6:06am: Kari wakes me from a ridiculously light sleep with the news. "Babe, babe, my water broke." She said it with the same excited tone and the same raised eyebrows as she did when she woke me up at 6am to tell me that we were having a baby. I jump out of bed and we congratulate ourselves for not taking our doctors advice to be induced the night before.
6:32am: Mild and manageable contractions begin, lasting twenty seconds and coming every five to ten minutes. We're downright giddy with excitement, bouncing around the loft like sugared up kids, talking on cell phones to family and loved ones.
8:34am: Nervous excitement builds to a crescendo that lands me on the toilet seat for the first of many trips. I sit there quietly, my body sweating, telling myself to get it together. I feel like I'm about to sing in front of a live audience.
10:30am: Contractions are picking up steam, rolling in every five minutes and lasting for more than thirty seconds, strong enough that Kari can't do anything but focus her body for each contracting second. Seeing her in pain is already harder than I realized. Kari wonders out loud if she will be in transition by dinner and if we'll meet Stella by midnight. "That would be a long labor," I offer up as a naive form of encouragement.
11:47am: With nothing but almonds and yoghurt in the house, we head on down the street to Pitfire for some pizza and pasta. Every five minutes we stop on the sidewalk for Kari to put her arms around my neck so she can brace for another contraction. People zoom by us like a woman in labor is no strange occurrence. Only in Downtown LA is a woman laboring on the sidewalk normal. Kari gets pasta in hopes that it might help labor along and that it will give her enough energy to make it. We share laughs over lunch, in between contractions, and I wonder how long we'll be laughing for.
3:13pm: Without much noticeable progress being made, we head up the two flights of stairs and begin doing walking laps on our roof. I wonder if any of the people working in the skyscrapers around us have any idea what is going on. Then we head down to the fifth floor and make our way back up to the seventh, climbing double stairs, hoping to get things moving. We're looking for a contraction every four minutes, each one sixty seconds long, for an hour straight. 4-1-1 they call it.
4:17pm: Another trip to the toilet, another long session of my body discharging every last shred of food. I'm now opening for The Rolling Stones. The stage gets bigger the closer we get to meeting our daughter.
7:47pm: In the latter part of Scrubs season 4. Going on fourteen hours of labor and a few dozen different labor positions. Contractions are coming in more frequently and lasting longer. We wonder if things are really starting to progress. Stella moves around every so often, letting us know that she is okay. More stairs, more positions, more mental imagery of the cervix softening and Stella dropping. -4, -3, -2, go Stella go.
10:30pm: Contractions getting stronger. On the suggestion from our doula, I stand behind Kari and lift up her belly two inches during contractions, hoping this might help Stella become more engaged. The groans have turned to moans and I have never been more in love. Over a minute long now and coming in every few minutes. It's getting closer. I call Jes to catch the train and head over. Anytime now, I tell her.
12:02am: Eighteen hours in and still laboring at home. Scrubs finished long ago and the only noise downtown is our birth CD playing in the background. The Beatles belt out "Let It Be" and Eddie Vedder sings soft tunes from the Into the Wild soundtrack. The birth bag sits by the door, as it has been for several weeks now, waiting patiently to come through for us.
1am: The hospital is a few minutes away on the side of a small mountain. I find a good parking spot and we walk into the labor room. I find myself pleading with Kari's cervix to be thin and dialed out to six or seven centimeters, giving Kari the confidence she needs to handle just a few more hours of contractions.
1:15am: 2 cm.
3am: Kari's body is giving out, her legs shake frantically as she labors over my shoulders, forcing me to grab her by the knees just to keep her standing. 5cm after 2 more hours, baby is at 0 to +1 station and engaged. Things are moving good, but Kari's weary body is giving out. She looks at me without saying anything, but makes it clear in her eyes that she can't go much further. Just give me one more hour, I ask of her. She looks at me longingly, like it's the hardest thing she has ever done.
4am: Another hour and her body gives out. Epidural. Sleep.
6:36am: Everyone is sleeping except me. I can't get past the reality that in a few hours I'm going to be a Dad. More trips to the toilet mean I have nothing left in me. My heart races. I play solitaire on my phone and lose nineteen games in a row, but I think it's because I'm missing easy moves and not because the game is that hard.
12:25pm: All systems go. Pushing begins. Jes, our doula and I stand beside her as she pushes with all her might. I hold my breath as if I'm pushing too. I notice this and try to stop myself, but it still happens every time.
3:30pm: Stella's head is turned sideways and can't quite make it through the canal. We wait for Dr. Wu, our stellar doctor with the lowest cesarean rate in the hospital. Just the kind of doc you need for a 36-hour, head turned sideways birth.
5:15pm: Doc informs us that he needs to use forceps to turn the babies head. He twists and turns and I can barely watch my little girl go through the trauma. I keep checking to make sure her heart is beating fast and everything looks good, despite the piece of metal clamped around her skull. I imagine her being strong.
5:35pm: Doctor notices meconium and appears to get more serious about getting her out. He doesn't say anything alarming but I can see it in his eyes.
5:47pm: With the help of Jes, our doula, two doctors and a nurse, Kari pushes baby Stella out into the world. She has hair. Loads and loads of hair. Seeing her head and shoulders and body come out of the womb immediately tops every experience I have ever had. I kiss Kari's forehead and we cry together for some time. It's over, I say to her. You did it.