infection he’d been battling recently. The last thing I heard was Naomi talking to the boys as the minivan doors closed in the apartment parking lot and the laughter of Wes and his cousin over her instructions. They were going to have a good time I thought.

I ran back into the house and change the towels on the bed out again. It turns out that when water breaks it can look just like it does in the movies. Lots and lots of water everywhere. Abigail soaked through several towels that morning. It was always clear or slightly cloudy white, but never anything else. We got out the Wunderlist packing lists and I started grabbing items as Abigail talked me through the details. Some of the time I knew exactly where an item was to be found. Other items where a complete blank and required her talking me through it.

“You know, the nursing bras we just got other day.”
“Where are they? Did you out them away?”
“No, they were in a Target bag last I saw. Did you take them in from the car?”
“I think so.” Several minutes and piles of stuff sorted through later. “Are these it?”
“Yup. Pack just the black one. I don’t need that other one at the hospital.”
“Okay. Next…”

We were pretty much packed by 8, but contractions still hadn’t started yet. The midwife said to just relax and that she’d call back to check up in use later. Abigail’s mom talked with both her and me. She suggested we get some rest and expressed confidence in our ability to handle things as they came up. So we did as best we could. I know I slept much better than Abigail did. Later in the morning we took showers and kept in contact with the midwife on call. Nothing was happening still so I went to CVS to get a prescription (for myself) and a few snacks for our long night ahead.

There were not any contractions happening still once I got back so we eventually went for a walk around the block. All the while updating our online family:

Abigail and I had a nice walk. It had seriously been too long since we last had a nice walk and talk without many distractions about our life, goals and the future in general. It was chilly outside but not terrible. We exchanged a few texts with family asking for updates and the birth photographer. No contractions were happening yet but we were getting hungry. We had a simple meal once we got home and just talked while she bounced on the exercise ball.

Once I got home I packed the car with all of our things. We packed way less than we did for Wes. Abigail and I spent the next couple of hours just chatting about life some more. The TV wasn’t on all day. Normally there is a show or movie going. It was a nice change of pace. We like TV and movies at our house. I just didn’t realize how much a bit of silence would be appreciated. No TV and having sent the 3 year-old away for a bit makes for a peaceful home setting. It made doing some laundry really easy as well. The sheets, towels and mattress protector had to be washed after all. And a sink full of dishes from the day before got done. Those are a couple of the last things I’d want to come home to after a couple of days at the hospital.

We were anxious for the process to finally get started. The clock starts ticking once a woman’s water breaks. The risk of complications and infection increased the longer the stretch of time before the water breaks and labor begins. Our friends and family were also going nuts waiting for news. Texts, tweets, and Facebook notifications were blowing up our phones. Suggestions of what to do to help get labor going, some messages of support others of panic that we were at home instead of already at the hospital. It was a lot to take in but also nice to know we had a team of people cheering us on as we followed the midwife’s instructions and waited things out at home.

We headed to bed around 8:00 p.m. after doing a Facetime call with Wes. He was having a blast visiting his cousins out in Indiana. Most of the call was us watching him play with toys and telling us how he loved his cousins. I fell asleep right away and, according to Abigail, “snored like a chainsaw.” The midwife told us to check in at the hospital around 4:00 a.m. if nothing happens overnight to discuss options. We set our alarms and settled in for the night.

The next thing I remember is waking up around 1:00 a.m. to Abigail making “the noises” of labor. If you’ve ever heard a woman in labor you know what I mean. The contractions were already pretty regular and she wasn’t able to talk through them easily.

“Abigail, its time to go to the hospital.”
“But the contractions aren’t long enough yet.”
“Let’s at least get ready then, okay?”
“Okay, let me call my mom first.”
“Alright.”

I started to quickly get ready and helped Abigail as much as I could. Totally put down a trash bag and beach towel over the passenger seat. You know, just in case. I’ve watched movies. Abigail called the midwife and then her mom. Both asked her a few questions and agreed that it was time to go. On our way to the hospital I was slightly speeding, but not by much. The roads are surprisingly clear in the middle of the night. It was a bit eerie. Part of our conversation on the way there sticks out in my mind. I heard Abigail say “Pull over. It’s time.” That made me panic and of course, abruptly slow down and start pulling over on 294. What she actually said was “Don’t get pulled over for going too fast.” That was quickly cleared up and off we went.

