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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Baby’s Birth Story: From A Dad’s Perspective

Like any fisherman spinning his yarn, Jake has embellished this story with some humor and good ol' fashioned sarcasm. It's all in good fun. He doesn't mean to offend or give the impression that he isn't an involved and active father. He was great during my labor and he's an awesome dad! As sleep-deprived parents, we just need to laugh, like, a lot, so I hope you can enjoy his take on the birth of our second son, Theodore. —Dani

by Jacob Grant

So Dani wakes me up around 3am and tells me I need to start setting up the birthing tub. Nothing she says makes any sense. I’m still thinking about the new AMC show I’ve been binge-watching called The Terror, based on the historic voyage of two British ships in 1845. The story is filled with mutinies and frozen arctic isolation and cannibalism and a demonic polar bear. It’s riveting stuff.

“What?” I ask, groggy.

“I think you need to get the birthing tub ready,” she says.

“Are you in labor?” It’s the only question I can think to ask.

An avalanche of words falls out of her mouth: “I got up to pee and was having some cramps so I tried distracting myself with some television but the cramping got worse so I started timing it and I think they’re contractions so I called our midwife but I can’t bring in the birthing tub or get it filled up so I need you to get up and come help me.”

I understand very little of what she says, but slowly my brain comes to the startling and awful realization that I’m not going to get any more sleep.

“Are you sure?” I ask in secret desperate hope that maybe this is one of those pregnant lady false alarm thingies.

“Pretty sure.”

I sighed. Pretty sure isn’t sure. As I think about filling up a birthing tub with 150 gallons of hot water, my mind darts to our checking account. If this is false labor, this month’s electric bill is going to be awesome!

Wrestling around with a large birthing tub isn’t the kind of thing anyone should be doing at 3am. I pretend I’m one of those poor stranded seamen on The Terror, dragging their lifeboats across the unforgiving tundra. That’s essentially what the birthing tub is, I figure: a lifeboat. Get it? That thought makes me chuckle, even though I can’t get over the fact that it’s 3am and I’m not sleeping.

Back in the kitchen, I see my wife walking around rubbing her belly. She stops to lean against the kitchen table and do some deep breathing stuff. She looks like she’s in pain, but it passes after about 10 seconds so I figure she’s fine. Maybe it's just gas. Maybe this will all go away and I can crawl back into bed and return to dreamland.

The next thing my wife says shatters any and all hope I have of going back to bed: “The midwife is almost here.”

I should probably mention that we’re doing a home birth. This is because we’re evil people who don’t care whether our baby lives. Just kidding, we care, just not enough to go to the hospital and give birth the way normal people do with doctors and medicine and sterile environments and such.

I set the lifeboat in the kitchen and start filling it up with hot water. In my head I see the numbers on the water bill ticking up like the readout on the gas pump. After 20 minutes the tub is barely half full and the hot water heater is empty. I start heating up pots of water on the stove. I bet those guys on The Terror wish they could’ve heated up water on a stove. All they had were campfires and animal skin blankets, which, after thinking about it, sounds really fun right now.

The midwife arrives with more work for me. She’s got about six thousand bags and small suitcases filled with enough medical supplies to help a third world country. As I drag it all into the house, the midwife checks Dani. She’s only four centimeters dilated. I have no idea what that means other than she still has a long way to go. I know this because my wife whimpers and says, “That’s all?”

At this point, I figure, the baby is coming whether we like it or not. We’ve passed the point of no return. Our ships are stuck in the ice and there’s no going back. We’re in no man’s land now. Time to bunker down and brace myself for the long haul.

I decide to make a sandwich. I think about offering to make one for my wife, but when I look at her she’s hunched over the birthing tub doing another deep breathing thing, except she’s kind of crying.

Oh, and we’re low on mayonnaise.

Dani crawls into the birthing tub. Her contractions are coming closer together. I think she’s a little nuts to not want a hospital birth with an epidural, but, as I’ve learned, she’s one tough chick, and when she sets her mind on something there’s little anyone can do to change it.

