a dad's perspective of childbirth

Somewhat inspired by this article The first few hours, I thought I’d write down some notes as well just for the record, elaborating on some emails.

For nine months, my son has been part of his mother. They’ve been in the most intimate contact with each other. She knows when he was kicking around, when he’s sleeping, how he’s growing. When he twists and turns and sometimes wants to change his posture, she’s the only one who gets really uncomfortable while he’s readjusting in his cramped accommodation. There is not much a Dad can be in the loop except in the external world. He can take her around for the medical checkups, spend time with her, get her whatever little she’s occasionallyasked for , and sometimes even feel the movements of the baby externally. He can also talk to the baby, read books to it. This seemed to be really silly, but I did end up reading aloud a story book every night. If not anything else, it seems it atleast made a significant improvement in the quality of my wife’s sleep. I’d also been flipping through books and websites and subscribing to newsletter from sites like pregnancy.com. That site is really good because it gives detailed medical information in an email every week with pictures of the development of the baby.

The predicted date was first week of July, but the doctor had said there was a good chance it could be earlier as well. So during all this time I was kind of keen on being with the mother during the delivery. This was just a natural instinct for me, but later on found that this is one of the really good aspects about the US, where its mandatory for Dads to be there. It seems that in the US, a couple say that “we are pregnant” rather than “my wife is pregnant”, that’s their attitude with which they share the responsibility. This is not so common in India – or atleast not in Bangalore. Maybe reasons could be that we really need to grow up in some aspects – there is a lot of inhibition about certain sensitive topics. Most people maybe simply feel that its inappropriate for a man to be around in such an exclusively feminine event.

So one of my friends had had told me that for his first kid, he had selected a specific hospital where they’d allow the Dad to be with the Mom during the process. But somehow I took this lightly. So continued sticking to the hospital almost next to my house, though they weren’t one of those who’d allow the Dad. I knew about this rule of the hospital before, but at some point I’d decided that this would be a compromise of not being with her, for the convenience of the proximity of the hospital, and also the excellent quality of the doctors and staff.

Around 1:30 AM on Saturday, my wife woke me up saying that there was a lot of activity going on and that it seemed to be the start of the birth process. As she spoke she seemed to have a stronger and stronger conviction about it. Having read about the signs of labor, I could quite relate to what she was talking about, though only theoretically. Finally the D-Day had arrived! It was a complete surprise because the previous night there had been no sign of it, and we’d been speculating on going out a nearby lake on a photo trip that Saturday morning! So we all went to the hospital, me with the three women of my life – my mom, sister and wife.

Though Vijetha was facing quite a bit of turbulence, she was pretty cool about it. She could easily walk into the labor ward while getting admitted. We were told that they’d try for normal delivery, and if there are no contractions in a couple of hours, they’d stimulate it using some drips. We were told that the baby has to be out in 12 hours. They’d try naturally at first, and if not, then surgically with a cesarean procedure.

She was the only patient lying in the labor room, and we just had to wait outside Around 5 AM I could see that her discomfort was gradually increasing. Gradually I started feeling more and more concerned about just hanging around outside. I started trying everything to convince the duty nurse. Only initially for a precious couple of minutes one of the nurses allowed me, but later on another one came on duty.

So far, the birth process had been only a speculation. Now, in the actual situation, when I could hear this so far calm, peaceful, affectionate and sensible girl, reacting in ways I had never seen for the past over a year, it hit me that it was far beyond anything I’d merely speculate earlier. As it increased more and more, it started becoming a terrible ordeal for me not to be with her. I suppose this is a natural powerful instinct for any true friend – to be together in the time of a crisis, more than in the time of any happiness.

When I retried reasoning with the nurse, it was really frustrating that they had classified me as an agitated emotional dad, who’s over-concerned about his kid and is going to interfere with their medical efforts (later on they said this is why they had made that blind rule, that family member may interfere with their work, and also that the lady gets more agitated if someone is there with her than when she’s alone!) Probably their past experience with others and now I’m facing the consequences!). I kind of pacified myself that when a really good thing was happening, there was no point in adding fuel to my increasingly negative thinking about my situation.

