The birth of my daughter almost seems abstract after three years has passed. She has grown up to become an intelligent, strong willed (aka stubborn) and confident little girl. Raising small children is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life, and it has challenged me to become a better person through all of the difficulties.
Prior to Isla’s birth, it was hard to comprehend the reality of becoming a father. I felt a much deeper connection with my wife and fell madly in love with her beautiful pregnant body. It sounds a bit odd, but we often joke that I had developed a bit of a fetish. As her due date approached, we began to get everything organized for her arrival, but it still somehow didn’t feel real. I had not yet developed the connection that Nicole had already begun to experience through carrying her for 9 months.
We were a couple of days past the due date and were taking everyone’s advice and enjoying our time alone before Isla’s arrival. We had stayed up a bit late and I had probably had a little too much wine, I was drinking for two after all. Nicole woke me up around 2 a.m. and told me that she thought her water broke. I asked her if she was sure that she hadn’t just accidentally peed the bed. Being the good husband, I took a peek under the hood and confirmed that it was in fact probably not just urine. She tried to go back to sleep and I began to time the contractions to see where we were at. We quickly realized that we were too excited to sleep and that the contractions were getting closer together. We called the hospital and they wanted us to come in because her water had broken. They assured us that we would be able to come back home for early labor, so I didn’t even grab the hospital bag. Everything that we had learned about the first birth was that it would be a long experience.
On the short drive to the hospital I passed the entrance and had to execute a U-turn. I was clearly a little nervous at this point. We got checked into the triage room and apparently Nicole had progressed enough to need a doctor’s opinion on whether or not we would be able to go home. In the short amount of time the nurse was consulting with the OB everything began to change. The nurse came back in and looked at the strip and told us we were staying. Now I felt like a complete idiot for not grabbing the bag. No worries, I would speed home while they got her settled in. Twenty minutes and no missed turns later I was back at the hospital and Nicole was in serious pain. When I walked in she asked me for some pain medication. I waited until her contraction was over and let her know that she could do it without the meds. I’m not sure if she just needed that quick reminder or just needed to know that I truly believed in her, but that was the last time that topic came up.
As the labor progressed I had no idea what to do. The first few breaks between contractions I was offering her water or wiping her brow and asking her what she needed. I quickly realized that I was interfering with her and that I needed to get out of her way. At this point, she turned inward and I was awe struck by her amazing focus and strength. She was in serious pain and from the outside, it seemed as if she was in a trance. We were fortunate enough to have extremely knowledgeable nurses who were very supportive of an unmedicated birth. We had a shift change around 7 a.m. and Valli would be our primary nurse for the day. She showed me different ways to press on Nicole’s hips and back to help relieve the pain and it made a massive difference.
The rest of the morning is a bit of a blur as we moved back and forth between the tub and the bed. She tried several positions, but lying on her side seem to work the best while I pressed hard on the top of her hip. I was literally standing on the seat of a chair for leverage as I pushed with as much strength as I could muster. Both of our mothers were in the room for support, and at some point someone asked if I wanted breakfast. I realized that I was hungry and Nicole’s mom offered to take over while I had a quick bite. After one bite and the first contraction, it was clear that Leslie wasn’t able to apply enough pressure, so I was back in the game. Food would have to wait. Nicole’s original plan was to have as few people in the room as possible, but once she began laboring she was happy to have the support that we did. My mom has been a labor and delivery nurse for over 30 years and it was amazing to have her in the room. She had a very calm demeanor that radiated to the rest of us in the room. Nicole’s mother was in the room as well and was extremely supportive and did everything she could do to help. It’s interesting how the plans changed in the moment and how well Nicole did with little subtle twists.
Around 10 a.m., Nicole was fully dilated and it was time to push. For some reason, I thought this would be quick. Once again, I was reminded of how little I knew about childbirth. I watched as Nicole gathered everything she had to push Isla into this world and felt completely helpless as she neared exhaustion. I was overwhelmed with emotion because I could do nothing but stand by her side and encourage her. She was in the middle of the hardest fight of her life and I had to let her handle it. We tried several different positions for her to push from and ended up with her feet up on bars on the end of the bed. She was given a towel to pull on that was connected to that same bar. Her strength during the pushing was amazing.
The doctor was called in and I could tell that she was becoming impatient with the progress. She told one of the nurses to draw up a local and I guessed that she was about to conduct an episiotomy if things didn’t progress. I leaned down and told Nicole that she was almost there and that she had to push as hard as possible. She knew what was going on despite her exhaustion and that was all that she needed. A couple more big pushes and we got to meet our daughter for the first time.
It was amazing to watch her come into this world. Saying it was surreal would be an understatement. She didn’t make a peep when she came out. They immediately placed her on Nicole’s chest and there was a massive wave of relief that washed over the room. Nicole was now the mother to my daughter and I have never been more proud of her than I was in that moment.
The staff became a little worried with Isla’s color and the fact that she hadn’t let out a good scream. They checked her O2 saturation levels and became a little concerned that they were a bit low. My mom was an amazing resource during this time because she assured us that everything was going to be fine. I fully trusted her experience and knowledge and the conviction she had. Over the course of the next few hours, her oxygen levels drifted slowly higher to an acceptable range and everything looked good. We were in the clear and had a perfectly healthy baby girl.
The experience of Isla’s birth was profound on many different levels. I was witness to the miracle of childbirth and the amazing strength of my beautiful wife. It’s still hard to comprehend and process everything that happened that day, but becoming a father has changed a lot of things in my life. My intent is to provide the anchor that they need as they grow and explore and figure out what they want to pursue in this world. The responsibility has awoken in me the desire to accomplish more and live life intentionally. I don’t think that I have fully comprehended how much my life has and will change. It’s exciting to think about the journey ahead with this little addition to our family.
Written by Chad Peyton