I kneel behind her outside the birthing tub and rub her shoulders, but I don’t know why. There’s literally nothing I can do to help except pray that everything goes smoothly, which makes me wonder if I really need to be awake for this. Couldn’t I just go back to bed and come out when they need me to lift something heavy?

Around 6am, the sun starts to rise, and then things get really dramatic, like the third act of a Jason Bourne movie. There’s a lot of grunting and pain and moving around while my wife struggles to push the baby out. The water in the birthing tub fills with goopy stuff as the baby pokes his head into the world.

Then, the unthinkable happens: the baby gets stuck. With the way Dani is sitting in the tub the midwife can’t get enough leverage to help the baby out.

“Get out of the tub!” says the midwife. “Get out now!”

“Finally,” I think, “something to do!”

I hook my arms under my wife’s armpits and lift her up like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. I’m Liam Neeson and Action Jackson all in the same moment. I set my wife on the floor. Mission accomplished! I think about celebrating with another sandwich, but there’s more work to do. And, besides, there may not be enough mayonnaise. Who can eat a sandwich without mayonnaise? It’s just gross, you know?

Speaking of gross…

“Push!” says the midwife. “Push, push, push!”

Dani gives it her all. She even screams at the end like Wonder Woman. My Wonder Woman. The baby slides out, a slimy, disgusting mess of blood and fluids and floppy little limbs. A mutant lizard baby. Dani hugs him to her chest and lies back. Her voice is trembling as she mutters, “Hey, Theodore! I’m your mommy.”

The mythical Tuunbaq.
I can barely process what I’m feeling at this moment. I’m still stuck on how much I miss my bed, and how horrific that demon polar bear is on The Terror. I guess it’s part of an Eskimo legend. The Tuunbaq, they call it. It sorta looks like a polar bear, but it’s also much bigger, and it kills vengefully. The thing gives me the creeps.

It’s kind of funny, the show is based on a book, which is based on the 175-year-old mystery of the disappearance of these two British ships. Shortly after the book’s release, and just before the show started to air, some folks actually found the wreckage of the two ships. I guess the real story of this lost expedition will come to light soon. It’s just kind of ironic that as soon as AMC started this show, someone finds the real wreckage. Kind of spoils the fun of fictionalizing the whole thing, doesn’t it?

Now where was I?

All kidding aside, when I look down at our mutant lizard son, all yucky and gross, tears fill my eyes. What an amazing miracle life is, isn’t it? I’ve known this was coming for quite some time, but nothing can really prepare you for that moment when your whole world totally changes.

Theodore Isaac Grant. Eight pounds, 21 inches, blue eyes, black hair, and as perfect as can be, if not kind of smelly.

This is Theodore in upside-down mode.

I cut the umbilical cord, happy to have something else to do, and then Dani pushes out the placenta, which looks like the mutilated remains of many horror movie victims I’ve seen over the years. Later, the midwife shows me the ooze-covered placenta, holding it open over my kitchen sink describing its function.

“The whole baby fit right in here!” she says, fascinated. “And here’s the umbilical cord which attached to the placental wall and fed your baby for nine months.”

Oy. I don’t care so much that I can’t even form the words to explain how much I don’t care. I just hope she’ll disinfect the sink when she’s done doing whatever she’s doing because I’m going to make breakfast there soon.

I take the baby while the midwife stitches Dani up.

He’s here, guys. My second son. My little buddy. I’m thrilled and pallid and half wishing this is all just some kind of nightmare that I can reflect back on as I burrow into my big beautiful comfortable bed. But no such luck. This is all real. He’s here to stay, and now its time to go make that sandwich.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Teddy's Birth Story

"Due dates" are kind of an evil thing. While you've known all along it's just an estimate and that you could go earlier or up to a couple weeks later, I think we get it in our head that the "due date" marks the end.

As much as I had been hoping my April 1st baby would come true, I knew all along it was possible he'd come later—just like his brother—but I hadn't mentally prepared for that.

