"So, have you given any thought to what kind of birth you'd like?" Doctor Johnson asks them at the close of their appointment.
"What do you mean?"
"Lots of parents write up birth plans; they pick what sort of atmosphere they'd like to labor in, decide what level of intervention they want."
"I was under the impression that the baby pretty much made that decision," Fi said.
"That's more or less true. Yes, how the baby comes calls most of the shots. But if you have a normal delivery you can pick how much pain medication you want, whether or not you want an episiotomy, if you want to be laboring moving around or in water. What level of monitoring you want. That sort of thing."
"Are you suggesting some women chose to go through the pain without medication?" Fi asks, looking at Doctor Johnson like she's some sort of bizarre alien that's just crawled out of a very deep hole and is speaking to her in a language she's never even dreamed of hearing before.
Now it's the doctor's turn to look at Fi like she's some sort of alien. "Yes. Natural childbirth is very popular. We even offer classes on it."
Michael and Fi are both looking at the doctor like she's insane. It's true that Michael isn't a huge fan of pain medication if he's got to be able to think and do; it's also true that he sees no need to go through unnecessary pain. Likewise, Fi's been shot, stabbed, dealt with broken bones, sprains, strains, burns and various other injuries, and she's very much a fan of pain medication.
So, they're both staring at the doctor in horror at the idea that some people think skipping the pain meds is a good idea. It's one thing if you've got to finish a job, run a con, or keep your head clear. It's a whole other thing when the only thing you've got planned post-pain is sleeping, eating, and dealing with a baby.
Fi spends another moment looking at Doctor Johnson. "I'd like the kind of birth where I get lots of drugs and the baby comes out quickly."
"Those things don't always go hand in hand. The drugs can slow down the baby coming."
"How do you feel about c-sections?" Johnson asks.
"What do you mean? If you need one, you need one."
"Some women try to do everything they can to avoid one."
"I'm not suggesting that we set one up now, but If I need one, I'm all in favor of a c-section."
"Anything that gets the baby out with both of them healthy is fine with me," Michael added, feeling a little superfluous to this conversation.
"Okay. And have you given any thought to post-baby birth control?"
Fi shrugs. At this point, she knows there's not much likelihood of there being time for another baby. But if one happens, one happens. "Not really. Honestly, I've probably only have a year or so where it'll even be an issue."
"So, if it does end up being a c-section, you're not thinking of getting your tubes tied, as well?"
"No. It can be, what, a year before you start ovulating again, and that'll put me at almost forty-six."
"There abouts, if you breastfeed. Most of the time, at least. But don't think breastfeeding will work as birth control. You wouldn't believe how many Irish twins I've delivered because breastfeeding didn't do the job."
"You know, two babies in one year."
"No, I didn't know." Fi looks huffy about that, and Michael remembers that her brothers Stephen and Allan are less than a year apart.
"So, what do you suggest?" he asks, looking to diffuse this.
"Just give it some thought. Fiona's right, menopause will probably hit soon, but if you want something permanent, now is the time to be thinking about that. For example, if you're thinking a vasectomy, before the baby shows up is a much better idea than after. Among other things, you aren't supposed to lift anything that weights more than ten pounds, you know, like a baby, for a week after one." That was something Michael actually did know. Back in his mid-thirties he had been thinking about it, but the recovery time was something he couldn't see fitting into his job.
"I'll keep that in mind."
"So, other things to think about: do you want a midwife or doula? Will your family or friends be coming for the birth? Do you want to do it at the hospital, a birthing center, or at home? Granted, for women in your age group we strongly suggest the hospital or a birthing center, but so far you've been doing fine, so home is an option."
"What's a doula?" Mike asks, but he can see Fi's thinking the same thing.
"A birth coach. Someone who helps you handle labor and makes sure things go according to plan."
"How does that even work?" Fi asks. "Not like a doula can keep labor moving along or the baby from going into distress."
"Honestly, I think it's a mind over matter thing. A doula helps to keep you two calm, and calm parents tend to have an easier time with labor and delivery."
"Okay. I think we're both a little better at handling stress than Joe and Jane Average," Fi said.
"You might be, but you've also never done this before. A lot of parents find having a baby very exciting but scary, as well."
"Sure. Anything else we should be thinking about?" Michael asked.
"Nursery decor? You've got everything you need for the part of it I'll be handling."
"Nursery decor... You know, we do need to do something about that," Fi says as they walk back to the Charger.
"I know. Sam, Jesse, and I have been planning out a few modifications that we want to get set before decorating anything."
"What are you thinking?"
"Rebar re-inforced walls, extra alarms, bulletproof windows, emergency exit into the basement. Stuff like that."
"And you don't tell me about this?"
"I was going to." Michael smiles, realizing he should have kept quiet.
"Before or after you got the tools out and started building?"
"Before." She gives him the cut-the-bull look. "While we were getting the tools out."
"You don't want me involved with planning?"
"No, it's just... We were at Carlitos, and you were with your mom and mine, and we thought it might be nice if you came home one afternoon and found it all done. It's not like Jesse's gonna be hosting a baby shower anytime soon, and the guys wanted to do something."
