About five months ago, my soon to be single mom expecting sister Amy invited me to be in the room when she gave birth to my nephew.
Her thoughts as she did: I really love my big brother Dan, I really want his support right now, this is so special and such an honor.
My thoughts as she did: Really? Gross. What I said: “if you want me there, I’d love to come.”
My sister has been through a lot in the past year, the heavier details of which I can’t get into. She moved to England to get married to a Welshman. They got married. Things got weird. Things got dangerous. She found out the entire marriage was fraudulent and didn’t actually happen. She found out she was pregnant. And, she ended up back here, sans Welshman, getting ready to raise a baby on her own.
And that led to her inviting me to witness the birth of her little man.
Which led to me telling her I would be there, with an emphatic, “but I’m staying up by your head photographing from that angle. I don’t want to actually see anything while it’s happening.” She was more than okay with that.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe child birth is a miracle. I believe it’s incredible and beautiful and wonderful.
And while I didn’t want to see any part of my sister’s downstairs, it wasn’t really that that gave me so much hesitation either.
I simply do not do well around slippery and slimy bodily fluids.
When I was in Junior High, they made us watch a video of a human birth in Health Class. To this day I don’t know why they made us sit through that.
Well, actually I do. It wasn’t to educate us about childbirth. It was to scare the hell out of us about childbirth for at least the next decade. I think their thinking was that we’d all be abstinent for years as the images lingered, and then we’d forget a decade or so later and continue our parts in repopulating the earth.
But I never forgot. In fact, any time those images have popped up in my thoughts since then, I’ve become physically ill. All that blood. All that slime. All that goo.
Yet there I found myself, agreeing to be there at my nephew’s birth because it meant so much to my sister.
As the big day approached, I became more stressed about it. For a solid month before her due date, she thought she might be on the brink of labor, and every time she told me she was going to the hospital to see, my stomach clenched in on itself, I closed my eyes, and for the briefest moment I became religious, praying to God that it wasn’t time yet. I wasn’t ready.
And, for an entire month the hospital sent her home; she was never quite ready. And I knew that if there was a God, my inability to stomach bodily yuck was more important to that God than that baby coming because, you see, my prayers always seemed to win out.
But they couldn’t win out forever. That baby had to come eventually.
And, as fate would have it, the night he came I accidentally forgot to unsilence my cell phone before bed.
I woke up to no fewer than twelve thousand text messages and four thousand voicemails from my mom, my sisters, my dad, and Amy herself.
The last text I read said something like, “she’s at an eight and a half! Where are you?! This baby is coming any second!” It had been sent more than 30 minutes before.
Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
I thought as I simultaneously threw on whatever outfit had been tossed on the floor the night before, fumbled on my phone to see if I was too late, and dragged Noah out of bed, dressed him, and manhandled my tired kid to the car, all while setting up a preemptive emergency pick-up with his mom, downing three granola bars, and praying harder than I had in years that I didn’t miss it and also that I had missed it.
It was quite the emotional tug of war. Maybe some force up above knew I couldn’t handle it. Maybe they made me keep my cell phone off. Maybe they wanted me to just barely miss it.
But, I knew how much it meant to Amy for me to be there, and I knew it was way more important than my aversion to bodily fluids, so I also hoped that some force up above actually had woken me up to see the messages and to hear the voicemails and to make it in time.
After I was already en route, my older sister Tomi Ann finally picked up the phone. “She’s at a nine! Better hurry! Manny will be here any minute!” she said. I was still 35 minutes away. I would probably miss it.
I dropped Noah off with his mom in a grocery store parking lot and sped to the hospital. I raced up the stairs to the birthing floor. I sprinted to her room. I peeked around the cracked door. And…