Hands down, two of the most amazing days of my life were the days that my babies were born.
Oh, there was pain. And blood. And cursing. And feeling like my body was going to ripped apart and I would surely die. But they were also the most powerful, beautiful and amazing feelings that I’ve ever experienced. It was miracles upon miracles to welcome my babies into the world. But it wasn’t just the babies themselves.
To witness the astonishing miracle of life, to transform into parents together and to go through the excruciating intensity of labor with my husband by my side was a life-altering experience—not just for me, but also for our relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, my husband doesn’t get any credit for going through labor and pushing two seven pound babies out of his vagina! And not all partners want to play such a close, engaged role in the birth of their child. The way each of us gives birth is a very individual thing, and everyone’s needs and preferences should be respected. You do you and I’ll do me, truly.
But, for me, going through the experience, intimately, with my life partner, was what I wanted. I was lucky in that he wanted it too, and was able to push aside any discomfort, squeamishness or fatigue and do just that.
For almost the entire duration of both of my births, he was near me, not leaving my side, breathing through each contraction with me, looking me in the eye when I needed assurance and letting me squeeze his hand so hard I could have broken it.
At one point, when we were home laboring with our first son, just the two of us, we got into a groove where for every contraction, my husband would scratch my back along with the rhythm of the contraction. After a while, it became wordless. He would see that a contraction was starting and began scratching.
It was incredible, not just because the scratching somehow took the edge off the most intense aspects of the contractions, but because he was right there with me, connected to what I was going through. He wasn’t feeling my pain literally, but it was as close as he could get to my experience. And just the feeling of total and full support was everything.
It got me through, and I will always remember it.
The closeness and trust that we shared during those births extended into our experience of parenthood.
With my second birth—which was faster and even more intense than the first—I will never forget the moment when I was pushing our baby out. My son had a mild case of shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulders) and the only way I could push him out was on all fours, basically howling my face off. During the drama of it all, my husband was the one literally holding me up. I buried my face in his chest, screaming and pushing with all the force I had in me. And I gathered some of that strength from him—from his patience, love and belief in me.
My husband isn't a perfect husband, but the way he showed up for me during the birth of our boys was something I will always hold dear. The births were long and intense. One lasted all night. He could have retreated, zoned out on his phone or just tuned out emotionally. But he understood that I needed him—all of him—there with me. The birth was just as much about his baby being born, as it was about mine.
The closeness and trust that we shared during those births extended into our experience of parenthood. My husband still is a very hands-on parent—getting up with our babies in the middle of the night, bouncing and rocking them when they cried. He couldn’t nurse them all night like I could, but he knew that there were other ways to be present and show up for me and our children.
Not everyone has as intimate an experience of labor and birth with their partner as I did, and that’s OK. Not all births—especially ones that require surgery or other medical interventions—can accommodate that kind of physical closeness, and I get that. And not all birthing mothers have a partner present to support them. Not everyone even wants that, even if it could be an option.
But it was what I wanted and I feel blessed that my husband wanted it too. I don’t think I ever loved him more than when I was giving birth to our babies, and the astounding and transformative moments we shared together will forever shape our marriage and our bond.