Saturday, December 14, 2013

Elihu Joseph

Father Steve Cooke at St. Peter’s Parish -- Take it easy; I don’t have a Jesus agenda -- spoke of faith in a September 29th homily. Before I get into that, it warrants mentioning that the Catholicism portion of my life has been rugged at best. I hated Mass as a kid, quit attending as an adolescent, and directed my spiritual channels towards eastern thought in my 20s. The only consistencies my church-going life have ever maintained were to a) make my sister(s) laugh during service, and b) to not fall asleep during homilies.

As the months leading up to marriage dwindled, it occurred to me that my future wife was really not going to drop the church thing. She was going to make a practicing-Catholic family out of us if it killed her. She’s done just that, and I admire her for it. I haven’t always been on board -- I like to sleep in and used to loathe the notion of tithing -- but I’ve come around, and I almost look forward to it these days.

Almost.

Here’s the skinny with Mass, though, if you’re not familiar: Sing, a reading, sing, a reading, sing, Gospel, homily, sing, collection, sing, Communion, peace offering, sing, conclude. Our church puts on a heck of a good Mass, and that’s worth mentioning because there are those out there that simply don’t. It’s pretty painless, and we’re always done with breakfast and chatting before football starts, so it’s a sacrifice I’ve come to accept.

The first reading features a passage from the Old Testament, the second is from the New, and the Gospel focuses on a passage that has to do with Jesus’ life. The priest, then, is supposed to incorporate the themes of the three passages into one idea and express it in a way that involves modern-day life and how humans might go about living it.

I think it would be easy to do that once. Fifty-two times a year not so much. And for consecutive years without sounding redundant? Big-time challenge. Big time. The only other minor detail is that you have to care about what you’re saying and if you’re good at it that should come across to your parishioners.

So, I can’t recall what the readings were about on September 29, but in his homily Father Steve spoke of faith. The idea of such a concept is something I’ve borderline hated for as long as I’ve been old enough to have complex opinions. People are always telling you that you should have it, or that you’ve got to rely on it, like it’s a solid stock in which you should invest. I think, though, that I’ve always been of the mindset of questioning faith’s return; the old what’s-in-it-for-me adage. But he talked about his family and a particular outing in which he and his 14 siblings ate dinner with their parents.

An older brother of his toasted their mom in such an exquisite, thankful fashion, that the rest of them moaned and C'mon'd him for having gone first with an untouchable toast. Then, several years later, at a similar meal, that same brother stood to toast her again, which prompted some eye rolls. This time, his toast was short: "Thank you," he said, "for the gift of faith."


I remember when we got pregnant with our first child. What an exciting 10 months of preparation, hope, anxiety, nervousness. Our daughter was born healthy and beautiful. Raising her for the first three years of her life has been insightful, comedic, a challenge, and a blessing. When we got pregnant with our second, I assumed -- even though we’d always joked that, since our first child was so good, our second would surely be a pill -- that it would be a sitcom episode we’ve seen before. But, really, nearly everything was different. There were little things like different jobs, a different house, and obviously a different mindset, having done it before. But these were, as I said, little things.

Then there were the primary differences between the two pregnancies: a) We opted for a home birth for child two; and b) We tried, from week one, an aggressive dietary approach to avoid Preeclampsia’s return. I could write all day -- and my wife for a week -- on the immeasurable differences in comprehensive prenatal care delivered by our home-birth midwife, Melanie Brindle, versus that delivered by the midwife clinic our first go round. In short, the midwife clinic was good. Melanie, however, provided first-ballot, unanimous-vote, Hall-of-Fame-worthy services that should never, in any circle of midwifery discussion, go unmentioned. And we rehired our doula, Nadah Cartmill, who, alone, made the birth of our first child happen. It was her energy, her coaching, her positivity, her injections of confidence, her direction, and her care, that literally caused my wife’s cervix to dilate and prepared her for the almighty chore of labor and delivery.

In fact, it was Nadah, in a post-partum visit after our daughter was born, that suggested that my wife would be a good candidate for a home birth. She’d already wanted to labor most of the way at home, but because of Preeclampsia, could not. So this was how it would be, long before we were even pregnant.

