August 18, 2013 by Seamus Curtain-Magee
It is often said that birth partners (dads or otherwise) have a hard time during childbirth because they are a part of the process, but so far removed from it. They are strongly and intrinsically connected to the mother and the child, but they stand off at a distance from the process. Reduced in a way to holding hands and muttering words of encouragement as much as possible.
Trying to comfort without interfering. Trying to control without contravening the wishes of the birthing mother. Trying to be useful without getting in the way. Trying to remain upbeat without being annoying. Trying to give space without abandoning. Trying. Trying. Trying. And often feeling like you’re not being much help at all. All this while you watch someone you love in pain.
The Mamanator once told me that she wished I could have the experience of giving birth, not because it was painful or hard work and she wanted me to suffer, but because it was an amazing experience; one of the ultimate experiences of life. She felt it wasn’t fair that she got to do it and couldn’t share it with me, even if she still had to feel the pain herself.
And in all honesty, even with the pain, I wish I could share it too. I don’t think for a second I have the strength to manage it, mind you. A couple of blokes recently tried in the Netherlands, and discovered it was no cakewalk.
They last 2 hours apparently before giving up. And they were just experiencing contractions, no second stage goodies like transition and crowning and all that fun stuff. And of course anything men might do to mimic the process or the symptoms is nothing but simple chicanery. It is a falsehood, a sham version of what is going on. Like this guy:
I don’t want to detract from the experience or the attempt by these guys to have the experience, but its not the same thing, is it? Its like one of those wind tunnels that simulates sky diving, or a virtual cockpit. It is missing the main part of the experience.
So to my point, for a bunch of reasons I wish I could give The Mamanator a day off being pregnant and take care of that baby. Just let her have her body back for a spell so she could sleep comfortably, not have to pee 25 times a day and could walk without waddling. I also wish I could feel that connection to our child. She is real to me, I get that she is there, but mother’s have that 9 months bonding with the child that men cannot have. Sure you talk to the belly, feel it kick and you love them before the emerge, but again, it just is not the same thing.
I don’t want to glamorise pregnancy or gloss over the ills it brings. I know it can cause complications from carpal tunnel to diabetes. I have seen the nausea. I have seen the aches and pains. I have seen the exhaustion. I know how easy it must seem for me to smugly proclaim “yeah I’d take that on!” while I am fully aware that I will never have to.
For me, though, its an experience I am shut off from and a part, an intense and critical part, of the human condition that must always be foreign to me. And in the face of that blunt reality, I find myself saddened.
Its not all melancholy though. From these simple facts of life comes a determination to be a good father. To work hard to build that relationship with my children in the absence of birth and breastfeeding. To be close to my babies from day zero, earlier if possible, and to make sure they know who I am and that they are safe and loved in my arms.