The morning my wife went into labor, she came to me and shared that she was experiencing period-like cramping. It was still two weeks before our official due date, and this was her first pregnancy, so we reminded ourselves this could go on for weeks and I left for work. I was only at work for around an hour before I got a text from my wife telling me she thought her water had broken. She told me she wasn’t sure and would keep me posted, but there was no way I was going to try and stay at work.
My wife and I spent the rest of the day taking care of things around home, getting the older boys sent off to their Dad’s, and trying to keep busy as well as rested. The midwife suggested that my wife use our breast pump to bring on more contractions. My wife would use the pump on one breast until a contraction came, we would work through that one, then she would use the pump on the other breast. Once she started using the pump, things got moving along.
My wife’s contractions were coming regularly, and it was not possible for her to talk through them. I remained available to apply pressure to her back and try to help her remain as comfortable as possible. Somewhere around midnight she decided she wanted to contact the midwives. When she told them what her contractions were like, they advised us to head on into the birth center. Into the car we went, knowing we would be returning with our third son.
When we arrived at the birth center, we were greeted by the one midwife I consciously hoped we would not get for our birth. My wife didn’t remember her, but I remembered our one visit that we saw her for, and I didn’t feel any kind of connection like we had with the other midwives. I kept this to myself, and off we went to our labor/delivery room, with undesired midwife in tow.
After carrying all of our bags into our room, the midwife came in to check the progress of my wife’s cervix. My wife literally screamed in pain as she tried to inch herself away from the hands of our abrupt midwife. It took everything in me not to slap the midwife’s hand away. Instead, I directed that energy to singing my wife’s praises.
My wife and I settled into our room. We had the lights turned low, and positioned her on the birthing ball and hooked up the breast pump again. The contractions were coming strong, and my wife was handling them like a warrior. That word might sound cheesy, but that is what she truly was at that moment. I felt so helpless, and at the same time knew that my position was one of high expectations and one that I could easily fail at. The only thing I knew I could do is to be there for every second of her labor and to give myself over to a connection with her that would allow me to feel what she needed.
I was so impressed with how my wife was giving into the contractions and really listening to her body. I was afraid that any outside interruption was going to destroy her groove.
I think the midwife told us she would come back to check progress every two hours. I remember watching that clock and dreading when the two hour mark would arrive. At one point our midwife had peeked into our room and commented on how quiet everything was and that we seemed to have everything under control, but to let us know if we needed anything. I was so impressed with how my wife was giving into the contractions and really listening to her body. I was afraid that any outside interruption was going to destroy her groove.
From that moment, there was no doubt that it was my wife and I alone in this labor, and the midwife was simply a safety net, just in case. After laboring in the tub, then finding our way to the bed for a few more hours of debilitating pain, I thought to myself, “Why did I encourage her to have an unmedicated birth?”
You see, I have birthed two babes. The first one was a C-section delivery, and the second was a completely un-medicated vaginal birth. Because of my contrasting experiences, and having had such an enjoyable (yes, this is the word I meant to choose) birth the second time, I heavily encouraged unmedicated, vaginal childbirth. I wanted to have our baby at home. My wife wanted to have our baby in the hospital. With my input, from my experience, and a compromise at hand, we decided on the birth center.
My wife was so strong during her labor/delivery, and I do not remember her complaining or trying to call it quits, even once. That said, watching what she was going through, physically, was like torture. I couldn’t believe the obvious pain she was in. I kept thinking, “This isn’t right. Childbirth is a beautiful experience. How can a person appreciate this when they feel like they are dying?” I didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, and I was at a loss as for what to do at this point except for make my presence completely known, without being a nuisance, and to do what I was capable of to ease any of the pain she was feeling.
There was some point when the midwife gave the instruction to push, and if I thought things were intense before, it was time for my reality check. With each contraction, my wife pushed with every ounce of strength she had in her. I never had to remind her to push during her contractions. Somehow, she found the motivation on her own, even after her long night of labor. Again, the only thing I could do was be her dedicated cheerleader. I wanted to take over for her so badly, but of course this was impossible. I will never be able to provide an accurate description of how committed my wife was to bringing our son into this world, and the pain she endured to be able to bring him to us in a way she felt confident was best. I hate it that I will never be able to give her the credit she so much more than deserves.
I knew I needed to connect myself, physically and emotionally, as much as I could, to my wife. This is what she needed from me.
After a couple hours of pushing, in various positions, I knew it was time for baby because the midwife put on a gown and gloves, and the nurse who arrived for pediatric care had gotten baby gear out. I had really wanted to catch our baby, but once our labor began, I knew I couldn’t leave my wife’s side. I crawled up on the bed next to her, pulled one of her legs up, and got my face right next to hers. I knew I needed to connect myself, physically and emotionally, as much as I could, to my wife. This is what she needed from me.
When our baby arrived, he entered our bright and noisy world, from his dark and quiet space, without a sound. The look of amazement my wife had at what she had just accomplished, and at meeting her little boy, is a look that will stay with me forever. The energy that was released in that room, from my wife’s wonder and joy, is something I wish every person could experience. There is a little residual of that energy that has stuck with me and guides me through some of our more difficult parenting days.