The choice created an internal dichotomy that quietly, relentlessly, tried, for 10 months, to swallow me. Two simple parts, working in contrast, plotting my tedious, calculated destruction. One half was the advocate, the supporter, all of the husbandy things an expectant father should do: support his wife in the normal prenatal fashion; encourage her as unwaveringly as possible that this brave, culturally mysterious choice is a good one, regardless of those that will forwardly say otherwise; and speak out about home birth to create, as Nadah calls it, a ripple effect to spread the word about the choice as a birth-plan option.

The other, much simpler half generated an easier summary: I was terrified.

Nadah taught us a lot of childbirth truths our first go ‘round, but one, for me, stood out above them all: A fetus -- and ultimately a newborn -- receives oxygen via the umbilical cord up until the time the cord stops pulsing and the child begins to breathe through the mouth, nose, and lungs. I mention this because, based on dozens of first- and second-hand stories I’d heard throughout my pre-parenting years, I was certain that death by umbilical-cord strangulation was a huge possibility, and that the sins -- for lack of a better word -- committed in my early years were destined to make this horror a reality in my world.

It wasn’t just the cord, though. I was afraid of hemorrhaging. I feared that the baby would get stuck in the birth canal. The possibility that countless complications could demand a transfer from the home to the hospital in the midst of labor -- with time as our literal mortal enemy -- scared me in a way that, thankfully, allowed me to still function in my daily life and talk to people about the pregnancy and the birth plan with a clouded sense of tenacity.

Anyway, as is the case with many things in life, 36 weeks felt like 136 weeks, and then we were just a month away. The image that comes to mind is the reel-to-reel, black-and-white footage of the damsel in distress, flailing and tied to the railroad tracks. I, the conductor, kerchief between my pinstriped hat and overalls, couldn’t mash the brakes any harder. I couldn’t stop this birth from happening, this child from joining our family, this threat of danger, this too-real panic from seizing me.

Like my role as an expectant father, the thing was two-tiered. One end of it was identical to waiting for the arrival of our first: Paranoia over an unhealthy baby wrought me into a mess of nerves. I recall a recent conversation with a friend, wherein I was asked to identify the root of such an aversion, and my response was something like, “I’m afraid I won’t be able to love a child with special needs the same way I would love a quote/unquote healthy child.”

My friend said, “You don’t mean that. You mean something else.”

This response spun me and I asked what was meant.

“You don’t mean ‘love,’” my friend said. “You mean something else.”

And that’s when the thing hammered me down like a tent stake.

Sadly, my friend was wrong. I did mean love. That’s what the fear was all about. I was confident that I could care for our child, regardless of its D.N.A. structure. It was legitimately that I was afraid I wouldn’t love the baby the same way I loved our daughter. And that scared the shit out of me. It was the proverbial bucket of cold water to the face that says, Hey, guy -- You’re a rotten human being.

As horrible as that was, the second piece was just as bad, or worse, depending on your perspective. It was an unknown, a dark chasm of evil into which there was no visibility, and from which there was no return. I was afraid that, based on birth plan or otherwise, we would lose the baby.

Now, the brain is a really weird and intricate thing. It wants you to see into that thing and beyond it, to predict the future with some meteorologistic, 50/50 shot of accurate foresight. But as much as it wants you to see into it, it won’t let you; it shuts down. Right or wrong, I could never even make that first tear in the envelope of how sad it would be for that baby, whose life ended so shortly after it’d begun. All I could see was some chicken scratch of an outline for our family, a screenplay’s synopsis that lacked any semblance of happy ending. In fact, it was so ugly that it made the little nursery-rhyme duckling look handsome and sexy.

So these fears were like that toothed pit in Return of the Jedi that meant the demise of Boba Fett and company. They were my guts, reaching for my tongue in an effort to silence my advocacy for home birth, yearning to lobotomize my mind that identified such a birth plan as a match for our personalities and life styles. In hindsight, it’s staggering that the stress didn’t pin me down for a three count, send me stretcher-bound from the squared circle.

