I looked into the face of my baby for the first time.
She did not look like me.
She was all red, wrinkly, and had an odd conical lump that had the texture of left over macaroni and cheese sticking sideways out of the top of her head.
Perhaps she takes after her mother.
7:00 PM August 10, 2009
“Ok Number Three, you can come out now,” Chaya proclaimed last night.
“No she can’t!” I retorted, “it is not time yet. She can’t come out until the end of the month.”
I wanted at least another two weeks for working on Vagabond Journey.com, writing the two ebooks that I am working on, and for making money to buy a sailboat. I was not yet prepared for the baby to come, and Chaya’s invitation clearly jumped my gun.
“Just two more weeks, give me two more weeks.”
But my pleadings were to no avail.
Chaya spent that night scrubbing the toilet, shower, and tidying everything up, for she knew deep down what was coming the following day.
“I just want her out of me. I want to see what she looks like,” Chaya spoke between doing the dishes and scrubbing some other appliance that did not really need to be scrubbed. These were surprising words, as Chaya’s song had been all about how she wanted to be pregnant forever all the way up until this moment.
I found her behavior a little odd. It seemed to me as though she was nesting.
“I think I’m nesting,” she admitted.
4 AM August 11, 2009
I get shaken awake in the night.
“I have cramps.”
“What should I do?” I asked.
“Go back to sleep.”
This directive was no sooner addressed than followed. I tried to show my concern but but a mere three hours of sleep is often not enough to pry a man out of bed when given the option to go back to sleep.
Chaya joined me.
5:30 AM August 11, 2009
Chaya has gotten back up from bed and began pacing around the room.
“Are you having contractions?”
“Maybe, I don’t know,” she answered.
“Should I call the midwife?”
“Not yet, I don’t know what is going on for sure.”
I wanted to call the midwife precisely because I did not know what was going on. Moments like these were what we paid her for. But Chaya is polite, she did not want to wake her up.
I got up out of bed, for I found it difficult to sleep when my wife was pacing around the house threatening to give birth.
Chaya then crunches her body over her big pregnant belly. She was in pain. She was, apparently, about to give birth.
“I am not sure what a contraction feels like,” she admitted, though it appeared to me that she now knew exactly what a contraction felt like — she seemed to be having them as we debated the issue.
“Are you going into labor?”
We both knew that she was. Two weeks early. I began cleaning up the area in the apartment where we were planning on having the baby, and made way for the phone to call the midwife — but I am stopped in my tracks.
“Lets have this next hour be just for me and you,” Chaya spoke as she clung on to her boulder belly. We embraced and smiled at each other. This was it: we would soon see Number Three’s face.
We were oddly very calm.
“Do you want to go up and tell your parents?”
“No, lets have this time be just for me and you.”
And like this I followed Chaya from room to room around the apartment as her contractions grew heavier and harder. I did not know what to do, as neither holding her, massaging her, talking to her, leaving her alone, or following her like a lost puppy seemed to be having any effect — I felt useless in the moment where I felt that I should be the most useful. I felt as though I was trying to tie my shoelaces with oven mits on.
So I decided to go and sweep the kitchen floor, for at least I would be doing something.
Chaya’s pacing became far more intense. Every few minutes she was being hit by shocks of pain.
6:30 AM August 11, 2009
My mother always told me that seeing my baby would have a profound effect on me. “Men don’t feel a real attraction to their baby until they see it.”
I was realizing at this point that I would soon be looking into the face of my child. As Chaya’s pace around the apartment and her contractions increased, it became apparent that I would be looking into this face sooner rather than later. I felt as if these past nine months of walking uphill had given way to the mountain’s great apex, whereupon we quickly began rolling downhill.
Number Three was not messing around: she decided to come out, and there was no stopping her.
7 AM August 11, 2009
I called the midwife. She said that Chaya was definitely in labor, and that she would be over in a couple of hours. Looking at labor heaving Chaya, I did not think that she would last this long. But I could not question the words of a birthing professional, as my only experience with birth was my own — and I cannot say that I took many notes.
