At 8pm on Wednesday, May 1st, I was sitting in my parked car with Lyia’s stepfather, Joe sitting behind. Lyia was on her way to the car with her mother, Lizette. She was standing just behind Lyia’s door and noticed that Lyia stopped walking next to the car. Now, I couldn’t hear what was going on but I could assume what was happening. Lately, Lyia had been getting annoyed when I would open the car door for her because her belly would get in the way and also she felt rushed to get in the car. It seemed that was what Lizette was doing for her and therefore, the cause for both of them not getting in the car. I thought there was a discussion on how Lyia can get in the car herself. Finally, Lyia just started to get in the car and she showed me the crotch of her pants. She exclaimed, “Am I wet, am I leaking!?” I thought, oh she must have peed herself again. Then she started saying that she couldn’t stop the leaking! Then it hit me! Her water has broken!
As we started to drive back home, Lyia wanted to call Liz, her midwife, but she didn’t have her phone. Her mom started yelling at her for not having her phone and then everyone started asking me if I had my phone. I told them that yes of course I have my phone and I started to take it out and realized that I didn’t have Liz’ number! Then everyone started to freak out because no one had any way of getting in contact with Liz! I thought, we are having a home birth because we wanted to avoid this freak out. Finally, everyone settled down and we made it home.
That night, Liz recommended that we get as much rest as possible. She told us that her water most likely just leaked and it was not a full on break. We started to time the contractions and they were lasting about 30 seconds. I was pretty optimistic and thought that these contractions were going to build up and eventually have a baby Thursday night or very early Friday. Throughout the day the contractions came and went and came and went again. Until finally late Thursday night, the contractions became stronger and Lyia could no longer talk through them. They lasted almost 1 minute and 40 seconds long and by midnight Liz had arrived at our home. Throughout the night I held Lyia’s hand to help her cope through the contractions.
By Friday morning, the birth team had assembled. There was Liz the midwife, Meredith the assistant, Becky the doula, Tiffany the photographer, Lizette the mother and future grandma, me the only male in the house besides Butterscotch, and Lyia the pregnant one in labor. Under Liz’ command and leadership we were able to help Lyia in any way that she needed and we each played our part on this wonderful, stressful, frightening, emotional, and ultimately the most memorable experience of our lives.
On Friday morning, Lyia started to doubt herself and she became worried. I realized that this is the transition phase. It’s the phase after active labor that transitions into pushing. I told Lyia that this is it. We are really close to having Melanie with us. However, this phase took much longer than anticipated and all the mental preparations I had made to help Lyia along with labor quickly dissolved and spiraled out of my control.
Lyia started to complain of a pain in her tailbone. Liz recognized this as Melanie being posterior so she had her lie in bed on her right side for two contractions, followed by two more on her back, her left side, and finally on her hands and knees. This was to help Melanie rotate into the correct position. Lyia began to sob and cry when the contractions would first appear. As the contraction would build and build Lyia could not breathe and she had the most agonizing expression on her face. Becky would press down on one side of Lyia’s pelvis to help open her hip. It helped, but not much. I would hold her hand and I could feel her struggling and suffering. Her pain was mostly in her lower abdomen and as the contraction peaked, she would scream out in pain. Her breathing became shallow and scattered. Her jaw and her whole body trembled throughout the worst of the contraction. Her eyes were swollen and red from all the tears. This routine was repeated two or three times alternating between standing, rolling on the yoga ball, sitting on the toilet, and lying in a warm bath.
Throughout the day, my emotions would rock back and forth between strength and frailty. I again was holding Lyia’s hand throughout her contractions on what would become her last rotational routine. While she was lying on her side, her tears stopped. She just had no more to cry. After the scream of agonizing pain and all the trembling, she looked into my eyes and said nothing, but I knew what she wanted to say. I just held her hand as strong as she was holding mine because I had no words to say. If I did, my voice would betray me and I could not be the strength and support she needed. I felt utterly helpless as my wife lay in agony and frustration. At this point it was late afternoon and besides her suffering, Lyia was exhausted. After a contraction she would start to snooze away. I took this opportunity to go out and walk Rajah knowing that she would wake up to pain and fear. But I needed to step out for at least a few minutes. Rajah did her business out on the grass and we started to make our way back to the apartment. That’s when I felt overwhelmed. I stopped and dropped my knees to the grass and extended my arms. Rajah knowingly sat next to me and snuggled her head into my chest. I began to sob helplessly. All I could think was that my wife is suffering so much and there is nothing I can do about it. I felt useless because I couldn’t stop her pain, felt guilty because I stepped outside, and I felt weak because I was overwhelmed. After each sob, Rajah would lick my arm and snuggle again, then lick my cheek, then snuggle in my chest again.
