Erin started having contractions the night before, but I didn’t know anything about it until 6:45 AM or so. The contractions weren’t following a pattern, so we weren’t sure if she was going into labor, but Erin knew that the contractions hurt, unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions she had been having for several weeks.
I really wish John Braxton Hicks would have given the phenomenon an official name so that we didn’t have to say “Braxton Hicks contractions” to describe such a commonly occurring and repetitively referenced event.
We timed the contractions for an hour while watching Top Gear, then called the hospital. The nurse on duty said Erin should come in to make sure she wasn’t going into labor. While Erin drove down to St Vincent’s, I took the dogs to my parents and headed to work.
About 9:50, Erin called to tell me they were taking her to a birthing suite and I rushed up the street to meet her. The birthing suites at St Vincent’s are phenomenal. They are a hybrid of a delivery room and a hotel. All the equipment is cleverly hidden in furniture or behind paintings. The floors are attractive hardwood, and the delivery bed even has a wooden headboard.
By 10:30, they had broken her water and started an IV to help the contractions along. Shortly after that, she had an epidural.
At that point, Mia’s head hadn’t dropped below some part of Erin’s pelvic bone, so there was worry that she would have to have a c section.
Around 11:15, Erin’s mom (now known as Nonni) and grandmother arrived. My parents (now known as Gramby and Grumps) arrived by noon, followed by Erin’s dad (now known as Papa). Erin couldn’t eat due to the chance of a c section, so I went with Gramby and Grumps to grab some lunch.
After we got back, Erin found that her left side wasn’t as numb as her right side, causing some contractions to hurt enough to draw tears. That was quickly addressed by additional meds in the epidural and adjusting her laying position. The nurse was in and out every half hour or so to check Mia’s position. She was gradually getting in the right place for a natural birth.
Around 3:15, the nurse did a check and decided Mia was ready. She brought in various tables of clamps and cloths, pulled up some paintings to reveal other aparati, and converted the bed into a delivery table.
The whole pushing thing is essentially piggybacking additional power on contractions of the uturus. The contractions last about 30 seconds and are about a minute apart, if my internal clock was set right. The mom pulls her legs up to her chest (with help from the nurse and the dad in this case), holds her breath, and pushes. She does this three times for every contraction.
At St Vincent’s, they didn’t call the doctor in until the baby had crowned to a certain point. It took four contractions before the doctor was called. Before he got there, we waited through one. After he got in, two or three contractions was all that Erin needed to get Mia out.
I told you we were very lucky.
It was unbelievable to see the top of my baby’s head. She was just inches away, but I had no idea what to expect between that point and her being an autonomous child.
There is a secret women know that men don’t. At least, that is, until it’s usually too late. It’s called an episiotomy. We were very fortunate that Erin didn’t have to have one.
Mia came out with her umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck. The doctor didn’t seem at all concerned. He said some reassuring words, clamped the cord, snipped it and unwound it. Mia’s face was purple, but I have no idea if that was normal or due to the wrapped cord. It didn’t seem to make a difference, though, as she was crying a few moments later and was a normal baby color within a few minutes.
Don’t be worried when the baby comes out and isn’t moving. The doctor pulled her out by her head, and she seemed limp, lifeless. She didn’t move at all. The doctor jostled her a little and she sprang to life. It was a very weird experience to go from near horrified to completely elated, your future hanging in the balance, in what was probably less than 15 seconds.
They wrapped Mia in blankets and let Erin hold her for a moment. The doctor started doing the cleanup. I took a few photos, then the nurses took Mia to clean her up and take measurements (6lbs 4oz, 20 inch long). All the while, I was being ordered to follow Mia and take photos. My brain was lost between wanting to comfort Erin, wanting to stay out of the way, and wanting to see my daughter. I just couldn’t think of what to do fast enough to execute before somebody told me what to do.
Then they finally told me I could touch her. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could. So I did and this beautiful little creature, eyes barely opened, grabbed onto my finger and quit crying for a short while. That’s when I felt like a daddy for the first time.
So, here I lay on a very interesting couch with a drawer that slides out from the arm rest to convert into a bed writing a 1,000ish words on my iPhone recounting a day I may never forget the details of. But here they are, just in case. I think of the countless other fathers that spent nights on this same couch, and then of the ranks of countless dads I’m joining. It’s not an exclusive club, but it’s one I’m proud to be a part of.
Happy birthday, Mia, my beautiful baby.