Four days ago I was reminded, for the second time in ten months, how incredibly strong my wife is. I know, I know… everyone says that about a woman that has given birth. Its become a little bit of a cliché “oh wow, you’re so strong”. It’s the thing you’re supposed to say just before you totally ignore the mother and start oogling the little poop smelling, pukey blob she just forced out of her body. But today as I sit in our living room staring at our “little blob” in her rocking chair, listening to the sweet sounds of Elton John over the stereo and the bulldogge version of sleep apnea, I am honestly having a hard time understanding what took place in the early hours of January 22nd 2018.
It all started six weeks after Paxton was born….just kidding. We can skip that part.
It all started Sunday January 21st, Pax had just been put down for the night and we began our nightly routine of cleaning up the house which these days usually resembles the images you see of FEMA rebuilding a hurricane ravaged city. Tonight Josie said that she didn’t really feel great. She was having some pains in her stomach and was feeling lethargic. I offered to finish the clean up and she headed up to our bedroom to take up her post on our bed, propped up in a semi sitting position. This spot she had been forced to occupy for the past three weeks due to a non-stop barrage of colds, flu, sinusitis and just general pregnancy. By the time I got upstairs and kicked off my slippers, Jos was in noticeable discomfort. “What’s going on?” I asked her. “I’m having pains in my lower stomach” she replied through a wince. It was at that point that we had a friendly disagreement about whether my 9 month pregnant wife with pains in her stomach (aka. contractions) should call the midwife on-call to check in. Let the record show that I was pro calling the midwife and won the argument. After a short listen to one side of the telephone conversation I could tell that the midwife wanted to check her out in person and that we were going to need to make the trip out to Markham Stouffville Hopsital which was about 40 minutes away. After notifying our “Go Team” (my parents) I frantically packed a few extra things into our over night bags while Josie waddled around trying to look for things that I very firmly told her she did not need at time like this. (Are two toothbrushes really necessary for labour?).
After my dad arrived to watch our sleeping Paxton we hit the road and I tried not to rage on the very slow drivers that seemed determined to make our trip to Hospital as long as possible. Josie was now in pain. I don’t mean discomfort, I mean the kind of pain that I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced before. When you feel the need to grab the handle bar above the passenger’s seat in the car and lift your body off of the seat, you’re in bad shape. We arrived at the hospital and I wheeled that wheel chair so quickly through the halls up to the labour and delivery floor that Josie actually requested that we slow down, making it much harder for me to properly drift around the corners. After settling in to the delivery room and meeting a midwife that we had never met before Josie was informed that there would be two students joining her; Josie gave me a look and I knew exactly what she was thinking. Not only had she never met this midwife before but now she had two noobs poking around and asking questions that no one wants to hear while having a contraction. Side note: cracking open a Schweppes ginger ale and taking a long, satisfying sip during the middle of a pregnant woman’s contraction is not a good idea either. I feel like thats midwifery day one. Josie took it all in stride though and rode through each contraction with a fierce composure. After a couple of hours that seemed like an eternity, Josie turned to me and addressed both myself and the midwife and asked “I think I would like to get an epidural, is that ok?” Is that ok?! Are you kidding me?! If I was in her shoes I would have given up a long time ago….”Lord take me now. I’m ready”. After we both reassured her that that was more than ok, a call was put in for the anesthetist and he arrived about 10-15 minutes later. At this point my wife’s poor luck with epidurals continued right where it left off from her first labour. With Paxton, Josie had requested one and after the Dr. with a hilarious last name (Butt) had completed everything with a poor attitude (do you really need to angrily ask a pregnant woman who is in labour why she is crying?) he left and Jos was able to relax. An hour later when the pain returned with full force of induced labour it was discovered that the syringe was faulty and was leaking all over the floor not allowing any of that sweet fentanyl cocktail to work its magic. This time, the much more friendly Dr. had a hard time finding the right placement for the needle and took about 10 pokes and 30 minutes before he could successfully get everything placed. Apparently Josie has “tiny spaces between her vertebrae” which makes it more difficult. While all this was going on she was forced to sit hunched over and round her back “like an angry cat”. I don’t know what they are talking about but when my cat is angry he claws your face and runs away which I thought Josie was about to do if one more person told her to “sit still honey”.
Once the epidural was in and providing some relief Josie was able to sit back and relax a little while the midwife checked her progress. Things were moving and at a pretty quick rate we were told. As contractions continued to come and go it was brought up that Josie’s water hadn’t broken yet. The midwife stated that this happens sometimes and that Josie could either wait it out or begin the pushing phase of labour (thats right there’s phases. I always thought it was free for all). Josie was in discomfort and wanted this thing to be over but at the same time was dreading the pain, discomfort and overall unpleasantness that she new she had to go through. After some deliberation and a verbal pros and cons list I saw something in my wife that I’ve only ever seen once before. In an instant I saw her change right in front my eyes. Its like a switch was flipped and she said “ok lets do this”. Her demeanor from that point on was completely different and she tapped in to that same strength that I’m pretty sure mothers use when they lift a bus off of their trapped child. I made a mental note to myself never to cross this woman because if she focussed that strength on me I wouldn’t stand a chance. The pushing had begun and I’m not going to lie, I was tired. This only further reinforced the respect and sense of amazement that I was feeling towards my wife. Besides getting ice chips, cold water and placing my hand behind her back to help her crunch during the pushes, I was doing nothing. A trained monkey could have fulfilled my duties at this point and probably would have smelled better than I did. There aren’t too many times in my life where I’ve felt completely helpless but labour is definitely one of them. As a husband all you can do is sit back and watch the miracle taking place in front you. It doesn’t matter how many experts or supports are in the room during these final stages of child birth no one can really do anything. Josie was essentially on her own and man was she putting up a fight.
It took about 20 minutes of pushing and then all of sudden I could see my daughter’s head. A few more quick pushes and she was out. A perfect little purple/grey beauty and right off the bat I knew she looked like her mother. I was in love. As the room settled and we and we starred at our little girl I couldn’t help but tell Josie how amazing she was. I was completely humbled by what I had witnessed early that morning and the fact that I was fortunate enough to witness it twice in 10 months only further solidified my feelings. I thought about all the things that I’ve done in my life that I thought were difficult and none of them even came close to what I had witnessed in delivery room #5. The strength, determination and badass-ness that my wife showed during the labour and delivery of our baby girl is something that even now, four days later, I still can’t comprehend. I was told by our previous midwife that the 26 hour ordeal that brought us Paxton was one of the worst this particular midwife had ever seen but to be honest with you it was all a blur to me because everything was so new and at times scary. This time around the labour and delivery of Larkin lasted a comparatively short 8 hours, but felt like it was much longer because I was far more aware and able to take stock of what my wife’s amazing body and mind were going through. All in all, as Josie takes a well deserve rest upstairs I am overcome with gratitude for everything that happened on January 22nd 2018. Our family grew a little bit bigger and my love and respect for my wife increased more than I can express with words.