Over the last week or so I have come to appreciate Lyn’s experiences three years ago. I appreciated her before, but labor, birth, and newborn time for a partner is very different that it is for a birthing mother (duh!). During labor, Lyn’s only job was to focus on herself, but my
job, to a certain extent, was to manage the whole experience. I learned information from doctors that I didn’t share with her because I judged it wouldn’t be useful. I called family and decided what to share with them. I was instrumental in making decisions that potentially changed the course of labor, and it’s really hard not to play the Monday-morning quarterback.
When I gave birth to Leigh a few years ago, I had a lot of clarity afterward. I knew that the birth went exactly how it needed to go, even though it was different than what we had planned. I had some regrets about not getting to birth Leigh at home, but mostly I felt the experience was wonderful and fundamentally right, both the parts at home and the parts at the hospital. Lyn had more doubts, and it took longer for her to come to terms with the birth.
I’m now in Lyn’s position. I keep thinking about moments during the birth when I might have made a different decision and wondering if I was “right.” In particular, I worry that I should have encouraged Lyn to have an epidural during the evening of the 27th. She was really struggling and I’m afraid that my decision about what to tell her and how to support her might have been based too much on my own experiences and not enough on what was happening with Lyn. For her part, Lyn says that everything happened just as it should have. She seems to see the birth as a series of events that went just right, including the bumps in the road. This is harder for me to do, just as it was harder for Lyn after my labor with Leigh.
Birth is a transformative experience for everyone involved. But I have learned over the course of two births that you don’t get to pick the kind of transformation you have. Instead you have to be fully present and deal with each new twist in the road as it comes. It’s great to plan ahead and imagine how you might deal with different alternatives, but things will most likely happen that you are completely unprepared for. That’s the part that actually transforms you.
[By the way, all four of us are doing well. Lyn is recovering slowly but surely. I'm enjoying taking care of the family. Leigh loves nothing more than to kiss her baby brother and help with diaper changes. Our beautiful new baby boy is growing both in his body and in our hearts.]