I have probably gotten 10 good, solid hours of sleep in the last 96 hours. My thoughts and my vision are blurry. Meals are accomplished because it is necessary, not because I’m actually hungry. I have found that Steve Harvey as the host of Family Feud is a rather delightful companion from 1 to 4 am.
This is a terrible, miserable, draining experience.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wednesday night, June 12, after 30 hours of mostly waiting for 5 hours of active labor, I gave birth to my beautiful son. It was nothing like what everyone told me a second labor would be like. But I’ll spare you the details. Just know that this was seriously that hardest thing I’ve ever done, both mentally and physically.
After it was all done, and I was holding my precious baby in my arms, thanking my midwife for being amazing (seriously, she should get a metal), and trying to stay awake to wait to move to a new room, my midwife complimented me on how well I did, and they included an interesting compliment – that I was so polite during labor!
Let’s rewind really quickly. This is our second child. For the first one, we read the books and took the classes, and made a birth plan, and then, when it was all said and done, my husband said that he felt helpless. See, all of our plans had revolved around me and the baby and not around active things he could do. Let’s face it – we didn’t KNOW what it was like, so we did the best we could. And he felt helpless.
One of the best ways to be respectful to our husbands is to make them feel anything but helpless. Men need to have a sense of purpose.
So for this baby, we sat down and talked about an action plan – things from last time that could go differently so he didn’t feel like he was doing nothing and I felt like I could get what I needed with minimal communication during long and hard contractions.
Just having something in place before hand really helped us both during labor. I had clear expectations of things I wanted him to do. He had a clear action plan which we had talked through together and we were both comfortable with.
So while this may not work for you, especially if it’s your first baby and you don’t know how you labor, here are some things that can help you remain respectful through one of the most difficult physical experiences.
-Have a plan beforehand. Decide together if you want to labor naturally or with the use of an epidural or other interventions. Being on the same team in this decision is very important. I think *most* men will defer to their wives on this one. However, if yours does not, hear him out. He may have a different thought process for labor than you do but together, you could make an “if/then” plan like “if I start having contractions, then I will call you at work after 2 hours” “if I am in active labor for x hours, then I would like to start pain medication” etc.
-Give him things to do and ways to help. Again, not in a tell-him-what-to-do kind of way, but in a hey-this-will-help-us-both kind of way. Things like refreshing your ice water every hour or so, back rubs during contractions, making a playlist, or texting updates to friends and family might be some actions he can take. Of course, any of this depends on your husband’s comfort level with the process, but I’m finding more and more men enjoy being a part of the process if they have some way to help.
-Ask his opinion. Things may not go according to your birth plan. And so you will have to make decisions. Some of the decisions are big and scary and some are not. But regardless, don’t just answer the health care provider. Take two minutes and ask his opinion. Decide together.
-Let go of some control or big decisions. What if he gets to pick the middle name? Or how to spell the name? What if he gets to pick the picture you send out as the announcement? While these may not be labor/delivery specific, you will talk about them at the same time.
-Use kind words when you speak with him. I know we have all seen the woman on TV screaming “YOU DID THIS TO ME YOU *%$(#%*^ *#$(^&#$” and while that may be how you feel, this really isn’t the time to say things you’ll regret. That old adage “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” applies well here, just like anywhere else. Add a “please” to your request.
-Tell him what you need. It’s ok to chuck the birth plan and tell him, honestly and respectfully, what you need. “Honey, I need a popsicle. No I wouldn’t like grape like always. I want banana.” “Honey, I think I need to change my position.” “Honey, tell them to only have one person talk to me at a time.”
-Give him permission to “save” you. Your husband knows you better than anyone else, so he knows when you’re at the end of your rope. Give him permission to push you verbally. Or to offer you something to eat/drink even if you tell him “no” 100 times. He may realize that, hey, you could use a little sugar boost, something you may not be able to see yourself.
-Thank him for going through it with you. Many husbands are not the most heart-on-their sleeves kind of guys. However, they just watched the person they love most in the entire world go through the most physically challenging experience of their life. While they didn’t “feel” what you felt, their heart ached and split open watching you do it while the only thing they could do is rub your back and give you apple juice. So thank them. And mean it.
I know this might sound crazy, but respect, especially in the early parts of your marriage, is mostly an exercise. Your respect through the small, day-to-day stuff will serve to build muscle memory that you can use, almost passively, in tough times. You won’t have to sit down with a check list of respect qualities when you sit down with baby names list if you practice every day. Sure, you’ll still mess up, but overall, you’ll communicate respect in the big, tough things, just like the small, easier things.
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
Each day is a journey but the big milestones are sometimes the best indicator of how far we’ve really come in our hearts.
Dare you today to think about ways to be respectful during BIG things, like labor or buying a house. Make a list like the one above. Then start practicing in small things.
P.S. This is our new baby boy! Welcome to the world, sweet heart.