In My Defense: A Birth Story
The events surrounding Ivan's birth were so thrilling that I was dying to tell the world the story as soon as we got home from the birth center but I knew I had to reserve that honor for Dinka, the woman who actually went through the labor (marvel at my generosity!). So now, the story has been told and it's a darn good read, but I'd like to add a few notes where I think they might be illuminating, specifically with regard to my portrayal.
- The most important thing to remember is that the only experience that we had to base our decisions on was the nearly 40-hour marathon that was Veronika's birth. We were told that things could be faster this time but at every step, I was carefully guarding myself (and Dinka, to the extent that I could) against falsely inflated hopes that might later lead to dramatic disappointment. As we learned with Veronika, the way a labor progresses against expectations (ours and the birth attendents') is a trying psychological test. This time, I figured that it would be better to keep our expectations lower and be pleasantly surprised than to anticipate smooth sailing. Hence my "don't be disappointed if you're not as far along as you think you should be" warnings in the car when Dinka was ready to start pushing.
- Since most of the labor took place at home, we have no real idea how fast things progressed as far as dilation is concerned. The contractions were three minutes apart (quite close) from breakfast on but only thirty seconds long (pretty short) until 11:30 or so. When we were on a walk at 10:45, it may very well have been "way too early" to go in, as far as measurement is concerned. Dinka could have been at three or four centimeters then, we just don't know. Then again, she could have been at six since the night before when her water broke.
- After the contractions started gaining strength, they were erratic in length and spacing, which is why I wanted to time five more before leaving. I was also trying to stay home as long as possible, which I still maintain is a good strategy, only now I know a little more about what a short(er) labor looks like for the future.
- Dinka was not that mean during labor, only a little bit, which let me know how serious things were getting.
- It did not matter which car we took. My thinking was that we should leave the car with the carseat installed home with Dinka's mom in case of emergency, even though she doesn't drive. Living five minutes from the birth center, I could have exchanged cars at any time, like when I picked up Veronika to come see her brother. I was not the spastic TV father-to-be, as has been claimed. However when I told Dinka that we were taking the other car, I did feel that moment was the closest I came to real physical danger.
- We live five minutes from the birth center. It would be very difficult to leave so late that the baby would be delivered in the car. If we lived a half-hour away, there's no way I would've advocated staying home so long.
Now that my reputation has been washed clean, on to more positive things. Being a part of this labor was truly awesome. Since everything progressed so quickly and on such a convenient timeline, there was no exhaustion or hunger or sleep deprivation to speak of, so I was able to be so much more engaged and focused on what was going on (not that I wasn't for the first birth, but I can't say my wits were fully about me after the first twenty-four hours). The efficient progression of things really impressed upon me the beauty and power of this natural process. We went through almost the entire labor by ourselves at home—eating at the right times, sleeping and relaxing in the beginning, walking in the middle, using the techniques and labor positions we learned near the end—and I am enormously proud of that. When we arrived at the birth center, it was such a relief to have our feelings and instincts about how things were progressing validated. Ten minutes later, Ivan arrived and we actually had the strength to be aware of how wonderful those first moments are.
And now on to my beautiful wife, who needs her own paragraph. Dinka handled this intense labor so well that at first it was hard to believe that it was progressing as fast as it was. Outside of some kind of Pitocin-induced frenzy, I imagine that the last half-hour of contractions were probably among the most difficult that one can experience and she handled it all by herself, at home (well, I was there too, but I can't pretend to take any credit for that part). She was absolutely ferocious in the pushing, doing an amount of work in ten minutes that I am not likely to know in my life. In the first few days after Ivan was born, it was remarkable to witness how much strength she had to cope with a demanding and very hungry baby, while I was left dragging my feet in the dust after pulling one 5:30 - 7:30 a.m. shift.
So that's my piece of the story. I still find it hard to believe that it all happened this way and I suspect that may be the case for a while. But he's here now, and that's kind of irrefutable evidence, isn't it?