As you might imagine, in the course of bringing eight children into the world, Molly and I have gathered a rather considerable collection of childbirth stories. I am assuming that virtually all mothers have, at one time or another, been involved in a Childbirth Story Swap-Meet; I know that many of you positively relish those. And most fathers, especially in this enlightened age in which the father is most likely to be the mother's 'labor coach', have had their own opportunities to participate in them, as well.
It can become difficult for me, having been through eight of them, to keep all of the details sorted out, especially for the younger kids, but I do remember a few of them, which I'll now endeavor to share with you. Not that you asked, or anything. . .
The first time Molly was pregnant, it was, as you might imagine, very exciting for both of us. And me, having been adopted, this was like my initiation into the 'normal way' of bringing children into the family.
We marked all of the 'firsts' - first time Molly felt the baby kick, first time I felt the baby kick, figuring out how to identify the various parts of the baby's body through the walls of Molly's belly, playing all the little 'push-and-push-back' games with the baby, picking names (a boy's name and a girl's) etc, etc. We had a lot of fun.
As we approached her due date, the excitement increased accordingly. There was false labor, and all the other things that subtly (or not-so-subtly) let us know that it wouldn't be long. One Thursday night, we headed off to bed. I was just drifting off to slumber-land, when suddenly Molly sucked her breath in sharply. I jolted awake, still not quite alert to the world. "What was that?" I asked.
"I think it was a contraction."
Oh, boy. Well, let's just see how things develop. Nothing happened for fifteen minutes or so, and I drifted off to sleep again, until another sharp intake of breath from the other side of the bed jarred me awake again.
"That was another one."
Hmmmm. . . this was getting interesting. And from there, the contractions started coming every ten minutes or so. Which meant that we had a cycle of drifting off to sleep and jolting awake. Finally, Molly got out of bed and called the hospital, and they told her not to come in until the contractions were every five minutes. So she got out of bed, checked the contents of the suitcase she'd packed, and generally engaged in nesting-type behaviors, while I contemplated the backs of my eyelids, and marshalled my energy for the events of the next day.
About 5AM, Molly awakened me, telling me that the contractions had been every five minutes for the last hour or so, and we should probably go to the hospital.
Now, in 1982, the concept of Dad-as-labor-coach was still fairly new. Some of our friends had done it, but it wasn't quite the 'default setting' that it was to become. I was game to give it a shot, but Molly was very clear with me that she wanted no part of any guy helping her have babies. "You don't have the parts, you don't know what to do," she told me. She asked a friend of hers, an older woman who'd had four kids of her own, to be her coach. And I was fine with that. I only asked that I be present for the actual birth, if possible, and Molly agreed to that.
So, she called her coach, and we headed off to the hospital. Once we got there, Molly headed off to the birthing room, while I went to chill in the waiting room. At one point, the doctor popped in on me, just to let me know that things were going well, and that he'd send one of the nurses down with some scrubs for me, when it was getting close.
It was a couple hours later that the nurse came in and tossed me a stack of scrubs to put on. Which I did, and sauntered down the hall to the birthing room. When I stepped through the door, Molly, in the throes of labor, looked at me.
"Um, honey. . . you need to leave." She didn't quite say, "YOU did this to me!" but I'm pretty sure it was in there. The nurse explained that she had just given me the scrubs to put on; it was still a bit before the actual birth, and why didn't I just go back to the waiting room, and somebody would come for me when it was time. So I did.
It wasn't really very long before the next knock came on the waiting room door, and I hustled back down to the birthing room. By this time, Molly was too deeply into the task of ejecting this baby from her body to much notice my presence. The doctor waved me over to look over his shoulder; I could see the hair on the top of our baby's head, and a little more with each push. At one point, the doctor, in an effort to relieve the pressure on Molly's pelvic floor, pushed the baby back just a bit. "You're not pushing it back IN!" Molly shrieked. And the doc used his best bedside-manner voice to assure her that no, he wanted the baby to come out just as much as she did.
The baby's outward progress sort-of stalled for a few minutes, so the doc decided to do an episiotomy. He grabbed his scalpel, and traced a preliminary cut-line, leaving a small line of blood as he did so. Instantly, the thought flashed through my mind, "HEY! You're cutting my wife!" But within seconds, the head was out, and there was a sudden flurry of activity, as the doctor began suctioning out all the openings in the baby's head. Then PLOOP! Out popped our baby girl. Along with a whole mess of blood and amniotic fluid, and placenta, and who knew what else. The doc cut and clipped the umbilical cord, and laid the baby on Molly's breast. "Oh, 1F, it's you! You're born!" Molly cried.
The nurses wiped 1F off, and laid her under a heat lamp while they checked her vital signs, and all that, and she started to look more like a human, and less like a bluish rubber doll.
A couple days later, we brought 1F home for the first time. Molly and I both had twinges of, "Holy shit! We're the parents now! We don't know anything about being parents!"
And for me, being adopted, there was a special, unique sense of awe at 1F's birth - this baby girl was the first person I had ever known who was genetically related to me. . .
In the fullness of time, we did (mostly) figure out the whole 'parenting thing'. At least, 1F has survived to the present day, past her 27th birthday. And we had seven other children, besides. . .
This post has gotten longer than I intended; I suppose I should probably do another installment, with some of the other stories. . .
We'll be gone all next week. It's our community's annual kids' summer camp, and I'm back for a reprise of my role as