How To Have A Baby

12.  [3 months later]

Follow changes to partner’s body with fascination, Stoke-levels, and sexual attraction that you couldn’t have anticipated. Begin noticing pregnant women everywhere and that their bodies are beautiful in a way you’ve never considered before.

13.

Listen to partner explaining her first dream of the baby’s face, a girl. Respond weakly to this (“really?”), which leads to confrontation about your ongoing inability to “show interest or be present for this pregnancy.” Withhold explanations that thinking too much about the baby might lead to more intense suffering later if certain possibilities were to occur, possibilities you don’t want to name for fear of somehow introducing them into the Flow. State something obtuse like how it’s hard for you to understand or appreciate things you can’t see or touch, giving her a facial expression that conveys how you know that she knows there’s additional subtext you’re afraid of, and por favor, to just let you sentir this in your own way.

14.  [Doctor’s visit]

Agree beforehand that you don’t want to know baby’s sex (while partner does), although if she can’t keep it secret then that’s In The Flow as well. See images of baby’s face, fingers, toes, arms, legs, and 4-chambered heart via ultrasound. Note the movements of the baby in utero, thinking vaguely of cells, tadpoles, and lightning. Leave the room when doctor explains that she’ll now tell the sex of the baby. Wait by door. Hug partner afterwards, laughing at her words / failure to keep it a secret (“It’s una nena!”) with a sense of happiness that she’s happy while simultaneously being unable to visualize a little girl’s face. Charge ultrasound bill to your credit card.

15. [Last week before leaving US]

Attend concert (Gogol Bordello / Manu Chao) with high concentration of young and beautiful people and percentages of Latinos and other ethnic groups disproportionate to the state’s overall population, which, in some nonspecific way, seems to represent your “tribe.” Spend majority of concert dancing behind partner with your hands encircling her panza, sensing, perhaps for the first time, that the baby is also physically present here in some way, absorbing all of this, kicking sometimes, to this music.

16. [Buenos Aires]

Set up in new apartment on Calle Defensa overlooking Parque Lezama in the San Telmo barrio of Buenos Aires. Spend time looking out the 8th floor balcony at kids in park. Accompany partner to meeting along with 6 other pregnant couples at midwife’s apartment. Note almost tangible sense of empathy / lack of judgment among group. Fail to repress excitement at the women’s swollen breasts and panzas while sitting on pillows in close proximity, particularly during discussion of sexual stimulation as helping begin or advance labor. Discuss pain. Visualize it. Give your definition of it. Ask the group to excuse your accent, then use words for waves and journeys.

17.

Talk with partner about names. Choose one easy to pronounce in both languages. Notice increased sexual attraction to her each day. Take “John and Yoko” pictures of yourselves naked, only without thinking “John and Yoko.”

18.

Continue educating yourselves on each step of labor, delivery, breastfeeding. Begin reconstructing “Matrix-like” physical reality you likely experienced at birth / first moments of your life – being separated from your mother, having tubes inserted in your nose to suction out mucus, having your foreskin sliced off without anesthesia, getting injected with vaccinations, weighed,  given “formula,” placed in a room full of other newborns in Plexiglas cribs all separated from their mothers and wailing or sucking pacifiers as nurses circulate wearing noise-dampening footwear. Consider the way medical environments make you act / feel. Ask partner, “why don’t we just have the baby here at home?” to which she immediately responds in “why didn’t we think of that all along?” manner.

19. [One month later, start of labor]

Notice partner looks “different” in a way you can’t fully define. Take pictures of her. Decide to go for a walk. Prepare backpack, then hear her say, “Rompi bolsa,” noticing what looks like a liter of water flowing from out of her dress. Note that her words don’t express fear but more just surprise / high Stoke-levels. Call midwife. Put on music (Edith Piaf). Help midwife bring in wooden birthing chair. Wait as midwife confirms that labor has started and that she can either stay with you or come back in a few hours. Tell her to come back.

20.

Sit with your partner. Hold hands, feeling her squeeze each time a contraction comes. Realize that these are the last hours you’ll be alone together, and that she must know this too, but talk about other things, how good the tea tastes, how perfect the temperature is. Look at the white cotton dress she’s wearing, the way she’s smiling after each contraction finishes. Consider how she seems at that moment almost like a little girl, how the two of you sitting there seem almost like two little kids.

