Today, I’d like to take a detour from our usual writing related topic in favor of a story that is near and dear to my heart. It’s a story I’ve told a number of times in the three weeks since its occurrence. Why is that? Well, it’s a doozy of a story, if I can say so myself (and I can since I was there). This is the story of how Wyatt James Roth entered the world.
For the past nine months my wife has been carrying our fourth child within her womb. It was a surprise pregnancy that came when our minds were still set on getting her health back to 100% after a noncancerous brain tumor was removed. Three or four years ago, we had decided to try for another little bundle of joy. Over time we had realized that it wasn’t meant to be and went about our lives, loving and raising our three daughters. Of course, for reasons that escape me now (and her likely as well) we didn’t go back on birth control.
I won’t go into detail about the journey of fear and faith we went through while she was in the hospital in Kansas City for the surgery to remove the tumor and later at home for the therapy to bring her back to normal—asking me to do so is asking me to relive the darkest days of my life. Know that one was conquered, while the other renewed. As I see it now, God thought we deserved some good after months of trials and tribulations. That came in the way of child number four.
Jokes ran rampant amongst our families during the nine months that Baby Roth grew in her stomach. “At this rate Stephen will be delivering the baby.” You see, my wife has been called a baby making machine (the words of one of the nurses who was present for the birth of Adelynn, baby #3). Each delivery has been faster than the previous. A worrying fact considering how quickly Avery, baby #1, entered the world. My sister in-law, who has a four-month-old daughter in which the delivery was over thirty hours, quipped, “All your deliveries don’t add up to that!” I don’t have to do the math to know she’s right. Adelynn, baby #3, was born just over an hour after my wife awoke me in the middle of the night. Luckily, in that instance I had the forethought to warn the nurse of the rapid progression that had flustered previous nurses and planned on doing the same this time around. I didn’t get that chance.
“At this rate Stephen will be delivering the baby.” It was only a joke. Now? Well…
Fast forward to May 27, 2021, one week from the due date. My wife had an appointment with her OBGYN that morning. Everything looked good. 3cm dilation and 70% effaced. I was thinking today might be the day, as she had gone into labor on the day of a doctor visit before. Sure enough, I got a text from my beloved later that her contractions were bad and five minutes apart. I grabbed the ready-bag and jumped in the car to pick her up from the in-law’s house. While I was there, I gave the girls a hug and we were off to the hospital.
As we got into the car, I thought about how strange it was to be heading to the hospital in the daytime—our three girls were born in the wee morning hours after little or no sleep. However, they say that boys are different. Right they are.
By the time we got to the hospital, I was sensing that it might not be the time. Her contractions had lightened in severity and distanced themselves. When she was checked in the hospital room by a doctor, she was still at 3cm. They waited an hour and checked again. Still the same. At that time, they started talking to her OBGYN about the next step. While she laid in the hospital bed, the contractions had distanced to a span of one every twenty to thirty minutes. The doctor came in and asked us how we felt about going home, which I had been expecting since a similar scenario played itself out with Abigail, baby #2. “Yes, if you think that’s right,” was the gist of what we told the doctor.
Now, herein lays the single problem I have with the way things played out. As they were talking about sending us home, which we agreed was the right call at the time, an hour had passed since she was last checked. For most women that wasn’t likely a problem. For the woman dubbed a baby making machine? Fuhgeddaboudit. You better check or else. Or else what? You’ll see.
Anyway, they sent us home with a warning that contractions were likely since she had been checked three times in a single day. She had two contractions as she got dressed. Hmm, interesting. Two more on the way to the car. Okay. Several more on the drive home. Uh, really? They said this would happen, so it was normal, right? That was what we talked about in the car on the way home. It was normal, right?
When we got home, I knew we were likely headed back to the hospital within a few hours, a la baby #2. But we had time for some grub, right? We ordered soup and sandwiches to keep it light, because, hey, she might be having a baby tonight. Soon after ordering, I realized it was likely a mistake. The contractions had increased in strength and frequency since we arrived home. She went to lay down in bed, while I had second thoughts about going home without insisting THEY CHECK HER.
The food arrived while she was breathing through the discomfort on the bed. Great! Who’s hungry? Not my wife, because she just vomited into the trashcan. I had a flashback to Abigail, baby #2, again. You see, when we were sent home with Abigail, we had enough time to eat a late dinner before going back to the hospital. That dinner ended up in a trashcan in the birthing room while the nurses were out of the room prepping for delivery—hence my warning to the nurse with Adelynn, baby #3. When she was done vomiting, I knew two things were true. 1) We needed to get to the hospital. 2) We needed to do it quickly.
I threw the food in the fridge, grabbed the trash bag full of vomit, and escorted the wife to the car (oh, the bag O’ vomit went into the dumpster, if you’re wondering). On the drive to the hospital, I encountered two slow moving drivers that happened to be side-by-side, because isn’t there always when you’re in a hurry? Great. Luckily, the drive was a short one. Was it short enough? Well, I wouldn’t be telling you this story if it was.