All I really wanted was to just be with Vijetha when she most needed someone to just be with her. I even asked that I see her for just two minutes to just speak a few kind encouraging words with her, instead of just leaving her alone on the cot like that (the nurses were walking around and vigilant, but no one was by her side). No doubt the birth process is a traumatic experience for a woman (even unimaginable for a man). But my guess, merely a guess but still a strong gut feeling, is that it could be made easier than we’ve always known it to be from history. And without the shortcut of heavy painkillers that numb completely from the waist down, that sometimes used.And even if that feeling is wrong, at least the husband has to be there to experience it at least second hand, so that he never takes his kids for granted anytime in the future.

But in this situation I was helpless because of the backward thinking (in this aspect) of the doctor (who wasn’t present but had made the rule) and the staff who were bound by them. I don’t know why I didn’t foresee this situation before. It was because of my own backward thinking where I’d somehow assumed they’d understand and things would work out. I never knew that the staff would be so obstinate. In retrospect I did feel I gave up too easily. But that was because the argument was getting into a feeling of conflict was starting. Last thing anything would want in such a situation! Maybe if I’d said the right things in the right way – that I do trust the medical staff and will not be interfering – it might’ve made sense (or at least I’d have the satisfaction that I’d tried properly). But at that moment words failed me. Somehow maybe the obstinacy of the emotionless military like nurse, for whom all this pain and suffering was mundane and inevitable, was more than I could face at that moment.

Of course there was NO substitute for not having discussed with the main doctor earlier on, esp. even after Shruthi had earlier written:

One thing, just be there next to her the entire time… it matters a lot. S was with me through the entire process… he was even in the labour room with me, till after the baby was born. It was great moral support. I doubt if I could have gone through it alone. My mother was anyway there, but she couldn’t bear to see me in pain. She needed more support, actually 😀 So the presence of someone strong and stoical is very important.

I don’t think our hospital allowed husbands in the labor ward either… S and I asked our doctor, and she said she would make arrangements for the same. Ask your doctor and see. Will help a lot.I think it is better that you wait for the phone call and then take the paternal leave from then on. These babies – nobody can say when they will decide to come to the world :)) Can’t make decisions based on probability 🙂Your help will be invaluable during, and more so, after the baby is born. So it is better if you are around after the baby is born – My 2 paise :)) You know best 🙂

This was definitely a dark lining in the silver cloud. This was a very hard and unpleasant lesson in negligence. Now I had to face the consequences of my own decision. I just had to sit there outside and live with it. 🙄 Anyway, was sort of relieved that at least a doctor my wife had liked very much went in to help her.

Note: Had a bitter feeling about having been stupid enough to have gotten left out (and later on shared it with Shruthi in an email) Found consolation in her reply…

Its unfortunate that you couldn’t be with Vijetha like you wanted to. But really, don’t worry or blame yourself too much for it. Millions of women have given birth before us, and millions will after us – how many have their partners next to them? We have it in us to face it alone. Having someone else is just a bonus. It would definitely have been nice had you been with her – but not worth regretting things.

Just be happy that she came out of the ordeal with flying colours, and of course, your precious little boy 🙂

One more thing, never again will I dismiss anything which i haven’t experienced. I used to think “Bah, what is this labor pain, why do people make such a big issue out of it?”.. Now I know.. it is unlike any other pain ever… totally unimaginable to those who haven’t experienced it.

I sent out an sms to a few intimate friends asking to pray for her. It was really good to receive a very nice affirmative reply from my cousin brother (in Australia).

The minutes ticked by… I’d been there sitting/meditating/dozing off there since 1:30 AM. It had been really encouraging that my sister was with me as well. At around 9 AM, my mother suggested I go home and freshen up and return. Someone had said it would take a few more hours, so I went home and suddenly realized how tired I was, and then dropped off into a 15 minute nap, then shaved and had my bath so that my kid wouldn’t get too scared of seeing me heh heh (well ok technically they can’t see very well right away).

