The waiting, which felt like an eternity, was finally over. It felt like we had been awake and at the birth center for days. But in reality, we were only there for 6 hours before it was declared that it was time to “have a baby.” The moment we had prepared for was here. The head midwife came in, along with an assistant and turned the lights up. They meant business. Aya got into the tub on her knees. The midwife put a mirror in the tub and shined a flashlight on it so they could see the “area.” I was on one side of the tub facing Aya. Two midwives and an assistant were behind Aya on the other side staring in the mirror. Aya’s breathing and contractions were getting more intense and I just tried to stay calm.
Have you ever seen the Thriller video? You know the sequence when Michael Jackson changes into a werewolf? That’s the only way I can describe what was happening to Aya. She was panting, and wiggling, and screaming, and breathing fast through her teeth followed by yells. “Hee-Hee-Hee-Hee-Hee EEEEUuurrrrooooooo!” After the transformation was complete, she ate the polar bear and the bucket of peanut butter. I had no idea what to do! I just kept thinking, holy sh*t, holy sh*t, this is the real deal!
Aya kept holding her breathe and was trying to push. At this point I just felt silly to say anything. “You’re doing great,” or “Good job,” just didn’t seem like it was going to matter. Look at what Michael Jackson said to his girlfriend when he was turning into a werewolf. “GO AWAY!” What could I say that would be helpful? The midwives were gently saying, “Just breathe Aya, you’re doing great.” That sounds good, I’ll say that too! Aya, just keep breathing. Even though Aya had been in intense pain for a long time now, she never snapped at me, she was never mean to me, or told me she wanted to kill me. So I was very surprised when her response to me, not the midwives, was, “I AM f*cking breathing!!” Ouch…
Anyway, the midwives told me if I looked in the mirror I could see the head. I looked up. I saw something bulging, but I don’t think it was the head. Aya asked while panting, “Did you see it?”
“Um… Yeah… You’re doing great!” I managed to get out.
Was that the head? I thought. I gave another look to see if maybe I saw something wrong. I still couldn’t grasp what I was looking at. I’m pretty sure it was not the head, but whatever it was, it was bulging. That, I know.
I was prepared for the early part of labor to be long. I think we both were. We had seen multiple documentaries of women giving birth. All of them were from the 80s with women with high bangs and guys with push broom mustaches and teal polo shirts. All of the videos showed a long beginning to birth with long scenes of bangs, mustaches, and mullets walking up and down hospital hallways. They showed all of the stuff we were doing. But when it came time to “have a baby,” on screen it took just minutes. The mother would scream and push a few times and then the kid would practically fall out. She would cry, the dad would cry, and that was it. So we thought that once it was time to “have a baby,” it would be just minutes for us too. Just like in the videos. Well, it turns out that on average women push for about 2 hours. This was not clear in the videos we watched. Luckily, Aya only pushed for about 40 minutes.
Aya was bulging, screaming, pushing, and breathing so fast. I really thought she was trying to push the baby out in just a few pushes. But with each push she got closer. All of us just continued to praise her and encouraged her to breathe. And then… The head! Wow! I saw it! The head! And then I think my mind left my body for a moment.
We were so close to having our baby born. We were so close to becoming parents. The adventure of pregnancy and birth was ending. An adventure we very much enjoyed and loved. An adventure we researched and prepared for so diligently. We were awesome at being pregnant. We worked well together with everything we had to do. The long rides up to the Birth Center for our appointments and getting Culver’s afterwards on the way home. Eating too many Luna bars at our Bradley class every week. Our relaxation sessions and listening nights with the “belly.” It was all going to end. It was like getting to the end of a really good book. A book that really affected you, and changed you. You didn’t want it to be over, but you couldn’t wait to see how it ended.
She kept pushing. She was so close. Any minute now, I would be staring at my daughter. Even though I was being as calm and supportive as I knew how, I was still prepping myself to lose it. To become a blubbery mess. The head had popped through. Aya seemed so excited but still working hard. And then at 12:24am, she was born! Aya pulled her out of the water and lay back in the tub and held her. I stared at her in awe and thought, wow!… Followed by, she really looks Japanese.