I don’t know why, but it doesn’t matter: I’m thankful that we didn’t have to deal with any -- save for one hiccup -- of those misgivings. It’s probably because of scientific and medical numbers and percentages. Without looking anything up, I think that most babies are safely delivered and born healthy, and frankly, I recall hearing something to the effect of those numbers being even higher in home-birth settings. But I think there’s an unquantifiable, silent element of faith that factors in to the equation as well. And I think you can take that sentence and input your own definition of faith. For us -- and selfishly, me -- I think it was a pretty even combination of faith in our choices and decisions, our birth team, and our spirituality. It’s that last part that I’ll touch on for one quick second: Faith and spirituality doesn’t have to mean that you pour your essence into believing that your creed is the right one and that how it’s written in your religion’s interpretation of some scrolls embodies precision. Instead, I think it’s about connectedness.

Anyway, we got down to the final few weeks, and our foundation got a little jostled. Anna’s blood pressure was high, and after a couple of weeks, didn’t appear to come down. Then her platelets were low, and before long her protein counts were looking screwy. It was our good friend Preeclampsia knocking on the door again. As the final week drew near, we consulted a doctor, who said we were not yet below the home-birth floor, but that any further dips and a hospital delivery would be his suggestion.

With one round of blood-work labs to be taken, our midwife urged us to consider an herbal induction. I couldn’t really wrap my head around what that meant, and I later learned that this would be a first for her. It would be a trial run, but a trial run with solid protocol behind it. All of it sounded pretty rotten to me. I had no reason to trust that this endeavor would net favorable results. If I’d even been aware of that silent faith, it was shaken.

Then, the results were in: By some act of gratitude, all of Anna’s levels stabilized and we were back on course. This lasted 36 hours, and just as we were beginning to entertain the idea of normalcy, her water broke. Only, nothing happened. We waited all morning and afternoon, knowing that if real contractions did not begin -- and soon -- we were in danger of jeopardizing the baby’s health and setting ourselves up for serious scoldings and panic from the medical professionals, were we to have to go to the hospital.

No longer was the herbal induction something Melanie delicately encouraged; it was our last ticket to the home-birth sweepstakes.

And I gotta be honest: I wasn’t buying it. I didn’t think it would work. I kept silent when appropriate and did as I was told, but I was certain this baby would be born in a hospital bed, and it took some serious discipline to not voice that when she arrived at our home at 6:30 p.m. on October 7. The whole thing was bordering on joke status in my mind. This, however, was a punch line destined to tank. This was material that didn’t deserve to be written, to be rehearsed, and least of all, tried out on stage.

We proceeded, nevertheless, and the first step -- amidst my finishing touches on a batch of lasagna big enough to feed half of our block -- was to get some dinner in Anna’s stomach. This was followed by some tinctures -- cotton root bark and black cohosh -- I’d totally heard of before, a walk, a few mild exercises, and a belly massage with castor oil on my wife’s stomach. After some time to let all of those things kick in, I prepared -- at Melanie’s instruction -- a cocktail of yogurt, honey, and castor oil. And down the hatch, in all of its pasty nastiness, it went.

Instructed to head upstairs, we rested around 9:30, and in an hour, Melanie came up to check Anna’s vitals. Things looked good, so we were given another hour, at which point the concoction took hold and launched Operation Flushall. When asleep, it takes a hearty effort to rouse me, but a sensory stimulus -- even if it’s of the olfactory variety -- will do the job, and this situation was no exception. Sprung from my October bed, I did in fact need to know just what the hell was the matter.

After a 12-second investigation, I was back beneath the covers; Anna joined Melanie downstairs in the family room. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 2:00 a.m., I again stirred. This was no delicate wakening, no gentle shaking or whispered urges. My name was not spoken. Our bedroom light did not flicker. I, somehow, heard the lone sentence, “She wants you to get the tub ready.”

I don’t think I sat up, or even scarcely rolled. I did have a reply, though.

“What tub?”

“The tub,” she said. “The birthing pool.”