But it was time to notify the family.
Chaya and I walk upstairs to her parent’s home. I lead the way and tried to strike up a weak conversation as I gazed down at the open morning paper that was sprawled out on their kitchen table. Chaya’s labor was occurring two weeks before we expected it to, and her family had no clue what was going on.
“So, what are you doing today?” I asked her mother in expectation that I would have the same question put back onto me.
“I think Chaya is going to have the baby today,” I spoke with a very put on amount of matter of factness.
Everybody looked at Chaya. From the coy smile on her face, they knew it was happening.
[Excitement all around, hugs, “congratulations”]
Chaya and I return downstairs and the pacing resumed with the added accompaniment of the mildly frantic assistance of two mildly frantic parents. Chaya’s mom made up beds and organized the apartment for birth, Chaya’s father made fruit juice popsicles as laboring provisions. Both parts were to serve us well on the birthing stage.
8 AM August 11, 2009
8:15 AM August 11, 2009
“Wade, do you know if the midwife is coming?” asked Chaya’s mother with no small amount of urgency.
I shrugged my shoulders.
“I think she is going into active labor, her contractions are only five minutes apart.”
Chaya is in the midst of hard labor, the pain on her face and loud screams tell me so. Everything is happening fast, the baby wants to come out. Contractions are hitting with a vengance, and are approaching two minutes of each other.
No midwife, yet. I call, again.
I jested often during the pregnancy that I wanted to deliver the baby on my own. As I watched Chaya flopping like a an antaganized fish upon the mattress which was laid in the middle of the living room floor, and listened her groans of agony, I realized that my jests were merely bluffs: I did not really want to deliver the baby on my own.
I wanted the midwife, bad.
Leading up to this moment the midwives implied that the birthing process would be something that took a long time. “When you go into labor, we will make an initial visit, and then go out shopping or something nearby as we wait . . . ”
It was my impression that Number Three would not be giving these midwives a very large window for shopping. It was a matter of debate as to whether she was going to wait for the midwives at all. She was coming. Fast.
I really hoped that I properly communicated to the midwife how fast everything was progressing. Birth is a natural process, and it will happen without incident most of the time, with or without a medical professional present. But having a person in the room who knows what is going on lays smooth the nerves of everyone. This, more than anything else, is why we opted to have our baby at home, rather than at a hospital — peace of mind is a valuable commodity.
I wanted something to set my mind at ease.
“The midwife will be here soon,” I cooed Chaya in between the rapturous constrictions of her lower burner.
[flop, flop, turn around, scream, flop, flop, scream, rest . . .]
8:30 AM August 11, 2009
The midwife arrives, and my apprehensions are laid to rest.
“Fast and ferocious, just the way I like ’em,” the midwife spoke as she moved quickly in the abyss of the birthing screams.
The presence of the midwife added a sense of calm and humor to the event. She joked a little, laughed a lot, and knew damn well what was going on. She had birthed 400 humans, and knew that everything was normal. We took on her calm, and the seas were now smooth, and we all made way to have this baby.
“She is going to have this baby now,” spoke the midwife after a quick inspection. She seemed surprised that the labor was moving along with an uncommon rapidity. “I am going to have her start pushing.”
9:00 AM August 11, 2009
I am holding onto Chaya and she is having the baby . . .
I am holding her up in a standing position and we are going down into squats and pushing into the contractions. I am helping, I am being useful. I have finally found a way to remove the oven mits. This feels good.
“Can I catch the baby?” I asked the midwife. I really wanted to be the first one to hold Number Three when she came out. I also wanted the experience of helping birth my baby.
The midwife responded in the affirmative, and I got into position.
The rest of the midwifery crew arrives. The backup midwife and the apprentice move through the door of our apartment.
“I know that sound anywhere,” joked the backup midwife. Everyone laughs, even Chaya.
10:00 AM August 11, 2009
“Push, push, push come’on Chaya! you can do it you can do it! push push push!”
“Come on Chaya, you are doing so well! You can do it, baby! Push, push, push!”
