"I didn't put my dirty socks in the laundry basket?" "I left the living room light on?" "I left a half empty beer on the end table?" These were the questions that immediately rushed in my thoughts at 1:00 am on 3.20.11.
I was fast asleep and awoken by my wife, Michelle, who being 9+ months pregnant had already started an even more rigid regiment of order. She had been getting ready for this baby for what seemed like the past 3 years, but the ship was ran especially tight for the 3 months prior to this night. Hence, the trepidation at the sound of this, the world's most beautiful alarm clock.
I opened my eyes to see her standing over me, her face eclipsed the overhead light. We rarely use overhead lights, we are lamp folks, so I knew it was not my pre-conceived paranoia - it was time.
"Baby, its time", she said calmly. She had it together. She was poised and collected, and her stoicism was impressive and helped me remain calm. (I tend to get excited and I've been told I 'overreact'. Whatever, I call it 'passion'.) We called our Midwife, grabbed our bags and headed for Athens Regional. I dropped her off at the ER entrance (its the only entrance open at that hour) and went to park. Not having my wife's calmness as chaparone, my 'passion' got the best of me and I skipped/ran/hopped/strutted/danced my way to meet her at registration...or did I walk with her this time and dance my way to the doors on our second trip? Who knows, by now its all a blur. Once we got checked in we made our request for Delivery Room #3 and made our way upstairs. Delivery Room #3 is a huge room with its own tub. Michelle was determined to go the natural route and insisted on having this room for the delivery of our child - she wanted access to the tub. It is a first come first serve kind of deal so we felt fortunate when our request was granted. We put our bags down and waited for the Midwife to see about our progress.
* * *
There's a phrase used in the world of collegiate extra curricular activities known as "walk of shame". If you've ever been on your way to brunch on a Saturday or Sunday morning and seen a young lady walking home in the same clothes as she wore out the night before, chances are there will be snickers and comments coming from the passer-byers who think they are witnessing a "walk of shame". This assumes the young lady has been on the receiving (or giving) end of some lad's 'victorious' carnal conquest. Why it has to be shameful - I don't know. Why it doesn't work if a young man is taking the walk - I don't know. Society can be twisted like that. Anyway, I explain this to you because we had, what Michelle likes to describe as, our own walk of shame around 2:00 am.
* * *
When the Midwife came to check on our progress she sighed and told us we were only 1 cm. Michelle and I looked at each other and kind of smiled, both thinking "damn, we're rookies". The Midwife told us it could be hours or days and that we needed to go on home and wait it out. After she left the room we waited a few minutes to prepare ourselves for the "walk of shame" past the nurses station. We had heard stories of "people like us" from the midwifes and we needed a little time to muster up the courage to take the walk back to our car. The reality of it was we were glad to get home. We wanted to labor within the comforts of our home and we weren't complaining, just a little embarrassed at jumping the gun.
We woke up at 5:00 am and now we felt like Michelle was really starting to labor. She was an absolute champion. She incorporated what she had learned in yoga classes to help her breathing as contractions set in. From 5:00 to about 4:00 pm I helped her with what she needed. She sat and rolled on the big rubber ball, she took hot showers, and we scooped some ice cream cones and took walks around the neighborhood. I did learn to not talk to her during the actual contractions. I thought I would 'coach' her through contractions. Wrong. I know now to talk to her only during down time. At one point during a major contraction I was trying to give her some 'inspiration' and I got a "I told you we should have hired a doula!". Point taken. While I was silently supporting her during contractions I called my baby sister in Atlanta, Michelle's father in Griffin, and my mother in Albany. They all were on their way.
My mother, who is a labor and delivery nurse in Albany arrived around 4 o'clock and started in on the questions of how far along we are. Michelle trusted my Mother and wanted her to check her dilation. She came out and said 6 cm and we were on our way. Luckily, delivery room #3 was open. Michelle immediately got into the bath tub.
I love my wife. I am proud of my wife. I am impressed daily by my wife. But this is where all three of these emotions kicked into a gear that is not easily measured. Her labor was so...well....easy. She labored for 14 hours at home, all while showering and eating ice cream and playing with the dogs. When we arrived at the hospital she was 7 cm and an hour later she was 10 cm and being told it was time to deliver this baby. What?! Are you serious?! Wasn't this suppose to be hard and painful and wasn't she suppose to be yelling at me and telling me I'm the one who got her into this in the first place?! Then came the hard part...pushing.
Michelle is an exceptional writer, gardener, cook, do-gooder, computer enthusiast, nurturer, friend, wife, mother, and a million other good, positive things. She rivals the sun for all things bright and warm. However, get her on the court, track, course, field, diamond or gridiron and she'd rather bring water and food to the ones in need. Her competitiveness is hard to find, her athleticism is better found within a game of wits. What I'm saying is she's no Jim Thorpe. When she loses and says "good game", she means it. How in the hell was she going to push this child out without meds. I was concerned. She ended up pushing for two and a half hours. The ease she had in labor was made up for in the difficulty she had in pushing. But not for the reason you may suspect. By her own admission, she simply didn't know how. She would try different positions and none seemed to work. On the floor, on the bed, sitting down, standing up. Nothing. I was concerned.
