It all started at that moment when you’ve just fallen asleep, when everything feels like a dream – “I think my water just broke.” Thirty-six hours later, I still felt very much the same, but I also had my newborn daughter looking up at me.
Everything in between was accomplished with great courage by my wife, Ellie, and unwavering support and patience from the women by her side. This included my mother-in-law, a midwife and nurses, all while I chewed every last piece of my fingernails down to nothing.
Since I am a first-time father, my nerves were obviously upended. There’s no preparing yourself no matter how many times friends or family members ask, “Are you ready?” beforehand. But, I had a moment of clarity just as Ellie was entering the “active labor” phase, or as I remember it, the “holy hell, this is actually happening” phase. I looked around the room.
Leading up to the arrival of our baby, Ellie was surrounded by her mother, who has two children; nurses, who all had kids; and two midwives, who between them had more than 30 years’ experience in delivering babies, plus their own children. If anyone could guide her through this grueling march to parenthood, it would be this group.
Time ticked slowly. Following the initial panic of the water-breaking, we stayed at home until late the next afternoon, making arrangements for who was going to watch the dog, and waiting. Once contractions were close enough together to begin questioning ourselves, we made the trip to Mercy Hospital, and notified the widwives office. Only 17 hours to go.
For my wife, employing a midwife provided an extra layer of comfort, not only because of their knowledge, but also for the relationships she had established. She had been meeting with these women all throughout her pregnancy, asking any and all embarrassing questions. Now, because of Ellie’s lengthy labor and two shifts merging, there would be two midwives present. That’s two women who deliver babies for a living, telling us what we needed to know.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, certified nurse-midwives and certified midwives attended 320,983 births in 2013. These statistics also show that number has risen by more than 8 percent since 2005.
At roughly 6 a.m. on Oct. 12, after hours of contractions and constant backrubbing by yours truly, Ellie had still not progressed to active labor. It was found that her water had not completely broken when we thought it had more than a day before. Who knew that the water could partially break? This came after Ellie’s mother and I had taken turns napping in the hospital room, while Ellie languished walking the hallways.
The midwife broke her water completely and the real labor began. Ellie was in and out of the shower, the tub, and eventually on the hospital bed. I just sat there in awe. She did it all without any drugs. Four hours later, at 10:39 a.m., our daughter was born. I hadn’t done any of the work, but my body was weak and shaking. My wife is the toughest person I know.
I still feel like I was simply a bystander to something bigger than myself. I was doing anything I could to support her, but the real support came from the women in the room. Their presence removed any fear that Ellie might have had, something that is known to affect labor.
During her pregnancy, we took a class on a method known as hypnobirthing, which, in essence, promotes relaxation during childbirth that can remove fear and allow the body to do what it already knows how to do. But, even without that, Ellie’s fear (not mine) was lifted by five women who knew what they were doing.
I learned that when you’re unsure of something, it’s best to let the professionals take over.