In a way I am never to forget, our newest addition, Daisy Amelia Hailey Reese, was brought into the world at 5:16am on June 26, 2009. She was 7lbs, 10oz and 20.5 inches long. Labor was a mere 45 minutes long from start to finish.
For the full story of her, keep reading.
My story begins at 4:40am when Arin woke me up saying calmly, "Honey, I think we may have to go to the hospital this morning." If I was at all tired at that moment, I wasn't any longer. I popped out of bed and immediately began gettings things ready to go. Arin actually had to stop me at some point and say, "slow down, you are stressing me out. We don't need to go right this moment, ok?"
Ok. I took a breath. I ran through my checklist:
- Get car seat out of car? Check.
- Put pillows in backseat for Arin to rest on? Check.
- Lay down some chucks in the backseat? (conveniently left over from when Harper was born) Check.
- Put Arin's bag in the car? Check.
- Put camera in the car? Check.
Arin called our mid-wife who told her, "ok, no need to rush. Just call me when you know you are ready to go to the hospital and I will meet you there."
At this point Arin made it abundantly clear that I should brush my teeth. Her sense of smell was acute and she didn't want to have to deal with the bad breath of the person tasked with helping her to breath. Ok:
- Brush teeth? Check.
- Shave? Check.
I admit, the shaving thing was over the top, but I knew that pictures were going to be taken and I wanted to look my best. But let's move past this shall we?
- Grab a change of clothes? Check.
At this point Arin's water broke under a very large contraction. There was no gush, just a clear sign of progression. Arin emerged from the bathroom with an extremely urgent tone to her voice, "we need to go to the hospital, now."
Moments later we were off. In the car Arin was telling me to run the red lights, but all I could think of is the hospital staff from 3+ years ago telling expectant parents to be safe on the road. I told Arin I would wait for the light to turn green.
- Wait for green light? Check.
Punch it. It is now about 5:00am.
We are on the freeway. Arin screams, "oh my god, something just came out. Oh my god Byrne, something just came out! Pull over! Oh my god!"
I pull over and reach behind Arin, and tell her what I feel: the amniotic sac hanging from her like a small water balloon. I honestly don't know what do to do and am glad Arin told me, "just get me to the hospital."
- Get Arin to the hospital?
We are off again. I call the mid-wife on speaker phone. She can hear Arin and tells me, "Byrne, you are not going to make it to the hospital. I need you to find a safe place to pull over. I will call paramedics. Where are you?"
"I am not far from the 51st Street exit off the 24. There is a firehouse a block away from there, should I go there?"
"Yes," she told me. "They deliver babies all the time." We are then disconnected.
At this point Arin is on full-on labor. She is moaning and telling me about every 10 seconds to hurry up. I zip through the stop light at Telegraph and pull into the driveway of Oakland Fire Station #8 honking my horn. I turn off the engine, open the car door and run around to Arin. I reach to the front seat again and honk again.
"Where are they!?" Arin yells.
"I don't know honey. Hang in there. We are at a firehouse. Help is coming."
Arin is confused. She doesn't know what to do. The only other time she has done this there was a cadre of people telling her what and when she needed to do something. She asks me, "Should I push?! Byrne, what should I do?"
I tell her truthfully that I don't know. I continue to honk. I run to the front door and bang on the door.
No one. I run back to Arin and begin yelling for help.
Arin is screaming, "it's coming. Oh my God, what do I do?"
I offer what words of encouragement and reassurance I can. "You are doing great baby," is about all I can come up with. "I need to try one more time to find a doorbell, I will be right back," I tell her.
I sprint to the front door. I lift a large intimidating cover plate that reads, "In case of emergency" or something. Who knows. There is a single button. I push it.
"Oakland Fire Department, how can I help you?"
"I am at the fire station at 463 51st Street. My wife is having a baby. I need assistance."
"Where are you?"
I look at the address in huge letters above the door in front of me, and impatiently say, "463 51st Street." Duh.
"The one by the Walgreens?"
Is she really asking me this? "Yes! The one by the Walgreens! Please hurry."
"Help is on..."
That is done, I can hear Arin yelling. I sprint back to the car. I check in on Arin. She is doing great all things considered. She is centered, collected and focused. "They are coming sweetie, hang in there." I call the mid-wife again.
"Shit, voice mail" I think to myself. I dial again, and again, and again. I finally get her.
"Byrne I need you to reach inside Arin and tell me if you feel the baby's head. You will know if you do right away."
Oh really?! Will I?
I reach inside Arin. Bonk. Yep, that's the baby's head.
"Ok, Byrne, I need you to get ready."
Arin is trying not to push, but she has no control. There is a large contraction, a yell, and a baby's head in my hands.
At this point I have no recollection of sound. The world is suddenly a very quiet place. Arin is yelling, but I don't remember hearing her. I do however all of a sudden remember what it was like to hold Harper's head as he emerged from Arin. I remember being afraid to hold or squeeze too hard and asking the doctor to take over. I remember the Doctor telling me after the fact that I really didn't need to worry about that, that the baby would be fine.
I place both palms firmly on each of the baby's ears. Arin pushes, I instinctually pull, but only slightly. Then the baby feels as if it just slipped out as I pull her right into my arms.
The amniotic sac is still around her head. I can see her face pressed up against the film as if out of a science fiction movie. I gently tear the sac away from her face. Her face emerges for the first time. She is perfect. I see her and feel her take a deep breath as my entire world freezes with the anticipation, fear and joy of hearing her cry for the first time.
She cries. Arin asks, "is she ok?"
"She is fine, baby, fine. She is beautiful," I tell her through the tears and sobs welling up inside me.
Arin hands me a towel I had put in the backseat weeks ago. She tells me, "wrap her up."
Oh yeah! Good idea.
"Can I see her?"
The firemen arrive. I can hear them all around us. I hear echos of congratulations, but mostly I hear a firewoman coaching a fireman through the process of cutting the umbilical chord. It is his first time. She is explaining how the chord is a lot tougher than you might think...
"Jesus, shut up and gimme that. What is this, amateur-hour?" is all I can think.
Our mid-wife arrives. Finally, someone is paying attention to Arin. I relax for the first time.
The ambulance arrives. Arin and baby are swarmed. I step away from the vehicle. People are congratulating me, but my documentarian instincts have already kicked in: all I can think about is the camera. Thankfully, our mid-wife says, "let me do that." She takes a hand-full of snap shots.
The paramedics hand me my baby girl and take me to the back of the ambulance where it is warm. Arin will joining me soon, they say.
Arin is on a stretcher now and is soon being pushed into the ambulance with me. I hand Arin the baby. We kiss. I tell her how much I love her and she tells me how amazing I was.
"Are you kidding me? You did all the work..."
I tell Arin I will meet her at the hospital. It is about 5:25am. I think. But whatever time it was, by 5:33am (according to my phone) I am back in my car, having cleaned it out briefly, and on the road calling my mom to tell her the news.
To help put things into perspective about the morning's events, in the time it took me to write this this story to share with you, Arin would have already have given birth. Twice.
Next time, if there is a next time that is, I vote for a home birth. Oh yeah, and skip the doctor, mid-wife and doula. They are for chumps.