Another post by the new father, Matt:
I have to hand it to all the mothers out there – I can’t believe what you have to go through to deliver a baby. The worst pain I’ve ever felt was after I had back surgery in 2004. For those who don’t know, I had a spinal fusion at the age of 20 due to a protruding disc. My mother and her mother had the same problem with the same disc, so because of my history and age we decided that going with a full fusion was actually less invasive than trying multiple, increasingly complex surgeries. The procedure went like this: they first went in through my abdomen with an incision at the waistline. The disc was removed, and then they flipped me over, installed a cadaver’s bone between the vertebrae, and then screwed the vertebrae together to fuse.
After the surgery my abs and my back had so little muscle to support me. Try rolling over in the bed without flexing your back or abs and you’ll see how impossible it is to avoid damaging my scars. As a compensatory mechanism, I found I could use my hip flexors to substitute for my abs when it came to moving around in bed and holding myself up. Unfortunately one time I sustained a hold too long and my flexors began cramping and experiencing spasms. I’m big on Zen concepts of “suffering existing only in our mind” and putting your mind beyond pain, but it was just impossible. I was screaming in pain for about an hour – the amount of time it took to contact my doctor to get a prescription for morphine, fill it, bring it to my room, and administer it. Instant relief! I was napping within 2 minutes.
So that was the worst pain of my life, and it lasted an hour. Kath’s active labor was about ten hours, maybe eight if you only count the more intense portions. With contractions coming about every two minutes and lasting one to two minutes, that’s an unbelievable amount of torture. And torture is exactly what it felt like. When we began some of the premature pushing at 12:30, I was pretty excited that were going to have a baby in maybe 45 minutes. Then at 3:00 I looked back at the past three hours in despair that Kierkegaard could only dream of!
I thought that I could empathize with the pain but it was beyond comprehension to me. Still, I supported Kath’s wish for a drug-free birth. Part of it went back to the Zen thing of embracing your pain and letting it become a part of you. Another part was celebrating the continuity of womankind’s shared, ancient experience. And finally there were the scientific reasons of attaining the full benefits of natural oxytocin. Kath had a strong conviction about all these things, so when she had moments of doubt during the birth it was easy for Jen and me to instead turn her focus on the moment and work through the immediate pain. Then we reassured her that she was doing well and every contraction brought her one step closer.
During the birth I felt it was really important to keep stressing that each contraction was one more down and she never has to experience that one again. I imagined that she might feel like she would be sitting there in pain for eternity and that there was no end in sight. We’re so trained to approach life with the idea that we pass from phase to phase – we move from infancy to school age, college to adulthood, marriage to parenthood. I touched on some of this in my first BERF post. I worried that labor might be like this too! Would she just suffer for a really long time, and then eventually a baby would come out? Well I guess that’s how it is, but it certainly wouldn’t be encouraging to tell her that. So I put on a strong face, mustered some encouraging words, and hoped that she could make it through quickly.
Congratulations to all mothers out there – you definitively win!
FYI, birth story writing in progress!! I want to include all the details and do it in one swoop, but I won’t keep you all in suspense much longer! – Kath