I won’t say that’s the quickest I’ve ever become upright in bed, but it tops the list.

“Oh,” I said. “We’re doing this now?”

“Yeah,” Melanie said. “She’s ready.”

I’d previously inflated the pool and had it stowed in the guest room, so I lumbered down the hallway and inflated it its final two percent in our bedroom. Once I had the massive plastic liner unfolded and placed in the pool, I detached the shower head, screwed in the adaptor, and fastened the new garden hose. I stretched it across the room and into the tub, pausing briefly to hustle downstairs. I fired up the stove-top burners beneath two massive pots of water and returned upstairs.

This was, in some insane aspect, the moment of truth. If I could, with the twist of two knobs, transfer dozens and dozens of gallons of warm water from our tub to a plastic pool in the middle of our bedroom floor, then this thing might work. If parts did not burst at the point of attachment in the bathroom, and the near-full pool did not crash -- for lack of (imagined) joist support -- through the floor and into our living room, then this thing could be a go. It obviously had zero to do with the impending successful delivery of a baby, and was even less related to a complication-free labor, but when you have but few, finite roles in intense situations, every detail of the world magnifies to a previously unimagined level.

Perhaps it was Melanie who contacted Nadah, and I was told to tell the photographer to get here. Yes, with so much up in the air, and everything hinging on good energy and faith, we were going to document the experience. Through some form of good grace, I did not lose my mind while a) trying to figure out the swipe sequence that would unlock my wife’s cell phone, and b) fumbling through her contacts list in the ‘K’ section to find a stranger (to me) named Cate.

I remember trying to type that text message, doubting that this was the best method of communication; a call would be louder, I thought. Who’s going to hear a text buzz at 2:30 in the morning, let alone wake up, get out of bed and drive to someone’s home with all of the appropriate gear in tow. In the moment, it felt like I set her phone down on the nightstand and Cate Eighmey was knocking at the door. The sequence of the next 90 minutes will forever remain a touch blurry, but the five of us were then in the room for the long haul.


The pool was about two-thirds full when Anna got in, and the water was a touch too hot. We eased up on the ‘H’ knob; added some high-quality ‘C’ and swirled with our arms. Everything went twisted when it occurred to me that my wife was having legitimate contractions. In a Fear-and-Loathingesque span, I was in the corner, plugging my iPod into this nifty little MP3-player speaker we’d acquired. I’d waited til the last minute to get some music ready and assembled for the big moment, but I’d pulled it off, and now, connecting and disconnecting the devices, the all-too-familiar sensation of frustration with technology swarmed overhead. 

The speaker, for reasons I could not fathom, would not produce sound. This, I thought, is my overhead rain cloud. It’s always in the vicinity, and when it moves in, it doesn’t cast precipitation, rather words that form a sentence. The same sentence. Every time: You should’ve tried harder to get through Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It was 1994. You were practically living in a commune. You were just too stoned to comprehend anything bigger than a Calvin & Hobbes strip. And even those sometimes took you to the buzzer. Hell, you still own the book, you tool. Just read it!

There I was, though, connecting and disconnecting, like one of these times was going to be the magical moment. It was not unlike the countless times in the last 28 years of my life when I’ve wheeled various mowers out from various garages into various driveways and, when starter-cord pull after starter-cord pull nets no combustion, I offer a mental What gives? with my arms, certain that such an invisible shrug will coax a neighbor out of a living room to assist. This never happens, but I always imagine that, were it to one day, the neighbor would effortlessly fire up the engine and immediately retrieve a Robert M. Pirsig paperback from his back pocket, offering it to me with some kind of definitive smirk.

My wife, though, groaning in the pool, had the ability to snap me out of my technological dismay with this simple suggestion: “Get your laptop. Plug it into it. The battery's probably dead.”

