Thursday, November 5, 2009

Labor of Love...and Other UB40 Albums

I've never attended a birth; never been with someone as they experienced the many symptoms and stages of labor. I've read books, listened to stories, taken classes, and accepted or rejected advice, but I still had no idea what to expect on our own journey. Rather than attempt the impossible of recapping the hours and days once they'd passed, I decided to tuck moments away as we went along. This is the fragmented story of our daughter's birth, which does little justice to actually being there.

Monday, 7:17 AM -
I was up early reading about the fourth trimester theory in a book called "The Happiest Baby on the Block." We may live on a small block with lots of unhappy babies, but one can dream. When I went upstairs to say good morning, Carrie smiled and told me that "things were happening." I never imagined that words like mucous and plug could elicit such joy in either one of us. I felt a surge of adrenaline, which always inspires me to ask, "Should I stay home from work?" "Call me at lunchtime for an update," she replied. The adrenaline faded. At least I could add some new information to my t-shirt that reads "No baby yet."

Monday, 4:06 PM -
I was very excited to report this morning's development to our midwife. Surely this would be the piece of news that elicited some enthusiasm in her. Instead, she looked vaguely fatigued by the very notion that pre-labor had begun and maybe even a little concerned that we'd past the due date. She told us she would make appointments for tests if labor hadn't started by next Monday. It felt like a threat. I felt defensive. It's only been a day, I said. This was not the comforting news we'd driven fifteen minutes to get. Then, on our way out, her secretary added, "I never like to give advice to first-timers except that they should always add two weeks to their due date." This is why the words never and except should not be allowed in the same sentence. It's the equivalent of "No offense, but..." or "I hate to do this..." They're just lies designed to assuage the guilt that comes with truth. Why not avoid both?

On our way home, Carrie and I talked about how people suck and how they should just shut the hell up. Who finds late-baby-stories comforting when they're hovering around their due date? That's like telling excruciatingly-painful-labor-stories after the first contraction. "When I was your age, we had labor in the snow and my cat was our doula." We talked about labor inducing options like warm baths, spicy food, and sex, but decided we wouldn't need any of it, because Amari would be here soon.

Monday, 8:33 PM - After having sex in a warm bath of salsa...

Carrie's back was aching when I arrived home from class. I massaged her for a while and she told me that she felt some tightening. Later on, she mentioned the words, "I'm scared," for the first time. I asked what she was afraid of, knowing if I'd been her I would have had an extensive list. "I'm afraid I'll go into labor in the middle of the night and lose a bunch of sleep." Not even on my list, but fair enough. She really appreciates her sleep, and I really appreciate her when she gets it.

Tuesday, 12:06 AM - When I finally got to bed, Carrie was mid-contraction. She had another one 12 minutes later. "Do I need to call anyone or do anything?" I asked. I was getting that primal adrenaline again, ready to do anything but sleep. Carrie assured me that she was fine, that I should try to get some rest. When I woke up again it was 3:40, there was a blazing fire downstairs and Carrie was curled up on the couch with one of our cats. "Damn old school doulas," I muttered to myself. Carrie was fine; she'd had several inconsistent contractions. She'd come downstairs so she could walk around without waking me.

Tuesday, 6:26 AM - Carrie was still downstairs, still not sleeping, and still contracting from time to time. I offered to stay home, which I was getting much quicker at. At first Carrie seemed ambivalent, but then told me that she didn't feel like being alone. Although I'd spent a great deal of time remodeling her menstruation shack into a birthing hut, it looked like she could really use the support.

Tuesday, 10:37 AM - Carrie's mom is a piece of work. She has lived a full life, thinks alternatively, yet has somehow cultivated the belief that her world view is more often fact than possibility. This can be challenging at times - like daily and during deep, painful labor contractions. She asked Carrie to promise that we wouldn't wander farther than a block away from home lest she jump into the final stage of labor and give birth in the bushes. When we left for the beach, she kind of frowned at me when I said we'd be right back with her granddaughter. As she has reminded me, things were different back then.

Fortunately, Carrie hasn't lost her sense of humor. When she was doubled over in pain at one point, I stupidly asked, "Contraction?" to which she responded, "No I just like looking stupid." By the time real labor starts I will have either exhausted all my stupid questions or learned to keep them to myself.

