I had never checked my phone more times than when I was waiting for Shiloh to arrive. Out of anxiety I would answer each call yelling, "Has your water broken yet?!"
In retrospect I assume that's a confusing and slightly scary way to start a conversation with one of my many student loan collectors, but then again, my many student loans are also confusing and slightly scary.
While I kept my eye on my cell phone at work, Beth was at home rolling around the living room on her exercise ball. It's not something she does everyday by the way, it was all in the effort to get the little boy in her belly to roll on his own into the best position for a speedy delivery.
It was unclear whether the ball had much of any effect, which isn't all too surprising considering that the only exercise I ever seemed to get out of it was ineffectively trying to sit down on the slippery sphere as it rolled out from under meI still had my fingers crossed that it would do the trick to ease make labor for Beth and Shiloh.
She began having contractions on Wednesday, but by that point they were mostly intermittent spasms that made me question whether she would give birth soon or had simply had too many bean and cheese burritos. Boy, they are delicious.
By Thursday however, my suspicions of a botched burritos had subsided, when it became clear that Beth was definitely in the process of delivering our little bundle of pooping joy.
We decided early on in the pregnancy to have a home birth, because a baby is a lot like a pizza. If you want it delivered, why in the world would you send it to a hospital and not to your own house? More importantly, home is where we feel the most comfortable. Beth felt free to move around, listen to any music she wanted, and eat bean burritos to her hearts content.
It all seemed to be progressing slowly. Nevertheless, our doula Avira graciously arrived early to provide support, and I mean that rather literally. As far as back support goes, Shiloh didn't make things easy for Beth and despite all of her efforts to get him in the right position, he really seemed to want to cram his body into a position that made Beth's lower spine writhe in agony.
Having someone in labor in the same room with you isn't all that fun when you realize that there's not much you can really do for them. Apart from giving back-rubs, all I could do was just be there which, in fact, was the best support possible. Beth's mother Margaret also arrived by this point, and simply having her there was a great comfort.
In between the moments of calm conversation, our doula would step in to ensure Beth was as comfortable as possible during contractions. As the hours stretched on the four of us walked around the backyard in an attempt to speed up Shiloh's progress. We were even joined by our cat Wolfie, who seemed to enjoy weaving between Beth's feet as she slowly waddled back and forth in the grass.
We were surprised by Beth's calm demeanor and were left unsure as to whether her ability to casually converse was a sign that her labor wasn't intensifying, or if she really was just that much of a trooper despite her discomfort.
To be sure, we call our midwife Alex. On her arrival she seemed to be equally uncertain as to how far Shiloh had trekked over the hours, but after doing a double-take during her examination, she said with certainty that Beth was between 8-9 centimeters dilated.
Yes, Beth really was that much of a trooper. She had apparently breezed through the "transition" phase of labor, the phase in which apparently every wife expresses her innermost resentment for her husband.
I was quite pleased to hear the news.
In an instant we got to work filling the birthing pool. Filling a pool indoors is no easy feat by the way. If you don't believe me, just do what I did and hold up a hose to your kitchen faucet. It doesn't fit. Even with adapters I found at Home Depot, I couldn't quite make the connection. So I performed my first fatherly duty and wrapped it with duct tape. It seemed to do the trick just fine.
Beth transferred into the pool as the assistant midwives arrived and was shortly given the go ahead to start pushing, even though she clearly didn't need much approval. Shiloh was definitely on his way, but seemed to be slow in gathering his things before heading out the door.
Despite the sad groans, Beth continued to stay strong and cheerful. She took time inbetween big pushes to take sips of soup, water, and the occasional popsicle, but as the time continued to pass and progress seemed to level out, Alex encouraged a change from the birthing pool to our bed.
Beth was not a fan of this idea. I can only relate because I hate stepping out of the shower on a cold morning, but that's of no comparison in the case of someone who's also delivering a human being at the same time.
Again though, Beth is a trooper. She stood up slowly and grabbed onto my shoulders for support as I gradually began to guide us down the hallway.
Beth often complained of the sheer weight of carrying a baby, and as she stopped in the hallway for a contraction, I completely got to experience it. With all her might I could feel her press downwards towards the floor. Her fingers dug in tightly to my collar bone and then moved lower as she moved into a squat.
It was there that another contraction hit, and suddenly we all realized that the bed was no longer as enticing as a location as that hallway for childbirth.
As I struggled dearly to hold back my wincing from holding up Beth, she again held onto me, this time specifically onto my leg hair through my jeans. Clearly, she was the one in the most discomfort at the moment, so I cried especially quietly as she plucked out handfuls of follicles with a loud groan.
She took another breath, the last big one in 32 hours, and pushed.
"There you are little boy!" Beth exclaimed as she pulled Shiloh up and held him close in her arms.
In between our midwife, our doula, Beth's mom, and three assistants, all crowded in a hallway, Shiloh greeted us for the first time at 1:21 a.m. on January 17th, 2014.
It was surreal seeing him out in the open, realizing that this little guy was real, alive, and ours for the rest of our lives. No words can properly describe what it was like at that moment, to actually see him blink and feel his hands and toes that had teased us from beneath the surface of Beth's growing belly over the previous months.
Beth passed him into my arms before she finally completed the long journey to our bed.
Birth stories always glance over the messiness of the after-birth, but I think it's worth mentioning since I really had no idea how much of a process laid ahead of us.
While I was gazing slack-jawed in wonder at our new baby boy, Beth was in bed getting stitches for a few tears. Our midwife was concerned over the amount of blood Beth had lost, but Beth was cheery as usual, if not incredibly tired. I briefly went to the kitchen to get some water, and while I attempted to remove the wad of duct-tape I used to attach the hose for the birthing pool, I noticed a sudden burst of activity.
Suddenly midwives were scattering in and out of the house from all directions.
"I've got the oxygen tank," one said as she lugged in a large metal canister wrapped with plastic tubing.
I wandered back to the bedroom in a confused and exhausted stupor to find Beth lying on her back in the middle of the bathroom floor.
It was a sight that immediately had me worried, but I was surprised to find Beth perfectly relaxed and still conversing with Alex who was standing above her.
I was informed that while Beth was transferring to the bathroom the blood-loss caught up to her and sent her crashing to the floor. She had woken up immediately, but Alex informed us that if Beth continued to lose any blood a trip to the emergency room would be in order.
Much like the birthing pool, Beth felt perfectly fine where she was laying, but nevertheless our team of midwives managed to roll her onto a blanket and carry her back to the bed.
Thankfully the bleeding seemed to mostly subside, but Beth was still in for a long recovery. For the next couple days she remained frustratingly confined to our bed as she downed bottles of iron supplements to make up for the pints of blood she lost.
While we waited for color to gradually return to Beth's cheeks, we spent the time in bed cuddling with our son. In the early mornings I would wake up and sway him back and forth in the living room, wandering from corner to corner to find the most comforting spot.
And his favorite activity these days? Bouncing on the exercise ball. Go figure...