"Well... we're having a baby today...".
My wife's voice was thin and had somewhat of an apprehensive tone. But then again maybe it always sounds that way through the phone.
"Okay... so now what? What do you mean we're having a baby today? Just like that...?"
"We'll the liquid that came out was from the amniotic sac and the midwives say it ruptured from the top. So I have to be induced so we can speed up the process... it's the safest way. We have two options... a) we can go into the hospital for a medical induction or b) I can take this drink and we can still try for a home birth. But if the drink doesn't work in eight hours we'll have to do it medically in the hospital anyways. No matter what, we're going to have a baby today."
"Well do you still want a home birth? Even with these details?"
"Yeah, it would still mean a lot for us to do it at home. Don't ya think?"
"Yeah, well we've been planning for this... I feel like it would be a huge waste of time to not still try... are you cool to take that... elixir?
"Yeah, whatever, let's just roll with it and see what happens."
"Okay, we'll I guess this is happening... hah I'll go tell Margaret that I'm taking my vaca time early... Do you want to get some lunch and settle in for the day? This is crazy... we're going to have the baby today..."
We ended the convo excited for what the day was going to bring. It was a funny feeling knowing what the day would have in store.
My boss was in a meeting with the ED but I still knocked on the door and slowly opened it up.
"Hey, sorry to bother you but Cat needs to be induced so... we're having a baby today!"
"Oh my god, that's amazing news! Hah what are you still doing at work!? Go home! Go Go Go! I'll do your vacation hours, don't worry about any of that. See you in a few weeks and text me how it goes!"
I left the office excited to have time off work early. My staff (11) were briefed and totally ready for me to be out of the office too. I'm lucky I work at a place that's pretty easy going about this type of thing.
So the day went as follows:
1. We went for lunch at our favorite spot and started a romantic day of preparing for the birth of our child - cause it's important for the mom to have energy for what the evening was to have in store. Since the average delivery is 21 hours; mom needs nutrition. But something light as she will probably shit herself while trying to get the baby out... so if she eats something like a salad it might come out early and/or be less messy?!
2. About two hours later we went for a nice long walk and cramping started - good sign we'd have the baby at home and not in the hospital. It was a beautiful fall day and this was a great way to get through early labor.
3. Get everything ready at home for the birth: shower curtain on the bed, old sheets on top of the shower curtain (so when the baby is born on the bed, ya just scoop everything up and throw it out - easy clean up). Towels, water, a bag at the front door with all our shit in case we needed to rush out to the hospital; and all the other stuff needed to make sure the night was a success.
4. Her brother stopped by after work to say hi and we watched a movie. By about mid way through the movie the cramps started to get more serious so Simon left and we started to focus.
Roughly 8:30 pm:
Cramping was more serious. Cat was visibly in pain and the contractions were increasing. All good signs. Multiple phonecalls/msgs to midwives, family and friends.
"Drew! I need more water in my water bottle!!!!!!!"
I'm trying to comfort her with the techniques we learned in the prenatal classes. But she wants nothing of it. She is in pain and just doesn't want me around. I'm basically just doing what she needs when she yells at me from the bed room.
In regular birth situations the contractions get longer and they come quicker. Usually the final stages have the contractions lasting a minute coming every other minute. So it's important for the non-birthing partner to be monitoring the contractions because it's one of the easiest ways to know how far along in the birthing process you are.
"Babe, I duno... I think they should come..."
"BABE, THEY DON'T WANT TO COME! Ugh........ ... ... ... they said it all sounds too soon... uggggnnnn, how long are these contractions!?
"Shit I duno, seems like they coming really fast. How long do they feel?"
"..... ..... ..... .... they're UGH quick... Maybe UGH 15 seconds?!"
"Fuck this I'm calling my dad, he'll know what to do."
My dad is a Radiologist. Doesn't work with babies but as a professional doc he knows a little bit about all things medical.
"You need to get those midwives there immediately. It sounds like she's having a baby."
"They don't want to come to soon... they think it's too soon, like it'll be a waste of time coming early..."
These days everyone and their dog wants a midwife. So in our situation, our team was in charge of a dozen families that month and they were expecting up to four births that day/week. First time parents usually don't understand when to call the midwife or go to the hospital. So - in a hospital situation - they just do a c-section or send the family home if they're too early. Really ya just need the hospital and/or midwife the last couple hours before the baby shows up. All other labor can be handled by the soon-to-be-parents. Especially if you've had some prenatal training - which we had. And our midwives really didn't want us wasting their time by having them show up hours early. Sounds really dumb, but they did have a big caseload so I get it.
"Son, you're going to have a baby at home alone if you don't get those midwives over immediately."
I believed him but I needed a second opinion. In the next 5 min I chatted with my sister - Nurse - and brother - Anesthesiologist (doctor) - and they both were very concerned with the situation.
