We’d brought lots of things with us to the hospital: cameras, clothes, food (which Erin couldn’t eat), and of course, music. We brought two iPods full of music that we connected to the stereo system. I was incensed because both the tweeters were blown in not one but both speakers. Harumph. I knew I should have brought my own system.
(In fact I did have a system in the trunk of the car – but never got around to fetching it.)
It was time to start pushing, so we needed something a little more upbeat, something to give us a little extra oomph after a long night and morning. We both love dance music, and I knew that Erin always played funk music to liven up a party. So I suggested a funk mix, and she agreed.
It’s long been my belief that just about everybody has a secret funk bone hidden in their body. Even the most jaded, the nerdy, those without rhythm, everyone will dance to the funk. It’s primordial. It’s deep inside. And sure enough – our nurse started tapping her feet. As the labor progressed, more nurses appeared in the room, and finally our delivery doctor, Dr. Koala. There she was, waiting between Erin’s legs, knees bobbing and her hands slapping out a one-two beat on her lap, saying “Hey, what is this? I’m not much of a music person, but I like this!”
So there we were, bopping to the funk, and every couple of minutes Elaine would see a contraction coming on the monitor. The idea is to push along with the contractions. But with the epidural, Erin had to rely on Elaine to tell her when to push. Elaine would tell her to get ready, to grab her knees, put her chin into her chest, and push! She kept up a nonstop patter, letting her know what was happening, what she could see, and telling her how good she was doing.
Each push is sort of “two steps forward, one step back.” The baby gets pushed down the birth canal, but then slips back a bit each time. Each contraction was long enough for Erin to take three deep breaths and push as hard as she could. And sure enough, after about a half-hour, Elaine announced that she could see the head. She must have seen the look on my face, because she asked if I wanted to take a look. I asked Erin if she minded, and she said of course not. So during the next contraction, sure enough, there was, well, something or other in there. If Elaine said it was a head, then so be it, it was a head. As it came closer, you could see hair, so it definitely started becoming a head for me.
Erin had previously politely refused having a mirror set up so that she could watch the progress, but now she could see that I was being blown away by what I saw. Elaine, ever vigilant, asked Erin if she’d changed her mind. Erin asked me if I thought she should, and I said absolutely. It was incredible, and not to be missed. So we got the mirror, and from that point on we all watched our little baby, inching out, bit by bit.
Just as the baby began to crown, Dr. Koala came in, fresh from a delivery next door. She got into position, and began helping Erin, pushing and tugging, lubing and massaging. The funk music continued to bounce along in the background, keeping everyone giggling. Cheri, who had been going crazy waiting, mentioned later that every time she walked past our suite she heard people laughing inside. Laughing! Now that’s a good birthday.
After about 1 1/2 hours of pushing, the baby was clearly almost out. And as if on cue, James Brown’s “Sex Machine” came on the stereo. I turned to Erin – “Push! Push now!” I’d suggested James as a middle name months ago in honor of James Brown. This had to be a sign! Erin looked at me, grabbed her knees, and pushed as hard as she could. But try as she may, the little baby just wasn’t ready to come out. Never mind. There’s always another good funk song.
And in fact, two songs later, it happened. “Up for the Downstroke,” one of the greatest funk anthems ever, was playing in the background. Erin had met and worked with George Clinton years ago when putting together a company party for RealNetworks. Once again, I looked at Erin and said “Push!”