One of the perks of being born into the Gathen Clan besides access to the Executive Washroom and tuition reimbursement is the annual traditional re-telling of your birth story on your birthday by Nana “I can’t tell my children apart on the Telephone” Gathen.
Even when we were away at college and couldn’t make it home for our birthdays, we could always depend on a phone call from Mom to remind us how we came into this world. Even now regardless of how much uncertainty there is in my life due to money and work, the pressure of providing a good life for my family emotionally and whether or not Pamela Anderson’s recent marriage to former Baywatch co-star Rick Salomon will last I find comfort in knowing that for all we don’t know about how and when our journeys will end it’s important to be reminded sometimes of how our journeys began.
This yearly ritual is one that Kathleen and I have carried on with Jack and Adam and since Adam turned one year old on Sunday and the story of his birth is so unique and miraculous I thought that I would share it with all of you. If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I am prone to hyperbole and exaggeration however the reality of Adam’s delivery is far stranger than any fiction I could write.
After watching the Yankees lose 6-0 to the Detroit Tiger over my friend Chris’s (AKA The Baby Gorilla) place I got home around 11:00 pm. Unable to sleep and distraught that the Yankees were down 2 games to 1, I stayed up and masochistically watched the recap of the game on Sportscenter. I must have dozed off at some point after midnight, because the next thing I knew Kathleen was standing over me on the couch telling me to wake up because the baby was coming. “Bill, wake up, the baby’s coming.” were her exact words I think. Adam’s due date was October 13th (coincidentally that is Jack’s Birthday) which was still a week away, she’d been having contractions akin to Braxton-Hicks since the second trimester, and it was 4:30 in the morning which only partially explains why I calmly got up from the couch instead of completely freaking out.
Since I was still dressed I simply slipped on my shoes and trotted upstairs to get Jack out of bed. I woke him up and explained to him that Goldfish was coming; Goldfish is what he called Adam while Kathleen was pregnant. He was surprisingly alert and awake almost immediately so I picked him up and carried him downstairs in one arm and Kathleen’s hospital bag on the other and walked out to the car. (It’s important to point out here that at some point prior to and during all this Kathleen had called her doctor and then my parents so that they could meet us at the hospital. I say at some point because my version of events and time line differs from Kathleen’s; this is not to say that mine is inaccurate just that it is a very narrow perspective of what was happening away from the real action.)
As I was buckling Jack into his car seat Kathleen appeared at the front door in her nightgown and a pair of jeans. She yelled for me to call EMS and with that she turned and literally sprinted back up the stairs towards the bathroom. With Jack still buckled into his car seat I ran into the house, unceremoniously tripped up the front stairs, grabbed the phone, shouted up to Kathleen to “ for god’s sake lie down on the bathroom floor”, dialed 911 then ran back to the car to get Jack.
When the 911 operator answered I told her that my wife had gone into labor and we needed an ambulance immediately. Coming back into the house and still on the phone with the 911 operator I heard Kathleen announce from upstairs, “Heads out!” I repeated this to the operator, dropped Jack on the couch, told him everything was going to be OK and to stay there until I came back down then ran towards the stairs. As I reached the bottom of the stairs Kathleen announced in the same matter of fact tone, “Baby’s Out”. I again unceremoniously tripped running up the stairs but seconds later reached the top just in time to see Kathleen stepping away from the toilet holding Adam in her arms.
For all that is still hazy to me from that night I will never forget the clarity of that moment when I crested those last couple stairs and saw Kathleen and Adam awash in the sterile iridescent glow of the bathroom light, surrounded by white tile, blue towels puddle around her feet, our son caked in afterbirth and blood in her arms, silent. It was the silence I’ll remember more than anything.
Kathleen placed him on the ground and began finger scooping mucus from his mouth while I stammered to the EMS operator, “The baby’s out. The baby’s out and he’s not crying; he’s not making any sound.”
The operator told me to stimulate the baby by tapping his feet which even in my panicked state seemed ridiculous, but I was desperate so I knelt down on the tile and began tapping the bottom of his tiny feet. Within seconds he let out his first wail which was followed by another that was even more beautiful than the first. At that moment the ambulance arrived and I had to run back downstairs to show them where Kathleen and Adam were. I stayed downstairs holding Jack, pacing back and forth across the dining room, crying and again telling Jack that everything was alright. Just then my Nana called from the hospital. She said she overheard that a baby was delivered in someone’s home and that an ambulance was on the way. I broke the news that the baby was Adam and then gave a quick recap of what had happened. As I cried and retold the events, she cried and listened. As I assured her that everything was fine and we were on the way to the hospital I heard the EMTs coming back downstairs.
They brought Adam down wrapped in a white medical blanket and a knit cap on his head. The cap was too big and kept slipping down over is eyes. I walked over with Jack in my arms and we both stared down at him. “Hi Goldfish.” Jack whispered softly to him.
They carried Kathleen down next in an upright stretcher. She looked exhausted, relieved, beautiful and serene. She later told me that when she ran back upstairs she squatted over the toilet so that she wouldn’t make a mess on the bathroom floor. Within seconds her water broke and Adam came out like it was a water slide park; her words. She even told me she was relieved that we’d just had the bathroom remodeled because she would have been embarrassed if the EMTs had seen what the bathroom had looked like before.
No drugs, no doctors, no nurses, no help from me and she still delivered our son. She delivered our son and when Adam did not cry she did not panic, she simply knelt over him on the cold tile and instinctually cleared the mucus from his mouth. She gave birth to our son, did her best to not make a mess and was thankful that the bathroom was presentable for the paramedics. How can someone have their shit together so much in a situation like that? She handled it far better than I did. I’m sure if someone asked she would have put on a pot off coffee, too. (Kathleen, Nana …as I know you’ll both read this, please add what I missed in the comments section.)
Well, that’s the story of Adam Joseph’s birth as recounted from my convoluted memory. He was born October 7, 2006, weighed 7lbs 4oz and measured 20 inches long. He’s also Lemon-Scented with New Foaming Action, made with real Baking Soda and is 99.9% Pure.