Eventually, I turned onto a different road, escaping the slow-moving duo. It was the home stretch; the hospital was a few minutes away. As I was preparing to turn onto the side street where the hospital’s parking garage was located, when my wife said the words I had been fearing. “My water just broke.” Luckily, she had the forethought to grab a towel from the linen closet, saving our seat in the process. Unfortunately, having been present for all her deliveries, I knew that the minutes between water breaking and hearing the first cries of a baby could be counted on a single hand.
I turned into the parking garage and started looking for the expectant mother parking. We had been fortunate enough earlier in the day to find such a parking spot. However, all were full as I scanned the parking garage. “Hurry, just park!” she said. “Where?” I thought or maybe said, I don’t remember. I continued along, following the arrows and panicking. Finally, an empty parking spot, and not just one but three.
I pulled into one of the three spots and went around to help her out of the car. “No, I’m not going anywhere. He’s coming!” she said as she stood beside the minivan.
“Should I get help?” I asked her.
“I don’t know. He’s coming!”
I scanned the parking garage for anyone that might be able to get help. It was empty. There was a door some thirty feet away. I hurried over to it. The door was made of glass, revealing a long corridor that disappeared around a corner. If I went in there, I wouldn’t be able to see my wife. No, that was no good. Next to the door there was a metal box with a picture of a phone and sign that said “emergency phone” on the front. I looked at the metal box in confusion. I touched the box. No obvious phone, nor were there hinges to indicate a lid or some other opening. Was it magic? Well, I’m not Harry Potter and Hogwarts never sent me a letter, so I abandoned it.
When I looked at my wife, I realized I had been away from her for too long. Later, I would find out she was busy pushing our son’s head out while I was busy with the door to nowhere and the magic box. I ran back to her side. She proceeded to tell me that his head is out and he’s coming. Thinking quick, I opened the sliding door of the minivan and flipped the captain seat back and out of the way. “Sit down,” I said to her. She didn’t want to. I insisted a few more times before giving up.
In a last-ditch effort to get help, I pulled out my cellphone and dialed the hospital’s number. I sighed in exasperation as I got an automated voice giving me options that I couldn’t comprehend in my panicked state. While I was holding the phone with my left hand, I was feeling between her legs with my right hand. Yes, the baby’s head was out.
Now, I’ve told this story several times in person to other men, husbands and fathers alike. Some have voiced their awe that I did what I did, while voicing their inability to do it themselves. Hogwash, I say. That’s the woman I love and the mother of my children. In her time of need am I present and responsive or absent and inactive? You can either be the man who caught the baby or the fool who stood and watched while she reached between her own legs and grabbed that baby—I don’t know about other women, but that’s the way my wife would’ve done it. I know my answer.
Decision made, I tossed the phone onto the passenger’s seat of the van and knelt on the dirty parking garage floor. His head was fully out at that point, yet still held in place by the tight fit leggings she was wearing. The time for modesty was well passed, so I pulled her pants down, she even helped with a shaky hand. A final push from my wife and his torso was visible. At that point I grabbed him underneath the arms and pulled him free (probably not the best technique, but it beats landing on the concrete).
I pulled him close to my chest and patted his back. He let out a warbly cry in response. Then he peed on my shirt, which was already damp from the birthing process. I was about to take off my shirt to wrap him up, because we’re in a parking garage, you know, when my wife handed me the towel she had been sitting on in the van. Yeah, that was probably better than displaying my Dad Bod for the entire hospital to see.
So, there we were, my wife with her pants around her knees, while I’m kneeling in front of her holding a naked baby wrapped in towel. A naked baby that had since stopped crying, mind you. Perfectly ordinary, right? Well, it certainly seemed that way, because we had to stop a stranger walking by to ask them to alert the hospital, which she kindly did. As we waited, a car pulled into the empty space next to the one we were standing in. Two men got out and walked towards the hospital without batting an eyelash. People are in their own worlds these days or so it seems.
Remember when I said that Wyatt had stopped crying? Well, evidently the hospital had alerted a response team via an overhead page. They were listening for a crying baby.
Kneeling on concrete for ten minutes isn’t comforting to the knees, so I decided to try to stand. My beloved reminded me that I couldn’t do that because the umbilical cord was still attached to the placenta that had yet to be delivered. No problem, kneeling on concrete while holding my newborn baby boy wasn’t so bad. I was still kneeling when an off-duty nurse who had heard the page on her way out of the building approached us. After making sure that both mother and baby were doing well, she was able to get into quick contact with security. We owe a debt of gratitude to that off-duty nurse, who returned to check on both mother and baby the next day, this time in their room.
The response team was there within a minute of being made aware of our location. No less than a dozen nurses and staff members swarmed us. They loaded my wife, now carrying Wyatt in her arms, into a wheelchair. There was a spare wheelchair, and a nurse offered to give me a ride because I looked pale. Having made the long walk to the birthing and delivery floor once already, I agreed.
During the day and half stay in the hospital, it seemed everyone who entered the room commented on the delivery. “You’re the one that delivered in the parking garage.” It’s a story that we’ll likely be telling for a long time. The story of how I held him first (just kidding, honey). That’s the story of Wyatt James Roth and his grand entrance.
The picture at the top of the page was taken by my sister-in-law upon visiting Wyatt in the hospital and was where this story happened. The post today was longer than normal, but I hope you didn’t mind. I sure didn’t. Until next time, remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.
Stephen Michael Roth