We parked in the parking garage and walked into the hospital’s main lobby. Abigail could still move alright on her own. She didn’t want me to drop her off and then have to leave her during labor to repark the car. The lobby was so dark it was creepy. We found a security guard who pointed us to the Labor & Delivery area. Up the elevator and off to check-in. They were expecting us. We go into the room at about 2:13. I remember specifically because I took a photo after I dropped off the bags in the closet.

Shortly after we arrived they got Abigail into a gown and took her vitals. She had to stay on the hospital bed to get a baseline reading of vitals for 30 minutes. The birth photographer arrived shortly after we did. We also started getting texts back from the family who we’d texted that we were on our way to the hospital about an hour easier. Abigail’s mom arrived not too long after that.

Even at around 4:00 a.m. we had dozens of people cheering us on from cyberspace. It was a fun thought in the back of my mind as everything was happening:

Abigail got into the tub shortly after that post. The tub was the perfect size for me to sit behind her and hold her hands while she labored. The hospital and practice we’re with were participating in a water birth study that required a doctor to be on-site during the birth. Our midwife was well trained and supportive.

Slightly before transition the nurses called the on-call doctor and said it was time for him to come into the hospital. The doctor wanted the midwife to check Abigail’s dilation, but she refused. Her water had been broken slightly over 24 hours and she didn’t want the extra risk of infection. The doctor apparently really wanted to know how the midwife knew it was time. This small back and forth between the midwife (who was seated next to the tub) and the doctor via a nurse on the phone was pretty funny.

“He wants to know how you ‘know’ its time.”
“She’s making the noises.”
“He wants to know what that even means.”
“It means it’s almost time.”
“He wants to know her dilation.”
“I’m not going to do that and risk infection needlessly.”
“Umm…” Muffled loud speaking on the phone on the other side of the room.”
“I’ll tell him myself if he doesn’t believe you.”
“Can you just talk to him?”

That’s when she got up for a minute and took the phone outside of the delivery room. She came back a couple of minutes later and Abigail was hitting transition. The smiles and small talk started to fade into pained moans of labor. Her contractions were super regular, short, and intense. They never seemed to get to the full minute the contractions did during her first labor.

I held Abigail’s hands and felt a strong squeeze each time she pushed. We were all taking turns talking her through the transitions. We were helping her stay focused to a point. Then when it became too much she loudly went “Shhhhh” and everyone quieted down. Once it was time to push Abigail was starting to panic a bit. She even tried to cross her legs in an effort to… stop labor?

“It hurts so much.”
“I can’t do this.”
“I don’t want to do this anymore!”

The intensity of pushing (and squeezing of my hands) grew as the baby began his entrance into the world. Abigail’s mom was videotaping the moment for us while the photographer was doing her job superbly and in the background. I knew when it was time for the last push when Abigail smashed my hands three times more intensely than before. I’m sure I made an uncomfortable face, but at the same moment thought the focus should stay on her so I can’t make a distracting noise.

Baby Theodore was born at 5:15 that morning. I didn’t expect to cry, but I did. Tears of joy. I was in the moment supporting Abigail for hours beforehand so my emotions were in check. I was excited all day and night leading up to this moment. It wasn’t until I saw him for the first time that my emotions came out. Boom. Waterworks.

I was able to cut the umbilical cord while Abigail held him.

I was out of the tub first. I had not noticed the room being cold until getting out of that warm water all wet and in just my swim trunks. It was then that I was able to hold Theodore for the first time. We bonded for a couple of minutes while Abigail was transferred to her hospital bed and taken care of a bit. Once she was settled and they were stitching her up I handed the baby back over to her.

I love my wife. I love my kids. This experience was amazing and basically perfect. Welcome to the family, Theodore!

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1 COMMENT

  1. […] My second child arrived in 2017. The same thing happened. I had to take personal time to spend with my growing family and was given crap for doing it. Then the benefit of discounted childcare was taken away. The official company line was that there wasn’t a budget for it, but the wasteful spending by leadership kept happening. […]

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