Below is a time-lapse containing one photo per day during Samantha’s pregnancy.
“Don’t be a hero dad, take a nap. You’re going to be needed more than ever soon.” The nurses words cut, almost offensively, through my blank, exhausted stare of disbelief. The only thing keeping my eyes open seemed be the dried tears that had moments ago cascaded down my face onto Samantha. The time was 2:20 AM and I sat at the edge of a hospital bed, adjacent to Samantha and our newborn, Aubrin, inside a labor and delivery room perched on top of a hill in the Yakima Valley of Washington State. There are very few life events that become permanent bookmarks; so prominent and important that memories are described as having happened before or after that moment. We were currently engulfed in one of those moments.
Samantha and I figured out pretty early in our relationship that we wanted to start a family, should we be fortunate enough. That’s a pretty serious conversation for a couple of 20 year olds in college, but we also didn’t want to miss out on the ‘main act’ of our lives. We wanted to complete our academic pursuits and engage in some professional pursuits and travel and see where life took us. I spent a lot of time wondering if we could have it both ways?
Over the next decade we each earned masters degrees, got married, traveled the country, much of Europe, throughout Patagonia and moved across the country in 2013. Samantha erased a substantial sum of student loan debt, I became a licensed architect and we built this little house with our bare hands. What’s more is we were able to dedicate a substantial amount of time to memorable and monumental pursuits to some of the most remote and tallest and most beautiful places in the Pacific North West, seemingly expedited by the subliminal biological clock and semi arbitrary age of 30 that we had talked about. I never felt like anything was missing per-say, but I think we both had our eyes set on what we considered our next step; the ultimate experience and adventure for us to share.
One day in August 2016, right after a week long road trip through Oregon and California to visit fire lookouts Samantha was putting gear away and reorganizing when she asked me to come out. ‘Do you want to keep any of this stuff?’ she asked.
I sifted through the items and found a few hats that I wanted to keep and a few miscellaneous items I didn’t, and one small pair of winter mittens. A REALLY small pair of mittens. In my oblivious state I showed her what I wanted to keep and recommended we see if the mittens belonged to Salish, the toddler of a friend of ours that we often adventure with. Now the obvious signs that you are picking up on while reading were not so obvious to me at the time, clearly. Samantha less subtly pointed to a piece of paper with the mittens and peculiarly enough it was a receipt for them. After scrolling down the receipt it ended with the message ‘#tinyhousebasecampfor3.’
I am pretty confident I can speak for both of us when I say that we were filled with excitement and simultaneously tinged with a tempered and cautionary mentality. Would she be healthy? Would the baby make it to full term? Was there any genetic predisposition in our family history we should have known about? Was it a boy or girl? Etc… We didn’t have immediate answers to any of those questions, but that didn’t matter, from that moment forward we would see the world from a new perspective.
The real story of the first ½ of the pregnancy was keeping it a secret. That worrisome pragmatism spoken about in the last post meant we had no intentions of rushing into a 12th week announcement and instead wanted to keep our little secret for as long as possible. The extent to which we had to skirt the truth with our friends was unholy. We skipped our favorite local beer festival by using an extravagant excuse of needing to help friends stranded on the Pacific crest Trail. We hosted a 300 mile, multi state, overnight SCAVENGER HUNT at 14 weeks pregnant. Samantha’s delayed pregnancy showing worked to our advantage and in November, at nearly 18 weeks pregnant we flew back home for Thanksgiving and to break the news in person to our friends and family. With our family informed that the first grand child (and great grand child) was on the way the days became easier now that the secret was out and we could enjoy some tempered celebration.
The pregnancy progressed well over the months and we continued our outdoor winter pursuits while jointly attending the increasingly frequent doctors appointments (guys, if you have questions, I’m your man. Over the last 9 months I have seen, read, asked and learned it ‘all’). Samantha was ordered off her snowboard early in the season but we supplemented the adventure bug with snowshoe accessed overnights to a variety of PNW huts and fire lookouts. It was so impressive that Samantha, at five months pregnant, was out there with us step for step, only slowed just a little by more frequent pee breaks and heart rate checks.
The correlation between due date proximity and amount of nesting was undeniable. Weeks were spent ALTERING AND ADDING to the tiny house to make it the best place it could possibly be for our new addition. Late night amazon sprees meant that ‘how to’ parenthood books began piling up at the door step and it felt like the last minute cram session during finals week in college.
