Man, Woman, and Here Comes Child
© by William A. Vaughn, 1996
I wonder how many fathers-to-be get really involved with changing the sheets on the bed while their wives labor alone in the bathroom nearing the birth of their new child. Not many is my guess, but that’s exactly what I was working on just before our fourth child, Oliver William, was born in our home.
We had not expected this crazy scenario; the ideal birth we had planned for was to occur in the birthing room at our local hospital with our personally selected midwife. But one of the things you must prepare for is the unexpected. In our case, Dorene’s labor came on fast and hard, and by the time she woke me up, she appeared to be in a state of I’ve come to call “the maternal odyssey,” in which her awareness of external reality dims with the strength of her contractions. Her attention was clearly directed inward, her eyes closed and her breathing deep, trying to relax against the hormonal rodeo going on inside her.
When Dorene woke me, at about two a.m., she didn’t bother speaking. I was just supposed to figure it out from the non-verbal clues, like a game of charades. That I could do. “You’re in labor,” I said, still half asleep. But what to do next? She was clearly too far along to be getting dressed, carting out into the car, and being driven to the hospital – and don’t forget about the other three, already born children, that would also be coming along. No way. This birth, I knew, was going to happen right here, right now, at home sweet home. And this is where the sheets came into play.
After helping Dorene into the bathroom (she may have whispered the word between contractions) and seated of the toilet, I realized that she was not so out of this world that she forgot about our emergency-protect-the-bed-with-plastic-sheets plan, just in case of a fast labor. This she repeated to me, “did you change the sheets, yet?” For myself, when a baby’s coming, I’m not worried about mattress-stain protection, but the fact that she was, meant I had to be as well. Skipping over little mother’s wishes would only cause distress.
It seems now almost like there was some kind of bizarre sequence of events that had to happen for the baby to come – contractions, full dilation, sheet change, pushing – because just as I pulled that last corner over I heard Dorene moan a long loud moan that I recognized as a push. I rushed into the bathroom and asked – told – Dorene to scoot forward on the seat and then lean back against the tank. I took a look and sure enough the baby’s head was crowning. “Okay, Dorene,” I said, “Very gently on the next push. Very gently.” Dorene followed my voice, eased out the next contraction, and like a little miracle my new son slipped out warm and watery right into my arms. I looked into his eyes, saw him looking back, and then cradled him over to Dorene, who cried with joy at the sight of him.
We tended to him with love rather than panic or haste, covering him with a towel, wiping at him here and there, clearing a little mucus out of his throat with a rubber bulb.
Sitting there in the smallest room of our house, holding in our arms our new baby son, a secret to the whole world but for us, his parents, it didn’t take long for Dorene and me to realize that we had just experienced our ideal birth after all.