Birth is not a linear process. It is dynamic and cannot easily be mapped out to follow a specific timeline or trajectory. Below, Taylor’s husband Zach gives a glimpse of his experience with the labor of their second child and the ways in which he and Taylor were made to believe that their son’s labor and birth could be predicted or mapped out.
Disclaimer: Expressed is Zach’s personal experience. We understand and expect that many women and families have different wishes for their own experiences of labor and birth, and we respect and support that. This is reflective of what he and Taylor wanted at the time and what happened. Enjoy.
*Also, the title is a pun.
The birth of my son, J, was one of the most incredible experiences I will ever have the pleasure to be a part of. It was also one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing events imaginable. It’s safe to say I have some mixed feelings on the subject. My wife has explained to me over the course of our relationship that her pregnancies aren’t “typical.” In both pregnancies, her water broke BEFORE her contractions started, which according to the movies is totally normal, but according to medical professionals, this is far from accurate. With our first child, she was in labor for over 36 hours before he finally entered the world.
However, with our youngest, it didn’t feel like we were given the option to be patient and wait for my wife’s body to give birth vaginally. When we first arrived at the hospital, it was very clear that we were having this baby and we were going to have him SOON. The doctors and nurses were certain he was coming within the next couple of hours. An hour turned to two and then three, and before we knew it, it was early afternoon and our early morning baby delivery was way behind “schedule.” My wife, to her immense credit, was so strong throughout the entire process. I can only hope our boys get their toughness from her.
Back in the hospital room, it was explained to us that the size of our baby’s head was too large and the pressure he was putting on her cervix was causing it to swell. The swelling was not allowing the baby to make the necessary journey down the vaginal canal and out into the world. We hoped with great optimism each time my wife was checked for dilation that she would be at a 10 (or whatever the correct number is) and that the baby was on his way. Each time, we were met with disappointment and told that she was not properly dilated and no progress had been made. As any good husband would do, I continued to reassure my wife and tell her what a great job she was doing while simultaneously masking my concern and fear that things weren’t going to plan.
The one thing I knew for certain was that my wife DID NOT want a C-Section. If the baby could come out healthy without one that is what we wanted to do.
Spoiler alert, she got a c-section.
The doctor eventually came in and informed us that a c-section was necessary in order to move the process along and was the best course of action for both mom and baby. This was taken as gospel because:
1) This is the doctor’s opinion - who am I to question it?
2) What in the hell do I know what the best move is for both my wife and baby? What if we’re wrong? What if we wait and something terrible happens?
The doctor told us that that was what we needed to do, so we did it. They prepped her for the surgery and forced me to wait outside while my ENTIRE LIFE was in the other room. I watched as the doctor scrubbed in and couldn’t help but feel that he had no understanding of the magnitude of what was occurring, this was just another Tuesday for him. The data and past experience told him “perform a C-section”. What if he was wrong? Our lack of knowledge made us feel like we couldn’t have any opinion on the subject. To have to trust the process and go ahead with something we explicitly didn’t want was hard to swallow. Feeling like I could do nothing but stand there because I didn’t know enough to offer a counter suggestion to help give my wife the one thing I knew she wanted - a natural birth - was totally leveling.
Once she was prepped for surgery, they allowed me into the operating room. I was able to hold my wife’s hand and tell her how strong she was and how much I loved her as our baby boy was “delivered.” I don’t think anything in life will be as terrifying as those moments while we were in the operating room. The birth of your child is supposed to be this magical, Earth-shattering moment but no one ever tells you about the version where there are a dozen doctors in the room with you discussing their plans for the weekend while cutting open your wife behind a curtain.
From my limited knowledge of babies, I knew that crying was a good sign. I needed to hear the baby cry. Before this could happen, the doctors brought me “behind the scenes” to get a look first hand at the operation. If I ever needed confirmation that I could never be a doctor, that peek behind the curtain was it. My wife was cut OPEN, and everything was on display. In my naïveté, I walked too far past the curtain when invited to watch as baby came out and I got the business end of the surgery, which I wasn’t supposed to do. The doctors quickly realized I had seen too much and ushered me back behind the curtain to my chair next to my wife, but it is an image I will never be able to shed. From there, it all happened so fast. I waited with nervous energy, gripping my wife’s hand tightly and waiting on that first cry from baby.
It was a life changing moment. One that I wish we were better prepared for regarding our options, and one that left us wondering if anything could have been done differently to avoid a C-section. In the end I’m thankful to the doctors and wonderful nurses who took care of my wife and son as if they were their own and that they are both healthy. Going forward, we have made a concerted effort to learn more about the birthing process to the point that my wife became a birth and postpartum doula. She is helping families understand their options and what it means for baby and mom when they are presented with alternatives throughout the childbearing year. Her hope is that they feel more in-control during one of biggest moments of their lives. I'm proud of her.