A Husband’s and Eventual Father’s Discoveries Through a Healthy Pregnancy
My wife, Kate, and I were married about four years before we thought that we were ready to have children. We had discussions like all young married couples do about our state of “preparedness”, and before I knew it she was showing me a little stick with a positive sign on it… WE WERE PREGNANT!
Well now the fun began. I’ll be honest, I did not know what to do next. My theory was that people have been having babies for 1000’s of years, so really how difficult could it be? Fortunately for us (the baby included) my wife was a little more prepared than I was.
The first major decision was which OBGYN should we use (it seems that expectant parents use the term “we” a lot, but “she” seems to do most of the work); Kate had heard positive things about midwives, so we went to Meet the Midwives night at the local hospital. We were hooked after that. “Midwifery” means with woman (so a midwife does not necessarily have to be a woman, he/she just has to be sensitive to the needs of the women they treat). Midwives are personal, friendly, they all seem to love their jobs, and they are very knowledgeable about women and pregnancy. As a matter of fact, Kate uses the midwives to this day for all of her gynecological needs.
At the first appointment that we had gone to, healthy habits for the pregnancy were stressed. Mom has to take care of herself because the baby is going to selfishly take all available nutrients and leave mom with what’s leftover. This meant mom drinking a lot of water, increasing her caloric intake (healthy calories, not cookies, cakes, and ice cream), and taking vitamins (she took over-the-counter women’s multivitamins, not prescription prenatal vitamins). Kate carried a water bottle with her everywhere – she never left home without it. Even then at subsequent appointments the midwife would tell her that she should be drinking more! I found myself cutting up vegetables (carrot sticks, red peppers, and green peppers were her favorites) for Kate to bring to work as snacks and she always made a homemade lunch to bring into work. During the pregnancy weight gain is a good thing; after all, there is a second person growing inside of mommy who needs to grow big and strong from just a two celled zygote.
At later visits to the midwives we were able to hear the new baby’s heartbeat! That was very exciting, but I also discovered something new. The placenta (the sack that surrounds, protects, and nourishes the baby) makes a sound too that is separate and distinct from the baby’s heartbeat. At these later visits we could see Kate’s growth by her weight gain (and she would always try to dress lightly so that her weight was as low as possible) and by the measurement of her fundus (from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus – the measurement gets bigger as the baby grows). We also discussed various blood tests and genetic screenings. We denied most of the optional tests because nothing they said would prevent us from wanting this baby. The only “optional” test that we had agreed to was an HIV test for Kate; if she did not get tested, then the baby would be tested after the birth and we did not want to subject our child to that – the day is going to be traumatic enough as is!
Up to this point everything was still very abstract to me. I knew that Kate was pregnant and at some point in the future I would be someone’s Daddy, but it was really hard for me to feel it. But then came the ultrasound! For those of you who don’t know, the ultrasound is probably the coolest thing about the pregnancy. They brought us into a small room with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery, turned out the lights, put some jelly on Kate’s belly, waved a magic want over it, and up on a television screen popped a picture of my little baby! We could see the little heart beating and arms and legs and a head and face… It was amazing. I sat there in the dark and cried.
This seems to be a good time to mention the sex of the baby. You’ll notice that I keep referring to it as “the baby” because at this point in time we do not know whether we are having a boy or a girl and that is the way that we had wanted it. It is one of those truly great surprises that you can get in life. And no matter what it was, we would eventually find out. We discovered that this bothered a lot of people – those who wanted to buy gifts, those whose curiousity was driving them crazy, those who wanted to know what name we were going with… Kate and I agreed that we would not find out (and we were sure to tell the ultrasound technician because she may have been able to tell at this point) which kept dialogue and debate going over which half was right… is it a boy or a girl? We painted the nursery a neutral green, picked out gender neutral clothes and patterns, had a (fabulous) girl’s name picked out and a (toss up) boy’s name, but neither of us ever regret our decision of not finding out.
Let’s recap, now we’ve gotten pregnant, decided to go with the midwives, Kate started eating healthier and drinking water like a fish, we’ve heard and seen our baby, but a healthy pregnancy also includes childbirth. That is where Lamaze came in. I kind of dragged my feet with the Lamaze classes (once again, people have been doing this for centuries, how hard can it be?), but eventually gave in. I will now be the first to admit that going to the Lamaze classes was one of the best things we could have done during the pregnancy. At the classes we learned what to expect during the labor, when to call the midwife, what to do to promote the birthing process, and reduce the pain of the labor. And yes we learned the breathing techniques. Kate felt a little silly doing the HEHEHE’s in class, but she learned them all. The classes truly removed much of the anxiety that would have been there later on during the labor and delivery. Lamaze was a great way to ask stupid questions in a relaxed atmosphere and talk to other couples going through the same problems and finding out that we were not the only ones with those problems.
After nine months of pregnancy, I had discovered a lot, but now I had to put it all to the test. We were now ready for the climatic finale. June 26, 2004 had arrived (just arrived) and Kate was waking me up to time contractions. We had a scheduled induction at 8:00 in the morning so I thought she was just being neurotic, but to humor her I got my watch and started timing. Well it did not take long to realize that the contractions were lasting about one minute and coming every five minutes just like clockwork! Time to call the midwife.
I called the emergency service and informed the midwife that my wife is going to have a baby, but she had already known that. She asked to speak to Kate, and speak to her specifically through a contraction. She told Kate to wait until the contractions are about 2 to 3 minutes apart and call back. So we showered, got dressed, packed up the car, and started to watch Mad About You reruns. It definitely was not the crazed scene you see on TV or at the movies – no one boiled any water, we did not get any towels, no one fainted, I did not forget Kate at the doorstep and drive away…
Once we arrived at the hospital we were shown to the birthing room and got “comfortable”. The nursing staff attached monitors to Kate’s belly and told her to try to relax. One thing that they did not do was hook up an i.v. to her – another benefit of a midwife versus a traditional medical doctor. Now is where the Lamaze training came in handy. We knew what to expect, what the monitors were for, and what to do. Kate tried to stay on her feet and not on her back to help with the pain, she successfully used the breathing techniques to get through the painful contractions, I rubbed her back, she took a shower… We had agreed before hand that we would not request pain medication at first and that when she did request it we would hold off for 10 minutes to see if she had still wanted it. At the point when I requested the medication for her because she was in excruciating pain, the midwife said lets wait and have a look… 9cm dilated and fully effaced – no time for medication now the baby was coming.
The midwife allowed Kate to be in any position she had wanted to push in and then she started pushing. Now I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that my wife was in at this point, but let me give the guys out there a word of advice about pain. You will feel bad for you wife and want to hold her hand, but DO NOT let her grab the fingers surrounding your wedding ring because that small little woman can put on a death grip while that baby is coming on out!
Eventually the baby did come on out and visited us. Now – at 1:19PM, 9 months after we knew of this new life form – for the first time, we knew what sex the baby was… we had the most beautiful, perfect baby girl that I have ever seen. The midwife took the baby, goop and all (and there is goop), and placed her right on my wife’s chest – yet another benefit of the midwifery practice! As the proud papa I was allow to cut the umbilical cord (which was a lot like plastic tubing and much more difficult to cut than I had imagined) after I asked and made sure that it would not hurt my little daughter.
Before we had left the birthing room I had told my wife, and this still holds true, that I have never been more proud of her as I was at that moment. She had done everything perfectly through her pregnancy to bring about this absolutely healthy and fragile little person. And in a nutshell, that is what this proud husband and eventual father discovered about a healthy pregnancy.