Each birth is unique or so the midwives say. Here are the events of an amazing 51 hour triumph that brought this little girl into the world. Our good friends, the Sagers, were over for a visit when Rachael called me into the bedroom. “My water broke,” she said calmly, “but I don’t have any contractions.” It was about 5 pm, Saturday, March 17th.
We decided to drop Hannah’s 3 siblings off at my mom’s house. Two children made it to Nana’s house without shoes, one without overnight diapers, but otherwise, I was an example of skillful efficiency. Borrowing an old DVD player from my brother, I picked up I Tanya (It was a good movie, but a not fit for the moment), Suburbicon (didn’t finish it, too dark for us) and Darkest Hour (We never tried to watch it) and some Cherries Garcia, I headed home. After the first movie and onto the second, we went to sleep, contractions were 2 or 3 every hour.
We woke up the next day at 10 am. It might be 7 years since we last slept in together. Normally, to sleep in past 7:30, one of us has to do a solid for the other. We felt guilty, we missed our children and the typical morning of peanut butter toast, shared sips of coffee, and sweet conversation. Hannah stilled showed no interest in making an appearance, so we went to Seaport Village for lunch at the Harbor House. You know your opportunities to go out is limited when you have the best time together while one of you is leaking amniotic fluid. At one point, I looked around the restaurant wondering if the secrets happening at the other patron’s tables could compete with ours. We had such a wonderful time, we decided to pretend to be pregnant again in about 18 months to guilt people into taking our children overnight again.
When we got home, the midwives from Birthroots in Chula Vista were over to give Rachael some herbs to get the labor process going. After a nice visit, they left and we watched our favorite movie, Away We Go. We’ve watched this movie during every labor, numerous times each year, if you haven’t seen it, buy it, love it…you’re welcome. The night ended with the contractions being 10 minutes apart.
Unlike the night before, this night was not restful. She kept bothering my sleep with all her crying and contractions. It was truly unpleasant. Seriously, it’s such a fragile place to be with the person you love going through something and not being able to help much except for encouragement, back rubs, keeping track of fluid intake, and reminders to breathe. Still, I think my role as “birth coach” is the manliest I’ve ever been. It seems in just about every culture for all time, women have played the supportive role; it’s better the other way around. About 6 am, Rachael having endured about 6 contractions an hour for 10 hours was begging for an end, she was wanting to get into the car, drive to the hospital and have the doctors make a quick exit for the baby through her abdomen. We called Birth Roots, the cavalry was on its way; the midwives were coming.
They arrived to a panic filled room. What happened next is unknown to me. They sent me to my room to rest. When I woke up, they had brought Rachael to a new place. Refreshed, she was back to wanting to face the challenge ahead. Later I learned, the midwife had made a bargain with Rachael. If the baby wasn’t out by 12:01 am, we would head to the hospital. Having an end, a finish line, gave Rachael renewed strength. They had also given Rachael relaxing herbs and more oils to get the labor going. It worked. Rachael sent me to pick up the kids. After two days, she had missed them. It took 45 minutes to get them, they stayed for 45 more, because by the time we arrived active labor had started, her contractions were a couple of minutes apart.
Active labor was a blessing and curse. A blessing because after 45 hours the process was nearing its end, and a curse because there were 6 more intense hours to go. Somewhere in this whole process, I learned about salvation in a new way. Rachael knew exactly what she was getting into. The last time she gave birth, she could claim ignorance; she didn’t know how intense the pain could get. This time she knew, and she still went forward. She did it with no real advantage to herself, but for a baby she had never seen face to face. She acted like Jesus in a way I had missed the first time I saw birth.
For the final four plus hours of labor, Rachael was in the birth pool in our living room. There really aren’t words to describe what took place. My sister says there’s nothing like the care given by a midwife, and this was proven again. From individually fanning Rachael, to holding her hand as she pushed, making sure Rachael and Hannah’s vitals were checked regardless of the chaos around, to seeing to Rachael’s hydration and sustenance, to administering IVs, to guiding Hannah out of the birth canal, the midwives were nothing short of remarkable. Rachael is the hero of this story, but the midwives were the angels guiding her.
Simply because an event is common shouldn’t reduce it significance. There may have been billions of births in human history, but there’s only been one where Rachael Jade Garrison gave life to Hannah Felicity Garrison. The gratitude, pride and amazement I feel towards my wife and our God are overwhelming. This was a singularly unique event that I will celebrate my entire life. Thank you, Darynee and Ceniza and everyone at Birth Roots for your love and care. Thank you, family and friends, for your prayers, texts of encouragements, and checking in for updates. Thank you, Rachael, for letting me witness actual greatness and heroism. Above all, thank you Jesus for the gift of Hannah Felicity.