The guys had organized a sort of baby bachelor party bonfire on the beach for me….a sort of farewell party adieu to life as I knew it. Stace was 41 weeks with child at the time and looking incredibly beautiful and round. I had had a conversation earlier that day with her nervous father, reassuring him that we were still very much within the window of normal due dates and that our trifecta of midwives were fully capable of keeping everyone healthy and safe during our planned home birth.
As we were wrapping things up on the beach, putting out the fire and contemplating moving on with the evening I got a call from Stacey. Without going into details she said that there was no rush, but that it would be a good idea for me to start heading home….needless to say her words throttled up my heart-rate while instigating a cheer from my buddies listening in. As I was escorted silently along the beach towards the car I felt pumped with both excitement and fear. The feeling was similar to what I always imagined going into battle might be like,…but in this case there was no clear enemy.
When I arrived home, Stace informed me that she had her “bloody show” (a bizarre and awkward term if you ask me). From what I remembered of our birthing class this meant that Sprout was gearing up to make her exit. Stace’s contractions were starting to come regularly,… but not quite at the 5-4 minute intervals indicative of active labor. After giving a heads up call to our midwife Michelle Wellborn (yes, that’s her real given name), we spent the rest of the night and following morning timing the contractions and cat napping in between. At around 7am we hit 411,…meaning that contractions had been coming every 4 minutes, lasting for one minute, over the period of one hour. We called Michelle who arrived shortly thereafter with her incredible assistant Kara.
Michelle, Kara and I spent the entire next day and night providing what support we could to Stacey who was continually experiencing very intense contractions…. coaxing her to eat, drink and breath. Though I never let on to this, it was definitely very hard to see the love of my life in so much pain. I tried my best to be a source of comfort and stability where I could, but truth be told, I felt quite useless. Stacey was in her own sphere, preparing to introduce a new being into the world and she seemed to barely even notice the rest of us.
Our decision to give birth at home was taken after our research revealed some of the statistics behind “traditional” hospital births; the whopper being that 31.8% of babies are born via cesarian section in this country (compared to 4.5% in 1965). This dramatic increase in cutting mother’s open NOT being paralleled by an equivalent increase in health outcomes for either mothers or babies.
Its not that we were against having a cesarian if deemed medically necessary,.. it was that we did not want to have one UNnecessarily, something which tends to happen frequently following a slew of various interventions pushed by the business of hospitalization. Its only natural for profit driven organizations to minimize the time and related resources it takes to get a baby out. Problem was that we did not want to feel rushed, even in the slightest.
So we decided to hire very experienced medically trained nurse midwives to facilitate our having the sprout at home, knowing that we were only a couple of blocks away from some of the best hospitals in the world if they were needed.
It may sound cliché, but having a baby definitely shifted something huge in me. It started with observing Stacey’s belly over those seemingly endless 9 months. I think I grew up more in the last 3 months of the pregnancy than I did in the last 20 years of my life. Knowing that you are soon to be responsible for the life and influencing of a “brand new open being” (to quote a dear friend), is quite intense. It put a fire under my ass to shed the less than useful parts of my life and focus on that which is core. By core I mean, warmth, food, shelter and close friends and family.
The biggest shift however happened at the actual emergence of our baby girl. At that moment it became evident that there was an enormous gap between my concept of a baby, and the actual tiny being itself. To witness what it takes from a mother to birth a human and then have the little creature fresh from the womb right there all covered in slime and snorting at you is, well…humbling. It really brought home just how much I’m a very small part of a much larger whole,…not that I’m insignificant,.. just that I’m finite.
Both Stace and I now marvel at how we never really never got what our friends and family who had kids before us were going through at the time. We have, however, both since vowed to do everything in our power to support and celebrate those who come after us.