Pictures taken by Sara Corman Photography
It’s difficult to start this story as it’s so different than I remembered from the first time. First, I must admit that though I had spent many hours in research, watched dozens of births on YouTube and had lots of classroom hours before Isis’s birth, I was not prepared to be a father before her. My story of those events were completely colored with my overwhelming anxiety about what to do afterwards. Fast forward almost 3 years, lots of lessons, many difficult nights and conversations later. I was ready for this one, especially when it comes to my mental state. I know that the woman has the baby. I know that the woman carries the baby. Still, there’s definitely a role for the man in pregnancy and labor. In fact, if he doesn’t prepare, all of it will rush up on him and destroy everything he knows about the world (more so if it is his first child).
“She’s going to be born early.” Yeah….I’ve heard this before only to anticipate arrival for several weeks. Cameron’s body showed all signs of imminent labor except well…labor. As it turns out she held out long enough for us to be able to schedule a natural induction. Thanks to a little God help, I was able to fall asleep about 8:45 the night before our 5 am hospital appointment. 3:45 AM, YAY…Yawn, I’m up. It’s very hard to find coffee that time of night, so I settled for some so so coffee at the hospital around 5:30 am. Then we waited.
8:30 arrived and Melissa came in to break Cam’s water. I know what this is like because I had seen it before. The procedure itself didn’t make me nervous, it’s what might or might not happen afterwards that did. No active labor within 2 hours or so would mean Pitocin and that’s generally not a good thing if your goal is a natural labor. I did my best to keep the mood light and there was always the cheering from Diana after each contraction. It’s funny to me how when you are going natural, you get excited about watching the contractions get regular and closer. Around 10:30 contractions became more regular, nothing super strong yet but enough to be timed. Sara Corman was also in the room with us. She was invaluable when Diana had to leave for a bit. The deeper you get into this process the more a distraction helps keep you mentally refreshed. Sara was great at encouragement and conversation. After a couple of hours and several times walking the square of hospital halls, contractions were sometimes coming 1.5 minutes apart. We noticed that when she sat to rest, we could add about 60 seconds in between contractions. This helped as I was able to give Cam a good idea of how long she had to rest and when to prepare. We made sessions of walking mixed with sitting to give a little rest.
Melissa came to check on everything about 12. I had been timing all the contractions and I gave her an update. She said that things should really get solid within an hour. 1 pm and just as advised, things were getting heavier. I helped fill up the tub in the room and then helped Cam get in. These tubs must be awesome because it always slows labor down. Suddenly there was 3-4 minute breaks between each contraction unlike the 2-3 min max we had for about the last hour. These moments were always a little worrisome for me as I remembered just how long it took for Isis to be born. Having a baby is hard but it’s definitely harder if you have to be up the entire day AND night before hand. I pushed the thought out of my head and got back into coaching Cam through each contraction. I could tell she had the same fears as it wasn’t long before she noticed the longer rest times between. Minutes later she was out and we were back in the hall.
Labor progresses in physical demands but also increases in mental demands as the baby gets closer. You can’t tackle one without preparing for the other. It was after 2 and each contraction was a stop and endure event at this point. Cameron does this thing where you can see her internalize her struggle as the pain gets worse. I gauge how bad it is based on how long it takes for me to see her normal personality come back to her face. Sometimes I had to encourage the “normal” Cameron to come back. Once I can’t get her to return to normal, I know a baby is close. For an hour we were in and out of the room. This is the point that I want to give all men out there a tip when supporting a labor; ask what you can do to help, try it if requested, but don’t let it hurt your feelings if the action is suddenly met with abrupt displeasure. It’s not personal, it’s just that some things seem helpful only to seemingly be the worst idea ever. Don’t give up! Stay in the game.
3 p.m. I decide to text Diana and tell her that things are getting closer. She says she is on her way. As I’m timing the contractions I tell Cam that she has 45 seconds to rest only for her to have another immediately. This happened occasionally. We called them “aftershocks”. Thing was, this wasn’t that. The next 45 second rest didn’t come either, and neither did the next. A few passed and I knew we had passed the barrier of pain maintenance. This is the point at which I have to realize what’s happening and get prepared to watch the person I’m in love with battle to maintain their sanity. Again and again I watched as she took the pain and buried her face in the bed as she leaned on it. Another text to Diana, “Help, she’s breaking”. Cam crawled up on the bed and asked to be checked. I held my breath as she had a contraction and then the nurse checked. “You’re a full 7”. My heart sank. Another couple of hours I guess. I need to really step up.
Each contraction was hitting hard now and there were only brief moments of conversation. “I want Melissa!” Cam said. Things began to move fast and I began to get swept up in it all. No matter how many times I thought it through nothing ever prepares me for watching this pain. To stand and endure watching the tidal wave you cannot stop. Each cry brought me closer to tears. As if on queue, Diana rushes in to Cameron’s side quickly to embrace her. Next comes Melissa who talks with Cam and gets her to flip to her hands and knees. In the midst of fans and cold wash cloths I stood there wondering how long this could continue. When you try not to cry, why is it that’s when it becomes impossible?
Looking to Melissa for comfort I watch her check Cam and show evidence of blood. Realize that just 15 minutes ago she was 7 cm. “This baby is coming out!” screamed Cameron. Half frozen I looked down to realize she was right. A cart had been wheeled in and there were suddenly several extra people in the room. My skin went cold and I realized that this was really happening now. Cameron had gone primal and each push was a full body scream and growl. It’s amazing how you can actually see the baby descending through the birth canal. Then she crowned and I saw hair. “You were right, she has tons of hair!” I said knowing that Cam had terrible heartburn the entire pregnancy. “Is Lewis going to catch her!” Cam asked. I pulled my mind back into reality and a nurse put gloves on my hands. Her head came out. “There’s her head!” She was a little stuck due to her hand being by her face but because Cam was on hands and knees it was a quick fix. A couple intense pushes later and out she came into my hands. Then I wept. I tried to stop but it burst out of me uncontrollably.
As I handed her through Cam’s legs I hadn’t noticed that Lux had a bowel movement all over my arms as I held her. These are the moments you remember. Looking into Cameron’s eyes and those beautiful eyes of my daughter God swept up my heart and I had to look away. I saw a passerby out the window in the parking lot and something inside me hoped that they would feel what I was feeling in that moment. “How does she do it?” “Cameron, you beast, you did it again.”
I feel like most people stop thinking about the labor here but there’s still the placenta and first feeding. After the entire ordeal, this part always seems annoying. Couldn’t God just let it go at this point? As Lux fed and laid on Cameron’s chest for the next hour I realized how much I loved being a dad and how much God has destined for me to have daughters. I kissed Cameron gently on the cheek watching her lay there finally in relief. Then I realized for the second time why God orchestrated everything exactly how He does. We don’t know each other until we see each other pushed to the limit. We can’t love each other until we see sacrifice and sacrifice ourselves. Wrap up this labor and it’s exactly what it was, another reason for me to love my God, love my wife and sacrifice for my children.