It’s been 9 days since our son was born. Things are finally starting to settle down slightly, a bit of a rhythm is taking shape. He’s currently sleeping in the swing next to me so I thought I’d use the opportunity to write something about the birth experience.
Becoming a father is truly incredible. There’s nothing you will ever read or hear that comes even close to conveying the feeling. I described it to one friend as similar to having sex for the first time or eating great sushi; before it happens you think you understand what the experience will be, but in actuality it’s so singular that you can’t fully grasp it without having 1st hand knowledge.
But for all that’s wonderful there is an immense amount about labor (and the first few days) that is overwhelming and can really break you down. Despite all the beautiful depictions of natural chid birth I’d read and found calming, labor was totally terrifying for me to watch. It wasn’t a part of the experience I thought would be particularly difficult for me, I’d had visions of it being this very slow gradual build up culminating with the intense arrival moment of our son but that wasn’t what we got. Which is something you hear for 9 months frequently; you’ll make a ton of plans and then it will all sort of go to shit because you can’t completely anticipate what will transpire.
My wife’s labor ended up being a very short one, which is good in the logical sense that she spent less hours in pain, but it also means she spent very little time ramping up in terms of the level of pain. She basically went from 0-100 in 30 minutes which was very very intense and difficult to watch, not to mention totally overwhelming for the both of us (note: I don’t intend to make it sound like my discomfort was on the same level as my wife’s. I have little doubts about her having it worse than I). Typical labor might last anywhere from 12 to 36 hours. Ours took about 4 hours start to finish.
We had also planned on having a ‘natural’ birth with no pain drugs. But again, you make plans and then they change, which in this case I feel we made the absolute right decision to get a last minute epidural, which was something we had been dead set against for months. It’s so easy to swear off modern medicine or convenience when you’re not faced with needing it but it can be a massive help to reserve some flexibility for crucial moments. Had either of us been more rigid about not wanting drugs, we easily could have found ourselves in a even more difficult situation.
Labor started at around 8pm and by 1:30am Arthur was lying on his Mom’s chest having his first external meal. One of the most surreal experiences of birth is the near split second transition from terror and pain to elation and calm. It’s as if in an instant the entire room spins around like the stage at the Hollywood Bowl and all is well. Shortly after we were moved to another hospital room to spend 36 hours recovering and learning some basic baby care skills before heading home to start our journey.
There isn’t much of an end point to this story (it’s weird trying to wrap it up actually since it’s a story about a beginning) so I’m going to stop it here otherwise it could turn into 20,000 words of baby babble. The last week has been one of the highest points of my life (all the cliches about the personal transformation you experience are mostly true) and despite being what seems like an insurmountable challenge at times, I would do it over again without hesitation. The addition of our son has made me feel whole in a way that nothing else ever has and I doubt anything ever will.