14 years ago today, Garren was born in our Las Vegas apartment, on our Futon.
At this point you’re saying to yourself, “Futons aren’t comfortable for sleeping on, sitting on, or even lifting to turn it from a couch into a bed – why on earth would you birth on one!?”
Well, because the kitchen table was still full of dishes from dinner.
Not really. But when you imagine people that homebirth, your mind kind of goes that direction, doesn’t it? Mine used to. Like, “They homebirth; who knows what they’re capable of?!” To quote comedian Jim Gaffigan, “We homebirth and we use a midwife – because, of course, we’re into witchcraft.”
Having a home birth was never actually on our radar. Of course, living in Las Vegas and owning a Futon were never on our radar, either. You just can’t predict everything, people.
Even with Abbie, our first born, we employed the services of certified nurse midwives, who delivered in a hospital. This was more reassuring to me. Like it was kiiiind of homebirthing...but with a net. (Which would probably still be more comfortable than birthing with a Futon.)
After that first midwife experience with Abbie, we moved to Las Vegas. We couldn’t find a practice of certified nurse midwives, like we’d found in Utah, so we began looking at the option of a homebirth with a homebirth midwife. And that is how we found Margie the Midwife. And Garren’s birth then became our segue into homebirthing. And that’s the way all of our children since Garren have been born.
I act like it was this natural and carefree transition, but until we met Margie the Midwife, I was slightly unnerved. I would time how long it took me to drive from our apartment to the hospital, and I would try different routes. You know, in case of an emergency. Like an arm coming out before a head. Or like me freaking out. But after we met Margie, I had all the confidence in the world in her. I already had all the confidence in the world in Katie. So I started to accept that this would be a really neat, really new experience.
It was mid-morning on Saturday, September 18, 1999 when Katie started “early labor.” Katie’s mom had been with us for a few days, and my mom was at home in Lake Tahoe, waiting for our phone call to summons her. I wanted to document the “homebirth experience,” so I had a small notepad with me and jotted down thoughts as things progressed. Here they are, ripped from my journal:
1:00 p.m. Katie makes it public that she is in fact having regular contractions every 20 minutes or so. This continues through the afternoon, with the contractions getting closer – like, five to seven minutes apart – but never getting to the stage one would call Active Labor.
5:00 p.m. I call Mom, telling her to make some plans to get down here from Lake Tahoe, and the sooner the better. She finds two flights: One getting her here at 9:45 p.m. tonight, the other at 9:40 a.m. tomorrow morning. Mom feels impressed to come tonight or it would be too late. Katie feels impressed to kiss Mom, so ecstatic is she at Mom’s suggestion that this baby will come before tomorrow morning.
7:00 p.m. Katie’s sister, Shellie, and her daughter Annmarie (editor’s note: they happen to be living in Las Vegas at the time) come over to visit with Katie’s mom. We decide to distract Katie from the contractions, and we leave Abbie with Katie’s mom, Shellie, and Annmarie, and we head over to Monica’s, our friend who is having a big barbecue for the Oscar de la Hoya fight. On our way over, we get distracted and go to the movies.
7:25 p.m. We nestle into our seats to watch Adam Sandler’s new movie, Big Daddy. Apparently we wanted Katie to be able to say that labor wasn’t the most painful thing she endured today.
8:50 p.m. The movie ends, but we still have some time before we need to pick up my mom at the airport. We head over to Monica’s. As we pull into her driveway, Katie pleads with me to not tell everybody that she is in labor. She just doesn’t want people gawking and wondering if she is going to deliver right here in the Van Brocklin’s living room, in front of de la Hoya and all his fans. I, of course, love my wife, and have every intention of honoring any requests she has regarding her current state…that is, until I reach the front door, where I promptly announce that Katie is in labor. I have to do it, I am just too excited not to. All the girls oooh and aaaah and come running over to cater to Katie – asking her how she feels and if she needs anything, and about these dreams they’ve had lately where Katie is in labor, and even wearing the exact same outfit that she had on this very evening! (Okay, only our friend, Yvonne, had that dream.) We munch on some food, get some well-wishing, and flee to the airport to get Mom.
9:50 p.m. Mom arrives, but I can’t find her.
10:15 p.m. Oh, there she is. But I don’t know how she got on a broken escalator that has no exit on the main floor where I’m waiting for her. Mom is relieved to have not missed the birth.
10:45 p.m. Now we are home. And I’ve got to say, I don’t see this happening in the next several hours. Katie’s contractions are close together, but they haven’t gotten any harder. Katie says they are uncomfortable to a degree…but she can joke and walk and talk through the contractions. And that’s no good. We did call Margie the Midwife to bring her up to speed, so she’s aware. She told us to keep her posted when “things” start happening.
