My wife was in our bathtub laboring. I was beside her doing my best to help. Our baby was crowning, and no one was there to help. We were two new parents having a baby in our condo, on our own.
But let’s back up and fill in what occurred beforehand.
My wife, Rachel, and I were ecstatic about getting pregnant. We had no idea what we were doing, but we were doing it, whatever it was.
She always assumed that she was going to have a hospital birth, like her mother. But I brought up the idea of homebirth as an option.
She looked at me like I just spoke Chinese to her. I explained that it was the practice of having your baby at home under the guidance of a midwife. As I was uttering those words, it all sounded so third-world and antiquated, like we lived in a hut with a dirt floor. I could have said let’s smoke some peyote and go on a vision walk. That might have been better received than the idea of a homebirth.
I told her that a group of mothers from a church I used to attend in New York City had home births. That was the first time I had ever heard about it. They were kind of hippy, but they were passionate about it and good people. I said I didn’t know anything more than that, but we should at least check it out.
She agreed, reluctantly.
Rachel found a documentary on Netflix called the Business of Being Born, and we watched it together. She decided on a homebirth. We were going to be those people who shunned all of the cultural norms and have our kid in our bathtub. Next thing you know, we are going to smoke some peyote.
We went to work looking for a midwife. Rachel did a lot of research and stumbled upon a woman who had extensive nursing experience and was a licensed midwife. We interviewed her over a coffee and found her incredibly kind, gentle, knowledgeable and experienced.
We committed to her and started our regular visits. When we drove out to their birthing clinic, we enjoyed our first visit. It wasn’t a dirt floor hut. Instead, we found a pleasant, modern space with other hippy families who were going to birth their children in their bathtubs as well. We didn’t feel as weird.
The rest of the sessions seemed to cruise by. One by one they came and went until we started to get close to the due date.
One morning, a few weeks before the due date, we awoke to our city covered with a thick blanket of snow. Rachel mentioned having some cramping. She texted the midwife, and she said that it was probably nothing, but to keep her updated.
So, I went about my day. And, I had a dinner meeting. And during it, Rachel texted me, “The midwife says that we should be meeting the baby tonight.”
I almost spat out a sip of my drink. After choking it down, I told my dinner party. I was excited but nervous. Then I was reminded that we’d be fine. “We have a great midwife,” I said to myself.
When I got back home, I was surprised to see my wife partaking in a glass of wine. “The midwife said I should have some wine to help me sleep,” Rachel said.
“Sure,” I said, with a smile. “What are you going to do next, light up a cigarette?” We laughed.
We both got into bed, and I fell asleep. Rachel lied in bed, wide awake.
I was startled. Someone was calling my name, and everything was blurry. I felt like I was in a cloud. I even heard water splashing. It was so strange and hazy. Then Rachel’s voice calling my name pierced the fog. And, my eyes shot open.
“Rachel is laboring in our bathtub,” I thought.
We notified the midwife, and she said that she was going to take a shower and start heading over to us. She lived about forty-five minutes away from us, without snow-covered highways. And, I thought that odd and wondered if she had enough time do all of that before she was going to drive through the snow to get to us.
To her defense, most woman labor for several hours and many twelve hours or more before the baby is born.
Eventually, the midwife asked me to put my hand around the birthing channel to see if I could feel anything. I did. I felt my kid’s head.
Terror coursed through me.
The midwife was on the road but wasn’t close. She had dispatched a different midwife who lived closer to us to come. And, our midwife stayed on the phone with us, which was comforting.
But it was just Rachel and me in our bathroom. We looked at each other and started praying. Somehow we were swallowed up in an aura of peace. We felt the presence of God. And, our bathroom felt more like a sanctuary.
My wife switched positions and started pushing. Nature took over and started doing its work.
Our son started crowning. And, we were entranced by the moment.
Then a knock at the door pulled us out. My wife told me to answer it, while she had our son’s head on the breach. I obeyed.
It was the other midwife, the one our actual midwife dispatched came into our home. I introduced myself, and we exchanged names. And I welcomed a stranger into one of the most intimate moments of our lives.
It was awkward.
I escorted her to the bathroom, where my wife was with our son popping out of her. Rachel wanted to ask her a quick question.
After she did, I got back down beside her as she pushed. And, our son popped right into my arms. I picked him up and put him in Rachel’s arms.
He was all grey and motionless. We were all white and terrified. I had feared a stillbirth, and here it was.
A minute that felt like an eternity passed, then he started to stir and burst out with a cry. Rachel and I joined him. Our tears were ones of joy and relief.
Soon after, our actual midwife arrived and relieved the other one. She weighed the baby, registered him and tucked us into bed.
Getting into our own bed was a godsend. We were relieved, comforted and relaxed at the same time.
As she was leaving, our midwife apologized for not making it. We said the labor was only three hours. And she couldn’t have known.
As I was lying in bed, I began thinking about being a father and how proud I was of my wife. I was in awe of her and her courage. She triumphed.
We may not have moved into a hut or started smoking peyote, but we did not go with conventional wisdom. We were surprised by what we found. Even though things did not go as we planned, they ended up better than we originally thought.
When we thought we were alone, we weren’t. We were just waiting for our baby to arrive.
In fact, he was there all along.