*Aya and I each wrote our own version of Ellie’s birth story. “My Side of the Story” and “Her Side of the Story.” I figured if you only you heard my side of the story it might be a little slanted, a little one-sided. We both experienced the same big event, but from very difference perspectives, in more ways than one. So read my story, or hers. Or read them both, and compare and contrast. Laugh, cry, smile, or say “ouch!” Either way, I hope you enjoy the series. This is my version, to read Her Side of the Story, click here.
The most I knew about child birth before we got pregnant was what I learned from watching The Cosby Show. You know, hearing Dr. Huxtable say things like, “How far apart are they,” or “PUSH!” So when we started reading and researching about birth and where Aya was going to give birth, I was really starting as a total ignoramus. Aya really wanted to do a natural child birth and have a midwife or a doula. A what? I had no idea what these were and the thought of it really freaked me out. And on top of that she mentioned water birth. Are you serious? We literally live down the street from a hospital so that’s where I always thought she’d give birth. Plus, I was born at that hospital, too! But we decided to have a water birth at the Greenhouse Birth Center… an hour and a half away… in the middle of winter.
I was apprehensive at first. Actually, that’s an understatement. I was against it. It took me awhile to see why this was so important to Aya. There were just some things that I didn’t understand at first because after all, it wasn’t my body that was going to be pushing out a football. All I had to do was say “push,” right? But after all the research, I was absolutely one-hundred percent on-board with this decision. I am so happy we went to the birth center. We learned a lot and really developed a relationship with the midwives over the course of the pregnancy. We knew we weren’t going to be sharing the most intimate moment of our lives with a doctor that ‘just so happened to be on shift’that day. The birth center also felt like a bed and breakfast and it was an extremely comfortable and comforting place. We were the only ones with a January due date, so the chances of us going into labor with another couple at the same time was unlikely. Which meant we would be the only family there. We were both looking forward to this being an intimate experience. No family was to come with us. We’d show up just the two of us, and we’d leave as a family of three.
As the due date came and left, all we could do was wait. Aya was getting increasingly uncomfortable and then she got a cold. This prompted her to start her maternity leave early. She did want to work up until the very end, but with a cold and being past her due date, she decided to pull the plug and just start her leave a few days early. This ended up being a very good idea.
When I came home from work I was happy to hear she spent most of the day on the couch resting. But she wasn’t exactly happy. Majorly cranky, actually. She was just so uncomfortable, irritated, and overwhelmed. She described that the ‘not knowing when’was the most overwhelming part. She was actually very excited to experience birth. We had taken the 10 week Bradley course in preparation for birth. We read the books and saw countless documentaries about birth. I was even lucky enough to see a documentary featuring Ricki Lake having a home birth. I really thought she would have had a nicer bathtub. We also did all the relaxation exercises we learned in class. So with her feeling extremely agitated, we did some of those for her to relax her mind. Eventually she fell asleep while I got dinner ready.
One thing she really wanted to have at the birth center were fresh strawberries and a fruit salad. That winter we experienced a strawberry shortage, so that was the one thing we didn’t have yet. We had everything else. The baby’s room was done, the bag was packed. We just didn’t have strawberries. But that night I was sent to the grocery store to look for them, and fortunately, they were in stock. Everything was falling into place! When we went to bed about midnight or so, I kept wondering if I’d be going to work the next day. Aya kept waking up about every 45 minutes in pain. At about 4:00am she was just so frustrated. I asked if she thought she was having contractions. “I don’t know, they said you’d KNOW when you’re having contractions,” she said. I think this might be go time. I think we’re having a baby today, I said.
I called the birth center to explain the situation. The mid-wife told me to have her take a bath. We had decided to completely remodel our bathroom before Ellie was born, but we weren’t quite able to finish. We had a bathtub, it just wasn’t hooked up to water yet. My dad and I were going to get all the plumbing hooked up that weekend and I had just finished grouting the floor tile. I really didn’t think it was going to be an issue. But when a baby is ready, a baby is ready. So I called my folks at 5:30am and asked if we could use their bathtub. Excitedly, my mom said “Yes!” Since Aya was assuming she’d be giving birth that day, she wanted to have had showered with hair and make-up done. Really!? But at this point I see my job is to do whatever she wants. Ask no questions, just say yes and do it. If she wants to do hair and make-up, I’m not going to stop her. While she was prettying herself up, I started loading the car.
