I got the call while on my Junto retreat...
Elise had some kind of fluid leaking early in the morning, and was feeling a bit woozy. I was immediately sure we were having a baby, so I installed the baby seat (!), packed my bag (repacked...) and we drove off at 1:30.
We went to Group Health on Cap Hill, and they told us it was a false alarm. (??) they didn't think it was amniotic fluid, and sent us home with a "see you in a couple weeks!".
We drove back North and decided we'd catch a matinee of Darjeeling Express. Great Movie, very touching and funny and very Wes Anderson. Outside Metro Theatre, E mentioned that she was feeling MUCH more damp.... We went back home and called the doula and our midwife.
We dashed back to GHC and sorta checked in (it turned out we didn't really check in at all, the nurse had to take E's temp just before we left 3 days later to officially check us in!). In the triage room, cell phones were going off (contrary to policy!) and there were way too many people. En route to GHC the second time, E had 4 contractions, so we were already progressing by the time we left triage.
We haggled for a room of our own and succeeded in wrangling a spare post-partum room. For an hour, we had increasingly painful and closer together contractions, pretty convinced now that we're having a real baby, real soon. She labored mostly while sitting down on the bed, with me standing between her legs. She hugged me hard while contractions occurred, snuggling against my trunk.
We tried a few different labor methods, but we both liked the sitting/standing thing we discovered (having missed our birthing classes as E was on bed rest). It turned out that nearly all our natural instincts on birth were spot on. Alissa the doula showed up after an hour and was very helpful and gentle as contractions got, um, contractier. She would touch E's back and gently speak little ideas to help E like "melt around the baby", "make your body soft", "take a deep breath and really take a break between contractions".
Alissa was pretty sure things were moving along, so we decided to make a run for the official birthing room. E was contracting every 3 minutes, so we had a few contractions in the hallway. Very weird. People in the hallway could see us laboring, kinda odd for all. As an aside, clearly people who are pregnant look kind of "sick", but not in an illness way. It's like passing a kidney stone, it's a condition rather than an illness, but it comes with a lot of the illness trappings like hospitals and sympathy...That's how it felt for me, at least.
Once in the birthing room (super plush, with a soaking tub, TV/DVD/CD, dim lights, hardwood floors, sleeping chair for me, rocking chair, our own bathroom), we were on our inevitable path to parenthood. Contractions getting closer together and stronger. We noticed only after the birth that the classic "dilation of 7 centimeters!" chatter that you hear in movies was totally missing. That's because in 5 hours we'd be giving birth.
She pushed on all fours and finally squatting while holding a bar after the transition between contraction and labor pushing began. The transition was in the tub, and was the only time during all of her pregnancy when she really felt like throwing up. The nurses were all nodding knowingly to each other and saying "it's glove time!" to each other on speakerphone.
All through the birth, E had come up with various noises and chantings to get through each contraction, which totally made me and the doula laugh out loud. It was a combination of tribal African chants, Tuvan throat singing, and "Mom mom mom mom". Super funny, you had to be there. Literally.
Piper was really easy in coming, 7 real pushes and she was out. No drugs, no needles, no birthing balls, no relatives. Very calm and loving process. GHC was totally incredible, the parade of knowledgeable midwives and nurses was a godsend. I watched and participated in everything, touching Piper's head as E rocked/pushed her out. E was an absolute Amazon woman in there. Strong like bull. Piper came out textbook-style, I caught her and placed her on E's chest, sobbing. (Me, I was sobbing) A minute later I was cutting the cord (like a pearlescent old school spiral phone cord).
That night as we recovered (E had some stitches required, freaking ouchy! as bad as the birth pain itself!) That night I had a dream that Piper got up out of the basinette and walked across the room. It felt so real I started awake and had to pinch myself. For the next two days we'd be crying and sleeping and learning and eating. Piper was born with a FULL head of hair, and a full set of lungs to go along with it. Man, where'd she learn to chatter and yell so much? So precious, though. For real, it's just like they say about newborns. They are all banana monsters and plush pippens. At least Piper is.
At the moment, she's pretty small and needs some non-germ-time while she grows stronger. We'll set up some viewings in the near future... She's very much a monkey baby, and I am the happiest monkey dad on the monkey planet.
--Aaron the Father of Piper