This didn’t go over too well with the pregnant one.
One example: our room included a shower. Originally we had wanted to try giving birth in a pool of water. In fact it has been a kind of fantasy of mine since I was a teenager—which might sound odd, but let me at least explain. Okay, this is kind of a digression from the main story, but I feel it’s worth it.
When I was a teenager I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. I have never been a big jock, and have only a passing interest in the day-to-day of professional sports. (I have, and am obsessed with, a fantasy baseball team, for example, but I never actually watch any baseball games. I just like the fantasy league.) Well, being a voracious reader I usually devoured the magazine cover to cover, including articles about all kinds of sports I could care less about: kayaking, triathlons, surfing. This last one, surfing, is the critical one for this discussion, though.
I forget the name of the actual surfer, I even forget what the article was about. I do remember the photo they included in the article. The surfer, a 20-something blond god stood next to his 40-something mustachioed father. They were both totally ripped, although the father was about two inches shorter than the son.
The takeaway from the article, though, was that the son, the blond god, had been born in water, as part of a study. And some 20 years later they followed up on the water birth kids, and found that they were on average taller, smarter, healthier and happier than the control group. This blew my mind. You mean that just by giving birth in water you can do all these things for your kid? I vowed right then that, by god, my child would be born in water.
I kept this idea forever in my head. Then when we found out that Randi was pregnant I told her that I wanted to carry it forward, this plan, into real life. Randi was receptive to the idea, but we had to find out if the Park Slope Midwives could do it. It turned out they couldn’t.
“But we have showers that you can use, instead,” they said. This sounded like a lame compromise the first time I heard it, but there was nothing to be done about it. We didn’t want to ditch the midwives, who’d been so great in every other respect, because they couldn’t do a water birth. And we didn’t want to go to the few birthing centers that had pools in case of medical problems during the birth. And the idea of renting a kiddy pool and filling it up in our apartment seemed completely impossible as we imagined our two cats darting over it in successively wilder and wilder leaps until they inevitably fell into the water.
Anyway, back to the main story. It so turned out that a pool birth would have been completely impossible anyway, because there was no way that Randi could calmly lie on her back in water, while the pain shot through her like arrows. But the showers helped. Now this is where the part about me falling asleep comes into play.
As Judy and I sat, or slumped more accurately, in our respective chairs (I offered Judy the non-recliner but she demurred) Randi got up, turned on the water and got into the shower. She was in for about two minutes until she decided that something was definitely not right. Or she might've been in there more, I can't say for sure, becauese I was out. But not for long.
“Somebody has to get in here with me!” Randi pleaded. “I can’t just be in here alone.”
Coming to I wearily ran to the rescue, laying out a bunch of towels on the increasingly wet bathroom and now delivery room floors en route.
Randi, however, didn’t want me there to do anything, she just wanted me there. I was cool with this. I would stay awake, ready for anything she might need. Since she didn’t need me by the shower itself I propped myself up in the corner of the bathroom, ready for action.
It was there that I proceeded to fall asleep on my feet, for the first time in my life. Soon I was dreaming. The whole scene was reminiscent of something Cpl. Agarn would’ve done in an old episode of "F Troop." Asleep standing up! I hadn’t thought it possible.
I quickly nodded myself awake, aware that I could be called into action at any moment. I didn’t want Sgt. Baby Mama to put me in the marital stockade, so I kept nodding awake. Eventually I awoke, although I never have felt like more of a zombie.
Once dry and out of the shower I tried to see if Randi wanted me to do any of the neat massage techniques we had learned in the baby-prep classes we’d attended a month prior. Such techniques included rubbing a tennis ball on the small of the pregnant one’s back, or putting your fists into their lumbar region. The answer was a decisive no. In fact that only thing I ended up doing from that class was putting my hands in front of her face and counting down “One! Two!” while I made the corresponding numbers with my fingers. And I only did this because we originally saw a video where the husband did this during labor, and Randi warned me that if I dared do anything that irritating while she labored she would actually murder me. Well, timing is everything, because I had done it earlier in the night, and we both got a good laugh out of it. Or at least we did until another contraction set in, and then nothing was funny, anywhere in the world.
In fact by 4:00 a.m. things were so unfunny that she wheeled on me fiercely and demanded that I stop laughing at her, and that this wasn’t all just some kind of joke. I responded earnestly that I wasn’t laughing at all, and was just trying to help. She cast a penetrating gaze upon my person and decided I was probably telling the truth.
The only thing that helped Randi at all were these little hot packs provided by the hospital. The nurse showed us that you squeeze down on the plastic bag until you hear a popping sound inside, and then mix the chemicals until it produces a heated chemical reaction.
The only problem was that I had a hard time popping the bag when it was my turn to start a new one. Try as I might they just didn’t pop. And I feared that if I tried too hard it would burst everywhere, blinding us all.
After about ten minutes I finally got that satisfying pop sound and handed the warmed bag to Randi. She placed it on the small of her back. Her feeling was that it didn’t do anything to make her feel better, but she felt much worse when she didn’t have one.
We proceeded to go through those like cigarettes at an AA meeting until they were all gone. I think we used eight of them in total. Then I marched out to the nurses’ station to ask for more, but the nurse on call told me it wouldn’t be possible.
“We gave all the ones we had to you,” she said. “You’ve already used them all.” Meaning, no one else on our entire floor would even get one. We'd Bogarted the heating packs.
She told me I could try a hot towel, it would probably work better anyway. So back I went, soaking a towel in the hot water and draining it out. It was late. I was not thinking properly. But Randi was. And she reminded me that if we wanted our doula, Julie, to show up we had better call her now. Because we were finally in the last stage of pregnancy, she knew it. The baby was coming, and anyone who wanted to be here for the ride had better get onboard in a hurry.
Next entry: What’s a doula?