My donkey ears and I left the room on a quick fetch-and-retrieve mission, and alas, our soundtrack filled the room. It consisted -- since I know you were dying to know -- of five albums: Anugama’s Shamanic Dream and Shamanic Dream II, suggested by the lovely and wonderful Theresa Hubbard; two albums filed under Music for Deep Meditation: Chanting Om and Chanting Om -- Meditation on the 7 Shakras, which I found rooting around with the search tool on iTunes; and Bobby McFerrin’s Circlesongs, a longtime personal favorite of mine that literally every good human being should, at very least, hear one time in their lives. It is so amazing, and I have my time as a volunteer disc jockey at Fort Lewis College’s KDUR FM in Durango, Colorado to thank for having come across it.

Because I know Mr. McFerrin is an avid reader of my blog, I’ll take this opportunity to say this: The fact that my second child was born, in some segment of the time-labor continuum, to Circlesongs is one of the proudest moments of my life.

Anyway, we had music.




Melanie determined, after some hard work by the team, that the water was probably still too warm, and that Anna should get out and try laboring on the bed. Once we had her out and dry, she did some seriously galactic heavy lifting on our bed, and the baby was about to crown.





Back in the pool she went, and it was but a moment before Melanie asked Anna if she wanted me in there with her. My brain, in all seriousness, did not even have time to produce the Dude, what are you thinking? thought and my wife had answered in the affirmative. I had zero opposition to being in there with her. I even had experience in it, having labored for some time with her in the hospital birthing pool prior to our daughter’s birth. I suppose, though, not having considered how dialogue might go in the moment, that I thought she might have run the idea by me before casting that line out into the river of the birthing.




It’s always good times to mention this tidbit, but having referenced the water laboring of our first child, it’s even better times: When we toured the midwife room at the hospital prior to the birth of our daughter, we stood, at one moment, before the tub and the following words were said:

“Dad, you are of course welcome to labor in the tub with mom, but please bring a swimsuit. It’s fine, obviously, if mom is naked, but we don’t really want dad to be naked while everything else is going on.”

I’ve always filed this gem of a gentle reminder as a necessary detail for the hospital staff to mention, but it’s always struck me as a just a touch too gentle. That is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying that nobody wants to see dad naked. There’s no need to keep the group exclusive to those in the room. Were polls on the subject taken, I’m confident that, considering the alternative, 100 percent would respond in favor of a partially clothed dad.

Anyway, I grabbed my swimsuit, made for the bathroom, and in to the pool I went.

For a number of weeks leading up to this day, Melanie had, on occasion, phrased the question, Do you want to catch the baby? in a fashion that suggested that to be the done thing. She meant no harm in asking; it’s probably just one of those prenatal topics you have to cover. Perhaps because I hesitated when answering the first time, she asked it another time, and again on one last-time-through sort of conversation.

Each time the idea was run up the flag pole, my answer grew more emphatic: “Hell. No.”

The idea of that level of responsibility wrecked me.

Add to it that there was not only the catch, but the ensuing handoff, which, as things turned out, would’ve made the butt fumble look harmless.

Here’s the real kicker, though: In a water birth, the point of exit must be beneath the surface. That is, baby must enter the water directly from the birth canal. There’s no stopping, no passing ‘Go.’ Baby, as you might remember, is getting oxygen via the umbilical cord, but the minute baby hits air, baby will open its mouth in that first-gasp-of-life sense. So, in the play call of starting your life, double dipping is a game breaker. Melanie initially delivered this information one afternoon in our living room, and upon hearing it, my brain put up a sort of Death Star force field to repel it, having decided it was too scary and dangerous to even entertain the idea of processing.

We’re in the pool, though, and Anna has her back to me. She’s leaning over the edge, and I can tell she’s in pain. My memory is jogged and I recall an exercise Nadah had us do when Anna was last in labor. It’s a simple premise that involves grasping her hips and squeezing -- somewhat forcefully -- inwards during contractions. It’s supposed to help transfer the pain of the contraction from one centralized area of the abdomen to a more evenly distributed cluster of pain. Or at least that’s how I remember it/just made it up.

With Nadah on my right, coaching me through the technique, Melanie -- on my left -- reminds me of the stay-beneath-water element and I am immediately transformed from expecting father applying steady hip pressure to Superman trying to impress Lois Lane by crushing a cinder block bare-handed. And I’ll be damned if Anna isn’t unintentionally challenging me to keep her waist below water level.