21.

Note heavier contractions. Call the midwife back. Call your partner’s best friend. Help her bring in sandwiches, cakes, and drinks for everybody. Wait while the midwife examines partner’s dilation (7cm). Massage partner’s back each time a contraction comes. Follow her around the apartment in search of different sofas, chairs, ways to get comfortable. Follow her into the bathtub. Light candles. Breathe with her in long O sounds. Think about people in the building hearing all of this, and that it seems good, that somehow here it’s fine, that it shouldn’t be contained.

22. Delivery

Help partner out of bath. Confirm with midwife that OBGYN / pediatrician are on the way. Set up birthing chair so partner can look out over Rio de La Plata / dusk sky. Keep breathing with partner each time there’s a contraction. Try to stay with her even though she’s going into this place where you can’t follow. Consider how it’s almost deathlike. Greet the doctors. Notice how everyone seems happy, excited, like it’s nothing strange for them to enter this scene, and how it doesn’t feel strange for you either. Listen to your partner say she needs to push. Encourage her. Notice everything that comes out of her body—spit, blood, piss, shit—and how none of it seems strange, or something you weren’t ready for, even though you never really tried to be ready. Keep holding her hand. Look out the window and realize it’s nighttime.

23.

Move to the bedroom. Let partner alone with the midwife for a bit. Walk out to main room, noticing they’ve cut on a space heater and everything is warm and glowing orange. Drink some coffee. Talk to the doctors. Notice that nobody is in a hurry. Go back to the bedroom. Wince when you see your partner’s genitals, everything opened, turned inside out. Think how women have to suffer. Think how it should seem strange for her to suffer there on your bed where you take naps, drink coffee, read magazines, but that it doesn’t feel that way now. Get on the other side of the bed where you can hold your partner’s shoulders. Notice the team entering, the room seeming small. Help partner through the most intense pushes yet. Hear her teeth cracking together. Listen to the midwife say she sees the head. Look down and see it, the dark hair. Look up for a second and see all five faces staring at the head, yelling to keep pushing. Help your partner get to one knee. Notice how all of you seem to rise up together and seem very tall inside a small blue room, and then how it all collapses into a tiny crying form with legs and arms writhing on the bed. Scoop her up together. Take off your shirt so you can be skin to skin. Place her on your partner’s chest. Tell her how you hear her crying, that you understand, that it’s hard, all of this, but that you’re here, we’re here. Recognize her as if you’ve been waiting your whole life for her without knowing it. TC mark

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  • ermie

    beautiful.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke.

  • Briana

    Good god, this is amazing.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks briana.

  • Riley

    This is beautiful.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke.

  • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

    i really like this, i enjoy the spanglish, feels like having a baby is sort of fun. love the ending. good job.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks stephanie.

      stoke.

  • http://twitter.com/srslydrew Andrew F.

    Warm fuzzies.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      warm stoke.

  • Scytle

    this is wonderful. Congratulations.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke.

      thanks scytle.

  • Reid

    This article was great and made me feel really emotional. I got a little teary near the end. It made me wish I was dating someone I love. It made me wish I wasn't medically unable to have children.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks reid.

      you make me want to write more about this.

      part of what i was trying to convey here was that, at least for me, i couldn't connect to baby during pregnancy. that it felt abstract, unreal.

      it wasn't until i saw her face that there was connection, recognition.

      but that said, it wasn't until i began to care for her that i felt love for her.

      i think i might try write about this. seems important.

      you don't just 'love the baby', necessarily.

      your instinct as a human is (hopefully) to protect, to care for.

      but the love comes (or at least it did for me) 'out of' that care.

      it builds over time just like any other relationship.

      what i'm trying to express here is that i don't believe love / connection is predicated on biology.

      'being a father' (for me) is about taking care of someone.

      • Tim Patterson

        that comment seems almost as powerful as the whole essay above. keep it up, DM.

      • Reid

        Thank you for this response. Seems like this attitude might be worth a shot.

  • Gurmat

    Brilliant.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke.

  • Will

    Thank you for this. Truly amazing. Mazel tov!

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks for the mazel, will.

      stoke.

  • Evan

    This is like founding out that your sports team won last night – but a lot better. What name did you and she choose?

