I didn’t really know what to expect when it came time to give birth. Much less so, did I know what to expect when it came time to give birth here in Japan. When it came to the role my husband would play in my birth experience, I knew even less. I knew I wanted him to be engaged and supportive, but that was about it. What I got was so much more.
Really, it all started before I even went into labor. It had been an arduous pregnancy plagued by Hyperemesis Gravidarum for all nine months, threatened pre-term labor at 33 weeks, and after it was all said and done, an induction. But he was there, holding me close through all of it. He cleaned up nine months of vomit. He was the sole “maid”, chef, and caretaker for forty-one weeks. One time, he got off a nine-hour flight from Hawaii and drove himself directly to the ER where yet more vomit (this time tinged with blood) was waiting. He had open and honest discussions with me about how it was time to let the doctors hospitalize me, about depression, and about how I struggled to feel attachment to the little life growing inside of me. His love was big enough for all of us for nine whole months. He covered us in it. When I was afraid of our baby coming too early, he was solid and comforting. When she wasn’t coming soon enough and I watched as my “perfect” labor floated away, he was kind and reassuring.
He sat through 32 hours of labor with me. Encouraged me when the Foley bulb failed. Kept me calm when I had been on Pitocin for four hours and hadn’t progressed. He was the one who remembered the different labor positions I had wanted to try, suggested I get into one, and ultimately got things going. He tirelessly rubbed my legs, shoulders, back, and scalp for eight hours. He was my constant source of calm for two straight days. When things finally started to pick up and my contractions were hard and heavy, he counted the breaths it took to get me through. They were regular, and so were my contractions. So he counted for me as I breathed, and I held onto those numbers. Thirteen and I’m done. Thirteen and I get a rest. The breaks in between weren’t long, but just knowing that all I had to do was stay grounded, breathe thirteen times through the most intense and tiring pain I’ve ever experienced, was enough. I wouldn’t have been able to count. I wasn’t able to focus on anything else but the present second. He was though, so he did.
The only other thing I was aware of during that transition phase of labor was when he started to cry. Amazingly, he didn’t let any of it come through in his voice as he counted for me, but I was fully aware of the sniffing sounds that only accompany tears. I wanted to comfort my husband, so I weakly reached for some part of him over the head of the propped-up hospital bed. I don’t think he noticed because I don’t think I actually managed to make contact, but regardless, his tears were comforting, though I can’t say why.
When my water finally broke and after a few more contractions had passed and it was finally time to push, he lifted my head for me. The Japanese midwives wanted me to look down as I pushed and I kept forgetting, so wordlessly, he was there. When they tried to put socks on me during my pushing and I didn’t want them, he spoke up with me and told them no (they put them on me anyways). When they wanted to give me an episiotomy too quickly, he spoke louder than me, and said no. When the baby stopped moving down. When I was straining and pushing to no avail. When the room grew quiet and concerned, he was supportive when I told them to cut me. He cried even more as they pulled her into the world.
Once she was born and they whisked her away across the room because she was purple-grey, quiet, and still. He stayed with me. Still sniffing. With nothing but love in his eyes as he stroked my hair.
Once she had recovered and they handed her to me, all wrapped up and silent, he watched in amazement. And when he held her, it was as if she was the most precious, most delicate thing on the planet. He instantly fell for her. He had been loving her since the day we knew she was with us, and now she was finally in his arms.
Watching my husband transform into a father that day is the most precious, sweetest memory I have. That’s why having him as my birth partner was nothing short of incredible.