Many years ago, your mother and I made a pact that if she became pregnant we would pursue as natural a birth as possible. Fresh off of a Netflix documentary about Pitocin, we were determined to stay out of the hospital. No hospital beds (which prevented gravity from working its magic), no Pitocin (which swapped out natural labor with pharmaceutically induced) and no epidural (which blocked pain signals from reaching the brain). Our convictions didn’t stand a chance against the reality of your birth. All that mattered was a healthy mom and a healthy you.
As soon we were wheeled into the delivery room, Andrea called for an epidural. How could I not agree? There are few things worse than watching your loved ones go through serious pain. (Especially when that pain can be easily remedied by a routine procedure.) The relief was immediate. Your mother’s face melted and she quickly dozed off.
While she slept, I tried playing my Nintendo Switch and riffling through The Happiest Baby on the Block for the millionth time, but there was no way I was going to be able to concentrate on anything. So I bustled back and forth between the bathroom (anxiety peeing) and the daunting array of machines connected to your mom. I plopped down on a stool and watched her contractions build and crest on one of the monitors. Over the next hour, what started out as a predictable sequence of waves transformed into an erratic line of unpredictable peaks and flatlines. The contractions that would ferry you into the world were dropping off.
The delivery had stalled. To combat this, one of the doctors began a low level Pitocin drip to get things moving again. Every twenty minutes or so they would up the dose and move Andrea into a different birthing position. For me, a sense of apprehension and low-level dread began to eclipse the exhilaration of the past twelve hours.
Without warning, the delivery doctor stormed into the room and said it was time to have this baby. Your mother had packed a Bluetooth speaker and we had joked about playing music during delivery. I figured now was the time. Soon the room was filled with millennial bangers from Jennifer Lopez, N’Sync, Pitbull, and Flo Rida.
One of the nurses instructed me to stand next to your leg. The two of us hoisted your mom’s legs up while the doctor unfurled an impressive array of sharp and shiny tools. For the next fifty minutes or so we rode the contractions. Every time Andrea felt one beginning, she would take a deep breath, tuck her chin to her chest, and push down as hard as she could. I watched her complexion transitioned from pale to ruddy to eggplant during every push.
There was no screaming, no flailing limbs, and no erratic head movement. Just the ROYGBIV transition of her face and the focused strength of her push. It was classic Andrea: a display of strong-willed determination in the pursuit of a single goal. If you pick up even 10% of her ability to block out distractions and go after what you want, then you’ll be set.
At some point the room had become filled with random nurses and med techs, all calling out slogans of encouragement and goading her to push even harder. I held onto her leg and rocked my head back and forth, echoing the nurse’s contraction count down like a hypeman.
Two…TWO COME ON!!!
Three…THREE YEA THREE!
In between each contraction a raw silence took over the room. In those moments every eye, heart, and lung was tied to your mother. Waiting for the next contraction. Waiting for you.
Then around 2:00 PM you started crowning. It was surreal. I watched with equal parts excitement and disbelief as what best resembled a furry plum began pulsing out of the birth canal. I CAN SEE HER, BABY! SHE HAS HAIR! SHE IS SO BEAUTIFUL! I kept shouting.
As soon as your head was fully clear, the doctor dug in, tugged, and twisted. You slid out into this world at 2:24 PM to the sounds of Flo Rida crooning about how the club couldn’t handle him.
All I saw was you. Within seconds the staff hoisted you up onto your mother’s bare chest and opened up your lungs. You let loose with a road louder and more powerful than any creature your size had the right to make.
We held each other and cried. Nothing else mattered except the three of us. Andrea and I repeated “Baby…” over and over to each other and to you. For one of the only times in my life, the wonder and joy of what was going on overpowered my anxiety. I cut the cord and we checked out the placenta (like a used baseball mitt made out of raw steak).
The two of you fell into an incandescent slumber. I sent out a fleet of text messages to family and friends announcing the good news. Joelle Olivia Anderson had arrived. 7.9 pounds and 20 inches. Nothing would ever be the same.