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks evan, stoked.

      our daughter's name is 'layla' – only not pronounced like eric clapton song. we use spanish pronunciation, it's like 'lie-lah.'

  • Robin

    So beautiful. Tearing up over here.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks robin.

      stoke.

  • Catt

    I came thisclose to crying at the end. Thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/LulabelleNiche Gabrielle Bodek

      I was tearing up too. A beautiful account through a man's perspective. I really appreciated this!

      • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

        thanks gabrielle.

        stoke.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks catt, stoke. i think i cried just a little bit as i was writing last part.

  • Lindsay

    Your ending gave me chills & near tears. Congrats.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks lindsay, stoke.

  • Naya

    Getting a little teary in a packed public library. Lovely.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoked you were feeling this naya, thank you.

  • Heather Carreiro

    David, thanks for sharing this. Gabriel's sleeping and I feel like I have a million things to do before he gets up to nurse again, but once I started reading I couldn't stop until the last word. I love how the style and format evokes the evolution of your thoughts throughout the pregnancy and delivery. I love how it comes across as so real and honest, and how it allows women readers to see a male perspective. The whole piece had a really nice flow to it.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks heather. really appreciate your comments on this.

      stoke.

  • Hal Amen

    damn dm, got me too, even though i'd read bits of it before. beautiful, all of it.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      appreciate it hal. stoked for you to read.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    Incredible. Like loads of the other commenters I teared up at the end. Beautifully written. Well done.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks tom.

      stoke.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hokkaidotim Tim Patterson

    Beautiful. I remember seeing Layla for the first time as a newborn in San Telmo.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke tim.

      remember your visit so clearly.

      am kind of temporarily reliving the buenos aires rooftops flow right now.

      miss you mano.

  • Humblecore

    Lovely.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke.

  • http://vagabonderz.com Carlo Alcos

    Yeah mon. The “matrix-like” bit had heavy imagery. And I really loved the scene with you holding her hand, feeling like “little kids.”

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks carlo, stoke.

      the matrix scene is reconstructed from visiting the hospital for my brother's birth. one of my earliest memories.

      from the little bit i've researched, i've found that babies born in 70s and 80s in the US had like 90% circumcision rates and it was like the peak of 'industrial births' – with caesarians / major intervention going up dramatically from previous times.

      since then it's become more common for births to take place at 'birthing centers' that may be part of a medical complex, but detached from the hospital, and, in general, awareness is growing about the importance for lactation and other health benefits for mothers / newborns not to be separated during the hours immediately following birth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Melissa-Brandt/100002009377115 Melissa Brandt

    so so beautiful

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks melissa. really appreciate it.

  • anna

    you have me crying alone on my bed before my workout. sending to husband. love picturing this for you, hope to someday soon love it for knowing our own.
    xoxo
    anna

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks so much anna.

      stokefest.

  • mutterrrr

    So beautiful, reminded me of She's Having a Baby minus Kevin Bacon in a cut-off sweatshirt.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks.

      kevin bacon stoke.

  • ZaneEatsWorld

    stoke?

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      stoke? stoke

  • Candice walsh

    This might be the first time I've ever read a birthing story from the father's perspective. I'm a little emotional and blubbering into my tea right now.

    • http://twitter.com/dahveed_miller david miller

      thanks candice. wasn't expecting all of the crying. thought ppl might get alienated by this piece actually.

      it feels good to get all the buena onda.

    • kharlamovaa

      I totally agree… this is the first time I've heard birthing from a father's perspective as well, but it's mor e or less what I imagined it would be. It's beautifully written, and I can only hope my SO will be as crazy/supportive/crazy-supportive as you when the time comes for us to have kids.

      • http://miller-david.com david miller

        thanks km.

        i'm not sure to what degree i really supported my partner actually.

        at least not until the labor began.

        seems like for most of the pregnancy i was just confused / anxious / impatient.

        [and still am.]

        i think, if anything, there were just these little moments where all of that fell away.

        where i got out of the way maybe.

      • kharlamovaa

        hence the “crazy.” even then, i can't imagine having to be there for someone and not be able to feel what they're feeling. it's the worst sort of expectation, when you can't FEEL any buildup, you just know you're supposed to, which obviously makes you confused. in any case, i'm glad that you saw clearer when you got out of the way – otherwise i'm sure this piece wouldn't have been as special.

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