I felt rejuvenated once more. I came back and went straight back to embracing my wife’s hand in mine. Soon we moved back to the living room. It was already covered in incontinence pads to help contain the mess. Lyia sat on the ball and rolled back forth in circles. I sat in front of her holding her arms as she gyrated. I also held her arms because she would start to nod away. We rolled her forward whenever a contraction would appear. Liz recognized that she was soon starting to push. She put her hair up in a ponytail and this was the signal that we were in business.
Liz was checking Melanie’s heartbeat after every contraction. Then Melanie’s heartbeat dropped and Liz told Lyia to go to her hands and knees. We got rolled up towels to put under knees and brought the ball in front of her so she could lay her body over it. I sat in front of her and the ball and kept rubbing her back. Lyia rolled back on the ball when she would feel a contraction and I would roll forward with her and end up on the ball myself. The screaming had stopped and the crying had subsided. Lyia started to really growl during her contractions. She became an animal. She started to really bear down during her contractions. Lyia was holding my sides when she was bearing down. I started to feel her nails really dig into my sides. Then a really hard contraction came. Lyia moved her hand from my side to my nipple. When the contraction hit its peak, she grasped hard and twisted. There was a fire in my nipple that I had never experienced before. I just breathed and as the red, hot pain radiated out of my chest I said, “You’re doing great, honey, you’re doing great.” Luckily, after that contraction she let off my poor little nipple and moved up to my shoulders where she would leave her nail indentations for two days.
Lyia pushed for close to an hour and we all gave her words of encouragement. In between pushing, Lyia would roll back up on her ball and rest. She rested so much that things got quite and then we heard her snoring. Lyia continued to push through and Liz would update us on her progress. She then told Lyia that she would place Melanie on the ground and all she needed to do was sit back and pick her up. The time we’d all been waiting for was upon us. She bore down hard then she was out! Lyia rolled off the ball and in the second it took me to move the ball out of the way I thought, I’m ready to see my tiny infant daughter. When I moved the ball and saw her I thought holy crap that’s a gigantic baby! When Lyia finally picked her up she held her against her chest. Lyia looked so happy, relieved, overwhelmed, beautiful, and alive. It was over. I thought that I should grace this moment and say something deep and emotional, something that would resound through the ages. So I said, “You did it! You did it!”
I became a daddy. I held Melanie for the first time while sitting next to Lyia. When the afterbirth came out, Lyia and I were moved to the bedroom. I cut the cord while I held Melanie. However, Lyia continued to bleed. I watched Liz work hard to control her bleeding. We came so close to going to the hospital because so much blood was lost. But Liz was able to manage and control the bleeding. I can’t thank our midwife enough for doing such an amazing job of stabilizing Lyia. I became so worried and frightened with all the blood because on the one hand I could have lost my wife and very literally on the other hand I was holding my new born daughter.
When Lyia was stable, I gave Melanie her first bath in our kitchen sink. She was so calm and so beautiful. I was so jittery from all the stress that had happened and from the blissful joy of finally holding Melanie. I dressed her in her first outfit and then went to check on Lyia. She was recovering slowly and resting. I lied on the couch on my side and cradled Melanie in the nook of my arm. She and I started to doze off together. We then went to the bed so we could all rest.
Previously, I had experienced mental exhaustion after defending my thesis as a grad student, physical exhaustion from running a half marathon, and on this day I finally felt emotional exhaustion. I could never experience what Lyia went through but I can say that it was both the most difficult day and the most rewarding. We gave birth as a team at home. The journey to fatherhood was exhausting but we did it in the comfort of our own home. We could walk or rest when needed. We could comfort Lyia the best way she needed. I wouldn’t change this for anything else. We had our first night as a family in our own bed. I want to thank our birthing team from the bottom of my heart. They helped my daughter come into this world safe and sound. She is now my reason for being and for living. My wife labored for two days and did a beautiful job. She is now more beautiful than I could ever imagine. I love her and admire her. Because of her, I was that guy she was seeing, then I was the boyfriend and then a fiancée. When we were married I became a husband. And now my journey as a man has reached a new level. Lyia has given me the opportunity of a lifetime and one that I have been eagerly awaiting. With her help, I am a Father.