"UGHHHH they said.... .................. the contractions are too short..... I.. You can call them when they're closer to a minute."
At this point I was pretty fucking mad. Cat thought it would better if she talked to them, and she had other questions/concerns besides the strange contractions and, so far, very short birthing period. But they were so adamant on waiting longer as they thought we were over reacting. I wanted to get them on the phone and just yell at them to come over. Besides I had the info from my family that they needed to get their shit together.
Cat was fully naked now (a sure sign the baby is coming - apparently mammals like to be alone, in the dark - and if human - naked when giving birth so this was a massive warning sign) and she was running back and forth from the bed room and the washroom going #2 - another huge warning sign baby was CLOSE.
At this point she wanted NOTHING to do with me. If I interacted with her in any way she would get angry. She was in her primal motherly, feminine state and I was okay to let her do her thing. I was simply communicating with everyone apprehensively via phone/comp.
I was on my computer messaging friends and family trying to figure out what to do next as Cat continued her trips between our room and the washroom. She was also grunting a lot now too and if I voiced my concern she simply yelled back "I NEED TO DEAL WITH THIS, THE CONTRACTIONS HAVEN'T CHANGED...." and then she would question whether or not we needed to call the midwives again.
Just then - no joke - my computer SHUT OFF on it's own. This actually happened and even then I knew it was a sign.
I sat there looking at my reflection in the powered down monitor reflecting on the last 15 minutes and listening to my wife grunt away while being in the washroom.
I didn't realize it at the time, but she was clearly in transition (meaning the baby was on her way through the birth canal headed towards freedom).
I thought to myself "Fuck it, somethings gota give". And I decided to take control.
I walked over to the washroom. The door was open, she was naked sitting on the toilet breathing very heavy, sweating, and groaning.
"Babe, we need those fucking midwives here. I'm calling them."
Our conversation was very short. I gave the midwife all the details and she finally decided to head over. But it would take her awhile as she lived out of town and also needed to drive across the city to get to us. We had her on speaker phone so both of us could describe the situation.
"Babe, we need to move you to the bedroom. You have to get off the toilet. If the baby is coming, you can't do it here!"
She didn't move. Her head was down, her eyes closed and she was swaying on the toilet focusing on the pain.
"BABE, SERIOUSLY this is no place to have a kid."
"I can't. Get up."
"What do you mean you can't get up?"
"I can't get up."
"No, you have to get up. Let's go."
I grabbed her hands and motioned to help pull her up.
"There's a lot of blood in the toilet! I can't get up."
"What!? For how long?"
"I duno... since I sat down, I'm scared! It's hard to move!"
"Oh fuck I can at least look to see what's going on down there... you gota get up babe... we HAVE to get to the bedroom".
She stood up and I thought even looking at the situation would help us figure out what to do next.
Sure enough her you-know-what was protruding downwards and what looked like the very top of a human head was cresting.
"Oh fuck she's there!".
"What?! What do you mean she's there?!"
"I mean I can see her head already! Let's get you to the bedroom NOW!"
I was a lifeguard for years and my crisis situation voice/mode tapped in and it was GO TIME.
She took 2 steps off the toilet and Charlotte's head popped out.
This is crazy because in most birth situations even just pushing the baby's head out can take several minutes. Baby's heads usually just don't POP out.
The other sketchy thing about this was A LOT of blood came pouring out. In prenatal you learn that blood usually comes out with the placenta after the baby is already out. Because the placenta is a literal organ that detaches from the uterine wall, a lot of blood comes with it. But, probably because everything was happening so fast, the blood came out with the baby.
We also learned that 1 in 3 babies have the chord around their neck. People freak out about this and dramatize it after the fact. But its very common and, unless the chord is short, it's a non issue. Our prenatal teacher literally told us a month earlier "If, for whatever reason, you find yourself in a situation where you're alone delivering your baby, when the head comes out, check to see if the chord is around the neck. You'll be able to fit a finger or two between the chord and the neck and just slip it over the head!"
Lastly, we learned that delivering the child standing is actually a great way to do it. If this is the chosen pose, the mother can simply "Huff" the baby out. Like breathing and bopping until the baby - hopefully - falls out on it's own.
For whatever reason I thought being behind her would be the best place for me to situate myself. I reached up and checked for the chord. Lo and behold it was there around Charlotte's neck. I got my finger in there, pulled on it and flipped the chord around her head - ezpz.
Then, like literally in unison, Cat and I were like: "Huff the baby out!"
She did the breathing and bopped up and down for a few seconds - while I had my hands gently on Charlotte's hanging head - and then the tiny body came crashing down into my arms.
An interesting thing to note is that somehow we called the midwife back during this 1.5 minute ordeal. I can't remember if it was me or Cat, but the midwife was now somehow on speaker phone again.
