Father’s Experience of Birth

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today, Issue 88, Winter 2008.
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ME?! Gonna be a DADDY?! I kept staring at the pregnancy test strip with that very solid “+”…thus began the journey. We celebrated!

Then came the nausea, the mood swings, the cravings and the fatigue—and that was just me. My wife was also getting them, along with Braxton-Hicks contractions.

We learned early on that our li’l’ baby wanted to sit rather than stand on his/her head like a good little “in utero” person should. I wasn’t as concerned as my dear wife. She was a midwife’s assistant for seven years and knew quite a bit about the difficulties that a first-time mom may face when trying to push a breech baby into this world.

I started this in blissful ignorance, which she promptly took upon herself to change. She informed me of the risks, the potential for this and that to happen, and all the gory details. I listened to her. I listened to our midwife, Mary. I listened to Becky Miller, our aunt and also a midwife. They felt okay with trying for vaginal delivery. I figured that they, all combined, knew more than I did and I was quite happy to go along with their wisdom. Elizabeth and I also spent quite a bit of time praying about it and we felt good with our decision to try for a vaginal delivery.

Because Elizabeth was having lots of Braxton-Hicks, we went to our local obstetrician/gynecologist for a checkup just to make sure that everything was fine. We got to see our baby on the ultrasound display! Yup, still head up. Other than that everything looked fine.

Months rolled by…

Finally, on Sunday, March 16, the Braxton-Hicks/false labor/annoying contractions became more regular and more annoying. Elizabeth got grouchy. I knew that these contractions must mean business now. We called our midwives and they came over. After checking Elizabeth they agreed that it seemed to be the real deal and we could prepare for the birth soon.

I calmly and quickly sprang into action—dropping things, misplacing stuff, loading the car with the wrong bags and generally forgetting everything I was supposed to remember. My wife finally said, “Slow down and get a hold of yourself! You’re not helping me or anyone else the way you are tearing around!”

I was thinking, “Yeah, easy for you to say! You’ve been there at 900+ births. I haven’t been an active participant in a birth before this. Cut me some slack here!” So much for my usual calm, cool and collected self.

Grandma and Becky informed us that the best thing for Elizabeth right then was to rest. So we went to bed and “rested.” A half hour later the contractions didn’t seem to be gaining any traction; they were slowing down. Then they faded away until they were just the same ol’ annoying Braxton-Hicks again. *SIGH!*

The following day ticked by sloooooowly, with no regular contractions. The next day was the same. Now I was the one getting grouchy!

I asked Elizabeth when we would know that it was the REAL THING. She replied, “Once my water breaks!”

I thought, “Oh great!” Rather than voicing my thoughts I continued to question.
Me: (trying to sound nonchalant) “When’s that gonna be?”
She: (replying so sweetly) “I don’t know, it could be anytime!”
Me: (my heart skipped a beat) “WHAT?! Like…what are the warning signs?”
She: (still sweetly) “With all the contractions I’m having, there might not be any warning!”
Me: (Oh, great!) “You mean like…um…like BOOOM?! No warning?”
She: (STILL sweetly) “Yup!”
Me: (overactive imagination in high gear) “Like whoosh?! Just WHOOOSH?! No warning?”
She: (smiling at my discomfort) “Yup, it could trickle out or just go whoosh.”

So the hours kept rolling by and I started looking at her belly in much the same way that a bomb squad technician looks at a ticking bomb—“when’s that thing going off?”

She continued to saunter through the week. TICK TICK TICK… I was trying to nonchalantly TICK go through the TICK TICK week as if nothing was TICK TICK TICK amiss.

March 23 arrived. Another Sunday—Easter Sunday. She wanted to go to church. TICK! TICK! I was nervous. What if she goes off in church? She wasn’t as concerned as I and was not in the mood to sit around at home waiting for this baby to show up.

We went to church. She didn’t go off.

That afternoon we took a loooong walk. In the evening a neighboring church was having services. She wanted to go to that, too! To me the TICKING was starting to sound ominous!

When we arrived home around 9:45 pm Elizabeth was getting rather uncomfortable. I had a sneaking suspicion that this was gearing up for the real deal. I asked her if she wanted some Gatorade. She rather snappily replied, “NO, I’m not in labor yet.”

Hmmmm. Okay.

“Ummm, darling, this might not be the real thing but your body is working hard and could use the energy. I’ll get a glass of
Gatorade and a glass of water for you.” She was fine with that and drank some of both.

We were barely in bed before she was back out and complaining about the ouchy contractions. I wanted to call Becky. She was reluctant. Then another contraction hit. After it faded she agreed to call Becky. Becky arrived a little before 11:00 pm. Elizabeth didn’t need much persuading that this was the real deal by then. She was looking like the contractions were getting way past “just annoying.” Becky estimated her to be dilated 5 cm.

I tried to miss all the bumps and potholes as we headed for the birthing center. I didn’t know that road was so bumpy! Every time a contraction hit the bumps seemed agonizing to Elizabeth, so I would slooooow way down. As soon as the contraction passed I stomped on the gas again! I just wanted to GET THERE! She made me drive the speed limit! AAARGH!

I tried to keep my brain busy by timing the contraction frequency and duration, which didn’t help much. My wife was in the passenger seat and she was hurting. I was ready to get her into more competent hands than mine!