I gathered the bags, the fruit salad, the fruit smoothies, the water, and packed the car. We managed to leave the house by 8:00am. When we got to my parent’s house, Aya crawled straight upstairs to the bath. The look on my dad’s face was pure fright, as I don’t think he thought she’d be this far along. My folks pretended they were invisible and got out of the way. While Aya was in the bath she started making the strangest noises I’ve ever heard come from a person. “EEEeeeeuuurrrooooo.” If I wasn’t watching her I might have thought it was the sound from a polar bear stuck in a bucket of peanut butter. She got out of the bath, and was on all fours on the floor. She still hadn’t opened her eyes since this morning.
She finally muttered, “I’m out of the bath, call the birth center.”
I called the birth center and told them the contractions were 20 minutes apart now.
“Okay good. It sounds like she is definitely in pre-labor. This could last for a few days,” the midwife said.
A few days! Are you kidding me!? You expect her to do this for a few days!? She’s on the floor like a dog making peanut butter polar bear noises! She can’t do this for a few days. I can’t do this for a few days.
“What’d they say,” Aya asked.
That you are in pre-labor and to call them back when they are 5 to 7 minutes apart. You’re doing great!
I managed to get her in bed at my parent’s house. The midwives had told us to rest, and to eat. They said for her to get through labor, she needed energy and to be hydrated and rested. It was close to noon now so I gently suggested she might want to eat, for the energy. Out of everything she could have chosen to eat, she chose Stouffer’s Tuna Noodle Casserole. I know I said before I wouldn’t ask questions, but something told me this was a bad idea.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied in a whisper.
I sent my mom out to get the tuna noodle casserole and she said, “Are you sure!?” Yes mom, get the tuna noodle casserole.
What happened next was like a comic ballet. Aya wanted to eat it downstairs at the table. So my mom prepped it downstairs. After about 30 minutes, she decided she wanted it upstairs. So we reheated it, and brought it upstairs. Then without saying a word, she crawled out of bed, onto the floor, and crawled into the hallway. What, what’s wrong!? I wondered. With her eyes closed and in weak voice she said, “The smell, I can’t stand the smell. Get it out of here.” I brought the casserole back downstairs. After about another half hour of hanging out in the hallway she decided to go downstairs to eat. She crawled downstairs with her eyes closed squeezing my hand. Then she managed to sit at the table. We reheated (at her request) again, the tuna noodle casserole. I slowly slid it in front of her describing what I was doing as her eyes were still closed. She took one bite, got up, ran to the bathroom… and puked.
My parents didn’t want to interfere, they wanted to be invisible. So as we walked through the house, they went wherever we weren’t. My dad was standing up against the wall holding his breath as we passed by, then slid upstairs without making a sound. At one point, Aya was at the table and I was upstairs getting something and she started to have a really big contraction. She was making the polar bear noises and was calling my name. “Matt… Matt…” My dad flew upstairs to get me. He was in the hallway bouncing as if he had to pee whispering excitedly, “Aya… downstairs… calling you… you better go!” Before he left for work he worriedly asked my mom, “They aren’t going to have it here are they?”
Later in the day, the contractions increased to 9 minutes apart and we started packing up to make our move to the birth center. Aya didn’t want to be in the car during rush hour. “Call the birth center and tell them we’re coming,” she said. As I was on the phone, she went into the bathroom; I hoped not to puke again. But after some time I heard her call for me.
“Matt, can you ask your mom if she has any panty liners, I think my mucus plug dropped.”
Good news! The cork popped so the baby is definitely on the way out, but… As a man, there are a few things you hope you never have to ask your mom. Asking your mom for a panty liner is one of them. I could handle the vomiting, the mucus plug, but asking my mom for a panty liner. It’s awkward enough hearing her say the word “panty” by itself. But when you add “liner” after it, it gives it a whole other dimension. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.
With that over, by 4:30pm we were packed up and in the car headed to the Birth Center, an hour and a half away. One step closer to having a baby…