It was a day that started out like any other (when you have a heavily pregnant wife): cries for coffee, silence, and food. There were also some complaints lodged regarding the continued residency of a 10 pound freeloader, and the hope that the day for his eviction had finally come. This hope was balanced, as it always was when Babs is pregnant, with an acute fear for the real and present danger her vagina, and it’s integrity, face as a newborn’s head forces its way from the dark into the light. The same acute fear has also followed all our unprotected trysts; and considering those occasions may be counted on one hand, yet account for 3 additional mouths to feed around the Goddard house, it is not an irrational fear. (As a sidenote: I’d like to flatter myself that my endowment would give Babs cause to fear her vaginal integrity PRIOR to a “coupling”, but the story of her anxiety has a direct line to head circumference. So if, gentle reader, you’re going to be in awe of me for anything, be in awe of the circumference of my noggin).
My darling Babs had wondered if her water had broken midday on Sunday, so at breakfast Monday, December 7th, it was decided that I would stay home from work and chaperone her on a trip to the midwife. As it turned out, the midwife determined (through science!) that she had likely just peed a little. The news was anticlimactic for Babs; to me, it was hilarious.
While at the midwife’s office, she asked us a leading question: did we want to have the baby sooner (like today) or continue to let nature takes it merry time. We both elected sooner, rather than later, and so a second question was asked that had several choices attached to it: how would you like to get things started? For those who have never been pregnant, or rode shotgun on appointments like this, there are a few options: a stretch and sweep (gentlemen, imagine someone fisting your asshole); going for a bumpy drive (which would likely result in more pants-pissing, only now on the luxurious leather seats of my truck); or having a smoothie with some herb called verbena and castor oil. I will surprise no one which option Babs chose: the smoothie. Indeed, if only science would provide a smoothie option for so many of life’s other conditions, what a happy world it would be. Presently, beer alone has to do its best.
Home we went, and I created a smoothie on which rest higher stakes than any smoother I had made previously. Only knowing the reputation of verbena as possessing seemingly magical properties to bring on childbirth, I won’t lie that I was a little nervous when I got some on my finger making the smoothie; would it make my bowels contract and cause me to shit my pants? I wish I was kidding; but my guts are fashioned from very delicate and sensitive materials, and those who know me well, know that I certainly had grounds for concern.
Fast forward two and a half hours, and I was quietly pretending to answer work emails while watching Failblog on Youtube in the basement, when I hear a commotion. Then I hear my mother yell down the stairwell, while clearly running, to come upstairs. Up I bound only to discover Babs covered in tea towels hastily thrown upon her lap (or as much of her lap as was available, owing to her girth) and a look of real panic on her face.
“I think my water broke—I heard a pop!”
“Have you called the midwife?” ask I. Knowing the phone number to the midwife was essentially all the preparation I had done for this birth, taking for granted that this was the third child I was going to watch come into the world, and knowing that, once Babs is fully engaged in the act of labour, I can do nothing right—so preparation is futile. Preparing to do everything wrong neatly describes most of my life; but now that I’m getting old and lazy, not preparing to do everything wrong matches my energy level.
“YES I CALLED THE MIDWIFE!”
I had already asked the wrong question, so I was off to a good start.
It was then that my mind began to slip into gear: Babs’ water was breaking. . . and she was still sitting on our couch. . . so she was likely making one hell of a mess ON THE COUCH. . . and once the new baby comes, there’s a high likelihood I will have to clean the couch.
“Can you get off the couch?”
“NOOOOO! I can’t move! Oh God!”
“. . . it’s just. . . you’re likely making a mess on the couch. Can I help you get off the couch?”
“NO! Fuck the couch!”
The gears were still turning. If she’s making a mess on the couch. . . and I move her to the floor. . . she’ll make a mess on the floor. . . and there’s a high likelihood I will have to clean up the floor.
“I’m going to go get a shower curtain!” I said, triumphantly.
This is something I surely cannot do wrong, since it involves simply conveying something from one location to another. Off I dash in search of a shower curtain. Even caught up in my rapidly rising level of stress, I knew just where to find a shower curtain: the hint was in the name! I ran to the shower, ripped the curtain down; it was then that another bright idea struck me (foreshadow: I should have stopped with one bright idea): what we need are more towels! I had learned this from the PBS programme “Call the Midwife”, which we had watched religiously up until Babs got pregnant and the show was barred from our house due to its occasionally harrowing, and always painful, depiction of natural childbirth. In that show, the aforementioned midwifes always call for towels. I stopped and grabbed literally every towel we had in the house.
Arriving back in the living room—prior to this, referred to internally by the Goddards as “the good living room” (the value of which—at least, from a literal sense—had likely depreciated while I was gone for 20 seconds)—and I unfurled the shower curtain like an aspiring Aladdin. Then I helped my wife, despite her protests, float off the couch, buoyed by what was quite a dramatic deluge of “water”. It was like the dark blowhole of Moby Dick had replaced my one-time playground in Babs’ lap.
