“Pregnancy is a woman’s deal. Mom gets to feel baby kick, she connects, she gives birth. Dad is an outsider. Or so it often feels. What is his role before the baby arrives?
At our first appointment, I shared with the dad who would become the hero of this story: ‘As a doula, I offer expertise about birth and coaching through the process, but there’s something you bring to the team that I cannot. As her lover, you provide the oxytocin connection that she needs in labor. Have you heard of Pitocin? Well that’s the synthetic imitation of the real deal—oxytocin, the love hormone. I do my job best as a doula when I draw you two closer together as a couple.’
I moved on down my questions, getting to know the back-story. My client’s eyes sparkled as she talked about how exciting it was for them to finally be expecting after a long journey of infertility. At age 39 she realized the window for motherhood was quickly narrowing so they decided to give parenthood a last chance through IVF and acupuncture. For someone with a needle phobia, this was already a huge victory.
The gauntlet test of labor loomed ahead—the opportunity to be forged into parents through the hardest challenge ever faced as a couple. It’s not only the birth of a baby; it’s the birth of a father and a mother. Excitement grew within me to witness this formation of new identities.
One summer midnight five months later, my client’s water broke. After the sun rose, we hiked trails outside of the hospital to encourage contractions to start. Late that next night with active labor in full force, I coached my client through many different laboring positions that required everyone’s muscles. Mom’s grit of willpower was amazing as she labored without any pain meds the whole way. At one point in the wee hours when Dad was exhausted from giving her everything he had of his strength, attention, sleeplessness, and emotional support, I whispered in his ear, ‘This is a taste of fatherhood!’ He grinned ear to ear. He got it. He got what it would be like to keep vigil with a teething, colicky babe all night or to comfort a child who had a fever, or to help a teenager out of a scrape at midnight. Dad. The one who’s always there. Who gives his all out of love.
Toward the end of labor, the Nurse Midwife was generous enough to ask Dad if he wanted to catch the baby. I have never seen this done before or since in this hospital. She knew what this moment meant after their long IVF journey. Before labor began, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to watch the birth itself or to cut the cord, but when the time came, he manned up and delivered the baby barehanded! As he caught the baby and handed him up to Mom’s chest, in that moment, he became a dad. That connection could never be severed. It was the catch of a lifetime.
His Facebook post tells it all: ‘I wasn’t even planning on watching, but they told me I could deliver him, and instincts kicked in and it was the bestest thing ever!!!!!!'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melanie Ellison, a doula and birth photographer in Durango, Colorado. To see more amazing birth pictures, follow her Devoted Hands Doula Facebook page or visit www.devotedhandsdoula.com.