Moka was born on the new moon in the middle of a typhoon. The rains brought welcome relief from months of record heat. The sound of all that falling water seemed to calm her. That’s how the story of my daughter’s life begins.
I don’t know too many babies who were born on the due date, at noon no less. I suppose that means she’ll be punctual and that she’ll never make her family wait.
Both Moka and Tomoko are doing well. They’re at the hospital now, and will be there under observation for five days. There’s nothing wrong; it’s just a Japanese health regulation. A sign of civilization that the US lacks. I don’t know how any mother would be able to leave the hospital after a couple days so soon after giving birth.
I was there through the contractions and the birth itself. And these are the things I learned:
Respect All Mothers
I have a profound appreciation for all women who have given birth. It was hard to see Tomoko go through all that pain. I’ve read about it and heard about it my whole life. But being there and seeing what she went through, I just thanked her the whole time. When Tomoko’s mom visited, I thanked her. When I chatted with my sister today, I thanked her. And when I talk to my mom, I’ll thank her too. And I resolved to always do what my momma asks me to do. If she gets on me about something, I’m just going to nod and say, “yes ma’am”.
I never want to put Tomoko through that again. By hour 7 of the contractions, I resolved to never get any woman pregnant again, ever. Tomoko laughed at my resolution. She thinks I’m kidding.
No Such Thing as an Easy Birth
And this was an ‘easy’ birth, according to the nurses and doctors. Trouble-free and relatively quick, they said. Lacking in drama, they implied. If this was an easy birth, I’d hate to be at one with complications.
Men Are Useless
No matter what the books say about the father’s role in helping the mom, the man in the delivery room is ultimately useless. Helping the mother breathe? She’s going to breathe however damn well she pleases. I found the breathing was more for me, to calm me down and give me something to do.
Giving her massages and stroking her? It’s not the kind of scented candle massage that I imagined. Tomoko mostly needed a frantic rubbing of the lower back during the contractions, which was every 2 to 5 minutes. When the big contractions came, she mostly didn’t want to be touched.
I’m not saying the father shouldn’t be there. He should. Every man needs to experience this just to at least appreciate his mother. And the man needs to be there for moral support, and do man things like time the contractions, do Mr. Miyagi exercises, and cheer on the team.
The Final Push
When it came time to push, suddenly there were five people in the delivery room, all women.
There was a cheerful youthful doctor who suddenly appeared for the first time . Other doctors had checked in on us through the night.
The funny, down-to-earth lead nurse spoke English because she spent some time in Petaluma. She patiently explained everything to me throughout the process. She looked a little and acted a lot like our friend Aska, so that’s what we called her.
The nursing student had spent the most time with us. She seemed to be the lead nurse’s protege. As part of her training she did almost all of the preparing of the materials. And to my surprise, she caught the baby! With a lot of guidance from the doctor and lead nurse of course.
Another nurse cleaned, measured and tagged the baby after the birth. It reminded me of a scientist tagging a wild animal.
And because I had had no sleep for the past two days, I have no recollection of what the fifth person did, nor who she was. I think she was just there as an extra hand. Or maybe I was seeing double.
The Final Final Push
You’d think after the baby was born, it’d be over, the end. But the placenta also has to be expelled and that required more painful pushing.
Tears of Joy and Relief
I’d been told by my male friends that I’d feel like a father the moment the baby squeezes my finger. Screw that. I felt like a father as soon as I saw that purple being come out of my wife’s vagina. I knew I would be moved to see the birth of my daughter, but I didn’t expect to straight up bawl out crying. They were manly tears of joy, mind you.
Moka was born on the new moon in the middle of a typhoon. The rains brought welcome relief from months of record heat. The sound of all that falling water seemed to calm her…