Penny’s Birth Story: A Father’s Perspective

“Kevin, I think it’s time.” And of course I knew what that meant when Mel woke me up at 4 o’clock in the morning on Saturday, June 29. A flood of thoughts and emotions filled my brain. I knew what I needed to do, right? Didn’t I? Today would be the most challenging and rewarding day of her life. Calm, be calm, that is what she needs! was my mantra for the day and it started the moment I woke up.

First off, I noticed that Mel was sitting on our chaise in our room by the TV clearly uncomfortable. I asked what she needed. She asked for some tea, pineapple and to put Friends on. I calmly walked out of our room and the moment I hit the corner I booked it down the stairs, allowing all the craziness inside me to release, away from Mel’s sight or ear shot. Once I brought up her order, I grabbed the first disc I could find and put it on. It of course happened to be the episode where Ben is born and everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Plus it is the typically loud and hectic Hollywood birthing scene. Just perfect! But surprisingly it was just right for Mel and that was all that mattered. Once the contractions were about 5 minutes apart for an hour we called the Midwife Hotline and explained the duration and how far apart her contractions were. Then she spoke with Mel to get an idea of how she was feeling. In the middle of their conversation Mel set the phone down and breathed through a contraction and then got back on the phone like nothing happened. I was thinking, wow this might not be that bad for her, little did I know how intense it would get. Based on our Midwife’s recommendations, I made a bath for Mel and lit some candles to help calm her. When contractions seemed to get closer and I could see a visible difference in Mel as she was coping we decided to get going to the Birth Center.

I quickly grabbed everything we needed. Mel had a list of what additional everyday items we needed in the bag and on our white board in the kitchen also had a handy checklist of everything that we needed to take the birth center. Once I got the Tiguan packed up and ready, we waited for a contraction to start and end so that one would not happen as we were walking to the car since Mel could barely stand through them by this point. I calmly called Mel’s parents to have them meet us at the Birth Center and on the way there I also called Mel’s sister to let her know the news.

Now I have a tendency to make Mel nervous with my driving so I knew I needed to keep it as uneventful as possible. I went the speed limit, triple checked my blind spots, and tried to keep Mel engaged in between contractions. For the last 9 months I had envisioned this drive, Mel in labor on our way to the birth center, but I always pictured it at night and as the sun was rising on a beautiful Saturday morning I could not help but be thankful that we were in daylight and that the rest of the world had not awoken yet. I could tell that Mel’s contractions were getting more difficult and intense at this point.

Once there, Mel sat through a couple contractions while waiting. This is where she started to vocalize through her contractions. Once we saw Laurie’s Mini Cooper pull up I did not know to get out of the car to or to stay in to talk to her, but she grabbed the door just as Mel was working through her last contraction in the car. They quickly moved into the Birthing Room and hooked Mel onto a monitoring device and started filling the tub. The Charleston Birth Place and thier wonderful mid-wives are phenomenal. They are professional and personal and I always felt that we were in good hands throughout the whole experience. They really made our family feel like part of their family.

I was grabbing our bags out of the car as Mel’s parents arrived and they helped me bring a few things in. Once inside, Mel’s mom jumped right in and started rubbing Mel’s back in the exact right location as if she knew exactly what Mel needed and I started trying to massage Mel’s feel and hands to relax her. Once the tub was filled Mel went in and I quickly changed into my trunks to join her. For months before the birth I honestly had some trepidation about being in the tub. But I can tell you that I am so happy I did and I would not want to be anywhere else during that time.

She spent about two and a half hours in the tub and over time my memory has seemed to combine memories and emotions. But I can tell what I do remember. The water seemed to help Mel relax and then the contractions would come and I will never forget the way Mel would shake and vocalize, or to be honest yell, to cope with the pain. There were times where I could not keep it together and would break down and cry, especially when her contractions would seems to overlap each other and Mel herself would start crying. I knew that my words would not help her and Mel’s mom was there to support her in that way and I do not believe we could have done it without her. She knew exactly what to say at the right moment. And Mel’s dad was also in the room providing the perfect bits of comic relief. But the biggest laugh came from Mel herself. At one point our midwife asked Larry to shut the door to the room and Mel replied, “What, so I don’t scare anyone in the waiting room with my screams?!” By this point Mel was yelling through her contractions. It was the most difficult thing to witness, and this is when the feeling of helplessness really sunk in. I finally realized I could not make the contractions any better, but I could make the time in between as glorious as possible. I started placing ice cold rags to her head and the back of her neck to get her more comfortable and started to massage and try to help with the tension in her back. Throughout the last hours of labor Mel would go to this deep place within herself but she was always herself and that is what let me know that even though she was having a difficult time, she could get through it.

Pushing time came, Mel shifted positions in the tub and started leaning against me, and I had my arms under her armpits to provide extra leverage. Then push after push, Mel would seem to get more and more frustrated that there was not the progress she was hoping for. Everyone in the room was really quiet in between the contractions and very encouraging during the times to push. After an hour and a half of pushing and one last amazing strong push by Mel we meet our beautiful daughter. She came out screaming and pooping.

I felt Mel’s body go relaxed and I remember feeling so relieved that it was over for Mel and so excited to see our daughter, the only problem was I could not see her through my tears, I was practically hysterical. And my first thought when I saw her was, wow, she is a lot bigger than I expected. After cutting the umbilical cord, I was asked to lay on the bed and do some skin to skin with my daughter that was less than 10 minutes old. I will never forget that feeling. They say your life changes, and I can say that it does, in ways that one cannot explain.Image

I fell in love that day with my daughter and I fell deeper in love with my wife, something I did not think was possible. Her strength, courage, and humor through adversity inspire me. I will not forget that day and will forever be changed by it. The bond that we now have through this experience will only be surpassed by the bonds we will continue to create as parents. Mel, I am so proud of you and what you accomplished and created and I love you.

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