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Delivering Three Daughters - Unforgettable!
Health and Long Life SERIES
Literally, the chord was tough. Maybe my scissors were dull. But let me tell you the afterbirth is something else!"
I shared that story with two friends at a bar. New Dads can go through terror.
We men build confidence as we pack on relatable experiences and go from one step to the next in our male worlds of fun and challenge. Hunting, running, leaping, telling jokes, telling lies, doing the male thing. Pushing each other around, learning to tackle, playing sand lot football, kicking the soccer ball for hours, being taught dirty words and practicing their vocalization. On and on it goes - the world of maleness is littered with glory in the mind, busted bloody lips and pretending you are a whole lot tougher than you really are.
It is a whole set of experiences that begin early and in most cases carry men far into their cultural world(s). But you know what? There is nothing you have done in the past, your natural boyhood past that is going to prepare you for childbirth.
What You Do Have Going For You -
What you do have going for you is your willingness and desire to be a help. But everything else must be viewed with a CAUTION. Don't say to yourself that you are a "Womans's Man" and that will prepare you for childbirth -- I mean, a natural childbirth, in which you are delivering and being a coach. A woman in labor is not a regular woman, so do not bring any assumptions to the table that you are not ready to abandon. First of all, if it is her first labor, she does not know exactly how she is going to be. Of course she has ages of instinctive reactions and the natural wisdom of the female animal to help her. YOU HAVE NOTHING BUT HOPEFUL HELPFULNESS GOING FOR YOU. And being too eager will be one of your first mistakes. For most men, this is not a problem. As a willing neophyte loving husband, be confident that your wife is most happy that you want to be a help. It is indeed a wonderful thing to observe and be involved in. But it comes with cautions and advisories. Let's get some perspective.
Being Pushed Out of the Hut -
There was odd comfort in the way things used to be. The male is pushed out of the hut by a group of village wives and old Mamas. The man, all nerves, is happy to be shown the campfire so he can drink grog with the boys. Movie scenes for decades display a slammed door, a huffy nurse, a steaming pot of hot water and the husband being pushed stage left. THAT SCENE IS AS OLD AS MOVIES THEMSELVES.
BUT. Somebody got the idea that Natural Childbirth and a well trained Coaching Husband/Father were a good thing. (I won't go into that History in this blog). Well, I present my self as a prime example. I delivered all 3 of my daughters via the Husband coached method with Midwives, Naturopaths and Doctors in the background.
Being Invited Back Into the Hut -
Not wishing to be dismissive about the very subject I am reverently addressing, I will say that the movement toward the involvement of the Husband in the childbirth delivery process is a wonderul societal and social development and I eagerly embraced is as a young father. So, having come from a Yankee, on the edge of the frontier, kind of people (both paternal and maternal families go back to the 1600's in New England and Prince Edward Island), something inside me determined that I should do this. Now in looking back I do not really know if there was one reason why I had the boldness and commitment to do it, other than no one advised me against it. The church I was in commended husbands who did it, but it was a "window dressing" kind of recommendation. Most husbands "left the hut". So the following history amazes me still.
The History -
Delivery #1 - Summer 1972 in Pasadena, Texas, it was a hot muggy July day. We lived in a one bedroom apartment and young Dad thought this was a good idea. I was 23 years old. A Naturopath from Germany (80 year old Dr. Bruner) oversaw the delivery. Long labor.
Delivery #2 - Spring 1975, Adamsburg, Pennsylvania (near Greensburg) outside of Pittsburgh, at 2:00 AM delivered my second daughter Natalie in high speed labor. This was in a fellow minister's home, presided over by an experienced mid-wife.
Delivery #3 - Fall 1981, Denver, Colorado, the Birthing Room of St. Joseph's hospital. Now veteran hubby delivers third daughter. She would not breathe, so we actually did slap her on the bottom. It worked. She got irritated and started breathing. Whole medical team overseeing.
Labor - Surreal Awe -
My first labor experience was by far the most surreal. My awe was because of the utterly incomparable things that were happening. The first time at this is a combination of strange physical exertion, muted emotional tension, outright fear and electrical anticipatioin.