Tuesday, 3:55 PM - We just got home from a walk around Lake Cleone. I took some final pregnancy pictures, including my attempt at an artsy belly photo which involves a tree and a mediocre photographer. As we walked I noticed a surge of euphoria that could not be explained away solely by a Vente iced coffee. It was one of those defining moments that I was absolutely certain I would remember. Glancing back along the trail, I recalled how often Carrie and I had walked along this path during the past eight years, through many joys and challenges, break-ups and reunions. Then looking ahead, I felt profound love and admiration for her as she climbed through the brush with our daughter still inside her, imagining that for many years to come we will walk this path with her as she grows older.

The contractions came more consistently as we walked, every twenty minutes like clockwork, and Carrie endured the pain with barely a grimace. We sat by the ocean for a while, each in our own thoughts, then in each others, a certain knowing in both of our eyes that the next time we visit this beach we We made our way home to continue the wait.

Tuesday, 10:46 PM - The contractions have been consistently 8-10 minutes apart this evening. Carrie walks around the living room, sits on the yoga ball, and bravely fights through the pain as I take on the less painful, less courageous job of "timer." It's getting late, Carrie has gone upstairs again to rest up for the home stretch. She looks so strong, beautiful, and sleepy. I suppose I should rest up, too - I'm sure I'll have more "timing" to do in the morning.

It's interesting to sit here in the glow of technology watching my sad attempt at describing this experience with words. I believe tomorrow will be my daughter's birthday; will be a day that marks a new beginning, a rite of passage, an indelible mark in the course of my existence. I will remember this day forever. Unless, of course, I have a memory like my father's in which case I will have to make another child just to remind me of family birthdays and anniversaries.

For now, good night, Amari. I'll see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5:52 AM -
Sleep came in 5-6 minute increments for Carrie. Any doubt that women are the stronger, more patient sex is surely erased in the hours preceding and during childbirth. I did not want to leave Carrie alone, but when we'd finished all six episodes of "The Office" (an excellent early labor DVD by the way), she kicked me out of the living room saying, "One of us should get some sleep." While I'm surprised by my own calm, I'm completely in awe of Carrie's fortitude and perseverance. She's exhausted, hurting, and has been nothing short of exceptional. She says she feels her hips opening and Amari moving down, which briefly elicited panic in me, but Carrie knows her body, her process, and I trust that if something needed to happen right away she would tell me. We'll call our midwife later this morning.

Wednesday, 9:05 AM - Our midwife stopped by and told Carrie that she is 2 cm dilated and her cervix is "wafer thin." I looked incredulously at Carrie when she went on to say the contractions might start to get intense at 4 cm. What the hell were the last 24 hours? The good news - Amari should be here by this afternoon or evening. As Rita Mae Brown once wrote, "People are like teabags - you can never tell how strong they are until they're in hot water." My fatigue disguises my fear, convincing me that it's only excitement. I know how strong Carrie is and I'll soon know how I feel about myself.

Wednesday, 11:20 AM - Although I am convinced that I can type with one hand and hold Carrie's with the other, I fear it may not appear very supportive yelling "push" from the downstairs computer. Our house feels calm right now - pregnant with anticipation...and with a pregnant woman. The sun is shining outside, and the trees are swaying gently in a cool autumn breeze. Tomorrow, the same trees will sway, the same sun will shine, the same breeze may gently blow, but everything will feel different.

Thursday, 3:40 PM - I have neither the energy nor the words to describe the last twenty-four hours. Our daughter, Amari Becker Fishman, arrived in our living room at 4:21 this morning. She is 6 pounds 8 ounces, she is beautiful, and she is all ours. I'm sure every man who witnesses his wife go through labor and childbirth believes that she is the strongest, most persistent, and courageous person on the planet. Tomorrow I will try to describe Amari's birthday and the hours that led up to it, but suffice it to say that Carrie is now, and forever will be, my hero.

Welcome to our world, Amari. I love you.


  1. Congratulations Guys!!! I can't wait to meet Amari. Carrie is my hero too, that was quite a story. I thought my labors were long and arduous, but that sounds bad. Miss and love you guys! Enjoy those first moments.

  2. I've learned to find and read these...whaddya mean about me being a challenge? My universe IS the alternative universe...of course, how could it be any different from a Granny who goes around talking and answering questions from all the animals? Much love.....I'm glad it's over. Hated seeing Carrie in pain...that's why I left. Being a granny, I have that ability, especially being 50 feet away from Y'all. Love again....grannie C