Recently, Toni Hammer did a satirical? sexist? stereotypical? take of a dad’s birth story for Scary Mommy, where she lamented that dads don’t “really get to talk about their birth experiences.”
Toni may not think that dads share their birth experiences, but we do. There’s a huge roster of dad bloggers who write about lots of different things; from what it’s like being the primary caregiver, to potty training tips, and yes, even birth stories.
So, Toni and the other Scary Mommies, here’s the birth story of when I became a dad, along with quotes from more fathers who have shared their stories. Yes, we are supporting actors in the scene, but it happens to us too.
“Watching From the Sidelines, Waiting My Turn”
When my first son was born in May 2007, I was merely scenery. A simple part of the chorus on stage where the spotlight was on my wife or, more accurately, her vagina. This was her monologue, not mine.
For most of the first 10 hours at the hospital that first day, I sat in one of the awkward vinyl chairs with a laptop in front of me and headphones on writing some music. Every now and again I would get ice, take my wife for a walk around the ward, or chat with a nurse, but most of the time I was just in my corner of the room working while she rested. And waited.
My wife, on the other hand, lay in bed. May 30 was our son’s due date and while we were on time, he wasn’t. She was given inducement drugs, but nothing happened.
“Every few hours a nurse would come in and check how Stevie was progressing. We’d wait eagerly to hear the dilation number, and sink back into our chairs when it wasn’t as high as we expected. The nurse would cheerfully tell us that she’d be back to check in another couple hours, leave the room, and the cycle would begin again with the synthetic tick of Duchess’s heart-beep carrying us slowly through the darkness.” – AskYourDadBlog.com
I can remember her doctor sitting there with her head in her hands, elbows propped into my wife’s stirrups, bright light beaming from over her shoulder while she stared at my wife’s vagina. Nothing was happening. Nothing was going to happen in the next little bit, so she got up and left.
A few minutes later we were sent home and told to try again on May 31.
The next day we came back to do the whole routine again. My wife got more inducement drugs and was given the choice of an epidural. It was still early in the game, but we were told it would be efficient since the specialist providing the shot was on our floor and could see us immediately. So my wife took it.
Soon after, the contractions hit and the pushing started. I held her hand, stood by her shoulder and grunted and groaned, and smiled and did all I could to will our son to come. It wasn’t working.
I was a spectator. I was a cheerleader. I was helpless.
“I grabbed Abbie’s hand and repeated a conversation that went something like this: ‘Are you ok? Do you feel anything? Is everything ok? I love you. Can you believe we’re about to have a baby? Wow. This is crazy. I love you.'” – NoahsDad.com
As the hours dragged on, progress on the birth stalled. I can’t remember exactly what the doctors were talking about, but my son wasn’t totally in the right position.
They determined my son would need a vacuum to be born. They asked to do an episiotomy, something that was never part of our birth plan. I used to think birth plans were pointless. You can sketch out exactly how you want this magical birth to happen, except it never goes as planned. There’s always a fly in the ointment. if you’re writing a birth plan, plan for when things go wrong, don’t just think about how things will always go right. Because they won’t.
“It wasn’t how we planned it. There were many failures along the way. But when you have that baby in your arms, it really doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Except that perfect baby and his perfect spit-up, all over your clothes.” – HowToBeADad.com
We never expected it would take nearly 48 hours to give birth. We never expected the epidural my wife was given would cause her to exhaust herself from pushing while numb, we never thought the anesthetic would wear off just before my son was born, we never expected that denying an episiotomy would mean she would still need stitches because inserting a vacuum to remove a baby is no easy task. Still, with all those curveballs, my son was born.
And time stood still. It was a second, maybe two, maybe three. It might as well have been hours.
The time between seeing the baby comes into the world and actually hearing their voice takes forever. The doctors scurry the baby from the womb to the inspection table and then, after what feels like an eternal wait, it finally comes: the scream of your child as it announces its own arrival to the world. It crushed me.
During those two days in the hospital with my wife, I was as relaxed as any rookie dad could be. I was the doting agent to my wife’s needs, I sat quietly writing music. I stood stoicall at her shoulder, I cheered her on. And then, the moment hits you.
I’m a dad.
I crumbled. Nine months of anticipation was realized and my knees buckled. I fell. The weight of the world was off my shoulders and dropped back on it instantly.
I curled against the wall below the window as the afternoon became evening, and I sobbed uncontrollably. It was over. It was just beginning. I was relieved. I was elated.
And that’s where my memory of the day ends. My son may have been born, but my wife had just been through what I can only describe as a Tarantino movie. Blood was everywhere, there had been much violence, and swearing, and now the mess had to be cleaned up.
That’s the part they don’t tell you about, as you get ready to give birth. All the prep seems to end at the moment of birth, but that was just the beginning of our trouble.
The next night, my wife passed a blood clot when she went to the bathroom. She almost died. It wasn’t anything we realized then. Our heads were spinning at trying to get our son to feed, sleep, latch, bathe, etc. It was my mother, a retired nurse, who noticed my wife’s colour had paled and her mood wasn’t where it should be. She advocated my wife get a blood transfusion, one that likely saved her life. And we had no idea.
I look back on that day thankful. We weren’t planning to get pregnant, it just happened for us. We had a birth plan, that went nothing as planned. I got lucky to end the day with both a wife, and a son.
It wasn’t because of anything I did, it wasn’t because of anything I said. I may have been just “there,” with front row seats as my wife and son starred in our family’s birth story, but it still happened to me too. I will never forget that moment of hearing my son’s cry and how it made me feel.
“It hit me when they handed me Wesley after he had been weighed that I had entered the Dad club. It was real. It had finally happened. That thought was also immediately followed up by “Don’t drop him, don’t drop him, don’t drop him.” That’s why you hold him with both arms, in case one fails. Just FYI.” – DaddysGrounded.com
Maybe this is why I didn’t find the humor in Hammer’s satire. I was disappointed she chose to tell a story based on stereotypes that paint dads as lazy doofuses. We’re not. We’re engaged, we love our kids, and while we may just be passive pieces of what happens in the birthing room, we’re important players in the story that happens next.
Parenting is a team sport, and while mom is the star for that opening performance, we’re co-stars every day forward.