As I wrote a day or two ago, today is Megan's thirtieth birthday. Despite the evidence garnered from the activities of some religious groups, I'm not sure if "practice makes perfect" applies to childbirth. Labor is just that, and I have nothing but admiration for women who go through it, and especially those who do so again after the first time.
Practice really did help when it came to my being the expectant father. I think I was a helpful, supportive presence during Evan's birth. I even "labored" a bit to help usher Erin into the light, laying on the bed behind Sally after she tired, pushing her forward when she was supposed to push. It was hard work!
When Megan was born I didn't have a clear role, which meant that my unfettered anxiety led me in a variety of directions, mostly not so helpful, and all at the same time. It all started on Friday morning, November 2, 1979, when Sally first began having contractions. We joined the group of Evansville school bus drivers for breakfast that morning as we often did on Fridays. When Sally was asked "When are you going to have that baby?" for the umpteenth time, she replied that it would likely be soon, since she was already having contractions.
That was fun! Coffee cups clinked back onto their saucers all around the table, and Sis DeWeese put down the crisp slice of bacon she was eating. Perhaps some of our friends envisioned rushing Sally to the Emergency Room in a school bus. That would have been exciting, but it wasn't to be. Megan, it seems, was taking her sweet time.
We stayed in communication with the doctor throughout the day, timing contractions and otherwise going about our business. Everything was packed for Sally's trip to the hospital, and we had only to wait for the contractions to increase in strength and frequency. As evening came I brewed a pot of regular coffee to help me stay awake for the rigors to come. Though memory fails a bit, I think I even went out and bought the Yahtzee game that we ended up playing. Sally tired of Yahtzee after a few games, and, having not had an entire pot of coffee, decided to go to bed.
I remained vigilant, as people who have consumed an entire pot of coffee are likely to be. How vigilant? Between the coffee and the excitement of what was to come, I was really wired. I didn't even need to shake the dice... I just sorta held up the Yahtzee cup and let my caffeine induced tremors do the shaking for me until the cup fell from my hand, throwing the dice in the process.
We called the doctor at 5 in the morning to report that the contractions had neither subsided nor strengthened. He told us that, given the situation, we should come to the hospital anyway. Once Sally was admitted and hooked to an IV and monitors, pitocin was administered to enhance the contractions and induce labor. Even after the pitocin Megan was reluctant to make an appearance, and so the day dragged into another evening. I'm guessing Sally was tired, what with all that labor. I was totally wasted, my physiology wrecked on the rocky shoals of sleep deprivation and caffeine abuse.
Some of what transpired is now lost to memory. I do recall that Deaconess Hospital was incredibly regressive, despite having pioneered many of the ideas around birthing rooms under a previous administration. I remember the struggle for me to get admitted to the delivery room, and our friend Alice Kuhn sneaking into recovery under the pretense of being family. Alice was a dear friend who could not have looked less like a member of our family had she employed her Halloween costume. I remember the frustration of wanting to share our happy news with family, and not being able to get anyone, anywhere on the phone.
Megan was a beautiful baby, none the worse for the wear from the extended labor. Sally, after all her hard work, did that thing so many mothers do, recovering almost immediately, seemingly forgetting the two-day effort. Armed with knowledge from her own reading and the support of the La Leche League, she turned her energy to doing battle with the Nurse Ratcheds who insisted on providing Megan with supplemental sugar water.
It all turned out well. Megan is still our beautiful baby, joined over the next six years by Erin and Evan. Though I have no gold stars for giving birth to them, being their father has been and continues to be a privilege and a blessing. I still love drinking coffee, and remain too excitable at times. The only casualty in this whole episode? I really don't like playing Yahtzee.