I'm going to be honest, being a man during childbirth is...awkward. Luckily for you, I've been a man during someone else's pain in childbearing TWICE - which by all accounts makes me an expert in the matter. So, I figured I would do all the husbands out there a favor and give them the top seven things they'll need to remember in order to survive the birth of their children.
1. When Helping Hurts
During labor, lots of things, almost all of which you've never experienced before, will be happening at once, and you will have many emotions as you struggle to process it all. You will have no control over the situation, and you'll often be not quite sure what is going on - or what's supposed to happen next.
At some point, you will almost certainly feel completely and utterly helpless.
Your wife will try to assure you otherwise, but deep down you'll know the truth. My wife has always been a master of subtlety. Her labor was no exception. Thankfully, she let me know that I was needed by saying things like, "Do not touch me." and "Stop talking." Or, my personal favorite - "Leave me alone." Somehow in the heat of the moment, her words of comfort went straight over my head.
2. Do NOT Complain...Ever
Repeat after me, "I have no reason to complain." If you're wondering under what circumstance you could be so bold as to clear your throat and ask for something - there are none. Food, water, bathroom breaks, sleep, privacy - these are all just words during and after your wife's labor. More like jokes really.
Now that I think about it, there is one scenario in which you might want to ask for help. If you realize that there is a live human being inside of you who suddenly wants to come out, then you're safe to say something. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.
3. Compartmentalize Your Memories
Unless you are completely aloof and uncaring - you are going to see things that will make your stomach turn. A birth is a very messy thing. It will be hard to see the woman you love experiencing so much pain and nastiness - it will be hard to unsee it as well. You will need to tuck all these memories away in a compartment in your brain labeled "Hospital". You'll also want to toss any peanut gallery comments to your wife about how "gross" anything is into the incinerator - just write a public blog instead.
Up until this point, you have memories of her as a wife.
Now, you will also have memories of her as a mother.
Memories of wedding gowns and night gowns will be joined by memories of hospital gowns.
Memories of undressing her will be joined by memories of dressing her.
Memories of showering with her will be joined by memories of showering her.
Private, intimate memories of one kind will be joined by private, intimate memories of an entirely different kind.
This is where the "or worse" part comes into play from your wedding vows. Remember that this is a small, isolated period of time. Remember too that this is something you already agreed to support her through - and cheerfully.
Soon you'll be back to a "normal" routine, and all of these memories will need to be put away in that "Hospital" file. Don't leave this file open on your desktop for constant referral, but don't delete it either - it's a strong glue that holds the two of you together.
4. Love them Both
I'll never forget the moments I first saw Silas and Judah. With Silas, love spontaneously erupted inside of me - and it was such an incredibly new, wonderful feeling. With Judah, the moment I saw him it was like I had loved him forever. Like I'd already been his Dad for a long time, and he was just a little late joining the family.
With both children, I felt a tug-of-war during the first fifteen minutes after their birth. Should I stay beside Emily, or should I walk across the room and be with my son? In both cases I kind of ended up pacing back and forth between the two. With Silas, I had been excusively focused on Emily's welfare for six years - and so it was weird to suddenly have another vying for my attention. With Judah, I was worried about leaving Emily because she was completely isolated behind the giant blue curtain of doom during the c-section.
It was a very uncomfortable feeling.
Two had become one. Then all of the sudden, one became three - and now four!
5. Scared? Keep it to Yourself
Worrying isn't a part of my DNA, so for this one I'll have to rely on the hypothetical. Hypothetically, I might have might looked up a Wikipedia article on c-sections and seen some disturbing pictures. And hypothetically, those images are still burned in my memory. And hypothetically, I might have been terrified at the thought of being in an operating room while total strangers cut my wife open. And hypothetically, I might have been royally FREAKING OUT!!!!
And hypothetically, my wife might have kept asking me in the weeks leading up to the end of her term if I was scared at the possibility of a c-section. And hypothetically, I wanted to break down crying and pour out my heart like an episode of Dr. Phil.
Fellas, the answer to the "Are you scared?" question, is "No." She is about to go through major surgery, on her own body, and she is going to be afraid. She is going to look to you for stability and strength - and you've got to come through. Pray for the ability to keep it together, and do so.
Besides, you can always freak out in the privacy of a bathroom or closet when no one is around. Hypothetically.
6. Find Humor in the Chaos
During the first 24 hours of your child's birth - your hospital room will feel like a speed dating nightmare. A round-robin of doctors, nurses, orderlies, housekeepers, anesthesiologists, lactation consultants, record keepers, photographers, pediatricians, and busboys will come in to perform their various duties. Our first night, Judah woke us up about four times. The hospital staff woke us up about fourteen. Something about "checking his vitals" and "inspecting her incision" - likely story.
My personal favorite was the lactation consultant who, when I walked in the room after making a fountain drink run, introduced herself by saying "Hi, I'm the breast lady."
You'll also need to get your priorities in order. Priority 1: Mom and Baby. Priority 2: Find a Public Restroom. For reasons not fit for a blog, you really won't want to use the toilet in your hospital room. Furthermore, the chances are 100% that the chili dogs you ate the day before will catch up to you around the same time the photographer is trying to capture a magical moment with mommy and baby. Use this opportunity to grab a book and excuse yourself to your private apartment down the hall.
7. Do Not Adjust Your Television Set
At least once during your hospital stay, you'll wonder if you are in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Concepts like privacy, dignity, time, and sleep will take on a whole new dimension. Random people will come into your room in the middle of the night, some of them men, all of them strangers.
Two hours of sleep will no longer be thought of as a nap, but a decent night's rest. Sleep will no longer revolve around something rational like, say, when you are tired and want to sleep. Instead, it will revolve around every other conceivable person or event known to man.
And everything - everything - will take more time. Helping your wife to the bathroom, changing a diaper, and adjusting a few pillows should only take fifteen minutes in a normal world. But in crazy sideways LOST world, it takes an hour and a half. And when you're done, it's time to feed the baby - who by the way, needs another diaper change. And then here comes the vitals-checking, incision-inspecting turbo nurse wondering if it's a bad time.
What, this? A bad time? Surely you jest.
So, to all you husbands out there, the next time you just happen to find yourself in the same room as a laboring woman - just pull up a chair, and my blog.
You'll thank me later.