We arrived at the birthing center and my wife disappeared, leaving me sitting in the car. I parked the car. Got the Gatorade bottles. The bag with the baby clothing. The bag with the bed pads. The bag with the miscellaneous stuff. I waddled in the door by my lonesome self, dumped everything on the couch and headed back to the bathroom where I heard the shower running. Elizabeth was already in the shower and invited me into the bathroom. That was a good sign! She still loved me at this point!

The hot water seemed to be easing her pain somewhat. She switched to the whirlpool after a while. The contractions kept getting harder and harder and she was starting to hurt. Meanwhile, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into—too late to back out now!

Amazingly, my memory didn’t fail me. I remembered that in one of our conversations about the impending birth she had mentioned that I was “just supposed to be there for her, to rub her back, to hold her hand, to care for her.” So, as I sat on the edge of the whirlpool tub, trying to be a kind, loving, gentle husband, I reached out and gently rested my hand on her knee to show her that I was there and cared.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!”

I withdrew my hand.

Her breathing was becoming rather rapid. She had told me that when she did that I was supposed to get down to her level and say “Elizabeth! Breeeeathe with me.” Then I was supposed to proceed with getting her to breathe in time with me.

I got down on my knees beside the tub. “Breathe it out, dear; breathe with me.” I started to breathe nicely, deep and slow.

“DON’T BREATHE ON ME!”

Hmmmmm…. Things were not going according to plan.

After a bit she wasn’t exactly relaxing in the whirlpool anymore and asked me to turn it off. I promptly complied. A few contractions later she wasn’t exactly reclining anymore either and I was getting worried about her slipping and falling. Thankfully, Grandma and Becky were ready to help her move to the bed.

They got her over there and I collected the Gatorade and water glass and trotted into the bedroom. She was on her hands and knees on the bed, sounding pretty serious about her breathing. In our pre-birth talks Elizabeth braced me for a 10–18 hour delivery. This had been only going for about two hours and seemed pretty intense already. I wasn’t sure how either one of us was going to survive for another 10 hours!

They handed me a little hand fan and told me to fan her to keep her cool. I fanned as though my life depended on it. I think it did. At least it gave me something to do!

A bit later, Grandma, who was working at the bottom end of things, declared that something or the other was “nice and clear.” Becky, who was up by Elizabeth’s head and coaching, repeated, “Did you hear that, Elizabeth? Blah, blah, blah is nice and clear with no blah, blah, blah!” All three of them seemed relieved and acted like that was a good thing. So I felt good too.

Well, at least until the next contraction hit my wife. She was hurting. Then after one especially hard contraction she turned her head my way and apologized. I was thinking that she was doing all kinds of good! She was breathing intensely. Fighting the urge to push. Getting hammered with contractions…and she was apologizing? I’d been thinking that I should be the one apologizing! I figured that I carried at least 50% responsibility for getting her here in the first place. I’m not even sure what she was apologizing for, but I tried to reassure her that she was doing an awesome job. She was, too.

After a while Grandma said, “Fifteen minutes now.”

I glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. More contractions. Me fanning. Grandma and Becky exchanging a quick glance. More contractions coming hard and fast. They turned her around onto her back. Her back was hurting like crazy and she wanted slight pressure on it. So I slipped one hand under her back. Grandma had her hand under the other side. Elizabeth asked me to push harder, so I lifted harder. Her shin was firmly planted against my belly and she was pushing against me. I was bent over, trying to keep lifting with my hand stretched out as far as possible, while busily trying to fan her face with my other hand. Her other leg was waving around somewhere above us as if she was riding a bicycle. This was getting crazy. I glanced at the clock. I think time must have stopped. The big hand didn’t seem to be moving anymore. This wasn’t how I imagined that births are.

Someone had told me that once the contractions are pretty much solid with only small breaks in between that the baby should be showing up soon. I wondered what it meant when one contraction was starting before the first one let up! They were coming hard and fast with no breaks for her. My world seemed to close down to one small little spot—Elizabeth’s face. Contractions. Intensity. Not allowed to push. Tears sliding down my cheeks.

Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw Grandma swing something out and up and say, “Here she is!”

Elizabeth’s face registered bewilderment. I couldn’t believe it was over already, either. A loud “Waaaaah” came from the foot of the bed. Elizabeth looked even more puzzled.

She said, “But it’s still too soon! She can’t be here already!”

Well, it may have been too soon, but there was a squalling little person lying at the foot of the bed with an umbilical cord attached to her bellybutton and disappearing into her momma! I don’t know who was more relieved—me or Elizabeth!

I leaned over the bed and hugged Elizabeth and let my tears roll. All our fear, worry, praying, the last few hours of intensity—done. It was over. She was here!

Our own precious little girl!

Grandma let me cut the cord, and then I held our little girl for the first time! Wow! What a feeling. I brought her up to Elizabeth and we “oohed and ahhed” over our baby—our precious little miracle.

Then the phone calls began and Elizabeth’s parents arrived. Mine came a little later. CELEBRATION!

Wow—I had just become a daddy!

About Author: Ervin Beachy

Ervin Beachy was born and raised a country boy. He is foreman for Fine Touch Builders, a residential construction company. He enjoys cuddle time with his lovely wife, hunting, fishing, teaching Sunday school, singing with his church youth group and playing softball, hockey and volleyball.

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