It was a call and response sort of cheer. The three midwifes, Chaya’s mother and father, and myself would give a cheer, and Chaya would the accompany us with a chorus of contraction accented grunts and screams.
In the midst of it all I looked at my wife, she looked at me. . . and smiled. A quiet moment passed as we looked into each other’s eyes. Then the moment was broken as soon as it began.
Chaya screamed again and the cheering resumed.
I could only wonder what the people in the streets must have been thinking. Chaya was giving birth right behind four wide open windows that were but a half score of feet away from the sidewalk in a moderately populated neighborhood. Any strolling spectator could have been privy to the great game that was taking place within our livingroom.
10:30 AM August 11, 2009
“I can see the head!” exclaimed the midwife. “You see this silvery little patch down in there, that is the head,” she told me.
I looked down in there. I saw the silvery little patch: my baby’s head.
The midwife then stuck her fingers inside and touched my baby’s head. “Do you want to feel?” she asked Chaya.
Chaya did want to feel. Slowly running her fingers down in there and then cautiously entering, Chaya felt her half born baby for the first time. A big smile shot over her face like the kick from an 8 gauge slug.
She had a hairy head.
Chaya was now ready to have this baby. She saw the goal line laying before her, and nothing was going to stand in her way. This game could be won. A corner had been turned, and the light of the day now shown bright. All doubt was now gone, Chaya touched the tip of her baby’s head, and she wanted more — she wanted it all, she wanted this kid out.
I did too.
The cheering resumed, the pushing continued, and the little baby worked her way out little by little. One of the midwives set up a vanity mirror between Chaya’s legs so that she could see what was going on down there — how many yards she had yet to trod to reachh the goal line.
“Push, push, push! You can do it Chaya! you are doing so well! keep pushing!!!!!!!!”
The baby’s head would rise to the forefront and the cheers would build to a crescendo, and then it would sink back into the abyss and the excitement would fall away . . .
. . . “It is ok Chaya, you will get it on the next one. Only one more push to go” . .
Then the head would rise with the next contraction and fall away again with a chorus of “ahhhh.”
Like this the cheers built and then faded a the baby’s head rose ever closer to the outside world before re-absconding into the comfortable depths of Chaya.
We continued cheering, Chaya continued pushing.
10:54 AM August 11, 2009
The head popped out.
“The head! The head is out!”
“Grab it,” directed the midwife.
I grabbed it.
Then the rest of the baby came with one final push.
I grabbed that too.
A torrential river of womb stuff bursted through the crack in the dam and soaked my jeans. But I did not care. I had my baby.
Though Chaya quickly took the hand off and snuggled the little ball up into her bread basket.
The endzone was awash in cheers and smiles of victory. The new mother hugged her new baby. She was certainly not giving up this game ball.
I then cut the umbilical cord, birthed the placenta, dressed Petra for the first time, weighted her, and then had to be nearly hog tied to be kepf from helping sew Chaya back up.
“How does it feel to want,” the midwife spoke with gusto as I offered my untested stitching services.
Chaya birthed our baby at home, without any pain medication, and in the company of her husband, parents, and three smiling, confident midwives. This birth was full of laughter, smiles, and only the ordinate amount of agonizing screams.
“It is her, it is her,” Chaya kept saying in near disbelief, as she looked at the mysterious Number Three.
After making Number Three in Maine, traveling back to Brooklyn, Maine again, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, Egypt, and then back to Maine, we were finally able to see the face of our most sought after travel companion.
Petra Hendele Adara Shepard is now out of the pack and ready to take a look at this world.
I was also assured that when my baby’s play-doe head looses its birth canal molded shape, her pink color, and grows into her wrinkly skin, she is going to look just like me.
I must say, now that I have watched my baby come into the world, that my mother has always been correct: the un-pry-apartable attachment of a father to his child does happen at the moment of birth.
I am a very rich man.
More about Petra’s in utero travels
Formation of VJ family
- Vagabond Wedding
- Vagabond Engagement at Petra
Birth of another traveling baby
More photos from homebirth in Maine
Home birth of a traveling baby