It’s unclear how long we were in the water, but it felt like somewhere in the vicinity to 10-12 minutes before I heard Melanie say, “I can see your baby’s head, Anna. If you reach down you should be able to feel it.” In the moment it sounded like a weird thing to say, but it’s probably an identifier of how close mom is, a motivator to get into that home stretch (pun not intended).

She did just that, though, and when the next contraction came, Anna heaved a wicked-heavy push, and it was like the ol’ pizza/arcade Whac-a-Mole game: Beneath the surface of the water I could literally see the top half of our baby. This was bizarre for two reasons: 1) Well, it’s just not something you frickin’ see every day; and 2) I was stunned because, with our daughter, all of the work was to get beyond the head-and-shoulder region. After that the kid came out like she was on a Slip N Slide, shooting across a stretch of back yard.

Before I could process any of it, Melanie addressed me.

“Okay,” she said. “Once you’ve caught your baby, you’re going to have to hand the baby back to her between…”

There was more than that, and it had something to do with making this happen at the same time Anna spun around in the water, put her back against the edge of the pool, and received the baby into her arms, but, in my head, Melanie’s voice went all Charlie Brown’s teacher as soon as I realized that she was again talking to me about catching the baby.

“Dude,” I said. “You are catching the baby.”

Again, the element of time in which we were in the pool is a blur. The only thing I can say for certain is that about 14 massively intense things happened in a span of seconds and minutes that I will never be able to compute. It was like one of those out-of-body experiences, only without the really good acid. Regardless, I’m pretty sure she shot me some kind of Seriously? look.

It was the briefest of looks, though, because her attention went immediately back to the half-baby sticking out of my wife. I remember looking at Melanie as she looked at the baby, and then she was really looking at the baby. She plunged her arms into the water between my wife and I and withdrew them just as fast.

“Wait,” she said.

I didn’t know what she knew, but I didn’t like the sound of it, and it certainly didn’t feel good.

“Okay, Anna,” she said. “Sit tight for a minute, then I’m going to ask you to push again.”

I don’t remember how Anna responded, but I remember she turned her head to peer over her shoulder and the look on her face was one of surprise, one that suggested that she couldn’t believe she wasn’t done yet. Then Melanie lowered the boom.

“The cord is wrapped around your baby’s neck,” she said.

And it was in that instant that the tiny quarter-blade-of-grass grasp I had on reality and timing just went. Where it went I don’t know, but I was floating out there somewhere for a moment, and Melanie’s arms were again in the water.

“Okay,” she said. “Push.”

The briefest silence hovered among us.

Anna,” she said. The scolding edge of her tone snapped me back into the room, back into the pool, where life was, where life was trying to be. “Push.”

I remember seeing Melanie’s hands clutched in the armpits of our baby, and I remember the baby coming the rest of the way out, and before I could process, Anna was turning over into a sitting position. Someone handed her the baby. It might’ve been me. It could’ve been Melanie. I just remember seeing a beautiful baby looking up at the ceiling, its mouth open and gasping for the first time ever. I remember that baby getting nestled into Anna’s welcoming arms, and I remember looking at her, tears forming in my eyes as I watched her begin to cry. That last little part felt familiar, and returned me, I think, to my sense of self.



I remember getting close to her face, thinking I wanted to touch foreheads with her and give her a kiss. I remember hoping that my eyes were telling her how proud of her I was. I remember knowing that everything was fine but feeling like I was freaking out that my wife just had a baby in a blow-up pool in our bedroom. And then I muttered a little bit. I think.



It was something to the effect of You did it. And I’m so proud of you and the like. But, as our baby, with some mild assistance from Melanie and an aspirator, began to cry for the first time, and everything began to again make sense, confusion returned.



“What is it?” My muttering interrupted, I looked at Anna with that puzzled, Scooby Doo grunt and tilt of the face. Good, I thought. She’s not with it, either.

“What do you mean, honey?” My voice had a delicate, soothing effect, as I tried to calm her and bring her back to lucidity.