At my 40 week check-up, my midwife, Merrily, said she thought it would be a minimum of three or four more days before baby arrived. She even went ahead and scheduled a 41 week appointment, which I didn't take as a good sign. :-/

Needless to say, I was discouraged.

On Thursday, my husband suggested we get out of the house, head over to Lahaina, and enjoy an evening out, sort of a last hurrah before baby comes. He was craving pizza from Lahaina Pizza Company on Maui's famous Front Street, which was ironic because that was the place we ate at two days before Toby was born.

I joked that if Lahaina Pizza Company helped put me into labor last time, maybe it would work again!

During our stroll along Front Street, a friendly lady offered to take a picture of us. We don't often get photos of the three of us because usually Jake is behind the camera, but I thought it was appropriate since it could be the last photo of our family of three.

We swung by Teddy's Bigger Burgers after supper to grab our favorite peanut butter chocolate shake—"Teddy's" Bigger Burgers. Coincidence? I think not! lol

Maybe the pizza worked

About 10pm I went to bed like normal, feeling fine, and figuring it was still going to be another couple days before baby arrived, maybe more.

At 12:30 I woke up to pee, which was typical, but when I went to lay back down I felt some cramping. It was enough that I knew I wasn't going to fall back to sleep without a distraction, so I went out into the living room to watch some Netflix. Jake was just heading to bed so we sort of swapped places.

It never crossed my mind that those cramps were the beginnings of contractions because I really didn't know what contractions on their own felt like. With Toby I had such intense back pain for two days prior to actually going into labor that it was hard for me to distinguish what a contraction actually was.

By 1am I realized the cramping was coming in waves and so I started timing them. They were about 7 minutes apart. As they got more intense I started walking around, which sped them up to 4 minutes apart. Then by 2am they were down to 3 minutes apart.

I hemmed and hawed about when to call my midwife. I knew she had just delivered a baby and I hated to wake her in the middle of the night, especially if this was going to be another long labor like I had with Toby. By 4:12 though I knew I needed to call her.

Merrily asked me to stop walking around to see if the contractions slowed and to call her back in 20 minutes. After sitting back down, contractions slowed to 6 minutes apart. Merrily decided to come over, knowing that second babies often come much quicker. Plus, it was going to take her an over an hour to get here, so better safe than sorry.

Ok, well, maybe the pizza worked.

Whoa, slow down!

I decided it was time to wake Jake. He needed to bring the birthing tub into the house, fill it up, and get everything ready. I figured he could go back to sleep while I tried to relax in the tub. Little did we know just how quickly things were about to happen.

Being on my feet and helping Jake get things ready had sped my contractions back up to under 3 minutes apart. As soon as the water was ready, I got in, which was about 3:30am.

My midwife arrived around 4:15. When she checked me I was only about 4cm dilated, which was super discouraging—Jake says I even whimpered a little when I heard the news—because, to me, that meant I still had a long way to go. That's how far along I was when she arrived for Toby's birth and it was another 7-8 hours after that before he was born. Ugh!

However, Merrily seemed to think the baby was going to come quicker. A lot quicker, actually.

There was another midwife, Jan, scheduled to assist Merrily. She had helped with Toby's birth and I was looking forward to having her there, but she was all the way in Hana, which is about 2 hours away. I was encouraged by the notion that Merrily didn't think it was worth it for Jan to try and come because she most likely couldn't get here before baby is born. I had all confidence that Merrily could deliver the baby on her own. She has been delivering babies for 45 years this September! And even though it was discouraging knowing that Jan wasn't coming, it was great to hear that things were progressing faster than I thought.

Almost too fast!

With Toby, the process was so long and so slow, I had time to get used to the pain levels, to mentally prepare myself for the contractions. This time I remember thinking, "This better be transition. I feel like these contractions are coming on top of each other and if this isn't transition I'm not going to make it through this one." In reality, it was no more intense than it was with Toby, but it had all happened so fast that I didn't think I could possibly be in transition yet, and so I was bracing myself for it to get much worse.