Fi smiles. "That is sweet. And Barry and your mom are hosting the baby shower."
"What?" Michael looks deeply alarmed by the idea of Barry and a baby shower.
"It's supposed to be a surprise. So, act like you don't know about it."
"If it's supposed to be a surprise, how do you know about it?"
"I overheard Barry and your Mom talking about it. Either they're hosting a baby shower, or there's going to be a lot of food and pink decorations at a very strange party on Saturday."
"Uh huh. So, anyway, what sorts of nursery decorations do you want? I can't see filling a room with pink bows and frills, even if she is a girl."
Fi thinks about it. "White walls, seashell pink trim, and foam green accents."
"I can do that. Pick colors for us, and we will paint."
"I'll paint, too."
Michael shrugs, he wouldn't be volunteering to paint if he didn't have to. "If you want to. Or you could go do something none of the rest of us want to do, something you like and we don't..." Fi looks interested at this idea. A mission! It's been a long time, and a longer time yet is coming. "You could go shopping and get baby furniture, clothing, and all the rest of that stuff, while we paint."
"Really Michael, shopping?"
"You like to shop. I don't. Jesse and Sam certainly have no interest in shopping for baby gear. Take our moms, have a day of it. It'll be fun."
"Says the man who is desperately trying to avoid being part of said day."
"It'll be fun for you." Michael smiles brightly again. Fi's not buying it. "It'll be fun for them."
"That I believe."
Three days later, as Katherine and Madeline question Fi about her latest doctor's appointment, they get back to what sort of birth they want to have.
"I remember when the whole 'natural childbirth' thing started. I had Michael the old-fashioned way. Go to the hospital, spend however many hours in labor while your husband paces and smokes, or in Frank's case, drinks, in the waiting room, and when the time comes they knock you out and you wake up with a baby. But by the time Nate came along, this natural childbirth thing was starting to get some attention. Suddenly, they wanted the father to be in the room with you while it happened, and I can tell you that was one of the few times Frank and I saw eye to eye. I didn't want him in that room, and he didn't want to be there."
"He wasn't there for either birth?" Fi asks.
"No. And the last thing I needed was a sarcastic drunk fighting with me while I dealt with labor."
"Your Da wasn't there for your birth, either."
"Da was in jail when I was born."
"Your Da wasn't there for any of your births. He and the lads were at the pub celebratin' the new wee one. The only man invited to the birth was the doctor. There are some things your husband" and she stares at Michael, who was in the kitchen, prepping ingredients for dinner, trying to pretend he wasn't there, "should never see, and squeezin' out a baby is at the top of the list. Some images a man just shouldn't have in his head. Trust me, luv, you want a certain level of..." Katherine seems to be hunting for a word, "mystery about that bit of you, and he's never going to feel the same way about it if he sees ya havin' a baby."
There are times when Michael has wished not to be part of conversations, times when he's tried to get out of them, tried to blend into the walls and pretend he wasn't there, but he has never, ever been so keenly interested in vanishing as he is now. He has never, ever had any desire to know anything about his mother's, or his mother-in-law's, sex life or how having a baby (or in Katherine's case, seven) affected that.
But both his mom and Fi's seem to think this is a fine time to talk with her about the subject, completely ignoring the fact he's in the room, or possibly seeing if he can be made to spontaneously combust from embarrassment.
The truth is he does want to be there for the birth. And no, he couldn't care less about actually seeing it happen up close and personal, if Fi would rather he's holding her hand and next to her head the whole time, that's fine, but he doesn't want her alone and in pain. They got into this together, it's only right that they should go to the next step of it together, as well.
The other truth is he's not terribly interested discussing this with his mom or Fiona's.
But all three of them are staring at him, waiting for him to say something about this.
"I was planning on being there. In fact, the doctor said you two could be there if you wanted to."
Ahhh... Good, that's got them talking with each other about if they want to be there. He finished chopping up the vegetables, and decides now would be a very good time to start the grill.
Fi comes out five minutes later. "I hope you're happy. They both want to be there for it. Can't wait to offer support and see the brand new baby."
"Extra support might be a good thing. Sort of like a doula, but our moms."
"Were you thinking a doula sounded good?"
"No. Didn't want any strangers there."
"And if you don't want our moms there, I'll make sure they aren't."
"I'd rather it was just us. They weren't there when we made the baby, and they don't need to be there when it comes out."
"Okay. What else do you want?"
She sighs. "I don't know. Just... for her to come out and be healthy. I don't care about water births, natural births, chanting..."
"It was in one of the pamphlets Doc Johnson gave us."
"Just you and me, and as few other people as possible."
"Then it'll be you and me and as few other people as possible." He thinks about that. "Does that mean you want to do it at home?" Michael's a half decent medic, especially for someone with no formal training, and he figures he can handle an uncomplicated birth if it comes to that.
"You and me, at a hospital, where there's plenty of doctors if the need arises, sounds fine to me."
"Then you and me, at the hospital, with doctors if necessary, and no chanting."
"Definitely no chanting." Fi smiles at him, and he pets her cheek.
"I'll go tell our moms that I'm more comfortable without them at the birth."