There are not many moments in my life when I can specifically recall the minute where something happened and everything changed. But at 11:47pm, on Wednesday October 26th, 2011, our daughter was born.
For a while we didn’t think it would happen. We actually started trying to get pregnant about three years earlier while we were still in New York. Or rather we stopped trying not to get pregnant. But it didn’t happen immediately.
When you are trying and it doesn’t happen, you start to think that maybe your bits and bobs aren’t working, or at least I did. At the same time, it feels like everyone else is getting pregnant without any effort at all.
As time went on, we had started to think that maybe we’d left it too late, which means that we’d started preparing ourselves to be ok with not having children, even though it was something we had both always wanted.
I was in New York when Farah told me she was pregnant in March 2011. We’d been back living in Austin for a year at the time, but I was still employed by the ALB Law Firm in New York. I would work remotely at home in Austin most of the time, working on legal research, and drafting briefs, and then once a month, I would fly back to NYC to make appearances in court and work in my old office at 120 Broadway.
Usually I would stay with our friends Emily and Josh in the East Village, and I was there that March evening when I got a text from Farah asking me if I was free. When I replied that I was, she texted me a photo of a pregnancy test with two lines on it.
I didn’t know what that meant. But then I quickly reasoned that she probably wouldn’t send me a photo of a negative test. It meant that she was pregnant.
My very first feeling was a mixture of relief and manly pride that, well, my bits and bobs actually worked. It’s not the most romantic thought I appreciate, but that’s what went through my mind.
That was very quickly followed by feelings of joy and love for Farah that we had made this happen together. Then there was a feeling of protectiveness, where I just wanted Farah to take care of herself and her precious cargo. Our precious cargo.
I called Farah back but I don’t remember what we talked about. I think we were both just swirling with emotions. Eventually, a few hours later, the logical side of my brain kicked in and that’s when I realized that my life was about to change. Already my priorities were different. I had a responsibility to this as yet unborn and unnamed person.
Maybe it’s just what some people call ‘nesting’. I think Farah’s nesting instinct was to try and make our house as comfortable and clean as possible. It was different for me. I had an innate urge to make sure that I could provide for my family.
I decided that I needed to get my own law practice going. I couldn’t rely on the New York work, and I wanted to be close to the family. That’s when I really started focusing on Pete Reid Law in Austin. I moved into a new office downtown in May 2011, and I resolved that I had to make it work.
By all accounts, Farah’s pregnancy was relatively smooth. She never really got sick or had any real scares. She would get very tired at the end of the day, but she worked on her feet all the way up until a few days before the birth. Farah has always been pretty fit, but she had got herself into great shape even before she got pregnant. She had already stopped drinking, and she had been doing advanced yoga and Pilates for months.
Actually she loved being pregnant. It really made her happy. That summer of 2011 in Austin was brutal too. From May through September there were something like 90 days when it was hotter than 100F, (37°C). And every other day it was probably 99. It broke every record for high temperatures.
The whole of Austin was permanently sweaty and cranky. The AC in our little old house ran constantly for months. We even went out for drinks on my birthday on a Sunday in late August and it was 112F – the hottest day ever in Austin. We sat outside at Trudy’s. But Farah sailed through it all with a smile.
You hear people saying that “we” are pregnant, but it’s not really a team effort. The woman does all the heavy lifting. The man does nothing. Well except for actual heavy lifting. I would rub Farah’s feet, and try to do more about the house, and go out to the shops to get stuff. Farah didn’t really have any ‘cravings’, but I do remember one day when we were driving around because she really wanted a frozen chocolate banana.
Farah wanted to have the baby at a birthing center, rather than a hospital. So all of our visits were there. I tried to do my bit my accompanying her to the check-ups and pregnancy classes.
I think I went to every class with her, and then we went together to an all-day class about a month before the due date. It was six hours on a Sunday afternoon, sitting on the floor, going back over all the stuff that we’d already learned about the pregnancy, and the labor, and the birth, together with another dozen couples who were all due around the same time.