This was one of those moments that you never know what you’ll think or feel until you are in that moment. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry. I wasn’t a gooey blubbery mess like I thought I’d be. I was almost afraid to touch her. It was like when you see a friend you haven’t seen in a really long time. You’ve been so excited waiting to see them, but when you finally do it’s a little awkward. Do we shake hands? Do we hug? You haven’t seen this person in six years, what do you say first? It was the most surreal moment of my life. She was beautiful. A beautiful stranger. And then before it could sink in that I was staring at my daughter, the room turned into chaos.
Aya was hyperventilating. She couldn’t slow her breathing down. She still had to deliver the placenta but kept saying, “I can’t… I can’t… I can’t.” She just kept breathing so fast and so heavy. The midwives were coaching her and telling her what to do. Aya was just crying in pain. All I could do was watch as the water in the tub started getting redder.
With the placenta out, I was whisked away to a chair. I had Ellie in my lap, a bowl by my side with the placenta in it, and a chord connecting the two. While I was in the chair with Ellie, Aya was shivering and shaking in the tub. They were trying to get her out of the water and into the bed. “So cold… so cold,” she kept saying in a cry. They also determined she had blood clots inside her. They had to go in manually and scrape out the clots. I didn’t understand what was happening; I just knew it wasn’t good. I’d looked down at Ellie, her sweet little face adjusting to the world. And then I’d look up and see Aya yelling in pain as the midwife scraped inside her uterus with her hands. There was so much blood. I felt guilty being the one able to hold Ellie. I felt worried and scared for what was happening to Aya. From where I was sitting, I could see everything. Frantic hands and blood soaked towels. So much blood. Talk about feeling helpless! I couldn’t even get up to be by her because I had a fresh baby attached to a bowl. All I could do was watch and worry helplessly.
Eventually they got the clotting under control and they hooked her up to an IV to replenish her fluids. The full moon was over and Aya had changed back to her normal self. The room was quiet and calm again and we were finally able to be together as a family for the first time. It seemed like typically the dad would cut the cord, but I felt bad since Aya didn’t get to have her “after birth moment,” so I wanted her to cut it. Snip. I thought it would have cut easier than it did. It looked like she was cutting through a Slim Jim. “Snap into a Slim Jim!” Ellie was free and no longer attached to the placenta bowl. We still have the placenta by the way. They give you the option to keep it or not. It’s in our freezer now. It looks like a piece of round steak. In some cultures they eat it! I always joke that I’m going to make strawberry, peach, and placenta smoothies. We wanted to plant it under a tree in our yard. We haven’t yet, but when we do I’m a little afraid that maybe some stray neighborhood dogs are going to dig it up and eat it.
After all that, things started to sink in a little bit. We had a baby! And now we could be excited about it. We started texting friends and calling parents while Ellie was getting her measurements and her first check-up. Wow! It’s still so surreal to think about. It was such a whirlwind of emotions. I was surprised that it wasn’t love at first sight like everyone says or you see on TV. I thought I’d hear Dream Weaver in my head when I first saw her. But I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong. She was beautiful, she was perfect, she was everything. But she was still a stranger, and it took me a while for it to really sink in that she was mine. Even so, I couldn’t stop staring at her.
It was about 4:00am, Aya had nursed Ellie and was passed out next to me. I was holding Ellie all wrapped up in my arms. When the midwife asked me if I needed anything, I told her I was ok. Then she said goodnight and turned off the lights. I sat there in the dark with Ellie sleeping in my arms, afraid to move. My new life was flashing before my eyes. Things would never be the same. I realized that as this book had ended, a new book was beginning… And then all I could think was, ‘I REALLY GOTTA PEE.’
It wasn’t until after we were home when my parents had visited and left, that it clicked. This was for real! This was forever. We couldn’t take her back. We had spent so much time researching and preparing for birth, I didn’t think too much about what it would be like when we brought her home. All the emotions I had suppressed, not only from the last 24 hours, but from the past 9 months had surfaced. It all came to me at once. The happiness, the worry, the fatigue, the panic, the ‘WTFdo we do now’ hit me like a ton of bricks. I layed on the floor of Ellie’s room, broke down and cried… and then fell asleep.
What. An. Experience. I wouldn’t change anything about it. I’m a different person because of it. So far the second book has been really great. Happy Birthday Ellie!
See Ellie’sGreenhouse Birth Center picture posted here on the Greenhouse website.