After the 39 week check up revealed that Samantha was 3 cm dilated the following days were fraught with anxiety and over stimulation at every text from my wife. I would be half way to the car to go pick her up when I realized she had just texted to pick up paper towels on my way home. Surprisingly and almost frustratingly Samantha’s due date came and went, as did the month of April and the ‘have you had the baby yet?’ question increased exponentially with each day.
At 3:00 am on May 3rd a bout of stronger contractions kept Samantha awake and that days routine check up revealed that Samantha was 5 cm dilated and progressing well. ‘This may happen tonight’ the docter said. We left the appointment determined to ‘walk’ the baby out with one more Cowiche Canyon uplands trail loop; a walk that had become our daily routine in the last few weeks. On this particular afternoon however, Samantha had difficulty walking through the contractions, and before long that afternoon, she couldn’t speak through them either. After 14 hours of increasingly intense yet consistently spaced contractions every 10 – 12 minutes they finally inched toward the 5 minute interval, signifying it was time to migrate to the hospital.
We arrived at 9:00 pm to a full emergency waiting room and a full parking lot so I pulled over at the door, helped her inside to start the check-in process and then parked the car in the only empty spot in the farthest corner of the parking lot. I grabbed the two North Face backpacks we had packed weeks earlier as if we were going on just another backpacking adventure. One contained supplies for our newborn; diapers, swaddle blanket, a couple onsies, ointments, etc… The other one contained supplies for us; water, extra clothes, deodorant, snacks for energy, hard candy to suck on, string lights for ambiance, phone chargers, books, card game, etc…
I found Samantha finishing up the paper work at the front desk and we made our way to the labor and delivery room, stopping every so often so that she could hunch over and breath through another contraction. Had this happened a few weeks earlier, I would have felt woefully unprepared. But there was a sort of acceptance that happened in that final week and I learned that there is no sense trying to predict when active labor will ramp up. I had gone through a sort of self calming thought process by recognizing the similarities between the unfamiliar process of labor and delivery and the more familiar mountaineering pursuit. The common thread was that you can only prepare so much; beyond that you need to roll with punches and think on your feet. The ever changing environment of the mountains means that you can never predict exactly what you will encounter, and at that point critical thinking takes over. It was here that I found my role as an unwavering support system with an interest in being as alert and prepared and helpful as possible. Despite not having to endure any of the physical pain of this event, I was intricately and emotionally woven deeply into the process and nearly equally effected by any potential adverse result.
The following hours were passed sauntering around the hospital room and massaging Samantha’s back as she hunched over at the end of the bed, hips swaying to and fro while pain escaped through murmurs and groans in sync with the printed spikes reading off of the tocodynamometer. As her cervix approached 10 CM 4 hours later, our doctor calmly entered the room and a wave of comfort washed over me. This was her day off yet she assured us she wanted to and would be there for us regardless of what day it was. It was 1:21 am and the delivery process was upon us. While I didn’t expect it, I was (gladly) thrust from seemingly helpless by stander into full fledged accomplice side by side with the doctor and one other nurse. The next 44 minutes will be among the most poignant memories I will ever register.
Expectation: Father calmly sits at side of bed, holding mothers hand and wiping mothers brow while the doctor does their business, probably on the otherside of one of those paper hospital abdomen curtains.
Reality: Nope. No words can convey the intensity of physical and emotional energy that occurs during delivery. No book, movie or class could ever come close. It was the wildest night of our lives, akin to a simple day hike in the mountains that evolved into a multi day epic. We came out on the other side unscathed and breathed a ‘holy shit’ at the thought of what had just occurred. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Samantha and I could not be more thankful for our experience with Dr. Dawkins throughout the entire pregnancy and into the delivery room. For the first time ever I began to feel for a doctor what I have heard Samantha’s patients feel for her. For me, Dr. Dawkin’s calm, compassionate and loving demeanor is what separates her as a great provider from the sea of perfectly adequate ones. There is no one else we would have been as comfortable with as her, and she will always hold a place in our hearts for her assistance in Aubrin’s entrance into our lives.
I want to end this by commending Samantha on her bravery and personal choice to experience birth in its rawest and at times most painful form, without intervention and without medication. I have seen her tremble with fear in the mountains only to remain fearless in the face of birth. I have always known that she possesses the innate characteristics of an amazing mother and it has been an honor to see her blossom as they come to fruition in front of my eyes.
Never more than right now do I fully believe that all of those accomplishments that happened throughout our twenties were in fact a mere prelude; on May 4th, 2017 we began the main act.
[The next post will pick up at this point and discuss our transition into the tiny house!]