God bless the shower curtain, it did Yeoman’s service despite the tsunami. I quickly began establishing a dyke system around Babs with the towels I had brought. It was then I realised that perhaps Babs wasn’t either focused enough on the job at hand, or in enough pain to distract her attention adequately, because she began to complain that I had grabbed “the good towels”. I, being a guy, don’t give two fucks for free about a caste system in our linen closet: they’re all merely “good enough”.
It was right around now that Babs told me 7 words that chilled my blood: I feel like I want to push.
To which I replied, “I want to get a second opinion on that; pushing does not sound like a good idea to me”.
So I began running, essentially in circles, trying to find my phone and the fridge magnet that bears the number for the midwife—you know, the type of thing I’m absolutely supposed to know the location of, if nothing else. And despite having no fewer than 3200 contacts in my phone—contacts for Legions in Manitoba I once sold beer to in 2009, and drunks who live in Peace River, Alberta whom I wanted to be able to screen should they call me back—I never bothered to put the goddamned midwifery contact in. And clearly, I didn’t bother putting their number in when Poppy was born, because it was the same midwife then too.
I got the midwife on speakerphone and relayed Babs’ desire to push, and my editorial opinion that it was a bad idea; the midwife, also on handsfree, said, “Tell her not to push. . . tell her to make ‘horse lips’. . . and you’re going to hear me accelerate my automobile. Stay on the line until we arrive.” Then I heard the engine of her Hyundai Santa Fe roar in the background. I later found out, the midwife got an expensive speeding ticket.
Not knowing precisely what ‘horse lips’ were, but also knowing that my role was rapidly turning towards showing a necessary composure, sense of control, and confidence, I crawled up besides my wife and said, “Do this!” and did a cross between a loose-lipped raspberry and my impression of a horse’s whinny. I must have done it was some conviction and credibility, because Babs followed my lead.
Between coaching Babs on making horse lips—which was departure from all the breathing and birth hypnosis training I had—I was yelling directions to the midwife on speakphone. It went something like:
B- “Pffffffffffffft! Take the 52nd Street exit! Pfffffffffffffffffft! Turn right! Pfffffffffffffffft! Turn right again! Pfffffffffffffffft! One more right!”
Babs—whose “water” was still creeping around the shower curtain—asked me to pull her pants down to get her more comfortable. “Great idea!” I thought, since it felt like something I actually had demonstrated a skill for. . . I mean, I had knocked her up three times, after all; so back to my wife’s hind quarters went I to do something productive.
Trying to pull soaking wet lululemon pants off of a pregnant woman is like trying to peel a Hot dog wiener wearing oven mitts. Once I got them down towards her bended knees, I was treated to the sight of my son’s hair colour.
In making Babs more comfortable, I became infinitely less comfortable.
I’m tearing up right now just thinking of the complex mix of absolute fear, excitement, and helplessness I felt in that moment. It’s hard to make sympathetic horse lips with your wife with your bottom lip trembling.
B- “Pffffffffft! We’re the first right—a green house—and there will be a terrified-looking husband standing in the driveway to greet you!”
Up I leapt to greet our speed demon midwives in the driveway to carry 80 pounds of equipment into our house. They literally roll with everything short of a machine that goes ‘ping’. The midwife who delivered Peapod was pulling rubber gloves on as she ran into the house, and as soon as Babs clapped eyes on her, she said, “Can I push now?!”. Our midwife got in position behind Babs and said, “Yes, dear—go ahead.”
Sullivan’s head popped out.
“Can I push again?”
A second push. . . and the boy I now know to be Sullivan Stewart Goddard (the boy with three surnames) plopped out onto the floor.
Babs asked if she could push again, not knowing that she had actually given birth to our son, and was pleasantly surprised to find that she had—in all her womanly glory—made giving birth unexpectedly in the living room beside our Christmas tree look easy and natural.
Forty minutes later she was lying in bed, juggling a fresh baby and a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
And that, my friends, is how our third child came into the world. It took me far longer to describe the event than it does Finny, who simply says, “I went upstairs to read a book, and Sullivan popped out of mommy’s belly and landed under the Christmas tree!” What he misses is me using the good towels, which I will never be allowed to forget. . . but is otherwise basically true.
Four months on, and everyone is very happy, very healthy, and the zoo that is now family of five seems to have settled into a rhythm that doesn’t feel as challenging as I thought it would. . . says the guy who doesn’t stay home all day, every day, with three kids. But I can still lift all three at once, which is basically the measurement I have for managing three kids; and I now get to be snooty and judgemental about people who only have one OR two kids. Or as I call them: wussbags.