Fathom Mag
Article

The Sunday We Accidentally Had a Home Birth

That Sunday began like any other.

Published on:
January 27, 2020
Read time:
4 min.
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Jon, the baby’s coming.” That was what my wife cried out to me—anxious, desperate, assured.

That Sunday began like any other. Although we were close to our due date, we’d heard from our doctor and from seasoned parents that your first baby is usually delayed. Still, later that evening we decided to be cautious. We were attending a speaker event when Isabelle began feeling strong contractions, losing her breath with each one. “Is this it?” we wondered. We drove home.

When we finally made it through the front door, Isabelle went to take a shower while I warmed up some soup and cleaned the kitchen, knowing at least that would help her relax. I called our parents, asked them to pray. I called the doctor, asked for direction. 

She sat down and tried to eat but couldn’t. Too uncomfortable. She decided to lay down and I decided to pack our bags. Our plan was to labor at home for as long as we could. With every contraction I rushed from one end of the house to the other, coaching her through it, reminding her that she could do this, that she’s strong and brave, before rushing back to finish packing. 

Later that night I remembered the familiar scene, a year before, when Isabelle was in a similar position, on the toilet, her heels lifted off the cold tile, her knees to her chest, her toes providing balance. And me, sitting on the floor beside her, gripping her hand as she cried, losing life that deserved more than to be passed like waste and flushed.

Since then my fear of becoming a father had been growing. Besides the biological elements outside of my control, I was afraid of not being what the child needed me to be— both when it mattered most and when it mattered least. I was afraid of being selfish with my time, afraid of guiding too much or too little, afraid of not having the right answers to their big questions, that I hadn’t scouted enough of the terrain and found the best path. Ultimately, I was afraid of myself. I was afraid the questions that have haunted me my entire life—Am I enough? Do I have what it takes?—would return through the child’s life with a resounding no. 

An hour passed and Isabelle continued to labor. Back and forth I went, packing, then dashing back, sliding in my socks on the hardwood floor, coaching her through the contractions. Another hour. Then a turn, a light gush into the toilet. 

“I think my water just broke,” she said.

“Are you sure?” 

“Yeah, pretty sure.”

I informed the doctor and he told me that was normal and her contractions would get stronger. Thanks, doctor. Her contractions intensified with each one and we were left with a choice: continue to labor here for a little while or go to the hospital. As quickly as we decided to stick it out longer, we changed our mind and decided to leave. I hastily put our bags in the car, bolted back, helped Isabelle stand, and slid her feet into a pair of sandals. She took a step. Then another.

“I’m not going to make it,” she said. “Call an ambulance.”

“I’m not going to make it,” she said. “Call an ambulance.”

“We’re going to the hospital right now,” I said. “We just need to get you to the car.”

“No, I feel something. Something’s there.”

“Nothing’s there, I promise. We just need to go.”

She shook her head, slid her sweatpants down. I bent over and saw. A small dome. A scalp. “We have to go now,” I said, my voice climbing with urgency.

Another few steps. “Jon, I’m not going to make it. We need to call an ambulance.” Her breath short, diminished. I reached for my phone on the table in the entry-way next to the lamp, where I left it while loading the car. I dialed 911. While explaining the nature of the events to the operator, Isabelle lurched further toward the front door. She bent over the back of the living room couch.

“Jon, the baby’s coming!”

She slid her sweatpants down as I stepped back toward her. The baby’s head fully emerged. 

“The baby’s head is out. Where’s the ambulance?” I said to the operator.

“They’re on their way, sir.” she said.

I wrapped my arms around them too as we stood in that spot, alone, and waited, swaying back and forth with the baby, the new life, Isabelle whispering to our baby again and again, “I love you.”

That’s when I heard it. A cry let out from deep within Isabelle. A cry so primal and necessary, it reverberated through the entire house.

And then another, different cry. More faint but filled with its own power. I spun back around and there, on the floor, was our baby, its fall broken by Isabelle’s sweatpants. Without hesitation I kicked off my shoes and lunged for the baby, stepping into the afterbirth with Isabelle—holy ground. Holding the phone between my ear and shoulder, I bent down and picked the baby up, slowly raising and guiding it into Isabelle’s arms. I was now listening again to the operator’s instructions and grabbed a blanket draped over the couch, wrapping it around the baby and Isabelle. I wrapped my arms around them too as we stood in that spot, alone, and waited, swaying back and forth with the baby, the new life, Isabelle whispering to our baby again and again, “I love you.”

A red, flashing light outside our door caught my eye, and I waved them down. The EMTs barged in, and I stepped aside as they tended to Isabelle, cutting the umbilical cord, and walking her outside and onto a stretcher, placing the wrapped baby back in her arms. “I’m right behind you,” I said.

Within ten minutes, I cleaned the afterbirth from the floor and changed out of my blood stained socks and sweatshirt. I put my shoes and jacket back on and locked the house.

I sat in the car, alone in the driveway among the surrounding houses completely unaware of what just happened in their neighborhood. Took a deep breath, let it out. Then I dialed Isabelle’s parents.

“Everything is okay,” I said. “Isabelle is okay. The baby is okay. Everything is okay.” 

Jon Aleixo
Jon is a writer living in Atlanta, GA with his wife and daughter. You can connect with him on Instagram.

Cover image by Sergiu Vãlenas.

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