A few months ago, a French obstetrician suggested that if fathers really wanted to help their partners in the delivery room, they would just stay away. They may think they are helping, Dr. Michael Odent said, but they are probably only making the mothers stressed, slowing their production of the hormone oxytocin, which results in a prolonged labor and an increased risk of cesarean section.
Whether this is true is the subject of much debate, but even if it is, the argument misses a key reason for the increase in the percentage of fathers in the delivery room. They are there to support the mothers, yes, but they are also there for themselves.
Josh Tyson says he believes this. His second son was born a few months ago, and today he describes the dad’s-eye view of birth. He found new emotional depths in that room, he writes — the deep joy of meeting his son, the deep awe of watching his wife.
The Performance by Josh Tyson
I’ve seen a man pull a line of boxcars with his teeth. I’ve watched a friend light his chest on fire and let another friend hop over his flaming torso on a skateboard. I’ve seen an actor on ”Deadwood” very convincingly pretend to pass kidney stones. None of this even comes close to the awesome experience of seeing my wife, Nicole, give birth.
She has done it twice now. The first time was in January 2008, when she was pregnant with our son Elias. She began having contractions early on a Sunday morning, but following the advice of doctors we waited to go to the hospital until later that night, when her contractions were minutes apart. In the interim, we packed an overnight bag, ran several errands and went to see “There Will Be Blood.” While I was impressed with Daniel Day-Lewis’s artful displays of brute force throughout that movie, several hours later, I saw a bend of will and determination I had never encountered (there was also blood). My wife passed on an epidural and spent several hours battling contractions on a birthing ball. I kept my mouth shut and rubbed her lower back in between each round. As the breaks between contractions got shorter and shorter and the contractions went longer and longer, I didn’t know what to do, other than hold her hand and watch for the top of a head. We were both screaming by the time she pushed our son into this weird, weird world, and the looks on our faces in a picture that the midwife took paints a very accurate portrait of how we felt. Dazed. Confused. Overjoyed.
Her second performance came just weeks ago, again in January (our boys have consecutive birthdays on the 13th and 14th). Her water broke in bed at 5:30 a.m. — something new — and I ran to the linen closet to get some towels, thinking, How can this actually be happening again? Nicole was calm. She called the doctor and each of our mothers, and her only gripe when we arrived at the hospital two hours later was that she was dripping fluid everywhere. The delivery-room nurses were surprised when we told them Nicole didn’t want an epidural. She is only about 110 pounds without child but exhibits a genuine fierceness of character and body that continually surprises me. There were six other births happening that morning, and we found out that Nicole was the only one going without drugs.
I thought of the weeks leading up to a minor operation to remove my wisdom teeth when I was 19. At the time, I obsessively imagined and re-imagined the oral surgeon’s cracking the teeth into four pieces and ripping them from my jaw line, and every time, my stomach would drop and I would get lightheaded. I was sort of, maybe, a little bit on the verge of tears the morning of the procedure. Once I was in the chair, they couldn’t gas me fast enough. Then I tried to imagine nine very slow-building months of knowing that when the creature inside you was big enough, he would push his way out of a very small opening, millimeters at a time — nine months of knowing that the requisite pain is singular and unmatched by any other form of discomfort known to our species. I thought about enduring that pain for a second time and began to wonder what the hell my wife was thinking.
“It was hard because this time I knew that as bad as it hurt, it was going to hurt even more,” she told me afterward, “but at the same time I also knew that it doesn’t last forever.” Her other point was that she wanted to be engaged with giving birth to this little man. And engaged she was. After about 30 minutes on a Pilates ball, she announced that she was ready, and the nurses came rushing in. Her doctor had to run from a nearby building and made it just in time to coach her through five rounds of pushing. This time, I helped hold one of her knees out to the side so she could open her hips and push. As amazed as I was at her focus —she pretty much just chanted the mantra “O.K.” between contractions before getting down to business — I was equally astonished at how powerful her vagina is. I’ve always been a big fan of my wife’s, but now I have the slightly intimidating sensation of sharing living space with a veritable oracle.
What I have seen my wife do is nothing short of astonishing. I’m sure that, had she taken an epidural, it still would have been a more-than-memorable experience, but watching her summon all of her strength and channel it directly into such a small and elastic part of her body was phenomenal. The fact that it gave rise to our amazing son Arius makes me sure that nothing that I’ve seen anywhere can or ever will compare. I am a very proud and humbled husband, looking forward to tapping my wife’s immense fire and might as we continue along the divinely beleaguered path of parenthood.Source