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In our hypnobirthing class we did an exercise called “fear release.” In this technique, you imagine yourself in a safe space, visualize your fears around birth, and then destroy or dispose of those fears. For instance, you might imagine a book containing pictures of the things that worry you. You tear those pages out of a book and burn them. You then replace the frightening images with peaceful images of a birth going just the way you want.

I honestly don’t have many fears around the birth. Leigh’s birth was long and much more difficult than we expected, and we survived just fine. As a bonus, this time my vagina and uterus won’t be involved at all, so I’ll probably be able to walk afterward.

I went into the fear release hypnosis pretty confident. I imagined scary scenes, most of which just had to do with my confidence as a person, not specifically around birth. I burned all the fears up and felt free. Then the hypnobirthing instructor told us to imagine ourselves  in the moments after birth, having had exactly the birth experience we desired. I got stuck. I was supposed to imagine myself as happy and fulfilled as I could be, but I suddenly felt sad.

In the picture in my head, I wasn’t holding my baby. In the moments just after birth, Lyn gets to hold the baby first and put it to breast. I will be right there touching those little fingers and toes and glowing with pride, but I will still be just a supporting player.

So there I was, imagining one of the greatest moments of my life and I wasn’t really part of the action. I started to wilt, worrying that the baby wasn’t going to love me or that I wasn’t going to love the baby. Suddenly, I was facing my real fears and they were right in the stinking middle of my beautiful birth fantasy. I realized that I will miss being being  the center of the birth experience this time, and I do have some grief around my baby starting his or her life deeply connected to someone else, not to me.

So I did the only sensible thing with my beautiful birth picture — I moved the baby into my arms. Yes, in reality I’ll have to wait for just a few minutes longer than Lyn to hold my delicious baby. But it’s my fantasy, dammit. In my fantasy Lyn and the new baby have an amazing labor, peaceful and joyous. I catch the baby, place it on Lyn’s belly, and we both drink in this new person, bonding as a trio as the baby wriggles its way up to the breast. Then Lyn hands me the baby. We have our long-awaited moment to get to know each other, and my joy and wonder erase any sadness that we were separate for so long.