The breathing coaching is fun when you are helping her to "back off" and not let herself push too hard. It feels good to send the suggestions her way and it feels like its having a helpful effect. You have been told that the "backing off" from laborious effort is very important for the success of the delivery. And so you so you are content that you are doing what you should be doing.
Bug then, when she pushes, I mean pushes like you have never personally pushed in your life, with a MIGHT that seems powered by a nuclear core. The muscles on her shoulders stand up like cords of steel. Veins pop out everywhere and her eyes are flushed with pressure. You stop yourself and blankly look at a magnificent physical effort. And then the effort subsides and quietness and slow breathing ensue. If the labor goes long, she drops from Herculean pushing to quiet deathlike mortification. Your coaching sometimes seems like a poor cheering effort in a contest that you are only observing. Your invovement almost seems eerily detached. After a bit your coaching can seem unnecessary and superfluous. Still though, you know you are being appreciated, you know its all good.
UNTIL. Until she looks at you with a demonic eye and tells you to shut up --- or screams a name at you and pushes out this sentence: "You did this to me ------- @#$#@ you!" My first experience in Texas was highlghted by a strangely fearful image. I was viewing the cresting head. Of course the muscular pressure was pushing in on the cranium. It was covered with the "white stuff" - nature's waterproofing - VERNIX and her downy hair. The skin of the skull was pushed together in a wrinkly brain-like looking mass. I held my breath. To my mind it looked like only brains were going to be delivered. I looked at the doctor. He looked completely content. Nothing seemed wrong to him --- so I kept on smiling. But for two minutes my head felt like it was going to explode. Then the head was delivered. I held my daughter in my hands. There was her wrinkled crown and there she was. I exhaled and smiled and stayed with my duties.
Cutting the Cord - You have heard that phrase all your life, but young Daddy, get ready. The Umbilicus seems like it is made of high tech rubber. It is not a "cord", like yarn you might scissors through. This stuff is downright stiff and hard. The word I think of is CABLE. And when you go to cut the cord, it feels like you are cutting cable. Tending to the afterbirth will be shown to you, but get ready for a physical experience along with all of the attendant emotional one. Any experience you have had hunting may actually benefit you here. If your wife had to undergo an episiotomy, you will want to make sure she is attended to by the doctors as soon as possible. In my third daughter's delivery a very upset female Doctor came into the post delivery situation and noticed that my wife had not yet been sewn up. She excoriated the Intern for his neglect. I pass this along for those who this might affect.
Labor and successful delivery can vary from a couple hours to 4 to 6 hours to 10 hours or painfully longer. With C-Sections becoming more common and powerful drugs becoming more commonplace, the world of child bearing is changing as the years progress. The extreme outlier cases do not tend to be there. But the husband-coached delivery is now quite common. In fact, things have changed so much that even more than one eager husband is often there.
Recent Multiple Coached Delivery - Recently one of my grandchildren was born into an "It Takes A Village" kind of delivery. These days deliveries can be loving group family experiences. 30 and 40 years ago, things were different. I don't think of myself as a pioneer, but i was among a group of pioneers. The medical community has changed much over these decades. Note that my third daughter was delivered in a BIRTHING ROOM. This was new in the early 80;s. Seeing all these changes ove the decades is refreshing and inspiring. New souls enter into the world in a joyful, happy, clean and accepting world. At the core of this experience is the new happy Daddy, who is now an integral part of the birthing process. Here's to Dads who were invited back into the hut. Most of all here's to those wonderful heroic Mothers, who in the midst of labor look physically for moments like the robust powerful determined creatures that they really are.
Delivering the Homo Sapien's Head - A commentator on a program on the nature of homo sapiens said that if the human baby's head were any larger, and women hips had to accommodate that larger head, the woman could not walk, and thus the race could not survive. In other words, the large brain that women deliver is as large as it can possibly be. And still the human child has to go through an extended developmental period so that the brain can absorb, develop, learn and progress through all of its developmental phases before it reaches adulthood.
As I have participated in my small way in three real deliveries, I saw in real life what it takes to deliver the human head and get individuals into VIABILITY. What women do in the act of delivery with their already elegantly designed HIPS is a true testimony to the magnificence of creation and its FORM FOLLOWING FUNCTION ACTIVITY.
Young Dads - fully participate in the delivery and join in a partnership with your Wife. Its as close as you can get to the Human Magic of Birth.
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