I thought maybe I'd write about shifting from a humanities education and editorial career to the world of technologists and a re-education, and career, in engineering.
I thought that, since this group is interested in correspondence, maybe I'd write about my decision, after twenty-five years, that cursive handwriting might be worth my time after all. (It turns out that, despite the frisson of opening the mailbox to receive a real, paper letter, a letter-writing hobby demands time and a special dedication in the era of email.)
But no, I'm going to write about childbirth. Not something I've ever done. Nor will I, since I'm a man.
The first time my wife went into labor, neither of us really knew what to expect. That's true for all first-time parents. We did know that the common Hollywood depiction of labor, with its dramatic screaming mom and bumbling dad was at best a gross stereotype and, at least in many cases, far from accurate.
We knew that we should call our midwife when contractions came with a certain frequency, and we did. They were very frequent, in fact, coming every 2-3 minutes. But they were weak contractions, nothing like the full-scale occupations of mind and body you might read about while preparing for your first child. Still, our midwife suggested we come to her clinic, and we did.
And we waited. The contractions came and went, came and went. We slept, or tried to. It was thirty-six hours at least before my wife felt a ~real~ contraction. The wait was annoying in some respects, but given our caring midwife, deeply respectful of the natural birth process, we were allowed to hang out comfortably, look after one another, and wait for the Real Thing.
The moaning began. I have mixed thoughts on a lot of the "woo" you see in discourse about this kind of stuff. When it comes down to it, one of the more amazing and wonderful things about natural childbirth is that it simply "is what it is." Bodies do what they have evolved and developed to do, and then there is a new sweet baby in the world.
But my wife experienced some intense and wonderful visions at this stage, leading up to Transition (the intense point where a woman shifts from cervical dilation to actually pushing out the baby). We like to interpret these visions as an experience of her body welcoming a new consciousness into the baby's body, and into the world. But, hey.
One of the great things about working with a midwife was the closeness and involvement I was privileged to experience as a father. I could be there, on the bed, offering support and encouragement as needed, and looking out for my wife's interests. All with her consent, of course.
That was autumn of 2010. Our second child was born earlier this year, and while the arrangements and preparation were very similar, the experience was much different.
We knew what to expect, for one thing. And, as many women attest, there is a huge boost in confidence and trust in one's own body going into a second labor. In a sense, it helps just to know It can be done.
It was fast. We arrived at the clinic at around 11:30 that evening. Our daughter was with us under three hours later. None of this fancy visionary stuff. I don't think she even laid on the bed the whole time we were there; she just dropped the baby into the midwife's arms as I massaged her shoulders.
Not for everyone, but to me...amazing.