Thursday, July 26, 2007

How It Went Down (A Father's Perspective)

The parents of a very pregnant woman who lived with me last year had come to visit so as to be on hand for the birth of their third grandchild (sorry I keep pausing, although you can't tell, but I'm eating some fried chicken while I'm writing this and it's hard to get the best fried gristle bits out of the ribcage without using both hands and then wiping down so's not to spoil the pretty Mac keyboard, anyhoo). That was a Thursday evening, I guess, and Friday morning my mother-in-law woke up with a numb leg. We took her over to the hospital down the street (the hospital where my wife was born, incidentally, but which no longer has a birthing center) and they looked her over for a day or two, ruling some things out, but leaving plenty of options on the table.

So it was Wednesday the following week, a year ago today as it happens, and the plan today was to get Mom down to Columbia Presbyterian in New York City, or maybe she was already there? I don't remember, but anyway, my wife was planning to go down there and visit her, with the boy and the belly. We had a backup plan for watching the boy when we had to go to the hospital, which was my sister would come up from the city when we called.

In any case, it was Wednesday and I was down at work, and my wife had gone and bought a cell phone for herself, and she and the boy and the belly were about to mosey on down to the city, and if I don't get some dialogue in here this post is going to fall asleep. So she called me at some point.

"I feel weird," she said.

"Having-a-baby weird or uncomfortable-in-these-clothes weird?"

"Eventually having-a-baby weird, but not yet. More like, some contractions, but pretty much like Braxton-Hicks ones, but something's definitely in the works. I mean, I lost my mucous plug. But it's definitely not soon."


"Maybe, but not anytime soon. I guess it can't hurt for me to go down to the hospital to visit, right? I mean, at least I'll be at a hospital," she said.

And down they went, and around 1:00 she called and said something like "Hmm. Maybe it would be easier if instead of taking the train home, you just caught a cab up here and drove us home."

"Are you having a baby? Should we stay at Columbia?"

"Oh, heavens no," she said. "Let's just go home. After all, Our Friend Who Is A Nurse is bringing over that really good pasta and chicken dish."

"True dat," I replied, or words to that effect. I called my sister at her office.

"How'd you like to come to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital?"

"Uhhh, sure, I guess. Any particular reason?"

"I think it's today, and That Pregnant Woman Who Lives With Me is there and I figure I'll drive her and the boy home. But don't worry, a nurse is bringing us dinner at home tonight."

"Uhh. Okay."

Two cabs later we were having a nice chat with my Mother in Law (ideopathic transverse myelitis! go figure) and wrapping up the visit and heading home. It was all very relaxing and nice. We got home. Our Friend Who Is A Nurse came over a little while later. She and my sister busied themselves making the chicken and pasta. We made sure we had a bag packed. We hung around.

"How's it going?"

"Oh, you know, little contraction every once in a while," she said.

"Sure," I said. I'm smooth like that. "Little contraction. Roger."

So we sit down to this meal and let me tell you, Our Friend Who Is A Nurse is not just a nurse, she can cook like the dickens (she's also a star athelete and a potter and a baker extraordinaire and you don't want to get into a garden contest with her and she's on the library board a couple of towns over from here and I don't know how she does it but anyway) so we tucked in to that chicken and pasta.

That increasingly pregnant but-about-not-to-be woman came in from the salon with a fluffy bathtowel and sat on it and served herself seconds and said something like "we got water," and then something like "this pasta and chicken is delicious."

At this point, we all stared at her. "Just what the hell is going on here?" I asked.

"Huh?" she said, mouth full of food. "Nothing, I'm just really hungry." She put down her fork. "Think I should call the doctor?"

She called the office and they paged the goofball on duty and he said something like "sure yeah right whatever are you in any pain how far apart are the contractions, you say your water just broke, call me when it hurts" or whatever.

"Hey," I said. "Where IS the hospital anyway?" I pushed my plate away and wiped my hands on a napkin (actually I just did that now because of the chicken, but it's atmospheric, no?). "Do we have a map?" I asked my sister.

She stared at me. No help at all.

My wife was back on the phone with the doctor. "Well, it'll take us a little while to get there," she said. "Oh yeah? Sure, I'll hold."

"Hey, honey," I said. "It ought to take us about forty minutes, I guess. How're you doing?"

She was having cute little contractions, but didn't seem to mind. They still had her on hold.

Then I heard her do a little inadvertant Lamaze breath, and I thought something like holy shit — this feels just like denial! Just then Our Friend Who Is A Nurse walked over and murmured something like "think maybe it's time you guys hit the road?" I nodded.

That's when it sped up. I grabbed the phone out of my wife's hand, she started doing a LOT of Lamaze breathing, we ran outside and bundled her into the car, friend, sister and boy in tow and screeched out of the driveway. The boy yelled from the porch in a sudden panic "WHAT TIME SHOULD I GO TO BED!?"

"8!" We didn't even have time to spell out the word, is how fast we were going!

My car is a, how you say, heap, and I pushed it to 85 the entire way, and sure enough it was a 40-minute drive and we had entertaining conversation as it became apparent that things were Much Further Along than we'd thought. Chat like:

"Don't push!" and

"I'm going to have this fucking baby in the car!"

I got the doctor on the phone -- I was remarkably calm, I thought, driving 85 in a stick on a dark highway with one hand, doing Lamaze coaching out of one side of my mouth, talking to a lackadaisickal doctor on a cell phone out the other. I asked if he thought they ought to alert an ambulance corps on the way, or maybe the police. Calm radiated outward from the phone. He wasn't concerned. Everything was going to be okay, except that I was going to smash the phone hard enough to make his head hurt because dammit, my wife said she's going to HAVE THE BABY NOW and WE'RE NOT AMATEURS, we're DONE THIS BEFORE, she was CONSCIOUS THEN and SHE REMEMBERS WHAT IT'S LIKE.

I'd bought that car on eBay, as previously mentioned, for $2,500. Goooooood car. We pulled into the emergency entrance — practically INTO the emergency entrance — and I hopped out and ran around to get my wife out. Some dude did one of those Hollywood "hey, you can't park he—" deals as I ran inside calling for a wheelchair.

They tried to hand me paperwork while I wheeled my wife along a corridor asking where the maternity ward and Doctor McChill were located and while my wife did the end-stage no-pushing breathing. I tried to explain that I wasn't a panicky first-time dad convinced the baby was coming when it wasn't, but was in fact a panicky second-time dad who had some idea that they were about to have a messy desk area, and that we weren't going to flee without doing paperwork.

We entered the birthing room with nurses in tow. Despite about an hour's warning, they hadn't set anything up yet. Doctor Cool ambled in, chuckling, and had my wife lie down.

"Well now, let's just take a look and see what all the fu---ck!" he said, or something like that. "Okay, don't push!" A stream of commands and the rapid setup of ping-machines followed, my wife pushed for a few minutes and presto.

A girl. Happy birthday, Little.


Jodi said...

I love this! There is nothing like a birth story from a dad's perspective. Happy Birthday to all of you.

Anonymous said...

Happy, Happy Birthday! And thanks so much for the encouraging post you left on my blog the other day. Two years into the move out of the city and I'm still pining. Thankfully, the pining and the happy suburban moments are about even at this point, so I'm moving in the right direction.

Magpie said...

Damn fine story. Happy Birthday!

Suzanne said...

Brilliant post. Happy Birthday!

BarbaraCA said...

Yay! I loved that story! It had a damn fine narrative arc, with fried chicken!

Anonymous said...

Oh I loved this so much! Except for the part about almost giving birth in the car which I am somewhat worried about this time. At least I won't almost be giving birth in the taxi this time.