Thursday, August 1, 2013
A Dad's Take on a Birth Story, Part 1: The Time Before the Time
See that guy in the photo? Not the one in the beanie... the one smiling like a complete dork who has no idea what he just got himself into. That's me, proud father of my firstborn son Colton Sterling Ritter. This is the story, from a dad's perspective, about the birth of this little guy and about what my amazing wife went through to bring him into the world. My intentions, just so you know, are two fold: help myself remember the details and feelings of that fateful day (and night!), and encourage anyone facing this beautiful, life changing, and strange experience.
It all started way, way back on April 12, 2013. It was a Friday evening and I'd just gotten home from work. Colton was already 8 days past due, so it literally felt like every hour that passed could be the hour it would all get started. Sure enough, Noelle's contractions began
somewhere around 5:00pm... but nothing near enough to know for sure if this was the beginning of the end or not. After a few hours of uncertainty, we felt confident to call John and Lorrie, Noelle's folks, up from Monterey to get ready. I can't be 100% sure but I think they were already in the car before we even got off the phone with them - they were so stinking excited. After that call, I knew everything was about to change.
The time from 8:00pm to about 6:00am is sort of hard to remember for me. The in-laws arrived before midnight and the contractions were unpredictable but clear when they happened. Noelle and I sort of tried to sleep but it was more of a series of short naps, each one getting more brutal than the last because I just desperately wanted to get even one deep REM cycle. But, to no avail - I also don't think Lorrie slept a wink she was so happy the time had finally arrived.
Saturday morning, April 13. A series of contractions continue but Lorrie, John and I knew that there was most likely not going to be a run to the hospital anytime soon - so what did we do? We got out Noelle's lengthy "Stuff To Do" list and got to work. Noelle's dad loves... and I mean loves... little projects around the house. So much so that, especially on this day when I'm on pins and needles, it bugged me just a bit. But how can you not appreciate a father-in-law who loves being helpful? So we let it ride and knocked one thing off the list, then another and then another. Before you know it the floors were clean, the dishes had been washed three times each just for good measure, an outdoor entertaining table had been built out of an old pallet and an extra piece of wood we had in our backyard, the lawn was freshly manicured, the garden was watered, my mother-in-law had made dinner and (I think) cookies or something - you name it, we did it. And still no baby.
In the middle of all this hard work, there was my champion of a wife, going through labor one unpredictable contraction at a time. Men, I'll warn you of this if you've never seen a woman going into labor: DO EXACTLY AS SHE SAYS. Now is not the time to interpret "Get me some water" as "During the next commercial, please get me some water". It means get the freaking water, and do it in record time. Your job is to make the most physically taxing experiencing of her life less stressful - if that can be done - by being more obedient than a dog fresh out of obedience training school.
OK, back to those contractions. Noelle spent a large portion of Saturday afternoon in our bath tub. Looking back, we've already laughed about the scenario many times. Noelle wanted to know how long the contractions were lasting and how far apart they were, so I was responsible for timing that with my phone. She would scream "TIME"... then just scream and moan for a while... until the pain subsided (meaning pain went from unbearable during the contraction to nearly unbearable in between the contraction... not pleasant). That was my cue to start the clock again, run into the bathroom from wherever I was, get my hand squeezed by a woman with surprisingly strong grip for however long was necessary, then stop the timer when she felt the contraction was over. "Great job honey, that contraction was about 45 seconds" - "WHAT??? That was only 45 seconds!?" - "Yes, love, I'm afraid so..." This continued every 3-8 minutes in between all of our little house projects for a good few hours.
Saturday, 4pm. Noelle is exhausted and hoping the time to leave for the hospital is near, as we all are. The contractions are more intense than the previous 23 hours, and gaining momentum to be closer to 4-5 minutes apart with each one. The goal is about 1 minute contractions and less than 5 minutes apart, consistently for 1 hour. Once this is accomplished, you call the hospital to announce the good news about your wife being in incredible pain for that period of time, and they tell you to come on down like it's The Price is Right or something. Finally, after about 24 hours that felt like 124, we were off to the hospital.
That 3.4 mile drive from my house to the hospital was the last one we'd ever take "just the 2 of us"... except Lorrie was actually in the back seat so even that didn't count. Anyways, it was all about to change and I was responsible to drive my beautiful wife and soon-to-arrive son to the hospital. It was surreal, and yet I knew this is what God had prepared us for for many months.
Little did I know the saga had only just begun.