Lamaze classes, prenatal classes, breathing classes, changing-a-diaper classes…none of it prepared me for being in the room.
My wife was a rock star. A genuine, bone-a-fee-day rock star in the room, all three times. I think the only time she made any degree of fuss was when she hollered ‘GET HIM OUT OF ME!’ as boyo number three sprinted his way into the world, but she earned it.
I went in there with a bad attitude. Not towards getting down and dirty with the whole process, or with whatever was needed of me. Whatever she needed, I was going to get that thing done.
‘Rub my back!’
‘Stop rubbing my back!’
You got it.
‘I didn’t say stop rubbing my back!’
I don’t know what came over me.
My bad attitude was aimed at the health care providers. Nurses, aides, interns…they all had it in for me. Or so I thought.
I was a MAN in a world where men dared not tread.
Imagine, if you will, my shock and awe when I was told I could wait down in the lobby. There was coffee and muffins, if I so desired, and a delightful assortment of newspapers I could peruse while my wife squeezed a human being out of her non-human-being-sized bits and pieces while surrounded by strangers.
‘No, he’s staying.’
Yup. I love this girl.
This time, we both pleaded my case.
‘Some men get queasy.’
I didn’t think I would get queasy, but if I vomited in a room filled with placenta and meconium, my man-puke was hardly going to be noticed in that melange. I said I would be fine, but I was struck by how far we’ve come in some areas, but how very close to home we’ve remained in others. Dudes can’t handle the realities of the birthing room?
Some dudes, maybe. Not me.
We stuck to our birth plan. I never said ‘we’ were pregnant, but it was ‘our’ birth plan, as in we came up with it together. She and the wee one were always number 1 and 1A in the plan, and I was just the administrative support. I did as I was told by all parties, and if someone told me to ‘just stand over there for a minute and stop counting so loud’ I did so. I even bloody leaned on my wife’s IV at one point, and was promptly reminded that we don’t lean on things sticking out of people.
At the end, we got a kid. I stayed in the room, remained quease-free, and fell even more in love with my glorious wife.
What did I learn about being in the room? I don’t know. I was making it up as I went. What can I pass on to those who have a trip to the room looming on the horizon?
1. If you want to be in the room, talk it through with your partner. Chances are, she’ll want you in there. This isn’t fifty years ago. A lot of dudes are in the rooms now, and if you’re faced with weirdness, stick to your guns. You’re allowed to be in there, too.
2. Put the phone away. Snap a couple of shots of what’s going on, but then BE IN THE ROOM. A presence. Not some black rectangle hovering over the entire situation. Your partner isn’t going to want to sift through a few hundred pictures of her squeezing out a kid, desperate to find one that isn’t all nipples.
3. Be there for her. That’s it. The kid’s covered. She needs the support. That’s you, man.