Every birthing partner will make a mistake on the big day. The stakes are high, there’s someone wailing and moaning in front of you, your life is about to change completely from one minute to the next. I get it, its a minefield.
My grandmother was in labor for, like, ninety-seven hours I’m guessing, and with old-timey birthing care (possibly a snifter of brandy and a leather strap to bite down on), while her husband handed out cigars in the waiting room. When they returned from the hospital with their newborn, he flopped on the couch and huffed, “whew, I’m so tired.” The stab wounds eventually healed, but his tale is passed down from generation to generation as a warning to his progeny: do not claim to be more tired than the person who just birthed a human out of an orifice the size of a nostril.
Mom had really fast labors, which meant no time for an epidural. Dad was a little lost for words as she shrieked like a feral hog who’s seen the ax a’comin. He asked, “does it hurt?” and mom responded by reaching up and ripping out all his chest hair in one go.
Both my grandfather and my uncle left their wives in the car after arriving home from the hospital; one to carry in the baby and leave his wife with the suitcase, and one to chat up the neighbor.
My husband had been coached to challenge me if I asked for an epidural during labor with my first son. My head was filled with nonsense I’d read in some hippy bogus book, and I didn’t want to make a decision out of fear without exploring other positions and techniques. I went into labor on Labor Day Weekend, which is less fun than it sounds, and there was only one anesthesiologist at the hospital who could do epidurals, and he was about to go into surgery for three hours. He offered me the option to get set up right away, or wait three hours and see how I felt. I panicked, said “give me the drugs!” and only later realized my birth partner hadn’t followed protocol. Honestly, he probably knew my talk of martyrdom was fueled by hormones and deep down I really had no intention of turning down medical intervention to help with pain.
The second baby was a blur, with hours of stalled labor, a failed epidural, and then a baby suddenly flying out of me at ninety miles per hour. It took my husband three births to finally slip up.
By the third baby I’m obviously a professional, except with the first two I didn’t labor, so much as my water broke, not much happened due to my beloved epidurals, and then a baby shot out like my uterus was a cannon. With my daughter I had gone to the hospital weeks early in false labor and didn’t want to be the lady who cried contractions, so I waited. I wanted to be really sure it was go time, especially because we would have to wake up teachers from the kids’ school to come over and be with them in the middle of the night. I tried to sleep for a while, but when the pain got bad enough I got out of bed, yelled, “hospital!” at my husband, and walked out of the house without underwear to drive myself to the emergency room. Because of my rather sudden births the last two times, I decided not to wait for backup and just hoped my husband made it in time. He did, she was born, and all was wonderful.
Until days later, when we were discussing recent events and I mentioned that I probably didn’t sleep for thirty hours because I was in labor all night and gave birth the next morning. My darling, caring, thoughtful husband muttered almost incoherently that he also had not slept because I was breathing too hard while trying to sleep through contractions. Apparently, I huff and puff audibly while my insides are ripping open to accommodate his offspring. How dare I?!
My daughter just turned one, and my husband’s birthday is next week, so I’ve been thinking about his faux pas as Timehop helps me relive this time last year. Honestly, that one stands out because there aren’t a lot of them. We both make mistakes of course, but I don’t ever get to say all the meme-worthy things wives say about their husbands. I don’t want to sleep like a baby, I just want to sleep like my husband. Actually, he gets up with the boys in the middle of the night and swaps out Archie’s mysteriously pee-soaked pajamas while I snore, completely oblivious. My husband just shows up to Christmas and thinks Santa brought all this shit. I honestly thought that was how it was in every marriage, but Rob buys stuff for the kids all the time and saves it for special occasions. My husband does one chore and acts like he cleaned the entire house. I often find myself getting pissed that he hasn’t cleaned something or volunteered for a task, but when I take the time to tally up the things he does do, often without being asked, and add that to his full time job and weekend parties with the kids while I go get groceries alone, he is actually a pretty great partner. Sometimes he does more, sometimes I do more, but I like to think he finds our life is balanced.
He rarely slips up and says something thoughtless, so when it finally happens it’s really memorable. So when I bring it up every year on my daughter’s birthday, as is the family tradition, I hope he knows that I remember because it isn’t a pattern of behavior, it’s an anomaly. He is a fantastic father, a thoughtful husband, and an awe-inspiring prosecutor.
Just in case I forget to tell you how great you are, well, you really are.
Happy birthday, my love.