My water broke with Graham one week before his due date. Everyone said he would be late. First babies are late. But I woke up on Monday morning and almost didn’t make it to the bathroom to pee. My water broke in the bathroom. Gushing. I yelled for Dave. We didn’t have everything ready. I still had a week. Was the camera even charged? My legs weren’t shaved. My legs. Oh no. We gathered up the hospital bags as my water just seeped through so many towels. We headed out the door, texting our moms. It was hospital time. October 5th. As we drove the few minutes to our hospital, I turned to Dave. “Our son is going to be born today or tomorrow! I hope there is sunshine!” Our faces were slightly panicked. I was planning on a natural birth. No pain meds. Lots of breathing. And I wanted lots of light in that birthing suite.
On April 14th, we got the text from my mom-in-law. Bob was done suffering. At 2:10 am, he had breathed his last. We changed the girls’ diapers, grabbed a diaper bag, and loaded into the van. I had been preparing for this moment for more than nine months, but I wasn’t ready. I knew just two days before that I had said goodbye for the very last time. Graham told me on Sunday that it was time for Papa Bob to go to Heaven. I had been praying for hours upon hours that he would just go. Be released. But as we drove past the hospital where all three of my children came into this world, I couldn’t stop sobbing. My dad was gone. I should’ve prepared better. I should’ve spent more time telling him how much he meant to me.
My body never kicked into labor on its own. My water had broken, but my body didn’t know how to get this baby out. I labored without pain medication for 18 hours. Progressing. Praying. Regressing. Reciting Scripture. We would stop the pitocin and my body would stop labor completely. My birth plan was spiraling into an abyss as I couldn’t get past an 8. Then, the words came, “Lyndse, you need to have a c-section.” I fell apart. I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Dave was furious. We had tried everything. We had followed all the books. All the ridiculous articles. All the tips to birth my baby like Caroline Ingalls. I felt darkness creep in as my mind filled with thoughts of failure.
The kids and I were up watching Disney Junior at their great-grandma’s house while Dave was with his mom. Between 3 and 4 am, Graham asks me why Daddy went to be with Grandma Linda. I am not having this conversation alone. In the middle of the night. “He is helping with Papa Bob.” Helping. Helping with the Sheriff. Hospice. The mortuary transport. Standing with his mom as she is widowed for the second time in just over a decade. “I know what Daddy, Grandma Tracy, and Grandma Linda are doing wight now.” “Really?” “Yeah. I fink dey are making me Rice Krispies Treats. Because I weally want some and dis is da weirdest night ever.” I got up to go cry in the kitchen. I actually found a Rice Krispy treat and took it to him. Yes, on the weirdest night ever we can eat treats before the sun even comes up.
We started to prep for the c-section when Graham’s heart rate became dangerous. “This is an emergency now. Get her ready!” Nightmare. We were now entering my worst birthing nightmare. They quickly gave me a spinal and wheeled me into the OR. You never forget those smells. The straps. The voices. I had slept two hours since Sunday morning. It was Tuesday. I couldn’t stop crying. “How are you doing?” I couldn’t answer. I had prepared for everything but this.
Dave came back at about 6:30 am. Graham wanted to know why we were up at night, instead of sleeping. We packed up the kids and headed home. Drove past that hospital again. This time the sky looked just like it did when we arrived as two scared-but-excited parents about to meet their first son. Five and a half years later, we put that kid and his sisters to bed. Cried myself to sleep. It doesn’t matter how long you prepare for someone’s death, it is always too early. Even when Bob’s body tried so hard at the end to get blood to all his organs, it was too late. Have you ever prayed for someone to just die? I did. And when my prayer was answered, I was still lost. And we still had to tell a little boy.
Graham came right before 4 am on a Tuesday. His head was large, and stuck sideways inside my tilted pelvis. He was in distress. I saw him above the curtain. He was so beat up. People were telling me he would be taken with Dave. “Come on, Daddy.” By the time I was finished and rolled back to my birthing suite for recovery, I had missed his vitals. His first bath. His screams. He met our families through the window before I even held him. I felt cheated. And guilty for feeling cheated, since he was alive.
We waited until 1 pm on the day of Bob’s death to tell Graham. Our son punched, kicked, screamed. This child who had watched his Papa dying, couldn’t take the news. We didn’t expect anything else from a five-year-old. Graham did what I wanted to do. What I had done in my heart. “God, how dare you take away my only dad? My kids’ only papa? How the hell do I get through this?” I was thinking of myself. Graham was thinking of himself. Bob was free, but we felt trapped.
Graham wouldn’t have made it without a c-section. I was no pioneer mother birthing under a tree. But he was no statistic either. Because everyone wants to say that babies should be born naturally and unimpeded and overly romanticized. The truth is that Graham and I would’ve died at many other times in history. Under a tree. Or in a cabin. But we were saved in an operating room.
Bob wanted to die at home. He told me many times that he wanted to be in his cabin. He was scared of dying in a nursing home or a hospital. And he got his wish. He died with his wife and his twin sister at his side. No alarms blaring. No strangers. Just his family and the skylight he always had a love-hate relationship with. I once told him that skylight reminded me of the bright light they shone over me when they took all three of my babies by c-section. Bob said he would buy a cover for it if it bothered me. “No, I’ve made my peace with that hospital light. Some women just don’t get to give birth the way they want to.” And Bob said, “I don’t get to give birth at all, so you’re tougher than I’ll ever be. You can remember that when that f***ing light shines in your eyes.”