I nervously agreed months before that I would attempt to catch our child. I am notoriously weak when it comes to blood, surgeries, and stuff like that. I mean I get nauseous watching Doogie Houser M.D. ER or Grey's Anatomy, yeah right. Learning Channel, forget about it. But this was a poignant moment and I needed to overcome some things, the least of which was my weakness for blood and surgeries. I stood, sat, squatted by her at all times, boosting her up and coaching her on. She asked for ice - she got ice, mouthfuls at a time and nine times out of ten she would literally spit the ice out right back in my face. I had to hide my laughs when she did this. I didn't want to disrupt her intense concentration. It was the most intense situation I had ever been in. Also the most beautiful.
The pushing reached a point where I could barely see our child's head. I remember wondering to myself, "I wonder if that's the head of a boy or of a girl". We had chosen to keep it a surprise, always referring to him or her as Baby B or Wee B. The Midwife on call was tending to numerous deliveries and this broke Michelle's concentration several times. Nobody's fault, but Michelle needed full-on focus. She made the Midwife promise not to leave and summoned my Mother in for reinforcement. The General was gathering the troops. This child was coming soon. As soon as my Mom came in Michelle was yelling, "GIVE ME THE DRUGS!!!" to which my Mom replied, "Honey, drugs are for labor and you're well past that. Let's have this baby." My Mother kept her hand on Michelle's abdomen and when she felt it tighten she would coach Michelle to push until she felt it loosen. Progress was being made. That's when the Midwife pulled out a mirror so Michelle could see the progress she was making. From that point on Michelle was a pro at pushing this baby.
* * *
We had had a Midwife appointment earlier in the week and I left that appointment devastated. We had decided early on that we did not want to know the sex of our child. At that appointment a Midwife we had not yet met kept referring to our child as 'he'. Then she kept asking, "how tall are you?" and "how much did you weigh at birth?" I was furious. "He's going to be a tall boy". I will kill you here in the office. I was livid. We left the appointment and Michelle asked, "OK, WHAT is wrong with you?"
"I can't believe that woman just spoiled it for us!"
"She doesn't know, she was just guessing!"
"Bullshit. She ruined it. She just ruined it. I swear to God, if its a boy, I'm going to.."
"You're going to do WHAT?! Love him?!"
"Oh yeah. Wow, I'm a jerk."
"No, just an over-reactor."
"No, just passionate."
"Whatever" was right. I really could not have cared less about the sex of the child. I loved him or her already.
* * *
By now our child's head had crested. I remembering thinking to myself but not sharing to the others, "There's something not right. Our child's head is tiny. Why is our child's head so tiny." I know, I know: rookie. Do you remember those small encapsulated foam animals from your childhood? You know the ones you drop in water and they expand to be some large animal, all in an instant. That's the best way I can describe what happened next. Before I knew it the nurse handed me gloves and the midwife said, "Alright Dad, come on down. Its time." I remember putting my hands in right behind the ears of our child and then the "capsule was dropped in the water". The head went from a small plum size cranium to a large 8 lb 1 oz. person. It was the most emotional, intense moment in my life. It was a whirlwind of beauty. I turned the body around to reveal the sex - still fully believing that we had a boy - and that's when I first met my beautiful, perfect daughter Singer Huntington Brinson.
Everything from here was a blur. I handed Michelle little Singer and we doted on her while the rest of the delivery continued. Yes, I learned there's more to a delivery than baby. I remember taking what seemed like my first breath since the whole process began. When I did, I thought of Michelle's mother Susan. Susan lost her battle with cancer this past October, but I vividly remember thinking she was more in the room now in spirit, then she could have been in person. I think it was the focus and determination I saw in Michelle that made me convinced that Susan was there, carrying what load she could for the daughter she loved and the granddaughter she will shower with love from a better place.
I remember seeing my Mom step back into the shadows of the room, crying tears of joy, letting us have our moment. She's like that. This moment struck me and still does. She could have been all up in the mix but instead she retreated to the darkness of the room tossing me tear soaked winks and hugging us from across the room with her smiles. She's a special woman. Selfless.
First, I called my siblings who live across the country and couldn't make it. I figured I owed them that gesture. We're a tight knit bunch, and I really wish my older sister and my kid brother ("the California Kids") could have been there. Then I nervously made my way out to the waiting room to make the announcement to Michelle's father, my father and my baby sister & her family. "It's a GIRL!!!"
This is the story of my proudest moment. My wife had requested I write the birth story - from my perspective - for her, on this, her first Mother's Day. My words are unjust when describing how strong Michelle was - she was an unadulterated Rock Star. We feel very blessed that our birth plan went as planned. We realize they rarely do. But most of all, I can't wait to tell Singer how wonderful her mother is and how much her mother loves her and has loved her since that stormy day in early July 2010 when Baby B first made us aware that she was on her way.
Happy Mother's Day my lovely Bride. WE love you bunches!
To read Michelle's perspective on Singer's birth story click here.