I spent months preparing for the arrival of my little sunshine, reading articles and stories about childbirth. With each story, I became more uncertain of what my own experience would be. The entire week before I delivered (I was one week overdue) I kept thinking it would never happen or that I would miss the signals that every woman seemed to write about. I was tired of hearing, “You’ll know when it’s time.” What if I didn’t? What if I messed it up somehow? To say I was anxious is a gross understatement.
Sure enough, I didn’t “just know” it was time. I had a feeling it was, but physically, I didn’t have any of those symptoms I had spent months reading about and waiting for. Still, I called my husband and off to the hospital we went. Nothing I read or watched could have prepared me for labor and delivery. While I do remember it was the most physically challenging and painful experience of my life, I don’t remember the actual pain. What I do remember is my husband, Brian. I don’t think he knew exactly what to expect, either, but it was like he had been preparing for this moment his entire life.
As my contractions became stronger he reminded me to breathe and did the breaths with me. He held my hand, told me to let out my tears, and whispered encouragement into my ear. He helped me attempt to walk around the room to help with the pain and when that proved too difficult, he helped me in the shower. He stood at my side, moving the nozzle around my body and rubbing my back; it didn’t seem to matter that he was getting drenched in the process. When I was finished in the shower and felt like I was going to vomit, he helped me stand over the garbage can. I was aware of how much of mess I must have looked like but he continued to tell me I was beautiful and what a great job I was doing.
When I asked for something to help with the pain, I felt defeated. I wanted to go as long as possible without anything. The defeated feeling was fleeting as Brian was there to tell me how awesome I was doing and that getting something for the pain would give me a chance to catch my breath and relax a little bit. Even as the pain medicine flowed through my I.V. and I could feel my body relax, Brian didn’t leave my side. By this time, my sisters and mom had arrived and were there waiting to be of some use, but Brian was the only person I looked at. I was glad my family was there, not for me, but because they were able to get Brian some much needed dinner and provide some normal conversation.
Afternoon turned into evening and the pain only increased. It was time for the epidural, something I really hoped to avoid; however, I was practically begging for it. As they prepared my back and inserted the epidural, my eyes poured into Brian’s. I know now that he shared my fears but at the time, he looked so calm and willing to take all my fears and pain. He held my hands and my heart. As the drug worked its way through my system, he rubbed my forehead, slowly coaxing me to relax. He told me when I was having contractions so I would believe the medicine was working and that I could indeed relax; I didn’t even realize how tense I had become!
Sleep found its way into our delivery room as we moved deeper into the night. As I watched Brian sleep, all I could think about was how blessed I am and how this baby will complete our lives. I was amazed at how calm he had been the entire day and wondered how he had made it through. I don’t remember him ever out of my eyesight. Didn’t he have to go to the bathroom at any point that day? Images of our live together danced in my mind: our wedding day, our trip down south, cooking dinner, running together, snuggling on the couch; and how much our lives were about to change.
Night turned into early morning. Brian held my gaze as the contractions came stronger and harder as my body prepared for the final stretch. The epidural kept the pain of the contractions at bay but my body shook with each one. In a quiet moment before the nurses came in, I saw the tears in his eyes. He told me how helpless he felt and that he wished he could take my pain; I didn’t have the words then, but he was my strength and he was what was pulling me through. He didn’t have to tell me how much he loved me, it was in his eyes. I have never felt so close to him.
The next two and a half hours were spent pushing. I am not sure that I would describe this part as painful as much as challenging. Having not eaten solid food in almost 24 hours and running on no sleep, I felt completely drained and ready to give up. Brian was right there. My eyes were closed most of the time but when I opened them, I looked directly at him. He declined when the nurses offered to hold my leg so he could take a break. He tried to encourage me and even made me laugh through my tears a few times. Then, in a few final pushes, Ethan Matthew made his way into the world and into our hearts.
Watching Brian hold Ethan, tears freely running down his face, is an image I will never forget. I have never been more in love and did not know such happiness existed. Through our tears, our eyes met and I saw the relief in Brian’s gaze that we did it; all that work had paid off and we had a sweet baby boy. I felt complete has Brian held little Ethan and kissed my forehead; these are the moments in life that truly take your breath away.
Labor and delivery is different for each woman, and every women walks away with her own special memory. The memory I will carry with me forever is of my husband, the look in his eyes has he held my gaze for hours and the strength he gave me throughout the process. He may not have been able to do anything to physically help me through the process, but mentally he carried me. I am reminded of his love and support every time I look at our beautiful baby.
This is happiness.