When we think about pregnancy and the birth experience, mommies and babies come to mind. So often the dads are pushed onto the sidelines. How quickly we forget how we got to this point! Personally my husband was the source of my strength and empowerment through 9 grueling months and 2 awesome births. Not only was he my partner in crime, he was my advocate and I couldn’t imagine it without him. Here is his side of the story…
You know, for years you’re mentally ingrained , almost from birth it seems, not to want to get your girlfriend, live-in, lady friend, one-night, little mama, or friend-with-benefits pregnant, EVER. And then one day all that changes. You get married, it becomes ok to have sex and have her dad know about it (well it never really feels that cozy but you get the point). Then you both agree, for whatever insane reason or maybe it’s the bottle of wine talking, that you want kids and you actually believe you’re mature enough to raise kids of your own. So, you start “trying”.
Then it happens. Now the how it happens differs for everyone, but for me personally, it was a tearful visit from my wife to my office – not the most charming event, but she comes to you and says “I’m pregnant!” Immediately fear enters in. How did this happen? What are we going to do? What will her parents say? What will my parents say? But then slowly you return to reality and remember that you were “trying” and this is what you wanted. This has got to be the hardest, most confusing time for most men as it is a struggle against pre-learned response, like Pavlov’s dog trying not to salivate, to an acceptance of this new reality. So you tell the folks and the coworkers and just about everyone you meet, and most people think this is because you’re happy with the news and want to share it with the world, but really you are scared shitless and need all those fools to make you feel better with the congrats and high-fives, and “you’re going to be a great dad” b.s…..
The next couple of weeks this process continues and then life returns to normal for us guys, we just hang out as our wives do their thing. Yeah there is some complaining from them… the morning sickness, the planning of the nursery, etc etc… but we are mostly hands off in the process and just sit on the sidelines and observe. We go to appointments and those terrible birthing classes, but all in all really our job is just to be there. We are asked do this thing called a birth plan, which for most guys a birth plan is a simple 3 step plan, Step one: Drive to Hospital, Step Two: Push, Step 3: Have baby… Done… but apparently there is much more to it than that.
When the big day finally arrives we get in the car and head to the hospital… every man looks at their house and thinks “it will never be the same” and then they look at the grass and smile realizing that one day there will be someone else in the family to mow it (at least I did). We get to the hospital and check in and the midwives, doctors, or nurses take over from there…and back to the sideline we go. We are in the game mentally but not really given any task but to hang out and maybe hold a leg up. The whole process seems like a blur and no matter how you may have imagined it, it’s not the same. You’re out of the control of your environment totally and really have to rely on the team that you have chosen to help your wife deliver her child.
Luckily for me my wife is a big supporter of midwives and we have been blessed with the most wonderful ladies in both of our birthing experiences. These professionals took the time to get to know my wife and even me (poor ladies) and because of that, it was like having an old friend take you through the unnerving situation called birth. Good, bad, or indifferent, I cannot imagine how this process would have been with a “traditional” team of doctors delivering my children… just the idea of “strangers” involved in this critical moment of my budding family’s life does not warm my heart. But the team I was blessed with did.
My wife has asked me on more than one occasion how the birth experience was for me and was I happy with it. The answer is an undeniable yes. Did I need more involvement? No. Did I feel helpless? No. Did I feel like I was part of the process? Absolutely. Why? Because I knew that the wonderful women dedicated to assisting my wife and child were there for her and her alone and therefore I could be too…
While my husband and I had two very good births and we were not left with regrets, many men go through pregnancy and birth with a sense of powerlessness, frustration, and even anger from a bad birth experience. I can imagine it is tough to be on the sidelines when you so much want to get in the game and play. But my message to the dads is this: You are in the game much more than you realize. Even if it is making sure everyone follows the “birth plan” or just a few tender words whispered in your lady’s ear during that last push, you are invaluable and we thank you… truly.
Alison & Matt Rogers