Budapest Birth Stories
In part one, new Mommy shared her version of the home birth. This time around, Daddy shares his point of view. Again, due to the current political situation and legality issues concerning home birth in Hungary, our contributors opted to stay anonymous.
Part 2 – His
The day of February 1, 2012 had loomed over our household for months as the projected arrival of our daughter’s birth. It was circled on our calendars and projected a sense of ominousness, much like Dwight Eisenhower’s personal planner must have looked like before D-Day. And when the actual day arrived it was a fairly typical one. We went about our normal business, my wife went grocery shopping, and I taught English lessons and went to my university to study language. That is, it was a normal day until I arrived home at 5 and my wife told me that her contractions were five minutes apart.
We were mostly prepared for this moment. I took a 45-minute nap at 8 pm to get as rested us as possible in case this went on all night long. I inflated the home birth pool and prepared to fill in once active labor appeared imminent. And in order to induce the labor and make sure she came out that day (instead of being teased for a few weeks) we went on a long walk to get things moving. We arrived back at home at 9 pm and my wife’s contractions seemed to slow down. They oscillated between 5-7 minutes, with a length between 30 seconds and 1 minute. Since we weren’t in the range of an oncoming birth we both started to let our guard down and assumed that these were fake contractions.
But at 10 pm they kicked back in with a vengeance. This kid was really coming. I knew that I would have my hands full soon so I filled up the rest of the homebirth pool, canceled all my English classes in Budapest and my online lessons for Japanese students, and we called our midwife to let her know that the time was coming. For the next hour or two I supported my wife through each contraction. In particular I pushed at the based of her spine when they came on, and that seemed to relieve the pressure (in a couple of instances she even told me that it was as if the contraction was taken away). I also tried to mimic slow breathing as she went through a contraction, because my wife’s pre-birth research had told her that slow breathing would calm down her body and assist the contractions in pushing the baby out.
By 1 am the contractions were getting fierce. I called the midwife and told her that she should get over here now. Our midwife replied, “OK – I will bike over now.” Keep in mind that it was winter in Budapest, probably 0 degrees outside, and our midwife lived on the other side of the city and planned to carry 20 kilos of medical equipment in two duffel bags on a bicycle. And we lived on the fifth floor of our flat and our elevator was too small to accommodate all of her baggage and her cycle, so she would have to walk up all the flights. But she was also a hearty woman most likely descended from the Amazonian princesses so I didn’t worry about her too much.
She arrived 30 minutes later and she was ready to get down to business. At this point my wife’s contractions would spirit her away to another plane of existence each time they struck. She had a mantra that she repeated to herself when they came: “Relax and open up; relax and open up.” It was a mental game that would help her body do its thing and keep her nerves out of the way. And it worked.
By 3 am it became clear that the baby wasn’t too far away. Each time a contraction approached it was as if a heavy weight were being slowly lowered upon her for one minute and then lifted off. She would have a small break and then the process would repeat itself. Our midwife then told me to sit behind her and hold her up by her armpits with my biceps (this makes me sound far more muscular than I really am). She was now in a prime pushing position and her body was on autopilot to push our daughter out. The final process was a hazy one to me as I was completely focused on holding my wife up. I heard a few words fly back and forth about a head appearing, but I couldn’t see any of it and concentrated lazer-like on the task at hand.
We were in the most intense part of labor and the strangest part of it for me was how detached and Vulcan-like I felt during the experience, as if I were an outside participant or sitting in an auditorium overlooking an open-heart surgery. At one point I even thought to myself, “Hmmmm… I am at the birth of my daughter right now. This is one of the biggest moments of my life. Interesting.” But then the moment had arrived and I snapped back into reality.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, our midwife held up a baby. I couldn’t really believe that it was our baby. My wife had been pregnant for so long that I had found it hard to comprehend a human actually lived there. But there it was! She had the arms, head and eyes of a miniature human! Our midwife immediately wrapped her up (after she exited all the fluids she could, of course) and placed her with my wife. We had done it! In the space of a few seconds the population of our family had leaped up by 50%. We then came down from our high and the next few hours were a complete blur, as most moments are in life immediately after a dramatic experience finishes.
Once the drama was over, the living room had been cleaned up, the umbilical cord cut, and my wife and the baby were fast asleep, I started writing a letter to our daughter. I told her the experiences of the birth and all the anxieties I felt as a new father. In particular I mentioned that having a child is a bewildering thing because I know that we are responsible to raise her, but I had no idea what it was I was actually supposed to do with her. Once I finished the letter I put it in an envelope for her to open when she is 18. And I hope at that time when she opens it her life can be blessed with many wonderful experiences like those we had on that night.