Have you ever had a basketball thrown at full force right into your stomach? It completely knocks the wind out of you. Now, imagine that basketball was made of pure lead and it was thrown into your stomach five straight times. This is about how I was feeling when the midwife alerted me that she couldn’t find our baby’s heartbeat.
We helped Emily out of the tub and onto the bed. The midwife was able to find a heartbeat, but it had dropped significantly. I felt like all my silly fears about a home birth were coming true, and I was living in a real life nightmare. I’m a relatively successful writer thanks to my active imagination, but this magnificent talent can sometimes be a curse. I had already played out the horrific scenario where the ambulance had to race through construction, avoid the lions who broke free from the zoo (ignore that the Brantford zoo likely has nothing more ferocious than a leaf-craving llama), make a leap over the bridge that mysteriously broke overnight, and do this all as the baby’s heartbeat continues to drop.
Of course, before that adventure could begin, I had to call 911. A phone call that I hoped would be super quick, and would send the ambulance here within seconds. This is what I got when they patched me through to the ambulance instead.
Ambulance: “Please state the reason you need an ambulance.”
Me: “We were having a home birth, and our midwife is here, but the fetal heart rate has dropped. We need to immediately transfer to the hospital.”
Ambulance: “Is this your wife?”
(My thoughts: “Why? Are you interested?”)
Ambulance: “How old is she?”
(My thoughts: “Seriously man, this isn’t the time to pick up a date.”)
Ambulance: “Does the midwife need any help with first aid?”
Me: “No, she is a fully trained midwife. She just wants to transfer her to the hospital via ambulance.”
(My thoughts: “Does this service send ambulances or just ask stupid questions?”)
Ambulance: “Has the baby been delivered?”
(My thoughts: “FETAL heart rate has dropped!”)
Now, in the defense of Mr. Ambulance Dispatch Guy, he was really calm and nice. He did reassure me the ambulance was on the way, and they would provide all the help that was necessary. But when you’re afraid you might lose your baby (or not even sure how your wife is doing), you’re not really in the mood for a game of 20 questions but rather just want to know help is on the way. I really do appreciate the man’s help, even if at the time it only helped the panic to further overwhelm my entire body.
Because life likes cruel practical jokes as much as humans, I returned to the bedroom to find out the baby’s heartbeat had picked up to a comfortable level and everything was now progressing well. I got to call my dear friends at 911 and cancel everything. The second midwife arrived shortly after and I now had the hope that the delivery would be super smooth from this point on.
I also once hoped I could be Indiana Jones when I grew up and I used to wish that I could fly. So, things that I hope or wish for don’t always happen, and a smooth delivery was destined to fall into that category.
The next few hours were probably some of most emotionally painful of my life. My wife was now ready to start pushing, and that is exactly what she did. The problem was her body decided it would rather be difficult and didn’t give her the powerful contractions she needed. It meant she was doing almost all the pushing herself without any of the usual assistance from her uterus. This not only meant my wife was expending massive energy, but she was in a great deal of pain.
I know she was in a great deal of pain because she would let out moans and grunts. I also knew because she’d occasionally put me in a MMA style choke hold that I was pretty sure was going to pop my head into the next room. Being choked isn’t one of my favourite daily past times, but in this instance, I wanted my wife to squeeze as hard as she could. I wanted her to do anything that would relieve the pain she was feeling.
I’ve said it before in this column, but I really need to make it clear how much my wife refuses to admit she is hurt. One of the lions who broke from the fictional zoo, which I keep referring to, could break into our home and devour her legs, but she would still hobble around vacuuming the whole house and deny she was feeling anything. So, these moans, grunts, and chokeholds revealed to me how overwhelmingly painful the delivery process was for Emily. She was not only admitting pain, but she was groaning for everyone in the room to hear.
I’m not foolish enough to try to convince you that the two and half hours of watching my wife push were anywhere near as hard as what she was going through. But I also don’t think I’d ever felt more helpless watching the woman I love scream in agony. As a husband, you want to protect and love your wife, and you don’t want anything bad to happen to this person who owns a piece of your heart. But there she was in unimaginable pain, and all I could do was ask her to breathe and reassure her she was doing great. This is why when she put me in the body vice, I just wanted her to squeeze and squeeze until she felt some kind of relief. I wanted that pain to go away. I wanted that baby to arrive so this could all end.
My neck was sore, my emotions were a mess, but I was proud of my wife. She was a fighter. She was in incredible amounts of pain and her body wasn’t cooperating but she still pushed and pushed. She did everything she could to try to get this baby into this world. She was amazing. I still like to brag about how tough and persistent my wife was that day. She was a real life warrior (and I’m honestly not just trying to butter her up to get out of diaper changing duty).
Unfortunately, two and a half hours is far too long to push. After originally averting the need for an ambulance, it was finally decided that Emily needed to head to the hospital. The home birth dream was over. We had to call the ambulance again, and this adventure was going to end in a hospital.
Stay tuned for part 4 on Friday!