Friday morning I awoke to Jonna standing over me. She was saying something, but I couldn’t hear her. I wear earplugs to drown out the noise of her and Sunny’s synchronized snoring, so all I saw were her lips moving.
I looked at the clock. It was 6AM. Being a night owl, the only reason I’m ever up at 6AM is to catch a flight or attend a funeral. Jonna knows this better than anyone. So, if she was waking me up at 6AM, something was up. And seeing that her due date was on Saturday, I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. I yanked out my earplugs and she calmly said, “I’m pretty sure my water just broke.”
During the days leading up to that moment, I was a complete headcase. Every time she sneezed, a wave of anxiety consumed me. Every time she made a strange face while touching her belly, I started the car. Yet, that morning, I was miraculously calm. We both were. She called the hospital and explained what happened and they told her to come in. The hospital was an hour away (long story), but they said she had time to shower, walk the dog, etc.
I’ve worn a Red Sox cap nearly every day of my adult life, but on this day I wanted to go for a clean-cut look. First impressions are everything and I didn’t want my child to think she had just been born to a punk. Unfortunately, I needed a haircut badly. So while Jonna was getting ready, I shaved and gave myself a terribly unprofessional haircut. Then while she was walking the dog, I jumped on my laptop and began sending out emails, tweets, etc. I was calm to a fault. Eventually she reminded me that she was, you know, in labor, and that we needed to get moving.
Thankfully, it was a gorgeous morning, which was a blessing for the first week of March in Vermont. The drive up to Burlington was quite peaceful. Our first stop was dropping Sunny off at the doggie daycare place. The staff there showed no reaction when Jonna announced “we’re dropping Sunny off for a few days because I’m in labor.” I’m not sure what type of reaction I was expecting, but business-as-usual wasn’t it.
We made it to the hospital around 8:30AM and the staff quickly determined that Jonna’s contractions were only eight minutes apart. She wasn’t in advanced labor yet. Their suggestion: go take a drive, get some breakfast maybe, then come back at 11:30AM. UM, WHAT?! There I was, breathing a sigh of relief that we made it to the hospital, and I wouldn’t have to deliver the baby myself on Route 7, and they’re telling me to get back in the car and take a drive?
I looked the nurse right in the eyes and shouted, “ARE YOU CRAZY? WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE. GIVE US A ROOM AND DELIVER THIS BABY!” … actually, that’s not what happened… we got in the car, drove 15 minutes to a diner, and had the most awkward pancake breakfast imaginable.
The best part was that while in the diner, Jonna called her mom to tell her that her water broke, and the waitress overheard everything. She gave us a crazy look and asked, “Did I just hear you say your water broke?” “Yes,” we replied. “You know you guys should go to the hospital when that happens, right?” “Yup, can you bring us more syrup, please?”
After pancakes it was still only 9:30AM. I hated being away from the hospital, so we drove back and just sat in the lobby of the ER. Her contractions were still 7-8 minutes apart and very faint, so we just hung out and people-watched. The whole thing was quite surreal.
Around 11AM, I couldn’t take it anymore, so we grabbed our bags and marched up to the birthing center, intent on delivering our baby. This time the staff was a bit more welcoming. They got us settled in our room and hooked Jonna up to the monitors. The baby’s heart rate was great, but the contractions were still very light. It had been five hours since Jonna’s water had broke, so they suggested we move forward with a Pitocin drip to speed things up. Part of Jonna’s informal birth plan was to avoid Pitocin, but given the situation and her doctor’s advice, she decided to give it a try.
Finding a vein for the IV was miserable. The nurse tried and failed three times. Not a good start. Eventually, she brought another nurse in and she got it in the first try. They turned on the Pitocin, with a very slow drip, and told us to hang out for a bit. It was around this time, when we were alone in the room, that a password prompt came up on the monitor. The prompt covered a good portion of the screen, making it hard for me to keep an eye on things. As a technologist, data is important to me. When the nurse entered her password earlier, I only heard three keystrokes (yes, I pay attention to those kinda things), so I grabbed the keyboard and typed in “123”. Got it in the first try!
The next 4-6 hours are a blur. Jonna’s contractions increased in frequency, intensity, and duration. I’m not really an empathetic, mushy, supportive type — I’m more of a tough-love kinda guy — but holy crap, I just sat there and watched in amazement the entire time. Jonna was in OBVIOUS pain, but she kept her sense of humor and gutted through hours of contractions. Finally, around 6PM, at six centimeters dilated, her pain was unbearable. She had tried so hard to avoid narcotics due to an unrealistic fear of potential complications and some “doing it naturally” silliness. It took convincing from me and the nurse to get her to finally agree to an epidural.
I’m not gonna lie, the epidural was scary. The anesthesiologist was a total pro, but I held my breath during the whole procedure. My entire world — my wife and my child — hinged on that anesthesiologist not making a mistake. But of course it went perfectly and within minutes Jonna was calm, cool and talking nonchalantly while the monitor clearly showed she was going through a big contraction. Fantastic! It was around this time that I ran down to the cafeteria and had two of the best slices of pizza I’ve ever had.
The pushing began around 8PM. My plan was to stay off to the side during the delivery. Or at the most, by her FACE. But plans and child delivery don’t really go well together. I found myself holding one of Jonna’s legs upright and watching the entire process. Jonna was a friggin natural. There she was, 14-hours into labor, pushing with everything she had. I’m pretty sure if they said she had to lift a car to deliver the baby, she would have. It was a jaw-dropping experience, one that gave me an entire new appreciation for my wife.
I have a nervous laugh. The type of laugh that comes out during funerals. It’s awful. So, there I was, marveling at Jonna, surrounded by the medical staff, and suddenly I began to laugh. Each time Jonna pushed, she kinda screamed and groaned at the same time. And each time she did that, I chuckled a little more . There I am, wearing my Sox cap (the self-haircut just wasn’t working), laughing at my wife, during the most important moment of my life. Go me!
Thankfully, Jonna had this “only Jonna” moment around that time. She had just finished pushing. She had sweat dripping down her face. She was minutes from delivering her child… and she looks at me and says, “I feel stinky. Can you get my deodorant out of my bag?” That was the perfect opportunity for me to get all that nervous laughter out. And yes, I got her the deodorant she asked for.
Twenty minutes later, with one final, gut wrenching push, I watched my child enter the world. Samantha Brooke Rubin. I saw her first breath and in a split second, I became THAT guy who thinks it’d be a good idea to film a birth. It was the second-most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There she was. A perfect, living thing that we had created. Just an indescribable moment.
You may be asking yourself, “did he just say that seeing his child enter this world was the second-most amazing thing he’d ever seen? What the hell is the first?”
The first came about thirty seconds later, when Samantha met her mom for the first time. Jonna melted. She just kept saying, “It’s you! It’s you!” I sat back in the chair which the nurses had inconspicuously placed behind me, folded my hands over my head, and just watched the two of them with tears streaming down my cheeks. For nine months, I had worried about the health and happiness of my wife and my child. And here they both were — happy, safe, and madly in love with one another.
It doesn’t get much better than that.