Before 36 weeks I waited with anticipation for Cameron to go into labor with almost an element of magic to it. Somehow I just secretly hoped it was going to be the perfect labor; short and wonderful. It was only after we thought Cam’s water had possibly broken twice that I began to almost not anticipate it anymore. I wasn’t as nervous about being a dad as I was about just waiting for labor to actually come. Based on the fact that we had both agreed that we wanted to do everything natural, I knew that it would be difficult. We began early preparing for how things would go so that we would have the best chance of succeeding. Logically I knew that labor wasn’t going to be all that pleasant but you always have that thought in the back of your mind that tells you that your wife will be the 1 in a million that has no pain from it and lasts 30 min from beginning to end. It’s funny to listen to people talk about their labor experience or about how they feel about what yours will be like. Sometimes when Cam would tell people how she wanted things they would often giggle or flat out say “good luck.” I don’t think they really understand how Cameron is when she decides to do something.
I woke up at 9 am on New Year’s Day to the realization that Cameron was in labor. I didn’t freak out or anything. I mean I had spent the last several months in Centering class, watching dozens of deliveries, learning coaching techniques and reading everything that I could. The first several hours were exactly as I imagined it. I made us food, cleaned the house, gave Cam a massage and even played a video game or 2 while she labored at home. The entire time no overwhelming feelings ever came over me. I thought that I would begin to feel really scared about what was happening but I really didn’t. It wasn’t until about 5 pm when the contractions were about 2.5 minutes apart that I began to get uncomfortable not being at a hospital. When we left the house all the ridiculous TV moments flashed through my head. You know the ones where the women are screaming and the guys are tripping all over everything followed by all sorts of hilarious moments and a NASCAR like drive to the hospital. Yeah, ours wasn’t like that at all.
This was the point where I started to notice that the contractions were getting more intense. Something inside of me wanted to start cracking jokes but the smarter part of my brain told me that it wasn’t a good idea. Once we arrived at the hospital we stepped onto the elevator with a group of people who stared at Cameron and were obviously very uncomfortable with her being in labor. If I had it to do over again I would have had Cam let out a yell just to see what they would do. Soon after check-in we were settled a bit in the room and Cameron’s best friend Diana joined us. I turned on the TV and AFV was on. Is there ever a moment in time where that show isn’t playing on some channel??!! We met our nurse and she gave us the update of 4-5 cm. Through the next 10 hours things were pretty much the same. We went from the birthing ball when she was being monitored for 20 minutes to the labor tub when she wasn’t. There was a short time period when the progression was slowing (had been about 1 cm per 1.5-2 hours). This was the point that we started taking walks. Advice for guys getting ready to coach a labor: do a decent amount of back/ab/core workouts in the weeks before labor. Holding 80% of someone’s weight as they have a contraction is pretty easy a few times but after many hours, it can become really exhausting. When you haven’t been through a labor experience before, I really don’t think that anything can really prepare you. It isn’t that there is anything surprising about it. I mean pretty much it’s just pain, waiting, yelling, grunting, nerves and repetition. The major factor I wasn’t prepared for was the length. After 16-17 hours I began to wonder how much longer we could both stay in a decent mood and not be completely exhausted. I tried to be as positive as possible. Up to this point Cameron had been nothing but a rock, taking every contraction in stride without any complaining or harsh words. It was also then that I realized that I was going to start the beginning of my little girl’s life with a huge sleep deficit. It’s funny to me that until I had a child, I never really had multiple nights with little sleep (something made very apparent in the weeks to come). Still, labor isn’t something you can really stop. Nature just says here comes your baby and you just say ok. During the transitions in and out of the tub Cam would always have a contraction because she would stand up. When this would happen she would also get a chill from just getting out of the water. After hours of doing this I began to just want it to all be over with, not because of my situation but because I could tell Cam was becoming really drained.
Around 3:30 am our nurse midwife arrived to my relief. She hadn’t arrived before then because it wasn’t necessary, Cam was doing fine on her own. Besides being a great medical professional she is also a joy to be around. If anyone is planning on going natural, I can’t stress enough how important your choices of people in the room with you is. Choose someone who doesn’t think you can actually do it or someone who annoys you to death and you already put yourself at a disadvantage. Back to the labor, Cam was dilated to almost 8 cm so we decided to allow breaking her water. Then, everything kind of seems like a blur. Progression really picked up and the contractions got really intense. I only found comfort in seeing Cameron’s normal personality show on her face occasionally and the fact that I knew she was moving towards the end. Contractions started being punctuated at the end with a little pushing. This led to well, more pushing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a woman and deliver a baby. All I can say is that the whole process is amazing both in what happens and the amount of pain that is endured. Realize that the entire labor, Cameron had no epidural, no iv, and no food for 21 hours. As we closed in on the real pushing Melissa (the midwife) had Cam move to the bed. (On a side note here, I have no idea how women labor on their back in a bed. It’s absolutely the worst place physically to do it.) When Cam would push she would grunt a little but she wasn’t loud at all. Everyone talks about (plus every movie I have ever seen) the phase where the laboring woman goes crazy and yells at everyone in the room. You know the moments where she tells everyone she hates them or says “get this out of me” or something. I can say from experience that this doesn’t always happen as Cam never did anything like this. In fact as she started pushing more I wanted her to be louder to move things forward. With a little work we got her louder. Soon after that she finally got tired of covering herself and went straight birthday suit on me (which made things way better btw). When Cam hit 9.5 cm the midwife actually had to “push” the lip of the cervix out of the way. This was the first time in my life that I had actually seen my wife in enough pain to where I had to hold her down. I think that I felt the same in that moment that I would have if she was actually being tortured. Tears rushed to my eyes but I fought them back knowing that if they appeared, it wouldn’t help anything one bit. Then…10 cm, phew. On her back the final rounds of pushing began. Up for 20 straight hours, very little food, middle of the night, we started the last step to seeing our baby girl. Each time there was a contraction I would help Cam curl and we would all help her push. Each time I hoped it would be the last and each time I kept wondering where she was getting the strength to go on. After each round Cam would go into what seemed like a very small nap only to change facial expression and start all over again. When Isis began to crown everything hit me like a ton of bricks. That was my daughters head!!! MY daughter. I saw her hair and looked at Cameron. All I could say was, “you are really doing this, oh my goodness you are really doing it.” The head began to turn with each push and then I started to wonder how Cam was going to push out something that big. Every second brought some new element that blew me away. I was caught in the middle of an exhausting, nightmarish, wonderful, amazing situation where I realized that if I didn’t know my wife, I would have fallen in love with her right then. Who could watch someone endure that and not see real love and sacrifice? Then the head came out and a chill ran through me as I saw my child’s eyes for the first time. Then her whole body emerged as I quickly counted toes and fingers. She was perfect. Watching her squirm there and burst into crying, I could no longer stop the tears. I didn’t care anymore. I looked in both the eyes of my daughter and the eyes of my wife and felt possibly the most overwhelming sensation of my life. As they cleaned Isis and Cameron delivered the placenta I just kind of stood in awe. The first time you hold your child is like the first time you realize how wonderful love can be. Although the weeks to come would be terrifying, I got through them. I mean, I hadn’t ever changed a diaper, bathed a baby, swaddled anything or even held a newborn more than once. The whole process really is life changing. I can’t imagine looking back and not being a part of every minute.