That was the day I learned that heavily pregnant women don’t have a great sense of humor when it comes to their pregnancy.
Farah and I were sat at the back of this childbirth class, and I remember the instructor was trying to describe the pain that the women in the class were going to feel when it was time to push out the baby. She said that there would be a moment when the women would feel like the pain they were experiencing was abnormal, and they’d feel like they were the first people in history to ever suffer pain like that.
I’ve written before about how I have some sort of self-destructive impulse in me to make jokes at the most inappropriate times.
That’s the only way I can explain why I raised my hand and asked the instructor calmly, if it would be helpful at that moment, if the male partner said to the woman. as she was pushing out the baby, that actually the pain she was experiencing wasn’t abnormal, and that she probably wasn’t the first person to go through pain like that.
I still think it’s a good joke, because obviously I’m an idiot for asking such a stupid question. But it didn’t go down well. Farah doesn’t remember this, but I’m sure there was a second when she chuckled under her breath.
But then when every single woman in that class turned around to look at me, with deathly stares, slowly shaking their heads at me, Farah stopped smiling, and actually started to edge away from me.
I looked around at the other guys in the class for some sort of affirmation, but no one was going to help me out of that one. Ah well.
We went on a ‘babymoon’ to Curacao, and stayed in the same place where we had been on honeymoon four years earlier. Farah swam and lay by the pool for a week and read Game of Thrones the whole time. She came with me to play golf once, but every time I hit a good shot I’d turn around to see if she had seen it, and she would be sat in the golf cart engrossed in her books about dragons and imps.
The saddest part of Farah’s pregnancy was a couple of weeks before the due date when our little Boston terrier Woody passed away. Farah and Woody had been inseparable for 13 years, and he and her other pup Ruby had been a big part of our lives in Austin and New York. Ruby had died a year earlier, and Woody had been sick for a while, but it was still a shock when we heard him fall over in the kitchen one night. I actually held him as he wheezed his last breath, I watched his eyes roll back in his head, and I felt the life fade out of him.
Farah and I were never alone in our home because of those dogs. There was always activity somewhere. For a couple of weeks though, things were very quiet. But I think that knowing that there was about to be a new life in the house tempered that loss somehow.
As we got closer to our due date, which was October 27, 2011, I felt relatively prepared. I knew my main job was going to be doing whatever Farah wanted me to do, and then being her driver. The birthing center also had an iPod dock, so I thought I could add the role of DJ to my short list of responsibilities. So rather than reading any baby books, I worked on a birthing playlist.
I think Farah’s last day of work was only four days before the due date. We’d been told that often first pregnancies are a little late. Nerdishly, I was hoping that the baby would come five days late so that it would be born on November 1, 2011. She would have a birthdate of 11/1/11, (or 1/11/11 in the UK). Even better if it was exactly two weeks late, it would pop out on 11/11/11. However by that time Farah wasn’t going to wait.
It was very early on the morning of October 26th, 2011, that Farah started having a few contractions. We’d read about the phenomenon of ‘practice contractions’, where the body starts to prepare for delivery, so we didn’t know for sure if it was starting. But by about 3pm, Farah was pretty certain it was happening.
I was able to be home with Farah all day on the 26th. As part of her ‘nesting’, Farah had arranged for a friend to come in that day, and make a new door linking our bedroom and the baby’s room. So while Farah lay on the couch trying to conserve her energy, and breathe through contractions, the dude was sawing through our bedroom wall a few feet from her head. He finished mid-afternoon, and by then Farah was in a sort of Zen place.
I had an app on my phone that I used to record the beginning and end of each contraction, so we could see if they were getting shorter. We turned the lights off in the bedroom and we put some records on. She’d tell me when each contraction was starting, and when it had passed. She described it as being like a wave of pain, gradually intensifying then fading. I had thought that I could be of some assistance by holding her hand or rubbing her shoulders or something, but she was able to meditate through the pain, and preferred not to be touched at all. It was amazing to watch.