And suddenly my mom called me to congratulate me on having become the Appa (dad) of a boy! Oh man I just went to the hospital, and got more details that both were well. I could get a peek at my son as they carried him into the nursery. It was absolutely heavenly. It was also a heavenly relief to see Vijetha sitting cheerfully as if nothing much had happened. All’s well that ends well, and in this case its only a beginning! 8)

14 Responses to “a dad's perspective of childbirth”

  1. jarvarm Says:

    That’s a great post,Sanjay..I know being a dad is always a big thing.Nice perspective here.
    You can see my perspective here at Joyful Agony
    But i’m not maintaining that blog right now.
    Well,i’m back,Sanjay.You can meet me at http://jarvarm.wordpress.com

    Thanks and regards

  2. Veena Says:

    That was a good detailed post Sanjay.
    you and shruthi seems to scare people about the labout pain! I think I should ask people to blog it in a little positive way so that the rest following it feels more comfortable.
    Well, Congrats again..

  3. msanjay Says:

    my wife really liked your post Ganga! Delighted to see you back again!

    Veena, all I can say from second-hand experience is don’t underestimate it, but don’t worry about it because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.

    Its a fascinating beautiful phenomenon of nature, and you are lucky that as a woman you are one who can experience it. First time I was allowed to see Vijetha for a few minutes, I reminded her to breathe deeply. (Later on she said that had really helped). Here’s what I wanted to tell for the 2 minutes I wanted to go in to see her (but wasn’t allowed)… I wanted to say (approximately) that try… its not easy, but try… to give up your posessiveness about your body! Let the natural process happen, you just be a witness! We are trained all our life to assume that painful things are bad for us, but we need to relook at this assumption. And in this case, the end result is more than worth anything! 8) And I wanted to relate to her one incident a lady friend had told me… that during her delivery she had impulsively asked for painkiller, and an amateur doctor had just given it to her, but then that resulted in difficulties and the baby had to be sucked out using a vacuum device. The pain stimuates the right movements, and its really beneficial.

    If I were you, I’d just consider crossing the bridge when I come to it! 🙂

  4. vimala Says:

    So as the saying goes the bearer knows where the shoe pinches. Till you get pinched, it is easy for anyone to talk about it. Imagine women in villages without much medical help or assistance from any. When I think of that situation, it is scary even to think about them. Sanjay, you have taken so much time to write your thoughts and they are well expressed. Vijetha is one lucky girl to have gotten a husband who empthasies with the feeling. Take care. The kid looks really very cute. All the best. Vijetha is a tough girl, and she handled it very well.

  5. Anitha Says:

    Congratulations Sanjay …

  6. jarvarm Says:

    Thanks to both of you,Sanjay.
    Congratulations mate!!!

  7. preethi Says:

    Yes the pain (part) described in ur blog and Shruti’s blog looks bit scary..
    But at the end after the painful ordeal the baby looks beautiful 😛

  8. david mcmahon Says:

    Congratulations all round,

    Being a father of three, I can tell you that it is a amazing experience to be there as your children grow up.

    Take care


  9. Bendtherulz Says:

    Heya – First thing first – CONGRATS !! To all @ home – New Mommy/ you/ older Mom and aunty….so are you ok now…you are still sounding dazed – 😆
    Beautiful post Sanjay and I am so glad…that despite things not going your way….you sort of let it go and tried to be with Vijetha ( and as such her name says it all – I am sure she must have got the vibes and your presence…..)

    Lastly – Kahlil Gibran has written many wise words – about children as well as marriage. May you find the right balance !!
    Tk care ~

  10. david mcmahon Says:

    How are the new parents going? Looking forward to an update.



  11. msanjay Says:

    Thanks all for your warm wishes and thoughts… 😎

    vimlamma, its definitely scary to think about the situation of rural villages. I’m tempted to feel the women there are tougher but I guess day to day toughness dosent help that much in this situation. Everyone in general who knows us talks about how lucky Vijetha is to have married me. But I alone know how lucky I am to have married her but usually I’ve gotten misinterpreted whenever I’ve tried to express that! :mrgreen:

    Hey David, we’re doing great… having a hard time finding time to blog nowadays… but will definitely put up some uupdates tonight!

  12. Deepa Says:

    Good one 🙂

    Your writing is aptly expressive.. Applause to you for having sketched the picture of the situation perfect.

    Keep writing.

  13. Click for Job Nurse Travel Says:

    Click for Job Nurse Travel…

    Once you track down the information you were trying to track down, you can put it to good use….

  14. Growing Up With Parenting » Blog Archive » my new companion Says:

    […] on earlier experience, this time I’m glad we picked the right hospital, where the dad can be a part of the […]

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