You are having a baby! Are you excited? Nervous? Have you given any thought to what your birth will be like? Oh wait... what was that? Yes, your birth.
I could not have given birth to any of my children with out my husband, Eric. Ok, they would have come out, but it wouldn't have been through my own power. Milo, our first, would have been a cesarean if it wasn't for Eric. When I was scared, he was my courage and reminded me of the confidence I have in birth. When I felt lost, he knew what my goals were and he reminded me of them. When the moment came when the doctor was ready to prep me for the operating room, I looked to Eric first. I needed his guidance in our birth. He didn't have to know a ton about birth, but he knew me and that's why he was so important.
Guidance... I know... maybe you were thinking your job would be to just not pass out and guidance in childbirth sounds like it's way out of your birthy skill set. Eric thought so too: I'll be out here... in the waiting room... you let me know when it's ok to look. Don't feel bad, birth is a little scary, the way skydiving and rock climbing are scary, but it's worth it to overcome some of that fear to experience something amazing.
There's a lot of talk about the "birth experience." Maybe it's something you've heard your wife say. Why can't you just go to the hospital, have this baby, and go home? Isn't that the whole point - to come home with a healthy baby? Why does how it happens matter?
Think about the day you were married? Did you have a big celebration? An intimate ceremony? A private trip to the courthouse? Even if you eloped I bet you have a memory of your new wife smiling back at you in the car. You will never forget that day. Yes, you came away with a marriage certificate, but how it happened is a memory that will be a permanent milestone not just in your marriage, but in your life story. The birth of your child will be no different. You will never forget it, whether it is a good or bad experience. Maybe your wife has already listened to other women tell their birth stories. Women tell their birth stories like they were yesterday, they may only have a few memories that precious. And you know what, if you ask a father and he doesn't just respond with a joke, you'll hear his recollection is just as fresh. Do you want to leave this memory to chance? Protect it.
My husband and I took a lot of time to decide what our wedding vows would be. I chose to "love, honor, and obey," and my husband vowed to "love, honor, and protect," and we have lived happily ever after by those promises. However, without having to make a promise in front of his family and friends, a man has a desire to protect his wife and child.
Protecting your wife and child does not mean going into your birth ready to fight with your care provider. It is not going into war, it is reinforcing your little home with knowledge and a plan so that when this powerful event blows into your lives you and your wife are not left dazed and hurt. Birth trauma is real, some men and women come away from their births with very painful memories. The quote in the image above is from a documentary that addresses how birth can affect dads called "The Other Side of the Glass: A Birth Film Series for Fathers." The following are two stories of how dads coped with their births.
My husband and I are big stand-up comedy fans. Many of our first dates were held in San Francisco comedy clubs. One of our favorite comedians is Louis CK. We are also pretty smitten by Marc Maron, so you can imagine our excitement when the two came together on Maron's podcast, WTF.
That interview is actually why this post is even being written.
Louis' account of meeting his daughter, me holding back tears in the Target parking lot hurting so much for him and being so proud of him for sharing a story that I know many men carry in silence. Birth is important. How you meet your child matters. Please listen to Louis CK's story below, it's 4 minutes. There is some of language. Listen... I'll wait...
The next story is by a friend, Ray. Ray and his wife, Dana, got pregnant right after moving from Pacific Grove to the east coast, which was pretty unfair to all of us they left behind, but we are slowly forgiving them. When Ray asked me what books he should read I listed a few, and since I obviously couldn't offer them my classes, I suggested they take Birth Boot Camp classes online. This is Ray's account of meeting his son, Washington:
"I don't know where it began exactly, but I do remember that Jim Gaffigan spurred me on just a little. 'When you think about the male contribution to life, it's kinda embarrassing, really.' That quote and his mention of home birth, inspired me to learn something about childbirth. Dana was carrying the baby, Dana could feel the baby, Dana was going to deliver the baby... I wanted to do something a little more than just stand there, terrified, on game day. I wanted to take responsibility for my wife, especially since this was her first child (meaning she had no idea what she was doing either), and my future baby. I read books. I watched documentaries. I read articles and blog posts. I couldn't do much during her pregnancy, but I could help her be comfortable, healthy, and educated. I took her to a birth class at the hospital. We watched the Birth Boot Camp videos together. I bought lots of books. I tried to feed us healthy food, since I normally cook for us. I encouraged her to walk with me. I did what I could.
Now, concerning her plan for birth, over time she had decided that she wanted a natural birth. She wanted to have the baby in the healthiest way possible and did not want a c-section. So, I began reading. I read books for doulas and midwives. I read blogs and watched documentaries. I didn't want that time to come and for me to freeze up. I didn't want to get sick to my stomach. I wanted to be focused and do everything I could to help her in any way I could. After all the preparation, I was ready to have the baby in the bathtub if the situation went a little crazy. She had contractions for over 30 hours, only to find that it was all in preparation. She hadn't dilated at all when we got to the hospital, though the doula and I, with all my charts and knowledge of "normal" labor, were certain she should be well on her way. That disappointment was something that I wanted to prevent her from dealing with, but not everything can be planned out perfectly, no matter how well you know your options. At the hospital, on our way out of the hospital since they don’t admit women until they are 4 cm, her water broke. We went back up to Labor and Delivery. They confirmed that her water broke and admitted her. Once she was in the room, nothing went according to her plan. Her legs were exhausted. Her contractions were intense. She went from partially clothed to completely naked, which wasn't in her original plan. She was in a kind of sitting, half leaning back position with her legs on the handle bar. In all of this, I was calm and confident. After 5 hours of contractions, she began pushing. After an hour and a half, we had a baby. There were people coming in and out, because we were in the middle of a nurse shift change. There was all the technical aspects of monitors and refusing drugs. But I knew all of that stuff. I knew what to expect. Even when everything exploded in activity in the last moments, when his head came through, but his pulse dropped low. The nurses demanded that Dana push more, but I understood what was happening. The shoulders came out and then the rest. His eyes opened and he began to cry. Before any doctor or nurse told me, I knew that my baby was fine.
Had I not taken time to prepare, the entire thing would have been confusing and terrifying. I would have felt like I was at the mercy of doctors and nurses. I wouldn't have known how to help my wife through pregnancy or labor or delivery. I would have been a 'supportive' bystander, rather than right there in the moment. Did I mention I requested to catch my baby? The hospital wouldn't allow it, but it was worth it to ask, just to see the shocked look on their faces. I think that the classic picture of dad pacing around the lobby is well past done. We have the privilege, but I also believe the responsibility, of helping our wives. That's my wife and that's my baby and, in a way that shouldn't take anything away from mom, it's my birth experience too."
So, really, congratulations! I hope this was inspiring and not too intimidating. You can do this, you made it through this whole post and that's a fantastic start.
Moms, I would love to hear how your partner impacted your birth. Dads, I would love to hear your birth stories!