The birthing center told us not to come in until the contractions were 4 minutes apart. Things started to intensify between 8pm and 930pm. I was giving updates to our families, and my last update was that we were on our way to the birthing center around 10pm.
I’d thought a lot about the drive to the birthing center with my pregnant wife beside me. I mean, that’s when you get to drive as fast as you can, and if you happen to get pulled over by the cops, then you have the best excuse. I really wanted to bust it, but every bump in the road caused Farah some discomfort, so I ended up going slower than normal. Which Farah wasn’t happy about either.
By the time we got there, around 1015pm, we were told that the labor was pretty advanced. I remember saying that her due date was the next day so that would probably work out well. But the midwife said she didn’t think it would take that long.
It was really peaceful in that birthing room. The lights were dimmed and Farah got in the special birthing bathtub. There were no machines, or flickering lights and it was just Farah, the midwife and me in the room for the most part, until her mother joined us.
Farah was still in a meditative state. She did the whole thing without any drugs. Not even a Tylenol. It looked like she was in complete control. Seriously I don’t know how any man who has seen a woman go through childbirth can ever doubt the strength and determination of women. She was incredible.
There wasn’t much for me to do at all. Except be the DJ on my playlist. Which is obviously still very important. I was trying to find long, calming songs to fit the mood. I mostly did a good job, but anything with high notes seemed to disrupt Farah’s concentration.
I do remember the songs that brought out the baby. While Farah was pushing we were listening to an 11 minute song by The Dears called ‘Saviour’. As that was ending, the baby was almost out. Then little Dune Mackenzie Reid was born at 11.47pm, to ‘I Want You’ by Elvis Costello.
I didn’t know how I’d feel seeing a little human that I’d created pop out of the woman I loved. But when it happened, it just seemed so natural. To my surprise, I didn’t feel faint or queasy at all, and I even cut the umbilical cord.
The midwife told us that the baby girl was healthy, and 10 minutes later I walked outside the birthing room with my daughter in my arms.
Our families had only been there for about half an hour. They’d all made plans to make food, watch movies, and be there all night. But they’d barely started unpacking when I strolled out, proud as can be, with our baby.
It was a great moment and all the family was there except for my Dad. He’d driven there with my Mum in a Car-2-Go, but he’d gone to move the car because he was worried that there was a boundary charge or something. So he missed it. Eventually he came in and almost threw himself to the ground, distraught that he’d missed the birth of his first grandchild. On the plus side, he did save himself $6.75.
Farah and I got to stay the night in the birthing center, but they woke us up and kicked us out at about 7am because they needed the room for someone else.
So we went home. Farah was exhausted of course so she went to sleep and I remember thinking ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this bundle of skin?’ I felt like I’d brought home some new Ikea shelves, but there were no instructions.
Somehow we figured it out. Dune was a great baby – healthy, happy and very chilled out. She ate well and she slept well. We’d take turns getting up every 2 hours to feed and change her, then it was every 4 hours, then every 6 hours. It was tiring of course, but it was exciting too. Sometimes, we’d just find ourselves staring at a sleeping baby. We couldn’t believe we’d made this thing.
Dune is 5 now. She is still healthy and happy most of the time. She is not as chilled out as she used to be, but that’s fine. I’ll write more about her in the last chapter, but something I do recognize is that that feeling of protectiveness I had when Farah told me she was pregnant has never gone away.
It’s just an instinct that I never knew I had. Almost like she is a part of me, like another limb. I miss her when I don’t see her. And I love her unreservedly. She is as much a part of my life as I am.
And Farah. She is such a strong, inspiring, loving woman. And now a great mother too. Her memories of that day in 2011 are probably slightly different from mine. She lived it, while I only observed it. But I know it was a day that changed both of our lives.