On the evening of October 10th, my wife Robin began to have her contractions start to close in frequency. Our baby was not due until the 21st, but somehow we had the feeling all along that she was going to be a little early. I timed the contractions with my cell phone’s timer and figured we would head to the hospital when they got to be a minute apart.
“You didn’t read anything did you?”
“Oh sure, of course I did. I read a lot.”
I recognized my wife’s growing fangs from the last time she was pregnant. I apologized, then immediately apologized for apologizing. Then realized it was probably just best to keep my mouth shut as we closed in to the arrival.
Reading the owner’s manual by the bedside, I found that it was best to go to the hospital at five minutes apart. At around 11:30 PM, she was at three minutes apart. I called the hospital. Yes, they wanted us to come in. No, the jacuzzi room was occupied. I packed up Madeleine, Henry, and the numerous bags and accoutrements, then helped my wife get from the house to the car.
Robin’s first labor with Madeleine was 48 hours and an utter misery. Henry came in a comparative flash, about two hours after we got to the hospital. It looked like this one was in a sprint too. When Robin got on the bed, she said she wanted to push but didn’t know if she should wait for the midwife to arrive. The nurse said to push, the midwife was on her way. Robin was dilated to 8 cm.
Robin was on her side and our friend Dana was behind her. Dana pushed on her back when she had a contraction. I made sure that the cameras were operational and properly documenting. The midwife arrived and checked everything out. The water hadn’t broken yet, but the baby was definitely on its way. Robin continued to have a severe pain in her back every time she had a contraction. This made me realize my one contribution to the evening. Something that I learned in the birth classes was that it was actually easier and more natural to give birth on all fours than on the side or back. I suggested Robin get up on all fours and the midwife agreed. Robin didn’t want to, but as soon as she did, the midwife broke the water and our baby started to come out.
My five-year-old son Henry had been busily engaged with his Gameboy up to this point. I went over to him and said, “Henry, Momma is having the baby.” I think this is probably the one thing that can tear my boy away from the middle of a game. He put down the Gameboy on his own and his face lit up with awe as the birth happened. Immediately he exclaimed, “I love that baby!”
I am always broadsided by the swell of emotion a birth gives. Like a tidal wave it comes rushing in and drenches everyone in the room. I gave my wife tear soaked words of encouragement and looked over to my 11-year-old daughter Madeleine to see that she too had tears rolling down her face. Politics, work, all of that seems so petty as this moment gives a glimpse to the infinite.
Greta Dagmar Ruth Ballard was born on 1:29 AM, October 11th. At 7 lbs, 2 oz, she is a healthy 20 inch long baby girl. Robin and I have an agreement that instead of using hyphenation or my name for our children, girls get the Ballard name and boys get the Ashdown name. “Greta” was my mother’s name, “Ruth” was Robin’s grandmother. “Dagmar” is Madeleine’s contribution, a Danish name meaning “queen” that she fell in love with.
Momma and baby are doing well.