When babies come out they're very lifeless and covered in the white amniotic paste. At this point the fluid is all out and it leaves the baby looking pasty. Baby has also been breathing water... so they ain't breathing air when they come out...
"Oh MY GOD SHE'S DEAD. SHE'S DEAD. SHE'S DEAD!!"
This tiny, white, lifeless body is in my arms and my wife was LOOSING HER SHIT while we both stood/crouched in a big puddle of blood.
This was by far the most fucked up moment of my life.
The frantic voice of our midwife came through the speakerphone: "She's not dead! She's not dead! Cat, pick her up! Put her on your chest and rub her back. Keep rubbing her back!"
Cat frantically reached down and scooped up the tiny body. She rubbed her back and in about 5 seconds Charlotte started to move, make noises and then let out a little cry.
In the first minute of being out of the womb the baby has to switch from breathing water to breathing air. With a midwife/docs/nurses/whatever this super stressful moment is put to ease and is super natural/normal. But for us in our situation, it was HELL.
The most profound sense of relief washed over me as Charlotte seemed to be okay.
"Drew, call 911 and take her to the room and get her and the baby warm! Hand the phone to Cat, I'll keep her company while you deal with the call".
I did as she asked and got 911 on my phone while directing them to the room. 911 answered after the 1st ring.
"911 emergency services what's the nature of your call?"
The voice was a male. He was very calm... it sounded to have a slight Indian or middle-eastern accent. Based on the tone he sounded 30ish.
"We just delivered our baby at home alone."
I have no idea what my voice sounded like - if I was frantic or not. I remember thinking I sounded calm.
"What is the address of your home. Where is mom and baby? Are they okay?"
I gave the address and added "We have blue Christmas lights wrapped around the tree in the front yard - they can't miss it. They're in the bed, they seem fine but I'm honestly not sure."
"Paramedics will be arriving shortly, make sure the front door is unlocked and they have a clear path to mom and the baby. Clean up any blood or mess in the area. They won't wait for you to answer the door. Are you expecting midwives or other supports on the scene?"
"Yeah, our midwife is on her way, she'll be here in roughly 10 minutes."
"Okay, stay on the phone with me until the paramedics arrive, is there any blood from the birth?"
"Yes" - I thought it was weird they asked about this.
"Clean it up" - I thought this was even weirder as I felt I should be with Cat and Charlotte. But I grabbed a few towels and cleaned up the blood in the washroom anyways.
While I was doing this I asked, "Do you guys get calls like this all the time? Hah is this a normal thing." I did think it was a funny question and I did laugh a little while asking.
"Yah, this is more common than most people thing. Or we get the call while people are driving to the hospital and they birth the child in the car. When you're done cleaning up, check on mom and baby and make sure their breathing is regular."
I walked back into the room and Cat and Charlotte were snuggled up in bed doing fine. This entire process - with the phone call - took about 1.5 minutes and then I heard the paramedics come through the front door. At that point the call ended and they took over. There was a man and a women both in their mid-late 30s.
The paramedics were polite, professional, very attentive to our emotional situation and extremely courteous. She even put the dirty towels in the washing machine and started it after Cat and Charlotte were looked after.
Soon after, the midwife and Cat's mom arrive and everything went on pretty "normally". And in the end, Charlotte was perfectly healthy. So we were SUPER SUPER lucky there were no complications what-so-ever otherwise we could have had a serious medical situation on our hands with either Cat, Charlotte, or both, being at huge risk.
When the midwife arrived she barked an order at me, "I need a warm towel for the baby. Did you put the towels in the dryer to warm?" - this is something people do for home births and apparently the warm towels are nice for the baby...
But I shot her a glance like "I just did your job bitch, fuck the warm towels." I was too annoyed to even answer her at that point.
She paused for a second and then moved on. "Yah, we don't really need warm towels at this point..."
For the record, this midwife was the type that wore anti circumcision t-shirts and was a hardcore feminist. Which I get. I'm not anti that movement at all. It's just sad those attitudes sometimes correlate with the person also just generally being an asshole. Stand for what you believe in, sure; just don't be a straight dickhead about it or in general - rant over.
So that's the story ya'll. I don't wish this on anyone regardless of how "cool" or wild it was. When people hear we did this they're always like, "WHOA THAT'S AWESOME." And the first thing I respond with is, "No, it sucks actually." We were robbed of an emotional birthing experience, instead we were thrown into crisis mode. All things considered, we actually thought she wad dead when she came out. It was the scariest moment of both of our lives. But in the end would I change it? Because she was healthy, no. We did want a home birth and it's what we had. Moving forward, we'd probably have another kid in a birthing centre instead of at home... it seems like the best of both worlds.
I hope you enjoyed this story.