Home birth has found a modern following among a select group of parents. My wife and I are friends with couples who have chosen this as an option and successfully delivered numerous — yes, many more than one — children at home with the help of a midwife, towels, boiling water and lots of plastic. We support our friends and even find their choice intriguing, but we are certain — or at least were certain — that this would never be our preference.
In spite of our rejection of home birth, we are definitely adherents to natural birth and midwifery. For the birth of both our children my wife had intentionally chosen to have a midwife present, in no small part because of her discomfort with the possibility of a man delivering her child. She was even uncomfortable with my presence but recognized that I had a place there and thought I could be useful. I had proven myself with our first child; I hoped to make the grade with our second.
This second pregnancy went as well as the first, with no issues and the usual discomfort of last few weeks. Our first was a week late, so we thought it was possible this one would be early or right on time.
The day of our son’s birth was actually his due date. We spent the day cleaning the house, buying groceries, and, as a special treat to our daughter, settling in that evening for a viewing of Mary Poppins.
Like all births our second child’s was unexceptional, until he arrived. My wife, daughter and I were lounging on the couch, intrigued with the movie Mary Poppins, when my wife quietly exited the room. Moments later she returned.“I think something is up,” she calmly told me.
I jumped up and said, “Let’s go! I’ll call . . .”
“Calm down. We have time. Let’s wait. You two watch the movie. I’ll tell you when we should go.” She was calm, collected and in control.
I sat down trying to be calm and yet worried about how things were going to progress. A few minutes later, as Mary was singing, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”, my wife entered with a towel between her legs.
“My water broke. We should get going.” She was calm but there was some urgency in her voice.
“OK, I will call and get someone to pick up the dog and someone to pick up Elizabeth.”
This is a part of the story that is still hard to explain because nothing I did at this point had any semblance of logic. A friend did pick up our dog but I had to drive our daughter to another friend’s house because they had guests and could not pick her up. Why I left my wife alone I really can’t explain. What I do know is that everything had changed when I returned a mere ten minutes later.
“Quick. AHHH! Call the Midwife.” Call the midwife; I couldn’t even find the phone. After finding the phone, I couldn’t find the number. I was running around the house when I heard another scream. I ran to the bathroom. “Put a towel on the floor!” She was firm but remained calm. “Why?” “We’re having this baby!” “WHAT?! That is impossible. No we’re not. We’re going to the hospital.” “Put the towel on the floor now!” She lay down on the towel with her head pinned between the toilet and the bathroom wall. From my view I could see a small head emerging. I put my hand out to catch it and with the other dialed 911. “Hello, this is 911 what is your emergency?” “I need someone here right now! My wife is having a baby!” I screamed.
I was assured that the fire department was on its way and then was talked through what to do. My wife remained composed, even in her unique position, while I was scared and frantic.
I was holding a small head, trying to clear the mouth and wondering when help would arrive. Within a few minutes the fireman did arrive and quickly took over. Seconds later a baby boy finished his arrival.
The bathroom birth is legendary in our family and is retold regularly. I wish I could have been a better husband to my wife in those frantic moments. In spite of that what I remember is a wonderful woman who remained calm and epitomized the wonderful mother that she is every day.