I feel anxious just in the anticipation. Even though this will be very different from Abbie’s laboring and delivery, I feel like because we’ve gone through this before, we’re more familiar with the process. I tell you this – I am not looking forward to seeing Katie in pain. I don’t like that part. It is emotionally draining.
Sunday, September 19
9:00 a.m. Katie has had contractions through the night – regular and slightly more uncomfortable. We decide church meetings might be a bit much - for us, and for members of the Desert Shores ward, who would justifiably stare at us in horror.
4:00 p.m. Things begin to get more serious. Katie’s contractions are painful. That’s right, Katie is in pain, and we couldn’t be happier! I am not allowed to leave the room or go too far. We labor mostly in our bedroom, where we find comfortable positions for Katie to sit in, and I can rub her lower back. Sometimes I stand up behind her and she slumps in my arms. We also try sitting on the bed, where I sit close behind her and rub her lower back. We made that one up, and we feel kind of cool that we are so professional and confident in our abilities that we could do whatever we want, even if it isn’t on the list of “preferred positions for laboring.” We are like…laboring vigilantes.
5:00 p.m. Shellie and Annmarie go home, and in anticipation of the baby coming soon, they take Abbie with them. They bring Abbie into the room to tell us goodbye. She is very cute and sweet and I dare say, at two years old, she seems somewhat sensitive to the situation. She is asking, “Mommy, what’s the matter?” “What’s wrong, Daddy?” Then she tells us she is going to Annmarie’s house, and she gives us hugs and kisses. We both get a little emotional at the gesture.
6:00 p.m. The contractions still don’t seem that hard, compared to laboring with Abbie, but for the peace of mind of knowing how far along Katie is, we decide to call Margie and see what she thinks. Margie, just getting back from a family outing, asks me a few questions about the contractions, but also about how Katie is feeling, and if Katie wants her to come now. I say it might be good for Katie’s strength in mind if she could find out how far along she is, and how dilated. Margie says she will pack her stuff and head over as soon as she gets home. We were to expect her in the next 45 minutes. Katie moves to the Futon in the front room, where we plan to have the baby.
7:00 p.m. Margie arrives and Katie is lying flat on the Futon. Margie sets up her stuff and checks Katie. Judging by how uncomfortable Katie says she is, but also by how calm and together she appears, I’m betting she’s at a 6. Katie, starting to doubt that anything good could be happening soon, thinks she’s perhaps at a 2. Margie checks her and she’s at an 8. We couldn’t believe it. We all let out a noise that was somewhere between a cry and a sigh and a laugh.
While she was checking how far Katie was dilated, Margie feels the bag of water right there in front. She says it is bulging, and although she doesn’t normally break the water, she recommends it this time because it feels like an arm might come through first, and that would mean an emergency rush to the hospital. I tell everyone precisely how many minutes that will take. We decide we are fine with Margie breaking the water and guiding the head down. As soon as she breaks the water, the contractions are intense. Katie must have shot into the transition stage.
Katie has a few more contractions, and it’s time to push. Our Moms are down with Margie at “the business end,” watching for the head. I stay up by Katie’s face, talking to her and holding her hands. When they all say they can see the head, I don’t believe them. I honestly don’t. I think for sure they are lying in order to sustain Katie and give her some sense of false hope.
Katie has a strength in her that she is very connected to. She is aware of her body and its abilities and the sacredness of what she is doing. I am in awe of her when I see her like this. She is stronger than I am.
I hear the three ladies letting out a relieved gasp, and Margie is suddenly handing the baby up to us. I scan the child looking for the “stuff.” And there it is – a brand new baby boy! Katie holds him for a few moments, then passes him to me. I sit on the end of the Futon looking at this new baby, and he opens his eyes and looks right at me. And I realize I am overwhelmed with the feeling that I have missed him. The words seemed to bubble to my lips and I almost involuntarily whisper, “I’ve missed you.” Upon whispering it, I realize what that means. It wasn’t the first time I had seen him, but the first time in a long time. I feel immediately that I know him.
I look around and it is the oddest, most comfortable thing to realize we have never left our home. We just brought a life into this world…right in our living room. And on our dark, blue Futon too. I’m left with the impression that birth can be a very peaceful, private thing.
The Moms go pick up Abbie from Shellie’s. Abbie has fallen asleep on the way home, but we wake her up when they get here. She is all smiles. She sits on the bed and holds him. She just stares at him and kisses his head and gives him hugs. She can’t stop smiling. She seems to know it’s the same baby that was in Mommy’s tummy, and that he is now out. She also still thinks we should name him Winnie the Pooh.
Margie packs up her stuff, and I help her carry it out to the car. Margie really knew what she was doing; she was kind and social and professional all at the same time. And we now have a new 9 lbs. 9 oz., 21 ¼” long, brown hair, dark blue eyes, perfect baby boy.