“The baby,” she said, tears streaming, beginning to tremble.

“Babe,” I said. “Everything’s great. You did such a good job. We did it.”

“Oh, my God,” she said, briefly shifting emotional gears with a chuckle. “Is the baby a boy or a girl?”

“Well,” I said. It occurred to me that the baby’s legs had been closed in the one-millionth of a second they’d been above the surface of the water. “I haven’t been able to check.”

This felt like a suitable, logical claim, true as it was. But I reached out and grabbed the child’s right foot, and as I lifted, I am the first to admit that I have never in my life been so pleased to see a penis and a set of testicles. And I’ll be damned if they didn’t seem like unusually large testicles for someone that had been alive for less than 90 seconds, previously scrunched into a uterus for the better part of several months. I chose not to share that part, though. Til now, anyway.

I shared the wonderful news, and Nadah asked what his name was.

“Elihu,” I said. I looked at Anna. She smiled.

“Elihu Joseph,” she said.

They both told us they loved his name, and time, for the moment, fluttered out of existence.
I got out and dried myself enough to change into workout pants and a robe. I’d apparently misplaced my jeans and shirt in the chaos. It’s a good look, though, and I’m thinking of trying it out downtown next weekend, weather permitting.

Anna soon felt cold, and we began the fragile procedure of getting her and our son out of the pool, dry, and into bed. He was quick to latch, and now, 10 weeks later, his hunger has not subsided. It’s pretty odd, thinking back, that Cate was there the whole time, silently snapping photos, moving from one corner of the room to another.



Anna’s second foot was barely out of the water and Nadah went to work. She’d previously told me that she would just dangle the hose out the window after the birth, that gravity would just drain the water. I remember thinking that maybe Nadah had a dial on some pretty good “tinctures” I should get my hands on. I guess when you’re in the business of doubting, you might as well go full-bore, lest you start to second guess your second guesses. I’ll be damned, though, if I didn’t look up a little while later as she spoke to me.


“I’m just going to drop the hose out the window,” she said.

I peered into the pool and was more than surprised to see less than two inches of water left at the bottom.

“Yeah,” I said. “Perfect.”

In no time she was handing me the pool’s liner. I carried it into the bathroom and dumped what was left into the tub. A few minutes later she had the pool deflated and was cramming it into its stuff sack. There was conversation, some laughter, and some tears. Candles flickered on our window seat. Some of us, if not all of us, were stuck in a state of awe. It was decided that the boy had been born at 4:07.



















After a while, Melanie assisted Anna in showering and peeing, then helped her back into bed. She conducted a newborn examination, and shortly thereafter handed me my son with instructions to leave the room and not come back until I was told.

















We rocked in the guest room for a bit, and after a while Cate came out, packed up her stuff and told me I could go back in the room. We exchanged information, pleasantries, and as she slung the strap of her bag over her shoulder, she looked at me.

“Your wife,” she said, “is a rock star.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I know.” For whatever reason, I felt foolish for not having something clever queued up, but in my defense I was a little preoccupied with not disturbing the rock star’s new offspring.

Later, I helped Nadah tote her stuff downstairs, and I fumbled around in the dark for some cash for her. We hugged, and I thanked her for again being a priceless asset and an invaluable source of energy. Melanie had a few other tasks to complete, and then, somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30, she too was gone. The three of us sat on our bed; our room -- aside from the window-seat candles and a trash bag hanging from the closet doorknob -- looked like absolutely nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

“I guess I’ll go downstairs,” I said, “and make some coffee and a few phone calls.”

“Okay,” Anna said.

I took the trash bag out to the garage, started a pot of coffee, and grabbed a Black & Mild before stepping outside.

I remember it was cold out. I woke my sister and forced the news through her thick grog. And then I called my in-laws. They both answered a phone at the same time.

“We have a baby,” I said. I shared with them the details, that everybody was healthy, and I remember hearing Anna’s father rejoice, her mother sigh and sniffle. Like me, they’d been afraid. And like me -- whether they knew it or not -- there had probably been some faith at work.