A Dad’s Diatribe: the Birth of Child from a Dude’s Perspective
I have a few friends that will be having children of their own soon so I decided to write this as a PSA for soon to be fathers out there. I think of myself as a responsible adult, ready to face challenges, but nothing I have learned or experienced prepared me for the arrival of my little girl.
When people talk about their baby being born, the most common descriptions of their experience are as follows: beautiful, magical, transcendent, and amazing! I won’t dispute that these wonderful descriptions aren’t true, but they are only half the story. If you were to accurately describe the birth of your child, I think that you should also include the following: gross, panic-inducing, overwhelming, and macabre. This would give someone, like myself, a better idea of what is about to happen. Please understand that I did my due diligence just like most other soon to be fathers. I went to classes, listened to the doctors and skimmed through enough of the baby books to seem “knowledgable” about the subject. With all of this pseudo knowledge gleaned from a couple of skimmed books and physicians, I was ready. Now all I needed to do was wait for that special day to come. And it did….several days early.
Angela has had issues with her blood for almost her entire life. With all of the advances in modern medicine we have experienced through the years, the only diagnosis that she has received is that she has “bad blood”. I can only assume that most of her doctors were jamming out to Taylor Swift before they gave her this diagnosis. Either way, this was an issue that we needed to address because Angela made it abundantly clear that she wanted an epidural for delivery. The plan was to take some magic medicine on Monday and Tuesday prior to the due date on Friday. This would temporarily raise her platelet count enough so that there would be no problem getting that sweet, sweet epidural. Best laid plans…..right?!?
So after day one of the magic medicine my soon to be daughter decided that she had enough of her current cramped sleeping quarters. This occurred in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Angela started to get contractions that night and came down the hallway to the guest bedroom so I could time them for her. (I think it’s important to note that we don’t normally sleep in separate bedrooms, but apparently mood swings, appetite changes, and swollen ankles aren’t the only side effects that occur during pregnancy. Pregnancy also makes women snore loudly… like really, really loud. So in order to achieve sufficient beauty rest, I started sleeping in the guest bedroom.) She woke me around midnight and said she was experiencing these contractions. I told her to lay with me so I could time them. She crawled into bed, snuggled up, and immediately fell asleep. After about 10 min she didn’t experience any contractions. I woke her to let her know there have been no contractions and she went back to our bedroom. With this bullet dodged, I decided to lay back down and get some sleep. The light flicked on immediately, well it was actually several hours later but felt like my head just hit the pillow. “We need to go! I spoke with the doctor and we are going to the hospital”, Angela told me with the directness of a woman that is about to have a baby. I popped up in a haze and started to meander around the house trying to go through the checklist from one of those damn books. There were several questions running through my disheveled, exhausted mind:
“This really isn’t happening,is it?”
“Must be a false alarm, right?”
“I wonder if I have time for a nervous poop?”
The answers to these questions were as follows: It is happening, No, and Hell No!
With my questions answered, we loaded up into the car and headed to the hospital. And by hospital I meant gas station because we were on empty…checklist wins again.
Once we arrived, we checked in and they took us to our birthing room. I started pacing back and forth while they began running test on Angela, secretly longing for the OB to come in and say, “False alarm! Go home and finish sleeping.” After several hours of waiting for this, it never happened. Assuming there had been some mistake, I asked the nurse, “So is this happening?” and she replied, “Yes! You are having a baby today.” My ears started ringing as if I had been blindsided by a 250lb linebacker and all I could do was stare blankly at her. This was just the beginning.
At this moment I left the room to contact family at around 5 something in the morning and when I returned, it was showtime. “Showtime” is an apt description of the moment because they have all of the monitors hooked up and blinking, everyone is going through there checklist, and the bright stage lights are shining down on the new mom to be. The sounds of medical terms and screaming contractions were filling the room. I took my place beside Angela to help clam her during the contractions. She must have been in severe pain because I was spitting comedy gold and I couldn’t even crack a smile out of her. At this moment I began to realize how useless I was going to be so I asked the nurse where I should go. She looked at me and said “Grab a leg”. I thought this must have been hospital slang for go to the waiting room, get some coffee, and we’ll come to get you when she’s done. I was sooooo wrong about that. She literally meant grab your wife’s leg and help us deliver this baby. So there I was with my wife’s leg in my arm, trying to sooth her during contractions, and trying not to look dow….. DEAR GOD! I LOOKED. The shock was immediate, but I’m a grown man so it only took me 20 minutes to start speaking again.
Whenever Angela experienced a contraction, she was supposed to give three big pushes during the contraction. After the three pushes there was a break period of several minutes until the next contraction. During this time I would tell Angela how great she’s doing, how proud I am of her, and how sorry I am to have done this to her. At the 45 min mark, I was feeling great about the situation, but Angela was entering the late stages of the delivery phase. This is when you can start to see the baby crowning and it looks painful as hell. I began to notice during the next contraction phase that Angela would give two big pushes and hardly push on the last one. The doctor noticed this as well. She told angela to concentrate on one thing during her next contraction and not to close her eyes. So when the next contraction started Angela decided that she would concentrate on staring directly at me. The face she made at me will haunt my dreams forever. Her skin turned red, her eyes became bloodshot, and she screamed at the top of her lungs while staring directly into my soul. During that final push I looked down and notice that it was working. The head was almost out and then “poof” the whole head popped out. The best way to describe what this looked like is the end scene of Jumanji when everything gets sucked back into the game except for the huntsman’s head. It gets stuck in the board for a couple of seconds. That is exactly what it looked like to me. Since this is such an obscure reference, I have included a screenshot as a visual aid.
After the head popped out, the doctor quickly pulls the baby out. It is a pretty amazing and shocking sight to behold. The doctor placed my daughter on her mother’s chest and asked me cut the umbilical cord. Nobody told me that the umbilical cord shot blood out like a main artery when cut, but then again I only skimmed the baby books. At this point everything was over…for me at least. The doctor got busy working on my wife’s lady bits (AKA vagina), and boy did it need some work after all it went through. I knew she was in pain but Angela was taking everything like a champ. After they placed our little girl on her chest, I think the doctors could have cut off both of Angela’s legs and she would have been just fine. Witnessing the calming power that little 7lb 14oz girl had on her mother was overwhelming. At this moment I started to feel extreme happiness and it was intoxicating! The connection was real, it was palpable, and very hard to articulate. Never would I have thought that something so small could have made me feel so powerless. But there I was, a shade of the man I use to be, but not in a bad way, just different. I could’t quite put my finger on it, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks…. I was no longer the man I use to be, because I was now a father.