Labor is a shadowy figure. For months, it peers in your windows at night. It hides under your bed and in the closet. It’s faceless and unknowable. At times your imagination gets the best of you and your fictitious labor suddenly becomes some torturous scene from the movie Saw. And I’m just a guy. I’m not doing the heavy lifting. I can’t imagine the kinds of horrors women dream up.
All said and done, though, our labor went better than expected. Here’s the CliffNotes: entered the hospital at 5cm dilated, pushing within 4 hours, and back home with healthy baby in hand at 34 hours. It was a whirlwind, but it was smooth with no real surprises. We consider ourselves very lucky.
Now having experienced the great unknowable, here’s 6 things I learned about labor (from Dad’s POV).
Women have superpowers. Whether you’re male or female, this should and will be your biggest takeaway from labor. A newfound respect for the female body and its capabilities, of nature and its capabilities, and the ultimate-warrior like strength women possess. I don’t know if you’ll ever see someone or something so wholly determined, in both body and mind, to get something done. It’s incredible and truly impressive. Bravo, ladies.
Nurses, you the real MVP. We had a terrific nurse. She was attentive, warm, and supportive. If all goes well, the majority of your stay is spent with nurses. They wait until the last possible moment to call the doctor in. And when ours finally came to deliver, he was talking to the staff about wrist watches and didn’t say hello. That’s ok, I get it. They’ve delivered countless babies; it’s just another day on the job. In retrospect, the dichotomy of my wife in excruciating discomfort and the doctor’s casual apathy is interesting from an anthropological point of view. But it certainly wasn’t helpful at the time. If it wasn’t for our nurse, our experience would’ve been altogether different. Bravo, nurses.
A bond takes time. After hours of agony, the pinnacle of any labor story is the moment your baby is born. Most stories conclude with this immediate undying and emotional attachment to your newborn the moment she’s born. It makes for a clean, resolute ending to a dramatic story.
In retrospect, I could easily paint that picture. It was miraculous, obviously. But I promised to keep it real. And in the chaos of that pinnacle moment, there was a lot to process. My wife was exhausted and outside herself, the doctor was still down there dealing with the fun stuff that happens after the birth, and the nurses were cleaning, examining, and prodding our newborn. Truth is, there wasn’t time to feel everything I thought I would. And that’s ok. When I held my daughter for the first time, our bond grew a little stronger. And in the hours after in the recovery room, our bond grew stronger still. Now, two weeks after her birth, it’s still growing everyday.
To support her is to support her. For a male, labor means providing endless, unconditional support. That part is pretty obvious. But that support will continue well beyond the birth. From what I’ve gathered in my first few weeks of fatherhood, it’s actually the majority of your job. Newborns sleep, eat, and poop (in that order). If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, you’re out of the eating equation, and you can’t do much for the baby when it’s sleeping. That leaves you changing a lot of diapers and feeling a little helpless the rest of the time. But if you commit to supporting and fulfilling your partner’s needs (she’s been through a lot), and know that through supporting her you are supporting your baby, it helps give you a sense of purpose and contribution.
Your expectations are bigger than reality. Maybe this one is exclusive to me, I don’t know. But you always hear these half-horror stories from some people with children. Telling you that your life as you know it is over. Like there’s this huge cliff you jump off. And so I always expected a sudden, dramatic change to occur. But honestly, I don’t feel all that different. B doesn’t seem all that different. Of course, we’re tired and there’s stress involved. But that’s to be expected.
Right now, it feels right. Natural. Like it should always have been this way. Sometimes, those feelings of comfort leave me second guessing myself. Should I be feeling overwhelmingly different? Is there something I’m missing? Maybe it’s too soon to tell. Maybe I’ll read this months from now and laugh. But so far, my expectations were much worse than the reality of it.
Dreams do come true. B loves math. And she wanted a Pi baby. You know, born on 3/14/15 (the first five digits of π). It was exactly one week before our due date yet it sat on our calendar like a finish line. The odds were against us, but we never lost hope. Well, it happened. Born at 4:56am on 3/14/15. Our daughter is literally a dream come true.