During this time I couldn't speak, so I wasn't able to ask what stage I was in. I had barely enough time between contractions to catch my breath.

Which, apparently, I wasn't doing a very good job of. My face started tingling followed shortly by my hands. Merrily said I was hyperventilating. She tried to coach me on how to take deeper breaths, but the tingling didn't go away. She put me on oxygen, which helped almost immediately.

Next thing I knew, Merrily told me I was about 8cm dilated and that if I felt the urge to push I could start doing that. At the time, baby was still up in a -4 and my bag of waters was intact.

So, around 5:45am, I started pushing.

Laughing during labor

The biggest difference between my labors with Teddy and Toby, besides the length (Toby was 28 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing) was that I felt exactly where Teddy was during the birth. With Toby, the back labor was so crazy intense I had no idea where he was in the birth canal, but with Teddy I felt the entire descent, which was painful, but it also helped me know how close he was to being out.

Another surprising difference is that I never made any sounds during Toby's birth. I think I was determined not to be like the over-dramatic ladies on television and in the movies who scream through their delivery. That's not realistic, I thought. So I stayed quiet. As a result, I put a lot of pressure on my face. I broke numerous blood vessels in and around my eyes. I looked like a vampire for two weeks. I wanted to avoid that this time around, so my goal during this delivery was to not put pressure on my eyes. I even told Jake, "Remind me during labor not to put pressure on my eyes," which he did. This time around, I wasn't so focused on being quiet. I grunted and groaned a little bit more, and, I admit, by the end, I screamed. Sorry, TV ladies. It worked though: no broken blood vessels!

I never imagined laughing during labor, but at 6:06 Merrily checked me again and found that my water was still intact. She told me she could break it while I was still in the tub and then move me to the bed or the couch for the delivery if I wanted, but that I could stay in the tub a bit longer "if it was enjoyable."

I misunderstood what she meant by "enjoyable" and literally burst out laughing. "What could possibly be enjoyable about this?" I asked.

Truthfully, I found the warm water helpful, so I decided to stay in the tub.

I also decided to have her break my water because, hey, the sooner this could be over the better!

Once that water broke, man, that was it! Six minutes later Teddy was born!

A slight complication

Of course, like his brother (who came out sunny side up with a hand on his face and his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck) it couldn't be that simple.

Teddy was born in the water, but only up to his chin. He got stuck, we think because he had one hand near his chin. Merrily couldn't get the leverage she needed to get him out while I was still in the tub, so the next thing she said was, "You need to get out of the tub NOW! Get out of the tub! Out of the tub!"

There was no mistaking the urgency in her voice, and yet I wasn't scared.

Jake, minutes before we were told I needed to get out of the tub, had a vision about this happening. He told me about it later. He said he saw exactly how he needed to lift me out of the tub and set me on the floor. He said if he hadn't had that vision he might not have reacted as quickly as he did.

That last little bit is an out of body experience for me. My memory of it is from a view across the room. I see Jake helping to lift me out of the tub, and me getting onto my hands and knees. I hear Merrily telling me to, "Push, push, push, push, push! Keep pushing!" I had no breath left in me, not an ounce of strength to push for one more second. That's when I screamed for that very last push, giving it all I possibly had.

And then, at 6:12am, I heard that tiny baby squeaking and gargling.  Merrily passed him up to me through my legs where I clutched him to my chest and said in the shakiest voice ever, "Hi, Teddy! I'm your mommy."

He was perfect! Healthy, strong, and he stayed right on me for the next two hours, just the way I had envisioned it. He latched on within 45 minutes and it was wonderful.

During all of this, Toby was asleep in his bedroom. He woke up around 6:45 when he heard Merrily loading her car. Jake got him and brought him out to meet his brother. Every day since, Toby's been all about, "Baby, baby, baby!"

Teddy was 8lbs, 21 inches long, and had blue eyes and a head full of dark hair just like his big brother.

Teddy is short for Theodore, which means "God's Gift." His middle name is Isaac, which means "laughter." To us, he is our little Teddy Bear, God's gift of laughter. <3